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Austin Alert: Texas Legislature Links


 

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The following pages contain contact information for Texas legislators serving the Allen ISD community. A complete listing of Texas Senators and Representatives is located at the bottom of this page. Watch the Austin Alert page for updates on pending legislation and actions that affect your Allen ISD schools. The Texas Legislature Online Web site is the state's link for all information regarding the 83rd Legislative Session.
 

Legislative News Links For Allen ISD Patrons

The 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature opened on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. This Austin Alert page will highlight key information, actions and pieces of legislation that may impact Texas public schools and the Allen Independent School District in particular.
 
83rd Session of Texas Legislature - May 2013
 

Perry Signs High School Curriculum, Testing Bill

When Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 5 on Monday, he ended weeks of speculation that he might veto the high-profile education legislation because of concerns that it would weaken high school graduation standards. By Morgan Smith, The Texas Tribune. 

83rd Lege's Regular Session: What Happened, What Didn't

It's been a whirlwind of an end to the 83rd Legislature's regular session, and with Monday's (May 27) announcement of a special session, lawmakers aren't done. Here's a look at the deals reached and the measures that fell short during the 140 days of the regular session. Compiled by The Texas Tribune. 

Texas lawmakers end legislative session with bang of a gavel

Handshakes, hugs and smiles were easier at the Texas Capitol on Monday (May 27) than they have been in months. As they wrapped up the 83rd regular legislative session, they posed for pictures, autographed photos and legislative paperwork, approved technical corrections and attended picnics and luncheons. They spoke of how this was a kinder, gentler session, one where lawmakers for the most part found a way to work together for 140 days to develop legislation to help guide the state and all who live here. “Every legislator came to session with the best interests of all Texans in mind,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. “While we are diverse, we found common ground to solve problems and I believe it was very healthy for Texans to see their elected officials work together — without abandoning their core principles.”  By Anna M. Tinsley, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Lawmakers make a deal to boost school funding

With time running out, legislative negotiators on Friday (May 17) forged a two-year spending plan that includes an additional $3.9 billion for education, offsetting deep cuts imposed in public school funding two years ago. The spending package, spread over three pieces of legislation, also calls for a total 3 percent pay increase for state employees as well as commitments to $2 billion in long-range water funding and at least $1 billion in tax relief. By Dave Montgomery, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Texas budget deal still elusive despite confidence

Compromise on a new Texas budget remained elusive late Wednesday (May 15) as House and Senate negotiators worked deep into the night with no word of a deal after earlier confidence that one was imminent. Top negotiators had predicted a deal by midnight, yet remained holed up in back offices at the Capitol with no announcement in sight. A little more than a week remains in this 140-day session, and no unfinished business carries higher stakes than the budget bill, which spells out how the state will pay for classrooms, health care and roads the next two years. By Paul J. Weber and Chris Tomlinson, Associated Press via the Houston Chronicle.

Addressing one of the major education issues of the 2013 Legislature, the Senate unanimously approved legislation Monday (May6) that creates more flexibility in public school graduation requirements and answers widespread demands to reduce the number of end-of-course tests. Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the architect of HB5, said his measure will enable students to pursue a traditional path into colleges and universities or move directly into the workforce to help fill what business leaders say is a critical skills shortage. By Dave Montgomery, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

 
April 2013
 

Legislation reducing the number of high-stakes exams in elementary and middle school — and the time younger students must spend sitting still to take them — won the tentative approval of the Texas House on Monday (April 29). House Bill 2836, by state Rep. Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell, eliminates fourth- and seventh-grade writing tests and requires exams at lower grade levels to be reworked so that most students can complete them in two hours or less. It would also prohibit schools from giving more than two in-district benchmark preparation tests per state exam. By Morgan Smith, The Texas Tribune.

Training for volunteer firefighters, money to arm Texas prosecutors and an extra $500 million for public schools were ways that House lawmakers considered spending the final dollars in the current state budget Friday (April 26). Not all the proposals survived. But the House eventually gave overwhelming approval to an $875 million spending bill that includes an immediate half-billion-dollar payout to classrooms and settles the costs from fighting wildfires that ravaged the state in 2011. By Paul J. Weber, the Associated Press via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Senate OKs plan to let voters tap rainy day fund for schools

A plan that will pump an additional $2.2 billion into public education over the next two years was approved Tuesday evening by the Texas Senate, a surprising turnaround that restores some of the drastic school budget cuts made two years ago. Under a compromise hammered out during tense, closed-door negotiations that brought Senate debate to a standstill for nearly four hours, voters in November will decide if public schools receive $800 million from the state’s so-called rainy day fund — officially known as the Economic Stabilization Fund. Proposed constitutional amendments also will seek voter permission to tap the fund for $2.9 billion for transportation infrastructure projects and $2 billion for water projects. By Mike Ward, the Austin American-Statesman.

