Hurricane Harvey

State Lawmakers Aim To Help Schools Damaged By Harvey

The storm may force the Texas Senate and House to tackle an issue that stymied them during the last session: school finance

Texas State Capitol in Austin.
Texas State Capitol in Austin.

The Legislature may be out of session, but state lawmakers are looking at how to help public and charter schools battered by Harvey. Both Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus have told their committees to start working on solutions to problems Harvey created or worsened.

Apart from flood control, education is one of the few areas where Straus and Patrick’s charges to their committees overlap. The most basic issue is simply fixing damaged buildings. “In HISD and many other districts, we’ve had schools that were flooded out completely or, in Port Aransas, the high school destroyed completely,” says Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

Harvey could also force lawmakers to deal with the problem of school finance, which the House and Senate deadlocked over during the last session.

“There’s got to be ways to try to be able to help school districts, especially because of student counts that have been affected because of displacement, but also because of property valuation,” says Jon Taylor, chair of political science at the University of Saint Thomas.

Property taxes are the main source of funding for Texas school districts. Those tax receipts are likely to fall along with the value of homes damaged by Harvey. State funding for schools depends on student attendance.

The House Public Education Committee is set to hold a hearing on Thursday, October 12, at the State Capitol in Austin.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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