A $100,000 teacher salary, an extended school year incentive program: 5 education items to watch in the Texas Legislature

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When the Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 8, the state’s school finance system will be one of the major items lawmakers will have to tackle.

The Legislature was tasked in 2017 with making recommendations for improvements to the existing school finance system through the newly created Texas Commission on Public School Finance, according to the Texas Education Agency.

A report released by the commission Dec. 31 provides a slew of recommendations for the Legislature to consider this year, ranging from a $100,000 teacher salary to providing additional instructional days for disadvantaged learners. It also states that because the school funding system is outdated and unaligned with the needs of students today, the state’s future workforce and economy are at risk if changes are not made. For example, less than 30 percent of graduates today achieve a post-secondary credential six years following high school graduation, according to the report.

Therefore, the committee, which is composed of state legislators and school district administrators, is suggesting investing money in more specific, data-driven strategies to improve educational outcomes in the state.

Here are a few recommendations and takeaways from the report:

Provide a pathway to a $100,000 teacher salary

A pathway to a $100,000 salary for the most effective teachers would be created for participating districts in an effort to minimize turnover among teachers. Today, 1 in 6 Texas teachers leave their district annually, according to the report. Districts would have to implement an evaluation system to determine who would be considered an effective educator, according to the recommendation. The larger salary would help keep effective educators in the classroom and incentivize them to teach at challenged campuses, according to the report. Funding would start in 2019-20 school year at $100 million per biennium and be increased in phases to grow an additional $100 million each biennium for 10 years.

Create an optional program to offer 30 additional school days for students in pre-K through fifth grade

The committee is recommending the state create an extended-year incentive program to provide up to 30 additional days of instruction for students in pre-K through fifth grade based on proficiency. The program would also provide additional money to teachers through additional salary and would assist with child care during the summer, according to the report. The estimated cost for such a program is $50 million, according to the report.

Establish more specific statewide goals for the Texas education system

By 2030, 60 percent of jobs will require a post-secondary education or career certification after high school, according to the report. Therefore, the commission is recommending at least 60 percent of all students hit the state’s “meets standard” requirement for third-grade reading. It is also recommending at least 60 percent of all high school seniors graduate without the need for remediation and achieve an industry-accepted certificate that will earn them a living wage, or enroll in the military or post-secondary education. To achieve this, the report suggests several options, two of which include additional funding for every third-grader achieving “met standard” in reading and having long-term goals related to these metrics developed by a local board, which will provide data at the campus and district level.

Create strategies to slow property tax and recapture growth

Over the past several years, the amount of funding for Texas schools from state dollars has been on the decline, while money from recapture and local property taxpayers has increased. Recapture is often referred to as “Robin Hood” because it sends money from property-wealthy districts to property-poor districts. The committee is bringing forward three proposals on this topic, which include the following:

• Gov. Greg Abbott released in December a property tax and recapture reform plan, which proposes compressing districts’ Tier I tax rates as local property tax values rise to slow the growth of local property tax bills. If property tax levy increases are capped at 2.5 percent annually, the state can prevent more of a reduction in the state share of funding and slow recapture growth.

• Use future recapture growth as a revenue source to fund statewide compression of tax rates. This proposal would prevent roughly $600 million in annual recapture growth by 2023 and would reduce Tier I tax rates by $0.07 over four years, according to the report.

• Share recapture dollars with school districts, taxpayers and the state of Texas. However, the exact percentage for each group still needs further research, according to the report.

Expand the career and technology allotment to reach younger students

The state’s career and technology, or CTE, funding allotment only applies to high school courses today. Therefore, the committee is recommending the allotment be expanded to include CTE courses taught in sixth through eighth grade. Providing more CTE options to younger students would reduce the cost of post-secondary school and improve student readiness, according to the report. The estimated cost is $20 million.

How can the state pay for these recommendations?

The state is expecting to receive additional funding from existing revenue streams such as sales tax and severance tax for the next two years, according to the report. It also suggests various changes to the existing finance system, such as changes in allotments and formula weights. However, the committee is recommending the Legislature look at other options to ensure there is enough funding long term, such as redirecting a portion of severance taxes designated for the Rainy Day Fund—also known as the Economic Stabilization Fund that a portion of oil and gas production taxes go into—and expanding the sales tax base to include internet sales associated with vendors without a physical presence in Texas. In the event those revenue streams are not enough, the committee discussed other options, such as increasing the motor fuel tax by 10 cents for gas and diesel fuel and increasing the alcoholic beverage tax by 50 percent as other potential ideas.

To view the entire report, click here.

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COMMENT
  1. Heidi Bridwell

    The QUESTION that needs to be asked is…..what could be done with the $13.1 BILLION that is spent annually to administer the STAAR Assessment? This Assessment has proven to be a failure; as well as, the ones prior to the STAAR. The TAKS etc… It is apparent these Assessments have been set up by the TEA & our Legislature to profit off of the Public Education System. More evidence of a failed system reports that less than 40% of High School students at Top-Rated schools are college ready per a recent article released by the Houston Chronicle. So the answer is simple…..DISMANTLE the STAAR and any further state Assessments; as well as, the Texas Education Agency. Flush the $13.1 BILLION back into Public Schools and let the teachers get back to teaching vs teaching to the flawed test. Government take over of our schools is not the answer. They have had their chance and they failed. Our children, schools and teachers have been SOLD Down Stream in the Name of BIG BUSINESS.

  2. What kind of commission comes back without addressing current, costly, systems that can be dismantled or repurposed, but instead focuses every solution back to taxes? you got your tax revenue, now if you don’t want to fire regional director Friend-Of-Yours that is of no concern to me, but I won’t be voting in another cent to a failing program!

  3. Call me old fashion but isn’t the only responsibility for school districts is to give a good basic education the student can build on? It is not the tax payers problem or responsibility to insure students continues to educate themselves after they exit 12th grade. I remember a time before the federal government started giving dollars to schools and putting conditions on the money. Schools districts should be run by people who live in them and be tailored to the community that pays the taxes that supports them. Maybe there should be a better way to finance school districts. I find it disappointing that I pay so much for school taxes every year and they keep going up because of property values are raised by the county I live in. My last child graduated 12th grade over 25 years ago and I don’t mind paying a share to educate other people children but I believe it is the children’s parents that should burden the major portion of the cost. I think a simple solution would be to charge parents an extra 200-500 dollar a year tuition per child they have in school. The 200 dollar figure per child would be for the people who own property and pay school taxes. The 500 dollar figure would per child would be for people who live in apartments and don’t own any property and don’t pay property taxes. I also think if the Federal government insists that illegal immigrant children have to be educated in their own language by each state the Federal government must provide the funds to the states especially border states such as Texas, New Mexico, Arizona & California which have the largest population of illegal immigrants living in these states.

  4. “We really can’t dialogue about transforming education without first considering how the brain transforms itself because that’s what learning is- brain transformation.” Roxanne Prichard, Center for Sleep, Minnesota. And how can that happen when our children are not getting enough sleep? Start school later for high schools.

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Marie Leonard
Marie came to Community Impact Newspaper in June 2011 after starting her career at a daily newspaper in East Texas. She worked as a reporter and editor for the Cy-Fair edition for nearly 5 years covering Harris County, Cy-Fair ISD, and local development and transportation news. She then moved to The Woodlands edition and covered local politics and development news in the master-planned community before being promoted to managing editor for the South Houston editions in July 2017.
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