DALLAS — The top three political leaders in Texas on Thursday heralded a compromise on school finance reform that will pave the way for teacher raises and property tax relief for Texas homeowners.
Governor Greg Abbott addressed reporters on the lawn of the governor's mansion, flanked by leaders of both houses of the Texas Legislature.
"This is a session that has addressed and solved challenges that have plagued our state for decades,” Abbott said.
The three pieces of legislation, House Bill 1 - the budget, Senate Bill 2 - property tax relief and House Bill 3 - school finance reform, have not been voted on yet. The session is supposed to end on Monday.
Abbott said the compromised legislation for HB3 will infuse $5.5 billion more into Texas K-12 classrooms annually over the next two years and provide for tax relief.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said school tax increases will be capped at 2.5 percent and city and county taxes at 3.5 percent. Any amount higher will require municipalities to ask voters to approve it at the polls.
Patrick said the legislation would also provide a $4000 per teacher increase in total compensation, including retirement benefits and that retired teachers would receive a 13th check annually from the state's teacher retirement system.
Speaker of the House Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) said equally important is the state reducing the amount districts pay in recapture, aka "Robin Hood" to the state, will decrease by 47-percent.
"It increases the state share and puts us on a path to a fairer system that doesn’t punitively punish our property wealthy school districts," Bonnen said. He cited districts like Austin, Houston and Dallas ISD benefiting from the change.
But exactly how much school districts will benefit remains to be seen.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said by middle of next week Dallas ISD will have a clearer opinion about the impact of the legislation on the state’s second largest school district.
“We haven’t actually seen the bill, we haven’t actually seen the models that will impact how much money we’ll get or we won’t get,” Hinojosa said. “But the bottom line is they’ve made it better than what they inherited so that’s a positive move for every district.”
The compromised version of HB3 also includes the ability to offer merit pay increases for the top Texas teachers, something included in the Senate version, but not in the House version.
A conference committee, made up of House and Senate members worked on the negotiated final product, though the bill still had not been made publicly available on Thursday afternoon.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings praised the compromise as a positive example of innovations made in DISD that provided the framework for statewide reform.