Two weeks remain in the 2019 Texas Legislative Session, and state lawmakers are working to address pending legislation related to public education.
Most notably, during his February State of the State address, Gov. Greg Abbott called upon lawmakers to reform the state’s outdated school finance system and strengthen school safety and security. Both issues are emergency items and are moving through the Legislature.
HB 3 makes transformative changes to the state’s school finance system. HB 3 received 148 ayes and only one nay from the House of Representatives on April 3. On April 25, the Senate Education Committee took up the bill and made several revisions. After hours of debate on the Senate’s changes to the legislation, HB 3 was ultimately approved by the full Senate with 26 ayes, 2 nays and 3 abstentions on May 6.
Some of the key provisions in the bill, as passed the Senate, include:
- Increasing the Basic Allotment from $5,140 to $5,880 per student (increased to $6,030 in the House approved version).
- Switching from prior year to current year property valuations for school district entitlement funding and recapture calculations (maintains prior year values in House approved version).
- Fully funding full-day pre-K (same as House approved version).
- Reducing recapture statewide (House version also reduces recapture).
- Adding an across-the-board $5,000 pay raise to full-time teachers and librarians ($1,850 pay raise to full-time teachers and support staff at the campus level in House approved version).
- Adding performance-based funding for third grade reading and college, career, and military readiness. School districts can use an assessment other than STAAR for third grade reading. (no similar provision in the House’s version).
- Adding a new Teacher Incentive Allotment for performance-based pay for educators (The House version contains an “Educator Effectiveness Allotment” for districts to incentivize effective teachers to work on high needs campuses).
- Adding STAAR provisions phasing in online exams, adding 4 writing tests to grades 3-8, and more (no similar provision in the House version).
- Providing Transportation Allotment for recapture districts (House version has a similar provision. HISD currently receives no transportation funding from the state).
- A Dual-Language Allotment for non-English and English speaking students (Similar to House approved version).
- Increasing the Special Education weight and creates a new Dyslexia weight (Similar to House approved version).
- Compensatory Education Allotment spectrum weight on a sliding scale for school districts based on census blocks. Districts with higher poverty concentrations of students receive more money (House has the same provision).
- Adds property tax relief proposals, including compressing tax rates, capping school districts revenues at 2.5%, and the creation of a special fund called the “Tax Reduction and Excellence in Education Fund” (House version only contains tax compression).
HB 3 will go to a conference committee where members from both chambers will work out remaining differences.
On May 7, the House Public Education Committee took public testimony on SB 11, also referred to as the “Texas School Safety Act.” The bill drafted based upon many recommendations from interim committee hearings called by Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and former House Speaker Joe Straus. The bill was approved by the full Senate with a 29-2 vote on April 29.
Key provisions of SB 11 include:
- Requiring the Texas Education Agency to ensure that building standards provide a safe and secure environment.
- Offering loan repayment assistance to those who serve as school counselors and licensed specialists on school psychology.
- Offering a grant program for one-time facility hardening for schools.
- Requiring that teachers, including substitute teachers, receive safety training and have access to a phone or electronic device to allow for quick connection to first responders in the event of an emergency.
- Requiring that mental health authorities employ a non-physician mental health professional to serve as a resource and provide training to school district personnel.
- Requiring that schools adopt a multi-hazard emergency operations plan and appoint a school safety committee.
- Requiring that schools establish Safe and Supportive Care teams comprised of school personnel.
- Training educators on methods of interacting with students coping with past trauma.
SB 11 must receive approval from the full House of Representatives before reaching the Governor’s desk.
The 86th Texas Legislature will wrap up its Regular Session on Monday, May 27.
To learn more about the state’s school finance system and how it impacts HISD, visit www.houstonisd.org/fixschoolfinance.