Texas Legislative Update: Special Session and House Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Select Committee

The Second Special Session Ended with No Meaningful Change to School Budgets

The Texas House and Senate have reached an agreement on property taxes, ending the second special legislative session this year. If signed by the Governor and approved by voters, the deal allocates $12.6 billion to reduce school property taxes and $18 billion overall to property tax relief. 

Notably, this does not mean that school districts will see an overall increase in their budgets because it only serves to reduce the amount of revenue they receive from taxes. While some floor amendments were introduced to try to allocate more money to schools and increase teacher salaries, they did not pass. 

We anticipate another special session around October, which will focus more heavily on education. It is currently unclear what topics may be on the Governor’s call, but the legislature does have ​​$4 billion appropriated for education from the legislative session that is yet to be allocated.  

The House Convenes the Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Select Committee

Anticipating an education-focused special session, the Texas House has formed a select committee dedicated to exploring issues that may be on the Governor’s call and have been left unresolved from the regular session. Specifically, the Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Committee is charged with making recommendations for: 

  1. “Ensuring all Texas youths enjoy equal educational opportunity and the freedom to obtain a quality education, regardless of circumstance; 
  2. Improving outcomes for Texas public school students and meaningfully supporting educators and educational institutions; and 
  3. Modernizing assessment and accountability measures for Texas schools educating K-12 students.”

The Committee met on July 11 and 12 to hear invited testimony from the Texas Education Agency (TEA), school districts, educators, and other education advocates. With over 17 hours of testimony, the Committee covered a lot of ground. Here are some highlights:

  • Teacher retention and the recommendations from the Texas Teacher Vacancy Task force remained a topic of discussion. In addition to overall compensation increases and other means of recruiting and retaining teachers, Committee members continued to discuss expanding the Teacher Incentive Allotment, which allows school districts to directly compensate highly effective educators. 
  • Speakers and legislators also discussed potentially increasing the basic allotment, which is the base amount of money allocated to each school district per student for their education. With an increase to the basic allotment, schools would have additional discretionary funding, which could also be allocated to salaries. 
  • As with the regular session, some advocacy groups continue to push for reduced testing requirements and adding non academic measures to the academic accountability system, both of which have great potential to mask how well schools are meeting student learning needs. Good Reason Houston has covered the need for a strong assessment and accountability system extensively in our past public testimony
  • Committee members are still interested in exploring through-year testing. TEA has been studying the feasibility of this type of assessment through its Texas Through-year Assessment Pilot (TTAP), with over 120 school districts participating in its first year. TTAP would allow students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge, while providing educators and districts actionable progress monitoring throughout a school year. 

The Committee will provide an initial report of their findings and recommendations by Aug. 11, 2023. 

Our Recommendations

With a special session in the works and as the Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Select Committee continues to seek feedback, Good Reason Houston recommends the following:

  1. Maintaining a rigorous, fair and transparent assessment and accountability system. With only 44% of students in Houston reading on grade level by 3rd grade, parents, families, and community members need to be able to hold school systems accountable for student learning. A robust assessment and accountability system illuminates where student needs are not being met and allows the public to advocate for much needed resources. Good Reason Houston, along with several organizations, submitted a joint letter to the House Committee that more extensively covers our recommendation.   
  2. Supporting early literacy by reviving HB 2162. In the regular session, Rep. Dutton proposed HB 2162, which promoted best practices in early literacy, provided diagnostic assessments for literacy skills in kindergarten through 3rd grade, and established targeted reading interventions. Only 5% of students who are not reading on grade level by 3rd grade are able to catch up in two years, underscoring the need for an early focus on reading skills. 
  3. Implementing the recommendations of the Teacher Vacancy Task Force. Texas schools must be able to recruit and retain highly effective teachers. The Legislature should continue work from the regular session to adopt recommendations from the Task Force, including implementing a teacher residency program where future educators could receive paid on-the-job training with a mentor teacher in pursuit of their teaching certification. In addition to other compensation adjustments, The Legislature should expand the Teacher Incentive Allotment to compensate highly-effective educators.

Stay Up-to-date 

Texas Legislators are busy preparing for a special session on education. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, visit our policy page, and follow us on social media for updates and action items for public education policy.

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