Rep. Donna Howard came up with a great compromise idea earlier this month on use of the Rainy Day Fund for public education. The Austin Democrat acknowledged the Republican House majority’s reluctance to use the money already in the state’s Rainy Day Fund to meet 2012-2013 budget obligations. So she proposed to use only the amount of future increases in the Rainy Day Fund for the next two years, beyond already-projected levels, to cover the cost of enrollment growth in our public schools. The House initially was so taken with her compromise idea that it was adopted as an amendment to SB 2, a 2012-2013 budget clean-up bill, without need for a vote.
On Friday, however, the Republican-controlled conference committee responded to pressure from far-right organizations and Gov. Rick Perry by deleting the Howard amendment from the final version of SB 2. The bill must now go back to each chamber for final approval. (Note: Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon of San Antonio, the lone House Democrat on the SB 2 conference committee, did not sign the conference agreement.)
Rep. Howard, according to the Texas Tribune online news site, offered this response: “I am disappointed that the conference committee allowed the demands of a few unduly influential activists, as well as the political ambitions of Governor Rick Perry, to eclipse the needs of our schoolchildren….My amendment was a common-sense compromise that would have left existing rainy day funds ‘in the bank’ while still providing the necessary funding to cover a rapidly-growing student population and investing in the future economic prosperity of our state.”
Texas AFT President Linda Bridges condemned the decision to delete the Howard compromise amendment, which potentially could have reduced by a bit more than half the $4 billion in cuts in per-pupil aid built into the 2012-2013 budget. Bridges said: “It was the least they could do, and they still chose not to do it. From the governor on down, the folks in the driver’s seat at the capitol seem to be dead-set on underfunding public education. Needless harm to Texas schoolchildren will result from their unprecedented decision not to fund enrollment growth. Senators and representatives should respond to the rejection of the Howard amendment in conference committee by voting to reject the conference report and sending the conferees back to the drawing board.”
A vote on the SB 2 conference report is expected Monday, June 27, two days before the end of the current special session.