Fight goes on for school funding, TRS retirees’ health-care cost relief

With six days left in the current 30-day special session of the Texas Legislature, not a single bill has been passed and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, despite Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s ardent efforts to push through many hot-button proposals, including private-school vouchers and transgender-discrimination mandates.

Still alive in the special session are important school-funding and TRS-Care cost-relief measures. You can help improve the odds for each of these by contacting your legislators via the Texas AFT online legislative-action site, where new e-letters are ready for your use urging fast action on school finance and health-care cost relief for TRS retirees.

Back-room negotiations are reportedly under way on both of these major issues. However, optimism kindled by those reported talks must be tempered, because Lt. Gov. Patrick is said to be looking for every opportunity to add unpopular voucher schemes and transgender-discrimination edicts to otherwise attractive bills. SB 2, Patrick’s main attempt to attach vouchers to school-finance measures, has been stripped of vouchers and effectively blocked in the House.

The main House bill on school finance, HB 21, now has been slated for a Senate Education Committee hearing at 9 a.m. Friday. Texas AFT is prepared to speak for HB 21 as passed by the House–but we are watching and waiting to see if unacceptable amendments are attached to the bill in the Senate committee. The House stands ready to pass the Senate’s proposal in SB 16 for a school-finance study leading to a long-term overhaul of school-funding statutes in 2019–but will pass it only if the Senate goes along with the House proposal for a substantial funding increase in the meanwhile for the coming two school years.

Texas AFT supports a deal combining the short-term funding boost sought by the House and the long-term study sought by the Senate–with no “poison pill” amendments. In addition, the House and Senate need to reconcile their very similar bills to cut rising health-care costs that retirees will face in January 2018 unless lawmakers provide relief–again without inserting any “poison pills.”

The next day or two will likely reveal whether good school-funding and TRS-Care legislation will come out of this special session. Send your e-letters now to help lawmakers see the light!

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