State Sen. Larry Taylor, who represents Alvin and Manvel in the Texas Senate, released his long-anticipated plan to overhaul school finance last week. 

The plan includes $5,000 raises for all teachers, reductions in property taxes and a plan to increase state funding. 

Taylor said the plan focuses resources on those students that need the most help. 

"Our largest demographic now in Texas in our student population is kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch, right at 60 percent," said Taylor. "That's also our fastest growing demographic and unfortunately, historically, that's also been our least educated. So obviously that paradigm cannot continue on that path or we will not be the Texas in the very near future that we are today." 

Taylor, who has been working on the legislation since last summer, said the bill will increase state funding for districts with the highest number of low-income students. There is also more money for early education, including money for full-day pre-K in all districts. 

More state funding would also go toward improving post-secondary readiness, to increase the number of high school graduates ready for college, the workforce or the military. 

One of the keys is the bill increases the basic allotment to fund districts, climbing from $5,140 per students to $5,880. In a district the size of Alvin ISD, that would account for millions in new state funding. 

"The basic allotment is the most equitable thing we can do in our system," said Taylor. "By increasing that, you're increasing equity, reducing recapture and those types of things." 

That increase would be offset, however, by changes to the property tax structure districts use to provide most of their funding. 

The bill increases the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000 and compresses local property tax rates by 8 cents in the first year and 15 cents in year two. To pay for it, the bill contemplates a 1 percent increase in the state sales tax, though voters would first have to authorize it by approving an enabling amendment to the state constitution. Lawmakers are also considering a number of other revenue sources to offset revenue lost from a property tax reduction. 

The new revenue sources have not been identified. 

Another provision in the bill would reform how Texas measures student achievement. The bill would move from the current standardized STAAR tests to a series of shorter tests, administered on-line, over the next three to five years. 

The change solves a lot of problems with the current system, said Taylor, allowing for shorter tests that don't take up an entire school day and flexibility to test students at the beginning and end of the school year, to better gauge individual student needs as the semester starts and how they progress through the term. 

Taylor said he will not rush the bill through the Senate, but it appears to be popular with both political parties. 

Dall Sen. Royce West said the bill gives the Senate to make much-needed reforms to school finance. 

"If Texas is going to continue to try to be number one in providing education opportunities, we've got to make these transformative changes and make certain that they're stable for the next 10, 20, 30 years," he said. 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.