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School Finance Reform 101

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We asked a lot of residents Friday about House Bills 2 and 3, which are being debated in Austin. The consensus: not too many people really know what the school finance debate is all about. Hopefully, we'll clarify some of that here.

First, House Bill 2, which passed in the Texas House early Friday by a 75-69 vote, and will move on to the Senate as a result. It's a total refinance of school funding, and the major point is that school property taxes would be reduced by one-third.

Last year, a judge ruled the state's system unconstitutional, although the state is appealing the ruling to the state Supreme Court. Changes include connecting teacher pay raises to performance, as well as changes in testing policies for students.

House Bill 2, though, doesn't happen without House Bill 3. That's the plan that will fund those aforementioned changes. Where property taxes would go down through House Bill 2, the sales tax would go up through House Bill 3, from 6.25 percent to 7.25 percent. In addition, there would be an additional three percent tax on snacks, and a $1 increase on cigarettes.

There was hope House Bill 3 would be voted on Friday, but legislators had some questions about the wording of the bill, and added supplemental bills as well. That vote could come Monday.

For continuing coverage of the legislature's hottest topic, stay tuned to KBTX and KBTX.com.