Across The Lawn – March 3, 2023

March 03, 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 Video: Reject Vouchers and Support Texas’ Rural Communities 

Public schools are the heart of rural communities across Texas. Learn more about why this session, you must tell your elected officials to reject any type of voucher and support the heartbeat of our rural communities…our public schools. Watch Video.  

FIVE Things to Know:

1. House Public Education and Senate Education Committees Hold First Hearings

Both the House Public Education Committee and Senate Committee on Education held organizational meetings this week. Commissioner Morath testified at both hearings giving similar overviews related to student outcomes on STAAR and NAEP, school funding, instructional materials and curriculum, special education services, and school safety. Two teachers were also invited to testify on a panel about teacher workforce. 

During the House Public Education Committee hearing, Commissioner Morath answered a series of questions related to the new A-F accountability system reset, specifically about the impact of the new College, Career, and Military Readiness (CCMR) scale scoring. Under the proposed rules, TEA will increase the scale score for how it calculates CCMR points, which makes up a significant portion of a high school campus’ A-F letter grade. Initial estimates show over 630 high school campuses out of the nearly 1,600 campuses rated will drop one to two letter grades based on this technical change. Commissioner Morath indicated it is possible schools will see improved student performance but still receive a lower A-F rating under these proposed changes. 

Commissioner Morath also focused on the recent Teacher Vacancy Task Force (TVTF) report released last week. Taking questions on teacher salary and benefits, Morath explained the link between increasing the basic allotment and providing increases to teacher and staff salaries.  The TVTF report did not recommend a specific amount, but the report did recommend a significant increase in overall teacher salaries by increasing the basic allotment.  

2. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III (Public Education) Meets to Discuss School Funding

Commissioner Morath also discussed the need for an improved evaluation and approval process for classroom curriculum, citing evidence showing only 19% of classroom lessons are on grade level in Texas.  

Commissioner Morath testified Monday during the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III (public education) meeting detailing the state’s school funding system. The current House proposed budget, HB 1, recommends funding an additional $15 billion in property tax relief and the intent to increase funding for public schools potentially through teacher salary increases, a basic allotment increase, school safety funding, or instructional material or technology funding. An amount for increased public school funding is not specified.     

Raise Your Hand Texas’ Senior Director of Government Relations Will Holleman testified on the need to continue to invest in public education by increasing the basic allotment by $1,000, the amount needed to provide schools with the same purchasing power they had in 2019. He also testified on the need to provide language to prohibit any state appropriations from being used to fund private schools or vendors.   

3. Governor Abbott Tours State to Push for Statewide Voucher Program

Governor Abbott visited private schools in Corsicana, Conroe, and Amarillo this week to continue to push for a state voucher program. The Governor remarked parents deserve access to school curriculum, school libraries, and what is being taught in the classroom. He commented the way to fully empower parents is by expanding school choice options through state-funded Education Savings Accounts. On March 7, he will visit Bryan and on March 9, he will visit Tyler. 

Raise Your Hand Texas continues to believe vouchers divert public funds to private schools and vendors and will undermine traditional public schools and charter schools, teachers, and students. The lack of public accountability in any voucher program leaves the system open to mismanagement of financial resources, and also lacks academic accountability of the schools that receive the private voucher money.

4. Bills of Note

SB 1261 by Sen. Paxton relating to accelerated instruction provided to public school students who fail to achieve satisfactory performance on certain assessment instruments.

HB 3011 by Rep. Schatzline relating to the academic assessment of public school students.

SB 1256 by Sen. Hughes relating to the establishment by regional education service centers of committees to evaluate teacher shortages.

HB 3141 by Rep. King relating to the provision of virtual education in public schools and to certain waivers and modifications by the commissioner of education to the method of calculating average daily attendance.

HB 2 by Rep. Meyer relating to providing property tax relief through the public school finance system and property tax appraisal and administration.

SJR 72 by Sen. King proposing a constitutional amendment protecting private schools from state and local regulation.

5. Upcoming Hearings

The House Public Education Committee posted the agenda for the Tuesday, March 7, 8 a.m. meeting. There are four bills posted for discussion and public testimony.   
View the hearing here.   

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