East Texas state representative prepares to vote on school finance

State Rep. James White
State Rep. James White

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Many east Texas educators were watching the capitol this weekend, waiting for a last minute decision on how the state would split the four billion shortfall between school districts.   A compromise between the house and senate was brokered late Friday.  Lawmakers voted on the plan Sunday evening.

The 2011 state legislative session comes to a close Monday. First year east Texas representative James white spent the holiday weekend tying up loose ends at the capitol.

"HB 1 -  the budget - we passed that last night so we know how much we're going to have in the public education bucket," said James white.

Just leaving how the 4 billion in cuts will impact the state's school districts.

Many local superintendents, like Lufkin ISD's roy knight, planned to spend their holiday weekend by the phone, and watching the capitol's online broadcasts.

"I'm not optimistic at all. We're preparing for the worst," said knight.

Most east Texas educators supported the senate's version because they say it was more equitable to under funded districts. While the house bill did just the opposite.  Hudson ISD's superintendent Mary Whiteker had a simple message for law makers:

"do not have across the board cuts for everyone," said Whiteker.

But the final plan did both... Sort of.  For the first year, a straight 6% cut.

"it would factor in there was Edu jobs money from the federal 830 millions that came down," said white.

White says that money eases the burden for east Texas schools.

"even though its 6% across the board... The actual plan is still showing different districts taking different cuts...median average cut of 2.8% all 21 of the districts in house district 12," said white.

In the second year, white says funding moves toward more equitable per student allotments.

"even though there's a range of 8.7% the median average is 2.1%," said white.

State Rep. James White was on the floor of the House of Representatives Sunday afternoon preparing to vote, when they learned former Governor Clements had passed away.

He told us that Clements was an icon, a trailblazer and believes he's in his current position because of Republicans like the former governor who came before him.