Across The Lawn Feb. 24, 2023

February 24, 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 First House Public Education Committee

Watch the first House Public Education Committee hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 8:00 a.m. This will be an organizational meeting with invited testimony from the Texas Education Agency and the Texas School Safety Center. 

The Five Things to Know

1. TEA Releases Teacher Vacancy Task Force Final Report

The Teacher Vacancy Task Force’s (TVTF) final report, Developing a Thriving Teacher Workforce in Texas, includes policy recommendations to address teacher vacancies throughout Texas. 

Through examining research and evidence, considering the perspectives of educators across the state, and continuous stakeholder input, the TVTF developed recommendations focused on support for teachers in the key areas of teacher compensation, training and support, and working conditions. 

Raise Your Hand Texas looks forward to continued discussions on teacher workforce issues. For RYHT recommendations on this policy issue read more here.

2. Governor Abbott Releases Budget Recommendations

Last week, Governor Abbott released his recommendations for the 2024-25 state budget. On the issues of education, the Governor recommends:

  • Further empowering parents by establishing an Education Savings Account program that allows funding to follow the student to the educational provider and/or services of the parent’s choosing.
  • Addressing curriculum challenges with outcomes that enhance student performance, minimize inappropriate and ideological content, improve quality of classroom instructional materials, help ease teachers’ workloads, and ensure curriculum transparency for parents.
  • Continue enhancing the security of our schools by providing no less than $600 million to make necessary school safety improvements including technology upgrades, hardening equipment, and expanded mental health resources, as well as other school safety needs; providing $6.6 million for officer ALERRT training; and providing $142 million to sustain the statewide implementation of TCHATT.
  • Aligning special education funding with the student-first school finance system established in House Bill 3 by implementing the recommendations of the Texas Commission on Special Education Funding, which include transitioning to a service intensity-based formula system, making investments in the special education educator workforce, and increasing funding for evaluations. 
  • Investing in our teaching professionals by (1) increasing pay and support for current teachers, including increases through the Teacher Incentive Allotment program, (2) expanding access to high-quality educator preparation programs, such as teacher residencies and apprenticeships, and (3) improving teacher support in the classrooms.
  • Authorizing a benefit enhancement for retired teachers in the Teacher Retirement System to honor our commitment to those who have educated our Texas children.

3. Even Long-Time Supporters Are Wary of Vouchers

Even long-time voucher advocates are wary of universal Education Savings Accounts.  Chester E. Finn, Jr., distinguished senior fellow and president emeritus at Fordham Institute, recently warned, “We can (and should) push for more rights and decision-making for parents, but let’s not be naïve about what will result, much of it good for kids, but some not. Too many of today’s “schools of choice”—charter, private, and district-operated—have mediocre-to-awful outcomes and aren’t racking up solid gains, either, yet they’re full of kids whose parents selected them.”

To read the full article visit: Why I’m Wary of Universal Savings Accounts.

4. Education Bills of Note

HB 2547 by Rep. Toth relating to the creation and administration of the Rural Parents Protection Plan Grant Program at the Texas Department of Agriculture. Program funds will be allocated to each child to an educational program best suited for that child.

HB 2530 by Rep. Toth relating to state savings achieved through a budget savings program administered by the comptroller of public accounts making an appropriation of a portion of those savings.

HB 2588 by Rep. Talarico relating to the permissible uses of the school safety allotment and the creation of a mental health allotment under the Foundation School Program.

HB 2661 by Rep. Rosenthal relating to eliminating the requirement to use public school assessment instruments as indicators of achievement under the public school accountability system.

5. Upcoming Hearings

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III is scheduled to meet at 9:00 am on Monday, Feb. 27 to discuss public education finance topics including the TEA, the Permanent School Fund, and the Teacher Retirement System. 

The House Public Education Committee is scheduled to meet at 8:00 am on Tuesday, Feb. 28 for an organizational meeting to hear invited testimony from TEA and the Texas School Safety Center. 

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