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Check out the latest updates from Texas' 88th Legislative Session and how legislation might impact Keller ISD!
4th Special Session Ends; Lawmakers Do Not Help Public EducationPosted by Keller ISD Legal on 12/5/2023
The Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate both adjourned sine die on Tuesday, December 5, concluding the Fourth Special Session of the 88th Legislature.
Lawmakers did not pass any legislation that impacts public education during the unprecedented fifth session within 2023. Once again, no increase was made to the basic funding allotment, despite sitting on a $50 billion surplus and the fact that the basic allotment of $6,160 has not been increased since 2019, while inflation has increased by 17% over that same amount of time.
Recently, Keller ISD Interim Superintendent John Allison held a Community Budget Education Seminar that highlighted how an inadequate state funding formula has helped lead to budget challenges in KISD and other Texas school districts.
Governor Abbott has not yet announced whether he will call a fifth special session.
Unprecedented 4th Special Session Set to End WednesdayPosted by Keller ISD Legal on 12/4/2023
The fourth special session of the 88th Texas Legislature is set to end on Wednesday, December 6, and while there has been no more movement on increasing the basic allotment, action was taken on Friday by the Senate to pass a school safety bill.
The House had previously sent the Senate HB 2, its own school safety bill which would have re-imagined how funding for school safety works in the state, replacing the current annual school safety allotment with a school safety grant program that would designate up to $1.1 billion toward school safety funding. HB 2 would allocate school safety funds based more on campus size than per-student or per-campus allotments and provide more flexibility on the technologies that could be purchased.
Instead of considering HB 2, the Senate voted unanimously to pass its own bill, SB 5. The Senate's version designates $400 million to double the allotments that were SB 30 and HB 3 in the Regular Session. It would increase district's school safety allotment from $10 per student in average daily attendance to $20, and from $15,000 per campus to $30,000. It would also allocate another $400 million in grant funding to assist with hardening school facilities.
As of Monday morning, SB 5 had yet to be scheduled for consideration by the House.
House Votes Down Vouchers, Passes School Safety BillsPosted by Keller ISD Legal on 11/19/2023
On Friday, November 17, the Texas House of Representatives considered House Bill 1, which would have created an education savings account (voucher) program and provided additional funding for public schools.
After debating, the House voted 84-63 to approve an amendment to strip all voucher language from HB 1. The bill was then sent back to the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment; however, Committee Chair Brad Buckley indicated that he has no intention of having another hearing on the bill.
The House did pass two school safety bills on Friday – HB 2 and HJR 1. HB 2 would repeal the School Safety Allotment and establish two grant programs – the School Safety Grant Program and the School Safety Plan Implementation Grant Program. The bill calls for transfers from a newly created State School Safety Fund, not to exceed $1.1 billion per year. The legislation could only go into effect if passed by the legislature and HJR 1 is passed by voters in a constitutional amendment election. HJR 1 calls for a constitutional amendment to be voted on by Texas voters that would create the State School Safety Fund to provide ongoing financial support for school safety projects in public schools. Those bills now both head to the Senate for consideration.
With HB 1 appearing to be dead, SB 2 is the only other school funding bill currently being considered. It has been referred to the House Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Select Committee, but at this time, there is no hearing scheduled for the bill.
While the legislature seems resistant to provide any funding to public schools without passing voucher legislation, Keller ISD still encourages all stakeholders to reach out to their elected officials and ask them to make public school funding a priority. Visit SaveKellerISD.net to fill out a brief form that will contact your representatives.
House to Consider Voucher Bill Friday 11/17Posted by Keller ISD Legal on 11/15/2023
The Texas House of Representatives is expected to consider on Friday, November 17, House Bill 1 of the 88th Legislature's fourth special session after passing the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment.
HB 1 would provide a one-time teacher pay raise of $4,000 for 2023-24, but does not account for maintaining that salary increase in future years. It also increases the basic allotment from $6,160 (where it has been since 2019) to $6,700 for the 2024-25 school year, despite districts needing an increase of more than $1,000 just to account for inflation since 2019.
The bill also creates an education savings account (voucher) program that would provide vouchers in the amount of $10,000 per student to use on private school costs.
