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House Proposal Makes Structural Changes to School Finance System

Mar 08, 2019

It’s been almost three years since the Texas Supreme Court upheld the state’s public school funding system as constitutional, while also acknowledging it could be much better.

“Our Byzantine school funding ‘system’ is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement,” the court wrote in its opinion, which urged state lawmakers to make "transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid."

The ruling came after dozens of school districts, including Frisco ISD, sued the state over inadequate and inequitable school funding. Now, a bill filed in the Texas House of Representatives proposes sweeping changes to the current system.

“House Bill 3 is based on years of work, research, data and testimony, along with recommendations from the School Finance Commission in their final report,” House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said in introducing the legislation. “It is thoughtful, it is thorough and it will make a meaningful investment in the lives of so many Texas students and teachers.  

“The Band-Aid fixes end with House Bill 3,” he said.

The bill would:

  • Add $9 billion in funding, including $6.3 billion for schools (above enrollment growth) and $2.7 billion for property tax relief

  • Raise the basic allotment that school districts receive annually for each student from $5,140 to $6,030, an increase of $890 per student

  • Lower school property tax rates by at least 4 cents statewide and reduce recapture, commonly referred to as “Robin Hood,” by more than 38 percent in the proposed two-year budget

The proposal also includes a number of revisions to the current funding formulas and dedicates additional funds to serve students with dyslexia, expand career and technical education programs in grades 6-8 and increase the minimum salary schedule for teachers, among many other proposed changes.

“This bill is an encouraging step in the conversation about how to best address school finance,” said Frisco ISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mike Waldrip. “It prioritizes students and teachers and addresses many of the structural problems that have persisted in Texas for many years. Because school finance is so complex, there are a lot of implications for Frisco ISD in the details and we continue to analyze the bill’s potential impact, as well as the impact of other ideas being discussed in the House and Senate.”

The Senate has yet to release its own plan for overhauling the school finance system and differences between the two chambers will have to be ironed out.

Frisco ISD will continue to monitor bills making their way through the legislature, and a member of the Board of Trustees is expected to testify regarding House Bill 3 during a public hearing scheduled before the House Public Education Committee next Tuesday, March 12.

Several FISD teachers and staff members from across the District also traveled to Austin this past week to share their ideas and feedback with members of legislature on topics ranging from teacher pay to special education training.

Dr. Waldrip was invited to provide further input to the House Public Education Committee regarding the state’s assessment system after testifying earlier in February. Specifically, he addressed the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for third grade reading as part of a panel discussion with other school superintendents.

“As far as we’re concerned, the STAAR is the state’s test. We do what we do to get prepared for it, we align our curriculum, we unpack the TEKS, we do all those things, but for assessing reading we use a more holistic, performance-based assessment to diagnose reading issues,” Dr. Waldrip said. “It actually gets to the crux of what’s wrong and what the issue is with the student and that’s something that the STAAR can’t tell us.”

For more information on House Bill 3, which lawmakers have dubbed “The Texas Plan,” please visit www.thetexasplan.com.

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