Sunday, August 07, 2005

Two From The Statesman

'This close' to achieving nothing
From the outset, the intent of the sessions was not to overhaul the state's antiquated patchwork of school finance, but to minimize the tax burden on the state's most affluent citizens.

Although there was a lot of lip service to "everything is on the table," everything was not.

There were enough sacred cows roaming through both chambers that the size of the herd would have impressed John Chisum.

Consolidating school districts, to cite just one example, was not on the table. Neither was an income tax.

What was on the table was shifting even more of the tax burden from businesses to consumers, and on that issue, neither chamber was ever "this close."

House members advocated a one-cent increase in the sales tax, which would have made Texas' sales tax the highest in the nation; senators held out for a half-cent increase in the sales tax. In fact, when Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst tried to sell the idea of 3/4-cent raise, he got the door slammed in his face.

That gap doesn't meet anyone's definition of "this close."

Craddick's declaration, though bold, doesn't make him a hero. Along with Gov. Rick Perry and Dewhurst, the speaker had a responsibility to make a good-faith effort to resolve the school finance problem. Instead, he assumed the role of immovable object, creating the reality to which he bowed last week. Inertia won, and so did government by the courts.
Ellis and Eltife: Texas should put its money on teachers and textbooks
As the Texas Legislature moves through its third special session on school finance reform, we are working on a bipartisan effort to put more money where it counts the most for public education — directly into the classroom.

Education reform and lower property taxes are important goals that deserve continued work toward a consensus. They should not be abandoned simply because they pose a challenge. However, these challenges should not stand in the way of meaningful action that will help our children learn and make ours schools more successful.

That is why we are working with members of both political parties to build a consensus on an agenda that will yield real results. We have spoken with numerous constituents and education experts who agree that our teachers are underpaid, that our textbooks are out of date and that we must get more of our education money into the classroom.



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