Gov. Perry Orders $295 Million for Textbooks, Higher Minimum Pay for Teachers
Outlines First of Several Steps to Implement Education Reforms Using Executive Authority
Upon conclusion of the legislative session without passage of school finance reform or property tax relief legislation, Gov. Rick Perry today outlined a series of actions he will take in the coming days to implement education reform using executive authority.
"My resolve to reform public education remains absolutely unchanged," Perry said. "Texans have demanded reform, they have been promised reform, and I intend to deliver reform."
"I want Texans to be assured: even though the legislature did not act, I will," Perry added. "In the coming days and weeks, I will work to implement education reform using the constitutional authority of the executive branch. And today the very first action I am taking is to initiate a budget execution order to pay for textbooks because students need the newest materials in the classroom as soon as possible."
Perry's budget execution order includes $295 million for health, foreign language and fine arts textbooks. Last week, Perry ordered the Texas Education Agency to allow school districts to begin ordering these books and assured publishers the state would provide the necessary funding through legislation or budget execution. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick have already expressed their support for this budget execution order for textbooks, which must now be approved by the Legislative Budget Board.
Perry also announced that he has directed Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley to raise the minimum teacher salary schedule effective immediately so that 8,000 teachers will receive the pay increases they expected after the conclusion of the regular session. While this pay increase was removed from the budget by the legislature in the first special session, Perry said that he believes state law makes it clear that whenever additional money is put into the education funding formulas, the minimum salary schedule must rise.
In addition to funding textbooks in the governor's proposed budget execution order, Perry also called for funding several other state priorities, including:
* $200 million in state aid to increase rates paid to nursing homes that care for frail and infirm Texans.
* $13 million to increase the personal needs allotment for nursing home patients from $45 a day to $60 a day.
* Up to $76.2 million in additional state funding for trauma centers.
* $48.5 million to fund operations at the Irma Rangel Pharmacy School in Kingsville and the Texas Tech Medical School in El Paso "because it is high time the state kept its commitment to these institutions," Perry said.
Perry said he shared the disappointment of millions of taxpayers, teachers and parents of the legislature's failure to act on property tax relief legislation and education reform.
"I have not ruled out another special session on school finance down the road should the legislature find the collective will to finish its work," Perry said. "But for now, it is abundantly clear that no such will exists, and I see no value in calling lawmakers back to Austin at this time."
Perry said the conclusion of this special session represents only a temporary victory for the special interests that want to keep their tax loopholes open and maintain the status quo in education
"I will keep fighting every day for a better compensation system for teachers, more education dollars directed into the classroom and real property tax relief that includes lower rates and protections for taxpayers against rising appraisals," Perry said. "I know that many lawmakers, and millions of Texans who must continue to make their voices heard, will join me in this great cause."
"While I am frustrated and disappointed that lawmakers have not passed education reform and property tax relief, I do not believe the interests of Texans are served by fault-finding or finger-pointing," Perry said. "No one wins when politicians play the blame game, least of all their constituents back home."
"I choose to focus on the future and what can still be done to improve classroom performance for our schoolchildren, improve compensation for Texas teachers and ensure that every taxpayer dollar spent on education makes the most difference in the life of a child," Perry said.