SAN ANTONIO - A joint cry for a better public school system is being led by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. He joined hundreds of state school board trustees Wednesday night in downtown San Antonio to talk candidly about problems and solutions.
The participants came from different parts of Texas with different political views, but all the school board members agreed on one thing: Texas public schools deserve more.
"The biggest frustration we have is about school finance," said Gary Inmon, school board president of the Schertz, Cibolo, Universal City Independent School District.
More specifically the frustration comes from how rising property taxes are being spent.
"It's not that that money goes to the schools. It actually goes to the state, and what we've found is on a year-to-year basis, the state is actually contributing less," Inmon said.
Inmon agrees with Straus, who said to hundreds of trustees that state funding is far too low. Straus said he'll push for finance reform to be a top priority during the July special session in the Texas Legislature.
"Because it related directly to property tax reform and property tax relief and it's something the state is responsible for," Straus said. "If we want our kids to have the tools they need to compete, we can’t keep kicking the can down the road. The Texas House is ready to act now before the problems in school finance get even worse."
Both Straus and Inmon are concerned that issues such as the controversial bathroom bill have taken top priority.
"I've been a school board trustee for 20 years. We have 15,000 students in our district, and I have never once had a single student or parent complain about our bathroom system in our school district. Yet something like school finance gets put on the back burner, and that truly does affect all 5 million-plus kids all across Texas for generations," Inmon said.
"Telling Texans that our schools are beset by problems in the bathroom is not only inaccurate, but it sends the wrong signal about our priorities," Straus said.
One item on the special session agenda Straus is glad to see is teacher pay raises.
"We're all for teacher pay. School finance reform could help with that," he said.
Inmon said his district is already giving teachers a $1,000 raise, something all districts can't afford. He said if the Legislature mandates raises for all teachers during the special session, the state needs to be prepared to cough up more funding.
"There is a way to put more resources into the classroom and reduce the burden on property taxes. It isn’t difficult, but it does require leadership. And that’s for the state to increase its share," Straus said.
The special session begins July 18.
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