Three years into a pandemic that has upended school districts’ finances and amid rising inflation, some districts are facing tough decisions that might include closing schools and shutting down programs.
Lawmakers have already filed some legislation that would give more money to school districts.
State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, filed House Bill 31, which proposes basing the state’s public education funding system on student enrollment instead of average attendance.
Currently, Texas gives schools money based on their average daily attendance rate. If a student misses school, their district’s attendance average goes down, and so does the amount of money it receives. And in a post-COVID-19 world in which parents are quicker to keep their children home if they’re feeling ill, some districts’ finances have become more volatile than ever.
Texas has about 5.5 million K-12 students, but only about 92% of them regularly attended classes last school year, meaning schools missed out on millions in funding from the remaining students. Hinojosa’s bill would help schools receive funding for every enrolled student, even if they miss class.
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Hinojosa estimates that it would cost the state an extra $5 billion during the next state budget cycle to change the formula from attendance to enrollment. So far, there is little indication that lawmakers will want to overhaul the school finance system the way the 2019 Legislature did.
Other lawmakers would rather see the state increase the amount of money schools receive per student. Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, filed House Bill 882, which would increase that amount to $7,075 and would adjust it annually according to inflation. Educators say inflation has diminished the value of the dollar amount they get per student, which has been sitting at $6,160 since 2019.
Increasing that amount would also mean more money for teacher raises, since school districts must use 30% of any additional revenue they receive to increase employee salaries.