Schools are starting soon and judging from what I have been reading, there is a lot of misinformation out there about the resources that are available as schools open during the pandemic. Fortunately, we passed the most transformational public education bill in Texas history last session and I would to lay out the facts:
Under the leadership of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, the bipartisan legislature passed House Bill 3 (HB 3). HB 3 transforms the education system by providing more funding per child, making investments in early education, college readiness, career readiness, and encouraging innovation in the classroom. HB 3 also includes an across the board pay raise that will help recruit and retain the best teachers in the class room.
These education reforms were passed before the double hit to our economy caused by the pandemic and the decline in oil and gas prices. In spite of the unexpected hit to our economy, legislative leadership has reaffirmed our commitment to maintaining the successful reforms of HB 3. The comptroller’s most recent state budget review included full funding for the schools at HB 3 levels.
Through Republican leadership efforts, over a half billion additional dollars were drawn down for COVID-19 expenses from the federal CARES Act. The state has partnered with local school districts to provide a million lap tops, computers, iPads and hot spots to ensure students have the devices and internet connection they need for virtual learning. Texas also just received a $20 million dollar grant from the Department of Education to enhance virtual learning programs for English learners.
There are calls to use the Economic Stabilization fund otherwise known as the Rainey Day Fund for additional expenses; however, having a strong reserve in the Rainey Day Fund has served Texas well. Texas schools, collectively, also have almost $14 billion in reserves. Hopefully, we will not need to tap into the reserves.
I was proud to be apart of the bipartisan property tax reform bill we passed last session which provides billions of dollars in property tax relief. In these tough times, the last thing Texans need is a tax hike from our local governments.
We are in challenging times, but this is just a season and this too shall pass. We will defeat this pandemic and rebuild our economy. We will not take our eye off the ball when it comes to our children’s education. The value of education cannot be overstated and we want our children to have every advantage. We are committed to keeping Texas strong, because folks, we don’t have another Texas to move to!