Texas Democrats are ready for a school funding battle today

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The Democrats are ready For insulting Republicans over the amount for public education in the Texas House Budget Bill.

On Thursday, the Texas House of Representatives is set to cast its primary votes on the state budget, including its plans for a surplus of more than $30 billion.

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The budget bill in the Republican-controlled chamber includes about $5 billion in additional spending on education, with about $15 billion earmarked for property tax relief.

Republicans have broadly supported increased investments in education, including an increase of $50 per student, the first since 2019. Other changes supported by the GOP include expanding a merit-based pay program for teachers, and a shift to funding schools based on enrollment rather than on enrollment. that. From attending that would inject several billion more dollars into education, simplify accounting, and increase pension benefits for retired teachers.

Several hundred amendments have been made to the budget that will be discussed over the course of Thursday, and a quarter of them relate to education spending.

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some, Including many of the Democratic leader in the House of RepresentativesRep. Trey Martinez Fisher proposes diverting money from the property tax credit to fund schools instead. Others increase funding for private education, provide funds for specific projects, promote scholarships and so on. Any proposals to siphon off property tax relief money are almost certainly doomed, given that it is a key priority for the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House.

The main area of ​​contention among Democrats appears to be increasing per-student funding, also known as primary allocation. Schools receive $6,160 per student, and that number is then adjusted depending on other factors including poverty levels, school district size, special education population, and so on.

“There are a lot of bills, a lot of proposals, and one thing that I think the entire education community supports coherently, that affects every child is an increase in basic personalization — that’s the basic building block and the easiest thing to do,” said Laura Yeager, director of the nonpartisan education advocacy group. Just Fund It TX, that the legislature should do.

Yeager and other public education advocates spoke at a news conference Tuesday morning, calling for a $1,000 increase in basic benefits instead of the planned $50 increase. If the base benefit has kept pace with inflation since it was raised to $6,160 in 2019, the American Federation of Texas Teachers wrote in an emailed press release, it will now be $7,325.

Those groups said the plans Republicans are currently pushing into the budget are not enough to address the funding shortfalls and teacher hiring crisis that school districts are now facing.

When the base allocation is raised, some of that money automatically goes to teacher raises under state law. The Teachers’ Union has estimated that a $50 increase equates to about $455 in teacher salary increases. They also noted that the Senate has proposed larger pay increases, about $2,000, than the House of Representatives, since no additional money is allocated in the state budget to increase teachers and school staff.

“If this is what ends up passing the Texas House of Representatives, every lawmaker we vote for is telling our children and the people who care for them exactly what they deserve: nothing,” said Zev Capu, president of Texas AFT.

Although school funding numbers appear to be higher than ever, as Gov. Greg Abbott has claimed in speeches around the state where he defended voucher policies, when those numbers are adjusted for inflation, they show that they have actually fallen over time — both in terms of total State spending and each student.

Even with the proposed $5 billion investment, there would be less state money invested in school districts than there was before the pandemic when accounting for the growth of charter schools and money taken from school districts with higher real estate values ​​through the recall system, the former Houston area state said. Representative Paul Colbert.

Colbert helped craft the current school funding system while he was a member of the legislature in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“We think adding $5 billion sounds like a lot of money,” Colbert said in testimony at a hearing Tuesday before the Committee on Public Education. “$5 billion is basically not going to put you back where you were when you passed[the school finance reform bill]in 2019.”

One early amendment to the state budget has attracted more attention than any other: a measure by Rep. Abel Herrero to prevent state funds from being used to fund private schools.

In previous sessions, Herrero offered the same amendment, winning 115 votes in 2021. But this year’s passage is likely to be seen as a challenge by Abbott and Lt. Dan Patrick, who champion voucher policies.

Abbott He spoke out against the Herero amendment on Twitter on TuesdayHe also visited the floor of the House of Representatives to meet with lawmakers. Patrick said Will pay for private sessions if needed to pass voucher billing.

Proposals to use state funds to pay children’s tuition for private schools would encourage students to drop out of their public schools, with the effect of drawing dollars from school districts in Texas. The current proposal in the Senate tries to explain this by compensating for areas where children leave, but only for smaller counties, as rural Republicans have opposed such efforts in the past.

“We beg for any morsel of extra public school funding and where the vouchers come in, they do the opposite. They drain what little is already there,” Yeager said.

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