Last week, Plano Independent School District, along with several other school districts, collaborated on a letter to the Texas Legislative Conference Committee in defense of House Bill 3. The stipulations of House Bill 3 include a pay raise for Texas public school employees, an increase of base funding for Texas public school students and compressed tax rates for all districts.
Earlier in the legislative session, The Senate approved a bill that proposed a $5,000 raise across the board for all Texas public school teachers, however, House Bill 3 aims for a lower raise for non-teacher and non-administrative employees of Texas public schools.
“In the House version, it’s balanced,” says Plano ISD Board President Missy Bender, “In the Senate version, in my opinion, it’s unbalanced. It’s dressed up as a school finance reform bill, but it’s really a property tax relief bill, because there’s not enough money to do both in their version.”
Upon the passing of House Bill 3, all Texas public school employees would receive an approximate raise of $1,388, with additional money raises to be given at the discretion of the individual school districts. While this may not be as ideal as a $5,000 raise, 58 school districts and four organizations agree that House Bill 3 is a more reasonable proposal.
“The Chairman of the Senate says that $5,000 is going to be the end number,” Bender says. “That would leave us with a tremendous budget deficit.”
Based on the outcome of the bill, the school board adopts a new budget in June. They will undertake a study of programs in schools and decide which programs to keep. According to Bender, 80 percent of the district’s budget goes to staffing.
“When we build our budget, we’re using property values from the previous years,” Bender says. “Setting the budget is an 18-month process and we’re using some good numbers. The Senate version uses current numbers. If we used those numbers, we’d have to reconcile the backend, and that’s not responsible. In addition to not being responsible, it’s another form of recapture.”
Recapture, also known as the “Robin Hood method,” refers to the process in which property-wealthy districts with low enrollment growth are required to give a significant portion of their property tax revenues to the Texas Education Agency.
“In Texas schools, we need some relief,” Bender says. “We need some new funding from the state to provide our property taxpayers some relief and we need the state to invest more in public education so that we can meet the needs of our kids.”
A decision is expected to be made regarding House Bill 3 by the end of the legislative session on May 27. To learn more about House Bill 3, visit tea.texas.gov.