Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Lawmakers weigh in on school finance trial

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TWC News: Lawmakers weigh in on school finance trial
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As the school finance trial continues, just down the street at the State Capitol, those who will ultimately have to craft a new school finance system if it's deemed unconstitutional are quick to point out problems, or just simply sit quietly, on the issue for now.

Sen. John Whitmire says he's concerned about the makeup of how lawmakers will lean in the next legislative session.

"Legislature is going to have to have willpower to fix it, the problem is you have a large number of legislators that would appear they're more focused on homeschooling, charter schools, vouchers now,” he said.

Newly-appointed Senate Education Chair Dan Patrick says he's waiting on the courts to decide and give direction on how to proceed before he puts forth any sort of plan.

"I'm just going to stand down right now," Patrick said when asked if he sees more money being available for schools.

Sen. Whitmire says waiting for the courts is one thing, but the courts need to be vigilant in addressing specifics.

"Good thing is, trial will reveal shortfalls,” Whitmire said. “But the court, in my judgment, needs to be more aggressive, certainly the appellate courts -- with proposing a solution, which means you've got to spend this amount and you've got to do it or your school's going to not be constitutional."

Sen. Juan Hinojosa says the solution may just come down to the dreaded “t” word.

"One is possibly a statewide property tax where the money is pooled and redistributed on a per capita and equal basis across the state. Of course that would also have to replace local property taxes," he said.

Any changes to the tax code would have to be approved by voters, which would mean a proposition put on the ballot.

The school finance trial continues Wednesday and is likely to last until January, right as lawmakers return for the 83rd legislative session.

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