Texas' top three elected leaders are looking to show a united front as the 2019 legislative session begins — and start fresh after the drama of last session.  The so-called "Big Three" — Republicans Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and newly elected House Speaker Dennis Bonnen — punctuated the effort Wednesday morning with a joint news conference outside the Governor's Mansion, where they swore to be in lockstep on an ambitious list of priorities for the session, including reforming school finance and property taxes. view article arw

The shifts at the top of Senate committees, announced by the lieutenant governor Friday, were few but noticeable — with moving parts in the Republican Party making way for some senators to helm committees for the first time, and little headway for Democrats despite electoral victories in November. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick named 14 Republicans and two Democrats chairs of the Senate’s 16 committees, meaning no gains for the chamber’s minority party despite an increase in the number of committees. Houston Democrat John Whitmire, the Senate’s longest-serving member, continues to chair the Criminal Justice Committee, and Eddie Lucio, Jr., a moderate Democrat of Brownsville, continues to helm the Intergovernmental Relations Committee. view article arw

Join School Finance Commission Member Keven Ellis and Josh Sanderson from the Equity Center in an overview of the final report of the School Finance Commission.  This will be followed by a discussion of how the Commission's findings will work their way through the legislative process and how you can be a resource to your local legislators.  Time will be left at the end for Q&A.  This event is open to Superintendents Assistant Superintendents, CFO's, and board members.  - Lunch will be served, Please RSVP to Longview ISD Supt. Secretaty Traci Beard at 903 381 2200 with the number attending from your district. read more arw

The Texas Senate and House of Representatives have each released their 2020-2021 draft budgets, SB 1 and HB 1 respectively. What are the potential impacts on education, health care, and other essential programs and services?  We are pleased to see $7.4 billion more in General Revenue dedicated to public education in the House proposal, but it is important to understand that this may NOT necessarily result in a "massive" windfall of new money for schools. Much of the new state aid for schools that the House proposes may be earmarked for pushing down local taxes. That could change the balance between state and local shares of school funding but without real increases in total funding per Texas student. view article arw

Senate committees for the 86th Legislature were named Friday afternoon. The two committees that education stakeholders deal with most frequently did not see changes in committee leadership; however, there are some new members on each committee. read more arw

Since June, 150 new school marshals have been certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. The exercise in August, at a Pflugerville school, was one of seven classes the commission held. Tuesday, during his inaugural address, Governor Greg Abbott didn't specifically call for more armed school employees. He did make it clear though that security is a top legislative priority. view article arw

Freshman Texas State Rep. Gina Calanni of Katy has filed her first bill, House Bill 880, aimed at lowering costs of losing school superintendents. The bill, filed Jan. 17, would ensure school districts in Texas will not pay outgoing superintendents more than one year’s salary in their severance package. view article arw

Paying for public education is one of the 86th Texas Legislature’s big assignments. “The greatest thing about this is public school finance, it looks like it will be handled correctly, gonna get focus, gonna get emphasized,” said Rep. Todd Hunter (R – District 32). The state house proposed adding $7 billion to education funding, but only if lawmakers also overhaul the school finance system.  That means reduce reliance on property taxes, and eliminate the “Robin Hood” system, where wealthy districts subsidize poorer ones. view article arw

Some education groups and school districts aren’t yet ready to embrace a $3.7 billion plan to give all Texas teachers a $5,000 pay raise, citing concerns the plan might not be funded in the long term and will tie the hands of school officials. Filed this week, the legislation carries a hefty price tag and a low bill number – Senate Bill 3 – which means it will be a high priority for the chamber. Texas House leaders, although quick to say they support giving pay raises to the state’s 350,000 teachers, have yet to introduce a similar bill and disagree with how the state Senate wants to implement the plan. SB 3 would put the money directly into the hands of teachers instead of districts. view article arw

Lawmakers agree on one thing: They want Texas' teachers to get paid more.  Exactly how remains to be seen.  One high-priority bill out of the Senate would give an across-the-board pay raise of $5,000 to each teacher in the state.  Meanwhile, the state's school finance commission recommended that Texas set aside money for districts that implement a pay-for-performance salary system similar to Dallas' so that teachers have a realistic path to reach a six-figure salary without leaving the classroom.  "We're putting teachers first this session," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said during the beginning days of session. view article arw

Northeast Texas lawmakers were optimistic Thursday, a little more than a week after the 86th Legislature had opened, noting a two-pronged focus on elevated education spending and property tax reform set by the three top leaders in Austin. “Honestly, I think we are so much further along in the budgetary process than in any session since I’ve been here,” said state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, who is entering his fourth legislative session in the Capitol. view article arw