New ratings for Texas public schools unveiled

Texas public schools will be graded pass-fail this summer as the state eases in a new system to measure whether students are meeting academic standards. That is, unless lawmakers decide to delay the new school accountability ratings, which have been on hold since 2011 as new standardized tests were rolled out. The Texas Senate has already passed a bill that would provide a ratings reprieve until 2014 because of the frenzy of proposed legislative changes to testing, graduation requirements and accountability. By Kate Alexander, the Austin American-Statesman
 
State education board urges rejection of private school tax credit bill

The State Board of Education on Friday (April 19) added its objections to legislation now pending in the Senate that would allow students in low-performing public schools to switch to private or religious schools at state expense. Board members voted 10-5 to adopt a resolution urging the Legislature to reject any proposals that would send public money to private schools through a voucher or tax credit plan. The Senate Education Committee has already approved one bill that would offer state business tax credits of up to 100 percent for companies that donate money for private or religious school scholarships. The credits would be capped at $100 million, enough tuition money for about 10,000 students in the first year. By Terrence Stutz, the Dallas Morning News.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, supporter of legislation that would allow Texas students to focus more on vocational training than on college prep courses, scoffed at coverage of the issue in two leading U.S. newspapers that asserted that Texas is about to drastically ease its public school curriculum and standardized testing requirements. Of the idea that Texas is "generally dumbing down" standards, "That's just false," Patrick said. "Nothing could be further from the truth." The sweeping proposal would allow students to earn a "foundation" diploma without taking upper-level math or science courses, including Algebra II, while reducing the number of standardized tests students must pass in order to graduate from a nation-high 15 to five. By Will Weissert, Associated Press via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

An overhaul of the state’s charter school system, the centerpiece of Republican leaders’ education agenda, finally cleared the Texas Senate on Thursday (April 11) after legislators struck a bipartisan compromise. Senate Bill 2, which passed on a vote of 30-1, provides the most sweeping changes to the state’s charter school system since the privately managed public schools were first authorized almost two decades ago. The bill now heads to the Texas House, which has blocked charter school expansion in the past. But House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, said last week that he expects members will be open to a bill allowing for a reasonable increase in the number of new charters while bolstering the state’s ability to shut down poor performers. By Kate Alexander, the Austin American-Statesman

Texas public schools would get another one-year reprieve from state accountability ratings under a bill passed by the Texas Senate on Monday (April 8).

Senate Bill 1109, which cleared the upper chamber on a vote of 30 to 1 without discussion, delays the ratings for campuses and districts until 2014 as lawmakers consider fundamental changes to the state-mandated tests that are the basis of the school accountability system. Legislators are poised to reduce the testing requirements as well as the labeling system in the coming months.

Current law requires that school districts and campuses receive a rating of exemplary, recognized, acceptable or unacceptable based largely on student test performance. Those ratings, however, have have not been updated since 2011 because the state was implementing a new testing system called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.  By Kate Alexander, the Austin American-Statesman

House rejects school vouchers as it approves budget bill

The Texas House loudly voiced its opposition to state support for private school vouchers and scholarships during a daylong budget session, signaling deep disagreement with Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican leaders over diverting public money to private schools. The House’s $193.8 billion version of the two-year state budget cleared the lower chamber Thursday (April 4) night on a vote of 135-12 after less than 12 hours of debate, brief by historical standards. … On a bipartisan vote of 103-43, the House approved an amendment precluding the use of state dollars for a private school voucher or scholarship program. By Kate Alexander, the Austin American-Statesman.

The state’s top education official said Tuesday (April 2) he plans to order Texas to begin rating schools based on letter grades A through F starting next year — without waiting for high-profile bills proposing to do the same thing to work their way through the Legislature. The current system features four classifications ranging from “Exemplary” to “Academically Unacceptable,” but key conservative lawmakers have supported a series of measures to replace that system with grades A, B, C, D or F, as is done in Florida. They say the change would make it easier for parents and students to understand and increase classroom transparency. But Education Commissioner Michael Williams told the state Senate Education Committee that he planned to simply order the change unilaterally beginning in the fall of 2014. By Will Weissert, the Associated Press via the Austin American-Statesman.

