Texas 86th Legislative Session Ends with School Funding Overhaul
The Texas 86th Legislative Session ended on Memorial Day in historic fashion. Both the House and the Senate voted for HB 3, the school finance bill, and sent it on to Governor Greg Abbott for his signature. In a signing ceremony at Austin’s Parmer Lane Elementary School the legislature ushered in a complete overhaul of Texas public school finance. The new law aims to increase per-student funding, expand PreK offerings and lessen the state’s reliance on “Robin Hood” payments from wealthy schools. The measure also includes pay raises for veteran teachers and other school employees.
In order to fund Texas schools to the tune of $11.5 billion, the state’s two-year budget plan, HB 1, calls for spending roughly $250 billion on priorities including public school funding, teacher salaries and early childhood intervention programs.
On the heels of passing the state budget, the legislature may have created problems for local elected officials by passing SB 2, the property tax reform bill. A top priority of Texas’ three main political leaders, this law requires voter approval when local governments want to increase their property tax revenues by more than 3.5%. School districts saw their threshold for an election inked in at 2.5%. It remains to be seen how this will impact schools, especially fast-growth school districts.
School safety saw plenty of attention from lawmakers as SB 11 aims to strengthen mental health initiatives in schools, require classrooms to have access to a telephone or other electronic communication, and create teams that identify potentially dangerous students. The bill was amended in the House to include the creation of a Texas Mental Health Consortium. Additional school safety and student mental health laws will require attention from schools.
A teacher pension fix, SB 12, will shore up the teacher pension fund in Texas. It will increase state contributions and give retirees a one-time additional check. What does that have to do with practicing principals, assistant principals, and supervisors? Well, all will someday retire to a fiscally sound retirement program.
TEPSA helped lead the way in the formation and passage of bills that help schools and children across the state. We also defeated several pieces of legislation that were onerous to schools, students, and our members. More than 75 TEPSANs visited the State Capitol in January and February to help lawmakers understand the importance of appropriate legislation for schools. Another group of TEPSA members brought teachers to Austin to help communicate the importance of strong public schools for their communities. And, kudos to the members of our TEPSA Legislative Network for calling their Senators and/or Representatives when an TEPSA Alert was issued.
For more information, the TEPSA Legislative Summary is available in several formats:
TEPSA News, August 2019, Vol 76, No 4
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