Legislator & School Administrator Reflect On School Finance

Can a business tax and a tobacco tax create lower school taxes? Representative Roy Blake Jr., a business man himself, but a non smoker supports the method for equalizing school funding. "Most all small businesses are exempt from this new raw based low rate tax," said Blake.

This historic piece of legislation comes at the end of Blake's term. In January he gives up his seat to Wayne Christian of Center. "I am pleased to have finished this piece of legislation. I believe I fulfilled many of my promises set forth in the campaign."

Blake credits John Sharp's commission for selling a plan that helps lower local tax rates to eventually to one dollar per $100 valuation. He also praises school administrators. Blake said, "In fact they were very instrumental in helping to negotiate a lot of these improvements that were made in the bill so we weren't put at a financial disadvantage to the property wealthy school districts."

But administrators wanted a teacher pay raise higher than the $2000 granted. And they didn't like losing local control of the school calendar. In 2007 the fourth Monday in August will become the first day of school all over Texas.

Administrators from throughout Region 7 took turns visiting Austin. They said this time, under pressure, legislators were willing to listen. Garrison school superintendent Arnie Kelley said, "I don't know if the deadline had something to do with it to make them willing to look at different ideas and opinions because when we went there was a different attitude."

Yet the wait and see attitude over if the plan will work remains. "I think in the long run it's going to help everybody provided they can fund the system as it is," said Kelley.

Given the state's track record on school finance nothing can be assumed. Governor Perry is expected to sign the bill into law.

Stephen F. Austin State University benefited from the special session. A total of $30-million in tuition revenue bonds were passed for the university. The money will be used for an education research facility and maintenance and safety improvements.