The Texas House last night approved the centerpiece of the 2019 session, a measure that would pump nearly 11 billion into the state's public schools, increasing teacher salaries and providing ISD's with additional funding to reduce local property taxes, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"There is an early reading allotment to fully fund high quality Pre-K for low income students, setting the foundation for the students to be able to read at grade level by the third grade," said State Prep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), the sponsor of the sweeping legislation.
The bill grants pay raises to all non administrative school personnel, but the House pay raises would average about $1800 a year, not the $5000 included in the Senate version, which has not yet been passed. But the House bill guarantees that in addition to teachers, all 'non administrative personnel,' including counselors and nurses, would receive the pay raise.
The House bill gives the money to the school districts to distribute as they see fit, while the Senate mandates that the money be used for teacher pay raises.
The House bill is also very vague about how the property tax relief will be accomplished. While one version of the Senate bill raises the homestead exemption by $100,000 and another includes a 'trigger,' requiring that local property taxes not result in tax increases of more than 2.5% a year, the House bill simply grants ISD's $2 billion, with the understanding that more state funding will result in less need for local property tax funding.
"We didn't just put money into the system, we're not just giving money away, this bill includes clear direction on how the money is to be spent," Huberty said.
The House rejected measures to grant more money to charter schools and to mandate that the pay raises be based on student performance, something Republicans support but teacher groups oppose.
Gov. Abbott praised the bill when it was approved by a vote of 148-1.
“Texans are demanding meaningful reforms to our school finance system, and today’s passage of HB 3 in the House is a vital step toward that goal. By reducing recapture, investing more money in our schools and in our teachers, the Legislature is making changes that will have a lasting impact on our education system, and more importantly, our students. I applaud Chairman Huberty and Speaker Bonnen for their work to pass this bill, and I look forward to working with Senator Taylor, Lt. Governor Patrick, and the entire Legislature to ensure the final passage of school finance reform this session.”