The Legislative Budget Board reported that the voucher program included in HB1 will cost the state $2 billion in the second year of the program and continue to grow each year after that. This creates a significant new financial commitment for the state while public schools remain underfunded by more than $14 billion.
Keller ISD, alone, is looking at a $27 million budget deficit for the 2024-25 budget year, and it is not alone in its budget struggles while the state is sitting on unprecedented budget surplus of more than $33 billion.
Keller ISD urges its stakeholders to reach out to their elected representatives and tell them to make public school funding a priority. You can visit SaveKellerISD.net to access a form that will automatically contact your representatives.
Governor Officially Calls for Unprecedented 4th Special SessionPosted by Keller ISD Legal on 11/8/2023
Governor Abbott called for a fourth special session of the 88th Legislature on Tuesday afternoon, the first time the state has held more than three special sessions in a single year.
The session officially began at 5 p.m. Tuesday, November 7, and the Governor charged lawmakers with considering legislation on the following topics:
- Establishment of education savings accounts (vouchers);
- The "certification, compensation, and health coverage of certain public school employees;"
- The public school finance system;
- Special education in public schools;
- Educational grant programs, reading instruction, and early childhood education;
- Virtual education;
- Public school accountability;
- School safety;
- Illegal immigration; and
- Border security.
As far as charges concerning education, this special session's charge is considerably broader than that of the original third special session declaration, and would seem to leave room for lawmakers to consider providing more funding for Texas public schools. However, the Governor's October 31 announcement would suggest that he only supports public school funding if the education savings account voucher program is approved first.
The House's Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment has scheduled a public hearing for 9 a.m. Thursday, November 9, to hear public testimony on House Bill 1, an omnibus bill that would provide for a voucher program that provides families with an estimated $10,500 of taxpayer money per student choosing to enroll in a private or religious school, while also raising the basic public school allotment from $6,160 to $6,700. As a reminder, with the 17% inflation since the basic allotment was last raised in 2019, it would take an increase of at least $1,000 for schools to return to the same financial position they held four years ago. The bill would also provide full-time teachers, nurses, counselors, and librarians with a $4,000 bonus, with part-time employees in those roles entitled to a $2,000 bonus. After that first year bonus, pay increases would be paid through the proposed increase in basic allotment being adjusted for inflation. HB 1 also creates an accountability pause for 2022-23.
As a reminder – now is the time to contact your elected representatives if you want to weigh in on your priorities as they relate to school funding.
Third Special Session Ends Without Legislation on School Funding, VouchersPosted by Keller ISD Legal on 11/7/2023
The Texas House of Representatives adjourned sine die Tuesday morning, November 7, effectively ending the third special session of the 88th Session, without passing any legislation on school funding or vouchers. An unprecedented fourth special session is expected to be called and begin on Tuesday afternoon.
Governor Abbott had included a request for legislation providing education savings accounts – or vouchers – that would have allowed parents to take taxpayer dollars and use them to send their children to private or religious schools. The Governor declared on October 31 that he had struck a deal with House leadership, but there was no movement among Democrats and nearly two dozen rural Republicans opposed to school vouchers. Abbott's statement had provided for a concession of increasing funding, of an undisclosed amount, for public schools, essentially signalling that public schools would see additional funding only if a voucher bill was approved.
As a reminder, public schools have not seen an increase in the basic per student funding allotment of $6,160 since 2019, despite inflation of more than 17% over that period.
With the calling of a fourth special session, this will mark the first time in the 176-year history of the Texas Legislature that lawmakers have met for more than three sessions in a single year.
As a reminder, you can contact your legislators to let them know where you stand on the need for an increase in public school funding. Lawmakers that serve Keller ISD include:
Senator Kelly Hancock (Dist. 9)
Representative Stephanie Klick (Dist. 91)
Representative Nate Schatzline (Dist. 93)
Representative Giovanni Capriglione (Dist. 98)
Governor Agrees to Expand Special Session Agenda in Exchange for VouchersPosted by Keller ISD Legal on 10/31/2023
With the Texas House and Senate at legislative standstill as it relates to legislation on school vouchers, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Tuesday, Oct. 31, expanding the agenda for the 88th Special Session #3 to include additional school finance.
