School district leaders across Texas are warning taxpayers about a little-known amendment to House Bill 3 - the school finance reform plan.
State lawmakers are proposing to have school districts base their budgets on current year property values.
For decades, districts have set their budgets off property values from the previous year.
It sounds minor, but school districts say the proposal could lead to major budget shortfalls.
District leaders fear they could lose millions if this change goes through.
Dallas ISD alone is projecting they could lose up to $100 million, which would force them to make major cuts to school programs and jobs.
“This change is something that will take money away from districts, right at the time they say they're fixing things and give us more,” Richardson ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone said.
For years, educators have waited for the state to increase its share of education funding.
But the version of HB 3 (https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=86R&Bill=HB3) approved by the Senate has a provision that superintendents say would devastate their budgets.
Under the proposal, school districts would base their budgets off current year property appraisals instead of already established values from the prior year.
Local superintendents say this major change would throw off their planning, forcing them to budget without knowing accurate property values, which would cost their districts tens of millions of dollars.
“Switching to current year values has nothing to do with reform and it doesn't mean a thing for students,” Dr. Stone added. “It's an accounting maneuver that benefits the state's budget by taking the funds away from school districts.”
The change could save the state roughly $1.8 billion dollars a year, but district leaders say it'll come at a cost.
“They're going to give money in this hand and then turn around and take it out of your wallet while you're not watching,” Dr. Stone said.
“For Plano ISD, this would mean an additional loss of $35 million next year alone,” Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser said.
District superintendents say those millions would mean cuts to school programs, teachers, and staff.
“If we lost $35 million, and you look at the average cost of a teacher, it's 500 teachers,” Bonser said. “Now I'm not saying Plano would look to cut 500 teachers, but that's $35 million.
“The kids who are benefitting from these programs, suddenly not having them. For some of them, it is the only way they see a future,” said Kelley Thomas, president of the Plano ISD PTA.
Parents and district officials are urging everyone to contact legislators and state leaders and voice their opinions on this change.
“We have to let them know we won't accept this, this is not good for our students,” Thomas said.
District leaders say not all school districts would be negatively affected by this, but many recognize this is not good overall for students in Texas.
The bill is now with a conference committee that is working to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions.