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Texas School Finance Reform Bill Set To Become Law. What Did We End Up With?

Pragyan Bezbaruah from Pexels CC0: http://bit.ly/2K46pKc

Monday at 12:30 p.m. on "The Source" – An $11.6 billion plan to reform school finance in Texas unanimously passed through both the Texas House and Senate and is on Gov. Abbott's desk for final approval. 

House Bill 3, or the Texas Plan for Transformational School Finance Reform, includes $6.5 billion to improve public education and pay teachers, plus $5.1 billion to lower school district taxes. 

The bill substantially increases basic per-student funding. Most central and southern Bexar County school districts could see an increase of at least $900 per student under HB 3, except for Southside ISD which would get less than $500 more per student. 

The majority of other schools in the area — including Northside, the larger charter networks and military districts — are expected to be somewhere between those two amounts.

HB 3 also:

  • pays for free, full-day pre-K for eligible 4-year-olds;
  • increases funding for educating low-income students;
  • allocates more to special education students;
  • incentivizes dual-language programs;
  • pays SAT and ACT test fees; 
  • ease the state's reliance on "Robin Hood" payments from wealthier schools; and
  • creates a permanent state fund to lower school district tax rates.

The bill also provides money for merit-based pay raises for teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses and increases educator retirement benefits. Districts are encouraged to prioritize raises and benefits for teachers with more than five years of experience.
If passed, how will this legislation be rolled out? Are these changes significant enough to warrant being called "transformational"?

For years, Texas has been embroiled in conflict over its school finance system. This new legislation required compromise, which lawmakers were unable to do in previous session. What was initially proposed and what did they end up with? What research went into the process?

How will this bill positively impact the daily lives of students, parents, teachers and school administrators?

Guest: Diego Bernal, Texas House representative for District 123, vice chair of the House Committee on Public Education and member of the School Finance Commission

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. This interview was recorded Monday, June 10.

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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.