A hot check was written to Texas’ public schools this week by the Democrat-Republican coalition that rules the Texas House. Despite their bankrupt claims, the measure does nothing to reform the state’s broken finance system, end Robin Hood, or implement desperately needed education reforms.
Introduced by House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood), who issued a death sentence for school choice earlier this year and is rumored to be preparing to “retire” at the end of the legislative session and become a lobbyist, House Bill 21 does nothing to reform the school finance system other than throw money at the problem.
Money the state does not have, argues State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler).
“The simple truth is that HB 21 was a hot check for public school funding,” wrote Schaefer on his Facebook page. “It requires a budget gimmick that leaves a ~$1.6 billion hole in the Foundation School Program account (by skipping a payment) that would have to be filled at the end of the next budget cycle, but with no money identified to fill it.”
Schaefer said the measure might add money to the funding formulas for some schools in his east Texas district, but despite HB 21 being described as a “reform bill,” it is not. He added: “spending money we don’t have at an unsustainable level is bad for students, bad for parents, and bad for taxpayers.”
His colleague, Irving Republican Matt Rinaldi, echoed that sentiment, noting HB 21 “spends money the state literally doesn’t have.”
“Without an accounting gimmick contained in HB 21 deferring a $1.8 billion payment to our schools into the next accounting period, the state would not have the funds in the 2018-19 biennium to pay the cost of HB 21,” he added
Despite opposition from Schaefer, Rinaldi, and other conservatives, HB 21 passed with a vote of 132-15.
Many lawmakers tried to explain away their vote by posting on social media that the bill takes a huge bite out of Robin Hood, but those claims are much more hyperbole than fact. And while the bill was being debated, lawmakers actually rejected an amendment by State Rep. Morgan Meyer (R–Dallas) to eliminate the onerous program that pilfers millions of dollars out of “wealthy” school districts every year.
Members of the Texas House also rejected an attempt by State Rep. Jason Isaac (R–Dripping Springs) to eliminate a large number of standardized tests, despite constant rhetoric from legislators to end the “teaching to the test” problem that teachers rightly bemoan.
Here are the 15 House Republicans who voted to protect taxpayers from expanding the state’s broken public education system:
Kyle Biedermann (Fredericksburg); Briscoe Cain (Deer Park); James Frank (Wichita Falls); Jason Isaac (Dripping Springs); Stephanie Klick (Fort Worth); Matt Krause (Fort Worth); Mike Lang (Granbury); Morgan Meyer (Dallas); Matt Rinaldi (Irving); Matt Schaefer (Tyler); Matt Shaheen (Plano); Jonathan Stickland (Bedford); Valoree Swanson (Spring); Tony Tinderholt (Arlington); Bill Zedler (Arlington)