The House passed HB 21, the school finance reform bill by Chairman Dan Huberty, on an initial 134-16 vote Wednesday evening. Huberty, referring to last year's ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that the current method of distributing school finance funding was flawed, but constitutional, called the system "lawful, but awful."

The bill distributes around $1.6 billion in new education funding that has been approved by the House. If some version of the bill is not passed, the additional funding will not be spent on public schools; Senate approval of both the additional money and the reform bill is necessary. HB 21 increases funding for bilingual and dyslexic students, and adds to the basic allotment sent to all districts. Projections from the Legislative Budget Board show 96 percent of districts receiving more money if HB 21 passes (although floor amendments added during the debate could change that estimate).

One amendment by Rep. Drew Darby that passed was of particular interest to small and rural districts. It removes a current penalty for districts smaller than 300 square miles that was intended to encourage small districts to consolidate, and will help hundreds of small districts with fewer than 1,600 students.

The Senate may soon consider its own school finance reform, and the House and Senate will soon begin budget negotiations that will determine how much - if any - additional funding districts can expect to receive.

UPDATE: The bill received final House approval Thursday on a 132-15 vote, and will now be sent over to the Senate.