Legislative Lowdown: News From the Capitol

The second week of the 88th Texas legislative session kicked off with the inaugurations of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Both gave speeches that had serious implications for Texas public education.

Apart from both Abbott and Patrick signaling support for private school vouchers, which would take money out of public education, both also signaled support for greater censorship in publicly funded schools. Abbott referred to public schools as “indoctrination” institutions, and Patrick doubled down on his attacks targeting tenure in higher education. 

Both Abbott and Patrick suggested that the historic $32.7 billion budget surplus should be used to fund a property tax reduction. Neither Abbott nor Patrick mentioned using the surplus to fund public education or a cost-of-living adjustment for retired educators.

Good Bills of the Week

Despite Abbott and Patrick’s recent attacks against public education, several good bills have been filed by legislators in both parties. These bills include:

SB 193, HB 1061, and HB 1281, by Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston), Rep. Bobby Guerra (D-Mission), and Rep. Jolanda Jones (D-Houston), respectively, would require public schools, including charter schools, to alert parents if schools are not adequately staffed with full-time nurses.

HB 1139 by Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) would require a school district or charter school to employ at least one full-time registered nurse at each campus and maintain an average ratio of not less than one full-time registered nurse for every 750 students enrolled.

HB 1376 by Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville) would require that public schools be funded based on enrollment, instead of attendance. This is an important change because 300,000 students are undercounted when attendance-based funding is used. Enrollment-based funding is much more accurate and would account for the number of students actually served, while putting more money into our public education system. 

HB 429 by Rep. Mike Schofield (R-Katy) would provide an annual, automatic cost-of-living adjustment for TRS annuitants that is linked to inflation. 

HB 75 by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) would allow unexpired student identification from a public institution of higher education to be used as acceptable identification for voting.