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June 6, 1975 13 Austin Don’t be surprised if school financing is the number one’ priority issue of the next session of the Legislature, too. After 133 days of this session, the Lege had not managed to come to any basic conclusions, and the last seven days didn’t look all that promising, except for the teachers. As the Observer went to press, the House had passed a bill, which just about exhausts the listing of its accomplishments. The Senate Education Committee had reported out a different bill. If the Senate runs true to form, it will pass the committee’s substitute for HB 1126 without significant amendment. There is at . least a chance that the House will agree to the Senate’s version. Once you stray from the official facts, it gets complicated. IT CAME DOWN, in the last days of the session, to a multi-sided struggle among school teachers, Gov. Dolph Briscoe, local school district administrators, Speaker Bill Clayton, rural legislators, Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, urban legislators, and other miscellaneous friends of education. The possible commingling and, opposition of interests, in various possible combinations and permutations, were enough to break the computer bank at M.I.T. As Hobby put it to the Senate, meeting as a committee of the whole, the range of options is fairly limited at this point. There is only so much money available \($547 million, by the last Legislative Budget Board estimate, though everyone is shooting $100 million to $150 million higher in expectation of new figures from fairly categorical imperatives: to correct the inequities in the state’s system of school financing, and to raise its pitifully low teachei salaries. Ergo, the Legislature must come up with a program that does as much as possible in each direction while staying within its budget. And right in the middle is an idea called the “weighted pupil approach.” In grossly simplified terms, the WPA is a notion that education funds should be allocated on the basis of how much it costs to deliver a certain type of program to a certain type of student, as opposed to paying lump sums for the maintenance of a certain provides, as a general rule, more state money for urban districts than it does for rural ones, though all generalizations are difficult. The WPA is, for this session at least, Briscoe’s baby. There again, it has the advantage of being a good idea. Trouble is, nobody can tell you exactly how the weights should be assigned or how the whole thing will turn out \(except Dr. Richard Hooker, Briscoe’s main man on education, and nobody can tell you what legislators, who have to go back to their districts and defend their votes, to sign up with the thing. Briscoe has not done well in the lobbying department this session. If that’s not complex enough, recall that the local share of education funds comes from property taxes, and that no one has yet come up with a money-raising idea so easily jimmied around as property taxation. School of Thought Number One says you can fix that by calculating the local fund assignment \(the amount the particular district is theoretically required all taxable property in the district. School of Thought Number Two says that if taxes are to be fair they should be based on “ability to pay,” which includes income as well as property values, even if income is not taxed in this state. School of Thought Number Three says no legislator wants to force his local school district to raise its tax rate. Then there’s local control. Some folks oppose the “weighted pupil approach” because they see in it ultimate state control over how local districts spend their money. Some folks oppose it because they fear it doesn’t give the state enough control over how state money is spent in local districts. One way or another, everybody’s for local control. Now consider the problem of how to enable poor districts to attract and keep experienced teachers, the kind who presumably do the best teaching. It should be understood that all the prospective state laws under consideration only determine minimum teacher salaries, and that richer districts will supplement whatever figure the Legislature comes up with. Surely, argue representatives of the poorer districts, the state should provide funds for those districts to bid against Dallas for the services of the good teachers. The Senate committee that voted unanimously for a substitute for HB 1126 was reportedly split 5-4 over the two bills it originally had before it. Sen. Oscar Mauzy of Dallas was carrying one version of the governor’s bill; Sen. A. M. Aikin of Paris had one incarnation of the bill supported by the Texas State Teachers Association \(which included “program sponsoring the final Senate bill. THE HOUSE took four days to pass a bill which, to put it charitably, did not exactly overhaul the state’s system of