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Lawmakers Elevate Public Ed Issues Before Next Session

Inside the Capitol dome

There are signs of life over at the Texas Capitol, as legislators and staffers begin studying potential legislation for the next session in interim committee hearings. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released his interim charges for Senate committees back in April, and they include:

Education Committee

Reading and math readiness: Study current local, state, and national policies and programs that improve student achievement in reading and mathematics, with an emphasis on “early readiness” in grades pre-K-5. Make recommendations to ensure every student has a strong academic foundation in reading and math.

Testing reform: Review the state’s current development and phase-in of the STAAR test redesign and ongoing innovative assessment reforms, including the Texas Through-Year Assessment Pilot. Recommend ways to accelerate current testing improvement efforts and the development of a real-time testing program that meets the educational needs of Texas students.

COVID-19 funding oversight: Examine and report on how public schools spent federal funds since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, including funds received under the American Rescue Plan Act, with a dual focus on demonstrated improved student outcomes and efficient use of taxpayer funds.

Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 88th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:

  • Measures ensuring public school safety
  • Oversight of public school library procurement and content policies
  • High-quality instructional materials and open-educational resources

Finance Committee

Continue cutting property taxes: Identify the best combination to further increase the amount of homestead exemption and compression to continue cutting Texans’ property taxes. Additionally, establish and report on the cost of eliminating:

  • School maintenance and operation property taxes
  • All school property taxes
  • All property taxes

Determine the fiscal consequences of each action, including whether revenue reallocations would be required for public education funding and local government funding, and impacts on the state’s ability to respond to disasters and other urgent priorities. For example, determine the effect on other state programs if general revenue were used to fully replace school property taxes, particularly during economic downturns. Evaluate and report on how much state revenue would need to be generated to replace foregone property tax revenue, and from what source.

Local Government Committee

Additional property tax relief and reform: Report on the effects of prior property tax relief and reform, including the $18 billion tax cut with the $100,000 homestead exemption authorized by the 88th Legislature. Focus particularly on the interaction between Senate Bill 2, the 88th Legislature, the second special session, Senate Bill 2, and the 86th Legislature. Make recommendations for further property tax relief and reform, including methods to improve voter control over tax rate setting and debt authorization, and mechanisms to dissolve taxing entities such as municipal management districts and tax increment reinvestment zones when they have outlived their purpose.

Business and Commerce Committee

Addressing the rising cost of insurance: Assess the impact of rising property and casualty insurance costs on Texas property owners, real estate lenders, and commercial and industrial development. Identify ways to increase consumer transparency to better inform coverage decisions and make recommendations to ensure a competitive and affordable insurance market for consumers.

While Patrick did not include a charge regarding vouchers, he did say, “Come January 2025, the Senate will hit the ground running at the start of the 89th Legislative Session. The priorities of the conservative majority of Texans will be accomplished, including school choice, continued property tax relief, and strengthening the power grid.”

The House was expected to post its interim charges in late April but had not by the time this column was written.

News From TASB

On the TASB front, make sure to check out our new school finance position paper that addresses myths about school funding for Texas public schools. It has data-supported responses to claims that Texas is fully funding education, that Texas public education is being funded at its highest level ever, and Texas public schools need to spend funds more wisely.

The TASB Governmental Relations team also wants to give a big THANK YOU to all the boards that submitted advocacy resolutions this year. We received dozens of submissions from several districts. The TASB Board will review all submitted resolutions in July and make recommendations on their adoption to the Delegate Assembly in September. All adopted priorities and resolutions will form the 2024-2026 Advocacy Agenda, which will remain in effect until the end of the 2026 TASB Delegate Assembly.

I also want to welcome Kelly Rasti to TASB as the new associate executive director of Governmental Relations. Rasti joins TASB from Northside ISD, where she served as the executive director of Outreach and Advocacy for the San Antonio district of more than 100,000 students.

Remember, TASB Governmental Relations staff is available to answer any questions you may have regarding advocacy, the Texas Legislature, or the TASB Advocacy Agenda.

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Dax Gonzales
Dax Gonzalez
Division Director of TASB Governmental Relations

Dax González is division director of TASB Governmental Relations.