Education
4:05 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Hochberg Files Bill To Illustrate Education Cuts District-By-District

It's not often that state lawmakers admit they don't like the bill they just filed, but that's exactly what State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) did today after filing HB 2485.  The bill is accompanied by a spreadsheet that shows how drastic cuts to public education would affect individual school districts.

"We'll be laying out a budget that cuts $9.8 billion out of the schools.  But that's a number that doesn't mean anything to a legislator unless they know that means you're taking between $500 and $2,500 dollars per WADA (weighted average daily attendance) out of their local district," Hochberg said.

"Given the drastic effects on many district as a results of the budget cuts, I truly hope this bill is a starting line - not a finish line," Hochberg said. "This is not a bill I would like to vote for as currently drawn."

For example, the Austin Independent School District has been making painful cuts, like taking moves to eliminate more than 1,100 jobs, in an effort to close a budget deficit currently estimated at $94 million. That projection is based on a projection that the state would slash its funding of AISD by $79 million, according to this budget presentation made to Austin School Trustees last week by school district's financial chief, Nicole Conley-Abram.

But the Hochberg bill shows how education cuts would reduce AISD's budget by more than $129 million, according to this spreadsheet of its effect on all Texas school districts. The table was provided by Hochberg's office to accompany the bill.

Hochberg said this bill doesn't even take into account all the cuts being made outside Texas' education funding formulas.

"There's pre-K teacher incentives, everything from science labs, professional development for teachers, you name it, it's been cut," Hochberg said. "None of that's in the formula. That's always discretionary items at the Texas Education Agency."

It's unlikely Hochberg's bill would make it to the floor of the House. Odds are it will be a bill carried by the Republican chair of the House Education Committee, Rob Eissler. But the filing spells out in painful detail the cuts that could loom over the heads of school districts already sore as they try to reduce spending in the next fiscal year.