This evening, the Texas House of Representatives reluctantly voted to accept the Senate’s version of a school funding bill that will provide some short-term relief for schools, students, and educators. The vote was 94-46 on the motion to concur with Senate amendments, which will send House Bill (HB) 21 to the governor’s desk. The Senate’s version stripped out much of the $1.8 billion sought by the House under an original version authored by Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood). As finally passed, the bill will provide hardship grants for schools losing ASATR funding; new grant programs to help students with autism, dyslexia, and related disorders; and a one-time infusion of funds to offset healthcare cost increases for retired educators.
The Senate, in recess at the time of the House’s decision to adjourn, will be back on the floor tonight and will have an opportunity to consider Senate Bill 1, a property tax bill that came back from the House with amendments. The Senate will have the option of concurring with the House amendments to SB 1, sending that bill also to the governor, or accepting no legislation on property taxes. Aside from the medical licensing legislation that necessitated the special session in the first place, Gov. Greg Abbott has listed property tax reform as his top priority for the special session that is now coming to a close. ATPE and others emphasized throughout the special session that the best way for lawmakers to provide local homeowners with property tax relief would be to overhaul the school finance system and increase the state’s share of the funding burden. Now a state commission will study the issue of school finance for two more years and make recommendations to the 86th legislature in 2019.
ATPE issued a press statement about the passage of HB 21 and the conclusion of the special session here. We are grateful for the work of legislative leaders to try to advance meaningful reforms to our school finance system that would benefit all students, as well as increases in pay and benefits for our hardworking educators. We are disappointed that the House leadership’s visionary plans for longer-term school finance changes were rejected, but we greatly appreciate the additional short-term aid that will flow to some schools, retired educators, and students during the next two years.
ATPE also thanks lawmakers for rejecting several discriminatory and unnecessary bills that were advanced by some during this special session. We are very pleased that legislators listened to the education community and rejected measures that attempted to silence educators in retaliation for their being politically active and bills seeking once again to divert public money to unregulated private schools.