TEXAS CITY

When the Texas Legislature begins its next session in January, many of the top issues on the state’s agenda will have direct connections to people and events in Galveston County.

Hurricane Harvey. The May 18 Santa Fe High School shooting. School finance reform.

The issues that dominated the two years since the legislature last met will be among the top priorities during the five-month legislative session, state Sen. Larry Taylor, of Friendswood, said during a luncheon held Monday by the Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce.

“This interim has been by far my busiest and most difficult,” Taylor said.

Taylor is the chairman of the Texas Senate Education Committee, and a member of the Texas Commission on Public School Finance, which has met for months to discuss ways the state might reform education funding.

Taylor spent hundreds of hours in committee meetings about school finance issues, he said. A report on the proposed reforms is due to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott next month, Taylor said.

“We’ve come up with some very good consensus things,” Taylor said. “We have a large number of school districts, so we have a lot of challenges.”

The legislature will work to “refocus” Texas education initiatives on achieving better outcomes, Taylor said. He also would support a program that would pay good teachers and administrators more to work at underperforming schools, he said.

State Rep. Greg Bonnen, of Friendswood, said the state’s budget will be tested by several priorities considered top issues during the session. He said he believed legislators would find a way to send money to communities hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, either by tapping the state’s emergency economic development fund or using other means.

“There will be roughly a billion dollars for Harvey relief, much of which will go to education,” Bonnen said. Some school districts faced massive repair costs, and smaller enrollments after the storm, limiting their ability to pay for recovery, Bonnen said.

“We will be seeking to make them whole,” he said.

Both Bonnen and Taylor spoke about the Santa Fe shooting, but didn’t name any legislation they were considering supporting related to it in the coming session.

A Texas Senate committee formed after the shooting, which left 10 dead and another 14 injured, recommended the state increase funding for mental health resources in schools, to train more teachers and school staff to carry weapons in schools, and to install more forms of security, such as metal detectors, in school buildings.

Newly elected state Rep. Mayes Middleton, of Wallisville, said he would support proposals to do away with the current method of school finance, which requires that certain “property rich” districts send some property tax revenues to other, less affluent districts.

“We’ve got to get rid of Robin Hood,” Middleton said. “That’s just a socialist redistribution of wealth program. It was a bad idea when it was passed and it’s a worse idea today.”

Middleton would also support more conservative legislation, including a state budget cap, a property tax cap and, possibly, an attempt to change rules about prayer in Texas schools, he said.

“We’ve got a new Supreme Court of the United States,” Middleton said. “We have conservative justices there that make up a majority. We need to test prayer in public schools again. We need to get prayer back in our public schools.”

The legislative session begins Jan. 8.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(16) comments

Susan Fennewald

Prayer in public schools??? Hindu prayer? Muslim prayer? Baptist prayer? Catholic prayer?
If you want religious support in your school, send your kids to a private religious school.
Don't use my tax dollars to support your religion.

Robert Waggoner

I thought God's children were of all religions. I never thought there was any harm to ask for the safety and well being of our children going to school through a short prayer. It's been done for many years at sporting activities for the participants. If you are an Atheist, I might understand your point. But if it is a cost issue, I really don't think it will break the bank by saying a short prayer to start the day or any school sponsored event.

Susan McLellan

There are, however, atheists among the taxpaying population of Texas, and in fact among the children in public schools. If time is to be set aside for prayer, let it be a time of independent use silence, with no "leading" by an authority figure suggesting that the time is best used appealing to a god of some sort. The time can be offered for theists to pray silently to whichever diety or dieties they prefer, and for atheists to meditate, perform mindfulness exercises, or use in whatever manner they see fit.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Generations of American Catholics and other religions have both paid tuition to private religious schools to ensure their children are educated consistent with their families' spiritual beliefs AND paid their taxes to send everyone else's kids to public schools. They have been prepared to make that financial sacrifice for the benefit they perceive their children will reap. When will people so bloody offended by the simple act of saying a prayer each morning give up the money they receive by law from their neighbors to support the kids in public schools?

Susan Fennewald

I grew up going to Catholic school, and my parents paid for it. I got a great education.
Any attempt to give any support to students - costs of books, busing etc - were deemed unconstitutional religious support.
So I learned my lessons - prayer in school is something that tax dollars should NOT support.

Miceal O'Laochdha

No need to give public support of any kind to Catholic schools. But when those schools are held to the same educational standards as public schools ( in reality, superior) and so certified, then an exemption from paying ISD taxes for such parents would be DEEMED eminently fair. But, fairness be damned. The parents of ISD students gladly collect the money from their private school neighbors. A brief prayer each morning in thanks for that "constitutionally-protected" windfall seems appropriate.

George Croix

Another good reason to let people spend their own money on sending their kids to whatever school they choose, rather than pay into a pot full of PC BS.
IMO

Rusty Schroeder

With all of the homeschooling that is going on that is really a valid point. Think about ISD taxes, if your child is homeschooled or attends a private school why pay a tax to a school your child doesn't attend. It would never happen, but could you imagine the uproar if only the ones benefitting from public schools had to pay for them. No more school taxes, no more 6 figure salaries, scaled back athletic programs, reasonable stadiums, bus fleets that are in proportion to needs,,,,the list could go on forever. It's a dream, there are too many people on the payroll in the legislature to ever see it. But pay for what you use, what an idea.

