Education funding, school safety concerns, school choice and parental rights are high on most legislators’ priority lists. Here are the education issues most often discussed:
- Funding for public education currently is derived primarily from your property taxes, with the state providing just a little over 35%, and federal monies contributing less than 5% (this varies by district depending on property wealth, student populations, etc.). Approximately 180 bills filed so far, are primarily efforts to reduce or eliminate property taxes. This is great for homeowners; however, there are significant ramifications for curriculum offerings, class sizes, building maintenance, and compensation for teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians, and other staff if the state doesn’t increase its funding to make up the difference. The League advocates a fully funded, free public education system that prepares students to be productive and engaged adults.
- So far, more than two dozen bills have been filed attempting to address the issue of school safety in response to the tragic shootings at Uvalde and around the country. Most would increase armed security personnel or add cameras or panic buttons in classrooms. A few would provide mental health assistance or social workers to schools. How to train and fund additional personnel to address these needs is a real concern. The League supports additional counseling and social services for our students. Students who are focused and stable are more successful, active participants in their education.
- School Choice bills, otherwise known as vouchers, education savings accounts, etc., are, again, popular with many legislators. The League opposes using state tax dollars to pay for private and religious education programs. A plethora of studies show that, with a very few exceptions, vouchers do not result in consistent improvements in student achievement. Vouchers rarely benefit lower-income students. In most cases, special education students (when they are accepted at private schools) lose most of their federal protections.
- Closely related to school choice efforts are at least 22 bills that would establish parental rights, including the option to receive private school tuition reimbursement or up to 80% of what would be the public school’s maintenance and operation allotment per child (which pays for teachers’ salaries). The League’s concerns with such bill are: 1) middle- and lower-income parents can’t wait to be reimbursed, so cannot take advantage of these funds; 2) they will take money from the basic operations of public schools; and 3) our taxes will fund religious and other private schools which are not required to comply with any state law or regulation governing education. Several parental rights bills will attempt to restrict: 1) how history is taught, especially relating to CRT (Critical Race Theory) that is taught in some universities; not K-12 schools; 2) LGBTQ+ issues, which are also not part of the state curriculum, but which some parents fear may be discussed in classes; and 3) what instructional materials teachers and librarians may provide.
Some of the school funding bills to watch include:
- HB 1892 by Representative Cain, would require the state to pay the tuition for any eligible student enrolled in a private school up to 80% of the average local property tax allotted per student. In addition, it exempts these schools from any state or local oversight, despite the fact that they will receive our tax dollars.
- HB 135 by Representative Bernal and HB 31 by Representative Hinojosa, would require the state to base school funding on average enrollment, rather than average daily attendance. This would simplify the funding formula and allow schools to retain teachers and staff during a precipitous drop in attendance, such as during a pandemic.
- HJR 87 by Representative Allison, would, by constitutional amendment, further limit the amount of property taxes school districts could collect and exempt a newly purchased property if valued at under $300,000. It would also limit the total taxes that could be collected on the property for up to 25 years. Note: Without adequate state funding to replace the taxes lost, public schools may be in serious trouble if this amendment passes.
- HB 1513 by Representative Vasut, would create a committee appointed by the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House to eliminate ad valorem (property) taxes in favor of a yet-to-be-named alternative tax, effective January 1, 2033.
With a record-breaking budget surplus, we hope the legislature will enact sensible legislation to support and enhance our free public education system.
You can help! Join our teams currently scheduling brief (about 30 minutes) interviews of our state legislators to discuss their priorities for this legislative session. Contact Program and Advocacy VP, Diann Andy at: DiannAndyLWV@gmail.com or text her at 210-262-1499.
Call, visit or write to your legislator to express your concerns and hopes for this session. To find names and contact information for your legislators, look up your address and zip code in the "Find Your Elected Officials" tool on the Take Action website provided by the League of Women Voters of Texas.