On Saturday, May 25, The Texas House of Representatives and The Texas Senate reached an agreement on the School Finance Reform bill, House Bill 3 (HB3).
The agreement came out of the work done by the legislature over the last few sessions, almost a decade of research and attempts at reform.
HB 3 tackles the root cause of most school finance issues. Rulings from the Texas Supreme Court have placed restrictions on how different the property tax burden can be between any two districts. When past legislatures shifted the burden of funding schools more toward local school districts, those court-defined limitations required more and more workarounds in order to keep the system constitutional, making the system overly complex and burdensome.
By shifting the burden off of local property taxes and appropriating the money from state funds instead, HB 3 frees the legislature to make long needed changes.
Rather than just listing the changes, let’s take a look at how HB3 will affect you.
Parents of Public-School Students
Putting more money into education doesn’t help if it isn’t tied to specific, accountable initiatives focused on raising the quality of the education our students receive. HB3 focuses new formula-funding into the places where it can do the most good overall, and where it can plant seed for future growth.
Full day Pre-K for low income students – more than just day-care, Pre-K helps overcome the gaps that develop between socio-economic groups in early age and give every student a firm foundation to get started in their education.
Dyslexia identification program – Preventing students with dyslexia from getting left behind in the system. Identifying dyslexia early allows teachers to better adjust for a student’s needs and give them the tools for success.
Incentives for schools to prepare students for college, vocational, & military readiness, allowing every student to prepare for the path that unlocks their passion.
• Dual language programs for better future workforce opportunities
• Optional extended-year summer programs for students to prevent backslide
• “Do Not Hire” registry to protect students from teachers who harm students
• Improves transportation so rural families can more easily and reliably get kids to school
• Supports programs for underserved students, special education, dropouts, and residential treatment facilities.
Home / Business Owners:
Local school districts share the state’s responsibility for providing for education by charging property taxes. HB 3 changes the formulas for how a school district’s funding level is calculated and lessens the burden on property taxes as the state picks up more of the share of education finance. Home and business owners who pay property taxes can expect to see the following effects as a result of these changes.
• Property taxes reduced by an average of 8¢ per $100 of property value in 2020 and 13¢ in 2021
• Property tax rates reduced by an additional 2.5% in 2021
• Fewer increases in property tax rates, as school districts must prove they are using existing resources responsibly in order to request an election to increase their property tax rate.
• The larger state share will even out the tax burden across the state, reducing “Robin Hood” payments by 47% ($3.6 Billion) and allowing more local tax dollars to stay local.
Rising appraisal values will no longer bring a higher tax bill, as school districts will reduce their rates to adjust for the increasing value of existing properties that they already tax.
Teachers & Retired Teachers
Investing in education isn’t just about money, it’s also about investing our trust and respect in those who do the educating. For educators, HB 3 will offer significant changes that compensate them like professionals and provides for a better long-term retirement plan.
• Across the board increases in minimum teacher salary schedule.
• Increased contributions to the Teacher Retirement Fund from both state funds and current employees
• $2 billion in dynamic pay raises for teachers, librarians, counselors, and nurses.
• $4,000 raise, minus the portion that goes toward TRS
• $140 million for incentive pay programs based on performance, experience, and merit.
• $6 million in funding for professional development and mentoring programs for new teachers.
• $30 million per year for an extended-year program that rewards teachers who volunteer to work an additional 30 days in the summer.
• Combined with SB 12, retired teachers will see a 13th check of up to $2,000.
• Teacher Retirement Fund stabilized and secured immediately, with all unfunded liabilities paid off within 29 years.
We often overestimate what can be done in the short term, but underestimate what can happen in the long term. The changes are the result of almost a decade of work by hundreds of legislators across the state, and the quality of that work has shown through. As we go through the summer vacation and prepare for school to start again, we can do so knowing that every public school student in Texas will be better off for this bill having passed.