On a dreary afternoon before the leaves or the legislature had returned to Austin, a coalition of community-based groups led by San Antonio’s Communities Organized for Public Service meeting with the state’s newly elected governor, the lieutenant governor, and the soon-to-be speaker of the House. What COPS heard that day would be a foreshadowing of the 68th Session, a rehearsal for where the state’s leadership would take the session and where it wouldn’t. COPS came to Austin that winter afternoon \(TO, legislative education package that included an increase in equalization funding as well as increased funding levels for compensatory education aid, bilingual education, “Impact” aid for children of undocumented workers, and for building maintenance and construction. Mark White “We understand that some people are saying it’s going to take a tax bill, a revenue bill to pay for any changes in educational funding,” COPS president Sonia Hernandez told Hobby, White, Lewis, and the assembled crowd. \(This was before Comptroller Bob Bullock tax bill put onto education will be making education a scapegoat. . . . If somebody wants a tax bill, then ask the transportation lobby to handle it. Don’t put it on education.” White said yes, he was committed to equalization of education and Hobby, 4 JUNE 24, 1983 though he made no promises, mentioned his work throughout his career on behalf of education equalization. All Gib Lewis would offer was thanks to COPS for bringing the problem to his attention. “Many times,” he told the gathering, “we in policy-making positions do not see the forest for the trees I think that is the old saying, or vice versa.” A COPS officer, mother of two students in the state’s poorest school district, stood and addressed Lewis and Hobby: “We know that the speaker of the House can make appointments to committees of people who are sympathetic to equalizing education. We know that you can schedule the bill, and that you can place it on the calendar. We also know that the lieutentnt governor can do the same thing, that he can use his influence to increase money for education. What we want to know is would you be willing to work with the COPS organization and sit down with us to form a strategy about which is the best way to put that bill through?” Lewis said he would, and Hobby said he already had a staff assistant working on the issue. White assured the audience that education was his “number one priority.” As the session got underway, Hobby’s office generated an education package that included not only teacher pay raises and increased equalization aid, but also a sophisticated “square root formula” designed to increase state aid to poorer school districts and a controversial “excellence fund” designed to give local administrators more of a voice in how state money was spent in their districts. He also let it be known that the state would need a tax increase. Hobby’s proposals, sponsored by state Sen. Grant Jones of Abilene, sailed through the Senate only to bog down in the reactionary slough of the House. “The relationship between Hobby and Lewis was not as good as it could have been,” an aide to Hobby told the Observer. “Grant Jones could have done a better selling job,” that same aide noted, but not even Mark White, persuasive salesman that he is, was any more successful. Always the astute politician, White had recognized education as a key issue from the day he began his campaign for the governor’s office nearly two years ago. Instead of concentrating on the Bill Hobby legislature, however, particularly on the House, he took his campaign for a teacher-pay increase and an increase in equalization aid to the people. That was a mistake. Lewis, Messer, Schlueter, and company never budged off their “no new taxes” stance, and the governor’s package, HB 716 by Bill Haley of Center, remained stuck. White’s legislative aides, not particularly well organized in the early going, were never able to find a key. It was only toward the end of the Session that the House leadership began to feel the pressure, but by then all Hobby and White could salvage was a commitment from Lewis to participate in a recreated Select Committee on Public Instruction. \(Lewis initially made the absurd offer to visit personally every school district in the state to assess the needs of Unless otherwise specified, the articles in this legislative wrap-up are the result of the combined efforts of Joe Holley, Geoff Rips, and Kay Gunderson. Photos by Alan Pogue. Hobby and Lewis Leaders Show Colors Early COPS Meeting Educational
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.