House bill would boost Texas public education by $1.6 billion


Highlights

House Bill 21 would increase the basic allotment to $5,350 per student.

More than 95 percent of school districts would benefit from the increase in the basic allotment.

The bill would also create more funding for students with dyslexia.

New legislation filed Monday would add $1.6 billion in school funding, providing a boost to most school districts in Texas over the next two years.

House Bill 21 by state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, would add $210 per student for more than 95 percent of school districts, for a basic allotment of $5,350 per student.

Because lawmakers aren’t likely to pass a top-down reform of the state’s troubled school finance system this session, school districts have been asking lawmakers to increase the basic allotment instead — an easy fix that gives almost every school district a boost.

“House Bill 21 will improve public education in Texas. It provides more resources for schools and distributes those resources in a much smarter way,” Huberty said Monday during a news conference where he was flanked by public school officials and a bipartisan group of House colleagues.

The House Public Education Committee will hold a hearing and take public testimony on the bill Tuesday at noon or shortly after the House adjourns. The speedy turnaround required House members to vote to suspend the body’s rules.

READ: School finance overhaul unlikely in the short term

Based on how the state’s complicated funding formula is set up, increasing the basic allotment would decrease the amount of money school districts would pay under the system known as “Robin Hood.” School districts with high property wealth give a portion of their revenue back to the state to be redistributed to school districts with lower property wealth.

Officials from school districts that are subject to these payments — about 249 districts this year — have complained that the payments are disproportionately large because many of their students are poor, aren’t native English speakers and need extra services.

Under Huberty’s bill, the so-called recapture payments would be reduced by $355 million over the next two years — about a 10 percent decline.

The Austin school district has the highest recapture payments — an expected $406 million this school year, nearly a third of the district’s $1.3 billion budget.

Huberty’s bill would add $10 million per year to the Austin district, said Nicole Conley Johnson, the district’s chief financial officer. “While this doesn’t begin to substantially address the district’s budget challenges … it is a step forward,” she said.

Huberty’s bill frees up money to increase the basic allotment by getting rid of pots of money that are intended to help pay for certain things, such as salaries for nonprofessional staff members and initiatives to help improve high schools. School district advocates have said the pots of money are not often used for their intended purposes.

Huberty’s bill also would create a $200 million grant over the next two years to help about 200 school districts whose “hold harmless” funding will end in September. Hold harmless funding has helped more than 1,000 districts since 2006, when the state decreased property tax rates by a third and provided the money to compensate for that loss.

The bill would also give school districts extra money to help students with dyslexia and give more districts — and charter schools, for the first time — money to provide bus service for students.

In total, school districts would receive $1.6 billion more under Huberty’s bill than what the Senate proposed.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

In two days, two handguns left unattended in women’s restrooms at UT
In two days, two handguns left unattended in women’s restrooms at UT

In the space of two days this week, handguns were left unattended in two women’s restrooms at the University of Texas. A holstered pistol was found Tuesday on top of a toilet paper dispenser in a restroom stall at the Graduate School of Business building on the main campus, said Cindy Posey, a university spokeswoman. Then, on Wednesday, a pistol...
San Marcos police arrest man charged with murder in Virginia
San Marcos police arrest man charged with murder in Virginia

San Marcos police on Wednesday arrested a man wanted on a murder charge in Virginia. Police in Axton, Va., reached out to San Marcos police after they learned that 23-year-old Jake Andrew Lewis, the suspect in the shooting death of Eric L. Adams on Feb. 17, may have been in the Central Texas city. Investigators tracked Lewis down to The Metropolitan...
JUST IN: Williamson deputy nearly dragged by fleeing driver for second time in two weeks
JUST IN: Williamson deputy nearly dragged by fleeing driver for second time in two weeks

A Williamson County sheriff’s deputy who was dragged by a car fleeing a traffic stop on Feb. 7 narrowly avoided being dragged again when another vehicle took off during a traffic stop on Tuesday in the Liberty Hill area. Sheriff Robert Chody posted a video of the incident showing Deputy Tabitha Horseman standing next to an SUV just after 11 p...
Will Abbott take advice, reduce Whitaker’s death sentence?
Will Abbott take advice, reduce Whitaker’s death sentence?

Whether Gov. Greg Abbott spares death row inmate Thomas Whitaker from Thursday evening’s scheduled execution could hinge on how much trust the governor places on the group of advisers who recommended mercy in the case. Spurred by the father who Whitaker tried to have killed in 2003, all seven members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles supported...
LATEST: Travis County flu death toll hits 39, officials say
LATEST: Travis County flu death toll hits 39, officials say

The flu death toll in Travis County hit 39 this week, continuing what public health officials have described as one of the deadliest flu seasons in recent memory. Austin Public Health spokeswoman Carole Barasch said the majority of deaths so far have been people age 80 and older and that no children have died from the illness. The death toll is now...
More Stories