Equity Center, Legislative Update

November 1605:26 AM

Wednesday, November 14, the Texas Commission on Public School Finance Revenues Working Group met to hear invited testimony and discuss possible revenue option recommendations to make back to the full commission.  While several stakeholder groups made recommendations as to how the state should address the revenue aspect of school finance reform, the highlight was Senior Advisor for Fiscal Affairs to the Governor, Tommy Williams (former Senate Finance Committee Chairman), presenting the governor's property tax and school finance reform plan that was released recently.  The commission has just over a month to complete its official report and is expected to meet again after the Thanksgiving Holidays. Click here to view the archived hearing video and you can view the stakeholder presentations from the hearing here at the Texas Commission on Public School Finance web page. view article arw

Democrats in the Texas House were feeling good in the days after this year’s election. They had just picked up 12 seats in the lower chamber, chipping away at the GOP’s massive majority. And the caucus chair, state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, was working to organize members in hopes of swaying the race to become the next House speaker. But less than a week after Election Day, the speaker’s race ended before Democrats could find a candidate to coalesce behind. One by one, those in the race to replace the retiring Republican Joe Straus had dropped out.  view article arw


November 2008:40 AM

Members of the Texas House are handling the reality that state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, is poised to become the next speaker. Nearly half of the 67 Democrats who will serve in the House next year have signed on to support Bonnen. Other members, the Tribune’s Alex Samuels reports, are now wondering what a House with Bonnen at the helm could mean for them — and whether they should get on board with the idea.  view article arw

In the United States, we have long held that universal, free (that is, tax-supported) public education for youth is a fundamental responsibility of society and serves as a basic community resource, providing a pathway to understand democracy, exercise responsible citizenship, explore the world’s accumulated knowledge, appreciate American culture and prepare for a world of work in which we ultimately attain economic security. However, extending from the first taxpayer-supported school in 1639, attaining free public education for all children has been a bumpy evolution, fraught with issues of both race and religion. view article arw

Texas children lag behind their peers across the country in educational opportunities, access to health care and financial secruity, according to a report released Thursday. Ahead of the 2019 legislative session, the “State of Texas Children” report, compiled by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, recommends ways to close gaps in children’s opportunities based on race, ethnicity, gender and class. view article arw

The 2019 Texas Legislature must act on behalf of children in the state, or risk that they will fall further behind their peers in the rest of the United States, according to a new report from Austin's Center for Public Policy Priorities. The report also emphasizes the need for an accurate census in 2020 in order to ensure that kids in Texas receive all the help from federal funds to which they are entitled. Texas families with kids need all the help they can get, according to the report, because 20 percent of the state's 7.4 million children live below the federal poverty line. Black and Hispanic children are three times more likely to fall below the poverty line than white or Asian kids, and nearly 40 percent of all families headed by single mothers live in poverty. Despite gains made since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than 670,000 Texas kids still don't have health insurance. view article arw

Wanted: State funding for education

November 2008:35 AM

There is something missing in Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to fix school finance in Texas: state funding. This is a key ingredient because it’s hard to imagine school finance getting fixed if the state doesn’t provide appropriate funding for public education. That process starts with Abbott and other state leaders identifying funding sources for education. view article arw

It was a Sunday night in the middle of August, and the Texas House Freedom Caucus had grown frustrated with state Rep. Dennis Bonnen. Bonnen, an Angleton Republican who had been tasked with shepherding the House’s property tax measure through the lower chamber, wanted to postpone a final vote on the bill until the next morning. State Rep. Matt Schaefer, a Tyler Republican and chairman of the Freedom Caucus, wanted to nudge the issue closer to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for a signature. Bonnen said he needed time to handle negotiations between the two chambers. “Can’t we walk and chew gum at the same time?” Schaefer asked Bonnen from the back microphone on the House floor. The chamber was tense, and members were tired. The Texas Legislature was burning through the final hours of the special legislative session trying to hammer out a compromise on Abbott’s No. 1 issue. view article arw

