Claycomb Associates, Architects

A new proposal to cut school property taxes in Texas perfectly outlines the political problem facing lawmakers: It's terribly expensive, and other taxes have to be raised to pay for it.  Springer wants cuts. But it would cost a small fortune, more than $6 billion a year, and he’s a Republican, and he certainly doesn’t want to try to persuade a conservative Legislature to raise taxes. He wouldn’t actually cut them, either: He’s proposing a swap, cutting local school property taxes by getting rid of some popular exemptions to state taxes. view article arw

Texas' top three elected leaders are looking to show a united front as the 2019 legislative session begins — and start fresh after the drama of last session.  The so-called "Big Three" — Republicans Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and newly elected House Speaker Dennis Bonnen — punctuated the effort Wednesday morning with a joint news conference outside the Governor's Mansion, where they swore to be in lockstep on an ambitious list of priorities for the session, including reforming school finance and property taxes. view article arw

Amended bill, which must still pass Assembly and Senate, would only let children skip immunizations based on medical reasons. Opponents say it erodes personal rights The New Jersey Assembly passed a measure late last week removing the religious exemption as a reason parents can refrain from having their children vaccinated.  While the measure was just an amendment to a larger bill on mandatory immunization (A-3818), it signaled a new position state officials may be taking in the controversial vaccination debate. view article arw

In a letter to all members of the Legislature that was made public Thursday, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley admitted that more care should have been given to producing an accurate list before revealing last month that his office had flagged 95,000 registered voters as possible non-U.S. citizens. Whitley also apologized for confusion created by his Jan. 25 announcement and promised to take steps to ensure “a more accurate and efficient” process for identifying potential noncitizen voters in the future. Appointed secretary of state by Gov. Greg Abbott in mid-December, Whitley was named in three federal lawsuits after his office directed county elections officials to investigate the citizenship status of the suspect voters and Whitley forwarded the list to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate and prosecute illegally registered voters. view article arw

Buckley expects property tax reform

February 1508:30 AM
 

State Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Salado, expects the Texas Legislature to accomplish its biggest goal this year: Property tax reform. But it is not solely about reining in property tax bills, he said during an interview with The Texas Tribune on Thursday. He said it is a more comprehensive issue that includes lawmakers funding their expenditures and fixing school finance. “If we can put that together and build these things in the House on top of House Bill 2, we can get to a (good) place,” Buckley said, referring to the lower chamber’s legislation that would limit local governments’ revenue.  view article arw

Last May, 10 people were killed when a teenage gunman opened fire on at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. Nine students and one teacher were killed in the small Texas town. The shooting prompted one nearby school district to take a bold and expensive step with improve their security. “It had a huge impact on us,” says Superintendent of Texas City Schools Rodney Cavness. “That’s real close to us.” view article arw

There's talk in Austin about extending the academic school year by at least one month.  Lawmakers are crafting an education bill to change how the state funds schools. It includes allowing districts to add at least 30 days to the school year. Several superintendents support the idea, saying it would give teachers more time to help students who struggle academically.   view article arw

Because of hardworking Texans in the Dallas-Fort Worth region and beyond, Texas leads the nation in job creation. We have the fastest-growing economy in America, our statewide unemployment rate is at a record low and wages are rising. And I am especially proud that the Lone Star State is No. 1 in jobs created by businesses owned by African-Americans and Hispanic women.  But more must be done to fulfill the promise of Texas. Working together with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, we will get it done. view article arw

The House Public Education Committee continued its discussion on the recommendations from the Texas Commission on School Finance yesterday and heard from a large variety of constituencies, including three former state reps who had chaired the committee and urged it not to make the same mistakes they did when tackling school finance. view article arw

Right now, the big idea on the table from Gov. Greg Abbott is to cap annual increases in property tax revenue to 2.5 percent. This plan would give property owners a bigger break than it would give schools extra money — three times as big. view article arw

More than 60 people gathered on Tuesday night at the Glade Cultural Arts Center in The Woodlands to hear a panel of public education experts discuss the problems and future of public school funding in Texas. The event, billed as a community forum on public school funding and property tax reform, was organized by officials with Texans for Public Education, Kira Becker, a politically active resident of The Woodlands, and Lorena Perez McGill, who was the Democratic candidate for the District 15 seat in Texas House of Representatives. view article arw

The state’s top leaders spent the beginning of the legislative session talking about unity, comity and how they were on the same track, ready to work and even filing identical copies of important bills in the House and the Senate. Now that the 20-week session is entering its second quarter — believe it or not, it’s 25 percent complete — the other 180 elected officials in the building are starting to raise their heads and make their thoughts known. Predictably, differences of opinion are starting to show.  The budget-writing committees — House Appropriations and Senate Finance — have been at work for a while, but the rest of the panels are just getting started. More than 2,300 bills have been filed. They’re being referred to committees for consideration. Most won’t go into the law books if past sessions are any indication. view article arw

