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Legislative staffers Tuesday received a one-page report detailing changes to Senate Bill 3, which would exclude rural counties from participating in the private school subsidy programs and limit overall participation. view article arw

The Senate Education Committee will meet Thursday, March 30 at 9 a.m. to consider seven bills. Summaries below from TASB. read more arw

Just one day after the Texas Senate passed its two-year budget, a key House committee sent their own spending proposal to the full House – but not before cutting $2.4 billion from the state’s largest health care program for the poor and disabled.  Emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump, Texas House budget writers voted to cut $1 billion in state funding for Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program that mostly serves children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. In doing so, they agreed to forfeit another $1.4 billion in federal funding, though they promised the move would not harm patients’ ability to receive health care. view article arw

Senate passes its budget

March 3008:38 AM

The Texas Senate unanimously approved a two-year budget on Tuesday that would shift nearly $2 billion in public education costs from the state to local taxpayers. The Senate’s $218 billion document now goes to budget writers in the House for debate. “This is a lean budget, but it’s also a smart budget,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, the 2018-19 Senate budget’s lead author. “It responsibly meets the needs of our state.” view article arw

The Texas Legislature really knows how to kill the mood at a school board meeting — at least for the Glen Rose Independent School District and its 1,760 students. After the Board of Trustees honored several stellar student-athletes who have earned all-state and academic all-state honors during the 2016-2017 school year, Superintendent Wayne Rotan gave a legislative update. It was not a pretty picture. A big chunk of the "there" that was expected to be there in the 2017-2018 budget probably won't be there after all. view article arw

TASB Legislative Update

March 3008:38 AM

House Pub Ed considers charter bills - The Committee on Public Education met Tuesday to consider several bills, most dealing with charter schools and some of those increasing funding for charters. Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston) said that next week’s hearing would include bills on special education, health and safety, and other issues. View the morning or afternoon portion of the hearing. The following bills were all left pending. view article arw

Amid concerns that he doesn’t have enough support in the Senate, the author of a bill that would divert some state money to help students pay for private school tuition, among other non-public education system expenses, is considering scaling back the measure. According to a document received by some Capitol staff members, the bill’s author Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, would limit the eligibility requirements of students. The changes appear to address concerns of lawmakers from rural areas where few private schools exist.  Students who live in counties with fewer than 50,000 people would no longer be eligible for state money through so-called savings accounts or tax credit scholarships unless a school board approves it. view article arw

AUSTIN — A House committee unanimously advanced a state budget late Wednesday that would use about one-fifth of state savings, setting up an end-of-session showdown with the Senate. While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate leader, repeated his opposition to using any of the rainy day fund, House budget writers sought to build support by energizing education constituencies to side with them.  The Appropriations Committee's budget and a companion spending measure known as the "supplemental" bill would avoid the Senate's cuts to higher education and pump $1.5 billion more into public schools — provided that lawmakers in both chambers agree to tweak Texas' school finance system. view article arw

The Austin Independent School District will send over half a billion dollars to the state next year, and by 2019 over half of all non-construction related taxes raised by AISD will go into state coffers. According to the latest projections given to the board on Feb. 27 by AISD Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley, the district is set to send $406 million (38.3%) of its $1.06 billion maintenance and operations budget to the state in the current financial year.  view article arw

The Texas Senate has given preliminary approval to ending voluntary payroll deductions of union dues from state and public employee paychecks. Houston Republican Sen. Joan Huffman says the government shouldn’t be in the business of collecting union dues. But her bill still allows payroll deductions for charities and for unions for first-responder groups, like police and firefighters. Huffman fought off attempts by Democrats to allow public school teachers to have their union’s dues automatically collected from their paychecks. view article arw

Do you know how to interact with police officers when pulled over? Do your kids? If not, the Texas lawmakers are here to help. The Texas Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 30 on Wednesday that would require high schools and driver education courses to develop curriculum on how to interact with police officers. Also included in the bill is civilian interaction training for officers attending academies. According to the Texas Tribune, the curriculum would include a few different focus areas. view article arw

The Texas Senate on Tuesday approved a two year $217.7 billion state budget that includes significant cuts to many state agencies, relies on a $2.5 billion accounting maneuver and does not tap the state $10.2 billion rainy day fund. The 31-0 vote sends Senate Bill 1 to the House, where Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has harshly criticized the Senate plan, setting up a showdown over the only bill lawmakers must pass before departing Austin at the end of May. Introducing the budget on the Senate floor, Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, noted that lawmakers are dealing with a tight budget this year because state tax collections have been slowed by sluggishness in the fossil fuel sector and alluded to measures lawmakers approved in 2015 — especially a business tax cut and a set-aside for transportation funding — that have limited how much money they can spend. view article arw

