Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 14, 2023
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Date Posted: 4/14/2023
The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments.
- House Public Education Committee holds marathon hearing on vouchers, votes to advance school finance bill
- Senate Education Committee considers classroom discipline bill, special education voucher
- SB 10 providing a TRS COLA advances to full House
- School safety legislation on the move in both chambers
- Abbott’s “parent empowerment” tour met with anti-voucher protests
- SBOE meets during legislative session
- SB 9 does not contain a pay raise (ATPE media appearance)
- From the ATPE Blog: A look at the four-day school week trend and information about DPS’ Safe Gun Storage campaign
HOUSE PUBLIC EDUCATION: The House Public Education Committee considered four voucher bills during a marathon hearing Tuesday. ATPE State President Stacey Ward, State Vice President Jayne Serna, and Region 13 ATPE Director Stephanie Stoebe were among the many educators who visited Austin to testify against any type of voucher that would direct taxpayer funds away from public schools and to private entities that are not held to the same accountability standards.
Also during the hearing, the committee voted House Bill (HB) 100 by Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian) favorably out of committee. ATPE continues to work with the bill’s author to improve its provisions around educator pay. The bill changes school funding from attendance-based to enrollment-based, as well as changes the minimum salary schedule to a three-tier rather than a 20-step system. Learn more in this recap from ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave.
The committee will meet again Tuesday, April 18, with a lengthy and diverse agenda, and again on Thursday, April 20, with another substantial agenda. The bills scheduled to be heard cover student safety and health, charter school expansion, parental grievances against school districts, bilingual education, and more.
SENATE EDUCATION: The Senate Education Committee met Wednesday to consider bills related to classroom discipline and special education vouchers, among other topics.
ATPE-supported Senate Bill (SB) 245 by Sen. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock) would allow a teacher to remove a student from class based on a single incident in which a student interferes with the teacher's ability to communicate effectively with students in the class or with the ability of the student's classmates to learn.
ATPE opposes SB 1474 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) because it contains a special education voucher, though we appreciate the positive changes the bill would make to special education funding tied to recommendations from the Texas Commission of Special Education Funding. ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins has the details in this blog post.
TEACHER RETIREMENT: The House Pensions, Investments & Financial Services Committee reported SB 10 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston) favorably out of committee during its Thursday hearing after substituting the language in the bill with the language in HB 600 by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R- League City). As passed out of the Senate, SB 10 is that chamber’s primary Teacher Retirement System (TRS) legislation and contains a one-time cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for those TRS annuitants who retired before Jan. 1, 2022, as well as a one-time $7,500 stipend for eligible retirees aged 75 and older. The House language now moves to the House Calendars Committee to be set for debate on the House floor. Learn more about the Senate and House approaches to a TRS COLA in this side-by-side comparison.
SCHOOL SAFETY: The Senate’s priority bill on school safety, SB 11 by Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville), garnered a unanimous favorable vote by the Senate Education Committee this week, as we reported here. School safety discussions will continue next week with a few key hearings.
Next Monday, April 17, the Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety will hear bills related to school safety, including HB 3639 by Rep. Christina Morales (D–Houston) that would require active shooter response training on a biannual basis for peace officers and school resource officers, as well as HB 4882 by Rep. Mano DeAyala (R–Houston), which would require law enforcement review of a school district’s emergency operations plans. Additional bills to be heard on Monday will address bullying policy and prevention strategies, a task force to study discipline procedures, and a “handle with care” policy for students dealing with trauma. View the full agenda here.
The House Select Committee on Community Safety will meet Tuesday to hear numerous bills related to firearms. Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D–San Antonio), whose district includes Uvalde, thanked House members and leaders for scheduling the hearing on bills pushed by the families of the Robb Elementary shooting victims. The committee’s agenda includes HB 4472 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) requiring the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas School Safety Center to provide information and resources regarding safe firearm storage to school districts and charter schools.(In related news, DPS has launched a campaign to educate families about safe gun storage; learn more on the ATPE Blog.)
VOUCHER PROTESTS: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) continues his pro-voucher “parent empowerment” appearances at private schools across the state, but this week’s events in McAllen and San Antonio were protested by public education supporters. The Brownsville Herald and San Antonio Express-News have coverage. A parent empowerment event in March in Denton was also protested, as reported by the North Texas Daily.
SBOE: The State Board of Education (SBOE) met this week in Austin while the Texas Legislature was in session. The board discussed a variety of subjects, including changes to the review and revision schedule for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standards.
The board also discussed waiving the no-contact period for charter schools. The SBOE has veto authority over new charter school applicants, who must make their case before the board before they are awarded taxpayer funding. Currently, those applying to open new charter schools in Texas are prohibited from contacting SBOE members outside of a public hearing while their final approval is pending. Past charter applicants who have violated the no-contact period have had their applications vetoed. The discussion of eliminating the no-contact period comes after charter schools spent unprecedented sums of money supporting SBOE candidates in the most recent election cycle.
ATPE IN THE NEWS: Houston’s ABC 13 Eyewitness News interviewed ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins Monday about SB 9 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe). Dubbed the “Teacher Bill of Rights,” the bill actually contains several provisions that would worsen teacher working conditions. It also contains a one-time stipend of $2,000 for most classroom teachers and $6,000 for teachers in districts with fewer than 20,000 students. This one-time pay bump has been mischaracterized as a raise. Watch Wiggins' interview at the 05:45 mark.
ATPE BLOG: Over on the ATPE Blog, we take a closer look at which Texas school districts are exploring the four-day school week trend.
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School Finance, Retirement | TRS | Social Security, Texas Legislature, Privatization | Vouchers, Educator Compensation | Benefits
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Thank for all you do, guys! Hang in there. Only 45 days to go!