School Reform, Teacher Pay Hikes, Property Tax Relief Key Abbott Priorities

School finance reform and relief from property tax increases are the two key priorities that Gov. Abbott set out in his biennial State of the State address today, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"Texas must recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers to educate our students," Abbott said. This session, we must pay our teachers more. We must provide incentives to put effective teachers in the schools and classrooms where they are needed the most. And we must create a pathway for the best teachers to earn a six-figure salary."

Abbott praised San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez for his efforts to find and reward highly skilled teachers to tackle problems in the classroom.

"Here's the problem — only about 40% of 3rd graders are reading at grade level by the time they finish the 3rd grade. Not surprisingly, less than 40% of students who took the SAT or ACT were prepared for college. To improve this, we must target education funding to help our students achieve in school. That starts with teachers in the classroom."

Abbott also promised to reduce the burden of the so called 'Robin Hood' system, which leads to higher local property taxes by requiring property wealthy districts to share their wealth with poorer ones. He also called for new school safety measures to be declared an 'emergency' item in the session. This is the first Legislative session since the May 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School.

An 'emergency' declaration, which only the governor can make, allows bills to bypass usual delays and come to the floor quicker than over items.

Abbott also focuses on property tax reform, saying homeowner are becoming tenants and the taxing authorities, like cities and counties, have become their landlords.

He called for a hard cap of 2 1/2 percent on the amount of new property tax revenue taxing districts can receive every year without a vote of the people, and he also tackled skyrocketing property appraisals, saying appraiser positions should be elective, instead of having appraisers appointed by, and beholden to, a board of directors which is appointed by the very taxing districts which benefit from higher appraised values.

"That is why I propose giving taxpayers the ability to fire their property tax appraiser and elect a better one."

Other issues the governor addressed are continuing Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, expanding anti gang law enforcement initiatives, insuring that people found guilty of human trafficking serve prison time, and continue the state's four year long effort to secure the border wth Mexico.

"Now it is our time to chart a course that will make Texas even better — not just for the next four years, but for the next forty years," he said. "We have an opportunity to turn bold ideas into reality. We have the opportunity to grasp the brass ring that belongs to Texas. When we do that, we will keep Texas the greatest state in America."

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