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TX Rep. Thompson Makes Argument for Appropriation for Textbooks

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

You have to admit that Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) had a good argument for the state appropriating more money for public school textbooks as she laid out an amendment to HB 1 Wednesday on the House floor.

She cited a recent newspaper article in which even Gov. Rick Perry spoke of supporting textbooks out of funds set aside during the 79th Regular Session in anticipation of the public school reform bill passing - which did not happen. "The governor seemed to recognize the fact that we need books," said Thompson.

"He's tired of seeing Ann Richards' picture in there as governor of Texas instead of his own," she explained.

HB 1 by Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) includes the Texas Education Agency funding - which was victim of Perry's line-item veto in SB 1 following the regular session. Perry vetoed education funding to force the hand of the Legislature on school reform and school finance issues.

Among the amendments offered to the bill was Thompson's - which would provide for the purchase of additional textbooks for public school students.

Thompson said the state has purchased only half of the textbooks from the 2002 proclamation. "We're halfway there," she said. "Let's finish the job."

"We all think textbooks are important," said Rep. Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington), author of HB 2, the school reform bill. Thompson cited the 2002 proclamation costs for the textbooks at $396 million, but said since that original estimate, the cost had decreased to $295 million.

Grusendorf offered a point of order on Thompson's proposed amendment, but the point of order was overruled.

"We need to have textbooks for our children to use," said Thompson as she continued to explain her amendment. She said students must be given the tools they need to become competent in areas which the state mandates proficiency.

Pitts argued against the amendment, saying the state purchased $145 million worth of textbooks in the old adoption of 2001. He said another $153 million were purchased as part of a continuing contract, totaling more than $300 million. Pitts said last session, the legislature did not purchase all of the 2001 proclamation.

The House Appropriations chairman said in February, his committee asked how many textbooks were in the warehouse and was told the remaining books were from the 2001 adoption. "We funded the 2001 adoption," he said. "The textbook companies on their own made a decision...and published those textbooks. Yes, they are in the warehouse but they know the purchase is contingent on an appropriation."

Pitts said if Thompson's amendment were adopted, it would tie the hands of the House conference committee members when they have to deal with the Senate on HB 2. He added that there would be "a $1.8 billion reserve if we do HB 5 and from veto funds," and if the conference committee decided to buy textbooks, they could do so with that money.

"He's saying it gives the conference committee an opportunity to have some leverage," responded Thompson, adding that Pitts would limit the conference committee's ability to "have flexibility" by tying their hands and not allowing them flexibility on how to spend the money.

She added that what Grusendorf wants is for the textbooks to be "held hostage" so he can use his leverage to obtain laptops for some schools. "He wants technology over textbooks," she said, adding that some students will have to "learn from books that are much older than they are" and that not all school districts in the state are set up to use laptops.

"The kids need these," said Thompson of the textbooks waiting in warehouses.

Thompson's amendment was tabled by a one-vote margin, and HB 1 was passed to engrossment.