I figure the smart money is always on efforts like this to fail, but you never know.
After hours of discussion Wednesday, a state panel studying school finance stripped its final report of language that blamed the state for inadequate education spending — and that added urgency to a need for more money to improve student performance.
The original version of the report, unveiled last Tuesday, included stronger language that held the state accountable for the lack of education funding and urged lawmakers to immediately inject more than a billion dollars of new funding into public schools. Scott Brister, the panel’s chairman and a former Texas Supreme Court justice, led the charge to make those changes, which he said would be more palatable to lawmakers and keep Texas from being sued in the future.
“I do have a problem several places where it says our school system has failed. I do think that’s asking for trouble,” he said.
Some lawmakers and educators on the panel pushed back before agreeing to compromise.
“I think we have failed our schools and we haven’t funded them, in my view, adequately or equitably,” responded state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, who chairs the House Public Education Committee.
Despite the conflict, the 13-member commission unanimously approved more than 30 recommendations on Wednesday aimed at boosting public education funding, improving student performance, cleaning up a messy funding distribution system — and providing property tax relief for Texans.
A final report will be sent to lawmakers, who are convening next month amid calls from state leadership to overhaul a long-embattled school finance system. Gov. Greg Abbott supported the panel’s vote in a statement Wednesday afternoon: “Today’s school finance commission report made clear that the state must reform the broken Robin Hood system and allocate more state funding to education. This session, we will do just that.”
Among the recommendations the commission plans to send to lawmakers are:
- $100 million a year to school districts that want to develop their own teacher evaluation metrics and tie pay to performance. The total amount available should increase $100 million each year until it reaches $1 billion.
- Up to $150 million to incentivize school districts to offer dual language programs, which instruct students in both English and Spanish, and to improve their dyslexia programs.
- $800 million to incentivize school districts to improve students’ reading level in early grades and to succeed in college or a career after graduating high school.
- $1.1 billion to improve education for low-income students, with school districts that have a higher share of needy students getting more money.
- Create a new goal of having 60 percent of third-grade students reading on or above grade level and 60 percent of high school seniors graduating with a technical certificate, military inscription, or college enrollment without the need for remedial classes.
- Cap local school district tax rates in order to offer property tax relief and a small amount of funding for schools — a proposal from Abbott.
- No extra funding for special education programs until the state has completed overhauling those programs in line with a federal mandate.
The report hasn’t been published yet, so this is all we know. I don’t see any reason to trust Greg Abbott, who is more interested in cutting property taxes than in providing schools with the resources they need, and of course Dan Patrick will be heavily involved in whatever happens. I think the commission has generally good motives and for the most part the ideas are fine, but we could do a lot more, and that’s before we address the huge need for special ed funding. It’s all a matter of our priorities, and of our view of what “fixing” school finance looks like. The Chron has more.