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Five things we learned from the School Finance Panel

Carroll ISD

This year’s TribFest, the Texas Tribune’s yearly festival in Austin, featured plenty of political content for wonks to parse. For those that couldn’t attend but want to understand more about the state’s largest bill on education, a highlight of the most recent legislative session, we’ve broken down the five things you need to know from the school finance panel. 

The effort, largely led by Rep. Dan Huberty, has received a lot of praise, but there are some underlying questions and concerns from critiques on the sustainability of the money, and how to implement the policies across types of school.

Chairman Dan Huberty (R- Houston), Representative Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint), Representative Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), and State Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) sat on the panel moderated by Aliyya Swaby of Texas Tribune. 

1. Teacher pay is still an issue.

The question most teachers wanted to know was: “What do you say to teachers who expected more [of a raise from the bill]?” Sen. Taylor and Rep. Huberty were quick to respond. Taylor commented on the legislature’s compromise skills, and Huberty said, “I’ve not had one teacher not say thank you.” 

2. One size fits all…doesn’t exactly fit all.

The question of full-day pre-K was another hot topic. Implementation of such programs is different across the state since some districts have approved the extension and therefore have the facilities and educators in place. Other districts are having a difficult time facilitating the change. With the quick turnaround, some districts declined the measure, or put it on hold in order to figure out how they will expand their program. 

3. Interim action is planned. 

Although there were changes being made, there is energy for the interim as well. Huberty, the chair of the house committee on public education, spoke about the progress that they will have and the research they will be doing moving forward. Echoed by Gonzelez who spoke about advisory committees and continuing the evolving work. 

4. School finance reform needs to be supported by plain school reform.

Huberty acknowledged that school districts need more counselors with the latitude to fulfill their obligations to the students. While he noted they couldn’t get that done in HB3, this is a focal point for him moving forward. Taylor spoke on the changes needed and noted that the population of low-income Texans is growing, which means Texas will need even more of a focus on education. He went as far as to say that poverty is only fixed with a good education. Gonzalez applauded the effort made by the legislature and spoke about the goals moving forward. 

5. Education alignment does not mean everyone is in agreement.

Members have gotten negative feedback regarding some aspects of HB3. Certain organizations don’t feel enough was accomplished, and some education groups are calling for more action.

Action counts when it comes to education, and now all eyes are on the team of policy minds that lit the fire. 

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