Across the Lawn – December 15, 2023

December 15, 2023  

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.

One Thing to Do: 

Get Involved – ​Find and follow your regional advocacy director.

Special legislative sessions may be over for now, but public education advocacy is a year-round pursuit–getting involved in elections, building relationships with legislators, or forging connections with other advocates in your community. Your Raise Your Hand Texas regional advocacy director is ready to help you get connected! Find out who your regional advocacy director is and how to connect with them by clicking below:

Connect with a RAD

Four Things to Know

1. Governor Abbott Calls Fourth Called Special Session Comes to an End, Leaving School Funding and Teacher Pay Increases in Limbo for the 2023-24 School Year Special Session

The fourth called special session of the 88th Legislature ended on Tuesday, December 5. This marked 246 days the members of the Texas Legislature were in session during 2023, more than any other year since 1845.  

The items of the fourth special session included education savings accounts (also known as vouchers), public school funding, public school accountability, and school safety, but in the end all education issues were left on the table for future debate.  

Pushback on a state voucher program led to the stalemate. On November 17, the House stripped the controversial education savings account language from HB1 by Rep. Buckley (HD54) with a vote of 84-63 on an amendment authored by John Raney (HD14). After the Raney Amendment passed, the author of the bill pulled the legislation down rather than pass the school finance pieces without the voucher attached. HB 1 was then referred back to the Select Committee on Educational Opportunity & Enrichment, where it did not receive any further action. This leaves the remaining school funding, teacher workforce, special education, and assessment and accountability provisions of the bill on ice until either another called special session or the 89th Regular Session starting in January 2025. 

The bills passed by the Senate, SB1 (vouchers) by Sen. Creighton (SD4) and SB2 (teacher pay and school funding) by Sen. Creighton , and SB5 (school safety) by Sen. Huffman (SD17) also did not receive any further action.  

A Raise Your Hand Texas side-by-side of the major provisions of the House and Senate bills can be found here.

2. State Board of Education Continues Work on High-Quality Instructional Materials Rules

The State Board of Education (SBOE) held a special meeting on December 13 to continue its work on rulemaking for HB1605 (high quality instructional materials), passed by the 88th Texas Legislature, Regular Session.  The bill as passed has the other following provisions: 

  • Creates open education resource (OER) instructional materials for voluntary use by school districts; 
  • Prohibits the commissioner from requiring a school to use OER materials; 
  • Creates a $40-per-student state funding allotment to reimburse schools for the costs; $20-per-student allotment for printing;
  • Requires teachers to learn about OER materials maintained by the State Board of Education in each subject area and grade level covered by their certificate;
  • Requires districts to make all teaching materials available for review by parents both in person and through a parent portal not later than 30 days before the beginning of the school year through 30 days after the school year ends; and, 
  • Requires the SBOE to specify a list of required vocabulary and at least one literary work to be taught in each grade level. 

The SBOE continued the rulemaking process this month for the first round of the instructional material review and adoption process, which includes English language arts and reading K-8, Spanish language arts and reading, and mathematics K-12. 

For more information on this upcoming meeting please visit the SBOE website.

3. State Board of Education to Take Up or Down Vote on Library Book Rating Rules

HB900 (school library book ratings), passed by the 88th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, requires the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, with approval by majority vote of the SBOE, to adopt standards for school library collection development.

HB900 requires school library book vendors to rate materials for sexually explicit or sexually relevant materials. Over the past few months a legal challenge has made its way to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to determine the constitutionality of the new law. 

The State Board considered an action item at its December 13 meeting to review and consider approval of these new rules

4. School Accountability Court Case Trial Begins in February

In late October, a Travis County District Court barred the state from announcing its 2023 A-F school accountability ratings until the Court can consider the full case in a trial in February 2024.  The lawsuit argues applying the new College, Career, and Military standards to last school year’s data will unfairly make it appear that a school’s student outcomes have worsened when in many cases student outcomes have actually improved.  

The last version of HB1 passed from the Select Committee on Educational Opportunity & Enrichment  contained provisions requiring the A-F Accountability formulas to remain the same through the 2025-26 school year. The bill also created a Texas Commission on Assessment and Accountability and sunsets the entirety of Chapter 39 (accountability provisions) on August 31, 2026. 

Raise Your Hand Texas continues to believe in a robust assessment and accountability system that takes into account more than just one test on one day.

Tags: Advocacy Fourth Special Session school funding

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