Bruising Battles at the State Capitol, and Glimmers of Hope?

Immigration Police:  The Texas Legislature took a large step this week toward turning local police into federal immigration-law enforcers, as the House passed a version of so-called “sanctuary cities” legislation very similar to the version previously passed by the Senate. The bill in question, SB 4 by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), includes college and university peace officers among those authorized to assume a federal law-enforcement role in checking the citizenship status of persons detained for even minor offenses (e.g., traffic violations). Texas AFT has opposed the bill as a diversion from the proper duties of state and local government, and the measure is sure to be challenged in court if it becomes law, as now seems likely.  The House voted for SB 4 by a margin of 94 to 53 on final passage Thursday.

Tax Cuts Taking Priority Over School Funding:  On Thursday evening, the House gave initial approval to a bill that gives priority to cutting business taxes that schools depend on to fulfill state obligations for public education.  HB 28 by Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) would subtract $1.53 billion from state coffers in 2018-19, making it even harder to take care of unmet needs in public education. Eventually the business franchise taxes at issue would be eliminated entirely, creating the potential for yet more artificially engineered budget crises. Eliminating the franchise tax also would increase the likelihood of even greater reliance on local property taxes to pay for schools. The Senate already has passed its own version of this bad idea, SB 17 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), so this legislation too has a very good chance of becoming law.

Rolling Back A-F Ratings and Misuse of State Testing:  Sentiment in the Texas House continues to run strong against the test-driven state accountability system for public schools. Next Wednesday, May 3, the leading bill on this topic will come to a vote on the House floor. HB 22 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston) would delay implementation of the A-F system of school ratings, would preclude labeling of schools with a single, summative letter grade, and would elevate the importance of alternatives to standardized testing as measures of student performance.

Backing for Community Schools:  A key bill to promote the community-school model for turnaround of struggling campuses got a favorable reception in the House Public Education Committee Thursday morning, with Education Austin President Ken Zarifis among those testifying forcefully in support. The bill is HB 3861 by Reps. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) and Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston). Committee members clearly were impressed by the compelling evidence of success for the community-school approach to school improvement. You can put your support behind community schools as an alternative to counterproductive test-and-punish accountability by sending your letter on this topic from our legislative-action site online.

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