Faced with a surplus of state funds this biennium, and flanked by Democrat and Republican lawmakers, State Rep. Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood) announced House Bill 3, the chamber’s plan for school finance reform and property tax relief.
Dubbed “The Texas Plan” in marketing materials published immediately after the announcement, HB 3 would add $9 billion in new state funding of public education in addition to the other $2 billion increase for projected enrollment growth.
The “Basic Allotment”, or the amount of funding per student, would be raised from $5,140 to $6,030, representing an $890 increase per student.
The legislation would also provide property tax relief by compressing school tax rates by four cents statewide, while reducing Robin Hood projected recapture payments by more than 38% during the biennium.
A mixed bag for conservatives, HB 3 would also double down on early childhood education by establishing a program to fund full-day pre-k for low-income students, despite recent studies suggesting children who attend pre-k actually fare worse than those who begin school later.
In contrast to the across-the-board approach taken by the Senate, the House’s plan would increase the minimum salary schedule for teachers, while providing funding for individual school districts to apply performance-based incentive programs, such as those used in Dallas ISD, where they see fit.
When asked about the Senate’s $4 billion teacher pay raise passed out of the chamber yesterday, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen scoffed at the proposal deeming it inadequate.
“What we laid out today is a school finance plan,” said Bonnen. “I don’t know how you call a $5,000 across-the-board teacher pay raise with no discussion of reducing recapture, no discussion of reducing property taxes…a plan.”
The comments came as a stark contrast to the unity displayed during the first days of the legislative session. Bonnen, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Gov. Greg Abbott jointly announced their unified plan for property tax reform, House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2, aimed at reducing the rate of growth in tax bills by giving Texas a vote on tax hikes exceeding 2.49 percent per year.
Since then, the proposal has been heard in House and Senate committees, but has failed to be brought to the floor of either chamber, with the Senate instead electing to woo teachers with the across-the-board $5,000 pay raise. According to Bonnen, that tactic won’t work.
“I think teachers are some of the smartest people in Texas. And they are going to figure out that the Texas House has a winning plan for teachers and students in Texas,” added Bonnen.
The Texas Senate is expected to announce its full school finance reform plan, Senate Bill 4, soon.