Across the Lawn

February 19, 2021 |

87th Legislative Session Weekly Update  |  Friday, February 19, 2021

The FOUR Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do

Welcome to Across the Lawn, Issue 7.

The sixth 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

Take Care, Texas!

With the current energy crisis, Texas now faces an unprecedented infrastructure emergency on top of an ongoing and unprecedented health emergency.

And this means the focus of the 87th Texas Legislature has completely changed. This past week millions were without power, heat, and even food. Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a disaster declaration and declared energy reform an emergency item this legislative session. At Raise Your Hand Texas, our hearts are with the many Texans who are suffering as a result of this crisis and would like to ask nothing more of our readers this week than to take care of themselves and one another.

Things to Know

1. House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committee to Meet Monday

The Texas House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee will meet to discuss the budget for public education on Monday, February 22. As our state lawmakers prepare for these meetings, we are urging them to think beyond simply preserving HB 3 funding.

The federal government is providing billions in COVID-19 relief funding to public schools across the country. Texas initially received $1.3 billion in federal stimulus funding intended for our schools in the spring of 2020. However, our schools did not see any additional money because Texas instead diverted these funds to fill other state budget holes.

Now, another $5.5 billion in federal funds promised to our schools hangs in the balance.

Digging out of this crisis will take more than just sustaining current funding levels for public education. Additional funds for interventions, improved broadband access, and extended instructional time are necessary to prevent lasting harm to our students and to position our students and state for a strong recovery. Because a strong Texas recovery requires a strong recovery for our public schools.

Many of our state leaders have said that we can’t allow this health crisis to become a generational education crisis. We couldn’t agree more. We must tell lawmakers that federal funds intended for education must stay in education. We must tell them to stop diverting funds designated for our schools, including the $5.5 billion currently on the table. We must tell them to invest those funds in our future.

To watch Monday’s Senate Finance hearings tune in here.

To watch the House Appropriations hearing tune in here.

2. Schools Step up to Help Those in Need

Across the state, Texas turned to our public schools in a time of need this week and schools rose to the occasion. Schools served as warming shelters in Austin and North Texas and school bus drivers transported people in need.

We at Raise Your Hand are looking for stories that inform, educate, and inspire. Do you have a story of a school official or district rising to the challenge? You can send us your story here.

3. Texas Education Agency Approves Waivers for Missed Days

The Texas Education Agency this week announced it will allow school districts to submit waivers to cancel classes for several days due to the lack of consistent electricity and inclement weather. This will allow districts to cancel classes with no make-up days necessary. Districts will need to submit “missed school day waiver requests.”  According to news reports, the agency initially announced that districts could apply for up to three missed days but has since said they are monitoring the situation and districts could apply for more if necessary.

TEA also provided additional guidance for schools impacted by the inclement weather for the week of February 22 through February 26:  view here.

4. Federal Government Says Teachers Should Get Vaccine Priority

The Biden Administration this week called for teachers to be moved up in priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“So it’s about needing to be able to socially distance, smaller classes, more protection, and I think that teachers and the folks who work in the school — the cafeteria workers and others —  should be on the list of preferred to get a vaccination,” Biden said in remarks during a CNN Town Hall.

Administration officials have said vaccination would not be required to open schools.

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