As SB 1 was voted out of the Senate, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst remarked: “The state budget passed today reflects our commitment to balancing a fiscally conservative budget without raising taxes and giving your priorities the resources they need to continue building a better future for Texas.” The budget passed by the Senate, 29-2 (Sen. Wendy Davis and Sen. Sylvia Garcia voted nay) appropriates $94.1 billion for general revenue and a total of $195.5 billion overall, a 7.7% increase in spending. Dissenting Senators argued the Senate should do more to restore funding for social services and education. The Senate added $1.5 billion to restore public education cuts from last session.
The House is busy putting together a budget that increases education funding, including per-student spending in public and higher education and gives a boost to financial aid. Members hope to offer better resources to teachers and to accommodate a growing population of students that are more expensive to educate. They have thus far added back $2.5 billion to the public education budget. Speaker Straus outlined education as one of his major priorities for the upcoming week: HB 5, a bill by Rep. Aycock that cuts the number of End-of-Course exams, changes graduation requirements, and creates opportunities for career and technical training, will be heard in committee. Multiple charter bills, including Sen. Dan Patrick’s SB 2, are scheduled for committees on Tuesday.
HB 300, by Rep. Jason Isaac, was referred to House Public Education this past week. The bill would create a sub-education agency, The Education Choice Division, that oversees charter schools and school choice educational institutions. The bill establishes a “Families First” system of education in which participating schools submit a proposed accountability system. Once approved, participating schools are exempt from TEA rules of operation. The TEA would have little control over the new Commissioner of School Choice and other provisions established in the bill.
The governor highlighted the importance of fiscal responsibility in a speech this week, and emphasized the principles outlined in the Texas Budget Compact – practicing truth in budgeting, creating a stronger constitutional limit on spending growth, opposing new taxes or tax increases and making the tax exemption for small businesses permanent, streamlining government by doing away with duplicative programs, and preserving a strong Rainy Day Fund. Perry also reiterated his call to provide tax relief to Texans, and discussed the need to invest in critical water and transportation infrastructure as Texas’ population and economy continue to grow. He has called for the use of $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for a one-time investment in water and transportation infrastructure projects.
News of the Week
Senate Approves $195.5 Billion Budget, 29-2
SB 1 spends $94.1 billion in general revenue — the parts of the budget lawmakers have the most control over — a 7.7 percent increase over the 2011 budget. Spending would increase in most areas, including education and health care, but still drew criticism from those who argued that more spending is needed in light of the size of last session’s budget cuts and the amount of money now available.
House budget-writers back $1.5 billion more for education
The House Appropriations Committee voted on Thursday to put $1.5 billion more into public education on top of covering enrollment in the next two-year budget cycle, an amount equal to that endorsed by Senate budget-writers.
Texas lawmakers now tackling big challenges
The Texas House convened in January focused on priorities that will promote economic growth, such as reforming public education, securing reliable supplies of water and making our state budget more transparent. With the legislative session now halfway over, each of these priorities is moving forward.
Gains on State Exams Don’t Translate to National Tests
Performance on the ACT and SAT, the college admissions exams administered to most high school students in the state, has either flatlined or dropped. Modest gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which evaluates samples of fourth- and eighth-grade students across the country to provide side-by-side comparisons among states, have not matched their skyrocketing scores on the state standardized tests.
Texas Legislature briefs: Senate panel to vote on allowing more charter schools
Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick said he will seek committee approval Tuesday of his bill to raise the cap on the number of independent charter schools in Texas. But he has given up on his efforts to provide facilities funding for charter schools and to require that vacant schools lease their property.
Medicaid Expansion Sparks Debate Over Asset Tests
Gov. Rick Perry said last week that any Medicaid overhaul in Texas should include so-called asset testing, “to ensure care is there for those who really need it most.” With lawmakers eyeing a Medicaid expansion, such testing is stirring debate.
House budget makers beef up school funding
Texas lawmakers under pressure from educators to restore billions of dollars cut from public schools two years ago are responding in an ever-bigger way. The House Appropriations Committee voted unanimously Thursday to boost funding for public schools by $2.5 billion in the next two-year budget period.
Sequester Could Hit Special Ed, Poor TX Students
In 2011, Texas schools were hit with a $5.4 billion cut in state financing. And now that the state is also facing automatic federal spending cuts that went into effect on March 1, administrators say they are running out of cost-saving options to maintain services that get federal money.
Bill Would Designate Schools That Enroll Dropouts
Fewer than 85 percent of Texas students in the class of 2010 graduated from high school. At a hearing Thursday in the state Senate, lawmakers heard the case for keeping better tabs on dropouts who end up back in school.
Gonzalez, Workman: Career training good for students, employers and Texas
Young adults aspire to a good job, free from crushing student debt. That’s why we support House Bill 5, by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock. The bill will create multiple career pathways for high school students and reduce over-reliance on standardized state tests in our schools. We support giving Texas students the opportunities they need to succeed in life.
Texas will take a big leap backward if the Legislature passes SB 3, SB 1724 and HB 5
The Senate Education Committee yesterday approved legislation that would drastically reduce the number of end-of-course exams that Texas high school students must pass to graduate. Like HB 5, the measure the House Public Education Committee approved last week, SB 1724 would require students to pass five EOC exams.
Texas senators eye training for gun-carrying school employees
Senators considered a school safety measure Tuesday that would provide crisis training for school employees who are designated to carry concealed handguns on campus.
Religious-Based Alternatives to Evolution Promoted by Texas Education Official
When SBOE Chairwoman Cargill was testifying before the Education Committee she made it clear that she was very concerned about the way evolution was being presented in Texas. When she was discussing CSCOPE, a curriculum management system, Cargill said she thinks CSCOPE doesn’t conform to the science standards because it doesn’t teach “all sides” about evolution.
Texas Senate Considers Changes to School Testing
After the disastrous introduction of a new testing regimen last year, the Legislature is anxious to overhaul what parents, teachers, students and business leaders all consider a flawed system. Texas law currently requires some high school students to take 15 exams to graduate, though the state education commissioner has waved a requirement that exam results count toward 15 percent of the final grades in core courses.
Texas Education Commissioner Responds To Testing Criticism, Releasing STAAR Exams Early
Today in a state senate committee lawmakers debated how many standardized tests a high school student should have to take. It’s part of a statewide backlash against testing. But now the Texas Education Commissioner is pushing back.
Deshotel Bill Would Scrap Testing As Graduation Requirement
Tuesday afternoon, though, a House committee heard a new proposal from Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont), to roll back testing even further. House Bill 1423 would lower the stakes of the STAAR test, by removing the requirement, on the books since 1994, that students pass state exams to graduate. Deshotel’s proposal would limit testing to the federal requirements—just math, reading and science, and only one of each test in high school.
Removing Politics From The State Board Of Education
Rep. Donna Howard filed HB 906 which would make SBOE races non-partisan and would prevent political parties from endorsing candidates. “We’ve had some unfortunate polarization that has occurred in educational policy making that has fallen along some partisan lines and politicized our children’s lives,” Howard said.