Legislators approve education finance reform package to include funding, staff raises

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The Texas Legislature’s wide-reaching funding package, House Bill 3, was unanimously approved by the House and Senate on May 25 following months of consideration as one of the Legislature’s principal goals this session.

The package provides $11.6 billion for school funding and tax cuts through August 2021 and, as of press time, was at the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott, who said he plans to sign the bill into law.

HB 3 will provide Texas school districts with increases to per-student funding and other new funding allotments for certain students and programming. The bill also establishes a formula for districts to provide raises to educators and staff and compresses district tax rates.

Darrin Rice, the chief financial officer for Conroe ISD, said he believes this bill is a step up from the current education funding system, although some of its effects are yet to be determined.

“I think it is an improvement,” he said. “They do have compression of the property tax, so check that box. [And] they got us to put more money into the classroom.”

Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, said he supported the version of HB 3 that passed, and he hopes to further address taxation and education funding in the future.

“It’s a great thing for CISD,” Toth said of the bill. “I would have definitely liked to have seen more money go towards property tax relief for the homeowner, but I’m thankful that we got something out of it.”

HB 3 will increase the state’s basic allotment over $1,000 per student to $6,160. Employee raises will also be granted based on districts’ annual revenue increases, with the majority going to full-time teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses. And CISD’s maintenance and operations tax rate is expected to drop $0.07 per $100 valuation.

One of the immediate effects of HB 3 is the bill’s requirement of full-day pre-K for eligible 4-year-olds. Rice said CISD will have to find classroom space and teachers to double its current offering of 45 half-day pre-K classes split between morning and afternoon sessions.

He also said the district’s growth—1,400 new students are expected to arrive in each of the next two years—could cost around $20 million per year for new educators’ salaries and

raises alone.

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