with $1,642 per pupil. To compound the inequities, students from poorer districts in general require more funding than those from wealthier districts in order to provide for special education programs, such as bilingual or compensatory education. “The state has a constitutional obligation to do its fair share to guarantee that students have a basic education, whether or not local citizens and [local] governments are doing their fair share,” said Jim Shear, State Comptroller Bob Bullock’s assistant director of research, assigned to the finance committee with Brian Graham of the Comptroller’s office, is the principal architect of the financing plan presented by H. Ross Perot’s select committee in its final recommendations on restructuring the education system in this state. The SCOPE plan calls for a radical reformulation of state education finance policies and will clash head-on with a plan being proposed by state Rep. Bill Haley, D-Center, which emphasizes teacher pay raises, includes some finance reform, and carries the imprimatur of State Education Commissioner Raymon Bynum. While the SCOPE plan has equalization and an actual cost-of-education index at its core which would move the state system a long way toward equalization regardless of additional tax revenue the Haley plan would address equalization largely through greater expenditure of additional revenue. As Jim Shear explains it, the SCOPE proposal is the result of a unique set of circumstances: the public demand for education reform, the state’s financial condition \(sans the in state district court. In addition, the legislature has mandated, with the passage of HB 246, a core curriculum, which every school district must provide by September 1984. THE CENTERPIECE of the SCOPE proposal is a costof-education index. The index is designed to provide an accounting system for the actual costs of education in which the state shares. It includes the core curriculum costs \(such as special education, bilingual education, and compensaindex, says Shear, is to be able to approach education funding “in a rational, systematic fashion and lay the cards on the table. Let’s de-politicize this thing. Let’s get an objective measure of real costs. It would give the legislature a bill [for costs] in front of them with each session. Few people understand it [the current complicated system for calculating education costs]. How is that a way to run a democracy?” Among other benefits, the index would allow the state to Former state Sen. Joe Bernal. s.. 0 n. 0 >, _o 0 Demetrio Rodriguez at May 23 press conference. calculate actual costs in providing a quality basic education in order to equalize school funding in Texas through the allocation of state funds. The SCOPE finance subcommittee recommended that the basic program grant provided to the districts by the state to fund the cost of education should be “directly dependent on each district’s property wealth per above the statewide average should receive proportionately fewer state dollars than school districts whose wealth per student is below the statewide average.” In addition, the plan calls for an equalized state enrichment grant based upon the local tax effort for maintenance and operating and interest and sinking fund costs. “Poor school districts willing to make a local tax effort will be rewarded by the state,” Bullock explained to his subcommittee. Without the equalization of the basic state grant and the enrichment program, Shear explained, inequities would continue. “Teacher salaries and equalization are not distinct,” he said. “Substantial inequities among school districts are among salaries and numbers of people [hired].” It affects the tenure of teachers in poor schools, where teachers gain classroom experience only to move on to better pay in wealthier districts after several years. Shear argued that an increase in the basic minimum salary was necessary. Some districts with above average wealth, including Austin, pay minimal salaries because the competition for teaching positions in Austin is so fierce. On the other hand, education will not be equalized by across-the-board pay raises for all teachers. The teachers most in demand will still be drawn to those districts paying well beyond what the state provides. Half the teachers in Galena Park, for instance, are paid $25,000 per year. To provide a more equitable distribution of good teaching, then, “it is not necessary to have across-the-board pay raises,” Shear said. “Teachers in poor districts might get a 40% pay raise while teachers in Dallas and Houston may only get a 5 % raise. They’re already making $18,000 or so. . . . The state pays its fair share relative to the district’s ability to pay its share. The state has an obligation to help them [poor districts] more.” The enrichment equalization money from the state will be based on the local district’s tax effort as well as its per pupil property wealth. That effort will include the local tax for the maintenance and operation of schools, as under the current system, as well as interest and sinking-fund taxes to pay for g facilities. Under the present system, the state does not pay for bricks and mortar. But the new curriculum and the call 1D for decreased class size require building adjustments for many poor districts that have not been able to so much as pay for aleaking plumbing. The determination of a district’s tax effort will be based on the state’s average tax rate and will be used THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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