LUBBOCK, Texas - One of the biggest highlights of this year's Texas legislative session: School finance reform. "This one law does more to advance education in Texas than any law I have seen in my adult lifetime in the state of Texas," Gov. Abbott said  At the heart of House Bill 3 is funding set aside for full-day pre-K.  view article arw

A law legalizing hemp changed the definition of marijuana, causing district attorneys across the state to drop low-level possession cases and stop accepting new ones. Weeks after Texas prosecutors began dropping hundreds of marijuana cases and stopped actively pursuing criminal charges because of complications that arose from legalizing hemp, the state's leaders have stepped into the fray. view article arw

You've got to spend money to make money. But that's not the way Texas, and a handful of other states, are looking at the 2020 census. Officials in Texas have decided not to spend any money or make statewide plans for the census, despite the fact the state experienced massive population growth in the past decade.  With federal dollars at risk, the state's major cities, business leaders and even non-profits say they are being forced to step-in instead. view article arw

Democrat Eric Holguin has announced his candidacy for Texas State House for District 32. He will challenge for the seat held by incumbent Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) in the upcoming election. House District 32 includes part of Nueces County -- 54% of Corpus Christi, including Flour Bluff & Padre Island, and the City of Port Aransas. view article arw

Republican Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has launched a political action committee to help defend the GOP majority as Democrats push to take the lower chamber in 2020. Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, has started the group, Texas Leads, with $3 million from his campaign account, his team announced Monday. The political action committee will focus exclusively on reelecting GOP members to the House — a move consistent with Bonnen's insistence that incumbents do not campaign against one another. view article arw

SEATTLE (AP) — Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch’s powerful network that’s known for influencing state policy is now targeting education issues like school choice as the movement battles a new wave of hostility from Democrats who oppose charter schools and private school vouchers that use taxpayer money.  Koch in June announced the Yes Every Kid initiative as the latest addition to his sprawling network of wealthy donors, political groups and tax-exempt advocacy organizations best known for pushing anti-regulation, small-government policies. Its political arm, Americans for Prosperity, has made waves supporting the tea party and fighting former President Barack Obama’s health care law. view article arw

Apparently, former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus still has a few things to say — and $2.5 million to amplify his voice. Straus, the San Antonio Republican who served 14 years in the House, and 10 of them as the guy in charge, is taking money left over from his campaign account to fire up a political action committee to promote pro-business and "non-discriminatory" candidates and policies. “We are launching this effort because I believe Texas needs leaders who are forward-looking and dedicated to bringing creative, problem-solving ideas to the new challenges our state faces as our population rapidly grows,” Straus said when he announced the formation of the PAC Texas Forever Forward. view article arw

When state lawmakers passed their landmark $11.6 billion school finance law in late May, school employees were eager to see how mandatory raises would affect their paychecks.  A month later, they’re scratching their heads, struggling to decipher complicated changes and conflicting financial estimates that might not net teachers as much money as they expected. view article arw

Texas took a big step in improving public education when Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 3, which included $6.5 billion in new public education spending. The governor called it a “monumental moment” given such generous support to public education without a court order.  Texas families should be appreciative that Republican and Democratic lawmakers were able to advance a funding bill that provides additional support to public schools, including opportunities for increased teacher pay based on performance and incentives for teachers to work in high-needs and rural schools that are often difficult to staff with high-quality teachers. view article arw

State Budget Recap With the legislative session recently concluded, this a good time to update you on the budget and important bills that passed in the General Assembly, and how they might affect you. As there is much to cover from this five-month session, I will do this in two parts. This first op-ed will focus on our state budget and initiatives that have a fiscal impact. The next op-ed will highlight key legislation that addressed issues regarding public safety, public health, education, human services and our environment; among others. view article arw

State Rep. Travis Clardy is set to discuss the 86th Legislative Session with community members Friday during a Nacogdoches County Chamber luncheon. Clardy will provide updates on session wins and losses to attendees. view article arw

With its first overhaul of sex-education guidelines in 20 years, the State Board of Education has a real chance to come up with better ways to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Regrettably, the deeply politicized State Board seems determined to stick with outmoded methods like a focus on abstinence-only lectures that have been proven to be ineffective in not just Texas but the rest of the nation. This is not the way to build the kind of forward-looking state that can lead the nation in business, technology and higher education. Texans deserve better. The tipoff for this disappointment came when the board named four controversial “content experts” to help shape guidelines on teaching students about sexual health. view article arw

