In a letter delivered to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday, almost 1,500 local school superintendents and trustees urged the head of the Senate to support the House's primary piece of school finance legislation.
"If you weaken House Bill 21, you will miss an opportunity to improve public education in Texas. You will also continue to push more of the burden onto local property taxpayers," the letter from the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards states. "It is a good idea to further study and develop next steps for reform of the school finance system, but not at the cost of districts that will close in the meantime. Our Texas sons and daughters need our help now – not in 2019."
HB 21 would inject $1.8 billion into public schools and create a transitional program to help some small, rural school districts. The bill's author, state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, has pushed the measure as a preliminary step to fixing the state's beleaguered system for allocating money to public schools. The funding for the House’s plan would come from deferring a payment to public schools from fiscal year 2019 to 2020 – a mechanism Patrick has called a “Ponzi scheme.”
HB 21 is expected to be taken up by the Senate's Education Committee Friday morning – but the committee's chairman, state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, has already said he would not compromise on the bulk of it. In a press conference Tuesday, Taylor called the House's measure "not a long-term solution" and touted a Senate plan to create a commission to study the school finance system instead.
On Wednesday, the House Public Education Committee advanced the Senate’s preferred measure. But Huberty, the committee's chairman, has said the full House would not pass that bill, Senate Bill 16, unless the Senate did the same with HB 21.
Disclosure: The Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.