Repost!  After a key Republican holdout agreed to bring a priority bill to the floor, the upper chamber increased an election trigger on revenue increases from 2.5% to 3.5%. But now both chambers must reconcile how they want to tackle rising school district taxes.  The Texas Senate broke a logjam Monday that had paralyzed a piece of priority legislation for weeks — blunting a controversial provision in a property tax reform package and then advancing the bill, without having to deploy a procedural “nuclear option" to move it.  A vote on Senate Bill 2, a top imperative for state leaders, had been expected last week. But an apparent lack of support stalled the vote in the upper chamber, where the backing of 19 senators is generally required to bring a bill up for debate. After Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick threatened to blow past decades of tradition and bring the measure to a vote with a simple majority, state Sen. Kel Seliger, a vocal dissenter, relented Monday, allowing the bill onto the floor. He did not support its passage. view article arw

AUSTIN — The Texas House's $9 billion school funding plan had its first public vetting Tuesday, with school advocates and officials at odds over the pros and cons of a merit pay system partially inspired by Dallas ISD. School superintendents, including the top brass from Dallas and Richardson ISDs, offered full-throated endorsements of the House's omnibus public education bill in a committee hearing. The plan would give schools $6.3 billion in new funding in the next two-year budget, reduce property tax burdens by $2.7 billion, fund full-day prekindergarten for low-income students and incentivize districts to implement merit pay. view article arw

Action Alert: Please Contact Your House Member on HB 281  HB 281 by Rep. Mayes Middleton is in the House Calendar Committee, and we expect it to be set for floor debate very soon. This bill would have a negative impact on how administrators and TASA employees could represent you at the Texas Capitol. HB 281 would prohibit public money from being spent on lobbyists or associations that have lobbyists. This would result in the elimination of governmental relations for TASA and other similar organizations.  Some legislators do not think you should have representation at the Capitol. The bill currently has 53 joint and co-authors. See which House members have signed onto the bill. These individuals need to hear your opposition!  Talking points on the impact of HB 281: read more arw

Retired Texas educators dedicated their lives to educating our children. Now many are facing a financial crisis, since most have not seen any cost-of-living increase to their monthly pension in more than a decade, while their health care premiums are eating away at what little money they do get. The Texas Legislature has made clear this session that it wants to address this crisis by strengthening the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), the 17th-largest pension system in the world. A bill in the Texas House by Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, is a thoughtful approach that sends an important message to Texas educators — our work matters. view article arw

Two Texas lawmakers are working to pass a state law that would eliminate standardized test passing requirements to pass students to the next grade. House Bill 1480 (HB 1480), co-authored by Representative Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio) and Rep. Van Deaver (R-Bowie County), would remove requirements for students to pass standardized tests like the STAAR for grade promotion. Social studies and United States history assessments would be eliminated entirely if the bill passes, accelerated learning communities would replace grade placement committees and some state agency responsibilities would be rejiggered instead of standardized testing. view article arw

On the heels of a close November election, Senator Ted Cruz returns to Texas after filing an education reform bill. The Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act would allow new federal tax credits for businesses and people to donate to scholarships to send kids to a variety of different schools. view article arw

TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME: I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the severe weather event that began on April 12, 2019, has caused widespread and severe property damage and threatens loss of life, in Cherokee, Freestone, Houston, Leon, Madison, Nacogdoches, Robertson, San Augustine, and Shelby counties. view article arw

PTC Executive Director Rev. Charlie Johnson recently sat down with our friends at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty for their podcast. Hear Charlie discuss the moral mandate for school funding, separation of church and state, and how pastors can be involved with the fight for our neighborhood public schools. view article arw

How to curb skyrocketing property taxes for homeowners -- that's what the Texas legislature is tackling this session. On Monday the Texas Senate advanced a bill aimed at reducing how much cities, counties, and school districts can increase taxes. The amended Senate Bill 2 will limit how much cities and counties can increase property tax rates without voter approval from 8-percent down to a 3.5-percent cap. It reduces the rate for school districts to 2.5-percent. view article arw

A bipartisan group of Texas Representatives have backed a bill in the House to eliminate the requirement that students in the state pass the STAAR test in order to move to the next grade level. HB 1480 calls for changes to the education code that would remove the STAAR-passing requirement, as well as the social studies and U.S. history standardized tests. view article arw

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already signaled opposition to the proposal from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.  It’s been less than a week since Texas’ top three state leaders threw their collective support behind an idea to raise the sales tax by 1 percentage point in order to lower property tax bills statewide. view article arw

