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Policy / Students-First Education Policy in the 88th Texas Legislature

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Policy

Students-First Education Policy in the 88th Texas Legislature


Over 8,000 bills were filed in the regular session of the Texas Legislature this year, and fewer than 1,250 passed both chambers by the Memorial Day deadline. Only 65 of the bills that passed dealt with education. Many top priorities of state leadership were left undone in the final days of session, likely necessitating a series of special sessions in the coming months.

But the students-first education policy championed by Commit and others garnered a broad base of support from members of both parties and chambers. Here are four new laws we were proud to support, each aligned with a pillar of our legislative agenda:

HB 1605 (Buckley et al.) builds strong foundations in reading and math by providing more students with access to high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) to support on-grade-level instruction. Having these high-quality materials was “transformative” for former Dallas ISD principal Amber Shields, and in her current capacity as director of Early Matters Dallas, she testified before both chambers in support of the bill.

HB 1416 (K. Bell) leverages data-driven solutions by requiring high-impact tutoring for students who are academically behind to accelerate their learning. This practice was first implemented in HB 4545 (87R), but the law was funded only through temporary COVID assistance and met several implementation challenges. The revisions in HB 1416 allow for more flexibility with implementation while maintaining the tutor-to-student ratios proven to be most effective.

SB 2124 (Creighton) monitors student progress and requires school systems to automatically enroll high-performing fifth graders in advanced math pathways through a consistent, statewide opt-out policy. A version of this opt-out policy has already been implemented in Dallas ISD, greatly increasing the number of students on a college-ready math pathway. Commit Senior Director of Academic Recovery and former middle school principal Sharla Horton-Williams testified in support of the legislation in both chambers and is in the early stages of supporting other Dallas County school districts with board policy adoption and implementation.

Students are significantly more likely to complete postsecondary credentials six years after high school if they complete advanced math pathways, starting with Algebra I in eighth grade, which SB2124 allows more students to do. Source: E3 Alliance

HB 8 (VanDeaver et al.) improves postsecondary success for all students by making strategic investments in our state’s community colleges based on student performance and affordability. Commit CEO Todd Williams served on the Texas Commission on Community College Finance, the interim body whose recommendations shaped what became a historic bill unanimously supported by legislators as well as business leaders, educators, and community college students.

Fewer than one in four Texas eighth graders go on to achieve any type of postsecondary credential within 10 years. Community colleges will play a critical role in closing this gap – especially with new state funding tied to student outcomes. Source: THECB

While we are thrilled with the transformational change for Texas students these bills will bring, there is more work to do. In particular, school finance and recommendations from the state’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force remain a chief concern as districts face the challenges of inflation and teacher retention.

At the close of session last month, legislators left unallocated a proposed $4 billion set aside for public education. It is our hope that funding will eventually be invested strategically in early childhood education, increased instructional time, and greater pay for our excellent educators. We look forward to working with both chambers, including the newly formed House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment, to make this a reality

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