TEXAS, USA — State Representative Gina Hinojosa wants to change the way public schools are funded in Texas, calling the old system “archaic.”
The Democrat from Austin says her bill, HB 31, would base funding on total enrollment, not attendance, and would help all students.
“Right now we’re one of only six states to deduct funding when a child is absent,” the Democrat explained on Inside Texas Politics. “We can’t say we fully fund our schools until we fund for every child enrolled in our schools.”
While Republicans are celebrating what they call an “educational freedom” bill filed in Austin, many Democrats, including Rep. Hinojosa, remain adamantly opposed because they argue it siphons money away from, and weakens, public schools.
SB 8 would provide $8,000 in taxpayer money, per student, for families to move their children from public schools to private schools, including religious schools. Those dollars would go directly to an approved private school the family preferred.
But Rep. Hinojosa says Texas already ranks towards the very bottom in per-pupil funding and the bill would only make it worse.
And she argues this shortchanging of districts has not only hurt public schools, but also teachers.
“Our teachers are paid about $8,000 below the national average and so we’re losing teachers all over the state,” Rep. Hinojosa told us. “My own 5th grader did not get a teacher in Austin ISD. My junior in High School didn’t get a science teacher in Austin ISD. But this is an example of what’s happening across this state.”
(A different bill, SB 9, would include across-the-board pay raises for teachers and likely a modest additional bump for those teaching in rural schools)
Rep. Hinojosa says the priority this legislative session should be fully funding public schools, where the vast majority of Texas students attend.
And she says diverting more of the taxes Texans already pay to public education would also help.
“The legislature’s decided only this much can go to our public schools,” she told us while holding her fingers about an inch apart. “And everything that spills over from our property taxes goes first to fully fund charter schools and then to fund the rest of the Republican priorities that are designated in the budget.”