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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Dec. 1, 2023

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 12/01/2023

The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments. 

SPECIAL SESSION: The last day of the fourth-called special session of the 88th Legislature is Dec. 7. Because the House has delivered a firm “no” to the governor on his push for a private school voucher program, the public education community and some legislators are urging Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) to support the full House pulling up Senate Bill (SB) 2 for a floor vote so it can be sent directly to Abbott without amendments. If the House were to pass SB 2 without adding any House amendments—exactly as it was received from the Senate—then the bill would go directly to the governor for his signature. SB 2 does NOT contain a voucher. It does contain a small increase to the Basic Allotment, a new allotment to fund a teacher compensation increase, and additional school safety funding. That would leave the governor with two choices: increase public education funding or veto a teacher pay raise of $3,000 for all teachers and $10,000 for many of the lowest-paid teachers in the state. ATPE members are urged to use Advocacy Central to contact their House members to ask them to push for a vote to pull up SB 2 on the House floor so representatives can vote to pass it without any amendments, as well as to call or email the House Speaker and urge him to put SB 2 on the floor for a vote. You may email the House Speaker at dade.phelan@house.texas.gov or call his Capitol office at 512-463-1000. The message is: “Speaker Phelan, thank you for allowing the Raney amendment vote stripping vouchers from HB 1 to pass. Public schools need your help again. Please support the full House pulling up SB 2 up for a floor vote so it can be sent directly to the governor without amendments. Thank you.” 

SCHOOL SAFETY: The Texas Senate suspended regular operating rules Friday to file and pass a new school safety funding bill, Senate Bill (SB) 5 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston). The bill would spend $800 million, including $400 million to increase the school safety allotment from $10 to $20 per student and from $15,000 to $30,000 per campus. The other $400 million would fund a school safety grant program to assist school districts in complying with HB 3 as passed during the regular session, which requires an armed guard on each campus. Huffman said the Senate did not support a separate school safety funding bill passed by the House on the grounds that it would draw from funds currently dedicated to other funding priorities, including highway infrastructure. The Senate passed SB 5 by a vote of 24-0, with several members absent. 

ELECTIONS LAWSUIT: In response to a lawsuit filed in Travis County challenging the results of the November 2023 constitutional election, in which voters approved tax cuts and a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retired teachers, the Senate also filed and passed Senate Bill (SB) 6 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola) Friday. If passed by the House and approved by the governor, the bill will shorten the timelines for contesting election results of a constitutional referendum from potentially more than a year to approximately two months. Explaining the urgency behind SB 6, Hughes said during an impromptu hearing of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee that the lawsuit could prevent the governor from certifying the election’s results, which would leave the tax cuts and COLA for retired educators in limbo. The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) has put out a statement about the lawsuit and its potential impact on the timing of the COLA, which was set to go into effect in January.  

VOUCHERS: Here are a few good weekend reads on the voucher fight. In case you missed it over the Thanksgiving holiday, ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave has a full recap of the Raney amendment vote Nov. 17 that stripped vouchers from House Bill (HB) 1. Twenty-one House Republicans and all House Democrats voted for the anti-voucher Raney amendment and a subsequent parliamentary motion that barred reconsideration of the amendment. The Dallas Morning News’ Bob Garrett examines Republican opposition to vouchers in this article quoting ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter. “Vouchers sound pretty good as a bumper sticker, but the closer you look, the more you understand that they are welfare for the rich and the less popular they are,” Exter told the Morning News. Garrett’s X thread offers additional context. Politico also took a look at the issue, examining in particular data showing that the majority of students taking vouchers across the country are already enrolled in private schools—not the “trapped” students voucher proponents say need help. 

SOCIAL SECURITY: With H.R. 82, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2023, currently sitting at 300 co-sponsors, the third most of any bill currently pending in Congress, the movement to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) is currently surging. In response, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee held a rare subcommittee field hearing outside of Washington, D.C., meeting Nov. 20 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to discuss how the WEP and GPO mistreat government workers. Read more about the hearing in this blog post by ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter. In addition, you may submit written comments for the hearing record about how these unfair provisions will affect you. The deadline is Monday, Dec. 4, and you must follow these specific instructions.



Ane Wilson

It seems to me public service jobs aren’t worth it anymore by this. No wonder we have a shortage. Why work these if you’re going to get screwed in the end!

Lynelle Vaughan

I am in full support of this situation being remediated. As a teacher any of my side jobs or prior jobs where I have paid into SS would not come to me as benefits to me as a future retiree. Also it would severely limit my spousal beneficiary should my husband die before I do. I am not asking for anything unfair, just for the same benefits as everyone else gets when they put money into Social Security. I didn’t have a choice of where my retirement money went It is just done that way in my state. I should not get penalized because of that either!

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