Texas Is Spending Billions More on Education, But Teachers May Not Get the Raises They Expect

The Texas Legislature ponied up $11.6 billion for public education in this year's session. That should mean school districts — and teachers — are now flush with cash, right? Not quite. Misconceptions about Texas' massive school finance overhaul are running fast even as districts are in the throes of finalizing their budgets for the upcoming academic year. Yes, there is more money for schools. In some instances, it's significant. In others, it's not. And in many cases, teachers who thought they'd be big winners with big raises may find their paychecks haven't really increased all that much. With new calculations comes new confusion. While some districts — like Dallas ISD — are using some additional revenue to green-light long-wished-for initiatives, many school administrators are still trying to figure out just how much the law will mean for their districts' bottom lines. Initial estimates offered by the Legislature aren't adding up for many districts, and getting the financial math wrong — and spending too freely — could be catastrophic. Teachers, promised beneficiaries of the state's finance fix, are waiting to see how much more they'll make. Talk of $5,000 raises dominated discussions in the months leading up to the bill's passage. But the final legislation — signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this month — didn't include that requirement.While teachers are guaranteed a cut of districts' new revenue, anything more than that is left to each district's discretion. For those teachers who have received raises thus far, many are getting less than the $5,000 they were hearing about. "Given the amount of changes, there's still things we don't know," said Amanda Brownson, associate executive director of governmental relations for the Texas Association of School Business Officials. "And there's a fair amount of anxiety in the world about that." Money, money, moneyFirst, about that $11.6 billion: Not all of that went to public education. About two-fifths of it — $5.1 billion — went to tax cuts, dropping property tax rates across Texas by an average of 8 cents per $100 valuation next year and close to 13 cents in 2021. Brent Ringo, Garland ISD's chief financial officer, described the bill to members of his district's finance and audit committee on the day it was signed into law as "more of a tax rate compression bill than it is a true school finance bill."  Continue reading...

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