When the Texas Supreme Court ruled in May 2016 that the state’s public school financing system was constitutional, it also didn’t mince words about the perennial problems Texas has with funding education.
“Our Byzantine school funding ‘system’ is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement,” wrote Justice Don Willett. Texas students “deserve transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid.”
The school finance bill passed by the Texas House during the current special session is far from the overhaul Willett suggests, but it would provide some incremental change in a system that can use whatever help it can get.
On Monday, the House gave final approval to HB 21 and HB 30, which combined would inject $1.8 billion into public schools.
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HB 21 would help out small rural school districts that are penalized under the current financing formula and would increase resources for children with learning disabilities and schools that educate non-native English speakers.
The legislation also would allow a statewide increase in the base funding per student from $5,140 to $5,350.
How the bill proposes to pay for this increase is a sticky issue: The funds would come from deferring a payment to public schools from fiscal year 2019 to 2020.
In the regular session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called this funding mechanism a “Ponzi scheme.”
It’s hardly ideal, but the Senate has failed to offer something better.
Instead, Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, has introduced SB 16, which would create a commission to study the school finance system.
Another study of school financing is not necessary. We need action.
Taylor said Tuesday that he would not accept the House proposal.
It is “not a long-term solution,” he complained.
Indeed, it is not.
Neither is Taylor’s bill.
The House’s proposal is the best bet, incremental though it may be. At this point, we’ll take what we can get.