Lawmakers to vote on Huberty’s proposed $1.6 billion reform of public school funding system this week

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A year after more than 600 school districts challenged the public school funding formula in the Texas Supreme Court, the beleaguered system is facing a test from the state Legislature.

The Texas House of Representatives is preparing to vote this week on House Bill 21, which would increase school funding by $1.65 billion. However, the bill would result in a loss for Conroe ISD, Chief Financial Officer Darrin Rice said.

“House Bill 21 is actually going to negatively effect CISD, compared to other districts,” Rice said. “Although in the bill we are gaining up to $4.5 million, we’re actually losing on the transportation allotment.”

The transportation allotment is based on a district’s linear density, Rice said. CISD submits a report annually to the Texas Education Agency showing how many students require district-provided transportation and how many miles are driven. Transportation revenues for the district typically add up to $7.3 million. However, if HB 21 becomes law, CISD will have about $7.1 million to work with in the 341 square miles the district covers, Rice said.

HB 21 was filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, and he said the legislation is the first step in a multisession process to more adequately fund public schools in Texas.

“We are putting more resources in the classroom and making needed reforms to our school finance formulas,” said Huberty, who serves as chairman of the Public Education Committee. “By increasing state funding for schools, we can improve instruction and reduce the need for higher property taxes.”

How would Conroe ISD be affected? 

  • If the bill passes, CISD would receive $4.5 million more for the 2017-18 fiscal year, amounting to $63 more per student for the district’s average weighted daily attendance.

What else does HB 21 do?

House Bill 21 adjusts the funding formula by allotting an additional $1.65 billion to public education over the next two years, per the bill’s fiscal note. Here are some of the other major changes the bill makes:

  • An additional weight for dyslexic students that Huberty says will affect 154,000 students
  • An increased weight for career technical education and technology
  • An increased bilingual adjustment to factor in for the diverse student population
  • A professional development grant for nonprofessional staff
  • Adjustments made to the hardship grant in light of the end of Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction funding

How does HB 21 affect the “Robin Hood” funding system?

Recapture, colloquially known as the “Robin Hood” plan, was first created in 1993 as a way to divert tax revenue from property wealthy school districts to property poor districts for the goal of greater equity.

In 2016-17, 379 school districts are considered property wealthy and are expected to send more than $2 billion in total to the state, according to the Texas Education Agency.

If passed, HB 21 would lower recapture payments by approximately $173 million in 2018 and $205 million in 2019, said Molly Karol Spratt, who serves as Huberty’s Legislative Director.

What’s next for the bill?

The House is expected to vote on HB 21 on Wednesday. If it passes the House, HB 21 would then be sent to the Texas Senate.

However, the bill could face a challenge in the Texas Senate, which decreased funding for public schools by $1.8 billion in general revenue in its budget in early April.

The two state bodies have until Memorial Day—when this legislative session ends—to reach a compromise on public school funding unless a special session is called to reconcile the differences.

Additional reporting by Emily Donaldson 

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Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.
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