The future of Texas education was the central theme of District 127 State Rep. Dan Huberty's speech at the Humble Intercontinental Rotary meeting Jan. 7 at the Humble Civic Center.
Huberty will join fellow state lawmakers in Austin Jan. 14 at the 84th 144-day legislative session to tackle state issues, including public education reform and funding.
"In 2011, when the economy was in the tank, instead of borrowing money, we had to balance our budget, so we made a lot cuts," said Huberty. "Unlike the federal government, we're not just gonna borrow money, we're going to live within our means. So we put some of that money back in 2013. I anticipate we're gonna fully fund enrollment growth, as we go into 2015 and put some additional dollars in, so we're gonna see how that goes. My suspicion is that we will have a special session in the fall of 2015. That doesn't mean we are not going to work on it during this session. It is a significant problem that we are going to have to deal with."
The Texas legislature allocates approximately $197 billion for its biannual budget, which by law is required to be balanced.
But a recent ruling by State District Judge John Dietz found the state education system "constitutionally inadequate" and "financially inefficient."
"That is a big issue guys because the ruling was, Judge Dietz came out and said we have to put $5 billion more in the system," said Huberty. "That's $10 billion in the biennium, that's 5 percent of the entire budget of the State of Texas. And we don’t have the money. So it is a significant problem that we are going to have to deal with this legislative session."
Huberty attributed the education funding problem in part to the large number of school districts in a state with huge social and economic disparities between its urban east and rural west populations, as well to the tremendous growth the state has experienced in recent years.
"One of the big problems in Texas is we have 1,228 school districts – and they're all independent school districts – the issue is when you get out to west Texas, you have a school district like Divide that has  children," Huberty said. "Then you come to Houston and you got school districts like Humble that has 39,000 students in it, or Houston, which is the largest district [in Texas], with 211,000."
Huberty said lawmakers will have to be smart about how they deal with school districts during the upcoming session.
"It is a significant problem," he said.
Cutline: State Rep. Dan Huberty speaks at the Humble Intercontinental Rotary meeting last week at the Humble Civic Center. Photo by Bryan Kimbro