Senate Approves Its Version of School Finance Bill
Conference committee to iron out differences
AUSTIN, TX--Today the Texas Senate passed House Bill 2 authorizing a public school finance plan 27 to 4, with Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. voting in favor.
"This bill makes a strong statement about equity that is extremely important for progress in our education system in Texas. The Senate plan maintains 100 percent of recapture in the basic funding tier, which is particularly beneficial to our schools in South Texas. It also provides greater equity than the plan passed by the House Chamber. I just hope that Senate conferees hold the line on equity during conference committee," Sen. Lucio said.
"While HB 2, as passed by the Senate, does not provide nearly enough money to get our students where they need to be, I think that the equity provisions are a first step in the right direction and I hope that we can come back next session and put more money into the formulas."
The Senate plan includes a $3,000 pay raise for educators, which includes restoring the $1,000 health care stipend. The pay raise included in the Senate plan is higher than the $1,500 increase passed by the House.
"I applaud the Valley representatives who voted against the House version of the school finance bill because I feel many of its provisions will be detrimental to our region," he said. "However, there are certain provisions in the Senate version that I am troubled about, too, like the insufficient teacher salary increase and no additional funding for instructional facilities. I would like to have seen a salary increase of $4,000 to $6,000 for educators, which would bring them closer to the national average. Teachers and counselors are the backbone of our public education system."
During Floor debate, Sen. Lucio reminded the members that this Special Session will afford an opportunity to reconsider the allocation of funding for the Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA), which serves the poorest school districts in the state, many of which are in South Texas. The Edgewood II and West-Orange Cove district court cases have both emphasized that the state is not providing adequate funding for facilities. In the past, IFA has been funded at a level of $150 million; however for the past two regular sessions it has only been funded at $20 million (2004-05) and $25 million (2005-06).
"Every family in my school district has a child who has been taught in a portable classroom and that is wrong. Brownsville ISD alone has over 400 portable buildings. Children deserve decent learning environments. I consider it a slap in the face when the poorest of the poor school districts are not provided equitable funding for their instructional facilities," he said, challenging his colleagues to increase the funding.
Senator Florence Shapiro, chair of the Senate Education Committee, responded that she is committed to finding at least another $25 million for the Instructional Facilities Allotment program.
The Senate plan also reduces the school property tax cap from $1.50 per $100 valuation to $1.30 per $100 valuation, with the possibility of lowering it to $1.10 in 2006 and to $1.05 in 2009 that is contingent on successful reforms of the franchise tax and approval in a statewide referendum.
Sen. Lucio was pleased that the Senate version, like its House counterpart, includes a provision requiring that all public schools begin classes the first Tuesday after Labor Day and end by June 7.
Note: Staff member handling this issue is Perla Cavazos, senior policy analyst, and she can be reached at 512-463-01217.