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Texas House passes major school finance reform

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Capitol Update

I write to you from the Texas Capitol, where the House just overwhelmingly passed a major school finance reform package, House Bill 3. If finally passed into law, this legislation would provide $9 billion to fill critical funding gaps for public schools, with a special focus on improving student achievement, pay raises for teachers, and lowering our reliance on local property taxes to fund our schools.

While this legislation still needs to pass through the state Senate and onto the Governor, the House passed it with 149 out of 150 votes. Funding our public schools at the level necessary to improve student outcomes and pay our teachers what they deserve is among the most critical issues before the state. Also important is finding a way to reduce local property taxes on overburdened homeowners. That is why I am very pleased to see such cooperation at the Capitol to pass reasonable and responsible reform, and am optimistic this legislation will continue to move forward and finally pass into law.

In this article, I would like to share some of the major parts of this legislation, so you can understand the impact it could have on improving public education in Texas. House Bill 3 proposes to enact the following:

• Increase the state’s basic allotment from $5,140 to $6,030 per student.

• Expand early education programs, including an early reading program and access to pre- K, which has been proven to improve long-term student success.

• Directs local school boards to set student achievement goals for 3rd grade math and reading, and provides funding to make optional summer instruction available to prevent the “summer slide” in core subjects.

• Expands career and technology education programs.

• Dedicates funds to equip teachers and schools to better combine traditional instruction and e-learning.

• Quadruples the funds allocated to growing districts to build and equip new school facilities.

• Raises the minimum teacher salary schedule and gives school districts funds to recruit and retain high quality teachers.

• Buys down local property tax rates by an average of 5.5%, while other legislation before the House seeks to reduce property taxes even more.

• Reduces the “Robin Hood” recapture payments that local districts pay back to the state by 38%, ensuring that more local money stays in the local schools.

Every school district in House District 17 would see an increase in state funds through this legislation, and every property owner in our district would see a property tax rate reduction. I am also pleased to report that the House budget proposes to fully fund this school finance reform package while remaining fully balanced.

If you have any questions for me about this legislation, or any issue, please call my office in the Capitol at (512) 463-0682, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rep. John Cyrier (R-Lockhart) represents District 17 in the Texas House, and is Chairman of the Committee on Culture, Recreation, and Tourism.