Legislature passes major school finance bill, reducing recapture by $3.6 billion statewide

The Texas Legislature approved House Bill 3 on Saturday, May 25, receiving unanimous support for the school finance bill in both the House and Senate before legislators concluded the 2019 Texas Legislative Session on Monday, May 27.

The bill is expected to reduce HISD’s 2019-20 and 2020-21 recapture payments significantly. Many of the district’s recommendations were included in the final version of HB 3, including funds for full-day pre-K, high needs students, and transportation. 

School finance reform, teacher compensation and property tax relief were top priorities for Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and lawmakers across the state. HISD’s Government Relations team worked hard to accomplish the district’s legislative priorities, with school finance reform and lowering recapture payments as the number one issues. 

Ultimately, HB 3 was the vehicle for school finance reform, teacher pay and property tax relief. On Thursday, May 23 the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the Texas House held a joint press conference, flanked by a dozen legislators who helped negotiate the final versions of the school finance and property tax reform bills. The three leaders unveiled the final version of HB 3 and emphasized the large investment in students and teachers. HB 3 is expected to decrease recapture by $3.6 billion statewide.

HB 3 is the product of many recommendations from the public education community and the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. A comprehensive overview of House Bill 3, produced by Raise Your Hand Texas, can be viewed here.  

State lawmakers approved other important education-related bills in the final days of the session. Proposals taking aim at school safety and Hurricane Harvey recovery all received final approval before the end-of-session deadline, as priorities of the state’s leadership.  

Senate Bill 11, authored by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), is a comprehensive school safety bill drafted based upon many recommendations from interim committee hearings after the Santa Fe High School shooting. SB 11 intends to strengthen mental health supports by creating a children’s mental health consortium. The bill requires school districts to submit school safety plan to the state and provides a new school safety allotment ($100 million) for school districts to use on personnel, equipment and facilities costs.  

Senate Bill 500 is the supplemental appropriations bill, authored by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond).  SB 500 appropriates money from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” and authorizes the Texas Education Agency to reimburse school districts for certain post-disaster costs associated with Hurricane Harvey ($806.5 million). The bill also appropriates about $343.5 million for school safety and mental health services.  

Funds for school safety and Hurricane Harvey recovery were also part of HISD’s legislative priorities.  

“HISD is grateful that our state leaders prioritized the needs of children this session,” said HISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan. “Houstonians have been asking for school finance reform and recapture relief for several legislative sessions. We’re thankful to the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker, Chairman Huberty, Chairman Taylor and all members in both chambers of the Legislature for working hard to pass House Bill 3. There is more work to be done, but HB 3 contains improvements and funding that will have an immediate positive impact on the lives of Houston children and families.”  

The Legislature meets every other year, in odd-numbered years, for 140 days.