87th Legislative Session Weekly Update | Friday, April 30, 2021
The FOUR Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do
Welcome to Across the Lawn, Issue 16.
The sixteenth 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:
Tag an Elected Official and Tell Them Thank You for Flowing Federal Stimulus Dollars to Schools
Our state leaders committed to a strong recovery for our public schools this week by sending schools a large portion of the federal stimulus dollars they are due. They also committed to resolving any issues with the remaining available stimulus funding by the end of this legislative session. Let’s be sure to tag and thank these hard-working elected officials for their work!
Four Things to Know:
1. Texas Begins Flowing $11.2 Billion in Public Education Federal Funds
Our Texas leaders’ decision to begin flowing $11.2 billion from the third round of federal stimulus education dollars is an historic moment for our state. The pandemic has had a profound impact on the way our schools operate and on the social and emotional well-being of our students and teachers. By sending schools the federal relief they need, our state leaders have taken the steps necessary to make them safer, improve instruction, and help address student learning loss. And, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), school districts can begin applying for these funds immediately.
In the announcement, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dade Phelan made it clear that they are committed to resolving any issues on how to flow the remaining $5.5 billion in stimulus funding by the end of the legislative session. We are extremely grateful to these state leaders because by helping our schools, families, and communities recover, our leaders are making sure Texas recovers.
2. How Much Funding Will My School Receive?
The TEA released the allocation amounts for school districts and charter schools for round three of the federal stimulus funds. Under federal rules, two-thirds of the funding will be available immediately, and the remaining one-third will be available after a federal application process begins in June.
These funds may be used for allowable activities for COVID-19 related issues dating back to March 13, 2020, through September 30, 2024. Allowable activities include addressing learning loss, implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students, and improving air quality.
The TEA will also have an additional $1.2 billion available for other state programs. TEA is able to reserve 10 percent of the total $12.4 billion allocation from the third round of education stimulus to provide additional grants and programs focused on learning loss, summer school, and after school programs.
3. State Plans for Education Stimulus Funds Due to Feds by June 7
Texas must submit a plan for the third round of federal stimulus funds to the Department of Education by June 7. The plan must cover several key issues:
- Progress and promising practices: Describe top practices on how the state has supported the needs of students.
- Overall priorities: Describe top issues currently facing students and schools.
- Identifying needs of underserved students: Describe the highest priority academic, social, emotional, and/or mental health needs for various student groups.
- Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: Describe how the state will support its schools in identifying the extent of the impact of COVID-19.
- School operating status: Provide data on how students are learning in order to support the goals of access and equity, especially for student groups that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted.
The state must also provide a state plan for a safe return to in-person instruction and describe how to engage with numerous stakeholders during the planning process.
4. What Happened with That Bill?
With 30 days left in the legislative session, many bills are still moving through the process. By this point it is getting hard to remember all the different bill numbers and issues, and there are dozens of bills that will ultimately impact public education. Here are a few we are watching:
- HB 999 by Rep. Diego Bernal — For the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, individual graduation committees will not be required to consider test scores for the purpose of determining graduation eligibility.STATUS: HB 999 passed out of the House and was received in the Senate on April 21, 2021.
- HB 1468 by Rep. Keith Bell — Independent school districts and open-enrollment charter schools will be allowed to operate, and be funded for providing, virtual courses to public school students within their service area. As of now, the bill is set to expire on September 1, 2027.STATUS: HB 1468 passed out of the House and was received in the Senate on April 28, 2021.
- HB 4465 by Rep. Harold Dutton — The commissioner of education will create a grant program to assist school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, and regional education service centers in overcoming the educational impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding for the grant will be drawn from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) and/or the American Rescue Plan Act.STATUS: The committee substitute for HB 4465 was voted favorably out of the House Public Education committee on April 28, 2021 and is awaiting placement on the House floor calendar.
- HB 4545 by Rep. Harold Dutton — Creates the Strong Foundations Grant program to fund schools that implement accelerated learning plans for students who failed the STAAR test in the 2020-21 school year. Schools receive an outcomes bonus for each student who subsequently passes their STAAR tests in the following school year.STATUS: The committee substitute for HB 4545 was voted favorably out of the House Public Education committee on April 15, 2021 and is awaiting placement on the House floor calendar.
- SB 27 by Sen. Larry Taylor — The current limit on virtual school providers for the Texas Virtual School Network will be removed. The state will fund the enrollment of non-public school students. And virtual instruction providers will be permitted to serve grades K-2.STATUS: SB 27 was voted out of the Senate Education committee and placed on the Senate Intent Calendar on April 28, 2021.
- SB 28 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt — A political subdivision must consider open-enrollment charter schools as independent school districts for the purpose of zoning and other matters related to locating a charter school within that political division. This limits a political subdivision’s ability to prohibit charters from building schools and other facilities within their boundaries. This bill also contains language that will alter how the State Board of Education can reject the Commissioner’s recommendation for a new charter school application.STATUS: SB 28 was heard and left pending in the House Public Education committee on April 28, 2021.
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