Notable Gleanings from House Education Hearings This Week?

Catching you up on some telling points made in Texas House hearings on education matters this week, we note the following:

  • In the House Appropriations subcommittee on education funding on Monday, Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) spotlighted the fact that funding for standardized testing is not slated for any reduction in the Texas Education Agency budget plan for 2018-2019, unlike other programs that would be subjected by TEA to across-the-board cuts of 4 percent to meet a goal set by legislative leaders for budget savings.
  • Also in the same subcommittee, Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) elicited testimony from state budget experts acknowledging that charter schools have 5 percent of the students in the state but receive 11.5 percent of the funding for operations that the state provides for public schools.
  • Texas AFT legislative spokesman Ted Melina Raab laid out Texas AFT’s budget priorities in testimony before the subcommittee, addressing not only the need for increased funding for public schools but also needs for higher education and for school employees’ health care. Melina Raab noted that the state share of the cost of active employees’ health coverage has stagnated at $75 per employee per month for the past 15 years, while health-care costs have soared, effectively shifting the lion’s share of health costs onto the backs of employees.
  • In the February 21 House Public Education Committee’s opening hearing, committee chair Dan Huberty (R-Houston) noted a recent Houston Chronicle story reporting that five of the top 25 public schools in the whole country are in Texas.  Huberty said that at a time “when people say we have failing schools all over the place and we’ve got problems that don’t exist,” the evidence shows that actually “we’ve got real results.”  Huberty’s point was reinforced by some data cited in subsequent testimony by Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who said Texas has reached the highest graduation rates ever in the state and ranks third among the states nationally—even though Texas has a higher level of students in poverty than any other state with a top-five ranking for its graduation rate.