Hays County ISD says it plans to enroll approximately 750 kids into its pre-kindergarten curriculum. Last year, it was 500.  This is according to district officials who hosted a registration day event at Simon Middle School in Hays County on Friday. The boost in numbers stems from House Bill 3, which was signed into law. view article arw

The Texas State Board of Education is considering new policies that would begin sex education during kindergarten. Texas Education Board Commissioner Mike Morath made recommendations in his health care review that include lessons about healthy relationships and reproduction. Brae’Lee Stewart is six years old and just finished kindergarten a few months ago. view article arw

Political synchronicity: In the same week, Jonathan Stickland decides not to run for reelection and Joe Straus starts a political action committee. The first, a conservative populist whose career in Austin is measured by the number of rhetorical and political grenades he rolled up the center aisle of the House; the second, a measured, soft-spoken and moderate five-term speaker of the House. view article arw

Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate Republican who sparred with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott on key conservative issues during his tenure, has launched a new political action committee. Straus’ PAC, Texas Forever Forward, is aimed at promoting “a thoughtful, conservative approach to governing,” according to a statement from the group on Wednesday. view article arw

SAN ANTONIO - This year, Texas became the 13th state in the nation to adopt some form of mandatory Holocaust remembrance education in public schools.  The bill was written and filed by state Sen. Jose Menendez, who represents the San Antonio area. It was unanimously approved by both the state Senate and House. view article arw

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a firebrand conservative Republican from Bedford and one of the most vocal members of the Texas House, announced Monday he will not run for reelection in 2020. Stickland, first elected to represent House District 92 in 2012, broke the news to supporters in an email, saying he had "determined it is not in the Lord's will for me to seek re-election." "Instead," he wrote, "I intend to dedicate more time to my family, my church, and my business." view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 3 — the property tax and school finance relief bill — earlier this month, and because the law led to several changes, Midland ISD was required to create a new budget.  The bill affected both the revenue and expenditure sides of the general fund and placed additional board priorities into the budget. view article arw

AUSTIN – The Texas Education Agency (TEA) today announced the launch of a new web video series, “HB3 in 30,” to help inform school districts and the public about how to implement the transformative measures in House Bill 3, passed during the 86th legislative session.  Each video will feature, in roughly 30 minutes, an overview and detailed explanation of a specific provision in House Bill 3, as well as information on how TEA is working to implement applicable changes to public education required by this new legislation. view article arw

The Texas Tribune is touring the state with a series of post-session events recapping the major policy debates of the 86th Texas Legislature and what they mean for Texas' largest cities and surrounding communities.  Join us for a conversation about public education, taxes, immigration, health care, spending and other consequential matters with four Houston-area legislators: state Sen. Carol Alvarado and state Reps. Sarah Davis, Dan Huberty and Armando Walle. The conversation will be moderated by Evan Smith, co-founder and CEO of The Texas Tribune. view article arw

AUSTIN — Children under 17 years old in Texas can’t legally consent to have sex. But they can still be charged with prostitution after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a widely supported bill to prohibit those arrests.  The legislation, while well intentioned, he said, had “unintended consequences” by removing an option law enforcement and prosecutors can use to separate victims from sex traffickers. view article arw

School districts will be receiving millions of dollars in additional money and teachers will be receiving raises in the coming school year following the passage of House Bill 3 during the 86th Texas Legislature. One of the biggest pieces of the new law — an $11.5 billion school finance reform package — is its increase in the basic allotment provided to all school districts. In the 2019-2020 school year, districts will receive $6,160 per student in basic allotment — the starting point in determining a district’s funding — which is a $1,020 increase over what districts received for the current school year. view article arw

Recent passage of HB3 overhauling public education finance system enables district to allot $48M for pay hikes  By virtue of recent passage of House Bill 3 — a historic overhaul of the state's public education finance system — Austin ISD teachers and staff are poised to receive pay increases.  In a message to teachers and staff posted on the Austin ISD website, Superintendent Paul Cruz said the district will be able to more than double the minimum amount decreed in the bill's passage. To that end, the district is committing $48 million in permanent compensation increases including the following: view article arw

