Earlier this week, the 85th Legislative Session concluded at the Texas Capitol and I am pleased to report that the legislature passed two significant priorities for public charter schools that will foster growth and innovation in public education.
Permanent School Fund-SB 1480 by Senator Bryan Hughes and Representative Jim Murphy (author of the companion bill, HB 467) will help increase the number of students enrolled in Texas charter schools by providing additional capacity to the Permanent School Fund (PSF) to guarantee the financing of public charter schools. The capacity for the program will go from $1 billion to an estimated $4 billion beginning September 1, 2017, which means more classroom seats for Texas students and millions of dollars in savings for public charter schools.
Minutes of Instructional Time-HB 2442 by Representative Ken King and Senator Larry Taylor (author of SB 1660) will protect the funding of about 110 public charter school campuses that enroll nearly 21,000 students. During the previous 84th Legislative Session, HB 2610 passed with the unintended consequence of reducing the funding for public charter schools with unique programs, often serving our most vulnerable student populations. With the passage of HB 2442, the funding of these schools is safeguarded.
These two legislative wins, boosting the PSF capacity and fixing the minutes of instruction time, were achieved when 734 fewer measures were introduced and 1,173 fewer bills and resolutions were passed and sent to the Governor when compared to the 2015 state session. TCSA’s top legislative priority, facilities funding (SB 457/HB 2337), was not achieved, but went further in the legislative process and had more support than in any prior session with SB 457 passing out of the Senate, not once but twice. SB 457, filed by Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), and HB 2337 filed by Representatives Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton), Eddie Lucio, III (D-Brownsville), Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), and Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), represented a bipartisan coalition from various geographic areas of Texas, a first in the history of the charter school movement in Texas. Separately, Representative Jason Villalba filed HB 1269, taking another approach to facilities funding.
HB 21 by Representative Dan Huberty, the House’s major school finance bill was amended to include charter school facilities funding towards the end of the legislative session. While the House and Senate considered HB 21 until the final hours of the session, ultimately, they were unable to come to consensus on this bill. We should be proud that our top priority was part of the legislative debate until the very end.
The strides we made as a movement were only possible because of the combined efforts of so many. Most notably, you, your students and their parents, were the strongest champions of our cause advocating for public charter schools with calls, emails, and visits to legislative offices. TCSA’s grassroots efforts include the addition of more than 18,000 advocates who generated nearly 12,000 messages to 173 of 181 elected officials at the Texas Capitol. More than 2,000 of you representing 30 campuses participated at the 2017 Texas Public Charter Schools Rally, and the very next day, SB 457 passed out of the Senate with an amendment by Senator Kirk Watson, who received more than 400 calls and emails from you. It was a remarkable campaign because of your support.
I want to thank Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Chairman Larry Taylor, Chairman Dan Huberty, and the legislators and their staff who championed our cause and supported students at public charter schools.
Finally, I would like to thank my staff for their tireless efforts and contributions. The TCSA team went above and beyond working hard for long hours on behalf of students at public charter schools and I appreciate their passion and commitment to serving Texas families.
Onward and upward!