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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 12, 2023

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Texas Legislature Privatization | Vouchers School Safety Educator Compensation | Benefits Testing | Accountability

Date Posted: 5/12/2023

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

“BACKROOM SHADY DEALINGS,” AKA SB 8: The short version of this week’s legislative activity surrounding Senate Bill (SB) 8 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), the Senate’s major voucher legislation, is this: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) really wants to pass a voucher bill, so House Public Education Committee Chair Brad Buckley (R–Salado) has proposed using SB 8 for an unvetted overhaul of the standardizing testing and accountability system to be designed by Education Commissioner Mike Morath. The intent was to sway STAAR-weary House colleagues into voting for a voucher bill without giving it a full hearing or allowing public input. ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave has a recap of Rep. Ernest Bailes’ (R–Shepherd) floor objection to this, in which he called the rush to vote an example of “backroom shady dealings.” 

Due to Bailes’ objection, the House voted not to allow the committee to meet Wednesday for a hasty vote on SB 8. Instead, the committee will hold a public hearing Monday, May 15, on SB 8, but it will only take invited testimony in another attempt to silence educator voices. That’s not right. Here’s an action plan:  

  1. Sign ATPE’s petition opposing SB 8.  

  1. Read ATPE Associate Executive Director Jennifer’s Mitchell’s “Dirty Dozen Reasons to Hate SB 8,” which explains the comprehensive changes Buckley’s committee substitute would make, including an increase in the number of standardized tests. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Learn what is actually in the proposed changes and make sure your colleagues read it. 

  1. If you’re an ATPE member, submit your written objection to SB 8 through ATPE’s Advocacy Central. We will include submissions as an addendum to the association’s written testimony. 

  1. Call the members of the House Public Education Committee in this order and urge them to vote NO on SB 8: 

It’s also a good idea to contact your own state representative to express your opposition to SB 8. ATPE members can log in to ATPE’s Advocacy Central to easily do that using the SB 8 campaign. Just because the House voted against vouchers on budget night, it doesn’t mean representatives’ votes won’t change as they face immense political pressure during the waning days of the session. A “yes” vote on vouchers might be viewed as a good trade to get another bill important to their districts passed—but if representatives know their educator constituents are watching closely and will remember their vote come reelection time, it might not seem like a good trade any longer. They must hear from Texas educators. Act now. 

BILLS ON THE MOVE:  ATPE unveiled a new advocacy tool this week: Teach the Vote’s Bills on the Move tracker. This database of 85 major education bills is searchable by bill number, author, description, and ATPE’s position on the bill. We recommend using the tracker on a computer or tablet vs. a mobile device for the best user experience. (Remember that ATPE members can track any bill at the state or federal level, even bills unrelated to education, using Advocacy Central.) 

HOUSE PUBLIC EDUCATION: In addition to the dramatic events surrounding SB 8, the House Public Education Committee met Tuesday to consider an agenda filled primarily with Senate bills following the Monday deadline to pass House bills out of committee. ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter testified against SB 9 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), which purports to be a Teacher Bill of Rights. Exter pointed out that none of the teacher organizations is supporting what is supposed to be a pro-teacher bill. He also explained that the bill’s one-time pay stipend of $2,000 is far below what teachers need and creates a problem for administrators who then have to find funds to keep teacher salaries competitive. ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave has more details on SB 9 and the other bills considered Tuesday in this blog post. 

SENATE EDUCATION: On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee heard ATPE-supported HB 1416 by Rep. Keith Bell (R–Forney). The bill is a cleanup bill to HB 4545 passed in 2021, which has created burdensome requirements for accelerated instruction. Sen. Angela Paxton (R–McKinney), the author of the bill’s ATPE-supported Senate companion, SB 1261, substituted language from SB 1261 into HB 1416 as it was passed out of the House in April. On Thursday, the committee voted to advance its substitute version of HB 1416 to the full Senate. Also on Thursday, the committee heard HB 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock), which was carried by Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville). Nichols combined elements of HB 3, HB 13, and SB 11 into an omnibus school safety package intended to provide funding and enforcement for school safety requirements. ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins summarizes the action in blog posts on the committee’s Wednesday and Thursday meetings.

HOUSE EXPULSION:  The Texas House voted 147-0 for House Resolution (HR) 1542 by Rep. Andrew Murr (R–Junction) Tuesday, May 9, 2023, to expel Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) from the body. This vote was recommended by a House committee after it investigated and found credible allegations of Slaton’s inappropriate behavior with a staffer under age 21. This is the first time a member of the Texas House has been expelled since 1927. A special election to fill the vacant House District 2 seat will be held at an unspecified date after the session ends.


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