As the Sausage Grinder Turns

untitled“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” – Otto von Bismarck

Although still pithy, the famous quotation from the 19th Century German chancellor might be subject to review on both ends of its metaphor. Shows on the Food Network like Diners Drive-Ins & Dives have taken much of the mystery out of sausage making with close-ups of meat and fat entering the grinder and emerging inside pig intestines.

The exponential growth of news outlets on cable, satellite, online and, yes, print, coupled with the 24-hour news cycle, give citizens an unprecedented opportunity to observe the legislative process in Austin.

When you peel back the dome, you find our elected representatives have been busy. One of the top legislative priorities of this legislative session is public school finance, a subject that has engaged State Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, and State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola.

Hughes co-authored Senate Bill 3 granting every teacher and public school librarian in Texas a $5,000 raise. “There are many, many in the education process that work in public schools that contribute, “ Hughes told reporters.

“We’d like to do more, we’d like to help everyone, but we had to start with teachers there was no question about that. I feel like as the bill moves on there may be more added to it.”

In the House, Paddie co-authored House Bill 3 a far-reaching attempt to reform the way Texans pay for public education.” The need for school finance reform, including meaningful property tax reform, has been the top issue that I hear from constituents across the district,” Paddie said.

“This plan will meet the classroom needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s workforce.” The Texas Plan (HB3) empowers local school districts to put more money into classrooms by raising the amount of per-student funding from $5,140 to $6,030, an $890 increase per student.

House Bill 1, the House budget bill cleared a key committee test this week and indicates how the legislature may proceed with both teacher raises and property tax reductions. The total two-year budget would spend state, federal and local funds totaling about $250 billion.

HB1 includes $9 billion in new state funding for K-12 education and property tax relief, contingent on lawmakers passing reforms to the way the state funds public schools (HB3). Speaker Dennis Bonnen wants to give about $6 billion to school districts and use the remaining $3 billion to pay for a reduction in local school district property taxes.

The Senate pay raise will cost $3.7 billion. If that money comes from the House’s $6 billion, only $2.3 billion will be available for new school spending. The real sausage making occurs when House and Senate attempt to resolve differences between the two bodies.

It is safe to say, schools will get more money, teachers will get more money and some sort of property tax reform will emerge. Teachers might be wise to not spend that $5,000, just yet. Jefferson ISD Superintendent Rob Barnwell takes a wait and see approach.

“It’s always good when the legislature thinks about putting more money into the funding system to allow certain staff to make more money,” Barnwell said Wednesday. Barnwell does worry the legislature may tie the district’s hands on how that money can be used.

“I am concerned about the implementation and whether it will be fully funded. If they do give us more money will they give us the freedom to use it where we need to?” Barnwell said.

Marion County residents will be watching as both Paddie and Hughes lay a hand on the handle of the sausage grinder.


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