District 25 State Sen. Donna Campbell and District 73 Rep. Kyle Biedermann are already looking ahead to the Texas Legislature’s 86th session, and lawmakers on Monday began pre-filing bills ahead of the first gavel on Jan. 8, 2019. Campbell, R-New Braunfels, is co-sponsoring an anti-hazing bill with Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, with plans to file additional bills in the upcoming weeks. On Thursday she filed Senate Bill 196, which would provide property tax exemptions to spouses of service members killed in the line of duty. Campbell plans to file the first of four bills addressing expansions of quarries and concrete plants in Hill Country areas. The first would extend setback requirements for quarry facilities from existing residences, schools and churches and increasing buffer (zones) from 440 yards to a half-mile. view article arw

For the first time in a long time, the Texas Legislature is given a good shot in the coming session of increasing funding for public education, which could lead to an end in the upward spiral of residential property taxes, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports. In the last three sessions, the Republican-dominated Legislature, trying to stress its conservative credentials, has cut state aid to education funding.  That achieves two GOP goals...to enable Republicans to claim to be 'holding the line' on higher education spending, and to enable more funding to be diverted to charter and private schools. But the result, according to Northside ISD Superintendent Brian Woods, has been to push that spending responsibility down to local property owners. view article arw

In 2016 the Texas Organizing Project’s get-out-the-vote program in Harris County—a combined 1.2 million door-to-door visits and phone calls and nearly 2,500 rides to the polls—helped foment a rout of the local Republican party, headlined by Democrat Kim Ogg’s victory in the district attorney’s race. The nonprofit group’s shoe-leather approach to mobilizing black and Latino communities drew the attention of Harper’s magazine, which singled out TOP’s strategy for engaging low-propensity voters of color as “a new and entirely promising way of doing politics in Texas.” In the two years since those victories, the group has seen concrete results. “In Kim Ogg’s first hundred days in office, she implemented a program that allows people caught with low levels of marijuana to enter a drug program instead of going to jail,” says TOP executive director Michelle Tremillo, who cofounded the organization in 2009. view article arw

Some of the state's political leaders, including House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, took the unusual step Friday afternoon of declining to set the state’s spending cap after calling a meeting to do just that. Straus and Patrick met Friday meeting in their role as part of the 10-member Legislative Budget Board, a group whose responsibilities include setting a limit each session for how large the next two-year budget can be based on projections of Texans’ personal income growth. Typically, the board of state lawmakers sets the spending cap late in November before an upcoming legislative session. Friday's meeting was scheduled with that action in mind. But Straus, who is retiring in January, said the board would instead vote on a spending cap at an unspecified later date, saying there was no reason to rush into a decision that lawmakers might come to “regret.” view article arw

The Texas Legislature will convene for its 86th legislative session on Jan. 8. The Texas Legislature only meets during odd-numbered years, and lawmakers have to be prepared to hit the ground running as soon as the 140–day session begins.  “The speaker’s race will be one of the very first things the House does,” said Susan Nold, the director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life. “Just this week we’ve seen Rep. Dennis Bonnen of Angleton saying he has the support to be elected the next speaker.” view article arw

Resource Center Dallas and the Dallas ISD are on a mission to make sure every student feels safe and respected at school and part of that is creating a culture that has resources for students who identify as LGBT. “Just so students see they have the support of the district,” Mahoganie Gaston with DISD said. “They spend eight to 10 hours or longer of their day in our possession and we want them to know they are fully supported by the district 100 percent.” Recently, nearly 50 teachers and other staff members attended day-long training about how to be better allies to LGBT students in schools. The program is called OUT for Safe Schools and the goal is to have trained allies in every high school in the district. view article arw

Texas lawmakers already have filed hundreds of bills ahead of next year's session which will bring in a fresh crop of leadership and new house speaker. The issue of paid sick leave pits cities against the state and is likely to make headlines.  There are also bills on abortion, 3D guns and marijuana.  But none compare to the bigger picture. view article arw

It is important that those representing our community in state government understand the challenges and opportunities of public school. With that in mind, a trio of LISD trustees (Vice President Grace Barber-Jordan, M.Ed., Secretary Trish Bode and Pamela Waggoner) led the Board’s Legislative Committee in creating the 2019 Leander ISD Legislative Priorities, which outlines the key legislative agenda for the district in the upcoming 86th Texas Legislative Session. view article arw

Bills, Bills, Bills ... And Bonnen!

