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House Gives Preliminary Approval to School Finance Commission Bill

08.14.2017 — Today the full House gave preliminary approval to SB 16 (Larry Taylor) with a vote of 142-2. The bill, which was passed by the Senate in late July and was substituted in the House Public Education Committee with HB 191 (Phil King) last week, establishes the Texas Commission on Public School Finance with the responsibility of recommending improvements to the current school finance system or new methods of financing public schools.

It requires the commission to consist of: five members appointed by the governor to include at least one school administrator, one expert on state/local taxation, a member of the business community, and one member of the civic community; five members appointed by the lieutenant governor; and five members appointed by the speaker of the House, of which three in each group must be legislators, one in each group must be a school administrator or trustee, and one in each group must be a current or retired teacher with at least 10 years of experience. (The House version allows for the participation of more educators than the original Senate bill.)

Major House floor amendments clarify the scope of the commission's work by specifying that it include:

  • updates to the cost of education adjustment necessary to adjust for the current costs of providing education (amendment by Hinojosa)
  • reviewing teacher pay, the creation of certain teacher designations, teacher recruitment and retention, including workplace conditions, and a teacher quality allotment under the Foundation School Program (amendment by Clardy)
  • the appropriate level of instructional facilities funding (amendment by Mary Gonzalez)
  • a detailed strategy to fully fund the maintenance and operations of public schools without ad valorem taxes or a state income tax (amendment by Oliverson, et al. and amendment to the amendment by Hefner)
  • updates to the existing weights and recommendations regarding new weights under the public school finance system (amendment by Bernal)
  • issues relating to equalized wealth requirements under Chapter 41, including the total amount of payments required to be made by school districts under that chapter (amendment by Capriglione)
  • the direct and indirect costs incurred by the state and school districts associated with the administration of state-mandated assessment instruments (amendment by Leach)
  • the cost of special education services provided by school districts to students with disabilities (and requires the commission to solicit input from and provide an opportunity for public comment for parents of students with disabilities enrolled in school districts) (amendment by VanDeaver)
  • measures to ensure public accountability for the use of state and local funding (amendment by Gooden)
  • updates to the transportation adjustment necessary to reflect the current costs of providing transportation, including gas and vehicle prices (amendment by Uresti)
  • the financial impact of the required annexation of a neighboring school district on the annexing school district and the financial impact of the amount of payments required to be made under Chapter 41 on a school district subject to that chapter in which a majority of enrolled students are educationally disadvantaged (amendment by Faircloth)
  • career and technology education requirements (amendment by Isaac)
  • the cost to school districts of maintaining instructional facility property, casualty, and catastrophe insurance (amendment by Paul)

An amendment by Mary Gonzalez adds language requiring the commission to hold public meetings that are open to public comment and accessible for viewing online.

If approved on third reading, the bill returns to the Senate, which can agree to the changes or appoint a conference committee.