Major Texas school finance fix set to clear state House

Henrietta Brewer
April 21, 2017

State Rep. Dan Huberty succeeded at a hard task Wednesday: getting the Texas House of Representatives to vote for legislation overhauling the funding system for public education, without a court mandate.

The survivor benefits bill is one of the few pieces of legislation the House and Senate have agreed should be considered now that session has passed 90-day deadline set by voters in 2009.

The Texas House adopted the amendment 90-52.

Texas has no state income tax, meaning schools rely heavily on local property tax revenue.

But those increases wouldn't be seen everywhere.

HB 549 has been a longtime priority for the Coalition of School Board Members, which has tried for years to pass a bill including numerous measures.

But Huberty said that without his bill, the state will be a slacker. "It basically comes down to one thing: that our finance system needs help".


Senate Bill 640, which passed by a vote of 23-8, would end a years-long ban on home-schooled students from playing with public school teammates.

It should pass the House on Wednesday, but may not survive the state Senate, which is more focused on school vouchers.

Both chambers of the Alaska Legislature have voted unanimously to guarantee health insurance benefits to surviving family members of peace officers and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty.

State Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-District 20, said the bill is now in the House, awaiting passage.

Under the version of the bill that cleared the Senate, however, the mandate was absent and only state workers would be guaranteed to receive the benefit.

The legislation also increases funding for school district transportation and educating dyslexic students.

No school finance fix is required since Texas' Supreme Court has ruled the system flawed but barely constitutional.


"While our system is lawful, it is very bad", he added.

The bill also drew the ire of some tea party-backed Republicans. They anxious it creates policy when there is no guarantee the Legislature will pass adequate funding to cover it as the House and Senate continue to hammer out the 2018-2019 state budget before the legislative session ends next month.

"I think the state 'ought to step up and say we've vetted every avenue to make sure that when citizens get in these vehicles they're with a driver they can trust". He tried to derail the entire bill using a House legislative maneuver, but was unsuccessful.

Wednesday saw another late night at the Capitol. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, would remove an existing financial penalty for school districts smaller than 300 square miles, which was originally meant to encourage them to consolidate.

Texas could soon follow North Carolina as the only states with so-called bathroom bills now that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is on board after ending months of silence that businesses and LGBT rights groups fighting the efforts had taken as an encouraging sign.

Houston Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton said Darby's change would only exacerbate the larger problems of a fundamentally flawed system. Yee introduced the new bill and said, "all stakeholders had input and there was no opposition to the bill".

"It's this constant reminder that society kind of looks at you as less", Schelling testified, before receiving a round of applause from the audience.


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