The House Public Education Committee held a marathon hearing Tuesday on one bill — HB 3, the House’s plan for school finance reform. For nearly 12 hours, the committee heard from more than 100 witnesses with a variety of positions on and concerns about the bill. Most of the groups representing school districts and administrators supported the bill, while many witnesses, including TCTA and other teacher groups, were neutral due to specific concerns. Many gifted/talented students and their parents were in attendance to protest the rolling of the GT allotment into the basic allotment, preferring to keep GT funding separate and specific.

HB 3 provides the mechanism for spending more than $6 billion in new funding for public schools that is included in HB 1, the House’s version of the state budget. It revises some of the school finance formulas, significantly reducing the amount of recapture paid by districts, and introduces new programs, including an elaborate merit pay model that is problematic for TCTA and the other statewide teacher associations. The bill does not provide an across-the-board pay increase, though it does increase the state minimum salary schedule. 

In testimony, TCTA’s Lonnie Hollingsworth thanked the House for the significant infusion of funds, but expressed our concerns about several aspects of the teacher pay section. TCTA has provided amendments to the committee in hopes of remedying this part of the bill, and we continue to remind legislators that all teachers and other educators need and deserve a pay raise. One amendment would change the merit pay provisions in a way that would accomplish the committee's goal of creating a mechanism to encourage districts to attract effective educators to teach at high-need campuses but would leave the selection method up to local districts, which could opt to include experience as a factor in determining effectiveness. 

Committee members were willing to listen to teachers’ concerns, but there was clear pushback on the assertion that the bill would result in the use of standardized tests in determining teacher pay. Although the bill does not specify that STAAR results must be included in the metrics for evaluating teachers, TCTA and others have noted that since the program requires statewide rankings of teachers (for example, teachers ranked in the top 33% of all teachers in their subject matter and grade level would be designated as Recognized teachers) there are no other existing statewide measures that could be used to accomplish this. These are representative of the types of issues that TCTA is working to resolve. 

TCTA also raised concerns about wording in the bill that would allow districts to easily opt out of the state minimum salary schedule.

Committee chair and bill author Dan Huberty hopes to have a substitute for HB 3 ready next week, but it is not yet known what changes will be made. Huberty and other committee members seemed responsive to our concerns and we may see changes in the committee substitute that address most or all of the problematic areas. The House leadership continues to resist including an across-the-board raise in this bill, so this is likely a matter that will be resolved in conference committee negotiations between the House and Senate.