Texas Sen. Wendy Davis fights for public school funding

Posted Thursday, Mar. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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State Sen. Wendy Davis wasn't feeling the love most of her colleagues apparently felt Wednesday when they overwhelmingly supported a $195.5 billion budget for 2014-15.

She and just one other senator, newly elected fellow Democrat Sylvia Garcia of Houston, voted against the bill. Twenty-nine senators voted for it.

Davis and Garcia were united in saying not enough money went into the document to make up for $5.4 billion in cuts to public education adopted in 2011. The bill presented to the Senate on Wednesday restored just $1.4 billion above what it will take just to pay for enrollment growth.

It's not like Texas doesn't have the money. Comptroller Susan Combs told lawmakers in January they would have $101.4 billion available for spending from the general fund. The Senate budget spends just $94.1 billion of that.

And it's not like there is no need, Davis pointed out. A state district judge in Austin has ruled that public education funding from the state is unconstitutionally inadequate. The state Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue later this year.

"Recent budget estimates make clear that adequate funding for our schools is available," Davis said in a news release after the Senate vote. "Yet, state leaders decided to pass on a golden opportunity to restore the cuts and enable school districts statewide to modernize their schools, hire new highly qualified teachers, and give our kids the basic elements of a good education."

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a $193.8 billion spending plan. It gives more to schools than the Senate, with $2.5 billion aimed at partly making up for the 2011 cuts.

Committee Chairman Jim Pitts said the full House will vote on the budget in a couple of weeks.

A conference committee will be tasked with negotiating a compromise for final votes very near the end of the session, which this year will be May 27.

Rather than standing with Davis on Wednesday, some Democrats chose to praise Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, for his work in putting the budget together.

Some expressed hope for a better budget from the conference committee.

Bravo to Davis for taking a stand. If she hadn't spoken up so strongly, there would be no clear message to the conference committee to do better.

Editor's note: This editorial has been revised to correct the name of the second senator who voted against the budget.

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