87th Legislative Session Weekly Update | Friday, March 5, 2021
The FOUR Things to Know and ONE Thing to Do
Welcome to Across the Lawn, Issue 9.
The eighth week of the 87th Legislative Session has come to a close. 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. This weekly session update will keep you informed and engaged.
The One Thing to Do
It’s the first week of March, the ice has melted here in Austin and the legislative session is now in full swing. Meet our policy team staff and learn more about our legislative priorities by watching our new video.
Things to Know
1. Governor Extends Hold Harmless Funding for Student Enrollment Decline
Governor Greg Abbott announced on Thursday the extension of Hold Harmless funding for enrollment decline. Abbott stated, “Providing a Hold Harmless for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year is a crucial part of our state’s commitment to supporting our school systems and teachers and getting more students back in the classroom.”
The funding for enrollment decline under this extension does work a little differently than previous Hold Harmless funding. Schools will now receive the Hold Harmless funding as long as they meet one of the following criteria related to on-campus learning:
- On-campus student attendance participation rate during the last six-weeks of school is equal to or greater than 80% of all students, or
- Average on-campus attendance participation rate during the last six-weeks of school is equal to or greater than the on-campus attendance participation rate reported in October 2020.
The Texas Education Agency also released a summary of student enrollment trends on Thursday. The TEA summary shows that overall 3% fewer students were enrolled in public education in Texas in January 2021 than in 2019. More than half of that reduction, 53%, is represented by early education, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten students.
2. Education Commissioner Testifies before the House Public Education Committee
Members of the House Public Education committee heard Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath testify again this week on COVID-19 learning loss, the impact of House Bill 3, ongoing connectivity challenges, and more.
Morath offered to work with the committee on education items like funding for supplemental tutorial services, extending the one-year funding formulas for hybrid instruction, and negotiating with internet service providers to provide subsidized or discounted broadband access to students.
According to Morath, 1.7 million students live in areas that have high speed internet, but cannot (or do not) have access to it. With improved access, school districts would be better equipped to continue providing hybrid instruction — a learning model that the commissioner said he believes has a “bright future” in Texas.
3. Texas Lifts Coronavirus Restrictions, Schools Provided New Health Guidelines
Governor Abbott announced this week he was ending the statewide mask mandate and allowing businesses to reopen at 100 percent capacity as of March 10.
The Texas Education Agency also updated its health guidelines instructing public schools to continue current practices on masks until changes are made by determination of the local school board.
Also this week, the Department of State Health Services announced that educators and school support staff are now eligible for vaccines effective immediately.
4. Listen to Education Experts Discuss Our Latest Poll Findings
We’ve said since the beginning that the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation Poll is for everyone. It is for educators, researchers, lawmakers, and communities. It represents the voices of all Texans about an issue that impacts all Texans. It is Texas’ poll.
Our latest Intersect Ed podcast features education experts from a variety of fields reflecting on the Foundation Poll data and how it impacts their work. This was always the goal — that Texas across fields would use the research to inform decisions and stimulate action to improve public education for all students and families. The experts we spoke with are: Heather Sheffield, the board president of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessments and a school board trustee in the Eanes school district; Chandra Kring Villanueva, the economic opportunity program director at Every Texan, formally the Center for Public Policy Priorities; Dr. Charles Martinez, the dean of the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin; and Kevin Malonson, the Texas executive director for Teach Plus.
Want to look into the future of public education?
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