It is Mihaela’s goal that Texas reform recapture so that Plano ISD is not forced to run deficits, that teachers are paid a fair salary, and public education is protected by stopping vouchers.
Fully Funding Public Schools
I know firsthand the value of fully funding public schools. When Mihaela was a little girl attending Brinker Elementary in Plano ISD, the state was funding more than 50% of the cost of public education. Texas has not fully funded our public schools for almost two decades and in the state that boasts the ninth largest economy in the world — that is unacceptable. We have a responsibility and constitutional duty to ensure all of the five million children in Texas receive a world class education from highly skilled teachers in a safe learning environment with all the books, technology, and supplies they need. This vision and our duty to fulfill the Texas promise will only be possible when we fund schools by enrollment not attendance, increase the basic allotment, and index school funding to inflation to keep up with rising costs. Our schools will be transformed by this additional funding that will provide teacher raises, the ability to hire more teachers, counselors, and nurses. Schools will have more resources to secure lab equipment, modernize their technology, reduce class sizes, provide mental health support, better special education services, and more! When the state increases its share of public education funding, our property taxes go down. When the state reduces public school funding, then cities and counties raise property taxes to fund the gap.
Reform & Reduce Recapture
All the school districts in House District 70 are “recapture” districts, meaning all of us have to send a portion of our local property tax dollars back to Austin. The state deems certain school districts as having a higher property tax base than others and therefore “recaptures” some of those local tax dollars. There is a lack of transparency surrounding where those dollars ultimately end up and if they even stay in public education. Texas taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability with their hard-earned dollars. The way the state deems which school districts pay into recapture also has not been equitable or pragmatic. Plano ISD is the third highest payer of recapture right behind Austin ISD and Houston ISD. In 2022, Plano ISD paid almost $250 million into recapture while operating at a $48 million deficit. It’s not right and it’s not fair to the hardworking people of Collin County, that the state is taking millions and billions of our local tax dollars out of our community while failing to fully fund our public schools.
I proudly worked with our local school districts to craft our Recapture Transparency & Reform legislation that would promote transparency, reduce recapture payments, and keep more local dollars in the community. Our efforts are continuously gaining momentum and bipartisan support!
Our Recapture Transparency & Reform package includes the following five bills:
Taxparency: provides transparency in taxation by informing taxpayers what portion of their property tax bill remained in the local school district and how much was sent back to the state for recapture.
Early Payment Credits: allows school districts who pay their recapture payments early to receive a four percent payment reduction allowing more dollars to stay in the local school district.
Keep Money in Public Schools Act: ensures that all recapture payments paid to the state remain in the basic allotment under the Foundation Schools Program and are dedicated to public school funding.
Higher Yields for Public Schools: increases the minimum yield for school districts by converting two copper pennies into two golden pennies to retain more local taxpayer investment.
No Funding Cuts to Public Education: protects school districts from having to pay additional recapture payments when the per-pupil funding has decreased from the previous school year.
Teacher Pay Raises
Our hardworking, dedicated, and selfless teachers, counselors, principals, nurses, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, school resource officers, and everyone who contributes to the safety and success of the school environment deserves a dignified wage that allows them to thrive. A salary that values them as the highly skilled and training professionals they are. We must treat our teachers with the respect, dignity, and support they deserve. Mihaela supports increasing teacher salaries by at least $15,000 across the board along with raises for all of the support staff and school district employees. Investing in our schools and the people who make them successful incubators of talent and genius, is a worthy investment and one that will yield the highest returns for our society.
School vouchers, sometimes known as “education savings accounts” (ESAs), divert our tax dollars from our local public schools towards private schools that are not held to the same rigorous learning standards as our public schools. Vouchers deceive parents and students with promises of a better education, sometimes they mask themselves as a tool for underserved kids, but the reality is they are bad news for students, parents, and schools alike. Private schools are not equipped with the same expert professionals or resources public schools have to support and teach students with special needs and learning disabilities. Students with these special needs often return to their neighborhood public school after the private school system has failed them. There is also no transparency or accountability on how voucher money is spent making it highly susceptible to fraud. Further, vouchers perpetuate and further the inequities within our school systems and will hurt our most vulnerable students. Mihaela is firmly opposed to any and all voucher schemes no matter how they are packaged and sold to the Legislature. Any measure that would defund our public schools can count on Mihaela’s firmest opposition. Every time a vote on vouchers has come before the House, Mihaela has faithfully voted against them and they have failed to pass the House.
Early Childhood Intervention, Pre-K, & High Quality Child Care
Learning is a lifelong process that begins the day we are born and should continue throughout the lifespan. Many learning disabilities, such as autism, are often diagnosed in the first two or three years of life -- long before a child will start kindergarten at age five. However, early detection and intervention of learning and developmental disabilities leads to the best long term outcomes for the children allowing them to thrive and be independent. Texas has an Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program which serves children across our state by providing free screenings to any family who requests one for their child. If a screening detects any disabilities or impairments, then ECI will provide the appropriate therapy, counseling, and treatment for the child and family to ensure a healthy and happy childhood. Texas had been cutting funding to ECI for years. However, during Mihaela’s freshman term, she worked closely with her colleagues in the House and Senate to finally increase funding for ECI by $6.2 million. Our efforts prevailed and we secured additional millions of funding for ECI in the final budget. This funding increase will benefit thousands of children and families across the state for a generation.
Universal pre-k and high quality child care have countless benefits for our society! They provide children with early educational opportunities teaching them fundamental life skills, assessing key developmental milestones, and challenging them when their minds are most absorbent for knowledge and skills. Pre-k and child care also offer options for working families and ensure children are safe and learning while their parents or guardians are at work.