On the first day of the 86th Texas Legislative Session, Gov. Greg Abbott had a strong message for both the House and Senate: Put education on the top of their to-do lists.
Abbott articulated the need to increase school safety, fix school finance, and reform property taxes. He also emphatically stated that lawmakers must solve these issues this session – a statement that received strong applause in both chambers.
“The state must invest more in public education, improve third-grade reading scores, pay teachers more, reduce recapture, make our schools safer, and prepare students for college or career,” Abbott later said during his inauguration speech. “We will do all of this without a court order telling us to do it. We will finally fix school finance in Texas.”
On Feb. 5, Abbott delivered his State of the State to the 86th Texas Legislature. Key themes of his remarks included the growing Texas economy, school finance reform, teacher pay, property tax relief, school safety, mental health, disaster response, border security, cracking down on crime and human trafficking, and support for Texas military personnel and veterans.
In other legislative news:
- Swearing-in ceremonies: Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick took their oaths of office on Jan. 15. Inauguration speeches centered on school finance reform, property tax reform, teacher pay, school safety, border security, and storm recovery.
- House and Senate base budgets and funding ideas for public education: Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) filed SB 1, the appropriations bill, and SB 3, providing a $5,000 per classroom teacher entitlement and state aid allotment. SB 1 is contingent on passage of property tax relief and reducing recapture reliance. Nelson also filed SB 500, which contains $100 million for school safety, $905.5 million for public education’s Hurricane Harvey costs, and $300 million for Teacher Retirement payments. The House’s proposed budget documents also contain $9 billion for increasing the state’s share of public education, enhancing school district entitlement funding, reducing recapture, and providing property tax relief. It also incorporates the Texas Education Agency’s requests for new funds for special education ($50.5 million) and school safety ($54.5 million).
- House and Senate committee assignments: Both the House and Senate released committee assignments for the 86th Legislature. The following members from HISD’s delegation will serve on the House Public Education Committee again this session: Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) and Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston). The committee includes former school board members, superintendents, classroom teachers and principals. The following members from HISD’s delegation will serve on the House Appropriations Committee: Reps. Sarah Davis (R-West U), Gene Wu (D-Houston), Armando Walle (D-Houston) and Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston).
- H.E.A.R. holds fourth meeting: The Houston Educational Advocacy Representatives (H.E.A.R.) held its fourth meeting on Jan. 25. Since November, H.E.A.R. has been briefed on the state’s school finance system and how the Legislature works. Members will educate state lawmakers on the need for school finance reform and reducing recapture this session.