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AUSTIN, TX – Texas Governor Greg Abbott added school finance reform and retired teacher benefits to the list of items which the legislature can take action on during the special session just underway in Austin. view article arw

The Senate Education Committee on Friday will consider two bills that address many of the major education-related issues on the special session call, including school finance and ‘private school choice.’ Senate Bill 2, filed by Senate education chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, is comprised of several education issues that would reallocate $270 million from Health and Human Services over the next biennium to pay for: view article arw

Say hello to the "bathroom bill" for the third time this year — a proposal that has raised a divide between conservative and moderate Republicans and the rest of the Texas Legislature this year. The Senate, maintaining its full sprint just three days into the special session, quickly sent measures that would regulate restrooms for most transgender Texans to a committee that will hold a hearing on the legislation this morning. Here's what you need to know:  view article arw

Texas legislators could end up passing bills to reform the state's school finance system and help out retired teachers this special session. After the Senate voted early Thursday morning to pass a bill keeping several key state agencies alive, Gov. Greg Abbott immediately expanded the special session agenda by adding 19 items — and dramatically expanded the focus of two education-related priorities he had announced last month. view article arw

SB 2 is a voucher bill. SB 2 contains Education Expense Assistance and a state premium tax credit. Tax Credit vouchers would allow businesses or individuals to count donations to private school “scholarships” against state premium tax liability and would funnel taxpayer money to private and corporate schools for students with a disability. We oppose this bill on the following grounds: view article arw

As a conservative Republican county judge in a growing county, I’m concerned by Sen. Paul Bettencourt’s property tax plan, Senate Bill 1. Entitled the “Texas Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017,” it failed to pass during the regular session, but is again under consideration in the special session. I believe the bill will never live up to its promising name. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cut taxes. It’s just a distraction from a problematic school finance system, and the eagerness of many in Austin to use unfunded mandates to pay for things they haven’t found the money to cover. view article arw

S.B. 2 addresses funding needs of independent school districts and public charter schools in Texas and establishes a tax credit scholarship and educational expense assistance program. The bill creates a "Financial Hardship Transition Program" to assist districts facing funding shortfalls due to the expiration of the Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) program. The program, designed to ensure districts facing substantial financial hardship without ASATR funds, considers local tax effort. view article arw

The Senate Committee on State Affairs is holding a public hearingFriday morning to discuss two newly filed bills, Senate Bill 3 and Senate Bill 91. The bills were filed by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham),the same senator who filed the so-called bathroom bill during the regular session, but there are some changes in the language this time around. view article arw

For the third time this year, a committee of state lawmakers will consider measures to restrict bathroom use for transgender residents in what’s expected to be an hours-long hearing Friday that could draw out hundreds of Texans to testify. view article arw

East Texas education advocates say recent teacher rallies in Longview and elsewhere helped spur Gov. Gregg Abbott to add two school-related items to the special legislative session agenda. After the Texas Senate voted early Thursday to pass a bill keeping several key state agencies alive, Abbott dramatically expanded the focus of two education-related priorities he announced last month. view article arw

The governor and lieutenant governor of Texas are at odds over how to fix the teacher retention problem in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick seem to agree that teachers should receive a bigger paycheck, but each is backing a different plan.  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is asking legislators to approve a plan that would provide bonuses to long-term teachers. view article arw

The head of one of the country's leading teachers' unions charged Thursday that school choice, a key policy agenda of the Trump administration, is rooted in segregation and racism. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers' group, said that decades ago school choice was used by officials in the South to resist desegregation. view article arw

State Rep. Ron Reynolds presented his “good, bad and ugly” review of the 85th Texas Legislature Thursday at the Missouri City Leadership Luncheon held at the Ben E. Keith company. The Missouri City Democrat didn’t have very many highlights to report in a session dominated by Republican majorities in the House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion. view article arw

Bathrooms vs. bucks for schools

July 2108:31 AM
 

House Speaker Joe Straus would rather lawmakers spend their 30-day special session improving Texas' broken school finance system than policing which bathrooms transgenders can use. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the driving force behind the "bathroom bill," hijacked a must-pass sunset safety net bill in the regular session to make the special session necessary. view article arw

Both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick take great pride in promoting proposals that would get more money in teachers’ pockets, but they make no effort toward funding their largesse. The cost of these unfunded mandates fall squarely on the shoulders of taxpayers back home. Instead, state officials should concentrate on fixing Texas’ deeply troubled public education finance system. view article arw

Texas teachers challenge Abbott

July 2108:30 AM
 

Lawmakers are back at work at the Texas Capitol, and so are the ever-present protesters. A day before the opening of a special session with public education on the governor's agenda, Texas educators began converging on the state Capitol to protest the proposed reforms. view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday launched a blitz of some 60 radio and TV appearances planned through next week to promote his bid for a second term, which he announced Friday, and to ride herd on the special legislative session that got underway Tuesday. Abbott has promised a running public accounting of who’s with him and who’s against him on the 20 items on his special session agenda, and he told Scott DeLucia on WTAW-AM in College Station that the first of what DeLucia called his “naughty and nice” lists should come by week’s end. That will probably focus on gold stars for those legislators who authored or co-sponsored legislation on Abbott’s priorities. view article arw

The Texas Senate and House of Representatives haven't been on the same page for a while, and it's no wonder. During Dan Patrick's press conference last week, the lieutenant governor admitted that he and House Speaker Joe Straus hadn't met one-on-one since the start of the 85th legislature, 190 days ago. view article arw

