Texas House considers commission to review state’s school finance system

Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr., D- Houston, stands next to Rep. Dr. Alma Allen, D- Houston, at the conclusion of a meeting of the House Committee on Public Education. July 31, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr., D- Houston, stands next to Rep. Dr. Alma Allen, D- Houston, at the conclusion of a meeting of the House Committee on Public Education. July 31, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A bill that would create a public education finance commission will be addressed in the Texas House on Tuesday.

House Bill 191 would implement a commission “to recommend improvements to the public school finance system.”

The bill, authored by State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, would require that new commission to issue a report by the end of 2018 that “recommends statutory changes to improve the public school finance system, including any adjustments to funding to account for student demographics.”

That legislation is one of 23 bills to be discussed in the House Committee on Public Education, according to chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, who authored a similar version that failed to pass during the regular session.

Rep. Dan Huberty, R- Houston, chairs the House Committee on Public Education in a meeting on July 31, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Rep. Dan Huberty, R- Houston, chairs the House Committee on Public Education in a meeting on July 31, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“I really believe that we’ve been working on this for years,” Huberty said. “I’ve personally been a former school board member and then the last eight years been working on it, so we know what to do, we just have to, we just want to have the will to be able to do that. Certainly, we’re going to listen to testimony [Tuesday] and figure out if there’s something we’ve missed.”

“We are the policy experts, are the ones that are supposed to determine the policy, but if we want to figure out a way to pay for it and let’s have a discussion. Maybe that’s where it’s going to go. So we’ll see where it takes us [Tuesday].”

Committee member Dr. Alma Allen, D-Houston, said some of the bills on the agenda were important to Texans, while others were not.

“I’m hoping that as a signal that we’re going to do something about financing public education in the state of Texas,” the former teacher and administrator said. “However, I don’t think we really need to study, I think we know that after 10 years of not financing our public education in the state of Texas, that financing the education in the state of Texas is really needed.”

“If we don’t educate our constituency, the state of Texas will feel it,” Allen said. “And 30 years from today, the state of Texas will feel that we are not doing for education in the state of Texas this year.”

The committee also met for less than 10 minutes on Monday night, when Huberty substituted HB 21 for an updated version that removes $75 million from the state’s Existing Debt Allotment program, as well as $25 million from charter school facilities funding.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are halfway through the 30-day special session enacted by Gov. Greg Abbott. Allen questioned whether or not the proposed commission would actually benefit Texas schools.

“It’s a delay tactic,” Allen said. “I think there is a goal to undermine the state of Texas in terms of public education. And so I think public education is on the chopping block and this is one way of killing it to take the monies away.”

In response to reaching the mid-point of the session, Huberty said, “We are excited, just want to keep going, and we’d like to come out of here I’m passing legislation–something that’s good for the citizens of the State of Texas.”

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