Click here to see TCTA’s summaries of bills that passed this session.

The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature adjourned Monday, May 27, concluding 140 days in Austin that were somewhat less dramatic than recent sessions. Thanks in large part to greater involvement by public education supporters, the 2018 elections, in which several incumbents were defeated and others won by too-close-for-comfort margins, affected several aspects of state policy, causing a shift away from some of the hot-button items of 2017 (such as private school vouchers). Better relationships between new House speaker Dennis Bonnen, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott helped with the “getting down to business” feel of the session.

A focus on public education appeared to bode well for teachers when Patrick and the Senate got to work early on an across-the-board teacher pay raise of $5,000. While TCTA pushed for the inclusion of more employees and proposed changes (later included in the Senate’s proposal) to ensure that the raise would be ongoing, we supported the concept of an overall, guaranteed increase in teacher pay. House leaders were adamantly opposed to an across-the-board increase, preferring to leave salary decisions up to local discretion, and the final version of House Bill 3 adopted that concept.

The legislature approved more than $6 billion in new funding for schools, with around $5 billion more devoted to property tax relief.

Although many retired teachers were disappointed that their health insurance was not improved, the legislature did add money beyond its required contributions to ensure that retirees should not see an increase in their premiums over the next two years. A bill passed that significantly increases funding for TRS, with phased-in increases in contributions from the state, active members and school districts; that bill also includes a 13th check, capped at $2,000, for retirees.

The other major focus within the area of public education was school safety, with a particular emphasis on making mental health services more accessible to students. Bills also passed to allow more armed teachers (through the school marshal program) and providing funding for school security that can be used for “hardening” expenses such as metal detectors or alert systems.

Five TCTA-initiated proposals passed (one was amended into another TCTA bill), including proposals that will help teachers with discipline issues.

Around 120 education-related bills passed and were sent to the governor’s office; several have already been signed. The governor has until June 16 to sign or veto bills; any bill not signed or vetoed by that date will become law without his signature.