Texas Senate Approves Education Funding Bill, Rejects Sales Tax Increase

The Texas Senate Monday night approved on a 26-2 vote a sweeping education reform bill that does include a $5,000 across the board pay raise for teachers and librarians, but does not include the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase pushed by Gov. Abbott to pay for it, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

That vote essentially kills the sales tax increase idea.

State Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Galveston), the sponsor of the Senate bill, says it does include property tax reductions.

"That bill before you includes tax reforms, reducing tax rates, reducing the amount and nubmer of schools in recapture, increasing the state's share of public education funding," he said.

The property tax cut is relatively minor, a reduction of 10 cents per $100 valuation.

Taylor says this bill will end the cycle of 'approval, lawsuit, and then a court order that the state revisit education funding.'

He says the measure expands Pre-K to all day for low income students, and focuses specifically on the needs of low income and English as a Second Language students, who are predominate in Texas public schools today.

"We're going to actually recognize our largest demographic is low income kids," he said. "It recognizes that these kids are not getting the attainment levels we need them to have."

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the final bill.

"I congratulate Sen. Taylor and the Texas Senate on the passage of this monumental and historic education reform bill," Patrick said. "House Bill 3 will transform our public schools with cutting edge strategies that ensure that all our students can achieve their dreams and compete in the global marketplace. It will provide every teacher in Texas with a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise and it will rein in crippling property taxes and provide a sustainable framework for school finance."

There is opposition to language in the Senate bill which grants 'merit pay' raises to teachers, based largely on student performance on the STAAR test, something teacher unions oppose.

The measure now goes to the House, which is debating an entirely different education funding bill. The House bill, rather than guaranteeing a $5,000 across the board teacher pay raise, gives the money to the ISDs with instructions that it be used for pay raises.

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