K-12 Public Education

School Finance

Education is the bedrock of an informed democracy and the bridge to lifelong opportunities. As a state, we rely on our public education system to develop a talented workforce and promote shared prosperity. But in order to fulfill our promise to the next generation of young Texans, we must first ensure that there is sufficient opportunity and support for all kids to get a quality education, no matter where they live or what their background.

Equity in Focus

English language learner students are a large and growing part of the Texas student population. During the 2018-19 school year, 19 percent of Texas students were identified as ELL. While the Legislature created new funding to encourage dual language programs in 2019, currently only 20 percent of ELL students have access to that instructional model.

Background

Well-funded schools are able to offer small student-to-faculty ratios, attract and retain high-quality teachers, and engage students with arts and computer science programs. Most of the money in Texas public education (79 percent) goes to pay direct educational costs, such as the salaries of teachers that prepare our children for their future.

Recognizing that money matters in education, the 2019 Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3 (HB 3)—an $11.6 billion school finance reform law that dedicates over $6 billion toward investments in education and $5 billion toward replacing school property taxes with state aid. This shift, from local property taxes to state aid, costs the state more money without actually sending additional funding into classrooms.

HB 3 took many steps in the right direction. It made many long-overdue renovations to the school finance system, like increased funding for early education and a greater focus on college and career readiness. Other funding, however — including for special education and bilingual/English as a Second Language education — remains outdated.

If we’re going to fully realize the goals of this law, however, Texas schools need sustainable and predictable funding. The ongoing property tax cuts initiated by HB 3 will put a strain on the state’s budget and limit resources available for future investments in Texans’ priorities. While the school finance system will always need tweaks and adjustments to run efficiently, the greatest challenge for lawmakers going forward will be ensuring the Texas revenue system is capable of meeting all the state’s needs. 

Meet Our Staff

Chandra Kring Villanueva

Program Director, Economic Opportunity Team