The 30-day Special Legislative Session began last week at lightning speed with bill filings, committee hearings, and floor votes. The Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) team has been at the state Capitol working on behalf of students at public charter schools.
During a special legislative session, only the governor has the authority to determine the agenda for the legislature. To that end, before the special session began we delivered more than 3,100 signatures from Texas families in a petition to Governor Greg Abbott requesting the addition of facilities funding to the agenda. Thankfully, Governor Abbott added the issue of school finance to the agenda giving us a second bite at the apple at getting our number one priority, facilities funding, across the finish line.
As a result of the demand from Texans for more seats at a public charter school and TCSA’s advocacy efforts, we have seen legislation that includes additional funding for public charter schools:
SB 2 (L. Taylor, Friendswood) and HB 253 (Simmons, Carrollton)—TCSA Supports
SB 2 is the Senate’s bill that addresses school finance. The bill establishes a tax credit scholarship and educational expense assistance program for students with disabilities, a "financial hardship transition program" for ISDs losing ASATR, $60 million in additional funding for open-enrollment charter schools, and $60 million in additional funding for the existing debt allotment program.
Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Larry Taylor, filed SB 2 which was heard and voted out of committee by a vote of 9-2 last week and this week the Senate passed the bill on a vote of 19-12. The bill now sits in the House waiting referral to the House Public Education Committee.
Representative Ron Simmons has filed the companion to SB 2, HB 253. This bill has not yet received a hearing by House Public Education Committee.
HB 21 (Huberty, Houston)—TCSA Supports
Chairman Dan Huberty filed HB 21, the House’s school finance proposal. This bill increases the basic allotment, increases the bilingual/ESL allotment, expands the grades that may receive the CTE allotment from 9-12th grades to 8-12th grades, creates an allotment for students with dyslexia, creates a “financial hardship grant” for ISDs and charter schools to defray financial hardships resulting from the changes made by this bill, provides $25 million in additional funding for open-enrollment charter schools, and provides $75 million in additional funding to the existing debt allotment program.
HB 21 was favorably voted out of committee this week and may be debated before the full House as soon as Monday, July 31st.
It is important to note that another item added on the agenda by Governor Abbott is a proposal to increase teacher pay. In response, several legislators have filed bills that would accomplish this goal. Not all of these bills impact charter schools, but HB 198 filed by Rep. Travis Clardy (Nacogdoches) impacts all public schools. Amongst other provisions, this bill requires all public schools to increase teacher pay by an average of $1,000. There is no additional funding appropriated by the state for this funding increase. This bill has not yet received a hearing.
We ask you to stay engaged through the special legislative session. As these and other bills move through the process we will ask that you contact your lawmaker to express to them the impact of certain legislation on your schools and students.