FINANCE DEBATES EDUCATION FUNDING

February 1308:41 AM
 

(Austin)  Members of the Senate Finance Committee on Monday considered the budget for the largest slice of state spending: public education.   The Senate budget proposes spending about $112 billion in general revenue over the next two years, and more than half of that goes to pay for public education.  The Senate budget bill, as filed, adds $2.4 billion to cover projected enrollment growth over the next two years, but also $6 billion above that to pay for increased teacher compensation and to offset whatever revenue is lost by any property tax reform measures that become law.   Both of these issues were among six labeled as emergencies by Governor Greg Abbott in his State of the State address last week, opening the door for immediate legislative action. Abbott, along with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, has vowed to fix the school finance issue this session.  view article arw

The superintendent for one of El Paso's large school districts spoke to state lawmakers about the importance of increasing funding for education. Ysleta Independent School District superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre, who also serves as chair-elect of the Texas Urban Council of Superintendents, testified on Feb. 12 before a state education committee in Austin about benefits of increasing state funding that supports  early childhood education and English language learners. view article arw

By the end of the Texas Legislature's 2017 regular session, Democrats in the House were beleaguered. Democrats had held few positions of power. They had watched GOP members pass conservative legislation they could do little about. And, in the waning days of the session, they had mustered what little political sway they had to fend off a controversial bill that would ban “sanctuary cities” — to no avail. view article arw

Since the 86th Texas Legislature first convened Jan. 8, local business leaders and school districts are planning trips to Austin to advocate for issues that will affect Spring and Klein residents, from preventing future floods to defending economic development incentives. Some local entities, including the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce, are in support of a bill that would appropriate $2.5 billion from Texas’ Economic Stabilization Fund, or the Rainy Day Fund, for statewide flood prevention projects as well as recovery projects in Harris County and other counties affected by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. view article arw

Texas is in great shape and in great need. That’s the beautifully blended message in Gov. Greg Abbott’s State of the State address to the Texas Legislature’s cheerful chamber of lawmakers in Austin last week. view article arw

Brock ISD board of trustees passed their legislative priorities during their meeting Monday evening at Brock High School. The priorities are split into three parts: local public schools and local governance, safety and security, and local accountability. The local public schools and local governance section states that the Texas Legislature should invest more funding into public education.  view article arw

Mental health funding. School finance reform. Teacher pay raises. Property tax reform. School safety. Those are Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency priorities for the 86th Texas Legislature, which convened in January and ends in May. The emergency declaration allows the legislature to bypass the normal 60 day restriction on debating and passing bills. It also means lawmakers must pass those items or are forced to return for special sessions until these issues are solved. There are only 110 days left. There are a total of 28 new freshmen, including two returning members, from both parties in the state House. Six are from Dallas County. (Two special elections for unfilled seats are expected to easily stay in Democratic hands.) The Texas Senate swore in six freshmen, including two representing parts of Dallas County. view article arw

The Texas Senate’s new Property Tax Committee moved with breakneck speed Monday to advance a controversial proposal on one of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s top legislative priorities: slowing property tax growth.  In a 4-0 vote, the committee passed an amended version of Senate Bill 2, a complex bill that would further limit the amount local governments like cities, counties, school districts and special districts can spend without voters stepping in. (All four Republicans on the panel voted for the bill; Democrat Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa was present but didn't vote.) view article arw

Making our public schools better has long been a top priority for me. Working first as a senator on the Senate Education Committee and then as lieutenant governor, we have reduced standardized testing, reformed graduation requirements and created new career tech partnerships between public schools and businesses to help ensure we provide training that will lead to jobs in the 21st century economy. view article arw

The 86th Texas Legislative session kicked off with a different tone on public education as everyone at the Capitol cheered grand pledges of increased funding for schools and big raises for teachers. The biggest splash came in Senate Bill 3, which outlined a $5,000 annual salary increase to approximately 350,000 classroom teachers in the state, with an estimated price tag of $3.7 billion in the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget.  While educators and legislators have shown cautious optimism, they say many questions remain. view article arw

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared school safety an "emergency" issue of his second term Tuesday following one of the nation's deadliest mass shootings last year near Houston, but the Republican put no dollar amount on the table for schools and made no mention of tightening gun laws. His clearest call during his State of the State address was giving students better access to mental health care, but Democrats said they were uncertain about the rest after the governor gave school safety preferential status that allows legislation to be fast-tracked. Only now is the Texas Legislature in session for the first time since a student gunman opened fire at Santa Fe High School in May 2018, killing 10 people . view article arw

