Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 21, 2023
School Finance Texas Legislature Elections Privatization | Vouchers School Safety
Date Posted: 4/21/2023
The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments.
- Lieutenant governor threatens special session in TV interview
- Budget conferees named to craft final state budget
- Senate passes ATPE-supported school safety bill Senate Bill (SB) 11
- House Public Education Committee considers parental rights bills, expanding full-time virtual schools, and allowing chaplains to serve as school counselors
- Senate Education Committee considers voucher tied to school employee misconduct
- Early voting begins Monday for May 6 local election, when many school board and bond elections take place
WHO WANTS A SPECIAL SESSION? The days keep getting longer as the time left in the regular legislative session gets shorter. “Regular” is the operative word here as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has again threatened to force a special session (likely on vouchers) by not passing key legislation. This time, he was being interviewed by Karina Kling, host of Spectrum News’ Capital Tonight. As no one wants to spend the summer fighting off an issue the Texas House has already said it opposes, it’s critical for the public education community to keep contacting their lawmakers to urge them to continue saying no to any form of voucher, no matter how it would be implemented. ATPE members can log in to Advocacy Central to quickly and easily reach out, particularly to those House members who voted against or registered “present not voting” on the anti-voucher Herrero budget amendment.
STATE BUDGET: With passage this week of the Senate’s version of the state budget bill, a conference committee will now get to work ironing out the differences between the two chambers’ visions for the next biennium. On Thursday, the lieutenant governor and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) each named their respective members to the conference committee:
- Senate: Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston), Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville), Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham), Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), and Sen. Charles Schwertner (R–Georgetown)
- House: Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–Galveston), Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D–El Paso), Rep. Jacey Jetton (R–Richmond), Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R–New Boston), and Rep. Armando Walle (D–Houston)
SCHOOL SAFETY: On Wednesday, the Texas Senate unanimously passed ATPE-supported Senate Bill (SB) 11 by Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville). The bill contains funding for school safety and security, changes the truancy definition to six unexcused absences within eight weeks (currently, the definition is 10 unexcused absences within six months), and allows education service centers (ESCs) to act as school safety resources.
On Tuesday, the House Community Safety Select Committee heard emotional testimony from the families of Uvalde victims who were urging the Legislature to raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. The Texas Tribune has coverage.
HOUSE PUBLIC EDUCATION: The House Public Education Committee held three meetings this week—two marathon hearings and a formal meeting to handle pending votes. On Tuesday, parental rights headlined the agenda, and on Thursday, the committee considered ATPE-opposed bills to expand funding to full-time virtual schools and allow uncertified chaplains to serve as school counselors. ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave has the details in her blog posts on the Tuesday and Thursday hearings.
SENATE EDUCATION: The Senate Education Committee met Wednesday to consider several bills, including a private school voucher tied to school employee misconduct, as well as a pair of ATPE-supported bills to increase transparency in bond elections. ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins recaps the hearing in this blog post.
MAY 6 LOCAL ELECTION: Early voting begins Monday, April 24, and continues through Tuesday, May 2, in the May 6 local election. Many school board elections across the state will be decided May 6. In this Teach the Vote blog post, we take a closer look at the power held by school board trustees and the historically low turnout in local elections. Visit vote411.org, a website sponsored by the League of Women Voters, to find out what’s on the ballot in your area so you can make a plan to vote.
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Texas Legislature, Elections, Curriculum | Instruction, Privatization | Vouchers, School Safety
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