Perry counters complaints of education cuts with claim of "phenomenal" growth in spending

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Key dates

The 83rd session of the Texas Legislature will run for 140 days.

Jan. 8

Session begins

March 8

Deadline for filing bills and joint resolutions other than local bills and emergency measures

May 27

Last day of the session

June 16

Last day the governor may sign or veto bills passed during the regular session

Aug. 26

Date that bills without specific effective dates become law

Info: Texas Legislative Council:

$101.4 billion

General purpose revenue expected over next two years.

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AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday emphatically countered assertions that the state's Republican leadership has imposed deep cuts in education, citing what he described as "pretty phenomenal" growth in public school spending over the past decade.

"We've always been committed to public education," Perry said at a state capitol news conference on the second day of the 83rd Legislature.

Education advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly assailed the Republican-led Legislature for cutting more than $5 billion in education during the 2011 session when the state was dealing with a budget shortfall in the aftermath of the recession.

Lawmakers are being urged to restore the cuts after projections that the state will have better-than-expected revenue of $101.4 billion in state revenue to fund services during the next two years.

When asked if he favored restoring the cuts, Perry instead strongly defended the state's commitment to education under his watch as governor, saying that school funding grew at three times the size of enrollment from 2002 to 2012. During that period, Perry said, funding increased at 70 percent while school enrollment grew at 23 percent.

"So I think under any scenario over the last decade," Perry said, funding for public schools "has been pretty phenomenal."

Perry noted a 65 percent increase in the number of Hispanic students who have taken the SAT exam over the past five years. He said that and other trends send a "powerful message that we're getting the job done in public education."

Perry said there will always be critics "who will stand and say we're not spending enough money," adding: "I don't imagine that we're ever going to quit hearing arguments about are we spending enough money in public education."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the presiding officer of the State Senate, and House Speaker Joe Straus joined Perry at the press conference to give a general overview of priorities for the remaining 138 days of the legislature. They repeated hopes that the robust $101.4 revenue estimate by State Comptroller Susan Combs will enable lawmakers to provide tax relief, but they said it was too early to outline specifics on how that would be accomplished.

Perry called the revenue projection "very good news" that validated the state's frugal approach to spending.

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin bureau chief, 512-739-4471

Twitter: @daveymontgomery

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