DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he will be asking lawmakers to spend more state money for public schools.
His statement came during an education roundtable Tuesday afternoon at the Dallas ISD Solar Preparatory School For Girls in Dallas, where he spoke with a variety of teachers, Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa, TEA Commissioner and former Dallas ISD Trustee Mike Morath, Democratic State Senator Royce West of Dallas, and Republican State Representative Morgan Meyer of Dallas.
The Governor’s roundtable is aimed at discussing school finance reform and boosting teacher pay.
The state is often criticized for increasingly relying on local property taxes to fund public K-12 schools.
During a news conference following the discussion, I asked Governor Abbott if he will not only ask the legislature to spend more state money for public schools, but really push the legislature for it.
He said, “Yes.”
When asked if it was that simple, the Governor said, “Yes, that simple.”
The state legislative session begins this January, and when asked how he would convince lawmakers to go along with him, Governor Abbott said, “The only way I can convince the legislature to do that is to show them a product that really will achieve results. We happen to be in a district right now where they have shown those results and what we have to do is take the product that exists in DISD and make it applicable elsewhere so I can sell it as a statewide product.”
The Governor told Dallas ISD teachers and other education and political leaders that he doesn’t want to throw more money at an old system that doesn’t produce results and that he’s focused on innovative programs that work.
Some at the roundtable welcomed the Governor’s commitment to pushing for more state money for schools.
Dr. Hinojosa said, “That’s the first time I’ve heard the leadership of the state say that it’s time to put more resources in it, and a lot of us were skeptical of the finance hearings – oh, here we go again. But now, they’re getting some legs and specificity.”
After the roundtable, Governor Abbott told Dr. Hinojosa he’s going to rely on him to go to Austin and testify before the legislature about school funding.
Senator West said, “We have a solid commitment from the Governor that he will ask the legislature for additional money for education. It’s going to come from the state and not the local school districts, so I look forward to working with the Governor.”
The discussion about education funding comes as Governor Abbott runs for re-election, but a spokesman says the roundtable is not a campaign event.
In November, a state task force will release its recommendations on how to reform school finance.
In the meantime, Dallas ISD residents will vote in November on whether to raise their property tax rates to boost district funding — even as Dallas ISD is set this year for the first time to give the state back nearly $66 million to help poorer school districts.
It’s a practice called recapture or Robin Hood, and it’s impacted property wealthy school districts across the state for years.
Dallas ISD Trustee Miguel Solis, who supports the Governor’s Democratic challenger, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, says Robin Hood is not right, and that he’s heard state leaders talk about school finance reform before without seeing results. “The only true solution to solving our problems is comprehensive school finance reform and an increase in state funding to public schools.”
The Governor also wants to boost merit pay, so that teachers are eligible to earn six-figure salaries.
During a special session the Governor called last year, he proposed boosting teacher pay, but didn’t ask the legislature to provide the money to pay for it.
On Tuesday, Governor Abbott said he would push the legislature to allocate state money for merit raises. “We can pay our teachers more. We want to attract the very best teachers and keep the very best teachers.”
Dallas ISD has a system to pay good teachers more money, but Dr. Hinojosa said after the roundtable discussion, “More teachers may have earned it, but they didn’t all get it because we didn’t have enough money.”
Hinojosa said teachers made it very clear to the Governor they weren’t happy about that. “They were very vocal about it.”