On Friday the State Board of Education found another $300 million for the state budget in the coming biennium, thanks to a transfer of unanticipated funds from the School Land Board into the Permanent School Fund. Legislative leaders, who have been pushing for budget cuts, said they welcomed the decision by SBOE members to provide $1.9 billion to the legislature, $300 million more than previously approved. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, presiding officer of the Texas Senate, said: “Every dime of this additional $300 million distribution, equivalent to 3,000 teacher salaries over two years, will go directly to our public schools, students and teachers.”
There’s no question that the money will come in handy, but a lot more will be needed to fill the revenue hole caused by the recession-induced collapse of state tax revenue and by the structural shortfall in school funding created by the legislature in 2006. The Rainy Day Fund, worth $9 billion or so by next biennium, is designed to counter exactly the sort of revenue drop we’ve seen in this recession. Beyond that, it could take another $9 billion or $10 billion to fix the structural shortfall that resulted when the legislature cut school property taxes and failed to come up with promised replacement revenue.