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Texas House approves major school finance fix; Senate's plan uncertain

21 April 2017

State Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-District 20, said the bill is now in the House, awaiting passage. "This is a difference between the senate bill and the house bill right now, and I look forward to working with our partners in the house along with you all to make sure that we arrive at appropriate place for this bill".

Tension rose in the room when some of the few speakers in favor of the bill took the mic. Dave Welch, head of the Texas Pastor Council told the committee that the state needed a "uniform standard" for who's allowed in what restroom, and then got in an argument with state Representative Eddie Rodriguez, who argued that the state already had laws on the books to prevent bathroom attacks.

The bill would allow more protection for high school journalists to freely cover news without fear of censorship from administrators, alleviating restrictions from a 1988 case known as Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier. Committee members, as they often do after a first public hearing, left the bill pending.

"Over the last 50 years we've endured over seven lawsuits", Huberty said.

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Throughout the evening, Huberty successfully moved to table many of his colleagues' proposed amendments to the bill, either because they would add to the bill's price tag or because he deemed them irrelevant to his legislation.

One of the largest areas of debate has been the elimination of the transportation allotment that's given to districts for transporting students to and from school.

Doing so could cause tens of thousands of additional students to miss the mark, and increase the number of schools that receive poor grades on school report cards, according to opponents.

"Almost half the school districts in Texas will benefit from these amendments", he said.

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Over 11 years, state support will have increased by just $1.3 billion, while local contributions from property tax will have swelled to $30.2 billion, from $18.2 billion in 2008, Huberty stressed.

Jerry Oleksiak, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said his organization opposed the bill because they thought it would not make schools safer.

"We promised our taxpayers not to write a hot check for school finance", said Rep Matt Schaefer of Tyler.

Last month, the Texas Senate approved the bill, which prohibits all Texans, including transgender residents, from using public restroom and changing facilities that match their gender identity.

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As lawmakers debate possible reforms to the school finance system this week, they might decide whether to continue offering extra money to districts like Texas City ISD, which previous year was forced to annex a struggling district next to it.

Texas House approves major school finance fix; Senate's plan uncertain