Texas’ Republican leadership wants to raise the taxes that consumers pay when they go shopping in order to lower the taxes that homeowners and business owners pay on their properties. How would that work? The state sales tax would rise from 6.25% to 7.25%, generating an estimated annual $5 billion in coming years. That would take the total sales tax in most cities to 9.25% because local governments can raise the sales tax an additional 2 percentage points. Supporters say a higher sales tax rate would generate enough revenue to buy down property tax rates by 20 cents per $100 valuation at a time when Texas homeowners and businesses are feeling squeezed by rising bills. view article arw

It would take only a simple majority of the Texas Legislature, and a signature from the governor, to raise sales taxes and use the new revenue to buy down local school property taxes. But it would take guts. Instead, the Legislature is looking at a constitutional amendment. That requires approval from two-thirds of the House and of the Senate. The governor would never see it; the ultimate decision on whether to raise the one tax in an attempt to shrink the other would fall to Texas voters. view article arw

AUSTIN -- A plan to increase Texas’ sales tax as a means of lowering property taxes -- which was touted as a priority by the state’s three most powerful Republican leaders -- has been under attack since the moment after it was announced last week.  Predictably, Democratic leaders rushed to criticize the policy for being punitive to the state’s poorest families. But some of the most intense opposition has come from conservatives, who are framing the issue as a Republican tax hike.  “The proposed sales tax hike would take the state in the wrong and opposite direction by imposing an overall increase in the state tax burden,” anti-tax advocate and founder of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist wrote to members of the Texas House Ways and Means committee. view article arw

Two Texas representatives have co-authored a House bill that would remove requirements for students to pass standardized tests for grade promotion. Representative Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio) and Rep. Van Deaver (R-Bowie County) co-authored House Bill 1480 (HB 1480), which recently passed the House floor. view article arw

Significant property tax reform has passed a major hurdle in the Texas Senate, to the delight of homeowners. But school administrators and government officials worry about how they would have to cope with significantly lower funding levels. From local real estate agent Tim Macy's perspective, keeping tax increases low is terrific. view article arw

State lawmakers this legislative session are intent on spending billions of dollars over the next two years to give school employees a raise. But who exactly should receive a bump, and how much, remains unanswered. The Texas Senate led the effort early in the session, quickly passing out of the chamber Senate Bill 3, which would give a $5,000 uniform pay raise to all classroom teachers and librarians. And then earlier this month, the Texas House included in its major school finance proposal, House Bill 3, a plan to give most school district employees, including low-wage staff like custodians, bus drivers and receptionists, a raise that would average out to $1,850. For public education policy experts and supporters, the inclusion of the provision was yet another reason to support the bill, which would spend $6 billion more on education over the next two years and $3 billion on property tax relief. view article arw

For years, Lewisville ISD trustees have verbally taken issue with standardized testing, claiming most recently “standardized tests do not serve as an adequate predictor of the overall value of an education provided to students.” At the April 15 board of trustees meeting, a resolution was passed by the board in support of proposed legislation regarding an audit and moratorium of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. STAAR, which was implemented in 2012, is a standardized test students begin taking in third grade. view article arw

The Texas House and Senate are working on two bills that aim to fix an outdated school finance system, which could put more money in the classroom with teacher raises and reduce property tax burden on tax payers. House Bill 3 recently passed and sets approximately $9 billion in funding over the next two years. The school finance reform bill would increase the base funding per student for the first time in four years by $890 per student, bringing it from $5,140 to $6,030. view article arw

State lawmakers are scrambling to fit all their priorities into a rapidly shrinking calendar, and this is the time in the session when some of those bills start falling off the table. That shouldn’t happen to teacher pensions — again, it must be said. The good news is that the House and Senate seem to be in broad agreement about providing more money for retired teachers. As always, however, the details matter, and efforts like this could get sidetracked in the larger battles over education funding to K-12 schools. view article arw

While school district superintendent salaries have grown exponentially in recent years, so too have severance payments made to these superintendents. Current law requires that any severance payment over a superintendent's annual base salary be subtracted from that district's state funding; S.B. 722 seeks to place a hard limit on those severance payments. S.B. 722 limits the amount of a severance payment made to a superintendent to that superintendent's annual base salary. view article arw

Most Texans agree that the state needs to lower school property taxes but spend more money on public education, and, according to a new poll by the University of Houston, they have a lot of ideas on how to fund it all.  “When there’s a problem, people tend to be pretty pragmatic about dealing with it,” said Jim Granato, executive director of the UH Hobby School of Public Affairs. “In the poll, we find that people are not satisfied with public education right now. This feeds into, let’s put more inputs and let’s spend some more money on this important issue.” view article arw

