In the gymnatorium of Parmer Lane Elementary School, members of the state legislature joined Governor Greg Abbott for his school finance reform bill-signing ceremony.
Governor Abbott called the bill’s passage a “monumental moment” and stated that it “does more to advance education than any law I have seen in my adult lifetime in the State of Texas.”
The legislature settled on $6.5 billion in new school funding. These funds will go towards, among other items, teacher pay raises (approximately $4,000 per teacher plus bonuses) and an all-day taxpayer-funded prekindergarten program for low-income populations.
Some money for an optional merit-based pay program is also included in the bill.
The bill also possesses a roughly 47 percent reduction in the school funding recapture program, also known as “Robin Hood.” As the state increases its share of the education budget, the school district’s share of the funding burden will be lessened, and therefore property taxes will be curtailed.
Property taxes have been increasing significantly over the last few years by the school districts who control the revenue.
Governor Abbott told the crowd that because of the pay raise and merit-based option, Texas was now treating teaching as “a true profession, allowing some to earn close to $100,000 a year.”
The average salary for Texas’ teachers in the 2016-2017 school year was $52,232.50, making Texas no. 28 in the United States in terms of teacher pay.
The $4,000 pay raise included in HB 3 would move Texas up six spots to no. 22 in the nation.
Abbott concluded his statements by saying, “The next generation of students in Texas will be far better off.”
Sen. Larry Taylor declared the day was “a great day for education in Texas.”
Taylor was the Senate sponsor of HB 3 and serves as chairman of the Education Committee in the Senate.
Statistics on the Nation’s Report Card website show that in 2017, 29 percent of fourth graders and 28 percent of eighth graders in Texas read at or above proficiency for their grade level. Mathematics fared only slightly better with 41 percent of fourth graders and 28 percent of eighth graders at or above proficiency.
Meanwhile, Texas is tied for no. 23 in fourth-grade math, tied for no. 28 in eighth-grade math, tied for no. 46 in reading, and tied for no. 44 in eighth-grade reading.
The plan was the highest priority of the 86th Legislature. Governor Abbott also plans to sign SB 2, the property tax reform bill, sometime tomorrow to conclude this session’s major legislative efforts.
After the press conference announcing the final versions of HB 3 and SB 2 on May 23, Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) told The Texan that moving forward, the legislature will have to address making actual property tax cuts.
“Going into the interim, we’ve got to have discussions about reducing property taxes or even getting away from property taxes altogether. Those discussions must be had over the course of 18 months,” said Leach.
House Ways and Means Chairman Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) said a number of times when presenting his property tax bill that actual cuts can only be made by “reforming the state’s education code.”
Going forward, it is unclear what the next big agenda item will be for the state government come 2021. One thing that is certain is legislators are convinced they accomplished something significant this session.
Whether voters ultimately agree is another thing altogether.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.