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New Texas House Leadership Improves Odds For School Finance Reform

Incoming Speaker Dennis Bonnen offers a fresh start, after bad blood between outgoing Speaker Joe Straus and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick helped doom reform efforts in 2017.

Texas State Capitol in Austin.
Nicolas Henderson/Flickr
Texas State Capitol in Austin.

Fixing school finance will be one of the major tasks facing Texas lawmakers in 2019. Governor Greg Abbott and incoming House Speaker Dennis Bonnen have both named it a top priority for the next state legislative session.

Lawmakers tried, and failed, to overhaul school finance last year, following a decision by the state Supreme Court that found the system constitutional but effectively broken. The reform effort became a casualty of bad blood between outgoing Speaker Joe Straus and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. The Senate failed to act on a House-passed school finance bill, after Straus blocked passage of the Senate's property tax reform bill, one of Patrick's top goals.

Republican Senator Paul Bettencourt said the odds of success are better with new leadership in the House. "Comprehensive school finance reform can take a couple sessions, but I think there's going to be a lot of pieces that will come out and be passed in this session," Bettencourt said.

Representative Gene Wu, a Democrat, said support for the effort cuts across both party lines and the urban-rural divide. "What I always tell people is poor is poor," he said. "When you have poor rural [school] districts. It's not really any different than poor inner city districts."

The 86th Texas Legislature opens January 8.


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