The governor's original call for the special session had been for legislation providing education savings accounts – better known as "vouchers" – for students attending alternatives to public schools, including private schools, homeschools, or charter schools. The expanded call includes additional public school funding for teacher pay raises, school safety, and special education. It also increases the ESA payments, compared to the most recently filed legislation, to $10,400 a year and provides universal eligibility. The apparent agreement between the Governor and House leadership also calls for the replacement of the STAAR test.
Below is the statement from Governor Abbott:
Working with Speaker Phelan and his House leadership team, the Speaker and I reached an agreement on school choice for Texas families, and I am expanding the agenda for Special Session #3. The legislation will create an Education Savings Accounts program with universal eligibility for all Texas schoolchildren and will be entirely voluntary for families and schools to participate. Participating students will be eligible for approximately $10,400 per year in their Education Savings Account, administered by an education organization overseen by the Texas Comptroller on behalf of the parents and students participating in the program. We will also provide billions more in public education funding to boost Texas' top-notch public school system, including teacher pay raises, while staying within the constitutional spending limit. This bill will codify recommendations made by the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, the Commission on Virtual Education, and the Commission on Special Education Funding. Importantly, the STAAR Test will be phased out to be replaced with an improved assessment system.
This is the next step in the legislative process to deliver school choice to Texas parents and students who deserve the freedom to choose the education that best fits their learning needs. I look forward to working with both chambers of the Texas Legislature on getting this legislation to my desk to sign into law.
It is not yet clear how much in additional funding public schools might see; however, as a reminder, the basic per-student allotment for public schools is $6,160 and has not been raised since 2019, despite 17% inflation over that period. The proposed per-student annual allotment is $10,400, more than $4,000 per student more than what is currently being provided to public schools.
House Voucher, School Funding Bill FiledPosted by Keller ISD Legal on 10/20/2023
On Thursday, October 19, the Texas House Public Education Committee Chair Brad Buckley filed House Bill 1, which establishes an education savings account (ESA) voucher program, while also providing funding for public education programs and provisions related to teachers.
HB 1 would earmark $10 billion in one-time and ongoing appropriations for schools, teachers, and the Texas Education Agency. The bill includes about $2 billion for a $30 increase in the basic allotment for 2023-24, raising it to $6,190. It would then increase to $6,500 in 2024-25, and beginning in 2026, the basic allotment would include an inflationary adjustment based on the Texas Consumer Price Index. As a reminder, the basic allotment has not been increased since 2016, despite 17% inflation over that time, and it would take an increase of more than $1,000 just to restore school districts to the same funding level that it experienced seven years ago.
The bill also increases the amount of basic allotment increases that must be applied to staff compensation from 30% to 50%. It adds a one-time teacher retention bonus that would give full-time employees $4,000, subject to the minimum salary schedule, and $2,000 to part-time teachers, counselors, nurses, and librarians for 2023-24.
HB 1 moves the special education allotment to an enrollment-based method of calculation, increases the transportation allotment for students receiving these services, requires the commissioner to develop seven tiers of intensity of service for funding purposes, and provides $500 for special education evaluations.
ESAs, as created in HB 1, would provide 75% of the statewide per-student funding average amount to any individual who:
- is eligible to attend public school and attend a public school for 90% of the previous school year;
- is entering kindergarten or pre-kindergarten; or
- attended private school or a home school the previous year.
According to TASB, the latest PEIMS data from TEA shows that operating revenue from the state general fund for public school is $9,893, which would make the ESA amount about $7,420. These vouchers could be used for tuition and fees, instructional materials, tests, tutors, transportation, and educational therapies. Homeschool students would be eligible to receive $1,000 for curriculum and transportation.
HB 1's ESA program would be overseen by the Comptroller's Office, which would be entitled to up to 3% of funds dedicated for the program. The Comptroller would be able to select one or more "educational assistance organizations" to execute the program, which would include accepting applications, approving applicants, and disbursing ESAs. In the first year of the program, 25,000 students would be allowed to receive ESAs, with an additional 25,000 more each year until 2026-27. The ESA program in HB 1 would expire on September 1, 2027, unless reauthorized by the legislature, but students already in the program would receive funds until they are not longer eligible to attend public school.
