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March 6th, 2019:

Ridiculously early UT/TT poll: “Not Trump” leads

I’ll take it.

A slight majority of Texas voters would choose someone other than Donald Trump in a presidential race held right now, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

While 45 percent said they would “definitely vote for someone else,” 39 percent said they would “definitely vote to re-elect Donald Trump.” But the president got 10 percent who said they would “probably vote to re-elect Donald Trump,” and only 6 percent said they would “probably vote for someone else.”

If you count the leaners on both sides, that would be a virtual tie between Trump and an unnamed opponent.

“President ‘Else’ is doing pretty well,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “The definitely-vote-for-somebody-else is pretty solid, I think.”

The president is strong with Republicans (88 percent would re-elect) and weak with Democrats (93 percent want someone else). He’s got some work to do with independent voters. Only 24 percent would definitely vote for him, while 42 percent say they would definitely vote against him.

The poll is of 1,200 registered voters; for obvious reasons, there’s no such thing as a “likely voter” at this time. The advantage of the “generic Dem” approach is that it avoids any variance due to name recognition. Forty-five percent of RVs saying they will “definitely vote for someone else” – and 51% saying “definitely” or “probably” – is a strong statement, though of course how many of them show up to vote is another question.

The disadvantage to the “generic Dem” approach of course is that our hypothetical Democrat has no strengths or weaknesses, no record to tour or defend, no demonstrated ability to campaign or fundraise or what have you. All Dems are equal in this calculus, but as we well know some are more equal than others. But re-elections are always first and foremost a referendum on the incumbent, and this is a weak showing by Trump. It’s one result, it’s stupid early, blah blah blah, but this is not the kind of number to make Republicans breathe a sigh of relief. I suspect we’re going to get an awful lot more polling done in Texas over the next year and eight months. Buckle up.

Here comes the House school finance plan

Not surprisingly, they go bigger than the Senate.

Rep. Dan Huberty

With Texas House lawmakers unveiling their long-awaited school finance proposal Tuesday and the Senate’s version likely close behind, teacher pay appears to be emerging as one of the biggest sticking points between the two chambers.

House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, laid out their reform proposal at a press conference Tuesday, calling for raising minimum salaries for a broad group of educators, increasing health and pension benefits, and offering opportunities for merit pay programs. That approach differs substantially from the $4 billion proposal that sailed through the Senate on Monday that would provide mandatory across-the-board $5,000 raises for classroom teachers and librarians.

When asked about the Senate’s proposal, which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has championed, Bonnen said, “I don’t know how you call a $5,000 across-the-board teacher pay raise … with no discussion of reducing recapture, no discussion of reducing property taxes, no discussion of early childhood education, no discussion of incentivizing the teachers going to a tougher school to teach” a school finance plan.

“What we have is a plan,” he added. “I think teachers are some of the smartest people in Texas, and they are going to figure out that the Texas House has a winning plan for the teachers and students in Texas.”

[…]

The House proposal, House Bill 3, would increase the base funding per student while requiring school districts to meet a higher minimum base pay for classroom teachers, full-time counselors, full-time librarians and full-time registered nurses. Many districts already exceed the current minimum salaries for educators at different experience levels.

It would work hand-in-hand with House Bill 9, filed Monday by the speaker’s brother, Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, which would increase the state’s contribution to Teacher Retirement System pensions over time while keeping active member and district contributions the same.

HB 3 would also provide funding for districts that offer a merit pay program, rating their teachers and providing the top-rated ones with more money — modeled on a Dallas ISD program touted among lawmakers. The Senate is expected to include a similar proposal in its school finance bill later this week.

The politics surrounding the Senate’s teacher pay raise bill this session are unusual, with Patrick, who has previously clashed with educators, advocating for a proposal many teachers like. Meanwhile, conservative group Empower Texans, a key contributor to Patrick’s campaign, has come out against the bill, with one employeecriticizing conservatives like Patrick for “kowtowing” to liberals.

That bill has divided the education community, with superintendents and school boards arguing they need more flexibility with additional funds and many teachers supporting the directed raises.

Huberty said Tuesday that the House would “certainly have a hearing on that [Senate] bill” but that the school finance panel that worked to develop recommendations for lawmakers did not include across-the-board raises.

He said HB 3 provides more opportunity for local school boards and superintendents to decide how to use increased funding. More than 85 House members have signed on as co-authors of HB 3, and in a public show of support, many of them were present at Tuesday’s press conference.

See here and here for some background. A preview story about the House bill is here, and a story about that Senate bill is here. The Senate bill covers raises for teachers and librarians, but not other support personnel like nurses or bus drivers, which is one reason why the more-flexible approach is favored by school districts; that said, the president of the Texas State Teachers Association released a statement emphasizing the need for a Senate-style guaranteed teacher pay raise. The House is also taking a different approach on property taxes, as noted in that preview story:

According to the summary, the bill would increase the base funding per student by $890 to $6,030 — the first time that allotment has been raised in four years. It would also lower school district property tax rates statewide by 4 cents per $100 of taxable property value, helping to reduce so-called Robin Hood payments that redistribute money from wealthier districts to poorer ones. The compression could save the owner of a home with $250,000 in taxable value about $100 annually in school district taxes.

That method of property tax relief is different than one proposed by Gov. Greg Abbott last year, which would cap annual increases in school districts’ tax revenues at 2.5 percent.

There’s also the Democratic proposal, some of which is in HB3. All of this is a starting point, so I don’t want to get too far into the weeds. None of these bills will be adopted as is, and some of them may not get adopted at all. This and the budget will be the last pieces of business the Lege deals with, and the main reason why there could be a special session. We’ll keep an eye on it all. The Chron has more.

Morales wins HD145

Here’s the election night report. The margin was basically 61-39 with 42 of 45 precincts reporting, and turnout in the 3,000 range. Morales’ election fills two of the seats that were vacated by resignations following the November election. Dems won twelve seats to give them 67 total, but in actuality they have had between 64 and 66 since everyone was sworn in. They’re now officially at 66, and if they can win in HD125 next week they’ll get to that 67 figure we’ve been bandying about. In the meantime, my congratulations to Rep.-elect Christina Morales. I wish you all the best as you take office. My thanks to my friend Melissa Noriega for running a good campaign and giving it her best. One way or the other we were going to be well-represented.