What Educators Think About School Finance Reform - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

07/27/05 - Lufkin

What Educators Think About School Finance Reform

by Stuart Burson

Wednesday, Governor Perry met with legislative leaders in Austin trying to decide what's next for school finance reform.

On Tuesday, the Texas house voted down two bills addressing the issue. After five regular and special sessions, Texas lawmakers still can't come to an agreement on school finance reform.

But Lufkin ISD Superintendent David Sharp says he's glad.

"A lot of what was in the bills that have failed to pass were designed for people with a certain area code in Texas around Highland Park in Dallas, and those people are also the people that provide a lot of money for campaign elections."

In other words, Sharp believes the bills debated in Austin have been unfair to rural districts.

Among several other things, Sharp is very concerned about what will happen to teacher retirement benefits.

"It's going to decrease the benefits for almost all the future teachers in Texas. At the same time, the speaker of the house increased his pension by over twenty thousand dollars this year effective immediately."

Besides more money for new textbooks and equipment, many teachers are hoping for a salary increase.

"Teacher pay raises... that's an important thing. It's a good incentive for the teachers. A straight across pay raise would be fantastic." says fourth grade teacher Julie Treadwell.

Legislation being debated does allow for a teacher pay raise. But, it's not a big increase.

"You know at one point, people said we were going to get a four thousand dollar pay raise... at this point they say it's forty one dollars and that's actually money that they've already taken away from us and giving back." says Treadwell.

The recent special session ended without reform being passed. But Sharp hopes taking more time, will lead to a better plan.

"Finally enough pressure has been put on by the people of Texas saying this is not a good bill, you need to go back and re-visit this and let's try to do what's right."

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