AUSTIN,Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - A large group of House members- Republican and Democrat squeezed into this Capitol conference room Tuesday to make a unified statement.
"The Band-Aid fixes end with House Bill 3,” said House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.
HB 3 is a 200-page bill that if signed into law would pump an additional $9-billion into the Texas public school system over the next two years. In rolling out the plan Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty ( R ) Houston admitted it’s not perfect but it is historic.
"This is school finance reform. This is what we have to do in the state of Texas. The courts have told us it’s our responsibility to do this. The courts have said to us; they are not going to touch this. And if we don’t do this we are failing our kids, we are failing our kids. The money is going into the classroom,” said Huberty.
Key points of HB 3 include; increasing the basic classroom allotment from $5,140 to just over $6,030. Lowers the local school property tax rate by 4%. Increases pay for teachers and school staff. Provides $140 million to create recruiting and retention plans. It also funds full day pre-k. Four weeks of half day summer school, creates more dual language and tech classes as well as dyslexia intervention.
"I'm encouraged that we will be working with districts to ensure that kids will be reading by grade 3, that’s important, they start fixing beds for them in the prison system if they can’t read by grade 3,” said State Rep Alma Allen ( D ) Houston.
As of Tuesday morning 90 house members have signed on as a co-sponsor. Austin Democrat Celia Israel is among them
"I don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good, and if you are political pragmatist you know you don’t get everything you want, so this is a big leap in two years,” said Israel.
The funding plan known as Robin Hood would not be eliminated but reigned in. For example; next year Austin ISD is expected to send the state $900 million in local property taxes to help other parts of the state. HB 3 would reduce that amount to $600 million.
The House Bill is a much different approach than what's being offered by the senate. Pay increases would be up to local school boards under HB 3. And the $5,000 pay hike in Senate Bill 3 was essentially declared DOA.
"What the House plan, the bipartisan plan is, is looking at the entire system, saying what is it we can do to improve what’s going on with our students and reduce property taxes at the same time,” said State Rep. Donna Howard ( D ) Austin.
Governor Greg Abbott, in a statement released Tuesday afternoon did not indicate which plan he favored.
The governor did say he looks forward working with the leaders in both chambers on a final version.