Legislative Review

Marty DeLeon
Escamilla & Poneck

This summer Austin had its own Shakespearan Festival as the Texas Legislature performed “A Midsummer’s Nightmare.” No one can blame you if you sold your tickets and decided to go on a real vacation during this period. The Texas Legislature began the Special Session with much fanfare as the Governor identified up 20 important issues, including raising teacher compensation by $1,000 and providing relief for retired teachers, for lawmakers consideration. In the end, the outcome was much ado about nothing as lawmakers barely passed half of the issues the Governor deemed critical.

Of the issues that made it to the Governor’s desk for his signature, lawmakers passed two very modest, but important, pieces of legislation with regard to public schools - HB 21 and HB 30, the major school finance legislation and the funding mechanism, respectively. These bills must be read hand in hand.

While the House originally set aside an astounding $1.8 billion for HB 21 which would have provided significant relief for all districts, the Senate chopped off significant portions of the bill and limited funds for certain schools and student populations. HB 21 provided the following:

  • $150 million to fund financial hardship grants for ASATR districts that would have otherwise experienced a significant loss of revenue during the 2017-18 or 2018-19 school years;
  • $60 million to provide funding to open-enrollment charter schools for instructional facilities (first time ever);
  • $60 million to increase funding for the Existing Debt Allotment (helps ISDs with bond payments);
  • $41 million for the small-sized district adjustment for districts that contain less than 300 square miles;
  • $20 million for a grant program for innovative services to students with Autism; and
  • $20 million for a grant program for innovative services to students with Dyslexia.

To help pay for these items, the legislature transferred $351 million from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). In addition, the legislature took another $212 million from HHSC $212 million to give to Teacher Retirement System (TRS) for TRS-Care participants seeking help to cover: a) the costs of premiums, deductibles, and prescription drugs, during the 2018 and 2019 plan years; and b) the premium and maximum out-of-pocket cost for an enrolled adult child with a mental disability or a physical incapacity during the 2018 and 2019 plan years.

HB 21 also established yet another commission to study the school finance issue. The commission will have 13 members. The Governor must pick a current or retired teacher with at least 10 years experience. The Lt. Governor and Speaker each must pick at least one school person (an administrator or trustee). The legislature will not meet again until January 2019 and the question will come up again: to fund schools or not to fund schools appropriately?

Back to Newsletter