At midpoint of the legislative session, teacher pay raise and school finance bills advance

Texas lawmakers have entered the halfway point of the 86th Legislative Session, and the pace of activity at the State Capitol has significantly increased since January.

On March 4, the Texas Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 3, which provides an across-the-board $5,000 pay raise to every full-time classroom teachers and all school librarians. As filed, the bill would have provided raises to full-time classroom teachers only. However, the bill’s author, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), amended the legislation on the Senate floor to include school librarians because of their requirement to teach in the classroom for two years. SB 3 will now go to the House for consideration. House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty (R-Humble) indicated SB 3 would likely receive a hearing in his committee.

Increasing teacher compensation and reforming school finance are two of the governor’s emergency items, declared in his Feb. 15 State of the State address. SB 3 is also a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and all 31 members of the Texas Senate.

On March 5, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) joined Chairman Huberty for a press conference to announce the House chamber’s much anticipated school finance reform legislation, House Bill 3, also known as “The Texas Plan.” Bonnen and Huberty were joined in a jam-packed room of bipartisan House members from across Texas.

“I am so proud of the Texas House for taking us one step closer to passing transformational school finance reform legislation because Texas children can no longer wait for action – the time is now,” Bonnen said.

HISD is working with a statewide coalition of school districts, nonprofit organizations, and business leaders to promote much-needed updates to the state’s school finance system.  As filed, HB 3 contains many of the school finance reform priorities for HISD during the 86th Texas Legislative Session.  HB 3 would significantly help HISD by lowering recapture payments to the state and investing in Houston’s classrooms.

Some of the key provisions of HB 3 include:

  • Appropriates $9 billion in new funding over current school district entitlements, which includes $6.3 billion to public education and $2.7 billion for property tax relief through tax rate compression
  • Increases the basic allotment from $5,140 to $6,030 per student statewide
  • Reduces recapture payments to the state from $7.7 billion to $4.7 billion
  • Adds new funding allotments and weights related to early literacy development in high-quality, full-day pre-K programs; dyslexia; and dual-language programs for English Language Learners (ELLs) and non-ELLs
  • Increases the compensatory education weight for economically disadvantaged students
  • Restores the Transportation Allotment to recapture-paying districts with funding at $1 per mile

By raising the basic allotment, HB 3 also increases the minimum salary schedule for teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians. You can see a full summary of The Texas Plan here.

Shortly before the bill filing deadline on March 8, Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) filed the Senate’s priority school finance legislation, SB 4.  The Senate version includes funding that incentivizes school districts to focus on third grade literacy and college, career and military readiness. Similar to HB 3, the bill adds new funding for students with dyslexia, restores transportation funding to HISD, provides additional funding for full-day Pre-K and includes pay increases for teachers on underperforming campuses. Like HB 3, the bill will likely be amended as it moves through the legislative process.

The House Public Education Committee heard public testimony on HB 3 on March 12. The bill now moves to the full House chamber for consideration. You can learn more about the state’s current school finance system, how it impacts HISD, and contact key state lawmakers by visiting the District’s #FixSchoolFinance toolkit