Capitol Update 4/26: Key Legislative Issues In Texas Public Education Policy

April 29, 2013 |

Raise Your Hand Texas Community Ambassador Speaks Out Against Vouchers

With a continued push by voucher advocates underway to bring voucher legislation to the floor of the Texas Senate, George McShan, Community Ambassador for Raise Your Hand Texas and Vice President of the Harlingen ISD school board, offers a concise and clear repudiation of vouchers and the detrimental effects they would have on taxpayers and students.

Watch his interview here:

Legislative Leaders Seeking Additional Funding for Public Education

Though many feared Texas legislators would use the pending court battle over school finance as an excuse to do little and “wait it out” with regards to school funding this session, House and Senate budget leaders have instead stepped up to propose significant funding increases for our schools.

Although the proposed increases would not completely restore the $5.4 billion in cuts from last session, they represent the potential for a renewed commitment to public education on the part of a majority of House and Senate members.

Here’s a summary of what’s happened thus far:

Appropriations Bill

  • The “Senate version” of Article III (the section that funds public and higher education) in SB 1 includes $1.5 billion in new funding on top of enrollment growth. The distribution breaks down to $1.375 for the funding formulas (which go to every district for all students) and $120 million for specific grant programs, including Pre-K, Career & Technology and the Student Success Initiative.
  • The “House version” of Article III in SB 1 includes $1.5 billion, all of which would be distributed via the funding formulas. On top of that, the House version includes an additional $1 billion in Article IX earmarked for public education, for a total of $2.5 billion.

These are the numbers that each version contained when the Conference Committee Members were named (see below). The committee has already begun meeting and budget negotiations are underway. Some expect the committee to produce a resolution of its decisions by May 10.

Supplemental Appropriations Bill and SJR 1

After the conference committee process started, two new pieces of legislation were introduced to increase funding even more.

HB 1025 is a second supplemental bill that would distribute additional funding for the current biennium (2012-13). It contains $500 million of general revenue to be distributed to school districts on a per weighted student (WADA) basis, breaking down to roughly $74 per WADA for the 2012-13 school year.

On the Senate side, SJR 1 was passed, which would take money from the Rainy Day Fund and distribute $800 million for public education for the 2014-15 biennium. The distribution break-down would be $500 million via the funding formulas and $300 million for performance pay for teachers (formerly the DATE program).

The Senate has also discussed a funding swap of sorts that would increase public education funding amounts further. When calculating how much the state needs to fund public education, the first “pot” of money that is considered is how much school districts raise locally with property taxes. After that revenue is calculated, the state essentially funds however much is needed on top of that to pay for the operations of school districts (unless they choose to not fund this, like in 2011). For the next biennium, the Comptroller is estimating that districts will bring in approximately $1.5 billion in local tax revenue. Instead of making that funding “count” toward the total amount needed to fund public education, the Senate has talked about using general revenue for that amount and returning the $1.5 billion back to school districts.

Taking into consideration all of the discussions regarding appropriating funds to public education, the current totals are: HOUSE = $3 billion, SENATE = $3.7 billion (including the speculative local property tax swap).

SB 1 Conference Committee Members

Senate: Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands); Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen); Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock); Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound); John Whitmire (D-Houston)

House: Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie); Sylvester Turner (D-Houston); John Otto (R-Dayton); Myra Crownover (R-Lake Dallas); John Zerwas (R-Simonton)

Waco Grassroots Luncheon Rescheduled

In light of the tragic events in West, Texas, the Raise Your Hand Texas grassroots luncheon that was originally scheduled for April 19 has been rescheduled for Monday, May 13. For more information about this event, contact us at [email protected].

House and Senate Education Committee Agendas

Click here for the House and Senate agendas for hearings on Tuesday, April 30.

Stay Informed!

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