Texas Senator Charles Perry held a town hall meeting in Levelland on Tuesday on the campus of South Plains College. The town hall was organized by the Levelland Chamber of Commerce.
Perry began by giving an overview of what the next legislative session will look like. Perry represents 51 counties and 149 school districts. He also serves on 12 Senate special committees. He noted that the state legislature will be going into the 2017 legislative session with 4-6 percent less in funding which equates to 4-6 billion dollars less than the last session which was noted to be one of the largest in history.
He pointed out that oil prices seem to be stabilizing which will help the budget. He pointed out that Child Protective Services and our Foster Care System will consume much of the upcoming session. He stated “we have continued down the same path and it is not working.” He said it seems to be the opinion of most legislators that we will not end this session without reform. He said last session there was nearly 400 million dollars left in the budget that was not spent by CPS and he says we don’t need additional funding we have to re-prioritize the money we have.
He also noted that school finance will be an important topic. He stated that property tax is likely the best method to fund schools, however, the way that is done is going to have to change and we have to do more with what we have, citizens across his district echo they cannot pay more property taxes so government “has to use what they have in a more efficient manner.”
Perry also said that water will be a big issue in the next legislative session and we have to make sure the state is not micro-managing water right for individual land owners.
Dr. Robin Satterwhite, President of South Plains College asked the senators feeling on Community College funding. Senator Perry said “I feel the community colleges got shorted in the last higher education funding in the last legislative session.” He contributes that to the fact that most legislators serving on the budget committee for Higher Education does not understand the budget process. He said just because Higher education got an increase in funding in the last session, community colleges did not get equal treatment. He said the current funding based on contact hours is antiquated and must be fixed. He said “I will be an advocate for community colleges because I believe in them.”
Perry also noted that the 800 million dollars spent on border security hired more officers so that we could keep our DPS troopers in their local counties and still protect the border. He expects the amount spent for border security to decrease this legislative session, noting, he hopes the federal government will see where their responsibility lies in securing the borders.
Perry wrapped up the town hall meeting by voicing his support for Public Education, however he did say that he is NOT totally opposed to a good voucher system, however, he noted their has not been a voucher system presented that he would support. He noted that even if the voucher system passed the senate, he said there definitely is not the support to get it passed in the house chamber. He did note that he would like to see legislation introduced that would allow transfers across the state within guidelines. He pointed out that transferring a discipline problem student to another district can be a good idea, but should only be done with a 90 day probation and if they continue to be a problem in the new district they should automatically be sent to an alternative education program.