Transformational School Finance Reform Has Officially Come to Texas

Exactly 16 months ago today, Governor Greg Abbott issued this charge to the newly-formed Texas Commission on Public School Finance: “We must redesign a system that wisely invests money in our children's future by prioritizing spending that is proven to improve student outcomes.” After a tireless effort on the part of lawmakers, educators, and community members, it appears that the Texas Legislature has achieved this historic goal.

For the first time in nearly 35 years, Texas legislators have enacted major reforms to the state’s system of school financing without a mandate from the Texas Supreme Court. A 2016 ruling by that court found the system maintained basic constitutionality, but remained inefficient and outdated. As Justice Eva Guzman stated in her concurring opinion: “Our Legislature can and should continue to strive for a better system for all Texas students.”

Indeed, this is what the 86th Texas Legislature has done. HB3, as finalized by conferees from both legislative chambers, invests more than $11 billion in public education funding and property tax relief. Details are continuing to emerge, but a handful of important victories for Texas public education are worth immediately celebrating.

The basic allotment, the base amount provided to every Texas student, will be increased by over $1,000, promising an influx of new resources to campuses across our state. In addition, low-income students will receive additional funding, with a new sliding scale that accounts for concentrations of poverty. Additionally, school districts will have the opportunity to earn bonuses every year by ensuring their high school seniors graduate ready for college, career, or the military.

$2 billion dollars will be directed to teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses, and other essential on-campus support staff. The legislation includes funding for strategic compensation, allowing districts to better compensate our most effective educators with salaries to match their impact. Additional resources will also be directed toward evidence-based training in literacy instruction for teachers Pre-K through 2nd grade to improve 3rd grade reading rates across the state.

Finally, the bill also contains substantial property tax relief that will reduces recapture by $3.6 billion. The influx of new money and reduction in local tax collection will bring the state’s share of funding for public education from 38% to 45%.

“I couldn’t be more excited about House Bill 3’s ability to create a more equitable school finance system that provides all of our kids the education they deserve,” said Todd Williams, the chairman and CEO of the Commit Partnership and former member of the Commission of Public School Finance. “I’m so grateful for Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, Speaker Bonnen, Chairman Huberty and Chairman Taylor who collectively put together a bold plan and saw it through to fruition. By wholly reworking our finance system to focus on providing students with the resources they need to succeed, I’m confident our state will remain the economic powerhouse it is today and continue to be a place families are proud to call home.”

Joshua Kumler