November 1507:15 AM

It's that time of (every two) year(s) again; Monday, Nov. 12, was the first frenzied day of bill filing for the 86th Texas Legislature. The nearly 400 bills filed in the House and Senate by day's end include measures to rid the state of daylight saving time, to reduce marijuana possession (1 oz. or less) to a civil offense, and to ban abortion except in narrow, lifesaving circumstances. The Billapalooza also carried out the wishes of now-ousted Rep. Paul Workman with a measure (carried by Rep. Matt Krause) to ban cities from requiring employers to offer paid sick leave – a jab at both Austin and San Antonio. Surely more Austin-bashing and erosion of local control lies in our future, although the 86th won't get swinging until Jan. 8. view article arw

Thousands of new riders have embraced the electric pay-per-minute scooters that have proliferated on America’s streets.  Other people have set them on fire, tossed them off buildings and decorated them with dog droppings.  Depending on your point of view, the scooters are an environmentally friendly convenience or a mechanical menace. One thing is certain: Until now, most states have done almost nothing to regulate e-scooters, in large part because the scooter explosion happened after most legislatures adjourned for 2018.  That may be about to change. view article arw

Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller are back on the lesson plan after a vote by the Texas State Board of Education. The committee voted 12-2, with one abstention, on Tuesday to continue teaching students about Clinton in high school history classes, according to State Board of Education Director Debbie Ratcliffe. The board also voted to keep Keller on the curriculum. The vote reverses a September preliminary decision to cut the women, along with 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater and several other historical figures, from the required curriculum. The board said then that the change was intended to streamline the curriculum for its 5.4 million students at the recommendation of volunteer work groups. view article arw

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen on Monday mowed down all remaining opponents, winning the support of virtually all members of the staunchly conservative Texas Freedom Caucus and claiming he'll replace retiring Republican Speaker Joe Straus as the GOP-controlled chamber's helmsman. Bonnen, who is from Angleton, said he has pledges from 109 of the House's 150 members that they will vote to elect him speaker when the Legislature convenes in January. The list, which Bonnen released late Monday, named 78 Republicans and 31 Democrats. Next session, 83 Republicans will be seated in the House. view article arw

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen announced Monday that he has support from 109 members to become the next speaker of the Texas House. That number, if it holds, is more than enough votes for him to win the gavel.  The Angleton Republican’s announcement comes after four other speaker candidates — Republicans Tan Parker, Four Price and Phil King, along with Democrat Eric Johnson — dropped out of the race in the last 48 hours. All four endorsed Bonnen upon removing their names from consideration. Bonnen said during a news conference at the Texas Capitol on Monday afternoon that his team plans to release the list of 109 members supporting his bid soon. view article arw

A year and three weeks after House Speaker Joe Straus said he wouldn’t seek another term in office, state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, appears to have the votes to succeed him.  If everything holds together until Jan. 8, Bonnen aced the first test: In races for speaker, as in races for president, running the political gauntlet is an essential qualification for the job.  If you can’t handle the race, you weren’t ready for the job. view article arw


November 1308:41 AM

Good Overview:  By all appearances, state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, is poised to become the next speaker of the Texas House. Here’s how it happened, courtesy of yours truly, along with the Tribune’s Alex Samuels and Emma Platoff: view article arw

In 2018, the group spent more than $1.3 million in donations and in-kind support for candidates who ended up losing during the general election on Nov. 6. view article arw

State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat elected to Congress earlier this week, resigned from the Texas Senate Friday, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott to set an expedited election for Dec. 11 to fill her seat. The order ramps up what had been a low-key race to represent Garcia’s district, which covers Houston’s north and southeast sides and was drawn to favor Democrats. State Reps. Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez, both Houston Democrats, launched their candidacies after Garcia won her March primary. view article arw

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen announced Monday that he has support from 109 members to become the next speaker of the Texas House. That number, if it holds, is more than enough votes for him to win the gavel. The Angleton Republican’s announcement comes after four other speaker candidates — Republicans Tan Parker, Four Price and Phil King, along with Democrat Eric Johnson — dropped out of the race in the last 48 hours. All four endorsed Bonnen upon removing their names from consideration. “We are here to let you know the speaker's race is over, and the Texas House is ready to go to work,” Bonnen said at a news conference at the Texas Capitol Monday afternoon. view article arw

The election results were clear: the wave that mattered was a bipartisan, pro-public education wave.  So now that the 2018 midterm elections are over, it’s time to get down to the business of supporting and improving our Texas public schools. We at Raise Your Hand Texas are encouraged by the significant number of new legislators who made it clear on the campaign trail that their top priority is ensuring all 5.4 million Texas students have what they need to be successful in school and beyond.   view article arw

