Still hot off the presses is a list of 34 recommendations that’s meant to guide Texas lawmakers to find ways to fix the state’s public education system. Recommendations by the Texas Commission on Public School Finance will be taken up during the legislature’s 2019 session, beginning in January. Their list is a compilation of ideas the commission has been discussing over the past year.
Republican State Rep. Dan Huberty of Houston is a member of the commission, and chairs the House Committee on Public Education. He says he initially didn’t support the public education commission. Now, he’s happy with the product.
“We started with outcomes – what to be expect with the money that we’re spending,” Huberty says. “And the answer is not always more money… What we found is that less than 50 percent of the kids in third grade can’t read. We believe that we should spend more money in early education.”
The report also recommends higher pay for teachers.
Huberty says the commission recommends finding ways to “inject new sources of revenue into the system.” The commission didn’t make a recommendation on how much money the state would spend on education, overall.
“What we didn’t want to do is peg ourselves down and say ‘we should spend $2 billion more a year,'” Huberty says.
Huberty says leaders in the House are committed to adding funding for education, but that they haven’t agreed on how much. Outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus said recently that the state could afford to add $5 billion. Huberty says House members need input into the process. But he says the state will need to step up education funding, which has slipped from 50 percent of the total in 2006, to 32 percent, today, with local jurisdictions making up the rest. He says the state’s share of education spending should be treated as an investment.
“Any businessperson will invest into capital resources, or building something new or buying new equipment, or doing something with their labor resources if they know there’s a return on the investment,” Huberty says.
Besides adding to education funding, Huberty says reducing the property tax burden was also a priority for the commission.
“People want and expect tax relief,” Huberty says. “We’re taxing people out of our homes.”
Huberty says he’s hopeful that the 2019 legislative session will result in solutions to school finance, and he has confidence in presumptive Speaker, Dennis Bonnen. The school finance commission could be one reason.
“I think this is the session to fix school finance,” Huberty says. “There is a commitment by the top three leaders in this state that this is gonna happen, we’re gonna get his done.”
During the four previous sessions he’s been a member of the legislature, a number of financial, procedural and political obstacles blocked progress.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.