State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso.

AUSTIN, RGV – State Sen. José Rodríguez has filed a resolution for the special session aimed at making the State of Texas pay its fair share of public education funding.

Border lawmakers are becoming increasingly annoyed that the State is reneging on its responsibility and passing the buck to school districts, thereby leading to higher property taxes.

Rodríguez, D-El Paso, noted that the State’s share of base funding for public schools decreased from 43.5 percent in 2015 to 37.7 percent in 2019.

In a speech at an RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce legislative report card luncheon last week, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa blasted the Legislature and state leaders for abdicating responsibility for public education and making school districts pick up the tab. Click here to read Hinojosa’s comments.

Senate Joint Resolution 6 has been authored by Sen. Rodríguez, along with state Sens. Sylvia Garcia of Houston, Jose Menendez of San Antonio, Kirk Watson of Austin, Royce West of Dallas, John Whitmire of Houston and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo. It requires the State of Texas to provide 50 percent of school funding.

The joint resolution provides for a constitutional amendment that will require the State of Texas to pay its equal share of the operating costs of public schools.

“The State is increasingly funding schools on the backs of local property taxpayers, while at the same time, complaining about high local taxes. True tax reform must take into account the main driver of property taxes – schools, which are the State’s constitutional obligation,” Rodríguez said.

“In fact, the State’s share of the base funding for schools has decreased from 43.5 percent in 2015 to 37.7 percent in 2019. To address this, I have filed legislation that would require the State to fund at least half of our schools’ operating costs. This would dramatically reduce local property taxes and help ensure quality education for all Texas students.”

Rodríguez has filed a number of other education-related bills for the special session, which begins on Tuesday. Rodríguez said the bills filed address the issue that should be central to the special session –  school finance.

Here are Rodriguez’s other education-related bills:

S.B. 40, authored by Sens. Rodríguez, Garcia, Menendez, Watson, West, Whitmire & Zaffirini, deals with comprehensive school finance reform.

Rodríguez said the bill provides a long-term solution for school finance reform by removing inequitable provisions not based on actual costs, increasing funding for vulnerable student populations, and updating the system as a whole to ensure all our children will get a quality education.

“It is long past time for comprehensive school finance reform, something that not only is necessary but is supported by an overwhelming majority of the public and legislators,” Rodríguez said.

S.B. 41, authored by Rodríguez, Garcia, Menendez, Watson, West, Whitmire & Zaffirini, would increase the bilingual education weight.

Rodríguez said the bill would increase the ELL education funding weight from the current weight of 0.1 to 0.25. He said this funding weight has not been updated since 1984. Updating it would alleviate achievement gaps, expand dual language programs, reduce recapture payments, and help the almost one million students that need additional services, the El Paso lawmaker said.

“The investment in our students is an investment in our future,” Rodríguez said, regarding funding weights. “This is long overdue.”

S.B. 37, authored by Rodríguez, focuses on teacher stipends.

Rodríguez said the bill creates a $500 stipend for those with at least three years of experience, and $500 for those in TEA-determined shortage areas. These stipends would take effect in 2019, Rodríguez said, since this was not budgeted for in the current biennium. To attempt to implement the stipends now would constitute an unfunded mandate on schools, Rodríguez argued, forcing either local tax increases or cuts elsewhere.

“Quality teachers are the backbone of our education system and we need to recruit and retain the best, especially in the areas of math, science, bilingual education, special education and career and tech that are currently in short supply,” Rodríguez said.