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Texas AFT’s Briefing of the 86th Legislative Session

Texas AFT’s Briefing of the 86th Legislative Session

As the Legislature kicked off in January, the governor, lieutenant governor, and House speaker held a press convention outlining that faculty finance reform and property tax aid can be the prime priorities of the session, and that they have been all on the similar web page on the right way to accomplish both.

One good outcome of this united objective was that it left little room for any consideration of major distractions that we’ve battled in the previous like vouchers and bans on payroll deduction for dues–each non-issues this session.

Nevertheless, the Kumbaya moment didn’t final too long, and major variations in proposals between the House and Senate emerged as the session drew nearer to sine die. In the end, the Huge 3 state leaders got here together again to announce a compromise for college finance in Home Bill 3–one thing that can been seen as both a big accomplishment and constructing block for public schooling funding, in addition to a invoice that put far more cash into property-tax “relief” with unsure sustainability. To put it simply, this $11.6 billion package deal was the outcome of a tug-of-war between advocates for college funding and people preferring extra money into the property tax efforts–and the tax people gained.

It took a convention committee of senators and Home members to return to a compromise on differences, and here’s what the ultimate HB 3 does.

  • Makes a large infusion of $four.5 billion into the public schooling system.
  • Will increase the primary allotment from $5,140 to $6,160.
  • Mandates guarantees for some native faculty worker pay raises (see under).
  • Reduces recapture (Robin Hood funds) statewide by $3.6 billion.
  • Offers Kindergarten by means of Grade 3 early schooling allotment for economically disadvantaged students and English language learners that can be used to fund full-day prekindergarten for eligible students.
  • Consists of elevated funding for college kids with dyslexia, college students receiving particular schooling providers, and those being served in residential remedy amenities.
  • Increases funding for college amenities, transportation, and professional improvement for early schooling academics to get youngsters studying on grade degree by third grade.

Our largest considerations stem from the bill’s tax provisions. HB three compresses property tax rates at a price of about $5.1 billion, almost double the unique plan to spend $2.7 billion. Texas AFT would have a lot most popular this money stay in our lecture rooms quite than provide householders a further $15/month. Whereas the invoice begins with uniform tax compression, beginning in 2021, faculty districts with property values growing 2.5% or more would have their tax charges routinely decreased, with the state required to reimburse faculty districts for any entitled money. Texas AFT also was disenchanted to study the property tax cap income deal in SB 2 institutes a 3.5% cap on city and county property tax progress on present property, probably harming the native capability to offer much-needed providers. The only silver lining is that the harmful bill does not apply to group school and hospital districts, which would stay at an eight% cap.

Whereas there’s lots to criticize about HB three, we also should put it into context: it was an end result from a Legislature that previously sat idly throughout a decade of neglect of public faculties. Many of the lawmakers changed their tune after seeing the results at the polls in November, with backers of public schooling gaining vital help. These outcomes combined with a healthy quantity of revenue to spend led to a large investment in our faculties–one which we have to construct upon in the future. The governor signed HB 3 into regulation on June, 12, 2019.

Pay raises

Preliminary proposals from the House and Senate for pay raises have been drastically totally different. The Senate supported a $5,000 pay increase for full-time academics and librarians solely. The Senate’s move–spurred by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick–was extra a political ploy than a well-thought-out pay increase plan. The thought was stricken by questions over ongoing funding to help the raises, and was meant as a present piece for Patrick in the media headlines.

The Home most popular to place extra money into faculties and let districts determine on pay raises, however with a components that may assure some pay raises for all staff. Texas AFT’s place all alongside was clear–both chambers wanted a plan that might assure funding for a big pay increase for all faculty staff. The conference committee decided to go together with the House strategy, with a choice in favor of academics with greater than five years’ expertise.

Texas educators will probably be getting raises, however the quantity will range wildly by how a lot new funding every faculty district receives. Districts might be required to offer no less than 30% of the per-pupil improve they receive to raises for full-time district staff. Of that 30% of new money, 75% of it have to be for academics, nurses, counselors, and librarians, while prioritizing differentiated compensation for classroom academics with greater than five years’ experience. The remaining 25% could also be used for full-time staff as determined by the district. That remaining amount ought to be designated to help professionals, but again, it’s as much as the districts to determine.

The final end result shifts the battle for pay back to the place it often resides–regionally. And with so many undefined pieces to the pay-raise laws, our local unions will now should be persistent in assuring that each one faculty staff get raises that they deserve.

