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Texas House releases school finance reform plan

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Capitol Update

At the beginning of the year, Governor Abbott charged the Texas Legislature with making school finance reform a priority. Our current school finance system is broken. The system is not equitable, it fails to give adequate resources to our districts or competitive salaries to our teachers and support staff, and it is far too reliant on local property taxes.

Last week, the Texas House released House Bill 3, a comprehensive plan to completely overhaul the school finance system. It addresses the major problems of our current system in several key ways.

Most importantly, it directs a larger portion of state resources to public education, which provides $9 billion over the next two years for students and teachers. By increasing the state’s investment, we can reduce local property taxes and fill critical funding gaps for salaries and student learning needs.

Under this plan, the “basic allotment” of state funds that a district receives would increase from $5140 to $6030 per student, a 17% increase. Preliminary projections show that every one of the school districts in House District 17 would see a positive impact from this reform, and some stand to receive a significant increase in state funds.

The plan would also invest more in teachers. It raises the minimum salary schedule for teachers and provides additional funds for recruiting and retaining teachers. This is especially valuable for some of the school districts in our house district, which have a hard time competing with larger districts that can offer higher salaries.

Support for classroom instruction, innovation, and special educational needs would also receive a boost. The plan invests in research-based programs proven to improve student achievement, programs for identifying and assisting dyslexic students, and technology and career preparation.

In recent years, we made a strong commitment to improving early childhood education in Texas. This began with Governor Abbott’s high-quality pre-K grant program, established in 2015 and funded again in 2017 by the legislature. This plan would fund additional pre-K in Texas and additional learning programs for summer instruction.

We know that instructional resources, teacher pay, and early childhood education all combine to improve student outcomes, so this plan invests our educational dollars in what works in order to give Texas students a better education and a competitive advantage as they enter college or careers.

This plan also makes much-needed changes to the tax and finance structure. By increasing the state’s share of education funding, we would be able to provide new dollars to public schools, make the system more equitable, and also reduce local property taxes by a minimum of 4 cents per 100-dollar valuation. Some school districts would see a larger property tax reduction. The plan also reduces “recapture” or the “Robin Hood” mechanism that currently takes local property taxes and sends them elsewhere in the state. This means that more funds raised locally by school districts will stay local.

The school finance system is complex and no plan can perfectly address everyone’s concerns, but I believe House Bill 3 is a big step in the right direction. It puts money toward what works, invests in teachers and learning, and reduces the reliance on local property taxes to fund public schools. If you want more information on this plan or if I can ever be of service, please reach out to my capitol office at (512) 463-0682.

Rep. John Cyrier represents House District 17 in the Texas House, which includes Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes, and Lee counties.