STAAR tests begin this week amid uncertainty for 5th-, 8th-graders

State-mandated tests loom for public school students across Texas this week (April 1-5), but fifth- and eighth-graders do not yet know if they must pass the exams to move up a grade. The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness begin Tuesday for fifth- and eighth-graders, and “parents and students should assume that the promotion requirements will be in place,” said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe, who added that a decision might come early this week. Under state law, schools are not allowed to promote students automatically to the next grade if they fail the tests. But for that ban to be in effect, Education Commissioner Michael Williams must certify that there is enough money in an accelerated instruction program called the Student Success Initiative. That program pays for tutoring and other remediation for students struggling to pass the state exams. By Kate Alexander, the Austin American-Statesman.

 
March 2013
 

With only two dissenting votes, House members on Tuesday (March 26) gave preliminary approval to legislation that would restructure high school graduation requirements in Texas and would slash the number of end-of-course exams, which have come under attack from parents. HB5 is designed to instill more flexibility in public education by enabling students to either pursue a traditional path into colleges and universities or move directly into the workforce to help fill what business leaders say is a critical skills shortage. It would reduce the number of end-of-course exams from 15 to five and eliminate a controversial requirement that the test results constitute 15 percent of a student's overall grade. By Dave Montgomery, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The ripple effects of an imminent shake-up of high school graduation requirements in Texas might not be felt by some students until they try getting into college. For students hoping to secure automatic college admission under the state’s top 10 percent law, choosing from among the various graduation plans being proposed could prove decisive. If they aim too low, they could be out of the running for the top 10.Lawmakers are on the verge of tossing out the 4x4 graduation plan — four years of English, social studies, math and science — that has been in place since 2007. That course of study has been the default for everyone, meaning each student could potentially earn a spot in the top 10 percent of the graduating class unless he or she opted out of the 4x4 plan. By Kate Alexander, the Austin American-Statesman.

Texas moms unite to rein in state's end-of-course testing

When she wasn't doing the type of things that "moms do every day" -- like taking her kids to the tutor or Boy Scouts -- Stacey Amick spent Monday feverishly working the phone and dispatching emails from her Flower Mound Home. By late afternoon, the 43-year-old mother of two had called at least 10 legislators urging them to vote yes on House Bill 5, a gargantuan education proposal scheduled to be debated on the House floor today. For Amick and hundreds of other parents across the state, passage of HB5 is fundamental to rolling back what they say is an oppressive system of testing that stands in the way of a sound education for their children. The bill not only constitutes the first major education reform to come before the 2013 Legislature, it also demonstrates the grassroots power of Texas mothers when they lock arms in behalf of their kids. By Dave Montgomery, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

With more money and less enmity than two years ago, the Texas Senate eased through a $195.5 billion state budget bill on Wednesday (March 20). Approved on a 29-2 vote, Senate Bill 1 replenishes some of the money cut from public schools, colleges and health care programs in 2011. It also gives state employees a pay raise, bolsters mental health services and continues funding for a women’s health program. In 2011, lawmakers whacked $11 billion from schools, hospitals, prisons and other basic state operations. Over the next two years, general state spending would grow by $6.7 billion to $94.1 billion, a 7.7 percent increase. By Kate Alexander, Austin American Statesman

Fewer high-stakes tests approved by Senate panel

Fewer high-stakes tests would be required for high school graduation in Texas under a bill approved by a Senate panel Tuesday (March 19). Senate Bill 1724, which cleared the Education Committee on a unanimous vote, would mandate end-of-course exams in algebra, biology, U.S. history and two years of English. Reading and writing, which are tested separately under the current structure, would be combined into a single English assessment. Students currently are required to take 15 end-of-course exams. Reducing the number of standardized tests has become a top issue for many lawmakers as parents and educators have pushed back against the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. Next Tuesday, the Texas House will consider a similar measure, House Bill 5. Brief by the Austin American-Statesman

