Texas House approves state budget bill after adding pro-public education amendments
School Finance Texas Legislature Congress | Federal COVID-19 Privatization | Vouchers
Date Posted: 4/23/2021 | Author: Andrea Chevalier
The ATPE Governmental Relations team provides a rundown of top education-related amendments considered last night, including any recorded votes, which we caution are not yet official.
LEGISLATIVE DISTRIBUTION OF FEDERAL EMERGENCY FUNDS:
The House debated multiple budget amendments related to the federal emergency relief funds approved by the U.S. Congress that have not yet distributed to Texas public schools.
- Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) filed Amendment 136, which provides that none of the COVID-related federal emergency funds can be appropriated, allocated, transferred, or expended without an official action by the Texas Legislature, either in a regular session or a special session called by the Governor. Effectively, this amendment bars any small group of elected or unelected officials from determining how federal emergency funds are spent and upholds the importance of the democratic process and the Legislature’s duty to appropriate funds. View the unofficial record vote on this amendment at Record Vote #411.
- Rep. Morrison also successfully amended the supplemental budget bill, House Bill (HB) 2 by Rep. Bonnen (R-Friendswood), with this same language so that any federal funds used to shore up the current budget are also subject to a requirement for legislative approval during a session.
- Rep. Justin Holland (R-Rockwall) also added Amendment 72 to the budget. This amendment was a “legislative intent rider” stating that TEA shall not condition sending federal COVID relief funds to school districts on the district’s payment to any entity or to the purchase of any service. The amendment was approved without a record vote being taken.
- Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) authored Amendment 73, which was further amended by Amendment 74. This change, requested by the education community, replaced a provision in the budget that would have allowed the state to use the federal emergency funds to supplant, rather than supplement, other state funding for public schools. The Rodriguez amendment requires federal funds to be provided in a timely manner and used only to supplement state funds. The amendment also states the intent of Legislature not to restrict districts’ use of the funds, and it clarifies that the provision applies regardless of whether the state receives a waiver from the federal government regarding the use of funds. The House approved this pair of amendments without a record vote.
- Finally, Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) added Amendment 137, which states it is the intent of the Legislature to use federal emergency relief funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, the second and third rounds of federal education relief funding, for strategies to address COVID-19 learning loss. The provision is quite specific in directing the Commissioner of Education to work with school districts in prioritizing five strategies, such as grants used to change practices in the district, career-focused high schools, parent engagement, “high-dose tutoring,” and high-speed broadband access.
PROHIBITING VOUCHER FUNDING:
As it has done in other recent legislative sessions, the House approved a budget floor amendment to prevent state funding of private school vouchers.
- Amendment 84 by Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) as approved by the House prohibits state-appropriated money from being used for private school vouchers, education savings accounts, or tax credit scholarships. View the unofficial vote count for this amendment at Record Vote #410.
- Rep. Steve Toth, (R-The Woodlands) attempted to add his Amendment 85 to the budget bill that would have authorized the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to administer a private school choice program designed by the Commissioner of Education. After another representative called a “point of order” on the amendment, asserting that it violated the parliamentary rules of the House, Rep. Toth withdrew his amendment from consideration.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY BUDGET AMENDMENTS:
- Rep. Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas) presented Amendment 89, amended by Amendment 90, which would allow the board of trustees of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) to provide a one-time supplemental annuity payment, often called a “13th check,” to retired educators. These amendments were approved by the House without record votes.
- Rep. Davis also carried Amendment 71 to remove a controversial provision from the budget that stated, “No funds transferred to the Regional Education Service Centers or to school districts may be used to hire a registered lobbyist.” Davis’s amendment helps ensure school districts can continue to engage in legislative advocacy efforts related to public schools. View the unofficial record vote for this amendment at RV #409.
ATPE urges educators to contact their legislators, especially in the Texas Senate, urging them to keep these improvements to the budget in SB 1. It is also important that educators continue to push for rapid distribution of federal COVID-19 relief funds to the school districts that need them. ATPE members can visit Advocacy Central to quickly send messages to or call their lawmakers about these issues.
Read ATPE's press statement about the House budget vote here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.
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