The Legislature has ended our second week of session, and we will continue to pick up the pace as the long race ahead continues. Here are five things happening at your Capitol this week: view article arw

Teachers across the state might see a bump in their salaries starting in September. Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, filed a bill Tuesday that would increase every full-time classroom teacher’s salary by $5,000, according to a news release. As both chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the Legislative Budget Board, Nelson is partly responsible for drafting the annual appropriations bill. view article arw

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were sworn in to office this week and it was a far cry from the last legislative session. Gone are the divisive social issues of the past—replaced by more funding for schools and property tax reform. view article arw

The House and Senate revealed different priorities in the tentative state budgets their GOP leaders unveiled this week. Here are the highlights: view article arw

The Senate will put more money towards education, mental health, and transportation, according to the chamber’s chief budget writer, Finance Committee Chair and Flower Mound Senator Jane Nelson.  The state is in better shape economically than in January 2017, where state revenue collections had decreased by nearly a percent over the previous biennium. view article arw

The Texas House budget is proposing to pump nearly $7 billion for public schools. The senate now releasing their plan which falls about $3 billion short of the house proposal. On Tuesday the Texas senate joining the house in proposing billions for public education. The proposal includes $3.7 billion to give all full-time public education teachers a $5,000 annual raise plus $2.3 billion for property tax relief.  Netting a total increase of $4.7 billion from the previous fiscal year. T view article arw

The proposal unveiled by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to boost annual salaries for Texas public school teachers by $5,000 a year could hit a hiccup in the Texas House. New House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said Wednesday he supports boosting teachers' pay as part of a far-reaching plan to overhaul the way the state pays for education. But the Senate plan announced a day earlier by the lieutenant governor, who leads the Senate, might need some tinkering, the speaker said. "I think the opportunity to show teachers how we appreciate them here in Texas is realistic," Bonnen told reporters after Wednesday's House floor session. view article arw

Lobbyists, billionaires and special interest groups eagerly jumped on the “late train” for Republican state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, who pulled in nearly $4 million in campaign contributions after announcing he had the votes to become the next speaker of the Texas House on Nov. 12. The latest filing with the Texas Ethics Commission shows Bonnen’s war chest grew nearly sevenfold in the last six months, with most of his donations coming between his announcement claiming the House gavel and the start of a state-imposed fundraising blackout on Dec. 9. During those weeks, the Angleton Republican raised an average of $153,000 per day — largely from people with business interests before the Texas Legislature. view article arw

It's a day typically reserved for pomp and circumstance, but some bold promises were made Tuesday from the state's top two elected officials. Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick were sworn in for second terms during a morning ceremony and they both vowed to usher in a new era for children, teachers and taxpayers.  view article arw

Because the current method of funding public education is overly dependent on local property taxes, the 85th Texas Legislature established the Texas Commission on Public School Finance to find ways to fix it. The Commission, chaired by former Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister, recently released its final report. A few of the recommendations included are: view article arw

Following a deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in May that left 10 dead and 13 others wounded, Gov. Greg Abbott released a 43-page school safety plan outlining suggestions for bills the Legislature could pass this session to reduce the threat of gun violence in Texas schools.  The suggestions ranged from beefing up existing mental health screening programs to encouraging voluntary use of gun locks at home. Other proposals, like adopting a so-called “red flag” law — which would allow courts to order the seizure or surrender of guns from people who are deemed an imminent threat by a judge — have received immediate pushback. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has suggested such a measure would be dead on arrival in the Senate. view article arw

Budget writers for the state legislature proposed adding billions of dollars in state tax dollars to Texas public schools, changing years of state policy that increased the burden on local property taxpayers.  In what are known as the 'base budget' proposals for the House and Senate - starting points during the 140-day legislative session - state budget writers published the details Monday and Tuesday. This comes after the state's accountant reported Texas will have money to spend do to a booming economy. view article arw

This might seem premature to anyone who has watched the roiling spectacle of a Texas legislative session, but maybe the state’s top leaders are actually working together. They’ve been saying so for weeks. Everyone paying attention to Capitol conversations has heard the word “kumbaya” too many times. But in spite of the feel-good public relations push, there were differences in the way the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker were talking about public education and property taxes. view article arw

Almost everyone at the Texas Capitol agrees the state should spend more money on public schools, but for House and Senate leaders, how much is enough? On Tuesday, that became a $3 billion question. A day after the Texas House unveiled a proposal to pump more than $7 billion in new state funds into public schools, the Texas Senate answered with a budget that would boost the state’s share of public education spending by about $4.3 billion compared with the previous two-year budget cycle. view article arw

