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House Public Education Committee Hears Hours of Testimony on School Finance

03.01.2017 — The Texas House Public Education Committee met Tuesday, February 28, to hear testimony from 24 witnesses on concepts and issues related to school finance.

Rep. Dan Huberty, the committee chair, opened up the meeting by stating that the school finance system in Texas has “serious problems” but that he was “proud to be able to work with some serious people” to work to solve them.

TEA staff started off the testimony with a review of the constitutional obligations the state has related to education and a history of school finance in Texas. Committee members asked questions aimed at gaining a better understanding of the legalities and complexities of the system.

Several panels of superintendents from across the state provided the committee with information on various topics related to school finance as well as the challenges faced in their particular districts. Topics discussed throughout the hearing included:

  • conducting a comprehensive study of the weights
  • transportation funding for Chapter 41 districts and updating the transportation allotment
  • impact of the end of Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR)
  • small district penalty
  • challenges of smaller, rural districts with high concentrations of poverty
  • moving additional state funding into the Basic Allotment
  • increasing number of economically disadvantaged students and their needs
  • increasing number of English Language Learner (ELL) students and associated costs
  • updating the Cost of Education Index (CEI)
  • impact of declining enrollment on school funding
  • facility needs of fast-growth district and state aid for facilities assisting with reducing property taxes
  • overreliance of recapture by the state
  • support for full-day pre-K
  • funds collected for public schools should stay in public education
  • charter school facility needs

Several groups provided information on school finance plans, including the Texas Association of School Boards, Texas School Alliance, and the Equity Center.

The committee is expected to begin considering school finance-related bills at its next meeting on Tuesday, March 7. The chair noted that a total of 156 bills had been referred to the committee so far, with at least that many more expected.