Texas budget provides little relief for schools

Texas budget provides little relief for schools

(Texas) Lawmakers in Austin concluded their regular session Sunday after passing a status quo budget and adopting an updated student accountability system, but disappointed educators by failing once again to revise the state’s complex school funding formula.

Out of an overall spending plan of $216.8 billion through 2019, public schools will receive $38.1 billion in state base funding. There will be, however, a net increase of $274 million because of a shift in reliance on other sources, including local property taxes.

The budget bill also set aside $75 million to help school districts located in parts of the state where property values have fallen, and $236 million to support high quality pre-kindergarten programs.

Although representatives of K-12 schools were relieved that some dire cuts were not included in the budget, they also lamented the failure of a last-minute effort to add about $2 billion to education spending.

“Unfortunately, the Legislature failed to address the school finance system,” Dax Gonzalez, spokesman for the Texas Association of School Boards, said in a statement. “Instead the state will continue to reduce its share of public education spending and local tax payers will be relied upon to shoulder a greater proportion so that general fund revenue can be used elsewhere.”

There had been some hope that the Texas Legislature would take up a serious restructuring of the school funding system after the state supreme court blasted it as being “deeply flawed,” although somehow still constitutional.

While there is some hope that Gov. Greg Abbott will call lawmakers back into a special session, capital insiders are less optimistic that school funding will be high on the priority list if there is an extended work calendar.

Texas law requires that the Legislature meet every two years for no more than 140 days, with the governor authorized to order additional sessions of up to 30 days at a time.

The new student accountability system reduces the number of performance indicators from five to three:

  • Student Achievement, which includes standardized test scores, graduation rates, college entrance exam participation, industry certifications, and military enlistment;
  • Student Progress, which includes student growth from one year to the next on standardized testing, credit to schools that maintain performance levels, and extra credit to schools that do better than schools with similar demographics; and
  • Closing the gaps, which reflects performance of students in at-risk categories, including students with disabilities and English learners.

 

Under the new system, schools would still be assigned a summative grade A-to-F that is created by taking the better score of the Student Achievement domain or Student Progress, and then averaging that with the Closing the Gap domain score.

HB 22 is now before the governor.

Other bills of interest:

HB 2442 changes the required 75,600 required minutes of instruction to minutes of operation and permits the state schools chief to adopt rules to determine the minutes of operation that are equivalent to a day of instruction and to define instructional time.

HB 1886 requires the state’s network of regional education service centers to employ a dyslexia specialist to help support districts in assisting students with dyslexia and the families of students with dyslexia.

SB 2039 requires the state school chief, in concert with a human trafficking prevention task force and others, to develop a sexual abuse and sex trafficking prevention program for use by districts in their health curriculum.

SB 1398 amends the state law governing use of video cameras in special education settings by clarifying that requests for cameras are limited to “classrooms where the requesting parent has a child in regular attendance or to which the requesting staff member is assigned; clarifies who may view video footage; provides a definition for ‘staff member;’ sets a timeline for installation of cameras at 45 school business days; specifies that a camera must be operated and maintained for the remainder of the school year in which the request was received; reduces video storage requirements to three months; and allows a district to ask TEA for an extension of time to begin video camera operation.”