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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: March 24, 2023

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

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Date Posted: 3/24/2023

The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments.

ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins testifies before the Senate Committee on Education March 22.

VOUCHERS: The pro-voucher lobby staged a PR offensive this week, beginning Monday with the release of a non-binding attorney general opinion from Ken Paxton (R) unsurprisingly stating that vouchers are not unconstitutional under Texas law, as well as a rally hosted by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on the Capitol steps. Tuesday’s rally was attended by a few dozen “grassroots” supporters bussed to the Capitol by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. ATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes released a statement urging lawmakers not to be distracted by the political theater: “Instead, legislators should listen to the voices of the thousands of Texas public school parents and educators who have already visited the Capitol this year to share that vouchers, no matter what they are called, will take money out of our neighborhood schools—the very neighborhood schools that serve any student who shows up at their doors, no matter the circumstances.”

The PR blitz led up to Wednesday’s marathon meeting of the Senate Committee on Education, which heard five voucher bills and overwhelming testimony in opposition. ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified against Senate Bill (SB) 8 by Committee Chair Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), which is dubbed a “parental empowerment” bill. It contains a number of provisions—the largest of which is an education savings account (ESA) voucher program. Wiggins has a full recap of Wednesday’s meeting in this blog post. The Senate Education Committee also heard Creighton's SB 9, which is styled as a “teacher bill of rights.” ATPE sent in a joint letter before the beginning of session calling for a $10,000 pay raise; SB 9 would provide only a $2,000 raise for most educators. ATPE testified neutrally on the bill. Creighton submitted a committee substitute, which stakeholders were not permitted to view before the hearing and which has yet been made publicly available.

Meanwhile, the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) released poll results this week showing bipartisan opposition to voucher proposals, with 55% of respondents being less likely to support vouchers upon learning more about such proposals—primarily that private schools choose their students unlike public schools.

HOUSE COMMITTEES: The House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety met Monday and considered HB 459 by Rep. Lacey Hull (R–Houston) that would prohibit the use of physical restraints (such as handcuffs) or chemical irritants by a school peace officer on public school students 10 years of age or younger. ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave testified neutrally on the bill after learning the bill’s author intends to add language to HB 459 that would ban the use of prone and supine restraint in public schools. Although these types of student restraints should be a last resort for educators and are not without risk to the student and educator, there are situations in which the use of student restraint by an educator properly trained in its administration is the best or only available option to protect the health and safety of the student being restrained, other students, or staff. Cave asked that if HB 459 were to move forward, it do so as originally filed. She covers the rest of the hearing in this blog post.

ATPE also testified on several bills in the House Public Education Committee Tuesday related to curriculum and lesson planning, qualifications for prekindergarten teachers, and the selection and regulation of library materials in public schools. Cave’s blog post runs down the list of bills considered.

ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter joins education stakeholders for a conversation on the Legislature's impact on Texas public schools March 23.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS PANEL:  ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter participated in a livestreamed panel discussion Wednesday hosted by The Dallas Morning News Education Lab project. The topic was what’s at stake for students, parents, and educators this legislative session. Reporter Talia Richman moderated the panel, which also featured Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde and Texas School Alliance Executive Director H.D. Chambers (former superintendent of Alief ISD). The panel opened with reflection on the shootings this week in Arlington and Dallas ISD parking lots. ATPE sent a message of support to our members in those districts.

SCHOOL FINANCE:  Several school boards across the state are considering campus closure plans due to declining enrollment and funding challenges. ATPE’s Jack Densmore takes a closer look at this issue, explaining why these campus closures are the lingering effects of “hold harmless” finance provisions implemented as emergency measures during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TXED KUDOS: Congratulations to DeSoto ATPE member and 27-year educator Pamela Dawson, who won the 2023 Music Educator Grammy Award in February. Meet Dawson, known as “Mama Dawson” to her students, on the ATPE Blog.




Deann Lee

Thanks for ALL y’all are doing!

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