The Texas House is making a serious effort to address school finance this session, adding $3 billion through the budget passed last week.
House Public Education Committee Chair Jimmie Don Aycock has laid out HB 1759, which has a number of good aspects, among them increasing the basic allotment. This will benefit all districts, and the bill fixes some inefficiencies in the system.
However, this legislation intentionally does not address one of the main concerns raised by District Court Judge John Dietz in his 2014 ruling on the inadequacy of the school finance system – making suitable provisions for economically disadvantaged and English language learner students. The judge found aspects of the current system that direct additional funding for special populations to be arbitrary, and as a result, it fails to meet the education needs of economically disadvantaged and English language learner students. This legislation does not address those problems, nor does it call for a study to identify the best methods for appropriately allocating funding.
Currently, 60 percent of Texas school children are economically disadvantaged. In the past ten years the number of economically disadvantaged students has grown at twice the rate of overall student growth. The number of students with limited English proficiency is also growing—currently at 17 percent—and the number of English language learner students has grown by 37 percent over the last ten years.
Texas is changing and becoming increasingly more expensive to educate, and we can’t afford to ignore these issues any longer. While HB 1759 wisely increases the basic allotment, it is also vital to address funding for economically disadvantaged and English language learners in any changes to the school finance system.