Texas Legislature Will Look At School Funding, Safety In The Upcoming Session

By Claire McInerny, KUT

State lawmakers filed dozens of bills about educating kids ahead of Tuesday’s start to the legislative session. The most interesting discussion at the Capitol will likely be around school funding.

It’s something the Legislature brings up every session, but bills aren’t always passed. Lawmakers typically pass school funding bills only when they’re forced to act because of a lawsuit.

School funding

After the 2017 session, the Legislature created a task force of lawmakers and school funding experts to make recommendations on how to give more money to schools. A final report was released last month.

Twenty-three percent of the state’s budget goes toward funding public K-12 education. The rest of state funding schools receive comes from recapture, a law where local property tax dollars are spread throughout the state.

Bills to watch:

  • HJR 24 would change the state constitution to require the state to pay at least half the cost of funding public schools. That would double the state’s current contribution.
  • HB 443 addresses the large recapture payments that property-rich school districts, like Austin, pay. The bill would adjust the formula that calculates how much a district must pay. It would prevent a district from spending more than it did the previous year on operational costs.

School safety

After the shooting in Santa Fe last year, Gov. Greg Abbott held roundtable discussions to look for ways to improve school safety in the state. Now it’s up to legislators to see if any of these ideas become law.

RELATED | Texas Lawmakers Always Fight About Guns. This Legislative Session Will Be No Different.

Bills to watch:

  • HB 198 would allow school districts to include mental health services in school health programs and look for health care grants to pay for these services.
  • SB 193 addresses the school marshal program, which allows staff to carry concealed weapons. Marshals go through training and their identities are kept confidential. This bill proposes waiving the fee for marshals to get a gun license.
  • SB 243 would require school marshals to use guns loaded with only a specific type of ammunition.

Charter schools

Charter schools continue to grow in Texas’ urban areas. They’re controversial because some people argue they take away funding from traditional public schools.

Bills to watch:

  • HB 528 addresses this criticism. The bill’s author, Harold Dutton (D-Houston), proposes including charter school students in the enrollment numbers for the district the school sits in. This would mean more money for that school district, which loses state money when a student transfers to a charter.
  • HB 127 would change the way charter school funding is calculated. Right now, a charter school gets the average amount of what traditional public schools receive. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) is proposing charter schools receive the same amount as the local school district.
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