Governor Perry Pays Visit to Lufkin

by Jessica Cervantez

Governor Rick Perry made a stop at McCoy's in Lufkin Wednesday to talk about the new school finance reform plan passed by the Texas legislature.

Governor Perry greeted Lufkin residents and then talked about the plan that is expected to reduce property taxes by more than $15-billion. It will also provide strong taxpayer protections and raise the salaries of all Texas teachers by two thousand dollars.

Some educators in East Texas say that some portions of the bill are good, but there are other portions that draw concern. But, they say right now it is too early to tell how the plan will affect them.

According to the Governor Perry's Office, the reformed franchise tax will:

-Reward employers for creating jobs and investing in employee benefits.  Every time a business puts a Texan to work, pays for health insurance or invests in a pension plan, their tax liability will go down.

-Protect small employers so that they can continue to drive Texas' economic growth.

-Exempt sole proprietors and general partnerships from the tax, as well as businesses whose gross receipts total $300,000 or less, and those whose tax bill is less than $1,000.

-Reward employers that create jobs and contribute to our economy, but also mandates that businesses that hire illegal immigrants will pay the price with higher taxes.

Education Reforms include:

-A $2,000 Pay Raise for Teachers:  Legislators passed a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers, restoring the full amount of the teacher health stipend and building on the positive trend in teacher compensation that has seen salaries increase by $11,700 for teachers in the classroom since 1999.

-Performance Pay for Excellent Teachers:  The legislation will create the largest performance pay plan in the nation to reward classroom excellence.  With $260-million for bonuses of up to $10,000 per teacher for locally-designed incentive programs, and another $100-million for the Governor's Educator Excellence Awards Program, Texas will take the national lead in rewarding educational excellence and attracting top-performing teachers to struggling campuses.

-Improving High School: HB 1 provides more than $1-billion over three years to reform Texas high schools and further the goals of the governor's high school initiative which are to reduce the drop out rate, replicate successful school models and prepare more students for college.

-Raising the Bar: Legislators strengthened the curriculum by requiring four years of math and science to better prepare students for the high-tech economy.

-Robin Hood relief: By 2008, close to $1-billion in local property tax revenues will remind in local districts to be spent on local students instead of being exported to other areas of the state.

-Great Funding Equity: The state will make a historic commitment to funding fairness, achieving up to 94% funding equity on enrichment dollars.

-Teacher mMentoring:  Millions of dollars will be dedicated to teacher mentoring program to keep young educators in the classroom.

-More Money for Schools: With $1.8-billion to fund teacher pay increases and classroom excellence initiatives, as well as funding provided last session, legislators have increased school fund by $3.4-billion in the current fiscal biennium.

-State Share Increases Dramatically: by next year the state share of caution funding will increase to 50%, reversing a trend scheduled to take us to 34% in FY2007 if nothing had been done.