Gov. Abbott signs public school finance reform bill into law

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will sign House Bill 3 at a Tuesday morning press conference. This is the landmark legislation that reforms the state’s public education system, specifically funding.

“This is a monumental moment in public education history in the State of Texas,” Abbott said.

Abbott was joined by lawmakers, superintendents, teachers, and others in the education community at Parmer Lane Elementary School, part of Pflugerville ISD.

“I think it sends a message that both parties, the entire House and Senate, and all the ‘big three’ have come together in support of our public school kids,” Pflugerville ISD Superintendent Dr. Douglas Killian said.

Funding from the $11.6 billion measure will pay for pre-kindergarten programs, career and technology education priorities, and increases in teacher salaries.

Leaders hope these changes bring Texas from worst to first in the nation.

“Making sure we’re educating those kids at high need campuses, the merit pay, incentive pay, the pre-K programs, it’s so significant of a change in our education system in Texas and what we’ve done is really going to lead the country,” State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, the author of House Bill 3.

The leader of the Texas Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, said the bill also funds an extra month of school in July for districts that want to implement that. It also puts an emphasis on third grade reading.

“If you can’t read by the third grade reading level then your chances and success in school will greatly diminish,” Patrick said.

The new law also decreases school property taxes.

“It is going to reduce property taxes because now we are limiting an increase in your school property taxes to 2.%. The state is making up that gap,” Patrick explained. “And in addition we are going to cut school taxes about 5% in the first year, 10% in the second year, we want to continue to do that.”

School districts had to build their budgets based on what they thought the legislature would do during session, so now that they have more information, they are cross-checking the numbers.

“We’re taking a look at what those runs are and what does it mean this year and what does it mean the next year and then unpacking it because the devil is in the details,” Granger ISD Superintendent Randy Willis. “How does this look with compensation for teachers? How does this look for compensation for others? How much do we have to put here? And what’s left over for our other programs.”

Lawmakers already have their eye on next session as they see what works and what doesn’t from the rollout of House Bill 3.

“I anticipate that what will start happening almost immediately as once the euphoria of doing good passes, is looking at how we make sure this remains sustainable,” State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said.

“There will be some great successes, some that didn’t work out as we thought and that’s what all of this from the education community to the legislature will focus on next session,” Lt. Gov. Patrick added.

To see the Legislative Budget Board runs on how House Bill 3 affects your school district funding, click here for Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021.

Michael Rogers contributed to this report.

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