Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 3 into law on Wednesday, which officials are calling a landmark piece of legislation that will reform school finance.

The bill addresses the public school finance system, increases teacher pay and provides property tax relief, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“The people of Texas demanded that we take bold action to fix our state’s broken school finance system, which is why I made school finance reform an emergency item this legislative session,” Abbott said in the release. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of those gathered here today, I am proud to sign into law transformative legislation to fix our school finance system. 

“This law provides additional funding to recruit and retain the best teachers for the most challenging classrooms, employ effective strategies to better educate our students and provide lasting property tax relief to homeowners.”

The bill creates an incentive pay program for teachers; adds career, college and military readiness bonuses for school districts; funds full-day prekindergarten for students in poverty; and requires all elementary school principals and teachers in kindergarten through third grade to be trained in science-based reading instruction by 2021. 

Chapter 21 of the Texas Education Code requires increases to the state minimum salary schedule when the basic allotment increases, with the bill raising that allotment to $6,160, according to the Texas Education Agency. This impacts minimum salaries for classroom teachers and full-time librarians, counselors and registered nurses.

Cleburne ISD Human Resources Executive Director Kyle Boles said overall he believes the bill’s intent is to increase teacher compensation and to prioritize differentiated compensation for teachers that have experience in the field.

“The state increased the minimum salary schedule for the upcoming school year,” Bole said. “For some school districts, there will be some changes to their pay structure to meet the new minimum wage requirement.”

Earlier this week, the CISD officials proposed a 3 percent raise for all district employees, which would make starting teacher salary at $52,000 for the 2019-20 budget year.

“This proposed amount is well above the minimum salary starting point, so our district will meet and exceed the state minimum,” he said. “Another aspect of the bill is differentiated compensation for teachers that have experience in the teaching field. The Cleburne ISD administration has proposed a plan to meet this tenet of the bill for the next school year by providing one-time payments to teachers at different levels of experience in the classroom. The Cleburne ISD board of trustees will consider this option as they work through adopting a budget for next year.

“House Bill 3 is fresh off the press, and Gov. Abbott just signed the bill into law this week. 

“Many districts are still peeling back the layers of the bill to see how it will positively impact the people that work with our kids on a daily basis in the classroom. I believe the legislature is attempting to address compensation in a way that hopefully will bring more value to what teachers do everyday.”

The bill creates a student-focused formula structure where the needs of a child — not the child’s zip code — will determine funding allocations, according to the release. 

The bill also buys down property tax rates by an average of 8 cents in 2020 and implements a 2.5 percent property tax cap starting in 2021, which will results in an average tax rate reduction of 13 cents this biennium.

CISD Chief Financial Officer Sarah Taylor said the bill is complex with information, and guidance is coming out daily from state agencies.

“We are adopting a budget with our best conservative guess of revenue with the information we have been provided as of today,” Taylor said. “With the information we have so far, the budget meets the requirements of HB 3. We will continue to monitor and adapt as we receive clarity throughout the year. The tax rate will be compressed under HB 3.” 

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