ALAN POGUE Demetrio Rodriguez in 1992 recapture plan or risking further court orders, probable closing of the schools and possible forced consolidation of school districts. “I don’t know whether it will meet the court tests or not … but 2.75 percent recapture is simply not enough to meet the financial needs of education,” Vowel! said. “I would have much preferred a statewide property tax, or an income tax or some other method of financing education.” There. He said it. And no lightning bolts is s ued through the ceiling. Rangel put the best face on the House development, saying the Mexican-American caucus did what its members thought was right and voted for the measure with reluctance but not disappointment. “We’re not thrilled that we got 2.75, but we got something that never would have been discussed five or 10 years ago recapture, a sharing of the wealth and if we would have liked it if there had been no limit, or if it had been at least 10 percent, [still] we got something, and whatever little we get, we’re very grateful,” she said. She noted that her South Texas district includes Starr County, recently recognized as having the highest poverty rate in the nation. “Are we going to close the doors to the only escape from poverty they’ve got? I did not want to take that chance. I’m not thrilled about the 2.75, but it’s a. beginning. It’s progress. It’s going very slow. I’ve been here 16 years and I know it’s a step forward.” Her next step is to inform her constituents, and leave the choice up to them. “If they want to take any risks, that’s fine. I just don’t want to risk the futures of these students who are in such great poverty closing the only door they would have to escape this poverty,” she said. “I don’t know what we’re going to end up with. I don’t know how this is going to effect the property taxes. I just don’t know. But we know that we’re facing finally something that is a sharing of someone’s wealth.” Craddick and other Republicans who remained opposed to recapture said they would work to defeat the recapture provision on the May 1 ballot. A Texas Poll released February 11 indicated that 51 percent of Texans would favor taking property tax revenues from wealthy districts to help low-wealth districts. The poll, which had a 3 percent margin of error, showed 43 percent opposed redistribution and 6 percent had no opinion. The poll also showed 54 percent of Texans would support a 4-percent income tax if it meant their property tax bills would be cut in half. The vote was a major victory for Laney in his first legislative battle as Speaker, coming just one day after his self-imposed 30-day deadline for action on school finance. He admitted he was worried about the outcome up to the morning of the vote. “There’s four bottles of Maalox” to show for it, the Hale Center Democrat said. Craig Foster of the Equity Center, which represents poor districts, called the House approval “a minor miracle” and said those who complained about the deal were not involved in the negotiations and did not realize how badly it could have gone. “Our great concern was that something like that equity standard would get in the constitution and we would be screwed forever,” he said. Albert Kauffman, the attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund which represented the plaintiffs from the poor districts in the lawsuit, agreed that the constitutional amendment was the best deal the schoolequity advocates could get through the House. The alternative was to let the courts close the schools and create a crisis, which presented”its own risks. “In a crisis you never know what the Legislature will do,” he said. “You’ll cause some people to do pretty crazy things.” Now the fight will continue over the “enabling legislation,” the bill which will flesh out the provisions in the constitutional amendment. The major variable is how much money the Legislature will make available for public education. When the Legislature passed Senate Bill 351 in 1991 in an effort to redistribute the funds more fairly, the formula called for investment of $3.5 billion in new state money for education in 1994 and 1995 \(along with a the constitutional amendment will not settle the equity issue. The formula in SB351, if fully funded, would be adequate, he said, but state budget officials are talking about making available only $300 million to $650 million in new funds for public schools in the coming biennium. In an interview with the Observer Ernestine Glossbrenner, the Alice Democrat who retired as chair of the House Public Education Committee, compared the school finance debate to reading readiness in primary school. “When a child’s ready to learn to read, that’s when they learn,” she said. She wondered if the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and other state leaders were running the equivalent of a reading-readiness program on the state’s tax structure. S.J.R. 7 is not the end of Edgewood. It may not even be the beginning of the end. But advocates of school funding equity at least hope it is the end of the beginning. J.C. This is Texas today. A state full of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-unionists, oil andgas companies, nuclear weapons and power plants, political hucksters, underpaid workers and toxic wastes, to mention a few. BUT DO NOT DESPAIR! THE TEXAS 1 1″ server TO SUBSCRIBE: Name Address City . State Zip $32 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. 307 West 7th, Austin, TX 78701 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5 …m.nor -v “,e ,,,I. 1. .1,40,141114,1101
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