End Game: Final Decisions on Budget, Accountability, and More This Weekend

The Texas House and Senate have been busy today naming conference committees to iron out differences on important education issues while beginning a series of key votes on the state budget.

Accountability and testing are the subjects of negotiations on two major House bills, HB 22 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston) and HB 515 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston). In brief, the House versions of the two bills would reform and delay the A-F school rating scheme adopted (unwisely) in 2015, while reducing the number of standardized state tests and moving toward a new, non-formulaic writing exam at the secondary level. Senate versions make some tweaks in the A-F scheme and the state testing regime but leave the status quo on accountability and testing mostly in place. Another testing-related conference committee must come to an agreement on SB 463 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), the bill to continue the use of individual graduation committees to enable students to bypass one or two state end-of-course exams if they can demonstrate proficiency in other ways.

The House voted late Friday afternoon to pass the first of two major spending bills, HB 2 by Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond). HB 2 is the supplemental appropriations bill needed to cover shortfalls in the 2016-17 budget period. The measure passed by  a margin of 115 to 21 in the House. A vote on the 2018-19 two-year budget bill, SB 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound,) is expected in both House and Senate this weekend. That budget includes a draw of $1 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund (a/k/a the Rainy Day Fund), which means that SB 1 needs 100 votes to pass in the House and 21 votes in the Senate. Neither these budget bills nor other conference-committee deals can be amended, only voted up or down.

For a good “big picture” perspective on the 2018-19 budget, see here.