Across the Lawn – March 31, 2023

March 31, 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:

Watch and Share Our Video Explaining the Basic Allotment 

In preparation for the House floor debate on the budget next Thursday, share our brief video explaining how an increase in the basic allotment addresses three key challenges in public education policy. In social media, tag your lawmakers and encourage them to prioritize public education in the budget this session.

FIVE Things to Know:

1. Senate Passes Retired Teacher Cost-of-Living Adjustment

The full Senate passed SB 10 by Sen. Huffman this week. The bill provides a 2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Teacher Retirement System (TRS) retirees who retired between September 1, 2013, and December 31, 2021, and a 4% COLA for retirees who retired before September 1, 2013. The bill also provides a $7,500 13th check for TRS retirees 75 years old and older. This $4.7 billion bill now moves to the House; a similar bill, HB 600 by Rep. Bonnen, passed out of committee this week. This bill, as passed out of committee, also provides a COLA adjustment that is based on the year in which a TRS member retired, and also includes a 13th check for retirees over age 70, and is estimated to cost $3.4 billion in the next state budget. 

2. Senate Committee on Education Passes Out Voucher Bill and Teacher Workforce Bill 

SB 8 by Sen. Creighton (vouchers) and SB 9 by Sen. Creighton (teacher workforce) were both passed by the Senate Education Committee this week. These bills will now head to the Senate.

SB 8’s voucher provision would provide certain eligible students with a voucher and is projected to escalate from a $500 million-per-year state cost to over $1 billion per year within a four-year period, with limited oversight and accountability.  

SB 9 by Sen. Creighton provides a $6,000 pay raise for teachers in school districts with fewer than 20,000 students and an additional $2,000 for teachers in school districts with more than 20,000 students. SB 9 also increases allotments of the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) program, allows Texas Education Agency (TEA)  to provide technical assistance for the TIA program, 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. 

3. It Doesn’t Matter What You Call Them, It’s Still a Voucher and it’s Still Bad Policy for Texas

PolitiFact Texas rated the author of SB 8, Sen. Creighton, this week on his statement that 31 states have Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). It turns out only 11 of 32 states offer ESAs, and all the others offer some form of voucher-type program. Raise Your Hand doesn’t care what you call them. It is still a voucher. It’s still bad policy for the state of Texas. SB 8 would divert $1 billion from our public schools. The bill, as passed out of the Senate Education Committee this week, even acknowledges it is bad policy. Under the bill, parents expecting the voucher must be notified when a private school or vendor are not subject to federal or state laws regarding special education services in the same manner as a public school, and the bill also acknowledges voucher programs harm public school funding by including language that provides school districts with fewer than 20,000 students a $10,000 hold harmless for the first two years. 

4. State Budget to be Debated on House Floor Next Thursday

The $302.6 billion two-year state budget (click on House Summaries) will be debated on the House floor next Thursday, April 6. In terms of new public education dollars, the bill provides $17.3 billion in new funding for property tax relief contingent upon the passage of related legislation and $5 billion in new funding for public education for certain education programs. The new funding could include increased compensation and benefits for classroom teachers, additional funding for the Teacher Incentive Allotment, increases to the Basic Allotment, increased funding for school safety; increased funding for curriculum and/or the Instructional Materials and Technology Allotment, and increased funding for Special Education. The bill also provides an additional $2.4 billion to school districts for increases to the yield on “golden pennies.”

5. Upcoming Hearings

The House Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, April 3 to hear numerous bills, including HB 3642 by Rep. Talarico relating to the permissible uses of the school safety allotment under the public school finance system.

The House Committee on Public Education is scheduled to meet at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 4 to hear numerous bills, including HB 11 by Rep. Dutton (teacher workforce) and HB 100 by Rep. King (school funding). 

Tags: Basic Allotment SB 8 SB 9

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