In the 87th session that ended May 31, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act, that comprises the next biennial budget for Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023. SB 1 includes $51.8 billion for the Foundation School Program, the primary source of state funding for Texas school districts. This is a 5.6% increase over the current biennium.
It includes the state’s commitment to the public education investments made by House Bill 3 in 2019 and funding for projected enrollment growth, in addition to an increase in the state’s contribution rate to the Teacher Retirement System from the current 7.5% to 8% by 2023. While HB 3 was a significant step forward in public education funding with investments in teacher pay raises, full-day pre-kindergarten, and additional dollars for low-income students, Texas remains in the bottom 10 states for per-student spending at $4,000 behind the national average.1
*Fund Amounts are in Millions | Source: Legislative Budget Board
Contained within Senate Bill 1 is a hard fought TCTA provision to specify that the budget includes funds sufficient to sustain across the board salary increases from HB 3, and to express the legislature’s intent that at a minimum, districts should continue these salary increases. We included similar language in statute in House Bill 1525.
TCTA was also able to include a budget rider that, for the first time, provides transparency regarding teacher designations under the Teacher Incentive Allotment program. It requires the Texas Education Agency to provide the number of teachers anticipated to receive each level of TIA designation (recognized, exemplary and master) under the program, as well as the amount of funding allocated for the associated incentives. This new data indicates that only 5% of teachers across the state will be included in the program by the end of 2023, proving it to be an ineffective way to ensure salary increases to teachers. The TIA not only leaves out the vast majority of deserving Texas teachers and includes unfair hurdles such as student growth measures, but the funding for the program is also not required to go directly to the designated teacher. Rather, the funding goes to the teacher’s school district, with the condition that the district must use at least 90% of the funds for teacher compensation on the campus where the designated teacher works.
Much of the conversation among public education advocates and legislators was around the pandemic relief federal funds made available to Texas. There were questions as to whether the state would accept the funds and if so, whether they would be directed to schools as supplemental dollars or replace the state’s obligation. In the end, TCTA joined public education groups to secure the investment of these federal funds into our public schools, a noteworthy success of the session that will result in billions of federal dollars flowing to your schools.
TEA recently announced that a small number of school systems have more direct COVID-19 expenses or projected costs for learning loss recovery than they will receive under CRRSA and ARP formula funding, therefore these districts will be eligible to apply for supplemental funding from the 10% of funds reserved for TEA.
There is a requirement for each district to get stakeholder input on its plan for uses of the ARP funds and teachers are specifically named among the stakeholders. The district plan must be posted to its website within 30 days of receiving its Notice of Grant award and districts must apply to TEA by July 27. With the deadline fast approaching, you may want to check with your district to find out how you will be able to provide input and influence its plan. This is a unique opportunity for additional pay and classroom supports. We are seeing several districts provide pay increases to teachers that are made possible by the federal funds.
Allowable uses for ARP funds include: professional development, pay for extended instructional time, additional staff for reduced class sizes, smaller group instruction, recruitment and retention, enrichment programs, and mental and behavioral health supports. Visit TEA’s FAQs document to find out all the allowable uses and more about the federal pandemic relief funds so that you may make recommendations for your district’s plan for use of funds.
1 SOURCE: Quality Counts 2020 (Education Week) Educational Opportunities and Performance in Texas, January 21, 2020, https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/educational-opportunities-and-performance-in-the-united-states/2020/01.