Across the Lawn

March 19, 2021 |

87th Legislative Session Weekly Update  |  Friday, March 19, 2021

The FOUR Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do

Welcome to Across the Lawn, Issue 11.

The tenth week of the 87th Legislative Session has come to a close. Check out our one thing to do and four things to know.

Raise Your Hand Texas has a front-row seat to the 87th Legislature (we can see the Capitol across the south lawn). From our vantage point, public education policy issues have never been more important. This weekly session update will keep you informed and engaged.

The One Thing to Do

Educators are telling us it will take teachers – lots of skilled, well-trained teachers – to close the learning gaps sustained during the last year. But will those teachers be there when the districts start to hire? The pandemic didn’t create the challenges facing the teacher pipeline in Texas, but it has certainly made addressing that problem more urgent.

Our 10th episode of Intersect Ed, part of our legislative agenda series, examines the imperative to invest in and improve the teacher workforce in Texas. In it, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath and other education experts discuss the increased challenges facing schools due to the pandemic; how the state invests in developing teachers; and the need to shift cultural perceptions of one of our most valuable professions.

Four Things to Know:

1. Raise Your Hand Texas Releases Report on Texas’ Teacher Workforce

Texas’ teacher workforce, with over 368,000 teachers, plays one of the most important roles in our public education system. Effective teachers are central to student learning, emotional and physical well-being, and social development.

In order to study and ultimately help strengthen and improve how our state recruits, develops, and retains teachers, the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation commissioned the University of Houston College of Education to prepare a comprehensive longitudinal analysis of Texas’ teacher workforce.

As noted in the report, over the past 10 years, the state has experienced vast transformations, including changes in demographic composition, developments in state and federal education policies, and shifts in both educator and student outcomes.

The report contains information on the purchasing power of average teacher salaries over time, data on what kind of students are most likely to have more inexperienced teachers, retention rate information for alternative certification versus university programs, and much more.

2. Senate Education Committee Holds First Hearing

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Larry Taylor, held its first hearing of the 87th Legislative Session. The agenda contained six bills covering issues related to school counselors, school health advisory councils, and student transportation.

Prior to those discussions, Commissioner Mike Morath detailed the potential student learning loss due to the pandemic. Morath stated by the end of this school year, nearly half of students could be below grade level. Sen. Royce West questioned the Commissioner on when the almost $18 billion of federal stimulus for public education will be available and how it would be used. The Commissioner stated he has been talking to a lot of members to come up with those answers. Morath emphasized our state must make a four-to-five year commitment to addressing the pandemic learning loss.

3. Texans are Making Their Voice Heard on the Use of Federal Stimulus Funds for Public Education

This week Raise Your Hand Texas encouraged public education supporters across the state to reach out to their elected representatives and tell them to make sure federal stimulus dollars intended for public schools go to public schools.

Texas is set to receive almost $18 billion from the second and third round of stimulus funding. However, the initial $1.3 billion Texas received last spring did not result in any additional funds for our schools because the state swapped that federal aid for state aid to our schools.

Over the past few days, thousands of public education supporters have posted on social media, made phone calls, and sent emails asking lawmakers to ensure money intended for education stays in education. If you are interested in taking action on this important issue, use the hashtag #FundTxEdRecovery and click here to easily send an email and make a phone call to your elected representatives.

4. Thank you to Aliyya Swaby, public education reporter for The Texas Tribune

Raise Your Hand Texas would like to thank and congratulate Aliyya Swaby, the public education reporter for the Texas Tribune. For the last four years she has covered the Texas public education space with great detail and her stories have made the complexities of public education policy more understandable for all of us. She will be leaving the Tribune as of today. We look forward to seeing what she does next.

Upcoming Hearings: The House Public Education Committee will meet on Tuesday, March 23. The agenda includes HB 1525 by Rep. Huberty (the school finance “clean-up” bill for last legislative session’s HB 3).

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