State of the State Address, Governor’s Budget in Texas
On February 17, Governor Abbott delivered his 2015 State of the State address to a joint session of the Texas House and Senate. In his address he declared early education as his “first emergency item,” called on the state to establish a goal for all students to perform at grade level in math and reading by the end of third grade, and called on the Legislature to permit school districts to opt out of parts of the state’s Education Code. He called for the state to restrain the increasing cost of higher education, expand community colleges and increase the research standing of its universities. His address also highlighted elements of his budget proposal, including additional funding for schools that adopt high-quality prekindergarten programs and funding to provide third-grade teachers with literacy and math training.
The governor’s proposed budget for the 2016-17 biennium would increase general fund education spending by 2.4 percent over the 2014-15 biennium, to $54.5 billion. This includes $2.2 billion to reduce property taxes that fund education; $118 million to provide $1,500 per prekindergarten student to ensure that each student attends high-quality prekindergarten programs; $30 million each for four-day Literary Achievement Academies and Math Achievement Academies for kindergarten through grade three teachers; $30 million for Reading-to-Learn academies for grade four and grade five teachers; $100 million for a technology grant program to improve telecommunications infrastructure at low-performing schools; and $531.8 for college and university tuition exemptions for military family members.