Across the Lawn

April 9, 2021 |

87th Legislative Session Weekly Update  |  Friday, April 9, 2021

The FIVE Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do

Welcome to Across the Lawn, Issue 14.

The thirteenth week of the 87th Legislative Session has come to a close. Check out our one thing to do and five 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

What is the most crucial leg of a stool? The one that is missing.

A strong Texas recovery starts with the recovery of our public schools. Texas has secured two of the three funding legs needed to meet the needs of teachers and students.

Earlier this week, Raise Your Hand hosted a “three-legged stool day” at the capitol that included a giant six-foot stool showing up in the basement rotunda, the delivery of 200 mini stools to capitol offices, and student performances with stools.

Our founder and H-E-B chairman, Charles Butt, also wrote a letter to lawmakers urging them to provide schools with the federal stimulus dollars they are due.

“While other states have already dedicated much-needed funds to the classroom, Texas schools have yet to receive any dollars from rounds two or three of the federal stimulus packages. Now is the time to provide financial assistance to our districts so they may begin making plans for this summer and the next school year,” Butt wrote.

Our latest video explains the importance of giving Texas schools the solid foundation needed to support our recovery and our future. Our students get it. Now legislators must act on it.

Four Things to Know:

1. Test-Based Funding Bill Gets Late Night Hearing

HB 4545 by Rep. Dutton was heard in the House Public Education Committee late Tuesday night.

The bill creates an Accelerated Learning and Sustainment Outcomes Bonus, or test-based (outcomes-based) funding. Eligible accelerated learning students could earn a bonus for schools if certain scores are met on STAAR — up to $500 for non-economically disadvantaged students and $1,000 for economically disadvantaged students.

Raise Your Hand Texas believes Texas should not base school funding on how well our students do on one test given on one day. We testified in opposition to the bill.

2. The Debate Over Federal Dollars Continues

The members of the House Appropriations and House Public Education Committees continued the conversation on federal stimulus funds this week. The big question up for debate is who will have final authority over determining how these funds are distributed and utilized.

HB 2021 by Rep. Greg Bonnen creates a Board on Administration of Federal Funds that would have budget authority over the federal stimulus dollars after the legislative session. Concern from some of the House Appropriations Committee members on Thursday focused on whether members of the Texas Legislature not appointed to the Board could have a vote or input in the final use of the federal funds allocated to our state. The bill was left pending in committee.

The House Public Education Committee discussed HB 4465 by Rep. Dutton, which allows the Texas Education Commissioner to establish grant programs using the $5.5 billion from the second round and the $14.5 billion from the third round of federal stimulus dollars. The Commissioner would have authority over the amount and terms of the grants for the following uses: instructional time, broadband grants, innovation and curriculum, accelerated learning, and improvement to air quality. The bill also gives the Commissioner power to recover any funds not used under the terms of the grant and to potentially supplant, or swap, state funding for the federal funding.

Raise Your Hand’s David Anderson testified in opposition to the bill, stating that more than 40 states have already started flowing these dollars directly to schools. Texas should too.

3. House Public Education Committee Discusses 38 Bills

In a marathon committee hearing on Tuesday, members of the House Public Education Committee discussed 38 bills on various issues. School finance, test-based funding, charter school admission policies, professional development for teachers, mental health issues of students, virtual schools, and changes to our state’s curriculum were just some of the items on the agenda. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2 of the meeting.

4. Education Bills on the Move

Members of the House Public Education Committee have now voted out numerous bills from the committee. The next stop is the House Calendars Committee, where it will be decided if the bills will be placed on the agenda for a House floor debate. Here are some of the following bills to watch in the coming weeks: 

*Here is a list of all the bills Raise Your Hand has taken a position on this session.

5. The Education Trust Releases Reports on Strategies to Solve Unfinished Learning

As the school year draws to a close, districts are beginning to plan, prepare, and implement programs to help with unfinished learning for the remainder of the school year. In a new report, the Education Trust provides valuable information on several evidence-based programs related to targeted intensive tutoring, expanded learning time, and the importance of building strong relationships.

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