Monumental. Improbable. Surreal. Remarkable. Sweeping. Historic.
An act of "great magnitude."
And while there are many things to be cautiously optimistic about from this bill, I believe it is imperative that everyone with any sort of vested interest in a Texas public school district become at least somewhat familiar with what is ACTUALLY in this bill.
However, in the interest of the public good, I'm going to do my best to outline a few major takeaways, specifically related to teacher raises, that I think will help most people feel semi-educated on HB3 as we coast further into summer.
1) First, understand this: the bill is 308 pages long. And it is complicated.
Texas is huge, and we have a ton of kids.
We have very big districts with tens of thousands of students. We have districts with tens of students.
We have districts with very high property values and little to no poverty. We have districts where every student is living in some sort of low-income situation.
If you'll accept that this is the reality of having a public education system in a state the size of Texas, then it seems very logical for a bill that attempts to "fix the system" be just as complex as the system it's fixing.
In my post on HB3906 and the changes to STAAR, I mentioned that HB3906 had 11 main sections.
I outlined HB3 using nothing but section headers.
It has 498 sections or subsections.
Key Takeaway: HB3 is complicated.
2) Any headline or statement indicating an "average teacher raise of $X,XXX" is misleading and not based on any actual facts.
Will Texas teachers (and counselors, librarians, and nurses) get a raise in 2019-2020?
Most likely, yes.
But anyone claiming an average salary increase across the state (e.g. Dan Patrick mentioned $4,200 during the bill signing ceremony) is literally making up a number that is not supported by any factual evidence.
HB3 DOES NOT provide any sort of flat raise for any educator.
Instead, what it provides is language indicating that when a school district's "maximum amount of basic allotment" increases from one year to the next, the school district must use 30% of that to "provide compensation increases to full-time district employees other than administrators."
There are two additional stipulations regarding how that 30% must be distributed:
- 75% must be used to increase compensation for teachers, counselors, nurses, and librarians with "differentiated compensation" for classroom teachers with more than five years of experience
- 25% can be used "as determined by the district."
So what does all of that mean?
It means IF a district experiences an increase in their basic allotment (more on that shortly), they'll have to use 30% of the increase for compensation (which can include benefits, not just salaries).
Quick example: imagine a district receiving an additional $1,000,000. They would have to use $300,000 of that to increase compensation. $225,000 of the $300,000 would be tied to compensation for teachers, counselors, nurses, and librarians. The other $75,000 would still go to compensation, but each district would have some discretion in how it's actually used.
Key Takeaway: There is no flat raise, only the potential for a raise based on an increase in a district's basic allotment.
3) HB3 increased the basic allotment from $5,140 to $6,160, but that increase is slightly deceptive.
(Note: The Texas school finance system is incredibly complex. What follows is an overly simplified explanation of school finance and what changed.)
"Basic allotment" is education finance speak for how much money you get for every student to provide them with a basic education.
If all districts and all students were equal, you could simply take the basic allotment, multiply it by the number of students you have in attendance, and that resulting figure would be how much state and local funds a district would be entitled to for providing a basic education to their students.
Since all districts and all students are NOT equal, there are a ton of weights and adjustments that happen on top of the basic allotment that attempt to even the playing field.
To get an idea of how this works, take a student who is enrolled in a load of high school CTE courses. Rather than the simple basic allotment (let's use the old value for now: $5,140), you take that value and multiply it by 1.35 to "weight" the cost of educating a student in CTE courses. So, instead of receiving $5,140 for that student, the district would receive $6,942.
Take this same concept and apply several different weights and adjustments---special education, compensatory education, gifted and talented, high school allotment, small- and mid-sized districts, bilingual, cost of education index---and you get a crazy formula that varies from one student to the next, one district to the next.
Now, I mentioned above that HB3 increased the basic allotment but that the increase was deceptive.
If the increase from $5,140 to $6,160 was the only change made to the school finance formulas, then things would have been simple.
If you increase the basic allotment by $1,020 and then added the existing weights and adjustments to that increase, districts everywhere would have been swimming in money (or at least they would have felt that way).
Take the CTE example above:
- $5,140 with a 1.35 weighting is $6,942.
- $6,160 with a 1.35 weighting is $8,316.
- That's an increase of $1,374, not $1,020.
Compound this by multiple weights and adjustments and you get a school finance bill that would have been AWESOME, but it would not have been sustainable.
It would have bankrupted the state.
To address this very obvious issue, HB3 repealed a few of the existing weights and adjustments. More specifically, they removed the following:
- Gifted and Talented Student Allotment
- Cost of Education Index
- High School Allotment
And this is why I stated that the increase in the basic allotment is slightly deceptive because some of the weights and adjustments that previously happened AFTER the basic allotment was calculated are now simply EMBEDDED as a part of the standard basic allotment.
It's kind of like giving my son $20, a bag of lemons, some sugar, and a stack of cups to run a lemonade stand one summer, and then the following summer telling him that I'll give him $25 (of which he would be no doubt grateful) but only giving him sugar.
Yes, he would have $5 more for his initial investment, but now he has to buy lemons and cups.
Key Takeaway: Districts will get more money as a result of HB3, but the amounts tossed out by political leaders and then repeated in headlines are most likely a little too optimistic. It is way too early in this process to have any real firm answers on how big of an increase each district is going to see.
I included the above third takeaway because I think it is really important for every public school district employee to go into this post-HB3 window with equal doses of excitement and caution.
Superintendents and CFOs across the state are no doubt working feverishly to figure all of this out.
It will be extremely easy to get wrapped up in headlines claiming that teachers across the state are getting $4,000 raises, and then when your district publishes raises that are lower (possibly much lower) than $4,000, frustration sets in because your district did not provide what was promised.
I encourage everyone to go into these changes with a great deal of patience.
While there are definitely things that should be questioned (and even criticized) regarding what the state changed with HB3, at the end of the day, HB3 will more than likely do more good than harm for districts across the state.
Our legislators made major adjustments to school finance without a court order.
Sadly, we should be appreciative of that fact.
I originally intended this post to include a few more details about HB3, but in the interest of brevity (sort of), I'm splitting my comments into multiple posts.
My "Part Two" will most likely cover the following from HB3:
- Tax relief provisions
- Pre-K funding
- Extended school year
- Dyslexia and other new weights/adjustments
- Increase in minimum salary schedule
- Current year values