Teacher salaries, school funding still undetermined in last… | TCTA
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Teacher salaries, school funding still undetermined in last days of session

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With the legislative session ending Monday and major issues not yet decided, we are providing an overview instead of our normal daily play-by-play.

The short version: extra funding for public schools and teacher pay increases is still undetermined, and it is entirely possible that the session will end without a raise for teachers.

The 88th regular legislative session ends Monday. A couple of key deadlines mean that fast action is necessary if the House and Senate are to come to agreement on school finance and teacher pay issues.

On Thursday, the conference committee for the state budget, House Bill 1, released its agreed-upon report.

HB 1 includes up to $5 billion in potential new funding for education, but that funding is dependent on the passage of other bills. The funding includes:

  1. $3.9 billion for school finance and/or teacher compensation. At this time, it is hard to predict whether the necessary legislation will pass. After SB 9 was killed by a parliamentary maneuver earlier in the week, the only remaining vehicle is HB 100. On Thursday, the House rejected Senate changes to HB 100 (which include the addition of a voucher plan) and requested the appointment of a conference committee to negotiate the differences.
  1. $500 million for education savings accounts (vouchers). As noted above, the ESA plan is currently included in HB 100 and is a major point of contention between the House and Senate.
  1. $500 million for instructional materials. HB 1605, which enacts a new program providing districts with access and incentives to use “high quality instructional materials,” including pre-written lesson plans, is headed to the governor’s desk.
  1. $300 million for school safety funding. (A separate funding bill, still in conference committee, provided an additional $1.1 billion for this purposes). HB 3, which addresses the uses of school safety funds, is headed to a conference committee.

It is important to note that the Senate originally required that school funding would be dependent on ALL of the above bills passing. The conference committee report separates the issues, so that the funding for a particular need requires only the passage of its related legislation.

This is an important change, as it means that lawmakers could approve increased school funding without also approving a voucher plan. However, the Senate has otherwise held firm on connecting the two, and Gov. Greg Abbott has said he would call a special session if the legislature did not pass a voucher plan in the regular session.

Almost anything, including major breakthroughs in negotiations, can happen in the last few days of a session. But it is entirely possible, given short deadlines and the voucher standoff, that this session will end without a significant school funding increase and without a teacher pay raise – while the legislature leaves billions of available dollars unspent.

It is also possible that the House will agree to a limited voucher plan (for special education and/or economically disadvantaged students only, for example) in exchange for increased funding/pay raises. However, the governor has said he would veto a plan that he considered too limited in scope.

So, yet another possibility is that a pay raise is approved, along with a voucher plan, but the governor vetoes the bill and calls a special session for a stronger voucher plan. That session might or might not also include the funding/pay raise issues.

We encourage you to contact your House and Senate members to ask their support for increased school funding, including a significant pay increase for teachers and other school employees, without a voucher plan. Go here to find contact info for your Texas House and Texas Senate representatives.