Capitol Update: October 7, 2019

October 07, 2019  

The Capitol Update provides you with expert insight and analysis on legislative issues impacting Texas public school students and educators. In this month’s edition, our policy experts report on the conversations they heard at the 2019 Texas Tribune Festival.

Raise Your Hand Texas would like to thank The Texas Tribune for hosting yet another fantastic Texas Tribune Festival this year. The quantity of exceptional speakers and quality of discussions were unmatched, and Raise Your Hand is proud to have been a part of it.

We would also like to extend a special thank you to all the public education advocates who visited the office for our TribFest reception. We had a wonderful time connecting with friends and colleagues who were able to attend![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Finally, we are happy to announce the winner of our #TheFutureIsTxEd competition. TribFest attendees posted photos of themselves on social media with our front window and street graphics, using the #TheFutureIsTxEd hashtag for a chance to win $500. The big winner is Christina Angelique Puentes from Austin! 

Thank you, Christina, for supporting Texas public education and a brighter future for our state! And thanks to the many others who participated.


#TribFest19 Photo Contest Winner Christina Angelique Puentes’ Instagram Photo

During TribFest, many legislators, education policy experts, and practitioners gathered to reflect on the impact of the 86th legislative session, discuss the implementation and sustainability of these changes, and better understand what they mean for the future of Texas (and our public schools). Raise Your Hand also shared this handy Session Takeaway handout, synthesizing the major results of the legislative session and why its critical that we stay involved to ensure every session is a public education session. Additionally, our team of policy experts attended several key panels and weighed in on the discussions through our Raise Your Hand Texas Twitter account. Scroll down to see what our experts took from the conversations they heard, and be sure to follow us on Twitter at @RYHTexas.

Capitol Connections with Michelle

 Michelle Smith, Ph.D.
Vice President of Policy and Advocacy

This TribFest, I was happy to attend “The Future of Education” panel with Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, Former UT-Brownsville president; Dr. LaTonya Goffney, Aldine ISD superintendent; Mike Morath, Texas Commissioner of Education; and Margaret Spellings, CEO of Texas 2036 and Former U.S. Secretary of Education.

The guiding question for this distinguished panel was: How do we prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s Texas? According to the Texas Tribune’s Texas Public Schools Explorer, over half of Texas public school students are low-income and/or at-risk of dropping out. If Texas is to have a promising and bright future, all students in the state must have access to a high-quality public education. The panelists were particularly vocal about the accessibility of, and preparation for, higher education in the 21st century — especially for students of disadvantaged backgrounds. Dr. Garcia was passionate about supporting our Hispanic students, which make up over 52 percent of the student population and the largest share of students who are low-income and/or at-risk. Dr. LaTonya Goffney shared how her school district has worked to provide high-quality educational choices for their students. Commissioner Morath emphasized the state’s work to help students receive an Associate’s degree upon high school graduation. Margaret Spellings stressed the importance of increasing access to college credit courses in high school to help alleviate the cost of attending four-year universities. Overall, it was a very robust conversation on both the challenges and opportunities we have to create a stronger Texas by making sure every student has access to a relevant and high-quality education. 

At Raise Your Hand, we believe that developing a strong educational foundation early on is also essential in our pursuit of a brighter Texas. Decades of research demonstrate the significant impact of high quality pre-K on long-term student success, especially for our low-income and/or at-risk populations. Additionally, personalized education models, like the ones used in our Raising Blended Learners program, give every student the opportunity to own their learning and grow at their own pace, resulting in positive results for the districts and students involved.

Thanks to all of the speakers for taking the time to talk about the future of Texas public education!

Bob’s Two Cents

Bob Popinski
Director of Policy

I had the pleasure of attending the “School Finance 2.0” panel with Representative Dan Huberty of House District 127; Representative Mary Gonzalez of House District 75; Representative Diego Bernal of House District 123; and Senator Larry Taylor of Senate District 11.

It has been four months since the passage of HB 3. This panel provided an opportunity for some of those deeply involved in the shaping of this bill to reflect on many of the important programs and policies now being implemented. As with any major piece of legislation there are always roll-out questions. The first series of questions were related to these concerns. What was the average teacher pay raise?  How many schools implemented full-day pre-kindergarten? Is the funding required for these new programs and formula changes, including the property tax relief, sustainable? Some of these questions will be answered during this school year, but the consensus by the panelists was HB 3 will take time to fully implement and evaluate. The panelists also agreed some tweaks will have to be made either during the TEA rulemaking process or next legislative session and that additional revenue streams to support HB 3 and property tax relief will need to be discussed moving forward. The panelists expressed their desires to return to the Capitol next legislative session to continue to work on these issues, as well as focus on the needs of their district.      

The Texas Education Agency has and will continue to provide guidance and information on all of the programs in HB 3 through their “HB 3 in 30” video series. 

Raise Your Hand thanks the members of this panel, and all of the members of the Legislature, for their continued dedication to support public schools in Texas!

Need a reminder of what House Bill 3 does for public education? You’re in the right place! Check out our House Bill 3 side-by-side to get details on how this legislation will impact our schools.

On the Move with Libby

Libby Cohen, Ph.D.
Director of Advocacy and Outreach

At the “Building for the Future” panel, I had the opportunity to listen in on a conversation about future policy challenges the state is likely to face with Senator Chuy Hinojosa of Senate District 20; Representative Donna Howard of House District 48; Representative John Zerwas of House District 28; and Tom Luce, Founder and Chairman of Texas 2036.

Taking a step back to paint a broader picture of Texas’ future, this panel answered questions about the state’s population changes and the implications they have on current policy issues. The panel agreed having a solid, long-term vision for Texas was necessary to withstand the population growth we’re experiencing — a projected 62 percent population increase (for a total of 47.3 million people) by 2050. Along with education, lawmakers must address the accessibility and rising cost of healthcare services, as well as the infrastructure development that will be necessary to support this population growth. Representative Zerwas said he was convinced that discussions around new revenue streams are inevitable in the near future. If new revenue sources aren’t identified, he said, Texas will eventually be expected to spend 75 percent of the state budget on healthcare alone.

The panelists agreed a long-term vision is necessary for education, as well. A highly-skilled workforce is hard to achieve when your state ranks 43rd in per-pupil funding! House Bill 3 is a good start, but Texas must continue to invest in public education to ensure we are prepared for tomorrow’s challenges. Representative Howard was right when she pointed to the 2018 elections as a catalyst for pro-public education discussions in the Texas legislature. We must not let that momentum falter in the upcoming election cycle.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @RoadTripLibby!

Staying Informed

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