The legislative process is often contentious, and the 87th Texas Legislature was certainly no exception. But amidst several heated debates, we were heartened to find that, by and large, maintaining adequate and equitable resources for our public education system remained an area of broad bipartisan support. Here are some of the policies we were proud to support that have successfully reached the Governor’s desk.
Most importantly, legislators preserved the school finance reforms of House Bill 3 (86 R) and fully funded their public education commitments from the 2019 session in spite of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. They also updated that student-centered policy through passage of HB 1525 (by Rep. Huberty & Sen. Taylor).
This “clean-up” bill accomplished many important things, including allowing funds from the Teacher Incentive Allotment to go towards the Teacher Retirement System and directing federal COVID relief funds to expand options for college, career and military readiness. Most excitingly, the legislation builds upon the success of Dallas ISD’s ACE program by directing additional funding to chronically underperforming campuses that implement ‘Resource Campus’ models that include lower staffing ratios, strategic teacher compensation and family engagement plans.
This was paired with another major investment with an undeniably positive impact on public education. HB 5 (Rep. Ashby & Sen. Nichols) establishes the Broadband Development Office, tasked with preparing a state broadband plan, creating a map of areas with limited access to broadband service, and awarding financial incentives to expand broadband access in those areas. This is a welcome achievement given how much our educators have come to rely upon technology to continue serving students throughout the pandemic.
This was also a productive session for early childhood education. HB 2607 (Rep. Talarico & Sen. Lucio) will improve the quality of early child care across the state by requiring subsidy providers to participate in the Texas Rising Star rating and improvement system. HB 1792 (Rep. Button, Rep. Talarico & Sen. Zaffirini) increases the efficiency of the Texas Rising Star system by centralizing childcare assessors. And SB 619 (Rep. Senfronia Thompson & Sen. Alvarado) requires the Texas Workforce Commission to prepare a strategic plan for improving the quality of the early child care workforce in Texas.
Progress was also made in higher education. SB 1277 (Sen. West & Rep. J. Turner) requires school systems to provide advising to high schoolers seeking to enroll in dual credit, helping to ensure their college transcripts are not marred by a failing grade. SB 788 (Sen. Creighton & Rep. Howard) makes providing proactive, personalized student support across higher ed systems easier than ever before by providing regions with FERPA-compliant data sharing agreement templates.
Finally, HB 3767 (Rep. Murphy & Sen. Bettencourt) brings together the Texas Education Agency, Texas Workforce Commission, and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (collectively known as the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative) to modernize data collection, set joint goals and strengthen our state’s workforce pipeline.
With new federal stimulus funding yet to be allocated and calls for a special session well underway, the legislative process will pick up again later this year. But after a divisive regular session, we remain grateful that legislators chose to prioritize PreK-12 education funding and mark progress on other education issues affecting everything from early childhood to postsecondary and workforce alignment.