Across the Lawn Jan. 20, 2023

January 20, 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. Follow Your Representative and Senator on Social Media

In November 2022, the One Thing to Do encouraged you to review election results and learn who was recently elected. This week, we are encouraging you to follow your respective state reps and senators on social media so you can stay informed on their work at the Capitol and hear first-hand with whom they are meeting and what they have to say about the issues. Some representatives and senators include their social media links in their official biography on the House or Senate member page.

If you don’t know who your state representative or senator is, check out our new “Who Represents Me” tool on our website. Simply type in your address to learn who serves as your elected officials and which Raise Your Hand Texas Regional Advocacy Director works in your corner of Texas.

Four Things to Know:

1. Budget Work Begins with Release of House and Senate Base Budgets

Texas lawmakers now have a first draft of the 2024-25 state budget. Both House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1 were filed on Wednesday, Jan. 18 and provide insight to the funding issues that will be discussed in the coming months.

An item of note in the public education budget is $15 billion of total appropriations for property tax relief. The bill leaves it up to lawmakers to determine how most of the property tax relief will be provided, including, but not limited to, school district tax rate reduction or an increase to the current homestead exemption.

As far as any increases to public education funding, an amount is not specified. There are placeholders stating it is the intent of the Legislature to provide increased funding for public school districts and public charter schools. As the draft bills state, this school funding increase could come in the form of compensation and benefits for classroom teachers; additional funding for the Teacher Incentive Allotment (Senate version); or increases to teacher compensation, the basic allotment, school safety allotment, or instructional materials and technology allotment (House version).

There is language providing an additional $600 million to assist school districts in implementing school safety initiatives through supplemental appropriations for the current 2022-23 state budget. For those wanting to do a deeper dive into the 1,000+ page state budget, the Legislative Budget Board’s website provides full text and summaries. 

This week’s bill filing is just one of the first steps in the budget process for lawmakers. As committees are formed and hearings begin, we will keep you up to date. For more on Raise Your Hand Texas’ school funding policy recommendations, visit our policy priorities page.

2. Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick Take Oath of Office

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick both swore their respective oaths of office for their third terms on Tuesday, Jan 17. Abbott addressed the historic state budget surplus and said he intended to provide the “largest property tax cut in Texas history.” On education issues, Abbott vowed to protect parents’ rights to direct their children’s education and emphasized school safety and mental health services for students. 

Patrick promised to deliver pay raises for teachers and called for historic property tax relief in the form of an increased homestead exemption. Patrick emphasized school choice saying he and the governor are “all in.” He acknowledged concerns from rural communities and stated there was a plan to protect those schools financially and make sure those parents also have choice.

3. Texas Commission on Virtual Education Releases Recommendations

The Texas Commission on Virtual Education released its 120-page report containing six objectives related to virtual education in schools. The Commission conducted 11 meetings over the course of the year before releasing their objectives which include:

  • Increasing access to high-quality virtual school options to ensure families can choose the best modality for each student 
  • Ensuring course access and promoting work-based learning advancement through streamlined supplemental course catalog
  • Ensuring learning continuity for students and schools in the face of known and future challenges 
  • Building educator readiness and skill to deliver virtual learning with excellence 
  • Creating aligned and appropriate accountability and planning expectations across schools, regardless of modality
  • Establishing adequate and equitable virtual learning funding mechanisms to support clarity, consistency, and success

4. Raise Your Hand Texas’ Bills of Interest for 88th Legislative Session

With seven weeks before the March 10 deadline to file bills, there is still a considerable number of bills left to be drafted, filed, and ultimately referred to House and Senate committees. As we continue to track public education policy throughout the session, we will use this space to provide you with timely information on some of the bills moving through the legislative process. As of now, there are 300+ bills related to public education. Below are just a few of the bills related to school funding, assessment and accountability, and potential voucher programs we are monitoring.

  • School Funding and Basic Allotment Increases: Rep. Donna Howard and Sen. Nathan Johnson filed companion Bills HB 882 and SB 88, which would increase the basic allotment to $7,075 and use the consumer price index (CPI) to calculate an inflationary adjustment to the basic allotment every school year beginning in 2024-25. Rep. Vikki Goodwin filed HB 1107, which would raise the basic allotment to $6,500 and increase it yearly by the lesser of 3% or the CPI.
  • Enrollment vs. Average Daily Attendance Funding: Several bills would change the Texas school finance system from attendance-based funding to enrollment-based funding. HB 31 filed by Rep. Gina Hinojosa, HB 348 filed by Rep. John Bucy; HB 1376 by Rep. J.M. Lozano, and SB 263 by Sen. Johnson. 
  • Retired Teachers Cost-of-Living Adjustments: At least five bills provide a proposed cost-of-living adjustment to benefits for retired teachers. HB 160 by Rep. Bucy, HB 301 by Rep. Glenn Rogers, HB 332 by Rep. Terry Canales, HB 1218 by Rep. Lozano, and SB 109 filed by Sen. José Menéndez.
  • Assessment and Accountability: There are over 20 assessment and accountability bills, including: HB 977 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver. This bill would establish the Texas Commission on Assessment and Accountability, which would develop recommendations on test construction, assessment options throughout the year, cost of state-mandated assessments, and more. HB 1278 by Rep. Herrero would reduce the number of standardized tests to the federal requirement.
  • Vouchers: Several voucher and school choice bills have been filed. Rep. Cody Vasut has introduced bills which would create an educational expense reimbursement program (HB 557). Rep. Matt Shaheen filed HB 619, which would create a tax credit for donations to organizations that provide scholarships to private schools. Sen. Mayes Middleton filed a similar bill, SB 176, which would establish the “Texas Parental Empowerment Program.”
Categories: Across the Lawn

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