AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Senate’s education committee voted to send its version of the state’s public school finance reform legislation to the upper chamber.
Committee Chairman Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, admitted minutes into the public hearing that the version of House Bill 21 facing the Senate was much different than the bill that the House passed out.
“I have been visiting with [House public education committee] Chairman Huberty, he is aware of what we will be laying out today and we will be working in conference,” Taylor said. “And there will probably be some additions to this, but we will also be trying to keep within our means.”
The House passed its version of HB 21 earlier this week, marking $1.8 billion for public school programs. It initially funded $100 million for charter school facilities, but that version was taken out before it passed.
The Senate committee substitute only funded $311 million, Taylor said, instead of the robust sum offered by the House.
“In the spirit of cooperation and compromise we will be working between those two numbers to come up with a number that we can live with and hopefully fill some of the needs,” Taylor stated. “Once again, our big goal is to redo the whole school finance, but there are certain situations that are not going to be sustainable in the next two years.”
The Senate’s version included $60 million for charter school facilities.
Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, said charter schools could need “double or triple $60 million,” to which Taylor replied, “To be more modest on what we’re doing here, $60 [million] is a lot better than zero.”
HB 21 would pull money from the Rainy Day Fund, while the committee’s version would come from deferred payments to Medicaid.
Lewisville ISD trustee Kristi Hassett testified on the bill Friday. She said she supported the House version, but had concerns about the Senate’s committee substitute.
“We must make sure that we are adequately representing and funding the current needs of the current children within our system right now,” she explained.
“Finding common ground is huge, because the common ground are our children so we must ensure that around the state we have enough funding to educate all of our children thoroughly,” Hassett mentioned.
The committee voted 9-1 to send the bill to the full Senate. Taylor expected to have it ready for the floor when the Senate meets Saturday, Aug. 12.