Capitol Update #1

October 30, 2020 |

Friday, October 30, 2020

Welcome to the 87th Legislative Session! The Capitol Update will provide you with expert insight and analysis on legislative issues impacting Texas public school students and educators. This month’s Capitol Update will introduce Raise Your Hand Texas’ policy mission and legislative priorities for the upcoming session; present the newest member of our policy team; discuss the impact of COVID-19 on public education; review our advocacy efforts over the last year; and share our new Intersect Ed podcast.

Michelle Smith, Ph.D.
Vice President of Policy and Advocacy
Raise Your Hand Texas

Capitol Connections with Michelle

Welcome to the October 2020 edition of the Raise Your Hand Texas Capitol Update! Our team has been hard at work preparing for what is sure to be one of the most unusual Texas legislative sessions on record. We spent the summer finalizing our Where We Stand document, which will serve as our policy “true north” for many years to come. We also nailed down our 2021 legislative priorities and added them to our newly redesigned policy webpage. And for a quick look at our 2021 summary document, you can click here.

Charles GainesI’m also pleased to introduce you to our new Director of Government Relations, Charles Gaines, who joined us in September 2020. Charles previously served as the advancement and governmental relations officer at Abilene Christian University and has extensive experience in higher education, non-profit philanthropy, and state politics. We’re honored for him to serve as our liaison to Capitol staff and legislators.

Our state and the Texas Legislature will face many challenges this session. But we are optimistic that our elected officials will continue to prioritize our amazing public schools, including 5.4 million Texas students and the dedicated educators who serve them every day. We will need your help every step of the session to communicate students’ and teachers’ needs. Some of that communication will feel different based on whether we’re able to physically enter the Capitol or connect with elected officials remotely. Raise Your Hand Texas will utilize all the tools in our toolbox to make sure you know what’s going on and how you can engage in the process. Thanks so much for everything you do to support our efforts, and more importantly, our Texas public schools. We’re honored you’re taking the time to read this update, and we look forward to engaging with you in the coming months.

Bob Popinski
Director of Policy
Raise Your Hand Texas

Bob’s Two Cents

There will be many public education policy issues taking center stage during the next legislative session, including discussions on how to sustain the programs passed in House Bill 3 (2019) and new policies brought to light by COVID-19, like equity in broadband access. Raise Your Hand Texas will also have legislative priorities of its own, which we will continue to focus on and discuss. But what you will hear about most from now until the end of the 140-day session next May is the state budget and its overall impact on public education funding.

Due to our state’s continued economic downturn, there are still a lot of unknowns of what the budget picture may look like. We do know our 2020-21 two-year state budget faces a $4.6 billion shortfall, but we won’t know what the revenue outlook looks like for the 2022-23 state budget until January.

The concern is the next budget’s shortfall could look a lot like 2011 when public education funding was cut by $5.4 billion. If there is another significant budget shortfall, Texas needs to avoid the mistakes it made almost a decade ago. Our students and schools cannot afford another generation of lackluster funding, program reductions, stagnant teacher wages, or slow student academic growth. We learned that deep cuts to our public schools do not move our state forward.

Last session, HB 3 provided an additional $5 billion for public education over two years, or an additional $530 per student—this included finally enacting full-day pre-kindergarten statewide. This was a historic achievement and, if kept intact, will benefit our students for years to come. Texas must use the Rainy Day Fund and use other available resources to make sure public education is kept whole.

This will be a tough legislative session for many reasons and Raise Your Hand Texas will continue to support what is best for our public schools.

Want to look into the future of public education?

3 simple ways to get the scoop, get engaged, and get connected.

Libby Cohen, Ph.D.
Director of Advocacy and Outreach
Raise Your Hand Texas

On the Move with Libby

Raise Your Hand Texas believes that public education is on the ballot every single election, and our advocacy team has been carrying that message to every corner of the state. Equipped with yard signs, swag, vote planning cards, and a new voting resources website, our regional advocacy directors have been building up excitement to vote and helping people take concrete steps to follow through on their voting intentions.

The team has found creative ways to engage campuses through efforts like carpool line canvasses and lifesize, social media-ready ‘JUST VOTE’ letter displays. We also hosted an additional 16 virtual For the Future candidate forums to continue to help inform the public about candidates’ stances on key public education issues. Texas has traditionally struggled with voter turnout compared to other states, so we’re encouraged that early voting turnout has been among the strongest in the country. Let’s keep it up — every vote counts, and each voice matters!

Laura Mellett
Director of Policy Content and Public Affairs
Raise Your Hand Texas

For many years, the team at Raise Your Hand Texas has wanted to start a podcast. This summer, those dreams became a reality with the launch of Intersect Ed, where the stories of public education policy and practice meet. Through interviews with experts and real stories from people working in and impacted by our schools, we design each episode to give listeners deeper insight into the top issues facing public education in our state.

In our first series, we explored the impact of COVID-19 on our teachers, students, and school leaders. This fall, we kicked off our second series, which focuses on Raise Your Hand’s top policy priorities. If you haven’t had a chance to listen, be sure to check out this episode on what school budgets look like for the upcoming school year and how the economic recession may impact school districts in the legislative session. You can subscribe to Intersect Ed on AppleSpotifyStitcher, and most anywhere you listen to podcasts. If you have an idea for an episode, or suggestion for something we can explore please email me at [email protected].

Want to listen to the latest in politics and policy?

Subscribe to the Intersect Ed podcast.

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