Here’s a legislative update! Both the Texas Senate and House have budgeted a $5 billion increase in new state education funding. This does not include funds already budgeted for record property tax relief legislation which I, as the “architect” of the Senate property tax plan, will advise you about when finally passed by the Legislature. That’s “double” good news…
The Texas House and Senate have different budget proposals that must be worked out, but Senate and House conferees, ably co-chaired by Senator Joan Huffman, are hard at work in the closing weeks of the 88th Legislative Session to finalize exactly how this new $5 billion and more will be spent. In addition, budget discussions include a $2.4 million golden pennies yield increase, $600 million more in teacher health insurance, and $1.0 billion+ for school safety allotment and grants, plus $250 million more for Special Education services.
Therefore, any statement that the State of Texas is “cutting” public education dollars, regardless of who says it, is simply not true. That is clearly not the intent in either Chambers’ budget proposals.
The State of Texas is required to pass a balanced budget every biennium. However, that is not true for independent school districts like Spring Branch. In the chart below is their executive summary from the 2023 SBISD budget, which excludes their recapture payment. As you can see, SBISD has seen an enrollment decline of 918 students (-2.6%) since Fiscal Year 2019. That is a significant decline because the State funds on an average daily attendance model. The District’s “golden pennies” are going to give them a higher yield which is currently estimated to be $7-8 million dollars more per year by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
The significant issue here is that Federal assistance in response to COVID-19 (ESSER) is coming to an end for independent school districts across the nation. The same holds true for Federal COVID assistance in all 50 states plus cities and counties across the nation.
The State of Texas does not have the financial resources to pick up and replace all these federal dollars, nor should they. This can lead to deficit spending in SBISD. For example, the budget which they adopted on June 20, 2022 had a deficit of $23,133,048. (https://www.springbranchisd.com/fs/resource-manager/view/97cc5715-d851-4faa-bbca-51a202fc0daa)
I recently met with Spring Branch ISD Trustees, Administrators, and area Legislators where we discussed these numbers and much more from their own comprehensive report. In the meeting, we highlighted some of the aspects of the $5 billion that included the Teacher Incentive Allotment, which Spring Branch ISD has not used over the last two years, that can increase SBISD revenues by a net $3.9 million dollars per year, as estimated by TEA. Also, a proposed $2,000 raise for all teachers in Texas plus thousands more for recognized, exemplary, and master teachers is on the table to provide substantial pay raises for our teachers in Texas.
Also, the Texas Instructional Materials and Technology Allotment will be increased, as well as additional monies for retired teachers. Most of the changes have not yet passed both Legislative Chambers, and as such, I am not able to announce the final results until the budget is adopted.
I am personally carrying major legislation on restarting the civil truancy process in our schools with parents (SB 1630), virtual education improvements (SB 1861), and a totally new intensity (SB 1474) model for special education students which will provide SBISD grant money as well, plus Educational Saving Accounts for the families of these students.
My colleagues and I are as fully engaged in State education issues. However, none of these proposals will include a $1,000 increase in the ADA as that would cost $14 billion and would dramatically exceed our constitutional spending limits as currently base budgeted.
Lastly, I strongly emphasized to SBISD Trustees and administrative personnel that SBISD should NOT vote to eliminate the 20% local option homestead (LOHE) as it will dramatically increase homestead property taxes by an estimated $95 million of M&O per TEA estimate, of which the lion’s share will not go to SBISD.
Despite all the rumors, misinformation, and speculation which you may have heard, I wanted to be sure that you had these facts available to you so you know what we are actually working on in the Capitol. I’ll be back in touch once the Legislative Session ends with a summary of what legislation passed.