Abbott signs "monumental" education reform into law

The ceremony for the signing of House Bill 3 took place Tuesday at a north Austin elementary school. 

"HB 3 is now law in Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott said to a cheering crowd.

Flanked by House and Senate leaders, as well as the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House, Abbott called the gathering in the school auditorium a “monumental moment” for education reform. The main focus was really down hallways and in classrooms where meaningful change is to take place, promised the Governor. 

"This one law, does more to advance education in Texas than any law I have seen in my adult lifetime in the state of Texas,” said Abbott.

HB 3 will pump billions of new dollars into schools, expanding pre-K and special needs programs, beefing up retirement plans and scaling back the controversial Robin Hood formula.  

State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) agreed the plan is historic, although not perfect.

"It was the intent of the legislature to fix it, I think that we fixed it, we've got to look at the implementation of it, if we haven't fixed it, there will be some things we will have to come back and look at again, and fix it,” said West.

A pay hike for teachers is earmarked in the legislation. Librarians and counselors are also guaranteed extra cash. State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), one of the key architects of HB 3, believes other school employees will get a raise.

"We were very specific,” Huberty said. “We set 30 percent of the first dollars that you get are going to those teachers and everybody else, but then we gave flexibility for the school districts and school boards, because yeah, you've got to pay your janitors, you've got to pay your bus drivers, you got to pay your cafeteria workers, they need a real wage they can live on.”

Well before Abbott put pen to paper, local education advocates across the state were already looking for ways to tap into that extra money. As a result, this summer for many school districts will be a summer of negotiations.

"That’s always been our priority, that all employees make success for kids,” Education Austin president Ken Zarifis said

Education Austin is currently negotiating with Austin ISD for a 10 percent across the board pay raise.

"We were not wasting a minute, we knew HB 3 was going to bring a windfall to this district sadly the district didn't see and act on it quickly enough and so now we are in the throes of the last minute,” said Zarifis.

Zarifis expects a deal will be made, but also warned lawmakers should not celebrate this day too much. He is worried a more stable revenue stream will be needed to sustain what the governor has now signed into law.