Directing more money toward schools educating poor children, updating outdated funding formulas and curbing property tax growth are among ways the state should overhaul its beleaguered school finance system, according to draft recommendations made by a state commission on Tuesday.
The final report from the Texas Commission on Public School Finance is due to the Legislature by the end of the month. The Legislature, in lieu of pumping more money into Texas classrooms, created the commission last year to develop ways to fix the way the state funds public schools.
The commission has spent the last nine months learning about the state’s complex funding formula, how to redirect money to districts that need it the most. The group also has studied how to drop property taxes, the main source of local revenue for schools, a goal some say runs counter to bolstering school funding.
Although the commission has devised 29 recommendations so far, members on Tuesday were divided on whether to put a dollar figure on how much more money school districts need.
“What I’m uncomfortable about is telling the Legislature they have to inject new money. I read this to say we recommend the Legislature … increase school finance funding by 2 billion and I don’t think that’s our job,” said commission Chairman Scott Brister, a Gov. Greg Abbott appointee to the panel. Brister is a former justice of the Texas Supreme Court and the only member who disagreed with the court’s 2005 ruling that the state’s public school finance system was unconstitutional.
Brister added that he didn’t want the commission to open the state to a lawsuit if the Legislature, which has many priorities to balance, fails to follow a recommendation to inject a set amount of new money into Texas classrooms.
Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston and chairman of the House Public Education Committee, was adamant that the commission increase the overall pot of money for education.
“I would not be willing to sign a report that doesn’t say that we’re going to spend more money or new money on public education,” he said.
The draft report recommends spending:
• $400 million a year, so that districts get extra money for every third grader who achieves reading proficiency.
• $400 million a year, so that districts get extra money for every graduating senior who does not require remediation, as determined by their ACT, SAT or Texas Success Initiative test score, and who earns a job certification,…