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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Feb. 3, 2023

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

School Finance Texas Legislature Curriculum | Instruction TEA | Commissioner | SBOE Privatization | Vouchers

Date Posted: 2/03/2023

The State Board of Education (SBOE) squeezed a four-day meeting into two, and most Texas legislative activity was canceled this week due to a winter storm. The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments. 

BUDGET: The Texas Senate Finance Committee began its initial three-plus week marathon of daily hearings  Monday before having to cancel meetings planned for Tuesday through Thursday on account of the Texas ice storm. On the first day of hearings, the 17-member committee kicked off by receiving invited testimony from Comptroller Glenn Hegar. Hegar stressed over and over the historic nature of the current revenue surplus and balance in the Economic Stabilization Fund, otherwise known as the Rainy Day Fund, headed into the upcoming budget cycle.

Over the next three weeks, the committee will receive invited public testimony on all of the agencies funded within the Texas budget. These are grouped into articles within the Texas budget. Article III covers PK-12 education, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), and higher education and will be discussed next week, beginning with the Texas Education Agency (through which nearly all PK-12 funding flows) and TRS on Monday, Feb. 6.

The corresponding house committee, House Appropriations, has not yet begun to meet, as House members have not yet been assigned to committees.

SBOE: The State Board of Education (SBOE) held its first meeting of the year this week with six new members who won election to the board in 2022. The meeting was scheduled to begin Tuesday, but four days of work were compressed to Thursday and Friday as a result of the winter storm.

In addition to electing board officers and reshuffling committees, the board reopened the legislative priorities it passed in November 2022 in order to remove a position on vouchers. The decision came as Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has made passing a voucher bill a top priority this session, paid his first in-person visit to the board to swear in the members and deliver remarks. Read more about this week’s meeting in this post by ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.

VOUCHERS: Gov. Abbott used an appearance at a private school this week to push for the enactment of a universal voucher plan that would enable parents to send their children to private and parochial schools using taxpayer dollars. Speaking at Annapolis Christian Academy in Corpus Christi, the governor said “every child” in the state should have access to a type of voucher known as an Education Savings Account (ESA). It’s one of the broadest pitches yet from elected officials determined to get a voucher bill passed this session. Others, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) have suggested limiting voucher legislation to urban areas of the state or areas of poverty, recognizing that vouchers have been a tough sell for many rural lawmakers even on the Republican side of the aisle.

ATPE issued a statement following the governor’s remarks this week to emphasize that an ESA is still a voucher and harmful to public schools. “[School district] costs do not decline in proportion to the decrease in enrollment,” ATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes explained. Read the full ATPE press statement here.

Abbott and the lawmakers who have filed voucher bills this session are framing their push for public funding of private education as a parental rights issue, particularly for parents who believe their child’s public school “strays too far from the fundamentals,” as the governor described it this week. It’s an appeal reminiscent of pro-voucher arguments that sprang up in the 1950s and ‘60s when American public schools were being integrated. Journalist Joel Nihlean recently wrote about the problem with demanding education reforms under the auspices of “parental rights” in a recent article republished with permission on ATPE’s Teach the Vote blog. “Those heading the modern parents’ rights movement seem to want the unprecedented and exclusive right to walk in a school, righteously demand answers, and then make policy decisions for all kids,“ wrote Nihlean, adding,. “We’ve somehow lost that thread of public schools being for the public good.” Read the full article, entitled “The Fight Over Parents’ Rights in Schools Misses the Point of Public Education,” here on Teach the Vote.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Since 1976, February has been recognized as Black History Month in the United States, and over on the ATPE Blog, we are shining a spotlight on the lasting contributions of three influential Black educators: Booker T. Washington, Carter Woodson, and Charlotte Forten Grimké. Plus, you’ll find links to Black History Month resources to explore with your students.

MEDIA: Region 20 ATPE Director Laura Herrera and ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter were quoted in “With full state coffers and bipartisan support, Texas teachers are hopeful they’ll get a raise this year” from The Texas Tribune. ATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes explained why a voucher program would harm public schools in The Dallas Morning News’ “Gov. Abbott heats up school voucher debate, calling for ESAs ‘for every child’ in Texas.”

PODCAST: On the latest episode of The ATPE Podcast, ATPE Staff Attorney Celina Leal addresses the duties and legal concerns of educators as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect.

ATPE: Registration for ATPE at the Capitol, our political involvement training and lobby day event, only remains open for one more week. The deadline to register is Feb. 10. Exclusively for ATPE members, ATPE at the Capitol is taking place Feb. 20-21 at the Austin Marriott Downtown and the Texas State Capitol. The event will feature training sessions, Q&A with a panel of legislators, opportunities to engage with the media, visits to legislative offices, and more. There is no registration fee for ATPE members to attend. Learn more and register at atpe.org/aatc.

Related: A limited number of tickets are still available for The PAC’s Peak Ski Lodge, an exclusive ATPE-PAC fundraising event happening during ATPE at the Capitol, Feb. 20. Don’t miss out. Get your ticket today.

ATPE-PAC solicits donations only from ATPE members, employees, and their families. Participation in ATPE-PAC is voluntary. Members can contribute any amount or nothing at all without affecting their ATPE membership status, rights, or benefits. In accordance with state and federal laws, ATPE local units and regions may not contribute membership dues dollars to ATPE-PAC.


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