Across the Lawn Weekly Update

January 22, 2021 |

87th Legislative Session Weekly Update  |  Friday, January 22, 2021

The FOUR Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do

Welcome to Across the Lawn, Issue 3.

The second 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

Watch This Quick Video with the Top 5 Key Takeaways
from Our New Foundation Poll

The year 2020 brought a global pandemic that shuttered our schools, racial unrest that forced us to examine the role education plays in our society, and countless challenges to how schools support communities – from instruction to emotional support to feeding students and families.

Find out how Texans’ views of their public schools changed in this quick five minute video with highlights from our second annual statewide poll on attitudes toward public education.

The Foundation Poll page features interactive data, charts, and graphs about virtual learning, testing, charters, equity issues, and much more from our 2021 report.

Things to Know

1. The Texas Senate and House Release Base Budgets, Public Education Fully Funded

Senator Jane Nelson filed SB 1 on Thursday, the first draft of the Senate’s version of the state budget for the next two years. In a press release Senator Nelson said, “Texas’ economic strength — and the work we did to scrutinize agency budgets — puts us in a better-than-anticipated position to keep our commitment to education, defeat the coronavirus and invest in our economic recovery.”

Speaker Dade Phelan also announced the filing of the House version of the state budget.  He commented the “budget prioritizes the needs of Texans during this consequential moment in our state’s history and advances the Legislature’s commitment to the historic public education and school finance and property tax reforms passed last session.”

There is still a lot to digest in these massive $250 billion appropriations bills and there are still some obstacles to overcome.  Both the Senate and the House recommendations are $7 billion over what the Comptroller announced was available in revenue for the next biennium. We applaud state leaders’ focus on public education in their initial budgets and look forward to working with them throughout the session.

2. Texas Senate Committees Named

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick recently named members to Senate Committees. Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) will chair the Senate Education Committee once again with the following returning members: Vice Chair Eddie Lucio, Jr., (D-Brownsville), Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), Beverly Powell (D-Burleson), and Royce West (D-Dallas). There are three new members named to the committee: José Menéndez (D-San Antonio), Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), and Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown). We look forward to working with each of them on the important issues facing Texas public schools this legislative session.

In other appointments of note, Senator Nelson (R-Grapevine) will return as chair the Senate Committee on Finance and Senator Bettencourt (R-Houston) was named chair of a newly formed Committee on Local Government.

3. Raise Your Hand Texas Policy Spotlight: Vouchers

As Texas continues to respond to the economic and academic impacts of COVID-19 within our public schools, the Texas Legislature should refrain from investing 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, such as vouchers for remote or virtual learning from private vendors.

Only public schools can deliver on the promise of quality school choice with transparency, accountability, and equity. State and local policy changes over the years have brought greater autonomy to our public schools, allowing them to customize education based on student, community, and industry needs. For more, please read Where We Stand on Vouchers.

4. Public Education is a Priority, But What Are the Other Big Policy Issues This Session?

We continue to hear from elected officials that public education will continue to be a priority this legislative session, especially protecting the programs and funding related to the gains made in House Bill 3. But there are other issues that will be discussed. The House Research Organization put together a Topics for the 87th Legislative Session report that is worth a read to keep up-to-date with all of the issues facing our state.

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