AUSTIN -- How the state will pay for public schools will take center stage this week in the political theater known as the Texas Legislature, and it will likely remain there throughout the session.A very public and somewhat tense conversation between House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, and vice chairman, Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, provided a sneak preview.Turner spoke up after their committee finished its work earlier than expected on recently, the morning after a judge declared their public school finance system unconstitutional."There are a lot of things we could discuss, like what happened yesterday afternoon at around 5 o'clock," Turner said as Pitts started to end the meeting."I'm sure we'll be discussing that, too," Pitts answered with a tight smile."And there is no place better to discuss it than right here, right now," Turner pressed, tapping his finger on the dais."I think when the judge finishes his opinion, we'll be discussing that," Pitts replied, hoping to end the on-camera conversation before a crowded room."Because I don't think we should be allowing judges to determine legislative priorities. That is not the conservative thing to do," Turner added wryly, prompting laughter from the audience.Rather than reply, Pitts called on a Republican and ended the meeting.That interaction betrayed how Texas Democrats are laying the ground work to make public school funding a major issue this legislative session, and how they hope to set up Republicans for some potentially embarrassing votes that can be used against them in 2014.Last session, the Republican-controlled Legislature rewrote the public education funding formulas to cut $5.4 billion from the budget, the first cut in per-student spending since World War II. That prompted two-thirds of the state's school districts to sue and win a ruling that the Legislature has failed its constitutional obligation to adequately fund public schools.Democrats have repeatedly called on the Legislature to restore those cuts. But House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has said lawmakers shouldn't make any major changes to the school finance system until the Texas Supreme Court has a chance to rule on the lawsuit, something that will not happen before the session ends in May.Like Turner, though, Democrats want action. They have called on Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to accept the ruling without filing an appeal and for the Legislature to fix the school finance problem this session.Chris Tomlinson is the AP's supervisory correspondent in Austin.