School Finance: Still Hard

Panel approves recommendations to improve state's outdated school funding system

School Finance: Still Hard

At the Texas Commission on Public School Finance's final meeting in December, the 13-member panel unanimously approved more than 30 recommendations to improve the state's outdated and inadequate school funding system. The recommendations are mostly incentive-based, targeted at improving academic outcomes for students with the "greatest need," as the report reads. For instance, the report recommends making a pool of $800 million available to those school districts that develop programs that improve early literacy and postsecondary school readiness. Another would create an "effective educator allotment" to essentially increase teacher pay based on "locally developed multi-measure evaluation and compensation systems," with an initial investment of $100 million, growing annually until it reaches $1 billion. Education advocates are generally skeptical of incentive-based teacher pay, because those systems can rely heavily on standardized testing; the emphasis on "locally developed" systems could ease those fears.

Other recommendations include adjusting the formulas that dictate how much money each school district gets, which could free up an additional $1.1 billion for helping low-income students; allotting up to $150 million for districts to develop dual-language programs and for additional investment in dyslexia programs; and various changes to how districts measure outcomes, such as a new commitment to have 60% of third-graders reading at grade level and 60% of high school graduates leaving with college credit, a technical certification, or military readiness.

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