AUSTIN—Members of the Senate Finance Committee on Monday considered the budget for the largest slice of state spending: public education.  The Senate budget proposes spending about $112 billion in general revenue over the next two years, and more than half of that goes to pay for public education.  The Senate budget bill, as filed, adds $2.4 billion to cover projected enrollment growth over the next two years, but also $6 billion above that to pay for increased teacher compensation and to offset whatever revenue is lost by any property tax reform measures that become law.  view article arw

In the latest episode of our podcast about the 86th Legislature, Evan Smith asks state Rep. John Zerwas, the chief budget writer in the Texas House, whether we have enough money to fund today’s priorities and tomorrow’s — and which hard choices we have to make. view article arw

House Public Education

February 1208:26 AM
 

The committee will meet to hear testimony regarding school finance and the final report of the Texas Commission on Public School Finance.  10:30 AM or upon final adjourn./recess - Tuesday, February 12, 2019  read more arw

The Senate has begun hearings on one of the emergency issues named in Governor Greg Abbott’s biennial State of the State address.    view article arw

The Texas Senate’s property tax fervor shouldn’t come as a surprise. That’s where state-imposed limits on local tax increases got traction two years ago, and the leaders there — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Paul Bettencourt, who replaced Patrick in the Senate — were both flying the property tax flag for years before they were elected to state office. Voters want cuts. Texas, with no income tax to lean on, had the 13th-highest per capita property taxes in the country in fiscal year 2015 and the 9th-highest per capita sales taxes, according to the Tax Foundation. That outfit also ranks Texas 46th among the states for overall state-and-local tax burden, a fact that doesn’t seem to do much to temper the outrage. view article arw

The John Mellencamp song released in 1984 called “Golden Gates” includes the following line: “the only promises I know to be true, are the promises made from the heart.” This line has always stuck with me. Maybe it was because I experienced too many fabrications of the truth as the youngest of 5 siblings or maybe it was my youthful lack of trust in authority. However, 35 years later “the only promises I know to be true, are the promises made from the heart” symbolizes the promise that teachers, support staffs, administrators and board members within our community-based school districts provide to students all day, every day.  view article arw

In the 1980s, Dallas lawyer Tom Luce went to Austin with Ross Perot to help lead the way on groundbreaking education reforms. They included more public school funding and a no-pass, no-play rule that required students to perform in the classroom before performing on the field. Now, as he approaches his 79th birthday, Luce is taking a different tack with an even more ambitious agenda. view article arw

While property taxes continue to climb for most homeowners in Texas, one influential Texan who has made cutting them the hallmark of his career has seen his own bill drop.  Since they purchased it in April 2017, the 4,300 square-foot house Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his wife own on Lake Conroe in Montgomery County has dropped in market value from nearly $968,000 to $921,000 in 2018. The result is that the tax bill on the Benthaven Isle home has decreased from $19,429 to $16,736 — a 14-percent drop.  Patrick, who paid $1 million for the house, says the property appraisal was much too high the year before he purchased it, and the declining values reflect the reality of the market.  view article arw

The Senate Finance Committee will consider Article III of the Senate appropriations bill, which includes TEA and TRS.  The Senate Finance Committee will meet Monday, February 11, to consider Article III of the Senate appropriations bill, which includes TEA and TRS. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in room E1.036 of the Capitol extension. Public testimony will be limited to three minutes. Notice - Live Broadcast read more arw

State Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) filed House Bill 1244 with the Legislature on Jan. 31 to replace the state graduation requirement of passing a U.S. history test with a civics test. “This is a piece of legislation that I worked on last session, and that passed the House overwhelmingly,” Ashby said. “It allows teachers more time to focus on the key events and concepts in the U.S. history curriculum without feeling like they are racing to the finish line before an end of course testing day. I believe this bill will help ensure students become more productive and engaged members of our society.” The civics test will mimic the same test the U.S. government requires all immigrants to pass before being granted citizenship. This test would be taken under similar guidelines to the other state required tests such as English I, English II and Algebra I. view article arw

Governor Greg Abbott addressed five emergency items during his State of the State Address earlier in the week. One item at the top of the list for the 86th legislative session, is education reform. There are many sides to the school funding challenge in Texas. Some say one major issue is the system is heavily dependent on property tax values. Dr. Scott Elliff, former superintendent of the Corpus Christi Independent School District says, “The system is not unconstitutional, but it’s definitely broken.” view article arw