When it comes to education in Texas, one issue has bedeviled legislators for years: school finance. A series of lawsuits over the years has led frustrated judges to demand that lawmakers fix a broken funding system. Now, a state commission tasked with finding some answers has released its recommendations.
Julie Chang of the Austin American-Statesman says the Texas Commission on Public School Finance released a draft report this week. The final list of recommendations is due by the end of the year. The draft includes 29 recommendations, ranging from directing more money toward educating poor children to curbing the rise of property taxes.
The report also recommends spending $400 million per year to improve third-grade reading proficiency and another $400 million annually to ensure that high school seniors graduate with the skills they need to obtain higher education without the need for remediation, or so that they can obtain job certifications.
“There’s also money for school districts to create a system to pay their most effective teachers higher salaries,” Chang says.
Additional proposals would add 30 days to the school year, and give districts options for establishing full-day pre-K programs. Chang says education officials have long advocated full-day pre-K, in particular.
“I think the one that’s causing the most heartburn among public education advocates is Gov. Greg Abbott’s property tax pan, which would cap the growth of property [tax] revenue at 2.5 percent every year,” Chang says.
If local school districts lost revenue under the plan, the state would have to make up the difference.
“The state wants to increase its share in the coming years,” she says. “It’s just unclear whether the overall pot of money… is going to increase in Texas.”
Chang says that even if these recommendations are adopted by the legislature, fixing the school finance system will continue to be “a work in progress.”
She says she doesn’t know whether public education advocates agree, or even if they see the new recommendations as a final solution.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.