SB 4 Has the Potential to Transform Texas
Comprehensive school finance reform has officially come to both chambers of the Texas Legislature. Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) filed Senate Bill 4 in the Texas Senate late last week, legislation that has the potential to transform student outcomes throughout the state.
Sen. Taylor previously served on the Texas Commission on Public School Finance, and in fact helped to create it in 2017. We’re thrilled to report that, thanks to his diligence throughout the interim and session, the legislation contains nearly all of the strategic initiatives recommended by that body.
The bill is currently incomplete, with key funding amounts left blank, signaling the realities of the legislative process. Sen. Taylor and his fellow committee members have worked hard to arrive at this moment and still have more to do. Though we don’t yet know the final numbers, the bill demonstrates an alignment with the core values of InvestEdTX that should be celebrated.
Students First: SB 4 establishes a statewide goal of 60% reading proficiency for third graders and 60% college, career, and military readiness for graduating seniors by the year 2030. It also requires reports on progress toward these goals to be created at both the state and local levels.
Additional Dollars to Improve Outcomes: The bill proposes increased funding for dual language programs, students with dyslexia, and early education. Additionally, it proposes additional funding to districts for low-income students who can read by third grade or who graduate high school college, career, and military ready.
Teachers Matter: SB 4 recognizes the importance of attracting and retaining quality teachers by providing funding for the implementation of multi-measure evaluation systems, as well as pay raises strategically directed towards effective educators on high needs campuses.
Local Innovation and Autonomy: By increasing the yield on local tax revenues, SB 4 decreases the amount school districts owe the state in recapture and ensures more local tax dollars stay within local districts.
As this process unfolds, we are hopeful that future versions of the bill include the Commission’s recommendations to provide significant new dollars for students and to provide additional funds for districts based on the density of poverty. These comments aside, Chairman Taylor and his colleagues on the Senate Education Committee have begun a long and difficult process in a deliberate, thoughtful manner and should be applauded for the work they have done so far.
With the filing of SB 4 and HB 3, Texas senators and representatives have demonstrated a commitment to a significant and strategic investment in public education. We will provide regular updates as this legislation continues to develop.