Forty-two candidates endorsed by Texas Parent PAC were elected to the Texas Legislature in Tuesday's general election. Texas schoolchildren are the real winners, as this is the largest number of pro-public education candidates the PAC has helped to elect since its inception in 2005. The winners included two new state senators: former Burleson school board trustee Beverly Powell over Sen. Konni Burton and Dallas attorney Nathan Johnson over Sen. Don Huffines. Four of the 12 newly-elected state representatives also defeated incumbent legislators who were not strong supporters of public education. They are Vikki Goodwin defeating Rep. Paul Workman, Terry Meza defeating Rep. Rodney Anderson, Julie Johnson defeating Rep. Matt Rinaldi, and John Bucy defeating Rep.Tony Dale. view article arw

The Arizona Republic reports that voucher advocates are undeterred by their overwhelming defeat at the ballot box on Tuesday. The fact that the public rejected vouchers by 65-35% at the same time that rightwing Governor Doug Ducey was re-elected does not deter the Koch brothers and the DeVos family. Very likely they presume that the parents and teachers who beat them exhausted their funds. Less than a day after the crown jewel of their school choice policies was crushed at the ballot box, prominent school choice advocates doubled down by calling for the Arizona Legislature to promote school choice and vouchers laws. Both the Goldwater Institute and American Federation for Children issued statements backing school choice in the hours after voters rejected by a 65-35 margin Proposition 305, a massive expansion of school vouchers. view article arw

Charles Foster Johnson, leader of Pastors for Texas Children, reports on the election results and their implications for public schools: 2018 Texas Midterm Election Analysis for Public Education Thanks to a groundswell of grassroots advocacy efforts during the 2018 electoral season, the Texas Legislature has taken a dramatic step toward the support of universal public education for all children. view article arw

When the Democratic Party onslaught started to breach Republican statewide strongholds, the GOP turned to its most effective warrior — Greg Abbott.  Like comic book hero Captain America, Abbott put a mighty shield around Republican candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton and saved them from harm, and in the process kept the GOP in control of Texas politics.While Democratic Senate nominee Beto O'Rourke was the most colorful and dynamic politico in the midterm field, Abbott was steady. His more than 4.6 million votes was more than any candidate in the country got in Tuesday's midterms. The governor's voter turnout machine produced enough Republican base votes to carry the statewide ticket, including Cruz. view article arw

With Election Day behind us, I want to convey my sincere appreciation to all of the people in House District 57 who have entrusted me to once again serve as your state representative.  It is the honor of a lifetime to serve as a voice at our Texas Capitol for those of us who are blessed to call this area home. Our state faces lots of challenges in the upcoming legislative session, and I look forward to working every day to promote and protect the interests of our region and our state.  With that, here’s an update from your state capitol. view article arw

Texas will likely have to give up $33.3 million in federal special education funds after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the state violated a federal rule. States are prohibited by federal law from reducing funding for special education services. If states decide to reduce funding, the Department of Education reduces the amount of federal aid by the same amount. In 2012, Texas reduced its special education budget by $33 million, so the federal government withheld $33 million as a penalty. view article arw

Here is the link to the posting for the Revenues Working Group meeting:.  It is Scheduled for 1:00 PM on 11/13/2018 Room E1.012, Floor E1, State Capitol Building, 1100 Congress Avenue, Austin.  The Texas Commission on Public School Finance will hold a meeting for the Working Group on Revenues. The agenda is as follows:  I. Call to Order  II. Chair's Opening Remarks  III. Revenues Related to Public School Finance  IV. Closing Remarks and Adjournment  No public testimony will be taken at this working group meeting. view article arw

Editor's note: Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith's new podcast, Point of Order, will air routinely during the Texas legislative session, which begins in January. Listen to the pilot episode with outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus or subscribe on your Apple or Androiddevice. Republicans in the Texas House were dealt a big blow Tuesday night, losing 12 seatsto Democrats and two in the Texas Senate.  Joe Straus, the Republican who has presided over the House for nearly a decade, said that's because win-at-all-cost politics may be effective at the state level, but "it creates carnage down-ballot in a changing state where a Republican Party and the state of Texas are moving in opposite directions." view article arw