Panel debates gun training for teachers

Drawing together two of the most contentious issues in state policy – firearms and kids – Texas lawmakers debated a $9.3 million plan Tuesday (March 19) to train teachers for classroom gunfights. They also tackled another pair of hot-button issues: standardized testing requirements for high school graduation and the use of student IDs embedded with electronic tracking chips. As proposed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, chairman of the Education Committee, the firearms training bill would apply to charter schools as well as public schools that do not already employ armed guards. It would pay for instruction on how to respond to an armed attack. Two employees at each school could take the class. By Michael Brick and Will Weissert, the Associated Press via The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The 60-day warm-up at the Legislature of ceremonial resolutions and four-day weekends for the Senate is over. Time for lawmakers to roll up their sleeves. Folks around the Capitol like to grouse about how little gets done in the first few weeks of the 140-day legislative session, but the Constitution prevents lawmakers from passing bills during the first 60 days. The idea is to give legislators a chance to figure out what new laws the state needs and for legislators to get to know each other. The newbies need time to figure out how to work the levers of power. The last 80 days are a rapidly accelerating whirlwind, but this year lacks the drama of the 2011 session. For the first time since taking office, Gov. Rick Perry did not declare any emergency items. By Chris Tomlinson, the Associated Press via The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Controversial bill would open door for more charter schools

Harmony Public Schools, the state’s largest charter school system, cannot keep up with the demand for seats in its 38 campuses across the state. That could change under Senate Bill 2, a controversial measure that is expected to come up for a legislative committee vote this week. The legislation aims to open the door for new home-grown charter schools as well as established programs from out of state. Despite an unprecedented lobbying effort this session to expand charters, which are privately managed public schools, some public school advocates are calling for a more tempered approach and assurances that the push for quantity does not overshadow quality. By Kate Alexander, Austin American Statesman

Senate panel embraces budget that starts undoing school cuts

Senate budget writers approved a two-year, $195.5 billion budget Wednesday (March 13) that begins a slow march back from last session’s education cuts and gives new attention to the mentally ill. The Senate Finance Committee voted 15-0 for a budget that would spend $94.1 billion of state general-purpose revenue — an increase of $5.1 billion from Senate GOP leaders’ starting budget in January. Last session, lawmakers made about $12 billion of spending cuts, with $5.3 billion of them hitting public schools. School districts have had to lay off thousands of teachers and requests for waivers to have larger elementary school classrooms have tripled. By Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News

February 2013


Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged Texas to swing for the fences when overhauling public education, telling state senators Wednesday (Feb. 27) that he was able to transform foundering schools in his home state with big if often unpopular ideas. But critics say Bush, who served from 1999 until 2007 and has begun traveling the country as a leading voice for educational reform, was more successful at funneling public money to corporate interests than improving schools. By Will Weissert, The Associated Press via The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The number of charter schools in Texas could explode under a new bill being pushed by Senate Education Committee chief Dan Patrick, R-Houston. But traditional public school leaders worry that Patrick’s proposal would cost too much, spawn a whole new bureaucracy and end up forcing school districts to turn over underused buildings to charter schools. Patrick’s sweeping legislation, filed Monday, Feb. 18, would lift restrictions on the expansion of charter schools, which are privately managed schools that receive public dollars. State law currently caps the number of charter operators at 215. By Kate Alexander, Austin American-Statesman.

High school graduation bill approved by Senate committee

Legislation that would eliminate the minimum high school diploma in Texas and require all students to choose from four new graduation plans – including a business and industry concentration – was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday (Feb. 19). The measure by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would call on all students to get at least 26 credits to graduate and most students would be able to take more elective courses. The current minimum plan requires only 22 credits. Patrick said he wants to give high school students more options in choosing coursework and also wants to give all students a pathway to a college education – even if they are not inclined to go to college while still in high school. By Terrence Stutz/Reporter, Dallas Morning News.

High school graduation proposals prompt warning

A surge of bills seeking to loosen high school graduation requirements could end up leaving many Texas students ill-prepared for college and life beyond high school, state Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes warned Wednesday (Feb. 13). Under some of the proposed changes, students could graduate from high school without a solid academic foundation, Paredes warned. He specifically urged legislators not to roll back certain science and math requirements. By Kate Alexander, Austin American-Statesman.

So far this legislative session, most of the discussion in the state House has been politely focused on the importance of adequately funding roads and water. That changed Monday (Feb. 11). Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D- San Antonio, filed House Resolution 408 that would hurry up the debate on school funding in the wake of last week’s court ruling declaring the funding system unconstitutional. There was no vote on Martinez Fischer’s resolution, and it wasn’t clear if there would ever be one. But the introduction of the resolution accentuated the divide between the House’s 55 Democrats and 95 Republicans on how to proceed on school funding. Democrats want to act now, but Republicans would prefer to wait until court appeals are finished. State District Judge John Dietz ruled Feb. 4 that the state’s way of funding public education is unconstitutional. The state is expected to appeal the ruling directly to the Texas Supreme Court. By Tom Eaton, Austin American Statesman.

