House Passes School Finance Plan

The State House of Representatives passed a school finance plan late last night. Memberse nearly passed an alternative plan backed by House Democrats, but after 13 hours of debate moved forward with the Republican's version.

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House Bill 2 lowers property taxes and raises teacher pay, but it was a tough fight to get the bill passed. Several House Democrats offered an alternative plan that would funnel more money to schools and less to property tax relief. Representative Scott Hochberg of Houston is on the House Education Committee and helped author the alternate finance plan. He says most Democrats and a number of Republicans supported the plan.

Representative Joe Nixon of Houston says the alternative plan provided good solutions but didn't include the means to pay for the plan.

Funding for the current version of HB 2 is tied to HB 3, a companion tax bill that is expected to pass out of committee this week. HB 2 would cut property taxes by 40 cents per $100 and give a teacher pay raise of $1,500 on average. It also includes a funding increase of three percent for every school district. Nixon says HB 2 won't produce instant changes in the state's education system, but he says it's a starting point and he is satisfied with the plan.

The State Senate received the bill and will be able to offer their own version. Representative Glen Hegar of Katy says the House version made several changes to accomodate recommendations made by the Senate. He says the success of the plan will have to speak for itself if it gets passed and goes into effect.

HB 2 also delays the start of the school year until after Labor Day. Lawmakers have until late July to resolve the issue of school finance. If a plan is not passed, the courts will take over.

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