Local educators working with lawmakers on public education funding improvement

Local educators are working with lawmakers on a plan to improve funding for public education and reform property tax rates.

Two different proposals are being considered in Austin.

Earlier this month, the Texas Senate passed a plan that would include a $5,000 mandatory pay raise for teachers and librarians.

Meanwhile, the Texas House is considering a bill that would invest $9 billion in funding for public schools and could reduce property tax rates.

Legislators met with the superintendents of nine local school districts Friday morning to talk about the house plan for public school funding. Legislators say their aim is to improve funding for public schools and reform property taxes, but there is a long road ahead to getting a comprehensive plan passed.

After years of ignoring the school finance crisis in Texas, state lawmakers are now considering the first major spending increase for public schools.

House Bill 3, guided by House Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty, would add $9 billion toward state education spending, $6.3 billion to classrooms and $2.7 billion to tax relief.

“You'll have districts like Frisco and Plano up here and Wylie that are having tax rates at $1.17 because of their fast-growing school districts will see their taxes go from $1.17 to $1.09 and more money going into the system,” Huberty said.

On one hand, the Senate version would give across the board $5,000 pay raises to teachers and librarians.

On the other hand, House Bill 3 increases minimum teacher salaries and dedicates $140 million to recruiting and retaining teachers. The House bill increases funding to more than $6,000 per student, adds funding to pre-k programs and assistance for dyslexic students.

“The fact they're putting more money in the basic allotments and letting the school boards and the school districts decide how best to use that money, that's what makes sense to us,” said Allen ISD Superintendent Scott Niven. “Because every school is different and has different needs.”

Supporters also say the House bill will reduce the amount of recapture payments school districts have to pay through the so-called 'Robin Hood Program,' where money from wealthy districts is sent to the state to be re-distributed to districts considered property poor.

“We've been paying recapture in Plano for a very long time. In this year alone, $211 million will go back to the state in the form of recapture,” said Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser. “Any relief we can find in recapture is a benefit to this community and to this school district.”

“This approach takes this money and puts it into the entire system,” said Wylie ISD Superintendent David Vinson. “And for many years as long as I've been superintendent, we've done a lot of pulling weeds instead of planting flowers.”

House representatives say they hope to have a plan on the House floor by early April. But with two different plans on the table, it could take months to iron out a final version.