An Austin district judge, siding with hundreds of Texas schools districts, ruled Monday, Feb. 4, that the state's school financial system is inequitable and unconstitutional. The decision could ultimately force the Legislature, which is now in session, to make fundamental changes in the state's school finance system, but several experts said there may be little impact until after a final decision by the Texas Supreme Court. By Dave Montgomery and Jessamy Brown, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

 
January 2013 
 
Perry says Texas under him is doing great and calls for $1.8 billion tax cut

Gov. Rick Perry boasted Tuesday (Jan. 29) that Texas under his tenure “led the nation out of recession and into recovery” – and he declared the state’s done so well economically that it can afford to cut taxes by $1.8 billion (during his State of the State address). By Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News.

Legislators propose special taxing authority for school security

As a Houston community college shooting marked the latest episode of campus gun violence, legislation was unveiled Tuesday at the Capitol to allow local taxpayers to vote for additional taxes to enhance safety at public elementary and secondary schools. Under the proposed Texas School District Safety Act, local school districts would be allowed to create special taxing districts or a dedicated sales tax to pay the costs of security — including enhanced screening and security measures at K-12 campuses. By Mike Ward, Austin American-Statesman.

Mounting criticism of Texas’ new achievement test has triggered a flood of legislation, portending marked changes in the testing regimen that has angered students, teachers and parents. With such critics of high-stakes testing leading the way — including 880 school districts that approved a resolution seeking relief — legislators will consider everything from a two-year moratorium on testing to a reduced number of state exams. By Terrence Stutz, Dallas Morning News. Subscription required.

The Republican-led Legislature plunged into the opening round of writing a new state budget Monday, Jan. 14, as leaders in the House and Senate released separate initial spending plans that drew quick attacks from critics for failing to restore more than $5 billion in education cuts imposed by lawmakers two years ago. House leaders are calling for $187.7 billion in spending over the next two years, while the Senate version proposes $186.8 million. By Dave Montgomery, Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Perry Counters Complaints of Education Cuts

Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday (Jan. 9) emphatically countered assertions that the state's Republican leadership has imposed deep cuts in education, citing what he described as "pretty phenomenal" growth in public school spending over the past decade." Education advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly assailed the Republican-led Legislature for cutting more than $5 billion in education during the 2011 session when the state was dealing with a budget shortfall in the aftermath of the recession. Lawmakers are being urged to restore the cuts after projections that the state will have better-than-expected revenue of $101.4 billion in state revenue to fund services during the next two years. By Dave Montgomery, Associated Press, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

A Primer on Comptroller Combs' 2014-2015 Revenue Estimate

As required by the Texas Constitution, State Comptroller Susan Combs today released her biennial revenue estimate, the document that will guide legislators with the most important task that they must undertake every regular legislative session: constructing a two-year General Appropriations Bill. The 140-day session begins at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 8. In her official transmittal to state leaders, the Comptroller said the Legislature will have slightly more than $100 billion to spend in the next two fiscal years. “For 2014-15, the state can expect to have $101.4 billion in funds available for general-purpose spending. This represents a 12.4 percent increase from the corresponding amount of funds available for 2012-13. By Andy Welch. Texas School Public Relations Association.

Texas school districts want more local control

From high school graduation plans to school start dates, Texas educators want more say in how they run their districts. School officials have long been frustrated over state measures that chip away or limit their ability to make decisions tailored to their own district needs. … And now as the state phases in a new testing system, schools officials say they have a limited ability to offer students unique vocational or college-credit courses and still meet state standards. … The legislative session kicks off this month, and local control will be at the heart of many education battles to be waged in Austin. By Eva-Marie Ayala, Dallas Morning News Staff Writer. (Subscription required.)

Official testifies that Texas schools are $1 billion short

Texas' public schools are $1 billion short, meaning officials will soon have to seek that much in supplemental appropriations from the state Legislature in order to meet upcoming financial obligations, a top official said at the school finance trial Monday. Shirley Beaulieu, chief financial officer at the Texas Education Agency, testified before state District Judge John Dietz that in the coming weeks, her agency will have to request $1 billion in additional funding so that school districts can make their July expense payments. The legislative session opens Tuesday, but any request for additional school funding could get tricky since lawmakers already deferred $2.3 billion in August school payments a few days into the new fiscal year to help shore up the 2012-13 budget passed two years ago. Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Local Legislator Contact Information

Updated June 13, 2013