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Gov. Greg Abbott, center, holds up House Bill 3, the school finance bill, after signing it into law at an Austin elementary school on June 11, 2019. Courtesy photo/Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for The Texas Tribune

ne of lawmakers' biggest achievements this year, House Bill 3, a massive overhaul of Texas' school finance system, was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, Tuesday, June 11.

“You could not overstate the magnitude of the law that I'm about to sign because this is a monumental moment in public education history in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “We did something that was considered to be highly improbable, and that is to be able to transform public education in the state of Texas without a court order forcing us to do so.

“This one law does more to advance education in the state of Texas than any law that I have seen in my adult lifetime in the state of Texas,” Abbott added.

The bill's signing represented state leaders' intense focus on reforming school finance and property taxes since the beginning of the 2019 legislative session.

“HB3 is a great effort by the Texas Legislature to address public school finance,” said Corsicana ISD Superintendent Dr. Diane Frost. “School funding is very complicated, therefore HB3 is very complex.

“There will be some positive changes to the Corsicana ISD budget; although it's important to not be mislead by some of the recent headlines,” Frost said. “As we review HB3 and our budget for next year, we will propose options to our School Board for consideration.”

The next day, Abbott signed the priority property tax legislation, Senate Bill 2, into law, marking a major triumph for both chambers.

State leaders hailed the unity that they say allowed them to finally get school finance reform across the finish line.

The $11.6 billion school finance measure includes about $6.5 billion in new public education spending, plus about $5.1 billion devoted to lowering Texans’ property tax bills.

The spending will increase per-student base funding by about 20 percent. It includes money to give teachers raises, fund free full-day pre-K for eligible 4-year-olds and reduce the amount of money wealthy districts must spend to subsidize poor districts through the state’s recapture program, known as “Robin Hood.”

It also includes money for districts that want to start merit pay programs, giving bonuses of between $3,000 and $12,000 to their higher-rated teachers and provides money for high-needs and rural school districts that need help to incentivize teachers to work there.

Lawmakers have estimated that the bill will lower tax rates by an average of 8 cents per $100 valuation in 2020 and 13 cents in 2021. That would mean a tax cut of $200 for the owner of a $250,000 home in 2020 and $325 in 2021.

According to the Texas Education Agency's plan for implementation for the 2019–2020 school year, school districts and open enrollment charter schools will be required to increase salaries for full-time employees other than administrators.

The statute also requires prioritizing compensation for classroom teachers with more than five years of experience.

House Bill 3 establishes an expectation that compensation increases given to experienced teachers would be higher than other compensation changes planned for the new school year.

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