AUSTIN — The Senate Education Committee is yanking out $1.5 billion worth of changes the House wants to make to begin fixing Texas’ strained school funding program, but its chairman said he’s open to negotiations.

The Senate plans to vote Saturday on a $311 million bill to create a $150 hardship program for schools losing money with the expiration of an outdated hold harmless program. The Senate plan also spends $120 million on facilities for charter and traditional public schools, and $41 million on small school districts. 

The Senate version is a far cry from the House’s $1.8 billion plan which supporters characterize as the first phase in a multi-session school finance overhaul.

The House version of House Bill 21 increases the base amount of money the state uses to calculate how much it spends per student, spends more money on bilingual and dyslexic students and extends career and technical education to eighth grade. The House bill also updates how transportation is funded, creates a hardship program for school districts losing money from the expiration of the hold harmless program. 

Education Chairman Larry Taylor told the committee Friday the Senate is willing to negotiate on its version of the bill in hopes both chambers can agree to “something we can live with,” but added the Legislature needs to “live within our means.” 

Nearly 1,500 school superintendents and school board members signed a letter to the Senate Thursday urging the chamber to approve the House version, saying the original proposal “provides immediate help to schools across Texas that have been coping with the state’s diminishing role in funding education.”

Andrea Zelinski covers politics and education for the Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Send her tips at