Nearly two-dozen high profile Texas officeholders sent President Trump a letter Tuesday imploring him not to use Hurricane Harvey relief funds to build a border wall. Over the last week or so, Trump has considered using disaster recovery funds to build a border wall, given that he has not been able to get Congress to appropriate money for one. The standoff has resulted in the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history, albeit a partial one. view article arw

In the first inauguration set against the backdrop of the north, rather than the south, side of the Texas Capitol in modern history, Greg Abbott took the oath of office for the second time as the state’s governor on Tuesday. Abbott’s subsequent speech emphasized education and property tax relief, building on an announcement by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (also sworn in for a second term) that legislation had been filed for the first across-the-board teacher pay hike in a generation: $5,000 per teacher, for a total cost of $3.7 billion. view article arw

As Texas’ Republican leadership calls for property tax cuts and a school finance overhaul, the Texas House on Monday pitched a bold proposal: Pump roughly $7 billion more state funds into public schools — but only if lawmakers can satisfactorily overhaul the school finance system to slow the growth of property taxes. Budget documents published Monday evening show the House has offered up a whopping 17 percent increase in K-12 public education funding so long as lawmakers achieve a few lofty goals in reforming how the state pays for public schools: Reduce the state’s reliance on property taxes, decrease the need for the unpopular Robin Hood system that requires property-wealthy school districts to subsidize poorer ones, and maintain an equitable system of school finance, as required by the state Constitution. view article arw

A state law barring governmental entities from doing business with contractors who support a boycott of Israel should not have been applied in the case of a school speech pathologist in Pflugerville — but the law should remain intact, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued in a court filing Tuesday. Elementary school speech pathologist Bahia Amawi sued Paxton and the Pflugerville school district in federal district court in December after the school district refused to renew her annual contract. She had declined to sign an oath saying she does not boycott Israel and will not boycott the nation during the term of the contract. Pflugerville included the oath in her contract following the passage of a 2017 state law that prohibits governmental entities from contracting with and investing in companies that boycott Israel, Texas’ fourth biggest trading partner. view article arw

For years many public school districts have been begging states for more funding, strapped for cash to provide basic resources for students and teachers. Last year’s teachers strikes in Republican-led states underscored the funding problem, with educators demanding not only pay raises but also more money for schools — and school funding was the key education issue in the November midterm elections. A number of newly elected governors are addressing the issue, with promises of significant funding boosts for public schools. In Texas, the state legislature is holding its 2019 session and new House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, a Republican, is trying to persuade conservative legislators that a boost in school funding is necessary. A decade ago, the state contributed 48.5 percent of the cost of education. By 2017, it had declined to 42.4 percent. view article arw

Monday, about 34,000 teachers will walk off the job in Los Angeles – a move described as "historic." It echoes what happened almost a year ago when a West Virginia teacher walkout triggered similar strikes elsewhere in the US. Teachers all over the country are lobbying for higher pay. Here in Texas, 10 percent of all first-year teachers leave their jobs before their second year. Better pay may be key to keeping more of them in the classroom, and last week, top state lawmakers pledged that 2019 will be the "Year of the Teacher" in the Texas Legislature, promising to boost salaries. But there's still many details yet to be decided. view article arw

Leaders of the Texas Senate are proposing giving schools $3.7 billion to provide $5,000 pay raises to all full-time classroom teachers — on the heels of a House budget proposal that includes $7 billion more for public education.  Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, filed Senate Bill 3 Tuesday morning, which would mandate that schools use the billions in additional funding specifically for teacher pay raises. Speaking at his inauguration Tuesday morning, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, lauded the proposal as one of his main priorities this legislative session and said the funding would be permanent. view article arw

For the first time in a decade, the Texas Legislature has opened its session without San Antonio’s Joe Straus in the powerful post of Speaker of the House. Happily, his spirit is still strong in Austin. Straus’ successor, Dennis Bonnen of Angleton, has sent strong signals that he will follow Straus’ model in two important ways. The first is as a “servant leader,” rather than the dictatorial model presented by Straus’ predecessor, Tom Craddick of Midland. The second: Focus on what’s important, in contrast to Straus’ Senate counterpart, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. view article arw

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who both won re-election in November, will kick off their second, four-year terms on Tuesday after being sworn into office on the steps of the Texas Capitol.  The inaugural ceremony will begin in the morning, with speeches from both Republicans — Abbott first, Patrick second — set to begin at 11 a.m. Check back on this page for a livestream of the event. view article arw