Lawmakers focusing on school finance for new session

HARLINGEN — One of the key issues in the upcoming legislative session will be school finance.

That’s the word from the legislators — Rep. Eddie Lucio III, Rep. Oscar Longoria and Rep. Ryan Guillen — who spoke yesterday at the Harlingen Chamber of Commerce’s Public Affairs Luncheon.

They discussed items that will be important for the 86th Legislative Session.

“Public school finance reform is at the top of our priorities,” Lucio told city officials, commissioners, and Harlingen school district administrators at the Texas State Technical College Cultural Arts Center.

Chamber members and business leaders were also present.

About 200 people attended the event. Harlingen Medical Center was the title sponsor for this event. Additional sponsors included the Port of Harlingen Authority, VTX1 Companies, Valley Baptist Health System and Texas State Technical College.

Longoria pointed out the need to have more revenue streams in order to fund schools instead of using the proverbial “Rainy Day Fund.”

“We need funding revenue to keep putting money into school finance,” he said.

Lucio also pointed out the need to bring more businesses to the Valley — and to have a trained workforce for those businesses.

“I’m really interested in technical education,” he said. “We are not bringing companies to South Texas because we don’t have the workforce needed to support them.”

One of the challenges for this effort is when to train that workforce.

“Do we train them and then attract the companies, or do we attract the companies and then train the workforce?” he said. “We will solve that issue and bring the Googles and Amazons to South Texas so we will be at the epicenter of business.”

Another issue is school safety, Guillen said, referring to recent school shootings in other parts of the country.

“It’s going to require some action from the legislature,” he said.

He believes Gov. Greg Abbott has a plan in the works.

“It’s probably going to cost money,” Guillen said. “But it’s going to be an important topic in the next legislative session.”

They said the state is in much better shape financially than had been expected due to increased revenues.

However, they also pointed out the importance of border security and the need to compensate local municipalities for expenses they are being charged, such as fuel and equipment.

School and city officials were impressed.

“I think it was very informative,” said Harlingen school board member Javier De Leon.

“I like all the senators and reps coming together,” he said. “I’m very proud of our leaders here in the Rio Grande Valley.”

San Benito City Manager Manuel De La Rosa appreciated the legislators attention to so many important issues.

“I am glad the Legislature is looking for new funding resources for schools,” he said. “We want more economic development.”