Funding Bill for School-Finance Increases Advancing in House

The House Appropriations Committee voted 22 to 0 today for HB 30 by Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), a bill that would fund school-finance improvements to the tune of $1.9 billion for the coming fiscal 2018-2019 budget period beginning on September 1. The funding bill has strong bipartisan support, as evidenced by that unanimous committee vote.

The funding in HB 30 would underwrite the new state obligations for school aid in HB 21, the school-finance bill by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston). Huberty’s bill would provide a $210 average per-pupil increase in guaranteed minimum formula funding for school districts (to $5,350 from the current $5,140). It also would boost funding for bilingual education and for services provided to students with dyslexia, among other major features.

The Appropriations Committee unanimously passed three other bills for the benefit of school employees today. HB 24 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) would provide a $1,000 pay raise, effective starting with the 2017-2018 school year, for classroom teachers and full-time counselors, librarians, and school nurses.

HB 20 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) would spend $212.7 million to reduce the increased health-care costs imposed on TRS-Care participants by the Legislature in this year’s regular session. Under HB 20, a $3,000 deductible for under-65 retirees would be reduced to $1,500, and premiums for 65-and-over, Medicare-eligible retirees would be reduced $25 a month, from $146 to $121. Other cost reductions include one for retirees covering adult children with disabilities through TRS-Care.

HB 80 by Darby, the third school-employee bill passed in committee this morning, sets up the mechanism for a 3-percent cost-of-living increase for all retired school employees, but the COLA could not take effect until the TRS pension fund meets prerequisites for “actuarial soundness” that are not likely to be satisfied any time soon.