Districts: $1.6 billion school finance bill a good first step


Highlights

House Bill 21 would give a boost to almost all school districts in the state.

School districts and their advocates were concerned that the bill wouldn’t help all school districts.

The bill was left pending in a House committee on Tuesday as it undergoes changes.

A bill that would give a $1.6 billion boost to public education over the next two years received support from school districts and their advocates on Tuesday.

Although top-down reform of the state’s troubled school finance system won’t occur this year, legislators on Monday proposed addressing some of school districts’ most pressing financial problems. House Bill 21 would add $210 per student for more than 95 percent of school districts, for a basic allotment of $5,350 per student. It also would create a $200 million grant program over the next two years for cash-strapped school districts, change funding streams that school districts get to provide bus service and give more money to address dyslexia.

Several school districts and their advocates told the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday that the bill, filed by the committee’s chair Dan Huberty, R-Houston, was a good first step in school finance reform.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

“We fair a little better than where we are today, but we’re still trying to find a permanent solution to this burden that we have of recapture,” said Julie Cowan, an Austin school district trustee whose district encompasses Northwest Austin, referring to the system that redistributes money from districts with high property wealth to those that with low property wealth. “The system is just so, so wrong.”

According to the Legislative Budget Board, the bill would add $20 million to the coffers of the Austin school district over the next two years — small when considering the $536 million the district is expected to pay back to the state under the recapture system next fiscal year.

The Austin school district’s recapture payments are higher than any other school district in the state.

The high recapture payments have led to neglect of Austin school facilities, according to two Austin parents who testified before the committee on Tuesday.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

The average district building is 40 years old and deferred maintenance on facilities is nearing $2 billion, school district officials have said.

Although more people testified in support of the bill than against it, there were concerns that the bill didn’t do enough to support all school districts.

Michael Openshaw, from Collin County, said that the bill seemed too rushed.

Melanie Bush, a Conroe school district trustee, said the bill would eliminate the district’s transportation funding and the increase in the basic allotment for the school district would be used to pay for it.

Chandra Villanueva, senior policy analyst with the Austin-based liberal think tank Center for Public Policy Priorities, also had concerns about how transportation would be funded and recommended that lawmakers first study whether the bill does enough to fund dyslexia services.

The bill will undergo revisions before the committee considers passing it on to the full chamber.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Sheriff: Two men stole $60,000 trailer with tools in Florence
Sheriff: Two men stole $60,000 trailer with tools in Florence

The Williamson County sheriff’s office is looking for two men who stole an equipment trailer with tools worth more than $60,000 from an asphalt plant under construction in Florence on Sunday, according to a tweet from Sheriff Robert Chody late Tuesday morning. The men were in a dark color Dodge truck. Anyone with information is asked to call...
Mueller building hits its peak
Mueller building hits its peak

.
Candy company introduces gummy beers
Candy company introduces gummy beers

You’ve heard of gummy bears. A candy company that caters to adults is introducing gummy beers. Sugarfina has teamed up with Corona Light to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by launching limited-edition Corona Light and lime-flavored gummy candies ahead of Cinco de Mayo, WFLA reported. The company is introducing two products: But First,...
Community news: Hearing on Thursday for proposed road name changes

TRAVIS COUNTY AUSTIN Road name changes proposed The Austin City Council will host a public hearing on two proposed road name changes at 4 p.m. Thursday at Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second St. Proposed changes are Robert E. Lee Road to Azie Taylor Morton Road and Jeff Davis Avenue to Will Holland Avenue. Separate applications were submitted by council...
Pedestrian killed on I-35 service road Saturday was 31, police say 
Pedestrian killed on I-35 service road Saturday was 31, police say 

Austin police have identified a pedestrian who died on the Interstate 35 service road in South Austin on Saturday morning as 31-year-old Dystany Farrias. Police said Farrias was walking in the 8100 block of the service road between William Cannon Drive and Slaughter Lane just before 3:40 a.m. when a 2001 Chevrolet pickup slammed into her. A preliminary...
More Stories