After nearly a year of discussion, the Texas Commission on School Finance released its final recommendations Wednesday to be sent to state lawmakers who are getting ready for next month’s legislative session.
Those recommendations were aimed at boosting public education funding, improving student performance, cleaning up a messy funding distribution system and providing property tax relief.
“Today’s school finance commission report made clear that the state must reform the broken Robin Hood system and allocate more state funding to education,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “This session, we will do just that.”
Among the recommendations the commission plans to send to lawmakers, The Texas Tribune reported, are:
• $100 million a year to districts that want to develop their own teacher evaluation standards and tie pay to performance. The total amount available should increase $100 million each year until it reaches $1 billion.
• Up to $150 million to encourage school districts to offer dual language programs, which instruct students in both English and Spanish.
• $800 million to help school districts improve students’ reading ability in early grades and to succeed in college or a career after graduating high school.
• $1.1 billion to improve education for low-income students, with school districts that have a higher share of needy students getting more money.
• Cap local school district tax rates in order to offer property tax relief and a small amount of funding for schools — a proposal from Abbott.
• No extra funding for special education programs until the state has completed overhauling those programs in line with a federal mandate.
The linchpin, of course, as Abbott pointed out, is the Robin Hood system.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that state leaders have acknowledged the much-criticized system must be reformed. They’re coming around after years of being told by education leaders, local officials and the state’s Supreme Court that the system is flawed — no, to be clear, broken.
In year’s past, the legislators made an initial push to reform the system, but those attempts always seemed to fizzle out.
Whether it will happen again this year is anyone’s guess.
Differing, though, is that this session, the push is being led by Abbott, who produced his own proposal during his run for re-election.
“I think we have failed our schools and we haven’t funded them, in my view, adequately or equitably,” said state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, who chairs the House Public Education Committee.
We couldn’t agree more.
• Dave Mathews