Late Night Filibuster Kills School Finance Bill

AUSTIN (AP) – The failure of a critical school finance bill puts Texas lawmakers in the likely position of having to work overtime.

Democrats used a filibuster — the last weapon in their arsenal — to block the bill early Monday morning after 139 days of fighting budget measures that slash billions of dollars in state funding from public education and other areas.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, began talking late Sunday night and talked until midnight, preventing a Senate vote on a bill that would have allowed Texas to pay public schools $4 billion less than owed under current law. The House had passed the bill a few hours earlier.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry had warned lawmakers earlier Sunday that he would call them back into a special legislative session Tuesday if the bill failed. The regular session ends Monday.

The Senate could still take up the bill Monday, but that would require at least 25 of the 31 senators to agree, a scenario several Democrats said was unlikely and one that Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst didn’t want to predict.

“I am personally, really disappointed,” Dewhurst said. “This puts the budget in a crisis.”

Davis was unapologetic over her maneuver.

“Priorities of hard-working Texas families have come dead last this session,” Davis said. “This is a tool that we had, and I’m proud to have used it on behalf of the people I represent.”

Republicans could do nothing to stop her when she launched into the filibuster late Sunday. Facing a midnight deadline, the Senate didn’t take up the bill until after 10 p.m. By the time Davis started, she only had about 75 minutes to go to meet the midnight deadline and cut off the bill without a vote.

“We have failed our school children,” Davis said when she began. She then read letters from constituents in her district — students, parents, teachers — much like actor Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

After the deadline passed, Davis’s eyes began to tear up and she left the Senate chamber with Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

Some Republicans mocked the filibuster, saying it was pointless. If Perry calls lawmakers back into special session, Republicans have a 19-12 Senate majority to brush aside Democrats.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who had negotiated the schools provision, predicted the bill would eventually pass. She called Davis a “lone ranger” and said she believes the Senate could rally the 25 votes needed to pass it Monday.

The schools provision would change distribution formulas to public schools so the state could legally give them less money under the new budget. It would spread the $4 billion shortfall over the two years of the budget period — 6 percent across-the-board cuts in 2012 and $2 billion in targeted funding levels in 2013.

Rep. Mike Villareal, D-San Antonio, said if the bill passed, Texas would drop from 44th in the nation in student spending to 46th.

The bill’s failure also complicates the overall state budget bill, which made $37 billion available to public schools if senators passed the new funding formula. Without the bill that failed Monday, that money is stripped from the budget.

The bill’s failure puts a messy end on a contentious legislative session dominated by emotional battles over the budget. On Saturday, the House and Senate passed a budget that slashed billions of dollars in funding to public schools, higher education and health care services.

Democrats have fought to use more money from the state’s almost $10 billion reserve fund to pay for public schools, a move Perry and other Republican leaders have rejected. Republicans argued that the cuts lawmakers made in all areas were tough but necessary. They said the state simply didn’t have the money, even though lawmakers left billions in the reserve fund.

“I hope we never have to go through what we had to this session again,” said Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


One Comment

  1. Joe Vea says:

    perry …you are stupid! and so are your republican yes men. Dont count on the hispanic vote !! you’re dead in the water.

    1. Hemroidious says:

      and your smart?

      1. lj says:

        Hey genius-that should be “you’re” not “your”.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Sad – 10 years ago Texas was an education state. Today, they can’t fund and have dropped to a level that is just above the notoriously worst education state in the nation, Mississippi. Sad! (Hint: the way to save the 4 billion is to cut the testing done on students to the federal level instead of funding all of Pearsons salaries)

  3. jay shackelford says:

    It has never been more clear, the Republican party has drawn a line in the sand.
    The so called Governor Perry and the rest of his cronies are now after even more from the working class American and their children’s money.
    Its not bad enough when our honorable Governor makes private deals with known international arms dealers, with the sale of person property so he can line his pockets with over $400 thousand dollars over market value, when the party protects corporations with breaks under the “loss carry forward” a program that protects large corporations from paying any Federal tax for up to 20 years.
    Both parties have robbed Social Security of $2.5 trillion and are now draining the federal workers pension funds, they added over $40 thousand dollars to each living taxpaying American to pay for the Bush and Obama bailouts.
    The Republican Party has an all out attack on Medicare and Social Security, programs that the American worker have been required to pay into their entire working life, backed by the promise of the government that the programs would be there when they got old. As if that is not bad enough, they do not want to spend the savings to pay the deficit, they want to pass the savings on to the wealthy and corporations.
    Now here in Texas, the only if you have money party, are after our children’s education again, trying to pass a bill that would allow the state to not pay the public school system $4 billion dollars less than the state owes under current law. The result would mean lowering the standard of our children’s education even more.
    Any attempt to use the states $10 Billion in reserve funds has been blocked by Perry and the Republicans.
    The war of the haves and have nots, the attempt to pay for every thing on the backs of working class Americans and the future of their children’s quality of life.
    The taxpayer got the bill for both the bailouts, but after billions have been repaid, where is the announcement that the $40 thousand dollar tax liability to the working man has been reduced one dime.
    Just My Opinion

  4. Barbara A. says:

    Well stated. Thanks!

  5. joe says:

    more tax cuts for rich people or less spending for education, children’s healthcare…the GOPs stance is “i want both!”…

  6. Felicity says:

    There are a lot of not so rich folks out here supporting The Perry Plan because giving money to the schools doesn’t guarantee anything. Salaries to the management should be cut. I taught for 20 years and saw so much waste. If the culture was geared to supporting learning and the parents and students cooperated to their fullest extent there could be a higher level of learning for less money. And who wants new taxes in this economy?

    1. LJ says:

      the 100,000 +/- teachers and administrators who are being fired this year in Texas sure wouldn’t mind if we just restored the taxes that Perry cut in 2006.

  7. Michael Hall says:

    “The same day Gov. Rick Perry declared the state’s Emerging Technology Fund had been cleared of assertions of political favoritism, he announced a $2.5 million award to a company led by David Spencer, a six-figure donor to the governor’s campaigns.” What is up with that? Wendy Davis should be commended and we need this state to go back to the Charlie Stenholm type of conservative democrats with the type of character he displayed in D.C. for years. Emphasis on character. This is not the Republican party of my father, and what made me become independent. As low as we rank in education and they want to cut funding. Makes a lot of sense… a world gone nuts. What’s wrong with these people. Oh yeah, greed and thinking they’re right when maybe they’re just wrong as can be. Go Wendy. You did good.

  8. Hemroidious says:

    Ok. In two or three years from now, when we are all wondering, again, where the money went and how will we find more money to fund education. We will have this nit-wit senator to thank. If you want to see where the funding is going, go to any elementary school in Dallas or suburbs and just observe. Elementary schools are flooded with children of illegals. The mothers who pick them up at school are pregnant and can’t speak any English. Everything is in Spanish language there. I work for a local school district that is majority Hispanic and see it first hand. I think that they are good, hard working and well meaning people but that doesn’t pay the bill. Let them make up the funding difference on the local level or at the school.

    1. LJ says:

      Hemroidious- “Let them make up the funding difference on the local level or at the school.”
      That is a great idea and it is how we used to do it here in Texas. Unfortunately, that all changed in 2006 when Rick Perry signed the law that FORCED THE LOCAL LEVEL TO LOWER THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO SCHOOL FUNDING. The law lowered the maximum LOCAL property tax rate for schools. Perry and the Republicans promised that the lost funding would be replaced by a new business franchise tax but that money has never come close to replacing the lost billions in revenue so now our schools are broke and millionaires and billionaires who own property in Texas have most of that money instead. Classic Perry Era Republican redistribution of wealth to the wealthy!

  9. Wendy Davis – you are a HERO!
    I will fight tooth and nail to take down the Republicans that are determined to ruin our kids’ education!!!!! Listen up Perry and your henchmen: We won’t rest until you pay for what you are doing to our state – you WILL lose the majority in Austin. See ya!!!

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