2021
LEGISLATIVE
SESSION
WRAP-UP

Coming less than a year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Legislative Session focused on Texas’ steps toward recovery. For public education, this meant ensuring public education was fully funded, schools were held harmless for pandemic-related enrollment declines, and districts received their federal stimulus relief funding.

In addition to funding issues, many of Raise Your Hand’s core policy priorities including vouchers, high-quality virtual education, improved accountability, equitable charter policies, and a stronger teacher pipeline were addressed. In this document, we will take a look at our work this session by the numbers, as well as by the issues.

2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
BY THE NUMBERS

Raise Your Hand Texas’ policy and advocacy efforts have grown exponentially with the addition of our Regional Advocacy Directors and enhanced research and communication efforts. Here’s a breakdown of what those activities were.

Legislative

  • Education bills tracked 900+ vs. 1,000+ in 2019
  • Education bills passed 115+ vs. 130+ in 2019
  • Number of times Raise Your Hand testified 12 vs. 9 in 2019
  • Took a position on 38 bills vs. 19 in 2019

Advocacy

  • Created 13 full-time regional advocacy director positions since 2019
  • Principal Advocacy Fellows 31 vs. 18in 2019
  • Advocates in our text alert system 4,726 vs. 2,179 in 2019

Advocacy Campaigns

  • Total calls made and emails sent by advocates 43,110 vs. 8,277in 2019
  • 16 organizations participated in 3-Legged Stool Day at the Capitol
  • 15 organizations formally opposed outcomes funding in a joint letter to legislators
  • 300 mini 3-legged stools delivered
  • 1 giant six-foot-tall 3-legged stool
  • 9 three-legged stool pop-up events across the state

Communications

  • Launched the Intersect Ed Podcast and released 13 episodes
  • Launched the Across the Lawn weekly update and published 21 issues
  • 28 media stories published
  • Total Tweets 283
  • Total Facebook posts 47
  • Twitter followers gained 893
  • Facebook followers gained 615
  • Total website page views 193,892
  • 2021 Session Toolkit views 12,155 vs. 4,089 in 2019
  • Across the Lawn views 60,518 vs. 26,092 Capitol Update views in 2019

2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
BY THE ISSUES

The 87th Legislative Session was a successful one for Raise Your Hand Texas. Here is a brief breakdown of what happened in each of the issue areas we focused on.

SCHOOL FUNDING

During the 2020 elections, many legislators committed to fully funding House Bill 3 (2019) and they made good on that promise during the 2021 legislative session. The Commissioner of Education also agreed to hold schools harmless for pandemic-related enrollment declines. Additionally, the federal government provided three separate rounds of federal stimulus funding for public education. These funds, totaling over $19.2 billion for Texas, allow districts to implement health and safety measures including air quality improvements and provide resources to stem learning loss such as tutoring, after-school and extended-year programs Unlike most states, Texas did not flow federal funds to schools immediately and they supplanted all of Round 1. State leadership and members of the legislature held on to the funds from Rounds 2 and 3 for various reasons, including wanting to place additional restrictions on school use of these funds. In the end, efforts to put additional restrictions on the funding failed. School districts were told how much they would get in Round Three, but were still waiting for information on the exact amount they would receive in Round 2 at the end of the legislative session.

Federal Stimulus Funding for Texas Schools

*These amounts are estimated based on Hold Harmless
for enrollment decline “settle-up” provisions.

SCHOOL VOUCHERS

The House overwhelmingly voted to reject state funding for any form of voucher program during the state budget debate this session, 115-29. Rep. Able Herreros amendment prohibited the state use of funds for vouchers, tax credit scholarships, or any similar program. There were several attempts to move legislation related to vouchers through the process. Early on in the session, HB 3 by Rep. Burrows related to the states response to COVID, contained a pandemic voucher, but the language was removed from the bill prior to the committee hearing. SB 1716 by Sen. Taylor related to supplemental services for special education students also contained a provision that allowed parents to have individual accounts for private vendors and services. This provision was removed from the final legislation. SB 1968 by Sen. Bettencourt related to tax credit scholarships did receive a hearing in the Senate Education Committee and was voted from committee 7-4, but the bill was never debated on the Senate floor.

