The Texas House overwhelmingly advanced a school finance reform package Wednesday that was amended to include funds for teacher pay raises.
However, the House plan -
House Bill 3
- will need to be reconciled with a Senate school finance bill passed last month before a final bill can be sent to the governor. The major point of contention between the two versions centers around how much funding to allot for school employee pay raises.
The House plan provides across-the-board, on-average $1,850 pay raises for all full-time school employees who are not administrators. Meanwhile, the Senate version proposes $5,000 across-the-board pay raises for teachers and librarians only.
The House bill also increases per-student base level funding by $890 and provides funding for pre-K for lower income students in most districts.
The House amendment that added the pay raises to the bill would require every school district to spend at least 25 percent of its basic allotment increase on pay raises with discretion to spend beyond that amount if desired. The amendment would not add to the total cost of the bill but the allotment increase would apply anytime the Legislature raises the base funding per student in the future.
"We are finally reforming public education in Texas, and not by court order, so that's a pretty important thing," said Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), who authored the bill and chairs the House Public Education Committee.
House and Senate leaders have disagreed over the course of this session on the amount of discretion to give districts in deciding how to spend additional education funding, and a final bill will likely continue to center on pay raises and discretionary spending.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the members of the House for taking "a first step toward an across-the-board pay raise," according to a statement from his office.
Gov. Greg Abbott, who had listed reforming Texas' school finance system as one of his five emergency items for this session, also heaped praise on the efforts under the capitol dome in Austin.
"The Legislature is making changes that will have a lasting impact on our education system, and more importantly, our students," Abbott said in a statement.
The bill passed 148-1 after members adopted 49 floor amendments. The bill now moves to the Senate where it will be further debated until the two bodies can reach a final compromise.