Across the Lawn

September 10, 2021 |

87th Legislative Special Session Weekly Update  |  Friday, September 10, 2021

The FIVE Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do

Welcome to Across the Lawn. The second special session of the 87th Texas Legislature adjourned Sine Die last week. 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 and is why we must make every session a public education session.

The One Thing to Do:

Take time to celebrate a teacher. October 5, 2021 is World Teachers’ Day.

Visit TeachersCan.org/WorldTeachersDay for more information and post your thanks and story to #WorldTeachersDay and #RYHT.

Five Things to Know:

The second called special legislative session ended Thursday, September 2. The public education policy conversations centered on funding for remote learning, civics instruction, mask protocols for schools, one-time supplemental checks for retired teachers, transgender athletes in University Interscholastic League (UIL) events, instruction related to child abuse and family and dating violence, and school district property tax relief. Below is a brief summary of what passed, what didn’t, and what’s to come.

1. Third Called Special Session Begins September 20

Governor Abbott issued a proclamation announcing a third called special session starting on Monday, September 20, 2021. The proclamation identifies five agenda items:

  • Redistricting
  • American Rescue Plan funding
  • Transgender athletes in UIL sports
  • State or local government mandating of COVID-19 vaccines
  • Unlawful restraint of dogs
2. Funding for Remote Learning Programs Passes, Can Begin in 2021-22 School Year

With the number of school closures increasing across the state due to escalating cases of students and teachers with COVID-19, there is some confusion about whether or not schools can offer and receive funding for remote instruction during the 2021-22 school year.

There are now several options for schools to provide remote instruction.

  1. SB 15 by Sen. Taylor passed during the second called special session. This bill allows school districts and charters with a C rating or higher to create local remote learning programs and be funded for certain eligible students through the 2022-23 school year. While school districts and charters can choose to offer remote learning options to all of their students, state funding for students who were in a remote program for more than half of last school year will only be available if the following requirements are met:
    • Students must have earned a “C” or better in foundational coursework taken virtually or remotely in the previous year.
    • Students must have passed their STAAR assessments or an alternate assessment if they did not take STAAR.
    • Students cannot have unexcused absences exceeding 10% of days in the preceding school year.
    • Any student who has 10 or more absences after entering a remote program will lose funding eligibility.
    • A district or charter may not be funded for more than 10 percent of total enrollment without a Commissioner’s waiver.
  2. Schools can also provide “remote conferencing” allowing up to 20 days of funding per student for remote instruction if certain criteria are met. The Texas Education Agency is currently proposing changes to the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook that would develop rules for this option.
  3. School districts and charters may also decide to provide remote learning to students who do not meet either the remote learning criteria or SB 15 criteria but would not receive any state funding for these students. Schools providing remote services to students not eligible for the other two options must use other local funding sources (federal stimulus or fund balance).
3. Civics Instruction and Training Programs for Teachers

SB 3 (87th-2) by Sen. Hughes ​revises requirements for civics and social studies curriculum and instruction passed under HB 3979 (87th-R) by Rep. Toth during the regular session. HB 3979 included specific topics and requirements for the State Board of Education to include when it makes revisions to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for the social studies curriculum. SB 3 removed many of the specific historical figures and documents added by the House during the regular session. There was language added prior to the passage of SB 3; however, stating the SBOE may not use the removal of the historical figures or documents from SB 3 as a reason for removal or noninclusion from the TEKS and relisting all of the historical figures and documents that were removed.

Another provision of SB 3 creates a civics training program for teachers and administrators developed by the Texas Education Agency with advice from a nine-member advisory board of former educators. At least one teacher or principal from each campus must attend this training program to ensure civics education is taught in a manner consistent with the bill’s requirements.

4. 13th Check for Retired Teachers

SB 7 (87th-2) by Sen. Jane Huffman provides a 13th check to retired teachers up to $2,400. Retirees can expect their supplemental payments by January 2022. The state cost for this one-time check is $700 million. Retired teachers last received a supplemental payment in 2019, but prior to that, it had been over a decade since any additional benefit or adjustment in benefits were made.

5. Bills that Did Not Pass the Second Called Special Session

Several bills of interest did not pass the second called special session, but similar legislation will likely appear during the third called special session in a few weeks. These bills include policies on mask protocols (prohibiting mask mandates or allowing schools local discretion), tweaks to the accelerated instruction requirements passed during the regular session, transgender athletes in UIL competition, and additional one-time property tax relief at an estimated cost of $4 billion.  

HB 141 by Rep. Leach relating to prohibiting face-covering mandates for public school students.

HB 164 by Rep. Dutton relating to a policy requiring the use of face coverings in public schools.

HB 233 by Rep. Huberty relating to providing accelerated instruction for public school students who fail to achieve satisfactory performance on certain assessment instruments.

SB 2 by Sen. Perry relating to requiring public school students to compete in interscholastic athletic competitions based on biological sex.

SB 91 by Sen. Bettencourt relating to a temporary reduction in the maximum compressed tax rate of a school district and the form of the ballot proposition to be used in an election to approve a tax rate adopted by a school district.

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