Texas Houston Democratic Caucus members at March 15, 2023 press conference announcing their ‘Invest in Texas Children’ plan.
Texas Houston Democratic Caucus members at March 15, 2023 press conference announcing their ‘Invest in Texas Children’ plan. Photo courtesy Twitter, @TexasHDC Credit: Photo courtesy Twitter, @TexasHDC

On the heels of the Texas Education Agency announcing its takeover of the Houston Independent School District, the Texas House Democratic Caucus released their Invest in Texas Children plan that would give every school the resources they need to succeed.

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“House Democrats believe that the State cannot be the arsonist and the fire marshal. If school districts like HISD are expected to meet a standard, then the State of Texas must fund schools to be able to meet that standard,” stated a THDC press release. “While Republicans work to break the public education system by pulling money out of classrooms for corporate tax cuts and private school vouchers, House Democrats are instead proposing a critical $15 billion investment to put children before corporate tax cuts and to invest in the future of Texas.”

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, applauded the move by the THDC, especially because it is a solution-oriented approach to a critical issue, and not merely problem-focused rhetoric.

“What teachers and students in HISD are experiencing now with the TEA takeover is exactly why Texas needs to be investing more dollars into our schools,” said Reynolds, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. “We have witnessed a state-engineered failure as a result of Texas’ disinvestment in our classrooms, and our kids are paying the price for it. We need solutions that address the systemic issues that exist in public education, and that begins with the sweeping reforms in the ‘Invest in Texas Children’ Plan.”

THDC member Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher (D-San Antonio) agreed with Reynolds, and pointed to the money sitting in the state’s coffers.

“With a once-in-a-lifetime budget surplus of $44 billion in our checking account and $27 billion in our savings account, we finally have the resources we need to invest in our children, in our teachers and in our public education system while at the same time honoring our commitment to our retired educators,” Fisher said. “Like our families, schools across Texas are operating with record inflation and rising costs. Unable to adjust salaries and compensation to match inflation, schools are also struggling to retain and attract teachers, resulting in a historic teacher shortage. The Texas Legislature cannot squander this rare opportunity to properly fund Texas schools.”

Martinez said with the “Invest in Texas Children” plan House Democrats are proposing a critical $15 billion investment in the future of Texas, and cautions against individuals who would call the plan impossible or an overreach.

“This plan is neither radical nor unattainable. Our proposal would simply bring the state’s funding for schools to parity with the increased costs of operating our schools. Every penny of investments proposed by House Democrats is well within our state’s budgetary means, and still leaves billions in revenue. “House Democrats will lead with our values by making the necessary investments in our future that will always come before sending billions of tax dollars to out-of-state corporations.”

The Invest in Texas Children plan has four core tenets:

  • Raise the Basic Student Allotment to Match Inflation
    • House Democrats propose raising the amount the state spends per student to $7,500 by 2025 for $11 billion, keeping pace with inflation. This would be a 23% increase in the allotment — the same as inflation between Fall 2019 and the 2024-25 school year.
    • Since 2019, the State has not put any new money in schools despite the challenges brought on by COVID and rising inflation.
  • Funding Public Schools by Enrollment
    • House Democrats propose shifting to funding schools by enrollment, giving schools more financial certainty in allocating resources as well as investing an additional $3 billion into classrooms.
    • Instead of using enrollment — the number of actual students served — our state currently determines funding based largely on an archaic attendance system that left nearly 300,000 students unfunded in the 2021-22 school year.
  • Reducing Teacher Shortages & Raising Salaries for Educators
    • House Democrats propose a critical investment in compensation for teachers with a $7,000 raise in 2024 and a $10,000 raise in 2025 to reduce shortages as well as boost retention. Librarians, counselors, and nurses would also be guaranteed raises.
    • The lack of teachers has resulted in larger class sizes and less individual instruction while also fueling a vicious cycle of teachers leaving the profession.
  • Honoring Our Commitment to Retired Teachers
    • House Democrats propose a $1 billion additional investment in TRS to improve H.B. 600 and provide a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers without raising contribution levels for active teachers. Retirees would receive 6%, 4%, and 2% COLAs depending on their retirement year.
    • Retirees have not had a COLA in nearly 20 years, a reality worsened by rising inflation. Investing in TRS would also help make the teaching profession more attractive.

THDC members say what this means for Texas schools is that there would finally be increased funding for teacher pay raises, school safety, hiring more counselors, smaller classes and improving school facilities.

According to the THDC, while Texas Republicans have only proposed a $50 funding increase per Texas student, House Democrats are fighting for a $1,340 increase per student.

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...