Pay for check scores and outcomes-based funding

Texas AFT led the cost towards dangerous provisions in both the Senate and Home plans for the faculty finance invoice that might have included a state mandate for districts to rank academics using STAAR scores and to pay them additional compensation based mostly on these rankings. We have been successful in having pay-for-test scores stricken from the unique House plan, however the Senate plan stored the language in, together with a state-required system to rank academics (largely using check scores). These rating would determine which academics obtain further compensation. When the mud settled from the convention committee, we noticed the rating system remain, but and not using a mandate for using check scores.

The laws is complicated, nevertheless it includes a instructor incentive allotment to incentivize academics with certain designations to go to high-needs faculties. Each district might create a instructor designation system (grasp, exemplary, or recognized) based mostly on instructor value determinations. Although the commissioner will establish efficiency standards for these designations, HB 3 prohibits the commissioner from requiring a district to use an evaluation instrument (together with STAAR) for the basis of these designations. We’re pleased the bill permits academics who’ve achieved Nationwide Board Certification to satisfy the “recognized” degree. For every instructor with a designation, faculties receive an incentive allotment, 90% of which have to be used at the campus for the academics incomes the allotment. Rural and high-needs faculties would obtain more funding.

An preliminary proposal for outcomes-based funding (the perverse system of giving more funding to colleges with greater STAAR scores) for third-grade studying was defeated. We have been additionally profitable in making certain that outcomes-based funding for School, Career, and Army Readiness was not based mostly on STAAR scores, but we have now considerations about how such funds could possibly be maintained in the long term.

TRS pension modifications

Because of the dogged advocacy of our Retiree Plus members, the Legislature has offered much-needed aid for retirees and a brighter future for the TRS Pension fund together with all faculty staff by passing $1.1 billion in new cash with Senate Invoice 12. We nonetheless have work to do for a secure pension and sufficient funds to retirees, but this is a vital first step.

SB 12 does the following (The Good):

  • Supplies a one-time supplemental pension cost (a 13th examine) to TRS members who retired before December 31, 2018, capped at $2,000. This examine have to be issued by September of 2020, but when the course of at TRS stays the similar as earlier 13th checks, it is going to be paid in December of this yr.
  • Makes the pension fund actuarially sound, which signifies that it is now legally potential for the state to offer a everlasting cost-of-living improve to retirees in the future. (We’ll be preventing for that in the 2021 legislative session!)

What SB 12 also does (The Dangerous):

It’s very uncommon that we ever see a superb bill cross that also doesn’t have some problematic provisions, and right here they are:

  • Lawmakers added a shock provision that may be detrimental to instructor pay raises in some districts and adds a new, ongoing drain of money to their budgets. Previously, the small number of districts paying into Social Security relatively than the TRS fund (including San Antonio and Austin ISDs) did not contribute a proportion of each worker’s salary into the fund. SB 12 modifications that and these districts must now pay 1.5% of each employee’s wage into the fund, which may have multi-million-dollar impacts on some of these districts and can have an effect on their capability to supply pay raises in the future. (Charges for districts may even improve over time to 2% by 2025.) This variation was never mentioned in both chamber, and lawmakers ought to have left these districts out of the system, or at the least phased in the contributions over a number of years.
  • Texas AFT fought for a invoice that may improve the state’s share of contributions to the pension fund. Nevertheless, legislators as an alternative took a “share-the-pain” strategy in SB 12 by growing contribution charges from the state, faculty districts, and lively staff. Meaning lively faculty staff will probably be dropping more scarce dollars from their paychecks in the coming years. Faculty employee contributions will rise from 7.7% to 8%, though that improve gained’t go into effect till 2022. The state will lastly be matching our member contributions by raising its contribution this yr from 6.8% to 7.5%, after which to the full matching 8% in 2022. (Rates for each staff and the state will then rise to eight.25% in 2024.)
  • Texas continues to contribute less to its instructor retirement system than another state in the country, by an enormous margin. The subsequent lowest contribution fee from a state not paying into Social Safety is a whopping 14%, and the median fee for those states is 18%. So the bounce in the state’s funding is welcome, however ought to still be seen as not satisfactory. For many years, the state has paid just over the lowest price allowed by regulation. The governor signed SB 12 into regulation on June 10, 2019.

