Across the Lawn – March 17, 2023

March 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.

ONE Thing to Do

1. Complete Our Voucher Call to Action

Complete our voucher call to action to let Texas senators know that vouchers are still the wrong choice for our state. Then, post the link on social media and share it with five people in your network who also care about public education.

FOUR Things to Know:

1. Senate Committee on Education Set to Hear Voucher Bills and Teacher Workforce Bill Next Wednesday 

The Senate Committee on Education will hear Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Creighton (vouchers) and Senate Bill 9 by Sen. Creighton (teacher salaries/teacher rights), along with numerous other vouchers bills next Wednesday at 9:00 a.m

Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Creighton provides an $8,000 voucher for certain eligible students to attend private schools/private vendors (tuition and fees) and pay for transportation, materials, assessments, or educational therapies. A student is eligible if the student currently attends a public school, is entering pre-Kindergarten, or attended a public school 90% of the time in the preceding year. The bill language acknowledges the harm it does to public school funding by providing $10,000 to a school district (with 20,000 students or fewer for two years) for each student using a voucher. The bill also acknowledges that private schools do not have to provide the same services as public schools with the requirement that parents must be notified “that a private school or vendor is not subject to federal or state laws regarding special education services in the same manner as a public school.” The bill also requires public schools to develop plans for parental participation, provide information about parental rights and options, provide instructional material reviews at campuses at the request of parents, and provide written notices to parents of each health-related service offered at a campus. 

Senate Bill  9 by Sen. Creighton intends to provide a salary increase for every teacher in the state for the 2023-24 school year. The amount is not specified, but the language appears to differentiate salaries for teachers in districts with fewer than 20,000 students apart from districts with more than 20,000 students. The bill also increases allotments for each teacher designation under the Teacher Incentive Allotment program, allows TEA to provide technical assistance for studying how the district’s or school’s staff and student schedules, provides grants to retire/rehire teachers to offset certain TRS costs, adds children of teachers to those eligible for full-day pre-Kindergarten, expands the teacher mentor allotment, strengthens teacher residency programs, and sets up protections for teacher contracts and student disciplinary plans.  

2. The House Public Education Committee Hears Bill to Amend Accelerated Instruction Requirements for Students Not Meeting Standards on STAAR

The House Public Education Committee met this past Tuesday to discuss 12 bills, including House Bill 1416 by Rep. Bell. HB 1416 amends the accelerated instructional program for students who do not perform satisfactorily on STAAR. The bill removes the provision requiring accelerated learning committees for each student who does not perform satisfactorily on reading or mathematics assessments in 3rd, 5th, or 8th grades. The bill also reduces the minimum number of hours of supplemental instruction that must be provided from 30 to 15 hours, increases the student-to-teacher ratio requirement from 3:1 to 4:1, and clarifies the provision that parents are given the option to opt out of or to reduce the requirement for this instruction. 

3. House Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Committee on Finance Hear Major Property Tax Relief Bills

Both the House Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Committee on Finance discussed major property tax reduction bills this week. The House Ways and Means heard HB 2 by Rep. Meyer, which provides over $17 billion in school district property tax reductions. The Senate Finance Committee heard SB 3, SB 4, and SB 5 by Senator Bettencourt, which is a package of bills that provides $16.5 billion in school district property tax reductions. Both the House and Senate bills now have a substantially higher price tag than the base budgets filed at the beginning of the legislative session.  

4. Upcoming Hearings

The House Public Education Committee is scheduled to meet at 8:00 am on Tuesday, March 21 to hear numerous bills, including:  

  • HB 1605 by Rep. Buckley (allotment for state-approved curriculum/parent portals/instructional materials review), and 
  • HB 2162 by Rep. Dutton (K-3 reading diagnostic and interventions), which requires, among other provisions, schools to contract with a third-party tutoring service, for no more than $1,000, to address a K-3 student’s reading deficiencies if a student does not meet specific standards for two consecutive years on a TEA Commissioner-approved reading diagnostic tool. 

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to meet at 9:00 am on Wednesday, March 22 to hear numerous bills, including SB 8 by Sen. Creighton (vouchers) and SB 9 by Sen. Creighton (teacher salaries/teacher rights).  

Tags: vouchers
Categories: Across the Lawn

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