Budget hearings under way in Texas House, Senate
POSTED: Thursday, June 2, 2011 - 7:06pm
UPDATED: Sunday, June 5, 2011 - 11:08am
AUSTIN — Teachers, parents and school administrators urged Texas lawmakers Thursday to reject a school finance plan that would allow the state to cut $4 billion from public schools over the next two years.
But one key senator cut off their pleas to tap into the state's $10 billion reserve fund, sending a clear message such an option won't be considered.
"It's not going to happen," said Sen. Steve Ogden R-Bryan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
House and Senate lawmakers held their first public hearings of a special session on school finance and budget matters. At the heart of the session is a schools plan that failed to pass in the final hours of the regular session that ended Monday.
That plan changes distribution formulas for public schools to let the state give schools less money than current law. It spreads the $4 billion cut over two years — 6 percent across-the-board cuts in 2012 and $2 billion in targeted funding levels in 2013.
While unions and teacher groups are hoping to draw big crowds to Capitol demonstrations on Saturday and Monday, lawmakers heard from a handful of witnesses urging them to use the state's Rainy Day Fund, close business tax breaks or find other ways to avoid the cuts.
Critics warn the cuts will lead to thousands of teacher and staff layoffs and larger class sizes.
House and Senate leaders hope to vote on the bill in both chambers sometime in the next few days.