Finance reform cup

Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, joked with the members of the Texas House of Representatives that these are the cups the members will drink water out of in their lounge during this legislative session.

The 86th Legislative Session has ended with the passing of the historic school finance overhaul in House Bill 3. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen laid out school finance as the top priority of the session from the beginning, and he never wavered. He even had “School Finance Reform-The Time is Now” printed on styrofoam coffee cups in his office to remind people of his commitment to it. Never before has legislation been passed that influences public education like HB 3 does. It positively impacts every teacher, student and property owner now and for future generations. HB 3 is the Texas plan that transforms our entire public education system.

The four major policy areas HB 3 addresses are:

  • Supports teachers and rewards teacher excellence
  • Focuses on learning and student outcomes
  • Increases funding and equity
  • Reduces and reforms property taxes

Below is not a comprehensive list of HB 3, but the areas I believe to be important in producing tangible results within our public school system.

HB 3 supports teachers and rewards teacher excellence by investing $2 billion to increase educator compensation. It allows local control to define and award excellent teaching with future state funding increases directed towards staff raises. Because of HB 3, Brazosport ISD was able to give another healthy raise this school year to all employees, with priority given to experienced teachers. Starting pay for new teachers in BISD is $56,000. HB 3 provides support for new teachers by funding stipends for a teacher mentorship program that must meet certain quality requirements. Classroom teachers are the absolute most important factor in a student’s learning. This will allow us to continue to recruit and retain high quality staff.

HB 3 focuses on learning and student outcomes by increasing the basic allotment by 20 percent and investing an additional $4.5 billion in public education. A new early education allotment will provide funding for districts to implement full day pre-K programs. Currently, funding is only provided for half-day programs. Beginning in the year 2020, BISD will be able to offer full-day pre-K to 4-year-olds who qualify in all our communities. This places an emphasis on ensuring students are able to read on grade level by the 3rd grade. It also provides funds to improve Kindergarten through third-grade reading and math. HB 3 establishes a new allotment that will provide additional funding for districts to increase services to dyslexia students. Speaker Bonnen was especially passionate about this part of the bill as he often shares his own struggles with dyslexia. We can all agree on the importance of a child learning to read. We know students must learn to read before they can read to learn. Literacy is the foundation of learning. HB 3 recognizes this and funds literacy training to support teachers.

HB 3 seeks to improve college, career, and military readiness for students. Local control is given for school districts to meet the unique needs of their students and staff. Because of the tremendous industrial growth in our particular area, we can prioritize funding toward high wage high need areas for our students. This year BISD students earned over 1,400 industry based workforce certifications. HB 3 understands the importance of preparing students for careers as well as college, and the military. Additional funding will also be given to seventh- and eighth-grade career and technical education courses. Increased funding to serve special education students as well as funds for teacher training on autism. HB 3 will provide funding for an additional 30 half days of instruction in the summer for grades pre-K through five.

HB 3 increases educational equity by providing more funding for students who are considered economically disadvantaged or at risk of dropping out of school. Studies have proven and more importantly teachers know the readability of the state assessments are well above students’ grade levels. HB 3 requires the Commissioner of Education to conduct a study on the reading levels of the flawed state assessments.

While lowering reliance on local property taxes, HB 3 will begin to restore the state’s share of funding for public education. Responding to the need to address skyrocketing property taxes, HB 3 provides over a $9 million reduction for BISD taxpayers. In addition to lowering taxes, HB 3 reduces recapture paid by property wealthy districts. BISD recapture payments will be reduced by up to $20 million.

The mission of Brazosport ISD is to graduate each student to be Future Ready. HB 3 supports this mission for the students of today and tomorrow.

Speaker Bonnen did what seemed impossible after the previous legislative session. The Governor, Lt. Governor, Senate and House all worked together to address a broken school finance system. He proved the time was certainly now!

Thank you Speaker Bonnen!

Danny Massey is the superintendent of Brazosport ISD.

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