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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: March 15, 2024

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 3/15/2024

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

BIDEN EDUCATION BUDGET PROPOSAL: The Biden administration this week released its proposed federal budget, which includes an additional $8 billion for the 2025 fiscal year. The requested funding would focus on continued academic recovery from the pandemic through tutoring and summer school. The proposed budget also aims to increase funding for federal programs that support high-poverty schools, students learning English as a second language, and students with disabilities. Chalkbeat lays out the proposed budget in this article.

Related: The Biden administration shared its K-12 education policy agenda in January. The “Improving Student Achievement Agenda” prioritizes strategies to help with students’ academic performance. The three key areas the Biden administration is focusing on are increasing student attendance, tutoring, and summer/afterschool learning.

VOUCHER OUTLOOK FOR ABBOTT: The multiple legislative sessions of 2024 did not yield the results that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) sought for private school vouchers, but after this month’s primary election that saw many of the legislators who stood against vouchers ousted, and four heading to runoffs, there is now anticipation that the governor will continue his fight for vouchers. ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter spoke to the Houston Chronicle about the outlook for Abbott’s education priorities.

“If we were to magically say all the people who were elected (in the primaries) were now actually in office and we’re starting session tomorrow, then yes I think that it would be very likely that they would just do whatever Abbott asked them to do,” Exter said.

Related: Abbott took to social media this week to applaud Wednesday’s U.S. House vote to force China to sell its stake in the popular TikTok platform. Another major TikTok stakeholder is billionaire Jeff Yass, who gave Abbott a record-setting $6.25 million campaign donation in recent months. In addition to being a fervent voucher supporter and political benefactor, Yass owns $15 billion worth of TikTok, as Fortune reported this week. Some are now calling for Abbott to return the Yass donation.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE TUITION WAIVERS FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: With funding from House Bill (HB) 8 passed during the 2023 regular session of the Texas Legislature, several of the state’s community colleges are taking steps to reduce the financial burden for high school students to pursue higher education and enroll in dual credit courses. The Austin Community College’s Board of Trustees will vote in April on a proposal to waive tuition for this year’s graduating high school seniors through 2027.

“Discount doesn’t change people’s perceptions that they can’t afford to go to college. Free means something when you’re talking about college affordability in the way that a discount does not,” ACC Chancellor Russell Lowery-Hart said in The Texas Tribune.

SCHOOL SAFETY: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) produced an advisory on school safety Monday that offered his office’s interpretation of recent Texas legislation. The advisory touched on statutory requirements going back several legislative sessions, including laws that would allow school districts to arm their staff. The advisory also mentioned requirements under House Bill (HB) 3 by Rep. Duston Burrows (R-Lubbock), which the legislature passed in 2023. The law requires armed guards on each school campus and provides exceptions for districts unable to comply. Stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis of the advisory next week. For now, you can read the advisory in full by clicking here.

UVALDE POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS: Uvalde Chief of Police Daniel Rodriguez, who oversaw the law enforcement department during the 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting, resigned Tuesday. Rodriguez was on vacation when the mass shooting occurred, but his resignation comes days after the City of Uvalde issued a controversial report on the shooting response that cleared local officers of wrongdoing. Read more from The Texas Tribune.

SXSW EDU HIGHLIGHT: At last week’s SXSW EDU 2024 conference, a panel of experts weighed in on the importance of local school board elections during a presidential election year. Arizona School Board Member Markus Ceniceros, Political Director for the Campaign for Our Shared Future Action Fund Joaquin Guerra, and Pennsylvania School Board Director Karen Smith discussed voter awareness efforts and the major education policy issues at stake in these down ballot races in 2024. Check out the recorded session on the SXSW EDU website.


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