Senate Committees Advance Special Session LegislationPosted by Keller ISD Legal on 10/11/2023
With the 88th Legislature convening for its third Special Session on Monday, the Senate Education and Senate Finance committees worked quickly to approve legislation intended to be in line with the Governor's charges for the Special Session.
On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee advanced Senate Bill 2 which would provide some additional funding for various public education programs. The bill would raise the basic allotment by $75 – from $6,160 to $6,236 per student – and decopule future increases from mandatory compensation increases. The basic allotment has not been increased since 2016, and with 17% inflation since that time, estimates show that it would take an increase in the basic allotment of more than $900 just to restore schools to the same level of funding at that time. SB 2 would also increase the School Safety Allotment from $10 to $20 per student and increase the per-campus allotment from $15,000 to $30,000. The bill also includes a one-time teacher retention bonus of $10,000 per teacher in school districts with less than 5,000 students and $3,000 per teacher for larger districts. Those bonuses would be applied in 2023-24 and would be converted into salary going forward.
On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee advanced SB 1, which would create an education savings account program. The bill would annually provide $8,000 for each eligible student to pay for private school tuition and other related educational expenses, such as uniforms, textbooks, tests, tutoring, transportation, and educational therapy. It would be funded with $500 million previously appropriated in the 88th Regular Session by the legislature. As a reminder, the current basic per-student allotment for public school districts is $6,160.
Unlike the Senate's previous education savings account legislation, SB 1 does not include homeschool students.
The ESA program in SB 1 would be overseen by the comptroller's office which would authorize five educational assistance organizations (EAOs) to assist in administering the program. The comptroller's office would be entitled to 3% of the overall funding and the EAOs would be entitled to 5%. That means a total of $40 million of funding designated for education would be going to the comptroller's office and these administrative organizations.
SB 1 would also cap the participation in the ESA program. Of the available positions:
- No more than 40% would go to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch;
- No more than 30% would be for students who are in a household with a total income that is between 185-500% of the federal poverty guidelines;
- No more than 20% would be for students who have a disability; and
- No more than 10% would be for students who attended public, private, or home school in the previous school year.
After hearing considerable testimony on both sides of the topic, the committee passed SB 1 along party lines 10-3.
Both SB 1 and SB 2 will now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Governor Abbott Calls Third Special SessionPosted by Keller ISD Legal on 10/5/2023
Texas Governor Greg Abbott released an official call for a third special session of the 88th Legislature, set to begin at 1 p.m. Monday, October 9.
Within the proclamation, he charged the legislature with addressing six issues:
- Legislation providing education savings accounts for all Texas schoolchildren.
- Legislation to do more to reduce illegal immigration by creating a criminal offense for illegal entry into this state from a foreign nation and authorizing all licensed peace officers to remove illegal immigrants from Texas.
- Legislation to impede illegal entry into Texas by increasing the penalties for certain criminal conduct involving the smuggling of persons or the operation of a stash house.
- Legislation to impede illegal entry into Texas by providing more funding for the construction, operation, and maintenance of border barrier infrastructure.
- Legislation concerning public safety, security, environmental quality, and property ownership in areas like the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County, Texas.
- Legislation prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates by private employers.
There had been hope that the charge might include something specifically about public school funding since no increases were included in the regular session. The basic per-student allotment has not increased since 2019, despite a 17% increase in inflation over that time, leaving many school districts – Keller ISD included – struggling to figure out how to continue offering the same services when the cost of doing business has increased so dramatically.
On a similar note, the state Comptroller's office released the Certification Revenue Estimate for the fiscal 2024-25 biennium. The report estimates what the state expects to spend over the two-year period compared to the estimated revenue the state will generate. The forecast, as reported, is that the state will have an $18.29 billion surplus at the end of fiscal year 2025. As a reminder, the state had a nearly $33 billion surplus entering the legislative session last spring.