Promising School Finance Bills Advance in Texas House and Senate

Chandra Kring Villanueva

The first major pieces of Texas school finance legislation this session are up for debate in the House and in a key Senate committee.

On Wednesday the full House will debate HB 21. Sponsored by House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty, HB 21 has many positive provisions and is a promising first step toward meaningful school finance reform. The legislation removes some outdated and inefficient elements from the school funding formula, adds funding for students with dyslexia, provides a slight increase for English language learners and expands the current career and technology funding to cover eighth grade and technology application courses.

The Senate Education Committee will hear testimony on a set of school finance reform bills Tuesday that explore cost-neutral options for simplifying the overly complex school finance formula. CPPP has a new policy brief that analyzes the bills under consideration and explains what more is needed to keep up with inflation.

To Keep Pace with Inflation, the Legislature Must Invest an Additional $2.7 Billion this Biennium

As the Legislature moves through this process, it is important that we keep the whole school finance system from falling further into disrepair. To prevent the system from losing ground each year to inflation, the legislature must make a minimum investment of $2.7 billion this biennium. CPPP has calculated estimates for each Texas school district of the increased revenue required to keep up with inflation.

Unfortunately, leading budget proposals in both the House and Senate lack the funding needed to keep school districts from losing ground over the next two years. The House budget sets aside an additional $1.5 billion for public education, contingent on the passage of HB 21. Although these funds are greatly needed to reduce the chronic underfunding of our schools, this amount represents only 56 percent of the $2.7 billion required to keep pace with rising inflation.

school finance chart

Increasing state’s investment in public education to keep pace with inflation would also reduce recapture — the mechanism through which “property-wealthy” districts send funding to the state to support other districts and charter schools – by $343 million, or 7.2 percent, over the biennium. This is because a district is able to keep more local revenue when its funding entitlement increases.

Read the full policy brief for more details.

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