SENATE APPROVES EDUCATION FINANCE BILL
|Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano said her bill would improve equity between school districts.|
(AUSTIN) — Schools across Texas would get more money for students and pay raises for teachers under a bill passed by the Senate Tuesday. HB 3646, sponsored by Education Committee Chair Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, would put $1.9 billion toward increasing equity in the public school system. "One-point-nine billion dollars is not going to fix our school finance problem, but it is going to get us out of session with more money going to every school district," said Shapiro.
Shapiro said she wanted the bill to be a "win for every district" by increasing the weighted daily allotment per student by $135 and would guarantee $4750 per student through formula funding. Students taking career and technology education courses would increase daily allotments by $50. It would also require schools to increase teacher pay by about $800, but would eliminate the Texas Educator Excellence Grants, one of the two teacher performance bonus programs.
The bill also commissions a study of the school finance system during the interim, a system Shapiro says is in dire need of simplification. " It is a system that is so complex and so difficult to understand, there are probably not three people in the entire building that understand the entire school finance system," she said. She likened the study to the school accountability study conducted last interim that resulted in a comprehensive accountability reform plan, HB 3, which passed both chambers this session.
The Senate also passed a bill Tuesday that would change the taxation method on smokeless tobacco, switching to a weight-based tax used for other tobacco products. The change proposed by HB 2154, sponsored by McAllen Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, would tax smokeless tobacco at $1.22 an ounce, raising about $105 million per biennium. Part of that money would go toward a program that would repay medical school loans for doctors that agree to work in medically underserved areas. That bill heads back to the House\where Representatives can agree to accept Senate amendments or appoint a conference committee to work out differences between the two bills.