Posted by Kelly Lusk on 9/16/2019
September 16, 2019 – Relating to HB 3.
The passage of HB 3 was a significant accomplishment in relation to funding Texas public schools and a breath of fresh air for educators in Texas. Along with promised property tax limitations for the local taxpayer, the bill provides for long-overdue additional state income for teachers, and to a lesser extent, increases for other personnel who are not administrators. Funding in areas of instruction and school safety that have not been addressed previously were included and issues with the Teacher Retirement System were addressed as well.
In the past ten to fifteen years, the state continually shifted more of the financial burden for schools to local boards of trustees and local property taxpayers. HB 3 goes back the other direction, putting more financial responsibility on the state which creates a better balance. That is a good thing for all of us.
For many years, Tom Bean has been considered “property poor” in the state’s eyes. This means that the state sends the district dollars each year since the local tax base cannot raise enough money to fund the school. All of this is determined by a very complicated formula based upon average daily student attendance and property values. Understand that as your property taxes rise, the state cuts their share of the funding for the district. You may be paying more in taxes but our district does not necessarily receive more money for operations.
The TBISD Board of Trustees and administration have been extremely conservative and frugal with the taxpayer’s money. In fact, since 2008, the tax rate in this district has ranked as the second lowest in Grayson County. With limited funds, the Board has provided for everyday operational needs, has improved facilities, and has addressed unanticipated circumstances. The TBISD board has recently worked very carefully to increase teacher compensation to become more competitive with surrounding districts, while keeping the long term financial health of the district in focus. That careful stewardship continued as the board considered this year’s budget.
Some of our state leaders promised an “average compensation” increase of at least $4,000 for teachers. This misled many people when they did not focus on the word, “average” or the word, “compensation”. All they heard was teachers would receive a $4,000 raise. When you factor in all the legislative language, that $4,000 “average compensation” takes on a different reality. The fact was that many districts did not receive enough new funding to increase teacher salaries this amount. Tom Bean teacher salary increases ranged from $2,200 to $6,136, which was a significant increase when compared to other districts in the area and state. Teachers in many districts received much smaller raises and there were some who received none.
While the state did assume a greater share of the costs of public schools, a concern arises. HB 3 provides no new source of money to continue this plan beyond two years. In other words, these new funds could be eliminated during the next legislative session.
The long-term sustainability for funding of HB 3, without an additional constant source of revenue, unfortunately, could be impacted by fluctuations in the economy and other factors. A lot could happen in two or four years. Lack of a sustainable source of revenue from the state, combined with property tax caps could force school districts into a difficult position trying to fund these new requirements which include the increased “compensation.”
Tom Bean ISD remains committed to every child and to every taxpayer who contributes to the education of those children. The Board of Trustees is steadfast in making sure every TBISD employee receives the maximum amount of “compensation” possible while being mindful of the future sustainability of those decisions.
While this session was a great improvement in the atmosphere toward teachers and public education in general, there is still a lot of work to be done by our state leaders. HB3 is not an overall “reform” as some have described. It does not “fix” the finance system. It is not as comprehensive as some would have us believe. Texas still ranks 46th in the nation in per child funding. It is a start, but only a start in educating the future workforce of 5.5 million children while reducing some of the burden on property taxpayers.
We congratulate our locally elected representatives who listen to their constituents and take care of the people and the children they are elected to represent. We are grateful and we thank them for keeping their eyes on the future of our great state and our democracy by providing for and supporting Texas public schools.