State Representative Leighton Schubert (R-Caldwell) spent the first day of the special session of the 85th Texas Legislature reaching out to school superintendents and county judges from around House District 13, which he represents in the Texas House of Representatives. Schubert invited all superintendents from his district to the Texas Capitol to discuss proposed legislation dealing with public school education, among them school finance, "private school choice," and increased teacher pay. view article arw

Hundreds of teachers in red shirts looked to the sky Monday afternoon as an airplane circled high above the Texas Capitol trailing a banner in support of a public education rally. Current and retired teachers, parents and students rallied on the south steps of the Capitol to show their support for public education and denounce standardized testing, school vouchers, lack of public education funding and unfunded teacher pay raises. Many of the teachers present were also members of different major teacher associations, like Texans for Public Education, the organization that coordinated the rally. view article arw

State lawmakers called for a $1,000 pay raise for teachers in Texas public schools, but Lubbock ISD said they are worried about cuts they would have to make in order to follow such a mandate. “We would love to see teachers make more money,” LISD Superintendent Dr. Berhl Robertson, Jr. said.  “Obviously we all know they don't make near enough, but given the requirements, we pay as much as we possibly can and still be fiscally responsible.  If a thousand dollar teacher pay raise was mandated, we would have to be looking to cut some place.” view article arw

 The Texas Senate is fast tracking sunset legislation, paving the way for Governor Greg Abbott to add 19 items to the Special Session Call. Wednesday afternoon Senators voted unanimously to preliminarily pass Senate Bill 20 (SB20) and Senate Bill 60 (SB60). SB20 will keep a handful of Texas Agencies, including the medical board, operating through 2019. Otherwise they will cease to exist on Sept. 1. view article arw

Voting shortly after midnight, the Texas Senate gave final approval to two “sunset” bills that will allow five state regulatory agencies, including the Texas Medical Board, to continue operating until 2019. After a short wait, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he had expanded the list of topics available to be considered in the 30-day special session that began Tuesday, including transgender bathrooms, changes to the property tax system, abortion regulations and limits on the regulatory powers of cities. view article arw

While a showdown over Texas bathrooms has been years in the making, debate over the issue came to a head this spring during the state's regular legislative session — and is poised to reignite during the special session that started this week. During the regular session, several Republican lawmakers pushed measures that would restrict which bathrooms transgender Texans could use — stirring controversy among advocates, the business community and lawmakers. view article arw

House Speaker Joe Straus could hardly sound less worried about a cadre of tea-party Republicans who have threatened to mount a rare leadership challenge in the middle of his term. view article arw

Opening day of the special session of the Texas Legislature on Tuesday was mostly procedural, filled with paperwork, rules, and a reunion of sorts for the legislators, staffers, and Capitol community who haven't seen each other since the 85th legislative session ended on May 31. view article arw

The Truth About Tax Reform

July 2107:45 AM
 

In the July 5th edition of The Texas Spur, we saw an article coming out of Austin which spotlighted Governor Abbott’s endorsement of certain legislative efforts to REFORM PROPERTY TAXES. view article arw

The special session of the Texas Legislature is officially underway, and it kicked off on Tuesday just as one might expect, with more fighting between Republicans and Democrats amid protests at the Capitol. According to the Houston Chronicle, inside the dome Democrats were “grasping at procedural straws” while Republicans continued to be “mired in deep divide.”  view article arw

Some legislative efforts are mere window-dressing while others improve lives. Some are public relations bulletins for politicians while others are carefully crafted efforts to address problems. Some bills are sincere; others are cynical attempts to score points in the arena of public opinion. One of Gov. Greg Abbott's education agenda items for the just-started special session falls squarely in the cynical and ignoble category. Abbott wants a $1,000 pay raise for teachers that won't require state funding.  view article arw

The Texas Senate met at midnight Thursday, at the behest of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to approve the must-pass sunset bills — a prerequisite to debating the rest of the items on the agenda for the special legislative session. Shortly after the Senate gave the sunset bills final approval, Gov. Greg Abbott expanded his call to allow lawmakers to tackle the remaining 19 issues, largely conservative ones that Patrick supports. view article arw

The Texas Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously to give early approval to legislation that would prolong the lifespan of several state agencies that are scheduled to stop operating in September. Senators were scheduled to return to the Capitol after midnight to give the “sunset” legislation final approval, opening the door for Gov. Greg Abbott to add 19 additional items to the special session agenda. view article arw

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and 15 San Antonio-area superintendents are opposed to a transgender "bathroom bill" that Gov. Greg Abbott wants passed in the special session of the Texas Legislature."In short, the proposed legislation offered during the 85th Legislature was seeking to solve a problem that does not exist in our schools," according to a letter sent Monday to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and Bexar County lawmakers. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate Committee on Education and the House Committee on Public Education, were sent a copy. "We all want to ensure our children are safe, but more importantly, treated respectfully and with dignity. view article arw

 State Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) filed two bills for consideration on the first day of the recently convened special legislative session. The first, House Bill 193, would appropriate $150 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund (commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund) to decrease health insurance premiums and deductibles for retired educators under the age of 65 who participate in TRS-Care. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas has indicated that an appropriation of this size would be enough to significantly reduce both of these costly expenses for retirees. view article arw

One of the key items being discussed this special session is school finance.  Educators are paying close attention to any potential changes which could have a serious impact on schools across the state.  view article arw