VIRTUAL AND REMOTE LEARNING

Raise Your Hand Texas has followed the impact of virtual learning on students even prior to COVID-19. Our belief has always been that the most effective form of instruction is in-person instruction, however, the pandemic also highlighted the need for highly-effective, locally-developed remote learning policies. HB 1468 by Rep. Bell was the legislative vehicle Raise Your Hand supported this session to provide these services to our students. The bill allowed schools to provide remote instruction to students within their attendance zones ensuring students benefit from the in-person services they need to be successful. During the second called special session, SB 15 by Sen. Taylor, however, did pass. 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.

ACCOUNTABILITY AND TESTING

There were several attempts this session to create an outcomes-based, or test-based, funding bonus. The language appeared in many different bills this session, including in the final Senate version of the school finance bill, HB 1525 by Rep. Huberty. But thanks to the efforts of public advocates across the state, members of the House rejected this policy and the provision failed to pass in any form.

There were dozens of bills filed this session related to accountability and assessment, but only a few crossed the finish line. HB 764 by Rep. Krause, which did not pass despite a house vote 136-6 in favor, would have reduced the number of state assessments based on those only required by federal law. The Senate chose not to pass the bill. SB 1365 by Sen. Bettencourt, which did pass, redefines when accountability sanctions occur. HB 999 by Rep. Bernal also passed. This bill will allow high school seniors this school year to use an Individualized Graduation Committee without having passed the required End of Course exams.

Raise Your Hand will continue to monitor and work on the A-F accountability and assessment systems over the interim. Our public schools are being asked to do more than ever, but our A-F rating system is primarily based on one test given on one day. These ratings ignore other essential indicators of a quality education such as extracurricular activities, health and safety issues, and community, family, and student engagement.

CHARTER SCHOOLS

There were several pieces of legislation filed during the session related to charter schools. Raise Your Hand believes traditional school districts and charter schools need to be on a level-playing field when it comes to funding, student admissions, and exclusions due to disciplinary issues. We supported HB 97 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa that would have prohibited a students disciplinary history in the charter schools admission process. This bill failed to pass, but RYHT hopes to continue these important conversations during the interim.

SB 28 by Sen. Bettencourt also failed to pass this session. This bill would have clarified specific zoning, permitting, and land use regulations and fees for charter schools. The bill would have also restricted the powers of the State Board of Education related to the veto authority it has over new charter school applications. Raise Your Hand Texas believes there should be additional oversight of elected officials on new charter applications and expansions to ensure public input and spending efficiency, not less. Raise Your Hand supported HB 618 by Rep. Dutton that provides charter schools equal access to the the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) grant program, which provides grants to public schools to purchase equipment for use in career and technical education classes.

TEACHER PIPELINE

The impacts of COVID-19 on the teacher workforce will not be known for quite some time. Raise Your Hand Texas will continue to support policies to help expand investment in strategies that cultivate a diverse teacher workforce and support research-based educator preparation programs that better prepare teachers to enter and stay in the profession. This legislative session, Raise Your Hand participated in a working group to review existing continuing education and professional development requirements. SB 1267 by Sen. Royce West implements many of those recommendations, including requiring SBEC to publish a clearinghouse of education training requirements.

An additional priority was to make sure our teachers had the resources and materials they will need moving forward for pandemic-related issues. The federal stimulus funds that will now flow to our schools will provide teachers with additional support, materials, and professional development.

WORKFORCE

A strong economic recovery depends on a strong education recovery. This is why Raise Your Hand supported HB 3767 by Rep. Jim Murphy which continues the collaborative work of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to identify statewide workforce goals. The bill also designates career pathways for occupations aligned with current workforce needs.

It is important, as we move forward in our recovery, that we continue supporting public schools the way they support our students, our families, and our communities. Because the future of Texas is in Our Public Schools.

It is important, as we move forward in our recovery, that we continue supporting public schools the way they support our students, our families, and our communities. Because the future of Texas is in Our Public Schools.