Marathon Meetings of the House Public Education Committee

In back-to-back late night hearings on Monday and Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee heard invited and public testimony on a number of interim charges.

Monday’s agenda was a pick-up agenda from an early adjournment on May 24 due to the Uvalde tragedy. The committee hosted panels on the implementation of HB 3 and its subsequent clean-up bill HB 1525, including panels on fast-growth districts, the teacher incentive allotment (TIA), reading academies, special education funding, and chronic absenteeism. A common refrain throughout the day was a call to increase the basic allotment to bring in additional needed funding to fairly compensate teachers and staff in districts and to remove arbitrary caps on spending in order for districts to get the resources they need to effectively serve students.

Tuesday’s hearing brought in several high-profile issues, including an SBOE defense of its veto of edTPA, workforce development and CTE funding, instructional materials, and parent “empowerment.” Mike Morath, commissioner of education, presented that district-selected instructional materials were of low quality and that decisions regarding these materials should be returned to the SBOE (effectively the TEA). This is troublesome because it would remove local control of these materials and give authority back to the state. The “parent empowerment” panel was set up to be a clear endorsement for charters and voucher schemes. Public testimony went late into the evening.

Shockingly, over two days of testimony and over 90 invited witnesses, only one was an active teacher. When Texas AFT pointed out this fact on Twitter, Committee Chair Harold Dutton, who is in charge of soliciting invited testimony, responded on twitter during the hearing that “if you have real answers, then share that with your Representative.” Dozens of AFT members have already scheduled meetings with their representatives ahead of the 88th Legislative session next year, but Rep. Dutton doesn’t respect the perspective of educators enough to invite them to testify publicly. This committee has made it clear that they do not value the voices of professional educators or educator organizations. 

This ongoing omission of teacher voices must stop. Texas AFT is working to ensure our voices are included in every conversation that happens about this profession.