The Year in Advocacy
85th Legislative Session: A Mixed Bag
It was a mixed bag for students and schools this legislative session. The Legislature passed bills
strengthening protections for students suffering from cyberbullying, reinforcing the importance of school
board governance in student performance, enhancing penalties and reporting regarding inappropriate
relationships between students and educators, continuing individual graduation committees (albeit for only
two more years), and clarifying statutes regarding cameras in special education settings.
Unfortunately, the Legislature failed to address the school finance system. Despite the urging of House
Speaker Joe Straus and herculean efforts from House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty
(R-Houston) and fellow House members to
add almost $2 billion in new funding into a
slightly improved system, last-minute negotiations fell through.
Instead, the state will continue to reduce
its share of public education spending,
and local taxpayers will be relied upon to
shoulder a greater proportion of education
funding so that state general revenue dollars
can be used elsewhere.
While they did manage to tweak the
state accountability system and “A through
F” ratings, legislators waited too long into the
session to negotiate meaningful reforms to a
system that has educators frustrated and others scratching their heads. A pared-down bill
by Representative Gary VanDeaver (R-New
Boston) to reduce state assessments died
quietly in conference committee during the waning hours of the session, much to the dismay of concerned
parents, students, educators, and school leaders.
Special Session: Missed Opportunity
The 85th Legislature’s special session during the summer brought about a bill that lessens the impact of
the loss some districts will feel after additional state aid for tax reduction ends this year, begins to reverse
the small-school penalty, and helps alleviate some of the premium increases retired educators will see in
TRS-Care. However, legislators missed an opportunity for real property tax relief twice by not increasing
the state’s share of public education funding and letting a bill die that would have allowed school districts
to lower and raise tax rates within a voter-approved limit without costly elections.
All in all, it appears nothing really bad passed this session—including vouchers, which died with the
help of a supermajority in the House—but there is much work to be done during the interim to communicate the needs of public schools and students to legislators.
Through it all, TASB members were kept informed and up-to-the-minute with legislative and post-legislative conferences, updates from TASB’s School Board Advocacy Network, regular and special editions
of the Association’s Legislative Report, issue briefs, and social media updates.
Aledo ISD Board Secretary Jennifer Loftin and TASB Board
of Directors member Bobby J Rigues, also an Aledo ISD
trustee, listen in at the TASA/TASB Legislative Conference
February 21 at the Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol.
The Good: No Vouchers; The Bad: No Finance Reform