Across the Lawn – March 10, 2023

March 10, 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.

ONE Thing to Do

1. Watch SXSW EDU Recording: Raise Your Hand Texas talks about Teacher Workforce Issues at SXSW EDU

Our very own JoLisa Hoover, Teacher Specialist, was joined on the SXSW EDU stage with Texas teachers as she moderated the 5 Year Problem: Keeping Teachers in the Classroom panel in front of a standing-room-only crowd. She also served as a session panelist this week at The Neurodiverse & the Teacher Shortage Crisis. Both sessions highlighted recent studies that share reasons behind high attrition rates among new teachers and shared policies and solutions that would retain experienced educators. 

The teacher panelists, Susan Hansen and Yisbeth Puckett of Leander ISD, and Stephanie Stoebe of Round Rock ISD, emphasized the need for policies that support teacher retention and value the profession.

Education Week, Community Impact, Spectrum News, University Trends, and Education Today covered the panel. A segment on Despierta Austin will air on Univision next week. 

FOUR Things to Know:

1. East Texas Public Schools Express Concerns About Governor Abbott’s Voucher Push

In advance of Governor Abbott’s visit to a private school in East Texas to push for a statewide voucher program, numerous public school officials from the area voiced their concerns on the issue.   

Arp ISD Superintendent, Shannon Arrington, commented, “Public schools are held to a high standard of accountability by the state of Texas. We, as public educators, accept that responsibility. Public schools use public funds to meet those standards. Our question for our state government is, will private schools be held to the same standards?”

A recent Charles Butt Foundation poll found that Texans want oversight for taxpayer dollars, protection for students with special education needs, and state oversight on private school curriculum under any voucher program: 88% of those polled believe private schools should be required to publicly report all school finances, just over 80% favor requiring acceptance of students with special education needs and providing special education services, and 73% favor requiring private schools to follow state curriculum guidelines.

2. House Committee on Ways and Means to Hear School District Property Tax Proposal 

One of the largest spending initiatives in the House’s proposed state budget for the next two years is school district property tax reductions. House Bill 2 by Rep. Meyer, to be heard next week in the House Committee on Ways and Means, provides over $17 billion in school district property tax compression through a 15-cent tax rate reduction and by lowering the current 10% residential appraisal limit to 5%. The legislation would also expand appraisal limits to all real (business) property in the state. Included in the $17 billion price tag is $5.3 billion in tax reductions that automatically occur under the property tax policy passed in 2019.   

Raise Your Hand Texas has always believed tax relief is a laudable goal for our Texas Legislature, but not at the expense of our public school students and teachers. In the current House proposed budget, there is a placeholder with the intent to provide increased funding for public education. Unlike the historic amount listed for school district property tax relief, an amount for increased investment in our public schools is not given. 

The basic allotment, the building block of our public school funding, remains at $6,160 in the current proposed budget. This is $1,000 below where it needs to be just to allow our schools to have the same purchasing power as they did in 2019. 

Texas ranks in the bottom 10 in per-student funding, nearly $4,000 below the national average.  Teacher salaries in our state are $7,500 below the national average. With a beginning balance of $32.7 billion and tens of billions of dollars estimated to be available over the next two years, Texas has a tremendous opportunity to invest its historic revenue growth in the 5.4 million public school students and the 375,000 teachers in our state.          

3. Education Bills to Watch this Legislative Session

The bill filing deadline is today, Friday, March 10. In the coming weeks, we will begin to focus on the many bills moving through the legislative process. Over the last several days, numerous bills of interest related to school safety, school funding, teacher pay, accountability, and vouchers have been filed, including:   

HB 3 by Rep. Burrows relating to the development and implementation of, and funding for, public school safety and security requirements.

SB 11 by Sen. Nichols relating to measures for ensuring safety and security in public schools, including measures related to certain student records and truant conduct.

HB 11 by Rep. Dutton relating to the rights, certification, and compensation of public school educators, including financial and other assistance provided to public schools by the Texas Education Agency related to public school educators and to certain allotments under the Foundation School Program.

HB 13 by Rep. Ken King relating to training, preparedness, and funding for school safety and school safety emergencies.

HB 100 by Rep. Ken King relating to the compensation of public school educators and to the public school finance system, including enrollment-based funding for certain allotments under the Foundation School Program.

HB 600 by Rep. Bonnen Relating to contributions to, benefits from, and the administration of systems and programs administered by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

HB 1605 by Rep. Buckley relating to instructional material and technology, the adoption and revision of essential knowledge and skills of the public school foundation curriculum, and creating allotments for the procurement of certain instructional materials under the Foundation School Program; authorizing a fee.

HB 4402 by Rep. Keith Bell relating to the changes to the high school graduation requirements and accountability rating system for assessing campus and district performance.

4. Upcoming Hearings

The House Committee on Ways and Means is scheduled to meet at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, March 13 to hear numerous bills, including HB 2 by Rep. Meyer related to providing property tax relief through the public school finance system and property tax appraisal and administration. 

The House Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 13 to hear numerous bills on school safety issues.  

The House Public Education Committee is scheduled to meet at 8:00 am on Tuesday, March 14 to hear 12 bills, including HB 1416 by Rep. Keith Bell relating to accelerated instruction provided to public school students who fail to achieve satisfactory performance on certain assessment instruments.

Tags: SXSW EDU teachers vouchers

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