Across the Lawn – October 26, 2023

October 26, 2023  

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:  Vote Now – Public Education is Always on the Ballot

Early voting for the November constitutional election is underway! There are several important ballot measures that will impact public education and those that support our schools. Most notably, Proposition 9 would provide a cost of living adjustment for retired teachers for the first time in nearly 20 years. 
Find your polling place(s) and make your plan to vote today. Early voting lasts until Friday, November 3 and election day is Tuesday, November 7. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Four Things to Know

1. Chairman Buckley Files House Bill 1, Creating a Universal Voucher Program and 100+ Adjustments to Public School Funding

Rep. Buckely, Chair of the House Public Education Committee, filed a 184-page comprehensive voucher and public school funding bill late last week. The only education-related item eligible on the Governor’s special session call is the creation of a voucher program, or education savings account (ESA). When asked when the hearing will be scheduled on HB 1, Rep. Buckley stated, “We can’t do anything until [the Governor] expands the call.”

HB 1 creates a universal education savings account and makes adjustments to how public schools are financed, including increasing the basic allotment, revamping the current special education funding allotments, creating a fine arts and books safety allotment, and providing one-time retention bonuses to teachers, counselors, nurses, and librarians. There are well over 100 other provisions in this bill dealing with school safety, virtual schools, the Comptroller’s property value study, and transition hold harmless funding for schools.    

The bill’s voucher provisions allow all public school, private school, and homeschooled students to be eligible for an ESA. The program will triple in size over a three year period with a 25,000 student cap in year one and a 75,000 student cap in year three. Those selected by the education assistance organizations established by the Comptroller will be eligible for funding equivalent to 75% of what a student in average daily attendance receives in a public school under the Foundation School Program. Each student using the ESA must take a state administered test on an annual basis, but it is not linked to the A-F campus or district accountability rating system set-up for public schools.      

The current appropriation from the 88th Regular Session for a voucher program is $500 million for the 2024-25 biennium. Eligible expenses using funds in the ESA include tuition and fees, textbooks and instructional materials, assessments, private tutors, transportation, and educational therapies. 

The major provisions impacting public schools include: 

  • Increasing the basic allotment by $30 the first year of the biennium and an additional $340 in the second year; 
  • Increasing the minimum salary schedule; 
  • Providing for a teacher retention bonus of $4,000 for full-time teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians and $2,000 for part-time teachers, counselors and nurses; 
  • Increasing the small- and mid-size school allotment; 
  • Creating new funding formulas for special education; and,  
  • Creating a Texas Assessment and Accountability Commission and using the 2022 accountability rules to calculate A-F campus and district rating through the 2025-26 school year. 

2. Rep. Hinojosa Files School Funding Bill to Address Inflation, Teacher Pay, and Learning Loss

Rep. Hinojosa filed HB 177 last week, which focuses on increasing funding for our public schools. The bill provides substantial pay increases for teachers, counselors, nurses, and librarians. It also increases the basic allotment to meet the demand of inflation over the last three years.   

The major provisions include: 

  • Increasing the basic allotment from $6,160 to $8,947, a $2,787 increase; 
  • Creating an automatic annual inflation adjustment to the basic allotment; 
  • Providing a $15,000 pay increases for for full-time teachers, librarians, counselors, and nurses, effective for the current school year; 
  • Providing a $5,500 raise for all other public school employees; and, 
  • Providing a one-time $800 per-student grant to address pandemic related learning loss.

3. New Poll from The University of Texas shows Most Texans Would Rather Focus on School Safety and Teacher Pay During Legislative Session, Not Vouchers

The Texas Politics Project October 2023 poll asked 1,200 registered voters, “What is the most important priority the Texas Legislature needs to address?” Only 7% believed vouchers or Education Savings Account should be a priority. School safety (30%), teacher pay and teacher retention (20%), and curriculum content (12%) were the top three issues for those participating in the poll.  

4. Chairman Creighton Files Additional Legislation on Parental Rights and Public School Responsibilities Regarding Instructional Materials

Sen. Creighton filed SB 77 earlier in the week related to parental rights. The legislation does the following:

  • Reaffirms parental rights, including to ability to select educational setting and request instructional materials review; 
  • Creates a grievance process to make sure parents’ concerns are addressed in a fair and timely manner; and, 
  • Prohibits a school district, charter school, or their employees from providing or allowing a third party to provide instruction, guidance, activities, or programming regarding sexual orientation or gender identity to students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade and in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.
Tags: Advocacy policy school funding vote vouchers

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