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Texas Dems Unveil $14 Bil Plan To Fix Public Schools, Deal With Property Tax Relief

February 22, 2019 - 7:11 am

By Chris Fox, KRLD Austin Bureau Chief

AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - The State House Democratic Caucus members unveiled their ‘Texas Kids First Plan,’ a proposal that puts nearly $14.5 billion into public schools.

Caucus Chair Chris Turner called the plan bold and visionary and said it would increase state funding of public schools by $7-billion dollars. “We want our children to have the best education possible. We want teachers and support staff to be paid a fair wage. We want a system that puts Texas kids first.”

State Representative Gina Hinojosa spelled out reasons why the state needs to increase funding as part of the overall fix. Texas currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil spending. Hinojosa told reporters in the State Capitol, “We are funding our students at $2,300 less than the national average for per pupil spending….when you take that amount and you multiply it towards the over 5-million school children in the State of Texas, we are in about a $20 plus billion deficit when it comes to funding our kids.”

The plan includes $3.7 billion for pay raises, which is similar to that proposed by the Texas Senate.

State Representative Alma Allen says the Texas Kids First plan differs because it includes more than just teachers. “We want to give a pay raise to everyone who makes our schools great…the teachers, the counselors, the custodial workers, the bus drivers, and if you are a part of a child’s education our plan is to give you a pay raise.”

The plan also addresses property tax reform as well.

The Caucus is proposing a constitutional amendment to be brought before the voters to increase the Homestead Exemption from $25,000 to $50,000, which will result in savings for Texas homeowners. Turner explained why their plan actually helps reduce taxes. “The Governor’s plan, a 2.5 percent revenue cap, does not reduce anyone’s taxes. Doubling the Homestead Exemption will lower taxes for homeowners by an average of around $325 per home owner per year.”

The Texas Kids First plan also carries a mental health initiative. Allen explained how this would work saying, “We need more support for our students in the classroom, especially when it comes to mental health issues. Chairman Coleman (State Representative Garnett Coleman) refiled legislation which will insure that every school campus has enough funds to hire a licensed behavioral health professional, which is so needed in this day and time.”

$1.7 billion of the Democrats plan would go to help retired teachers as well. Turner explained how that would be a one-time expenditure from the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) to feed the Teacher’s Retirement System of Texas. Retired teachers in Texas haven’t seen a cost of living increase from their pension in over 13 years.

The caucus members also spoke of the need to work together with the Governor, the Speaker, the Senate and Republicans to fix Texas schools.