It’s clear that in the next legislative session we should work to re-balance the contribution amounts and ensure the state assumes its duty to satisfy its promise for a dignified and rewarding retirement for educators.

Standardized testing

Whereas Home committees initially heard hours of testimony railing towards the STAAR check–notably stories from analysis and the media on elementary reading check being two levels above the meant readability degree–there was no vital momentum for any modifications to the check.

Nevertheless, the Senate late in the recreation responded with several modifications to STAAR, none of them being topic to public debate, that have been buried in its faculty finance plan. Those provisions have been later added to HB 3906, a invoice originally designed to make sure that single-day checks be shortened and assessed on multiple days. During convention committee negotiations, the identify of the reading check in third-eighth grades was changed to “language arts,” with writing elements added in all grades (as an alternative of previous grade 4 and 7 stand-alone writing exams).

Whereas the objective seemingly was to scale back the stress of longer, one-day checks, many educators have identified that the “mini tests” might add disruption to studying over extra days, and the inclusion of writing assessments was seen as an enlargement of STAAR by many, including mother and father who advocate for lowered testing. Maybe the most controversial provision of the bill was a requirement–phased in by 2022–to do all STAAR testing on computer systems on-line. Contemplating the issues Texas already has encountered with online STAAR testing, this holds the potential for even more errors and glitches in the system. The Legislature did put in an expiration date of 2023 for the online testing provision, to offer legislators a chance to evaluation its successes and failures in the next two periods. HB 3906 was signed by the governor  on June 14.

It’s clear that each one these modifications will proceed to be debated as TEA is charged with refining the bill in its rule-making.

One promising bill that handed the House however died in the Senate was HB 4242 by Rep. Diego Bernal. It might have required an audit of the STAAR check, making certain the checks are on grade degree. Additionally, it might have codified that STAAR could not be used to find out campus closures after the 2018-2019 faculty yr.

Charter faculties

Texas AFT entered the session with a campaign for a Timeout for Constitution Faculties, which means a moratorium on the enlargement of new constitution campuses, highlighted by our new website: TimeOutforCharters.org. Whereas attaining a moratorium was challenging in an setting still favoring charters, the secondary objective was to use the marketing campaign to teach lawmakers and the public on the adverse impacts of charter enlargement. It soon turned clear that the marketing campaign was having a big effect. Legislators took each opportunity to question the vital funding advantage charters have over public faculty districts and finally made essential statutory modifications to make charters extra accountable and transparent to taxpayers. It was the norm to see a legislator in committee hearing a public schooling invoice to pose the query, “Does this bill include charters?”

Sadly, some bills in search of to bolster accountability and transparency have been handed by the House but left to die in the Senate. Moreover, a bill additionally failed to ban charters from denying acceptance to college students because of discipline history–however that problem gained considerable attention from lawmakers who questioned the apply, so it’s more likely to be revisited once more. Whereas this discriminatory follow just isn’t but prohibited in statute, TEA employees now ask constitution candidates about their self-discipline coverage throughout the constitution interview course of.

Some highlights embrace:

  • SB 968 by Sen. Kelly Hancock was defeated in the House Public Schooling Committee late in the session. Whereas purporting to degree the enjoying subject between charters and public faculties in land use, the invoice specifically would have exempted charters situated in cities with a population of 20,000 or less from all municipal zoning ordinances that govern public faculties. As well as, it will have eliminated all alternatives for native input.
  • SB 1454 by Sen. Larry Taylor did cross both chambers and supplies vital clarification on the disposition of constitution faculty property. This bill clarifies that the state would take over possession of property in the event of a constitution closing. The governor signed SB 1454 into regulation on June 10.
  • Thankfully dying in the Senate—with the help of Texas AFT— was HB 388 by Rep. Jim Murphy. This bill would permit those who lease to charters to forgo paying native property taxes. Charters have already discovered to recreation the system by first buying buildings after which leasing again to themselves at above-market rates. By leasing as an alternative of purchasing, the constitution retains the property and pockets the lease revenue. This is able to have resulted in not solely a loss in native revenue for cities, but it will imply even greater income for constitution profiteers.
  • SB 947 by Sen. Donna Campbell handed the Senate but died in the House. This harmful invoice would have allowed homeschoolers to enroll in on-line charter faculties and would have expanded the pool of students from which these on-line constitution “schools” might profit.
  • Whereas HB 570 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione handed the House unanimously, it was left to die in the Senate. An enormous step forward in constitution transparency, the invoice would have required constitution faculties to carry open conferences both on-line or in the geographical area the place the faculty is situated.

