Earlier this week, the Texas Senate approved a bill that would give teachers and school librarians across the state a $5,000 annual raise. If the measure passes the House, it seems likely Governor Greg Abbott will sign the bill into law. After all, during his State of the State address on February 5, Texas Governor Greg Abbott named teacher pay raises as an emergency item along with school finance reform and property tax relief.

Gov. Abbott obviously isn't the only official concerned with the way our schools are funded.  Property and business owners across the state are watching the legislature carefully in the wake of the Texas Senate's decision, and local chambers of commerce are expressing their concerns.

The following release was issued by the Belton Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning. We present it in full:

The boards of directors of the Belton Chamber of Commerce, the Temple Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce and the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce region have joined together to advocate for changes in the way public education has been funded in recent years.

Resolutions, and position statements, adopted by the four business organizations state the reasons for their position. For example: In 2008, school funding allocations were comprised of approximately 45% local funds, 45% state funds and 10% federal funds. In 2018, school funding allocations had shifted to 55.5% local funds, 35% state funds and 9.5% federal funds.

Randy Pittenger, President/CEO of the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce said, “Despite significant growth in student population over the past decade, state funding, on a per student basis, has declined per student. The State has a constitutional obligation to support and maintain an efficient system of public schools. True property tax relief will only come when the Legislature reverses the trend of increasingly relying on local taxpayers to fund public education.”

Dr. Susan Kincannon, Belton ISD Superintendent added, “Our students deserve a public school system that is adequately and equitably funded. Our taxpayers deserve a school funding system that produces substantially equal revenue for equal effort. It’s encouraging to see that the Legislature is focused on providing additional resources for public schools during this session.

Belton ISD believes that funding increases should come with the flexibility to make local decisions.”

The chambers also point out that fast growing districts, like those in Central Texas, are also forced to carry the burden of adding facilities without adequate support from the State. Texas public schools enroll an average of 75,000 new students every year.  Roughly 80% of those new students are in just 75 of the state’s more than 1,200 public school districts.

Kayla Potts, Chair of the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors said, “Our chambers represent member businesses who are significant tax payers in our communities. Those member businesses are also significant contributors to the economic success that the State of Texas enjoys. Schools are charged with developing college-ready or work-ready young people to help us continue that economic success. The current public school funding system is overly complex, confusing and inefficient. This produces waste and should stop – for everyone’s benefit.”

The chambers are asking legislators to, at a minimum, return to the 2008 funding allocation percentages. Other recommendations are included in the resolutions and position statements which will be provided to members of the legislature and to chamber members.

The chambers are encouraging their member businesses to contact members of the legislature to voice concerns.

We all want to Texas students to succeed and keep our economy growing and thriving. Business owners, especially, want to hire Texans with the skills and resourcefulness to help them succeed.

That said, they have every reason to be concerned with where public school funds come from and how they're spent. If you own property or a business, don't be shy about getting in touch with your representatives and sharing your perspective and ideas. After all, they're supposed to be working for you.