School Funding Comes to a Vote in Texas House

–School Funding Comes to a Vote in Texas House

–Senate Committee Puts Priority on More Money for Charters

–State Board of Education Debates Science Standards

School Funding Comes to a Vote:  Scheduled for state House floor consideration on Wednesday is HB 21, the bill by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston) to revise school-finance formulas and increase school aid to districts. The bill would increase aid to school districts by more than $1.5 billion, raising average annual formula funding per pupil by $210. Texas AFT supports the bill. HB 21 stands in marked contrast to the Senate approach on school funding, which would leave per-pupil funding static.

A number of good amendments among the 46 pre-filed amendments to HB 21 would focus more funding on prekindergarten and bilingual education. Other good proposals would call for a comprehensive study of the outdated funding elements that inadequately support educational services to students who need extra help and inadequately recognize regional cost variations. One noteworthy positive amendment by Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth) would eliminate a distortion in current law that gives charter schools on average an advantage of $800 per pupil over traditional public schools when it comes to operating funds.

On the negative side of the ledger, one especially noteworthy proposed amendment is a strange one to see on a school-finance bill. This proposal by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston) apparently aims to compel Houston ISD, the largest district in the state, to transform four seats on the school board into at-large positions; all nine seats on the board now are filled in single-member-district elections.  If Houston ISD declined to bow to this demand, the district under this amendment would lose its state funding.

Senate Committee Puts Priority on More Money for Charters:  While the Texas Senate continues to insist that the state cannot afford to increase aid to school districts beyond the current per-pupil amount, the Senate Education Committee nonetheless is putting a priority on bills that would increase funding for charter schools. On Tuesday the committee voted seven to three for a bill that would entitle charter schools to $700 per pupil annually for facilities. Texas AFT opposed the bill in committee testimony for putting charters first in line for new funding at a time when facilities funding for traditional public schools remains extremely inadequate and in fact has been shrinking in real, inflation-adjusted buying power for more than a decade. Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville), Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio), and Royce West (D-Dallas) all deserve credit for opposing the bill, SB 457 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), which would give charters a priority claim on more than $400 million per biennium for facilities.

State Board of Education Debates Science Standards: At this week’s meetings of the State Board of Education in Austin, a renewed debate over science curriculum standards pits science educators against an out-of-state advocacy group and its allies that want to keep language in state rules encouraging a creationist critique of the scientific evidence for evolution. We will provide more coverage as the debate unfolds.