Senate and House Education Committees recap

Patty Quinzi, seated at testimony table in black suit, speaks to wood dais of state senators
Texas AFT Government Relations Director Patty Quinzi testifies before the Texas Senate Education Committee Tuesday.

The Senate Education Committee met Tuesday to discuss interim charges. The day began with testimony from Education Commissioner Mike Morath on the implementation of HB 3 and HB 1525, the massive school finance packages of the last few sessions. The committee also heard invited testimony from panels on HB 4545 (the “accelerated instruction” bill), the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the educator talent pipeline, school bond efficiency, and the local optional homestead exemption. 

Regarding HB 4545, both Morath and a panel of witnesses testified to the general effectiveness of tutoring as required by the law, but they admitted guidance and implementation have been inconsistent and there is no monitoring process for efficacy. The result, for many teachers, administrators, and parents has been a logistical nightmare trying to implement the accelerated instruction. 

As expected, we heard a lot of repetitive rhetoric about the tax relief provided by HB 3/1525, the progress of reading academies, and the momentum of the teacher incentive allotment (TIA) for so-called “performance pay.” 

AFT’s Patty Quinzi testified to both legislative bodies that the pandemic only exacerbated the teacher shortage and pipeline issues and gave the committee immediate, research-based solutions–increase the basic allotment to get more money into schools for teacher salaries and reinstate substantial funding to the Educational Aide Tuition Exemption program. We also provided written testimony from members affected by the teacher salary crisis.

Also on Tuesday, the House Education Committee meeting was cut short by the committee chair in light of the news breaking of the shooting in Uvalde. The committee did hear testimony on two charges: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ mental health and the implementation of HB 3, the comprehensive school-finance bill.

The committee met with several panels of industry professionals, Texas Education agency officials, and stakeholders. There was a general consensus amongst the invited testimony that the mental health support situation was dire and that more data needed to be collected by the TEA on mental health issues. On the subject of school finance, committee members seemed to express a genuine interest in raising the basic allotment to increase funding.