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Texas Education Bill Aims to Answer School Finance Question

Nathan Bernier/KUT
State Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock has authored a school finance bill, HB 1759, that would put another $3 billion dollars back into Texas public schools.

The Texas House lawmaker in charge of public education has unveiled a plan that he says answers the question: What to do about school finance?

That question has been looming over Texas lawmakers since 2011, when more than 600 school districts sued the state over billions of dollars in cuts to school funding. 

The school finance bill (HB 1759) from State Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock (R-Killeen), would put another $3 billion back into public schools.

At a hearing of the House Public Education Committee Tuesday, Rep. Aycock explained the motive for presenting this now.

"When the session began, there was a feeling that we weren’t going to do anything about school finance until we saw what the court case did," he said as he first laid out his bill. 

That court case is one being reviewed by the Texas Supreme Court. It was originally filed by school districts after lawmakers slashed more than $5 billion in public education funding in 2011. A lower court judge ruled the state’s school finance system unconstitutional. The state appealed, and a decision isn’t expected until after the 2015 legislative session is over in June.

"That may still be the case depending on how this all goes," Aycock continued. "That may still be the answer, but a good many people began to think that when we saw the budget progressing and we saw the funds that were available and we saw the need for what I think are serious situations facing school finance, a good many people came together and said, 'let’s make a try at this.'"

Under Aycock’s bill, funding would increase for 94 percent of Texas public school students.

Austin Independent School District would see about $50 million more next school year – a 7.5 percent increase. Other large districts would see less. Houston ISD would get about $56 million more, but that’s less than 4 percent of that district’s budget. [Read a PDF version of the revenue reports for 2016 and 2017.]

Under the plan, wealthy areas would still share property tax revenue with less affluent areas, but richer districts would get less new funding.

Lawmakers will hear public testimony on the bill next week.

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