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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 26, 2023

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

School Finance Retirement | TRS | Social Security Texas Legislature Educator Rights Curriculum | Instruction Privatization | Vouchers School Safety Educator Compensation | Benefits

Date Posted: 5/26/2023

This information was updated at 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 26. The 88th Legislature will adjourn Monday, May 29. The information contained in this post is time-sensitive and subject to change. Follow @TeachtheVote for the latest updates over the weekend.

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

You know the saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes?” One could say, “If you think the Legislature’s boring, wait five minutes.” The final full week of the legislative session was filled with high stakes and dramatic developments—with the upshot being this: Vouchers aren’t dead. If you haven’t contacted your state rep, do that before you read any more. 

HB 100: On Monday, the Senate Education Committee voted on party lines to add a poison pill—a voucher—to the last remaining legislative vehicle for an educator pay raise: House Bill (HB) 100 by Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian). The vote of the full Senate to pass its committee substitute for HB 100 was 18-13, with Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville) joining Senate Democrats in opposition. (ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins has the full report.) ATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes offered this statement: “Make no mistake: A vote for this Frankenstein bill tells the 10 million-plus Texans who choose public schools exactly where you stand on supporting public education. You don’t.” 

The House responded with a vote Thursday to reject the Senate version of HB 100 and appoint a conference committee instead. The House conference committee appointees are King, Rep. Trent Ashby (R–Lufkin), House Public Education Committee Chair Brad Buckley (R–Salado), Rep. Oscar Longoria (D–Mission), and Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R–New Boston). On Friday afternoon, Senate conferees were announced: Senate Education Committee Chair Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), Sen. Cesar Blanco (D–El Paso), Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston), and Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston).

The committee will meet quickly behind closed doors, and the conference committee report could be on the House floor at any time. ATPE urges all educators to contact their state reps immediately to urge them to oppose the conference committee report on HB 100 if it contains vouchers. ATPE members may log in to Advocacy Central to quickly and easily send a message on this topic and other top education issues. 

HB 1/STATE BUDGET: The conference committee report on HB 1, the state budget bill, has been released, and the much-needed increase to the Basic Allotment (BA) for schools is not included. There is $23.9 billion appropriated to the Foundation School Program (FSP) for 2024 and $24.7 billion in 2025. This represents a total decrease in the FSP of $3 billion and a per-student decrease of $232 as compared with the 2022/23 budget. The final budget also includes contingent funding, which is based on other bills passing, for the Foundation School Program (an additional $4 billion), curriculum ($500 million), school safety ($300 million), and vouchers ($500 million). A total of $4.5 billion is contingent on bills that are very unlikely to pass. The school safety allotment is still $9.72 per student, though this could change with the passage of HB 3. As passed by the Senate, HB 3 would entitle each campus to $15,000 per campus for school safety and increase the school safety allotment to $10 per student, with an additional $1 per student for every $50 increase to the Basic Allotment passed by the Legislature. It is worth noting that, in addition to no Basic Allotment increase, there is no money directly appropriated in the budget to provide teachers with a raise.

The Senate voted 29-2 Friday afternoon to adopt the conference committee report containing the budget. Sens. Roland Gutierrez (D–San Antonio) and José Menéndez (D–San Antonio) were no votes.

PAXTON IMPEACHMENT: In a historic development, the House General Investigating Committee issued 20 articles of impeachment Thursday against Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and recommended his removal from office. The impeachment recommendation came just days after social media users in Paxton’s camp began posting a video of Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) allegedly intoxicated while presiding over the House. The Speaker’s office then released the news that Paxton had been under investigation by the committee since March. The House is expected to debate and then vote on impeachment when it convenes at 1 p.m. CT Saturday.

Attorney General Ken Paxton's press conference, May 26, 2023Ahead of the House debate, Paxton quickly called a press conference Friday afternoon to denounce the process. Flanked by members of his state office staff, Paxton claimed the impeachment effort was retribution for his work suing the Biden administration. He refused to answer any questions, however, from the crowd of reporters in the room. If the House votes to impeach the attorney general, the impeachment trial would take place in the Senate, where Paxton's wife is a member. 

The Texas Tribune has more on the allegations against Paxton, as well as a helpful guide to the impeachment process in Texas.  

SCHOOL SAFETY: This Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of the tragedy in Uvalde CISD, and both the House and Senate took time to offer memorial resolutions for the victims.  

HB 3, the lone school safety bill remaining in play this session, is currently in conference committee. The House conferees are Chair Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock), Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–Friendswood), Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian), Rep. Tracy King (R–Uvalde), and Rep. Joe Moody (D–El Paso). Senate conferees include Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston), Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville), Sen. Angela Paxton (R–McKinney), Sen. Donna Campbell (R–New Braunfels), and Sen. Cesar Blanco (D–El Paso). The supplemental budget bill, SB 30, would add $1.1 billion in grants to assist school districts in implementing school safety initiatives.

TRS COLA: The House voted Thursday to concur with the Senate’s amendments to House Joint Resolution (HJR) 2 by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–Friendswood), the proposed constitutional amendment related to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) contained in Senate Bill (SB) 10 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston). A conference committee is currently working on SB 10, but in concurring, Bonnen described what will the conference committee report on SB 10 will include: a tiered one-time COLA of 2%/4%/6% depending on date of retirement, with a $2,400 supplemental payment for annuitants ages 70–74 and a $7,500 supplemental payment for annuitants age 75 or older. The bill will not include an automatic COLA or payment of the pension system’s unfunded liability.

DEADLINES: Critical deadlines during the last week of the session and tension between the House and the Senate killed multiple bills, including Senate Bill (SB) 9 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), the dubiously named “teacher bill of rights”; SB 11 by Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville), the Senate’s priority school safety legislation; SB 1515 by Sen. Phil King (R–Weatherford), which would have required all Texas classrooms to post the Ten Commandments; SB 163 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R–New Braunfels), which would have extended opt-in for human sexuality instruction; SB 1630 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), an ATPE-supported bill that sought to prevent truancy; and SB 595 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham), which would have required parental opt-in for any mental health surveys or exams in public schools. ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave has more in this blog post.

TRS RETIREES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) is seeking nominations for three vacant positions on its Retirees Advisory Committee (RAC), which holds public meetings on group coverage, recommends minimum standards and features for TRS plans, and recommends changes to rules and legislation affecting TRS-Care. Active teachers, retired teachers, and retired school administrators are invited to apply for the committee. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 15. Learn more in this blog post.

LEADERSHIP ATPE: The application deadline for Leadership ATPE, a prestigious year-long leadership development program, has been extended until May 31. In the program, a cohort of ATPE members meets twice in person and interacts throughout the school year to develop personal and professional leadership skills. The 2023-24 cohort will be Leadership ATPE’s fourth leadership class. Learn more and apply at atpe.org/leadership-atpe.


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