Texas House pushing very different school finance reform bill

The Texas House of Representatives has a very different idea for fixing public education than the State Senate. Now the battle for ideas and votes is underway in Austin.

One day after the Texas Senate approved a bill giving teachers a $5,000 pay raise, the House announced its own school finance reform bill.

The bill has been dubbed “The Texas Plan.” It’s a $9 billion proposal that doesn’t include mandatory raises for teachers like the Senate version.

Rather, it sends more state money to public schools and lowers school property tax rates. The House bill also helps districts fund free full-day Pre-K programs and summer school for eligible students.

On Tuesday, it was filed, read and referred to the Public Education Committee.

“This is school finance reform. This is what we have to do in the State of Texas. The courts have told us it’s our responsibility to do this. The courts have said to us they’re not going to touch this. And if we don’t do this we are failing our kids. We are failing our kids. The money is going into the classroom,” said State Rep. Dan Huberty, a Republican from Houston who chairs the House Education Committee.

If approved, the House bill would increase the basic classroom allotment from $5,100 to just over $6,000. It lowers the local school property tax rate by 4 percent, includes funding for special programs and health plans, increases pay for teachers and school staff and provides $140 million to create recruiting and retention plans.

It scales back on the old “Robin Hood” system, which currently requires school districts in wealthy areas to share property tax revenue with districts in poorer areas.

The bill has bipartisan support in the House. So far, 90 state representatives have signed on as co-sponsors.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has previously championed the Senate's proposal. He believes that plan will help recruit more qualified teachers to the state.