Across the Lawn May 21, 2021

May 21, 2021  

87th Legislative Session Weekly Update  |  Friday, May 21, 2021

The FIVE Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do

Welcome to Across the Lawn, Issue 20.

The nineteenth week of the 87th Legislative Session has come to a close. Check out our one thing to do and five things to know.

Raise Your Hand Texas has a front-row seat to the 87th Legislature (we can see the Capitol across the south lawn). From our vantage point, public education policy issues have never been more important. This weekly session update will keep you informed and engaged.

The One Thing to Do:

The Texas Education Agency released its stakeholder survey for round three federal stimulus funds. The Stakeholder Engagement Survey will close by 5 p.m. today.

Those who take the survey should be aware that a question regarding remedial services for students with disabilities provides direct payments to parents, rather than support for public school programs.

Raise Your Hand Texas opposed this concept during the legislative session because services for students with disabilities should involve all of the stakeholders through the student’s Individual Education Plan.

Please encourage the Commissioner to ensure federal stimulus dollars are not spent on unproven programs like vouchers or outcomes-based funding.

Five Things to Know:

1. Public Education Fully Funded in State Budget, But Questions Remain on Federal Stimulus Funding

The conference committee members for Senate Bill 1 (state budget) have finished their negotiations. The state will fully fund public education over the next two years. Still, questions remain on the amount and use of certain federal stimulus funds, including the $5.5 billion from round two that has yet to be allocated to schools.

The conferees rejected the House provisions prohibiting the use of federal stimulus funds to reduce state funding for schools. They also removed language prohibiting the use of state funds from supporting a school voucher, education savings account, or tax credit scholarship programs. House members strongly supported the voucher prohibition with a vote of 115-29.

2. Governor Abbott Issues Executive Order Prohibiting Schools from Requiring Masks

Gov. Abbott issued a May 18th Executive Order effective June 5 stating that no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus.

3. School Funding “Clean-Up” Bill to be Debated on the Senate Floor

The Senate version of House Bill 1525, the school funding “clean-up,” could be discussed on the Senate floor today. The bill contains numerous funding adjustments for small and mid-size schools, career and technology courses, and fast-growth schools. But the provision receiving the most attention is related to how quickly schools can spend the $11.2 billion they will receive from the third round of federal stimulus funds.

Under federal guidelines, these funds may be used for COVID-19-related issues from March 13, 2020, through September 30, 2024. However, under the Senate version of HB 1525, schools would be required to “bank” up to 40 percent of these funds so they could be spent over five years. Raise Your Hand believes decisions on the timing and the use of these funds should be made at the local level.

4. Senate Version of HB 4545 May Keep Outcomes-Based Funding Alive

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear House Bill 4545 by Rep. Harold Dutton. As passed by the House, the bill provides funding for an accelerated instruction program for students that have not performed satisfactorily on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. Raise Your Hand is watching to see if the Senate Education Committee will consider a substitute to the bill restoring a test-based funding program that was stripped by the House earlier this month. The contentious program provides up to $1,000 for certain students who performed at a certain level on the STAAR test. SB 2094 by Sen. Larry Taylor contains similar language and has been voted out of the House Public Education Committee without test-based funding. The deadline for passing Senate bills from the House floor is Tuesday.

5. Remote Learning to be Discussed in Senate Education Committee

Raise Your Hand’s David Anderson will testify on Rep. Keith Bell’s remote learning bill, HB 1468, during the Senate Education Committee today. The bill provides funding for remote public school instruction to students in a school district’s attendance area. There will most likely be a committee substitute offered that enables schools to create a local policy for remote learning if the district or charter has a “C” rating or higher. The Senate version may also allow students below third grade to be part of a remote learning program.

Raise Your Hand Texas believes it’s crucial that schools offering remote learning also provide access to in-person services as needed. We should not replicate the poor performance of the statewide full-time virtual programs, which often enroll students hundreds of miles away.

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Categories: Across the Lawn

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