Senate budget discussion highlights need for more public education funding

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee heard from the Legislative Budget Board and the Texas Education Agency about the Senate’s proposed budget. Unlike the House budget proposal, the Senate provides less new funding for schools, and the funding it does provide is contingent on a classroom teacher salary increase ($3.7 billion) and legislation to slow growth in local property taxes and reduce reliance on recapture ($2.3 billion). Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen pointed out that in 2008, the state had provided 48 percent of public school funding. That number is now at 37 percent. Hinojosa also explained that some of the onus was shifted to local property tax payers as appraised values increased. Actually, the state’s share of funding real public schools is lower at 32 percent, once you subtract the funding for charters, which are entirely funded by the state.

The Senate still has a lot of work to do. In the base budget, the Basic Allotment—funding a district receives to cover the costs of providing a basic instructional program to an “average” student—is set at $5,140. Texas would need a Basic Allotment of at least $5,700 for the 2020-21 school year to make up for inflation since 2016. It would have to be at least $5,800 to cover the inflation that state and local governments face.