AUSTIN, Texas — Last week, the Texas Senate passed a bill that gives $100 million to both traditional school districts and charter schools to help build and maintain facilities over the next two years.
Senate Bill 457 addresses the long-time funding inequity between charter and other public schools in the state. As the law currently stands, charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, cannot levy property taxes to pay for construction or get additional funding like traditional school districts can, according to Austin American-Statesman, a local publication.
While the bill passed 20 to 10, Senator Kirk Watson, D-Austin, added an amendment that still gives traditional public schools funding. It will give traditional school districts $50 million in facilities funding to pay off existing construction debt, reported Austin American-Statesman, while the other $50 million will go to charter schools.
Watson also amended the bill to be capped at $100 million over the next two years. Originally, the bill would have cost $411 million over two years. As of now, the current budget approved by the House and Senate does not include the $100 million, so both chambers still have to approve it.
This latest bill approval was the answer that charter schools have long been seeking. Charter schools’ inability to pay for construction has left many to lease buildings or use savings and donations to build new ones. Traditional school districts, however, have been opposed to charter schools since they aren’t held to the same standards. In fact, if a charter school closes, taxpayers could risk not receiving back any state money that went to the school.
The vote comes just two years after the Texas House of Representatives approved a $3.1 billion bond package to support construction on campuses across the state.