Faculty safety

A precedence invoice for the governor, SB 11, which might fund a number of mental well being and safety initiatives for faculties, was virtually killed by a technicality however was vaulted to the finish line by House members close to session end. It was signed by the governor on June 6. The invoice will use $110 million to enhance safety infrastructure on campuses, make use of more faculty useful resource officers, and require emergency plans for faculties. It also would fund mental well being providers to assist determine youngsters in crisis.

HB 18 by Rep. 4 Worth was signed into regulation on June 2, and was a priority of both chambers and the governor. This invoice intends to offer funding and coaching to colleges across the state to bolster psychological well being offerings. HB 906 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, signed by the governor on June 14, would set up a activity drive on mental health providers offered by public faculties, together with charters.

In the meantime, the availability of weapons and armed faculty marshals also dominated faculty safety discussions. House Bill 1387 by Republican state Rep. Cole Hefner passed, and it deleted the cap (one marshal for each 200 students) on the number of armed faculty marshals allowed in faculties. It was signed by the governor on June 6, and will take impact September 1, 2019.

Also passing was HB 1143 by Rep. Cole Hefner, which prevents faculty districts from prohibiting firearms in parking tons of their faculties, a clarification from the present statute that turned regulation in 2011. The bill, signed by the governor on June 10, takes away native control from faculty districts that have a policy to stop all school, employees, and visitors from leaving firearms of their automobiles.

Larger Schooling

A big bill addressing sexual harassment and assault on campuses (together with these at personal schools) was handed with overwhelming help. SB 212, signed on June 14, would require staff of a better schooling institution to report such an incident to the faculty’s Title IX coordinator, if the worker has an inexpensive information the incident occurred—including listening to a few specific incident. Moreover, the coordinator can be required to ship month-to-month reviews to the school’s president on the status of each incident, and that info should also be submitted to the Texas Larger Schooling Coordinating Board.

Other necessary legislation

  • SB 37 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini handed unanimously by large margins. The invoice prohibits removing of an individual’s occupational license (together with instructor certification) or non-renewal on the basis of scholar loan default. The governor signed SB 37 on June 7 and the regulation turned effective instantly.
  • SB 213 by Sen. Kel Seliger was signed into regulation by Gov. Abbott. The regulation re-authorizes the use of particular person graduation committees by suspending the expiration from September 1, 2019, to September 1, 2023. Faculties are allowed to create a person commencement committee to find out whether a scholar qualifies to graduate if the scholar has not performed satisfactorily on state assessments otherwise required for commencement.
  • When class-size limits are threatened, we pull out the sardines, to strengthen our message of “Don’t Mess with 22:1.” By a vote of 44-97, the House rejected a bill by Rep. Jonathan Stickland that may have gutted class-size necessities in Okay-4th grade by permitting districts to merely keep a campus-wide “average class size.”
  • HB 1517 by Rep. Garnet Coleman is another example of one of our high-priority bills that passed on the House flooring but died in the Senate. This invoice would have required faculties to inform mother and father when there’s not a full-time nurse on a campus.
  • A plan to boost gross sales taxes proposed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Home Speaker Dennis Bonnen ended when the House postponed its version of the bill and the Senate failed to incorporate sales tax in its faculty finance plan. Had the plan been profitable, Texans incomes lower than $150,000 per yr would have seen their complete annual taxes go up, in response to analysis from the Middle for Public Policy Priorities. So, Texas AFT is joyful it’s gone–although we anticipate to see this proposal once more.
  • From the bowels of the crazy came a proposal to get rid of all faculty district maintenance and operations funding. It might have then required the appointment of a committee to figure out easy methods to exchange that $30 billion in revenue. The bill handed the Home but died earlier than being heard in the Senate. Nevertheless, House Joint Decision 38–putting a measure on the November poll to vary the Texas structure to outlaw state revenue taxes–was permitted. Texas, of course, does not have a state revenue tax and many people even refuse to discuss the concept.
  • A bill we have been glad to see fail–SB 29–included what started as a complete ban on local authorities entities (together with faculty districts) from hiring lobbyists or paying dues into organizations with lobbying providers. A number of provisions of the bill have been shaved off in committee when it arrived in the Home, and the shell of a bill was soundly defeated on the Home flooring.