It doesn’t matter if you start on April Fool’s Day or 18 months ahead of a legislative session. It doesn’t matter if there was only one issue in the last election and voters have kept the heat coming. It matters, but only a little, when there’s a judicial order hanging over them. And it matters not one bit that a governor has declared something an emergency — unless it really and truly is one. The Texas Legislature does its most important work only when it’s about to run out of time. Until then, this is the state’s most expensive, exclusive and exasperating drama club. view article arw

(10:36) The Senate Education Committee will consider House Bill 3, the House’s school finance reform proposal, on Tuesday. Last week, the House took up a number of bills on charter school transparency.   We chat about all of this and more with Dax Gonzalez of TASB Governmental Relations.  view article arw

Whether Texas drastically overhauls its property tax system could come down to one lawmaker -- Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican. On Thursday morning, lawmakers in the House and the Senate appeared ready to vote on bills to slow property tax growth for home and business owners by limiting revenue collections from local governments and school districts. view article arw

On the house floor for debate, Gov. Abbott, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said increasing sales taxes by one cent for property tax relief is a no-brainer trade. They said it could generate an extra $5 billion. Jeff Baum, the chief financial officer for Lubbock ISD, said this could mean more funds for education. view article arw

Since the state's leadership in Austin floated a 1-cent state sales tax increase last week, most Texans are still absorbing what it means.  While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his team have calculated that a penny increase would raise billions of dollars in additional revenue to stem rising property taxes, consumers have a hard time putting a pencil to a personal impact.  Quick, how much do you spend on taxable merchandise in a year?  Most people respond with a shrug. But ask them how much they've been paying in property taxes and the discussion turns animated. view article arw

The State Capitol this time of year faces no shortage of experts on a wide range of issues. And that’s certainly true for the debates swirling around public education. This legislative session, like many before it, includes a debate over the state’s investment in early childhood education and pre-kindergarten. The difference this time is that there seems to be major momentum in both chambers to make significant investment in full-day quality pre-K programs for eligible Texas students. view article arw

State Sen. Robert Nichols

April 1508:25 AM

With only seven weeks left in session, the Legislature is well on its way to completing its to-do list with both chambers passing their versions of the budget. This is the only constitutionally-required task for the Legislature to complete. Here are five things happening at your Capitol this week: view article arw

A bill passed in Texas to ensure kids are learning cursive writing in school but right here in the Key City it is still taught. "They are pretty motivated to want to do it because they think that it's a big deal to be able to read and write in cursive and they want to be grown up like their parents," said Michelle Aquino, Third Grade Teacher at Austin Elementary. All Texas school districts will now start teaching kids earlier than third grade. view article arw

AUSTIN — Short on the votes needed to bring up his priority property tax legislation in the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is planning to force a vote on the bill Monday.  Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, confirmed he has plans to temporarily suspend the chamber's current rules in order to bring the bill up for debate. He needs fewer votes to spur the debate if he invokes this "nuclear option." view article arw

AUSTIN — A plan to slow the escalation of property taxes in Texas has been stalled for months, but Republicans in control of the Legislature say they are not giving up on it. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a radio interview on Thursday that tax relief has been bottled up for months because he doesn’t have the votes to get the idea even considered by the Texas Senate. For any bill to be taken up by the Senate, at least 19 of the Senate’s 31 members must agree. view article arw

Thursday was scheduled to be property tax day in the Texas House. Then it was rumored to be property tax day in the Texas Senate. And finally, it proved to be neither.  Deliberations on a proposal that aims to slow growth in Texans’ property tax bills stalled Thursday after hours of private meetings between leadership in the two chambers. The House and Senate both adjourned for the day without taking up the high-priority legislation. The House said it plans to take up the bill again on Monday. view article arw

After facing unexpected friction in Texas’ Republican-dominated Legislature, a pair of bills to override local rules mandating paid sick leave and standardize employment practices across the state passed the Senate on Thursday over the objections of LGBTQ advocates who have warned the bills could threaten local non-discrimination protections. Since Austin passed an ordinance in February 2018 mandating that employers allow workers to accrue paid sick time, Republican state lawmakers have made clear that they hoped to override such local rules. The lawmakers have called the requirements anti-small business and fretted that they created a “patchwork of regulations” across the state. view article arw

The state's top three leaders bet everything on public education and property taxes this year, but they can't get where they're going — especially if they want to cut property taxes — without bringing some Democrats to their side.  The 2018 election sure made a hash of partisan politics in Texas. You have a state government dominated by Republicans pushing for across-the-board teacher pay raises, higher spending on public education — without vouchers — and now, a 16% increase in what is already the 12th-highest sales tax in the U.S. view article arw