State budget discussions dominated much of the month of May as the Texas Legislature works to complete its one required task of the session—approving a balanced budget—by June 1. Although legislators in the House of Representatives and Senate proposed additional funding for public education for the next two years, members from both chambers spent weeks coming to a consensus regarding precisely how that money should be spent in the next biennium.
“There are some significant differences between the House and Senate in terms of focus as well as philosophy in terms of how they want to spend their money,” Cy-Fair ISD CFO Stuart Snow said.
State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, tried to address irregularities in the school finance system by filing House Bill 1759 as this session’s school finance bill. During a House of Representative Public Education Committee meeting in mid-April, Aycock addressed the bill and explained the school funding system has become more dependent on local property tax over the decades.
“With that changing dynamic has come a series of lawsuits, and with each of those has come increasing levels of complexity in the school finance system,” he said.
HB 1759 aimed to to answer the question of how to distribute money in the school finance system and deal with the model of distribution.
However, Aycock pulled down HB 1759 on May 14, meaning any school finance changes that happen during the remainder of the session must come through HB 1, the House of Representative’s general appropriations bill. HB 1759 tackled 13 issues that would have added $800 million to the additional $2.2 billion the House proposed to fund public education for the next biennium.
The additional $800 million Aycock intended for public education still resides in HB 1. However, since it resides in Article XI, which is a placeholder, it is unknown whether that additional funding will be accessed, and if so for what purpose.
As of May 14, the Senate had proposed an increase of $1.2 billion into the basic allotment, while the House put an increase of $2.2 billion into the basic allotment, which is used to calculate state aid to school districts and fund public schools districts in Texas. Both chambers funded enrollment growth at approximately $2.5 billion.
Both budget bills remained in conference committee as of May 15 as legislators worked to come to a consensus on the legislation.
“Once a decision has been agreed upon, the budget will return to the House and Senate for approval by both chambers before heading to the governor for approval,” said Tedrah Robertson, director of public affairs for the Texas Equity Center, a school finance research and advocacy group.
The CFISD board of trustees is expected to approve its budget in mid-June following the conclusion of the session when districts will know how much funding to expect from the state for the next biennium.