Across the Lawn Feb. 17, 2023

February 17, 2023  

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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

1. Watch the Texas Tribune event, School Choice: What’s Right for Texas?

Watch the Texas Tribune conversation which featured Raise Your Hand Texas’ executive director, Dr. Michelle Smith. Additional panelists included Laura Colangelo, executive director of the Texas Private Schools Association; Dr. Scott Muri, superintendent of the Ector County Independent School District; and Randan Steinhauser, a partner with Steinhauser Strategies.

The Five Things to Know

1. Governor Abbott Makes Education Freedom and School Safety Emergency Item

Gov. Greg Abbott declared education freedom an emergency item for this legislative session during his State of the State address Thursday night. In his remarks, Gov. Abbott called for “education freedom” for all Texans through the use of state-funded Education Savings Accounts. He emphasized that “under this school choice program, all public schools will be fully funded for every student.” 

The issue of school safety was also declared an emergency item. Gov. Abbott commented, “We must establish the safest standards, and then use the newly created Chief of School Safety [at the Texas Education Agency] to mandate compliance with those standards, and we must provide more mental health professionals in our schools.”

Read the entire State of the State Address here.

2. Lt. Governor Patrick Discusses Priority Bills for Legislative Session

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced his top 30 priority bills for the legislative session Monday. Included on the list were the following bills related to education (these bills have yet to be filed): 

SB 8 (empowering parental rights, including school choice)
SB 9 (empowering teacher rights, teacher pay raise)
SB 10 (adding 13th checks for retired teachers)
SB 11 (keeping our schools safe and secure – school safety)
SB 13 (protecting children from obscene books in libraries)

3. Texas Tribune Hosted Panel on School Choice – panelists included RYHT Executive Director Dr. Michelle Smith

During a Thursday, Feb. 16 Texas Tribune event, the executive director of Raise Your Hand Texas, Dr. Michelle Smith, discussed the important policy issues facing our public schools this legislative session, including the need for continued investment in public education and stopping any form of voucher proposal from becoming state law.    

Dr. Smith stressed vouchers, no matter what they are called, are a scheme to divert public funds to private schools and vendors. She explained the lack of public accountability in any voucher program leaves the system open to mismanagement and lacks of any accountability. Pointing to the recently passed universal Education Savings Accounts in other states, Dr. Smith underscored that a similar universal voucher in Texas would cost $3 billion per year simply to fund the more than 300,000 students currently enrolled in private schools.    

4. House Appropriations Talks School Funding, Announces Subcommittees

The House Appropriations Committee met Tuesday, Feb 14 to discuss the state’s two-year revenue estimate, property tax relief, and public education funding. Similar to the discussions last week in the Senate Committee on Finance, major questions centered on how much and what type of property tax relief should be adopted, teacher pay, and the inflationary cost pressures on school district budgets. Language in the House proposed budget currently provides $15 billion for additional property tax relief and a placeholder for increased funding for public education funding through a basic allotment increase, teacher pay, and school safety.  

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III (Education) members named: 
Rep. Gary VanDeaver, Chair (R)
Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Vice Chair (D)
Rep. John Bryant (D)
Rep. Armando Martinez (D)
Rep. Geanie W. Morrison (R)
Rep. Lina Ortega (D)
Rep. Carl Tepper (R)
Rep. Carrie Isaac (R)
Rep. Kronda Thimesch (R)

5. Education Bills of Note

HB 2162 by Rep. Dutton relating to reading instruction, assessment instruments, and interventions provided to public school students. This bill changes how K-3 reading diagnostics are selected and how reading interventions are provided at the local school level. The bill also mandates schools provide parents with up to $1,000 in private, third-party contracted reading tutorial services for students who are determined to need interventions after two consecutive years of not meeting specific standards.  

HB 2358 by Rep. Dutton relating to the creation of the Texas Teacher Residency Partnership Program and a residency partnership allotment under the Foundation School Program. This bill funds residency partnerships between school districts and eligible education preparation programs through the creation of a residency partnership allotment.   

HB 2386 by Rep. Capriglione relating to supplemental instruction provided for public school students who fail to achieve satisfactory performance on certain assessment instruments. This bill amends the accelerated instruction requirements passed in House Bill 4545 (87R) by setting a cap on maximum supplemental instruction time to 45 total hours, and by allowing school districts to offer supplemental instruction virtually. 

SB 960 by Senator Campbell relating to state savings and government efficiency achieved through a taxpayer savings grant program administered by the Comptroller. 

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