George Croix

[thumbup]

Actually, It's not as much an issue, to me, of paying for what I would use, as it is of paying for education, versus indoctrination.
Teacher, TEACH, and leave your personal politics, your 'green' ideology, your selective history, and your PC bunk at your own home, where it belongs....
I can remember when public schools did that.
But, that, now, is a pipe dream.....

Cary Semar

Funny thing is, George, I can remember before there were daily prayers in Texas schools. My Dad was an oilfield worker and we moved all over the state and I went to a lot of schools and all we did was salute the flag and pledge allegiance. Nobody brought God into it until I was in the third grade and Miss Carr explained to us that from now on we would insert the worlds "under God" into the pledge as congress had decreed. It seemed wrong to me then, as now, even though my Dad was then taking Bible classes at the University of Corpus Christi with the intention of becoming a preacher in the Baptist Church.

Shortly thereafter poverty forced Dad to give up his dream of a college education and we resumed following the rigs from town to town and I went from school to school and there were no prayers in any of them, unless you count those two little words they sneaked into the pledge of allegiance.

While I was in Junior High School, however, they began reading prayers each morning over the PA system during first period. They continued to do so until I graduated from High School, despite the rulings of the supreme court.

Some people think the decline of American righteousness began with the ban on school prayer, but I suspect it began even earlier. Perhaps it was the addition of "under God" to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 that started the decline, or perhaps it was the addition of the worlds "In God We Trust" to paper currency in 1957.

If God speaks to us, he speaks not through legislation or dogma, but through the conscience. It is not the laws that make men righteous, but what is in their hearts.

George Croix

Cary, when I hit first grade there was a minute or so daily allowed for anyone who wanted to to say the Lord's Prayer or whatever they wanted, or nothing if they wanted. I think you may be about 2 years older than I am so that timing sounds about right with what you said. That was in addition to the daily Pledge.
Actually, I'm not much of an organized religion guy. I have my own relationship with God and praying, but support my wife in her church going and also that my daughter got and grandkids still get exposure and opportunity to learn and form their own opinions . I see nothing wrong with a minute a day in school for kids to be allowed to pray quietly or not, and note that I personally never saw any bad things or threats to our Republic come from it. The Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion, not freedom from it.
I personally think it's a shame that schools to often are now the only real 'family' or role models that some kids have...... seems like a prayer about that sure couldn't hurt anybody of any belief, or lack of one.....especially with some of the off the wall ideologically driven junk the schools dish out these days....
Too much time is spent taking umbrage at anything anybody does that doesn't fit one's personal model. One thing to talk about it, even argue about it, but quite another to insist it be eliminated entirely just because one might be offended.....The Constitution guarantees our right, to be offended, too....
[wink]
Personally, I don't think decline began with 'under God' in the pledge...I think it began with a too common lack of allegiance to anything but oneself, and was accelerated when the melting pot started turning into a cupcake baking tin.....
But, that's just me.....
Interesting about your Dad...he and mine were a lot a like.......

Paul Sivon

The issue that matters to me is if our representative represents Galveston or Dan Patrick.

Carlos Ponce

Mention "prayer in school" and they're off! Thoroughly interesting that people begin to argue about a bill before reading it. Very Nancy Pelosish!
The proposed bill is HCR17 introduced November 12, 2018.
"Supporting prayers, including the use of the word 'God,' at public gatherings and displays of the Ten Commandments in public educational institutions and other government buildings."
Text:
https://www.legiscan.com/TX/text/HCR17/id/1824533
H.C.R. No. 17
By: Representative Phil Stephenson (R) (HD 85)
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, The Ten Commandments set forth a code of moral conduct that has had a significant impact on the development of the legal principles of western civilization; and
WHEREAS, It is clear from their writings that our founding fathers believed devotedly that there was a God, and throughout American history all three branches of government have acknowledged the strong role of religion in our nation's heritage and in the lives of its citizens; and
WHEREAS, Government should not now or ever demonstrate any hostility to observances of faith by disabling the recognition of our religious heritage; reflecting our history as a religious people, prayers, including the use of the word "God," at public gatherings and displays of the Ten Commandments in public educational institutions and other government buildings are acknowledgements of the continuing and important role of our
religious tradition; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the 86th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby support prayers, including the use of the word "God," at public gatherings and displays of the Ten Commandments in public educational institutions and other government buildings.

Now that you have READ the bill, now go to your corners and come out arguing.[wink]

Gary Scoggin

Why is the focus always on The Ten Commandments and not the Beatitudes?

Carlos Ponce

Contact Representative Phil Stephenson for your answer:
https://www.house.texas.gov/members/member-page/email/?district=85

Jose' Boix

The stated issues…
1. We need to test prayer in public schools again. We need to get prayer back in our public schools.
2. State budget cap, a property tax cap.
3. Increase funding for mental health resources in schools, to train more teachers and school staff to carry weapons in schools, and to install more forms of security, such as metal detectors, in school buildings.
4. Find a way to send money to communities hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, either by tapping the state’s emergency economic development fund or using other means.
5. Support a program that would pay good teachers and administrators more to work at underperforming schools.

Then there are the other issues “looming” such as: Charter schools, Bathroom bill, etc.
The foresight of the next Texas Legislature seems dim; too many issues, too little leadership and less want to reach consensus. Just my thoughts!

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