With only one week left in this session, major issues are still up in the air, although most observers seem to think that there will be some resolution on school finance reform before the session’s end. Here are just a few of the bills we’re still working on to get the best possible outcome for our members.

Good

  • HB 3, the school finance reform bill by Rep. Dan Huberty, remains in conference committee negotiations. We expect that the final version will include a raise (we’re unsure at this time about which categories of employees will be included), likely somewhere between the Senate’s proposed $5,000 and the House’s average of $1,850. Speaker Dennis Bonnen has said that although he expects to see a differentiated pay model in the bill (in addition to the across-the-board pay raise), it will not be tied to test scores. As always, the devil is in the details, but it is almost certain that the state will add billions of dollars in new funding for public education and teachers will get some kind of pay raise. 
  • SB 12, the TRS funding bill by Sen. Joan Huffman, is also in conference committee. The House version is far better for both active and retired employees. The Senate version requires an increase in TRS contributions from not only the state, but active employees and districts, and only provides a $500 one-time check for retirees; the House version only increases the state’s contribution and provides a check of up to $2,400 for retirees. There has been no public indication of what the negotiated bill will look like, but assuming it passes, either version would put TRS on a path to actuarial soundness, potentially as early as next year.
  • TCTA has a number of bills that are still alive, with one headed to the governor’s desk. That bill, SB 1306 by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, requires districts to post contact information on the district website for the administrator primarily responsible for discipline issues for each campus. The bill came about when staff from Sen. Kolkhorst's office approached TCTA for help with issues raised by parents at a town hall meeting. Among our other bills that still have a chance of passage are SB 2073 and SB 1451 by Sen. Larry Taylor. SB 2073 allows districts that have reduced their number of instructional days to also reduce teacher days without a reduction in salary. SB 1451 ensures that teachers would not be marked down on their appraisal for student discipline referrals or documentation of student behavior. Both bills have passed the Senate and the House Public Education Committee and need to be scheduled for House floor debate.

Bad

  • SB 1412 by Sen. Charles Perry provides a new option for low-performing campuses that must adopt a campus turnaround plan, but the option unfortunately includes some of the harmful aspects of the Dallas ACE/TEI model. Districts choosing the “accelerated campus excellence turnaround plan” would have to use a teacher ranking system throughout the district based on student growth – almost certainly relying on standardized test scores. It also includes unprecedented authority for the commissioner of education in matters normally left to district, including teacher pay models and employment practices. The bill has passed the Senate and the House Public Education Committee, but has not yet been scheduled for House floor debate. It is also noteworthy that similar problematic proposals are included in other bills still moving through the process.
  • SB 29 by Sen. Bob Hall is one of several bills filed this session aimed at curbing lobbying by government entities (including school districts). The bill is scheduled for House floor consideration Friday. Some of the other bills have included provisions more specifically targeting and limiting the actions of individual employees, and movement on those proposals is still possible.