The Senate Education Committee has passed HB 3, with its own plan substituted for the school finance plan that passed the House nearly a month ago. The two chambers are more or less in agreement on the amount of new money that will go to public education (around $6 billion, plus approximately $3 billion in property tax relief), but some key differences will have to be worked out in conference committee negotiations.

Among the top issues for educators is how employee salaries would be addressed. The Senate version of HB 3 includes the Senate proposal for a $5,000 raise for librarians and teachers.

It also includes a merit pay proposal similar to what was in the original version of HB 3 in the House — a model based on Dallas’s TEI program that would require statewide rankings of teachers (almost certainly based in part on student standardized test scores) with stipends provided to top-ranked teachers in each subject area.

The House had changed its merit pay proposal to a TCTA-drafted plan that would allow districts to determine their own model for encouraging effective teachers to go to struggling schools. This model is in addition to a significant increase in the state minimum salary schedule in the House’s version of HB 3, and a requirement that districts use at least 25% of their new funding on pay increases for non-administrative employees. (If distributed equally among non-administrators, which is not required, the average raise would be about $1,850; individual teachers would get some type of raise but it could be more or less than that. Districts could choose to spend more than the required 25% on raises.)

A key piece of the Senate's plan is a link between school finance/property tax reform and an increase in the state sales tax to help pay for it. Three Republican members of the committee (Sens. Bettencourt, Hall and Paxton) registered "present not voting" on the committee vote for HB 3 out of concerns over the possible tax increase.

The Senate plan is expected to be on the Senate floor for a vote on Friday. (Update: it was rescheduled for Monday, May 6.)