As courtroom twists go, this one is practically unheard-of: On the brink of bringing Texas' attorney general, Ken Paxton, to trial on felony securities fraud charges, the government's prosecutors are threatening to bail out of the case unless they get paid. Whether one of the biggest criminal cases in Texas finally goes before a jury is now in limbo over what prosecutors contend is a deliberate effort by rich supporters of Paxton, an up-and-coming firebrand in Republican legal circles, to delay justice by challenging their paychecks. So far, the tactic is working. view article arw

The Texas Legislature has a long history of wasting their time on education bills that do nothing to alleviate the actual issues within the Texas education system. Instead they focus their energy on bills that brush over the real problems and solve nonexistent ones. The latest bill in this series is House Bill 22, filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, which would push back the implementation of a new grading system for school districts. view article arw

President Trump’s Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, seems to think after-school programs consist only of feeding hungry students, thereby helping them do better in school. My colleagues in the after-school arena and school administrators everywhere wish things were so easy. After-school programs are much more than mealtime. view article arw

The governor of Texas is getting bullied on his request for serious money for a serious pre-kindergarten program. Messing with governors can be risky business, but Texas lawmakers aren't answering Greg Abbott's call. Texans aren't, either. In a year of frequent and large rallies and protests at the Texas Capitol, pre-K is a relative dud. It's popular with many educators and politicians, but it hasn't drawn the kind of crowd that might turn some heads inside the big pink building at the end of Congress Avenue in Austin. view article arw

For at least the last few legislative sessions, there have been two real political factions in Texas: the House and the Senate. Particularly since the demolition of the two-thirds rule in 2015, the upper chamber caters directly to the wishes of Republican primary voters. It’s fallen to the House to represent just about everyone else. When May rolls around every session and bills start dying, the two factions generally come to hate each other, though they may not always make that hatred plain. This year, that animus is coming earlier and louder than usual. The hostility is so great that it may make a mess of the session’s crucial last months, when a lot of horse-trading will have to happen to pass a budget. Last week, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick gave an interview to KFYO, a Lubbock radio station that closely identifies with the Texas GOP’s right flank, in which he offered unusually explicit criticism of House Speaker Joe Straus. view article arw

The Texas Senate unanimously approved a two-year budget on Tuesday that would shift nearly $2 billion in public education costs from the state to local taxpayers.  The Senate's $218 billion document now goes to budget writers in the House for debate.  “This is a lean budget, but it’s also a smart budget,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, the 2018-19 Senate budget’s lead author. “It responsibly meets the needs of our state.” view article arw

Read! In the old days — we're talking way back, in the pre-2015 era — every mayor in the United States of America wanted to be governor and then president and then the face on a nickel or a dime or a two-dollar bill.  Maybe the office of governor should be the end game for every lowly politician who looks at the mirror in the morning and sees a superstar smiling back. Greg Abbott seems to be arguing for a consolidation of political power, what with his goal of moving federal power to the states and with his strong new pitch to make him a sort of mayor-in-chief of all the cities, towns, settlements and camps in the state.  This is not the “United States of Municipalities,” Abbott told a crowd this week in Fort Worth. view article arw

Texas lawmakers are fighting to change a controversial grading system set to take effect next year for school districts. A single grade on a report card doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s the message school district officials across Texas sent to lawmakers back in January as they lobbied for change after the Texas Education Agency released preliminary letter grades for school districts under the new A-F grading system. view article arw

AUSTIN - Some of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priorities are getting short shrift from legislative budget writers who are wrestling with meeting the needs of a growing state with diminished revenues.  Among them are key programs overseen by Abbott's office for which he requested substantial funding, such as the deal-closing Texas Enterprise Fund and an initiative to bring the best researchers to Texas universities. Under legislative budget proposals as they now stand, the programs would get millions less than Abbott is seeking. Budget-writers also have abandoned Abbott’s much touted high-quality pre-kindergarten grant program in favor of other approaches, at least at this point in the process of writing a spending plan for the next two-year budget period. view article arw

Flexing his parliamentary muscle and flashing his antipathy to efforts to regulate the use of bathrooms by transgender people, House Speaker Joe Straus prevented amendments on the matter from reaching the House floor on Tuesday. In a showdown with his most socially conservative members, Speaker Joe Straus ended debate on a bill about the fate of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas operations, by announcing there were no further amendments to consider. But at least two amendments had been filed before the debate seeking to fold the contentious transgender bathroom issue into the relatively tame oil and gas bill. view article arw

AUSTIN -- The lawmaker carrying the Senate's "school choice" bill plans to narrow the scope of the measure in hopes of winning over rural legislators hesitant to vote for the bill that would allow Texas parents to use public money to pay private school costs.  Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, declined to detail how he would limit the so-called school voucher bill Tuesday, but sources said he likely will carve out an exemption for rural areas, which would provide cover to lawmakers who fear political repercussions from people working in their school districts, often the largest employers in their counties. (paywalled)  view article arw

