Under a new proposal by House lawmakers, most school districts in Texas would receive a piece of a $1.6 billion boost in total state funding over the next two years.
State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, filed House Bill 21 on Monday that would increase the basic amount of money that school districts get per student by $210 to total of $5,350 per student. Since 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 during a news conference on Monday as he was flanked by public school officials and a bipartisan group of his House colleagues.
Based on how the state’s complicated funding formula is set up, increasing the basic allotment would also 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 — also called recapture payments — to be redistributed to school districts with less property tax income. Officials from school districts who are subject to these payments — an estimated 249 districts this year — have complained that the payments they’re making are disproportionately large because many of their students are poor and aren’t native English speakers and need extra services.
The Austin school district pays the most in Robin Hood payments — $406 million expected this school year, nearly a third of the district’s $1.3 billion budget.
Under Huberty’s bill, Robin Hood payments for all school districts would be reduced by $355 million over the next two years. That’s about a 10 percent reduction in such payments.
Other provisions of Huberty’s bill include creating a $200 million grant over the next two years to help some 200 school districts whose so-called “hold harmless” funding will end in September. Hold harmless funding has been given to more than 1,000 school districts since 2006 when the state tried to compensate for a decision to decrease property tax rates by a third.
The bill would also give school districts extra money to help students with dyslexia.
In total, school districts would receive $1.6 billion more than what the Senate proposed, which is enough to cover student enrollment growth costs over the next two years.