There were several education-related developments over the weekend, but no resolution on some of the main issues that teachers are watching. The House and Senate are still talking about TRS-Care assistance, retirement benefits, teacher pay, additional money for schools, and a school finance commission, but the interplay between those issues (and potentially other, non-education-related topics) is complex.

Saturday, the Senate State Affairs Committee met to consider HB 80 by Rep. Drew Darby, a bill that would allow TRS to provide a cost-of-living adjustment (the lower of three percent or $100) to school employees who retired between Sep. 1, 2004, and Aug. 31, 2015. (This picks up most of the retirees who did not receive an increase from the previous bill in 2013, which only applied to those retiring before September 2004.) However, Chairwoman Joan Huffman and others acknowledged and emphasized that passage of the legislation would not actually increase benefits for several years because the TRS pension system is not currently actuarially sound. The committee did not take a vote on HB 80 at this meeting.

Sunday, the Senate Finance Committee took up HB 30, which, in the House version, provided $1.8 billion to accompany HB 21, the school finance reform bill that increases state funding to districts through the funding formulas. The Senate substitute knocks this number down to $311 million to be used for specific purposes, including facilities money and aid for smaller districts and those hurt by the loss of ASATR funding.

The Senate insists on covering costs through a two-week deferral of payments by Medicaid to managed care organizations (MCOs), pushing that payment into the next biennial budget. The Senate has firmly opposed any use of the Rainy Day Fund for anything Senate leaders consider to be ongoing expenses.

During the Sunday hearing, committee members discussed related issues, which helped define the areas that are still under consideration without providing much clarity on how they will end up. There is still a good chance that TRS-Care will get $212 million as both chambers have agreed on that figure, but the issue of teacher bonuses does not yet seem to be resolved. School funding - if anything passes - would be somewhere between the Senate's $311 million and the House's $1.8 billion. Capitol watchers expected the Senate to take up the school finance bill over the weekend, and the House was scheduled to vote on the bill creating a school finance commission, but both were delayed until at least Monday while negotiations - and perhaps some gamesmanship - were underway.