AUSTIN -- The Senate unanimously passed and sent the House Tuesday a two-year budget that selectively increases spending for Child Protective Services, foster care and bullet-proof vests for police officers, even as it would scrimp on public schools, higher education and health care programs.  The chamber's $217.7 billion budget would slightly reduce current spending of state general-purpose revenue - by one-half of a percentage point.  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the plan, which he said "reflects Texans' priorities as conservatives." It passed, 31-0. view article arw

After weeks of debating how to prevent school districts from becoming financial losers, the House Public Education Committee voted 10-1 on Tuesday to adopt its leading school finance bill, which would inject an extra  $1.6 billion into the state public education system. Committee Chairman Dan Huberty, the author of House Bill 21, praised the committee for building legislation that would boost per-student funding for almost every school district and charter in the state. He also acknowledged the losses some school districts would have to face: “I know that we didn’t help everybody. And we tried.” view article arw

 Texas lawmakers are flooded with letters of support for a piece of legislation. Problem is, they may not be real. Lawmakers are used to getting letters from the people they represent but, over the last few weeks, some of them have been getting the same letter, hundreds of times. Representatives Four Price (R-Amarillo) and Ken King (R-Canadian) and state Senator Kel Seliger have all received hundreds of letters from so-called supporters of Senate Bill 3, known as school choice.  view article arw

Two of the worst bills of the 2017 session of the Texas Legislature could be voted on in the Texas Senate as early as this Wednesday, March 29. One would drain taxpayer dollars from public education to give away subsidies to private schools with no accountability. This voucher bill is SB 3 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood). The other part of this dual attack is SB 13 by Sen. Joan Huffman ( R-Houston), which aims to silence your voice at the Capitol by outlawing your voluntary payroll dues deduction to your union. view article arw

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Friday gave perhaps his harshest condemnation yet of the controversial “bathroom bill” championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Straus said the bill, which has drawn the ire of Texas businesses and been criticized as discriminatory against transgender people, felt “manufactured and unnecessary.” “If we’ve gotten to the point in our civilization, in our society, that our politicians have to pass bills about bathroom stuff … I mean, we’ve gotten really out of control,” he said. view article arw

 Outnumbered and unable to block legislation they oppose, Democrats in the Texas Senate are under pressure from public-sector employee organizations to use one of the few weapons left in the arsenal to block Gov. Greg Abbott’s pick to lead the state’s Pension Review Board. “There are very few ways 11 people standing alone can shape public policy in this state. But this is one of those ways,” said Rick Levy, secretary-treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO. view article arw

Last Thursday, the Senate Education Committee voted in favor for Senate Bill 3- a priority voucher bill for both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. On Sunday, educators in East Texas spoke against the bill expressing concern of what call “voucher bill on steroids”. "If you're going to start taking money out that pile of money that's there, then it's going to do more harm to public education. Public education is the biggest place where most students get their education,” said Ginger Franks, a representative for Association of Texas Professional Educators. view article arw

Many times the pace of the legislative session can get a little hectic. I often tell my staff that session is more like a marathon than a sprint. We’re well on our way through our marathon, as we have just passed the 70th day, which is the half-way point of the session. Here are five things happening at your Capitol this week: view article arw

We are officially halfway through the legislative session. It has been a busy first half of the legislative session, and these last couple of months will move even more quickly.Around the Capitol,one of the pillars of any legislative session is sunset legislation. The sunset process was started in Texas with the intention of making our government leaner and more efficient. The Sunset Commission is a state agency tasked with periodic reviews of an alternating list of state agencies. view article arw

Legislative Update

March 2708:41 AM

A quick look at the Texas Legislature's school finance activities for the week of March 20 - 24, 1917. - This week we discuss progress being made on both House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1, the respective chambers' versions of the state budget. Also, vouchers and efforts to further restrict spending in the Senate. view article arw

Hundreds gathered at the Capitol on Saturday morning to rally for Texas public schools.  The rally, organized by the nonpartisan coalition Save Texas Schools and the advocacy group Austin Voices For Education and Youth, called for more money from the Legislature for public schools in Texas. Speakers included state Sen. Kirk Watson and state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, both Austin Democrats.  “The Texas school finance system is broken, but our schools are not broken,” said Watson, the former Austin mayor who represents parts of Travis County. “Imagine what teachers and school officials could do for our kids if we actually provided our schools with the resources they need to help students thrive in the 21st century.” view article arw

AUSTIN - Public education supporters rallied at the Texas State Capitol on Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon.  The rally was hosted by Save Texas Schools, a coalition of parents, teachers, students and community members. It took place on the south steps of the Capitol.  Saturday's crowd was much smaller than organizers predicted. Between 300 to 500 teachers, administrators and supporters from all across the state showed up. view article arw