It’s hard to believe, but the summer break is ending and a new school year is upon us. Soon we will see the familiar sights of flashing yellow school zone lights and buses stopping throughout our communities. Our long days of summer will be replaced with a flurry of school activities, homework, and the hurried attempts to beat the clock each evening to salvage a decent night’s sleep. As a father, I am always surprised just how quickly the summer ends with our daughters.
As a lawmaker, I have been anticipating this school year with renewed enthusiasm based on the work your Texas Legislature accomplished during the recently concluded legislative session. We began in January with the need to address rising school taxes, public education funding, the safety of our children and educators, and challenges to bring real solutions to our most underserved populations. It was a call for Texas to take bold measures and put forth dramatic changes to the way we educate our children and to be accountable to the taxpayers. These were not issues we could ignore or promise to study further, it was time to strengthen public education for the betterment of all of our children and the generations that follow.
The Texas Plan or House Bill 3 was created to provide an overhaul to our public school system that has not been seen in decades. Many advancements were made in regards to modernizing education practices geared towards accelerating student success including increasing the basic allotment per student and adopting higher quality reading standards. In addition, the first dyslexia identification program in Texas history was established so educators can identify and support students who are struggling (which exceeds an estimated 200,000 children).
While we knew our public education system needed an overhaul, it was imperative we also addressed the impact on taxpayers. The Texas Plan is structured to help lower property taxes and work towards eliminating the burden of recapture (Robin Hood). It also provides up to $5 billion in statewide property tax relief, lowers the school property tax rate, requires all ISDs to conduct efficiency audits before asking voters for more money, and increases the state’s share of education funding.
I am proud of the countless education leaders, parents, students, and industry experts for joining with the Texas Legislature to undertake these critical steps. I am also grateful for our local school officials as well as the many parents and students who sat down with me to discuss how we can build a better education system to effectively prepare students for the future.
Undoubtedly, we still have work to do in this area. We will continue to refine and improve HB 3 as we move forward, but this legislation is a major step towards strengthening public education in Texas. Please learn more by going to thetexasplan.com.
Of course, school finance and property taxes go hand in hand. We simply could not improve education without also working to offset the costs to property owners. While HB 3 actually lowers your property taxes, Senate Bill 2 – the Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act - puts in place safeguards at the local tax level to limit the growth of property taxes, increase transparency, and makes the appraisal review board process more fair and accountable to taxpayers.
Texas students can also expect to feel safer with new state requirements for school districts to implement multi-hazard emergency operation plans, provide certain training for school resource officers, as well as ensure school district employees (including substitute teachers) are properly trained to respond to emergencies. There are also measures that establish threat assessment teams and intervention strategies to help prevent student violence. Furthermore, we have created a “Do Not Hire” registry to protect children in the classroom.
While our children are anticipating a new school year, there are also higher education students hoping to continue pursuing their dreams as well. I am very proud of a new student repayment assistance program for future peace officers. With a growing number of law enforcement shortages across the state, this important legislation supports those who are selflessly answering the call to serve and protect the people of Texas.
In preparation for the school year, please don’t forget to take advantage of the Sales Tax Holiday Weekend scheduled for Friday, Aug. 9 through Sunday, Aug. 11. You can buy most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks that are priced less than $100 tax-free. Learn more at comptroller.texas.gov.
It is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives. Please know my door is always open to discuss any state matters or provide assistance by calling 512-463-0688 or email email@example.com.