AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - The 'Texas Big 3' - Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen - returned to the Governor's Mansion Thursday afternoon for a joint news conference. It was a repeat of a visit from back in January when they kicked off the legislative session promising unity and reform.
Much of that promise hinged on rewriting the funding formula for education which is among the governor's 5 emergency items. "I said we will do what no one thought possible, we will finally fix school finance in Texas and I’m proud to tell ya today we are announcing we have done exactly that,” said Governor Abbott.
The Senate's original plan included a $5-thousand pay raise only for teachers and librarians. The House plan had money for all school employees but left the amount of the raises up to local boards. The compromise announced Thursday by the big 3 is a blending of the two.
Lt Governor Patrick pointed out the deal is limited to teachers, librarians, counselors and school nurses. "For the current teachers, the package will average somewhere around $4,000 for all of our veteran teachers, with much more incentive pay and bonus pay for those teachers who want to be involved in different programs and excel at their schools,” said Patrick.
Other parts of the new HB 3 includes a reduction in property taxes and boosting retirement benefits. House Speaker Bonnen- also said HB 3 will provide money for several critical programs. "We are now funding those low income students to have Pre-K all of them which will change their lives, and make Texas even better, very important to Chairman Huberty and myself, Dyslexia allotments are increase so that those students know we care about them, we want to serve them and we want to help them and we want out school districts to be able to help them."
Speaker Bonnen did admit the $9 billion package will not eliminate the recapture program known a Robin Hood. He did say the legislation will cut it back.
That could be a windfall for wealthy school districts.
Under the current Robin Hood funding model, Austin ISD was looking at sending almost a billion dollars in local tax dollars back to the state. HB3 cuts that amount nearly in half.
House Education Chairman Dan Huberty said the extra money could allow school boards to provide pay increases, if they want, to other employees. Huberty also said teacher pay hikes would not be tied to testing, but through a new merit program. The session ends on Monday.