Across the Lawn May 28, 2021

May 28, 2021  

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The FIVE Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do

Raise Your Hand Texas has a front-row seat to the Capitol. From our vantage point, public education policy issues have never been more important, and this is why we must make every session a public education session.

The One Thing to Do:

Tell members of the Texas House to bury outcomes-based funding for good. 

This session, public education stakeholders, advocates, and the Texas House have repeatedly rejected tying school funding — including in the form of a ‘bonus’ — to student STAAR scores.

Unfortunately, the Texas Senate has done the opposite. This week, the chamber added test-based funding to the CSHB 1525 school finance ”clean-up” bill, forcing the House to consider it yet again.

Let’s bury this high-stakes and unproven policy once and for all. Tell legislators to reject any bill — including bills coming out of conference committees — that include test-based funding.

Take Action!

1. Senate Adds Test-Based Funding Program to School Finance “Clean-Up” Bill

The Senate added a test-based funding provision to the last possible vehicle leaving that chamber on Wednesday. The Senate version of HB 1525 by Rep. Huberty, a school finance “clean-up” bill, now contains a provision that gives up to a $1,000 bonus to school districts for students who perform at or above a certain level on the STAAR test. This language has already been rejected twice by the Texas House.

The Senate did remove a provision from the bill requiring schools to “bank” 40 percent of round three federal stimulus funds to be used over a five-year period. Under federal guidelines, these funds may be used for COVID-19-related issues from March 13, 2020 through September 30, 2024. Sen. Taylor commented during the state budget discussion that the 40 percent provision was removed due to additional guidance from the Department of Education.

The Senate did add almost two dozen amendments, prompting one senator to call the bill “the education train.” The chamber added provisions related to the small- and mid-sized adjustments, the fast-growth allotment, reestablishing the gifted and talented allotment, sex education opt-in instead of opt-out requirements, use of PTA donations, and pre-K class-size limits.

The bill will now go to a conference committee for final negotiations.

2. Budget Goes To Governor; Sen. Taylor Announces No State Restrictions on Federal Stimulus Funds for Public Education

Both the House and Senate voted to adopt the final version of SB 1, the next two-year state budget. This budget fully funds public education, including all of the provisions passed in HB 3 last legislative session.

During the budget discussion, Sen. Larry Taylor announced the $5.5 billion from the second round of federal stimulus will flow to schools without any additional restrictions from the state; however, we have yet to see any formal announcements on these funds.

3. Remote Learning Bill Passes Senate

The Senate passed HB 1468 by Rep. Keith Bell on Wednesday. The bill provides funding for remote public school instruction to students in a school district’s attendance area. The bill enables districts or charters who have a “C” rating or higher to receive funding and create a local policy for remote learning. It allows schools to provide remote instruction for all grades and requires professional development for teachers. There will be an interim study related to virtual and remote learning, and the funding will sunset in 2027, meaning the legislature must revisit this issue. The bill will now go to a conference committee for final negotiations.

4. Bills to Watch During the Last Three Days of Session

Over the next few days, negotiations will wrap up on numerous pieces of legislation that could impact public education. All conference committee reports must be issued by midnight Saturday so that both chambers have time to take an up or down vote Sunday. The last day of the session, Monday, is typically reserved for corrections to any remaining items.

  • HB 999 by Rep. Diego Bernal was passed from the Senate. This bill allows a 2021 senior’s individual graduation committee to determine graduation eligibility without considering the student’s end-of-course test performance.
  • HB 1468 by Rep. Keith Bell was voted from the Senate. The remote learning bill will most likely go to a conference committee.
  • HB 3979 by Rep. Steve Toth limits instruction and student learning related to current events, public policy, and issues of race. It will likely head to a conference committee.
  • HB 547 by Rep. James Frank allows eligible homeschooled students to participate in UIL activities. It will likely head to a conference committee.
  • SB 1365 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt dealing with school sanctions and accountability ratings passed the House and Senate this week and will likely go to a conference committee.
5. Deadlines End Legislative Process for Numerous Bills of Interest

These bills of interest did not meet the House or Senate deadlines and will not pass this legislative session.

  • SB 1968 by Sen. Bettencourt was a tax credit scholarship voucher. It never made it to the Senate floor.
  • HB 764 by Rep. Matt Krause removed standardized test requirements in writing in grades four and seven, in social studies in grade eight, and in any additional subject and grade not required by federal law. It never was heard in the Senate Education Committee.
  • SB 28 by Sen. Bettencourt addressed certain zoning, permitting, and land use regulations for charter schools and failed to get to the House floor.
  • SB 2094 by Sen. Taylor contained provisions related to accelerated instruction and outcomes-based funding. It did not meet the House deadline, but the outcomes-based funding provision was added to HB 1525.
6. Take our Across the Lawn Survey

You’re in the club. You can’t resist. You follow every move of the Texas Legislature because you know how much it impacts your family, school, and community. We hope our weekly Across the Lawn emails have been a valuable resource to stay on top of crucial public education issues.

Whether you pored over every word of the 20 installments, or you only skimmed one or two, we want your feedback! What have we done well and what can we do better to guide you through the interim and the 88th Legislative Session?

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