Your weekly briefing: Take Action on a pay raise for all; news on the top bills at the Capitol

Your Weekly Briefing
With less than three months to go of the 86th Legislative Session, there still is no clarity as to whether education employees will get raises, more money will be available for public schools, or harmful tax caps will be passed. There is still time to make sure this Legislative Session is about 5.4 million public school children. Join us on March 11 for a rally to demand the Texas Legislature invest in our public schools.

The Week Ahead
The timing couldn’t be better for our rally, as we expect the Texas Senate to vote on a teacher-only $5,000 pay raise early in the week, after the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved SB 3 on Monday.

While Texas AFT supports more money for teachers, we demand a sustainable raise for all school employees. Education Austin member Traci Dunlap said it best in her testimony at Monday’s hearing:

While it’s true that classroom teachers are struggling, so are the other members of the team who work toward the success of our students. From the bus drivers who get children safely to school, to the cafeteria workers who make sure children are fed, to the teaching assistants who often work with our most challenging students, to the custodians who keep our schools clean and maintained, we all contribute to the safety, health, academic growth, and social-emotional well-being of the children of Texas.  I’m asking that all members of the education team be added to this bill. We all need a raise.

Click here to tell your Senator that every member of the public education team needs a permanent raise. Now.

While we expect SB 3 to sail through the Senate, its future remains uncertain in the House, whose members say they are more interested a holistic look at school finance funding. In that vein, Texas House Public Education Chair Dan Huberty said he will unveil his school finance plan on Tuesday, with a hearing the following week. We’re excited about the possibility of new money, but concerned about the continued talk about outcomes funding and merit pay. We’ll have all the details in next week’s edition.

Friday, March 8 is the bill filing deadline, so we expect a deluge of bills as the date approaches.

Also last week:

  • Texas AFT priority bill HB 92, which would authorize a campus to operate as a community school as part of a campus turnaround plan, had a successful early hearing Tuesday. Witnesses from Houston and Dallas testified about the critical difference community schools made in their campuses. The bill was left pending. While Texas AFT is optimistic about the bill’s chances in committee, Chairman Huberty did indicate that he would not vote out any bills until his bill regarding cardiac assessments for athletes was heard on the floor.
  • On Wednesday, Texas AFT opposed HB 2, which would handcuff local school districts, while starving them of much-needed revenue. The House Ways and Means convened until nearly midnight, hearing hours of testimony for the measure which would force taxing jurisdictions—including school districts—collecting more than $15 million to have an election if they wished to increase their tax rate more than 2.5 percent. The cost of the bill to local districts cannot yet be calculated, as the legislation requires corresponding bills to calculate the rate.
  • The House Higher Education Committee heard and left pending several bipartisan bills Tuesday that would prohibit professional license non-renewal (such as a teaching certificate) due to a failure to repay a student loan.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott re-appointed former Dallas ISD trustee Mike Morath as Texas Education Commissioner. Texas AFT has repeatedly sparred with (and sued) Morath over his continued push for unaccountable charter schools. Morath’s appointment is now in the hands of the Senate, which must decide whether to confirm him for a new four-year term. Texas AFT urges Senators to demand that Morath commit to public schools before confirming him.

The week ahead

  • Texas AFT encourages its San Antonio members to vote for Ray Lopez for HD 124. Early voting begins Monday!
  • Houston folks will go to the polls Tuesday to vote in the HD 146 special election to replace Rep. Alvarado. Find your polling place here.
  • Next Tuesday, the House Committee on Public Education will hear bills related to assessment. Texas AFT will continue to fight high stakes testing.


Great Bill Alert

Texas AFT is excited to support SB 426 by Eddie Lucio Jr. and HB 727 by Mary Gonzalez.Professional school counselors are a critical part of the public education team. However, we have heard too many examples of counselors being required to administer standardized tests, taking time away from the critical services we need them to provide. These bills would require school boards to adopt a policy mandating a school counselor to spend at least 80 percent of the counselor’s “total work time” on duties that are components of a counseling program.

The legislation explicitly states that time spent administering assessment instruments, except time spent interpreting data, is NOT considered time spent on counseling. Texas AFT agrees that testing isn’t counseling and supports this critical effort to focus counseling back on student needs.

We’ll be back with another Weekly Briefing next Friday!

Political advertising paid for by Texas AFT.