Whether final reductions to the state public education spending end up closer to $7.8 billion or $4 billion, how much districts will individually bear depends on how — or if — the Legislature rethinks the state’s school finance system.
On Wednesday, the House is set to take up a broad fiscal matters bill that will be the life raft for a number of measures that died before the lower chamber's deadline for approving legislation last Thursday. The bill will likely carry a school finance proposal from Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston. When he first released his plan, we created a searchable database of how the cuts would hit districts across the state.
The bill has now gone through a couple of adjustments, and what will appear on the House floor looks different than the original plan Hochberg characterized as "the fairest way to distribute the pain." We've now updated the database with the new projections.
While districts still lose an average of about 8 percent, the latest version limits the total reductions in the first year of the biennium for any individual district to 10 percent. In the second year, it caps their losses at 5 percent. (Our database only includes the projections for the first year of the biennium.)
Hochberg's original plan focused on taking the most from those districts that benefited from the "target revenue" system, a set of funding amounts assigned to districts in 2006 that aren't based on costs of education. As a result some districts faced losing up to 40 percent of their state funding. To get to the new 10 percent cap, the revised plan reduces districts' basic allotment — a cost estimate the state uses, along with average daily attendance, in its funding formulas to calculate how much it owes each district.
Hochberg says the cap "provides some planning time, immediate relief, and the chance that a future legislature will add to the pie."
In the Senate, a different school finance proposal from Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, lacks the votes to come to the floor.
Look out for one outlier: Star ISD in Mills County, which would purportedly see a 10 percent increase in funding. According to Hochberg, that’s likely because of flaws in the data it reported to the Texas Education Agency.