The Cleburne ISD board of trustees approved a 3 percent raise for all school district employees during Monday night’s meeting.  The board also approved the budget for the 2019-20 school year. They will consider approving the tax rate soon.  view article arw

Carthage ISD expects to be getting an approximate $2.1 million increase in state funding this year now that House Bill 3 is official. But district officials were quick to note Monday that the increase doesn’t make up for the millions taken away by the state since 2006. view article arw

New education reform bills and their implementation remain a key focus for superintendents across the state of Texas. That includes Huntsville ISD leader Dr. Scott Sheppard.  During a brief meeting of the HISD Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Sheppard took time to reassure the board, staff and the community that his staff is working “diligently to go through all of the bills passed by the legislature,” including House Bill 3. view article arw

Texas lawmakers were happy and relieved last month after approving difficult-to-pass education and property tax legislation, but they’re going to have to work to convince Texas voters to uncork the Champagne, given the results of the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Gov. Greg Abbott called it “a monumental moment in public education history in the state of Texas” last week when he signed a bill implementing a massive overhaul of the state’s school finance system, one that includes about $6.5 billion in new public education spending and about $5.1 billion devoted to lowering Texans’ property tax bills. Lawmakers also approved a measure this year designed to slow the future growth of Texans’ property tax bills. view article arw

Calling it a monumental moment in public education history, Gov. Greg Abbott signed $11.6 billion in measures this past week aimed at providing pay raises for teachers, while also lowering property taxes. The education bill – House Bill 3 – will increase per-student base reimbursements by approximately 20%, devoting funds for teacher pay raises and expanding access to full-day pre-K. “One of the biggest positive changes for HISD as a result of HB3 will be compensation increases for our employees,” HISD superintendent Scott Sheppard said. “We strive to reward employees financially for staying with the district and new funding from the state will make it easier for us to reward longevity in the district as well as increase every employee’s compensation for the coming school year.” view article arw

The Texas Legislature found an extra $11.5 billion for public education in the 2020-2021 budget, of which $5 billion will go to property tax relief. While this is good news for Texas schools and homeowners, it raises the question: Where will the money come from? The only way to describe the new budget is that lawmakers robbed Peter to pay Paul. They did nothing about the state’s revenue crisis (although they contemplated a $5 billion sales tax increase). And tax receipts from the state’s booming oil and gas business will not be as big as people think. According to Comptroller Glenn Hegar, total tax receipts will not increase much more than population plus inflation. view article arw

It will be a tough sell for Texas education commissioner Mike Morath to persuade the state Board of Education to update Texas’ sex education curriculum for the 21st century, but it’s good to see he’s trying. The board over the years has been so rooted in the past that it initially dismissed complaints about textbooks that described Mexicans as lazy and slaves from Africa as immigrant workers. That shouldn’t deter Morath; he’s doing the right thing. view article arw

Governor Greg Abbott signed off on several bills this week, and others, did not make the cut during the 86th Texas Legislature Session. So, who where the winners and losers in the 86th Texas Legislature? Many people say taxpayers won. view article arw

As the Legislature kicked off in January, the governor, lieutenant governor, and House speaker held a press conference outlining that school finance reform and property tax relief would be the top priorities of the session, and that they were all on the same page on how to accomplish both.  One good result of this united purpose was that it left little room for any consideration of major distractions that we’ve battled in the past like vouchers and bans on payroll deduction for dues–both non-issues this session.   view article arw

TEMPLE, Texas — House Bill 3, which, in part, increases teacher salaries, is now a law.  "It's to the tune of, depending on whose numbers you look at, it's either $10 billion or $11.5 billion or somewhere in between," Texas Rep. Hugh Shine said.  Belton Independent School District discussed the new law Monday at its monthly board meeting before planning to adopt the new budget and salary schedule in July. view article arw

The effects of the 86th Texas Legislative session remain to be seen as the governor signs and approves the bills. One of the most important, the budget, House Bill 1, was signed Saturday. It sets the state’s spending for the next two years. KCBD spoke to representative Dustin Burrows about what the $250 billion budget means for the South Plains. “This was a very significant investment in public education,” Burrows said. view article arw