After hours of heated debate and its preliminary passage on Wednesday, the Texas House of Representatives officially advanced House Bill 21 - Rep. Dan Huberty's $1.6 billion school finance fix to the Senate on Thursday with a 132-15 vote.
“While our system is lawful, it is awful,” Huberty (R-Houston) said Wednesday, reiterating that, while HB 21 is not a perfect solution, it's a good "first step" to addressing a flawed school finance system that's endured almost 50 years of legal battles and was ruled in 2016 as minimally constitutional by the Texas Supreme Court.
The most heated exchange surrounded an amendment from Rep. Tomas Uresti (D-San Antonio) that would have stripped public funding from charter schools. His claims that he doesn’t consider charter schools to be public schools and that charter schools do not hire qualified teachers were met with ire from both sides of the aisle.
“There are literally tens of thousands of kids who receive a great education in charter schools right now,” Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) said. "It is an absolute shame that we act like [charter schools] are subpar to everyone else."
Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio), who previously served as a charter school director, first asked politely for Uresti to withdraw his amendment. When he refused, she shouted, "Pull it down!"
That amendment, along with others to bar public schools like charters from receiving transportation money through the basic allotment, failed.
Read more about the long debate and proposed amendments in the Austin American-Statesman.
We will continue following HB 21 and other education legislation closely throughout this session.