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Education policy, funding must not be held back by the philosophy of delay

By Sen. Carlos Uresti

He who hesitates is lost.

This wise proverb dates to 1713, from English essayist and poet Joseph Addison, but the idea undoubtedly goes back much further than that. It capsulizes a simple truth that we learn both from the advice of our elders and our own experience — that to accomplish things in life, decisive action trumps delay.

Unfortunately, the value of this lesson has been lost on some state leaders who are actually advising delay in one of the Legislature's most important duties — adequately funding our public schools.

State Education Commissioner Michael Williams advised the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday that it should wait on the Texas Supreme Court to rule on the school finance lawsuit before restoring any of the $5 billion in budget cuts imposed on public schools two years ago.

The lawsuit involves some 200 Texas school districts that are challenging the state's school finance system, claiming it is inadequate and inequitable.

The case is currently before a state court, but the Texas Supreme Court will have the final say. That process could go on for more than a year before there is a final ruling. While it is true that the court may eventually order changes in the method for funding public education, it is also true that our schools need help now.

According to the comptroller, the Legislature will have $101.4 billion in general revenue available for the next two-year budget, almost 12.5 percent more than the current budget. The comptroller also underestimated the revenues we'd have in the current budget cycle, which ends Aug. 31, by some $8 billion.

We have the funds to restore the funding that was cut from the current biennium and plenty to fund student growth the will surely come over the next two years — both wise investments in our future.

But Mr. Williams' advice was this: "Whatever funding we look at — whether it is adding more compensatory education money or additional money for teachers — the more prudent action is to wait at this point.”

Williams is not the only one who wants to wait on instructions from the court. Last year the Joint Interim Committee to Study Public School Finance delved into the issue, then issued a final report in December with three recommendations: Continue to monitor the school finance litigation proceedings; Ensure the Legislature acts upon the decision of the highest court ruling; Work with all stakeholders in developing sound school finance policy.

As a member of the committee, I refused to sign the report.

With our children's future at stake, public education policy must not be based on delay. We don't tell our kids to wait; we tell them to seize the moment. That's what the Legislature needs to do. If we continue to hesitate in doing the right thing for our schools, we will — as Mr. Addison said 300 years ago — be lost.

Four more years

There were no tickets to scratch off or six special numbers to buy, but members of the Texas Senate on Wednesday held a once-in-a-decade 'lottery' of sorts that offered a political prize.

I won, along with 14 of my colleagues and a yet-to-be-named senator from Houston.

Senators usually serve in staggered terms, but everyone must run in the first election after redistricting. The drawing reset the process until the next round of political boundary making, with the 31 senators drawing either a four-year or two-year term.

As some of my constituents looked on from the Senate Gallery — a group of students from Real County — luck was with me, and I drew a four-year term. Although I won't face re-election until 2016, I will continue to be accountable to the people of Senate District 19, as if I was on the ballot every day.

Senate Secretary Patsy Spaw drew for the late Sen. Mario Gallegos, whose successor in the upcoming special election will serve a four-year-term.

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Capitol Office
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
District Office
Falcon International Bank
2530 SW Military Drive, Suite 103
San Antonio, Texas 78224

District Office
Maverick County Courthouse
501 Main Street, Suite 114
Eagle Pass, Texas 78852

District Office
312 S. Cedar
Pecos, Texas 79772

©2012 Carlos Uresti Campaign  •  A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer  •  P.O. Box 240431  •  San Antonio, Texas  •  78224

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