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Burnam Bill Would Restore Education Funding

State Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat, says he knows how lawmakers should spend surplus money left in this year’s budget. He's filed a bill to restore all of the $5.4 billion cut from public schools in the last session.

Gov. Rick Perry has said he’d like to see lawmakers use the budget surplus to provide tax relief.

But Burnam and a lot of his fellow legislators, Republicans and Democrats, want to see that money to go to education.

Burnam says it was the governor’s tax relief comments on the first day of the session that prompted him to propose restoring the entire $5.4 billion.

“Even today most people in the general public do not understand we had an actual reduction in the per-pupil spending last session. It’s the first time we’ve done that since World War II,” he explains.

The cuts resulted in some districts losing nearly $1,200 in funding per pupil, Burnham points out. More than 10,000 teaching jobs were eliminated, and class sizes increased in nearly 7,000 elementary classrooms.

“It costs to grow, and our school-age population is growing radically,” he says. “We have a moral and constitutional obligation to adequately fund education.”

More than 600 school districts have sued the state because of the cuts. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has said the way the legislature pays for schools may now depend on what a judge tells lawmakers they must do.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Rep. Burnam's name. We've corrected it.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.