Caucus names legislative priorities for public education
The Texas House Democratic Caucus on Feb. 21 announced its “Texas Kids First” education-funding package that would include all-day pre-kindergarten, teacher raises and retirement and property tax reform. “We hope to work with our colleagues to incorporate some of these ideas into their bills,” said Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, caucus chair. Caucus member Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, a former Austin Independent School District board president, said Texas rates 42nd in the nation in per-student funding. She said Texas public school students are funded $2,300 per year below the national average. The proposed funding package is embodied in several bills that caucus members have filed or are in the process of filing, and would add some $14.5 billion more in baseline budget estimates. Items to be covered include: - Teacher pay and benefits increases; - Incentives for educating low-income students, children speaking little or no English, and special-needs pupils; - Funding for the hiring of more counselors; - Using money from the Rainy Day Fund for retired teachers; - A monthly state contribution of $100 toward teachers’ health care premiums; and - A one-time $500 teacher reimbursement for out-of-pocket school supply purchases. The caucus also proposes to achieve property tax relief by doubling homeowners’ exemptions from $25,000 to $50,000, an amount they suggest would give most homeowners a break of up to $325.
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