FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 08/07/2017
Texas House Passes Public Education Reforms
(Austin, TX) – State Representative James White and his colleagues in the Texas House have passed public education reforms that will help fund our schools, provide an extension of Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR), and create a program to help public school students with autism. “Chairman Huberty is doing an excellent job in shepherding true school finance reform to ensure that all Texas taxpayers, parents, school children, and teachers experience tax relief and adequate and equitable educational opportunity and resources in order to grow our local prosperity in Texas and build a foundation in the competitive 21st century high-tech global economy,” said Rep. White.
Before the special legislative session began, Rep. White had asked the Governor to include many of these public education reforms in his call for a special session. Additionally, he asked the Governor to hold the Legislature accountable and push for these reforms to be passed. Rep. White was proud to vote for the reforms proposed.
House Bill 30 provides for supplemental appropriations to local school districts to assist in school funding, thus providing more state funding and signaling to local school boards that they can provide property tax relief to Texas homeowners. Under the legislation, the Legislature would appropriate $963.5 million in both 2018 and 2019 for Texas classroom students and teachers. Furthermore, the bill sets the basic allotment per student at $5,350 for both years. Lastly, the bill uses existing funds at TEA ($15 million each year) for special education grants to enhance the education opportunities for students with disabilities.
HB 23 creates a grant program with the purposes of providing innovative services to students with autism. This program will benefit these underserved students so that they can receive the assistance they need to receive a quality education.
HB 21 is a refiling of Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty’s bill by the same number during the regular session. This legislation improves public schools by allocating $1.8 billion in education funding and simplifying the formulas for appropriating money to our Texas schools. These additional funds will be of great benefit to Texas rural schools in danger of closing.
Unfortunately, HB 22, which proposed continuing ASATR funding through 2019 for school districts that are hurting due to legislative commitments made in 2006 failed to receive enough votes to pass. “I represent taxpayers, parents, students, and educators in two ASATR districts --- Woodville and Hardin-Jefferson,” said Rep. White. Five years before I arrived in the Legislature and years before many students and parents began their public education experience, the Legislature made a promise to provide more funding to Texas school districts and mandated needed relief for Texas property taxpayers. Eleven years later, taxpayers are demanding relief and the Legislature wants to walk away from ASATR funding, which will result in some schools closing their doors and other districts increasing property taxes just to keep the lights on. And by the way, in response to clichés and slogans, many of these districts don’t have palatial football stadiums and ‘Jumbotron’ scoreboards. In fact, Hardin-Jefferson doesn’t even have lights for their baseball field. This is a real serious issue. The Commissioner of TEA has identified 10 districts in Texas that will not be able to open on the first day of school in a couple of weeks without ASATR funding,” explained Rep. White.
“I am thankful for the work members have put into these pieces of legislation. It has not been easy to find a simple fix for our public school finance system, but it shouldn’t be this difficult. Either we can pay for our schools with a more broad-based low tax, such as the sales tax or on the backs of a few Texans that are exercising their fundamental right to own property. It’s just that simple,” said Rep. White. Of course, we need our elected school boards to continue looking at cost efficiencies. He continued, “The people of Texas are hurting. We [the Legislature] still have time to deliver on meaningful property tax relief, that is; decreasing property bills for Texas homeowners, adequate and equitable state funding for all Texas public students, and more opportunities and choices for students with challenging intellectual and physical disabilities.”
Please do not hesitate to contact either Saul Mendoza, Chief of Staff, or Shawn Dunn, District Director, with questions regarding these projects at 512-463-0490 or 409-283-3700.