Preview of the Week of April 29 in the Legislature: Vouchers, Testing, TRS, “Parent Trigger”

Besides that key vote on the Rainy Day Fund in the full House on Monday, there’s plenty else going on next week. In the Senate on Monday, for instance, two voucher bills are eligible for a vote—SB 115 by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) and SB 1298 by Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy). Send your all-purpose anti-voucher letter that will help block both!

Also eligible for Senate floor action as early as Monday is HB 5, the bill by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) to reduce the number of state end-of-course tests and revise graduation requirements, which has been extensively altered in the Senate Education Committee. A key issue to be resolved is the menu of required courses a student must take and pass in order to be eligible for state financial aid for college and for automatic admission to state universities. Another key issue of critical importance to students and educators is curbing the misuse of test results to impose punitive sanctions instead of providing diagnosis and support for improved academic performance.

The week also features action in House and Senate education committees on Tuesday. The House Public Education Committee is scheduled to consider another so-called “parent trigger” bill, HB 2976 by Rep. Naomi Gonzalez (D-El Paso), legislation being pushed by right-wing groups and private interests to use parent petitions as cover for state-ordered handover of neighborhood schools to private charter operators. Also on the agenda is a kindred bill, HB 300 by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), which likewise aims to transfer control of many neighborhood schools to private operators under the false flag of parental choice and empowerment. You can send a letter from the Texas AFT Web site opposing all such attempts at a hostile takeover of neighborhood schools.

Also anticipated Monday is the rollout of a new version of SB 1458, the TRS bill by Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock). The version of that bill offered by Sen. Duncan previously has encountered stout resistance from rank-and-file educators (including 20,000 who have sent a letter in opposition to the measure via the Texas AFT Web site), and for good reason—because it would take away billions of dollars in already-earned benefits from hundreds of thousands of current school employees. You can expect a full report once an announcement has been made of changes in the Duncan TRS package and its House companion, HB 1884 by Rep. Bill Callegari (R-Katy).