House speaker's education initiative has big price tag
"It's the right direction," said Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, whose husband, Martell Menlove, is the state superintendent of public education. "If she can find a way to fund it, kudos to her."
What's being called "The Public Education Modernization Act" could take up to two years to implement statewide, Lockhart said.
Gibson said some of the funding, such as the estimated $45 million needed for infrastructure improvements to schools, could come from the $132 million in surplus, or one-time monies, from the current budget year ending June 30.
Another potential place to find money is the earmark for transportation funding, a set-aside of 30 percent of the growth in sales tax passed in 2011. The earmark was vetoed by the governor, but lawmakers overrode his action.
Lockhart said growth in state revenues due to the improving economy is also a source. The state is expected to collect an additional $206 million in the coming budget year that begins July 1.
In his $13.3 billion proposed budget, the governor recommended $157 million in new funding for public schools, including a 2.5 percent increase in the weighted pupil unit funding mechanism, the biggest increase since 2008.
The speaker didn't rule out cutting that increase or the $7.5 million Herbert wants to use to fund early education intervention programs, including all-day kindergarten.
"Everything is on the table. There are no sacred cows," Lockhart said when asked about the governor's plans for the money. "This is a transformational idea, and we have to have a serious discussion about it."
The governor's office said in a statement that Herbert has been "a strong proponent of enhancing the technology available to teachers and students" since he first convened his Education Excellence Commission four years ago.
"The governor appreciates the support of legislative leadership for this important initiative. He looks forward to working with the Senate and House to find the right balance for funding competing priorities with limited taxpayer dollars."
Contributing: Dennis Romboy
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