Across the Lawn

May 7, 2021 |

87th Legislative Session Weekly Update  |  Friday, May 7, 2021

The FOUR Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do

Welcome to Across the Lawn, Issue 18.

The seventeenth 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:

Send a tweet opposing the outcomes funding language in SB 2094 and tag your State Senator. The bill ties state funding to student performance on the STAAR test, which would disadvantage some of our most vulnerable students and further overemphasize the reliance on a one-day test performance.

Not only is there a lack of research suggesting students and teachers will perform better under financial incentives, polling also proves it is widely unpopular. Studies suggest such programs can actually widen performance gaps between wealthy and poor campuses. Statewide polling reveals almost 80 percent of Texans oppose tying increases in public school funding to student performance on state standardized tests.

Recently, SB 2094 was heard in the Senate Education Committee and may be headed to the Senate floor. Tell your Senator to focus on strategies proven to improve teaching and learning that don’t come at such a high cost. Upping the stakes is a risk Texas can’t afford to take. It’s time to focus on the many ways we can support better performance rather than funding a narrow measure of it. To find who represents you in the Texas Senate click here.

Four Things to Know:

1. Comptroller Updates State Revenue Outlook

Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s updated revenue estimate added an additional $3.1 billion to the revenue available to budget writers this legislative session. This is good news as the budget conferees begin to piece together all of the outstanding issues of our state’s $250 billion two-year state budget.

Not included in the current budget, however, is the remaining $5.5 billion in federal stimulus funds for public education. There are ongoing talks about the remaining $5.5 billion; however, our state leaders have committed to providing clarity to districts by the end of the session on how much they can expect to receive.

2. Test-Based Funding Gets Inserted into Senate Bill

SB 2094 by Sen. Taylor was heard in the Senate Education Committee Tuesday morning.

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 basing any part of our school finance system on student test performance, or outcomes-based funding, would create further inequities and unintended consequences. Even good tests drive dysfunctional behavior when the stakes are too high. Outcomes funding also dramatically increases the already high stakes of a single test on a single day. Our full written testimony against the bill can be found here.

3. Tax Credit Voucher Bill Heard in Senate Education Committee Hearing

As Texas continues to respond to the economic and academic impacts of COVID-19 on our public schools, the Texas Legislature should not invest state resources in programs that fail to support our students with the greatest need and create inequities in the public education system. This includes all forms of voucher programs, including tax credit scholarship programs. Raise Your Hand Texas respectfully registered in strong opposition to Senate Bill 1968.

The bill creates a tax credit voucher program that allows parents of eligible students, including private or home-school students, to receive reimbursement for educational expenses from state funds.

Raise Your Hand Texas believes state dollars should remain in our public schools. Only public schools serve all students and are required to meet federal standards for those with disabilities or limited English proficiency. Our public schools are equitably funded and held accountable for measurable student results. This is the system that best serves all Texas families and taxpayers.

4. Controversial Social Studies Curriculum Bills Move Through Process

Last week, Senate Bill 2202 by Sen. Brandon Creighton was voted from the Senate. The bill sparked debate among the senators particularly because of its potential to limit instruction and student learning related to current events, public policy, and issues of race. Its companion bill, House Bill 3979 by Rep. Steve Toth, was reported from the House Public Education committee on Monday of this week.  For more information on these bills please read the Texas Tribune article from May 5.

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