Has there ever been a legislative session that didn't deal with school finance? This Lege is dealing with it as well, and the good news is they may have made some actual progress.
Texas teachers would get an $800-a-year raise and the Dallas school district would be protected from becoming a "Robin Hood" district for several years under a school finance bill that the House tentatively approved on Monday.
The measure also would merge the state's two teacher incentive pay plans into one program and sharply reduce the amount of the merit pay that would have to be awarded based on student test scores.
Total state funding would increase about $1.9 billion over the next two years, with school districts required to spend at least half of their new state money on teacher salaries. The Dallas school district would see its funding rise $100 per student - just under 2 percent - for a total increase of about $17.5 billion.
School districts had sought more funding, but state leaders said earlier this year that a slowdown in state revenue would prevent a sizable increase.
"Every one of our school districts needs more money," said Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, who laid out the school funding bill to the chamber. But even with the small increase, he added, "this is a fair bill and it is a balanced bill."
One significant change in the bill would raise the threshold for determining which school districts must share their property tax revenue under the Robin Hood provisions of the school finance system. Last year, those districts were required to give up more than $1 billion to help equalize funding across the state.
Two of the biggest beneficiaries are the Dallas and Houston school districts, which are expected to join the ranks of high-property-wealth districts that must share their tax revenue next year. Under the House bill, both would be protected from becoming share-the-wealth districts for several years.