AUSTIN, Texas — "The time is now."
That's the message from members of the Texas House of Representatives about their school finance reform bill, House Bill 3 (HB3), which was filed Tuesday.
"The band-aid fixes end with House Bill 3," Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) said.
HB3 invests a total of $9 billion in public education, $2.7 billion to compress school taxes and an across the board four-cent cut to school taxes and $6.3 billion for classrooms.
The $6.3 billion would increase the base amount the state puts in to educate each student, add in more money for students who need a little more attention, fund full-day pre-K for all Texas children and reduce the amount of money property rich districts, like Austin ISD, pay to the state to help poorer districts by more than $3 billion.
"Since I've been here, for the last 10 years, we've been trying to fix school finance," Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), the author of the bill and Chair of the House Committee on Public Education, said. "We've been trying to come up with reforms. This is transformative. This is going to make a difference in the 5.4 million children's lives in the State of Texas."
But a sticking point with the Texas Senate with HB3 will be teacher pay.
Monday, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 3 to give all public and charter school teachers and librarians a $5,000 raise. The House bill doesn't include an across the board raise for teachers.
Instead, HB3 gives districts $140 million for a program to recruit and retain teachers and it permanently increases the minimum salary schedule, which is used to determine the salary of teachers, librarians, counselors and aides.
However, many Texas school districts already pay their staffs more than the minimum.
Speaker Bonnen defended the House's decision, saying raises aren't a plan, but HB3 is.
"I don't know how you call a $5,000 across the board teacher pay raise, period, nothing else, no discussion of reducing recapture, no discussion of reducing property taxes, no discussion of early childhood education, no discussion of absolutely incentivizing a teacher to go into a tougher school to teach [a plan]," Speaker Bonnen said. "What we have is a plan."
Rep. Huberty said once the Senate's teacher raises bill comes to the House, there will likely be a hearing on it. But lawmakers note there likely is not enough money to fund both Senate Bill 3 and HB3.
In addition to HB3, the House plans to roll out House Bill 9, which will put more money into the Teacher Retirement System.
The Senate is also expected to file a school finance reform bill and Teacher Retirement System bill in the coming days.
HB3 is 200 pages, so Rep. Huberty said he will give lawmakers time to go through it and they will begin discussions next week.
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