Two Texas legislators said they are committed to carrying out their promises of increasing public education funding made during the last legislative session before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dan Huberty, chair of the House Public Education Committee, and Larry Taylor, chair of the Senate Education Committee, discussed the future of funding for public schools in the pre-recorded “School Finance and the 87th Legislature” panel Monday morning at the 2020 Texas Tribune Festival.
“During this interim, funding is going to be a challenge,” Taylor, R-Friendswood, said. “We're going to try to do everything we can to follow through on that commitment … to make sure that our students get the education they need to succeed and continue (for) Texas as a great leader in our state (and) our country.”
Huberty, R-Houston, said public education funds this year were put toward laptops, tablets and other devices to aid student learning in a pandemic.
“Our number one focus this summer has been to get the campuses open and get tools open,” Huberty said. “People have to go back to work, but they need a place for the kids to go as well, so it's very important for us to accomplish that.”
After seeing the increase in technology use toward online learning, Huberty said the pandemic could change how education is delivered to students.
“One of the things I think people are missing is that this is an opportunity for us to change the way that we do education forever,” Huberty said. “Taking this opportunity … is certainly going to give a huge opportunity for kids to do some amazing (things).”
Texas H.B. 3, a bipartisan school finance bill, passed unanimously in the Texas House and Senate last year. The bill, authored by Huberty and sponsored by Taylor, approved $6.5 billion toward public education spending.
Taylor said the Texas Legislature will tweak the bill this session to adjust to the state’s needs. He said he will defend the bill to make sure the changes do not mess with the bill’s original intent.
“This was a big package that we felt was all important,” Taylor said. “It's going to be a matter of making sure we keep the integrity of that bill there.”
Huberty said while the bill was a “historic change in education” Texas had not seen in 30 years, the upcoming legislative session will allow them to correct issues that were previously in the bill and take advantage of the interconnectivity of learning through technology.
“We have a robust economy that's going to open back up, and we'll get back to normalcy here soon,” Huberty said. “The teachers and the people that work within the school systems understand that as we're going forward, it's going to be tough, but we're willing to be able to dig in and make it work.”