As Texas legislature opens, education on mind of lawmakers

The new Texas legislative session is only hours old, but if you talk to those elected to represent us in the house or in the senate about their priorities, they already have a list. And for virtually all of them, you can bet education is on it.

"I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and tackle the job," says State Senator Sylvia Garcia.

This is her first full session and the Houston Democrat wants to put back into the classrooms the money they've lost.

"We haven't fully undone and restored the cuts of a couple of sessions ago," she told Eyewitness News as the 84th legislative session began.

Her republican colleague, Paul Bettancourt, wants to make sure new money does indeed end up in the classrooms, helping teachers and their students.

"I think we should be getting some money directly in to the teachers to pay their expenses," he says. "Because we all know teachers spend money out of their pockets. they just don't get reimbursed."

Figuring out how to fund education, one of the state's biggest expenses is complicated by a lawsuit in which districts are suing Texas over how it calculates the money each district receives. The formula has been ruled unconstitutional. That cloud hangs over the newly minted lawmakers, who know know they have to find a way to educate Texas children.

"I think regardless of where you come from in the political equation, I think most people realize we need to put more into education. The question is how much," said State Senator Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat.

Ellis says there is no more important task than funding education.

"During the worst of times we tell our public schools they've got to sacrifice because we can't afford it. and then during the best of times in Texas we told our public schools that we can't afford to do it."
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