Texas Legislature in talks of increased education funding

The state legislature moved to increase the budget for Texas public schools and universities March 21.

The move, headed by Rep. Jim Pitts, came along when the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a $193.8 billion state budget proposal which would be used, in part, to assist college students in need of financial aid.

The first of Pitts’ bills includes a $1 billion addition to school funding in the two-year budget, while the second bill asks Pitts’ panel to make a $500 million addition to schools in a separate emergency spending measure.

Specifically for institutions of higher education, the House panel’s budget would increase spending on grants by $150 million providing aid for 87 percent of eligible college students, while the Senate’s $195.5 billion budget, passed on Wednesday, would add $115 million and cover 80 percent.

In 2012, Sam Houston State University was given a budget of $72,560,000 by the state. However, the school’s final expenses for that year amounted to over $84 million meaning that SHSU had to come up with the nearly $12 million on its own.

Although spending limits are constricting, lawmakers may be able to increase the budget assuming there is an increased economy over the next few years, delegated by comptroller Susan Combs. Additionally, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Williams also expressed that the Senate may be able to increase the budget.

In 2011, $5.3 billion were cut from the education budget which caused state-wide teacher layoffs, larger classes and less accessibility to resources. With the potential passage of this new legislation, the money cut from two years ago, and possibly even more, could be replenished.
Pitts’ proposal includes two separate budget bills covering $3 billion of the cuts which Pitts said, should be debated by the full House over the next two weeks.

With the potential passage of this legislation, Texas public schools could rehire teachersùwith a potential pay raise, decrease class sizes, maximize security, increase financial aid opportunities and possibly even lower tuition for students.

Although Pitts has the full support of all 27 members of his committee, he said he’s not sure how much he’ll receive from the House and the Senate.

Pitts said he hopes to take the bill to the House floor on April 4.


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