Two weeks ago, the 86th Texas Legislature convened, so we are officially in session! On day one, The Texas House unanimously elected Representative Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) as Speaker of the House. In his acceptance speech, the Speaker highlighted school finance reform, which the Governor and Lt. Governor have also emphasized, as a top priority for this session. With multi-billion dollar education spending increases in both the House and Senate budgets, as well as significant increases to the state’s General Fund and Rainy Day Fund, there is sure to be major legislation on that topic.
While over 1200 bills have already been filed, the big news from the Capitol so far has been changes to committees in both chambers. The House added two members to both the Public Education and Higher Education committees. The House announced committee memberships on Wednesday the 23rd, with 8 returning and 5 new members in the Public Education committee.
The Senate committee memberships were announced on Friday the 18th, with the Senate Education committee remaining at 11 members – 7 returning members and 4 new faces.
Chairman Huberty’s strong leadership on the House Public Education Committee for a second term shows his commitment to Texas public schools. As a reminder Rep. Harold Dutton, the longest serving member of the Public Education Committee, authored pro-public charter school legislation HB 2337 last session. The 2018 Charter Champion, Chairman Larry Taylor retains his leadership position on the Senate Education Committee. Senator Donna Campbell, a strong public charter school supporter, previously authored numerous pro-charter school bills including SB 457 last legislative session. We look forward to working with all members of the Senate Education and House Public Education Committees this session.
Bookending the winter holidays were reports by the School Finance Commission and the House Public Education Committee. The School Finance Commission’s report is the conclusion of a year of meetings of a group of legislators, educators, public officials, and education policy experts on the best steps to reform the Texas school finance system. Though there are 35 individual recommendations, overall the Committee recommends balancing state and local funding for schools, restructuring and adding funding to target high-need student groups, and reducing property taxes and recapture.
Similarly, the House Committee’s Interim Report followed a year of research and testimony, including TCSA’s testimony on the issues of school safety, Hurricane Harvey relief, and charter schools. On the topic of charter schools, the committee recommends expanding ISD partnerships, helping charters fulfill their role in education children with disabilities, reducing funding disparities, and reconsidering some of the statutory disciplinary admissions policies that charters currently hold.
TCSA welcomes many of the recommendations from both reports and will track which recommendations move forward, how they work with other policy changes, and how they will all affect charter schools. We’re excited to see how the next few months unfold and to work with legislators ensure all Texas students have access to a high quality education.