Category Archives: Governmental Relations

At midpoint of the legislative session, teacher pay raise and school finance bills advance

Texas lawmakers have entered the halfway point of the 86th Legislative Session, and the pace of activity at the State Capitol has significantly increased since January.

On March 4, the Texas Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 3, which provides an across-the-board $5,000 pay raise to every full-time classroom teachers and all school librarians. As filed, the bill would have provided raises to full-time classroom teachers only. However, the bill’s author, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), amended the legislation on the Senate floor to include school librarians because of their requirement to teach in the classroom for two years. SB 3 will now go to the House for consideration. House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty (R-Humble) indicated SB 3 would likely receive a hearing in his committee.

Increasing teacher compensation and reforming school finance are two of the governor’s emergency items, declared in his Feb. 15 State of the State address. SB 3 is also a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and all 31 members of the Texas Senate.

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HISD launches #FixSchoolFinance toolkit to push school finance reform  

The Houston Independent School District has created a #FixSchoolFinance toolkit to equip public education supporters with the necessary information to effectively advocate for school finance reform.

This educational tool provides an overview of the challenges with the current system, outlines proposed solutions, and serves as a platform for direct communication with key lawmakers during the 2019 Texas Legislative Session.

For the past year, HISD has been part of a statewide coalition of school districts, nonprofit organizations, and business leaders educating the public and emphasizing the need for meaningful changes to the state’s school finance system. Reforming school finance and reducing recapture are top priorities for HISD during the 86th Texas Legislature.  Continue reading

Governor calls on lawmakers to make education a top priority this legislative session 

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.  Continue reading

Artwork at three HISD campuses unveiled for Gulfton Story Trail Mural Project

Students, staff, and community members were on hand recently to celebrate the unveiling of mural paintings on three HISD campuses – Jane Long Academy, Sutton Elementary School, and Las Americas Newcomer School.

The three schools are part of the Gulfton Story Trail Mural Project, which features 12 artistic murals inspired by poems written by local students. The project showcases the area’s culture while attracting visitors to the southwest Houston neighborhood — one of the most immigrant-rich areas of the city.

HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan lauded the murals as a point of pride for the district’s students and families.

“They will serve as a reminder for many years to come that we embrace diversity in the Houston Independent School District,” Lathan said. Continue reading

HISD students meet state lawmakers, tour Capitol on opening day of legislative session  

HISD high school students traveled to Austin on Tuesday, Jan. 8 to visit the State Capitol on opening day of the 2019 Texas Legislative Session.

Fifty students from East Early College, Yates, Eastwood Academy, Bellaire, Sterling, Wisdom, and Westbury high schools and Young Woman’s College Preparatory Academy observed the ceremonial swearing-in of members of the Texas Senate and House of Representatives. There are 31 members of the Texas Senate and 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives.

The group had the unique experience of witnessing the election of a new House Speaker, which hasn’t occurred since 2009. Rep. Dennis Bonnen from Angleton was unanimously elected to serve as Speaker. Speaker Bonnen pledged to make school finance reform his top priority.   Continue reading

HISD seeks applicants for new legislative advocacy initiative called H.E.A.R.

HISD is seeking applications for the Houston Educational Advocacy Representatives (H.E.A.R.) initiative, a coalition to advance the district’s legislative priorities in Austin and Washington, D.C.

H.E.A.R., launching this fall, is a volunteer group of business and community leaders, parents, teachers, principals, retired educators, philanthropists, and legislative staff. Participants will be asked to visit Austin to meet with lawmakers during the 2019 Texas Legislative Session.

“This school year, HISD’s recapture payment is estimated to be $272 million. The state will collect about $5 billion in recapture payments from over 200 school districts by the end of 2019,” said Ashlea Turner, HISD’s Chief Governmental Relations and Strategy Officer. “At HISD, recapture causes school budget cuts, fewer support services, and layoffs — with a direct impact on students. HISD’s recapture situation proves the current school finance system is broken. School finance reform is overdue in Austin.”   Continue reading

New ‘Legislative Center’ encourages community engagement in lawmaking process

HISD has launched a new online hub for all legislative information to educate the community and encourage participation in the lawmaking process.  The Legislative Center is a unique tool designed to expand the community’s access to state lawmakers and facilitate communication between Houstonians and key decisionmakers in Austin.

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HISD Trustees and Superintendent heading to Austin to discuss school finance solutions

Members of the HISD Board of Education and Superintendent Richard Carranza will spend two full days in Austin this week, collaborating with top state leaders to address changes to Texas’ school finance system.

Board President Wanda Adams, trustees Anna Eastman, Michael Lunceford, and Rhonda Skillern-Jones, along with Superintendent Richard Carranza will have scheduled meetings on Wednesday and Thursday with state leaders and members of HISD’s legislative delegation in Austin.

“The HISD Board of Education and administration are united in our desire to work constructively with our state leaders to identify funding solutions that put children first,” Adams said. “We all agree that Texas’ school finance system was never intended to take classroom resources from our state’s most needy children.” Continue reading

HISD’s top priority as 85th Legislature convenes: School finance

As the 85th Texas Legislature convenes today in Austin, the state’s school finance system is the top priority on HISD’s legislative agenda, and the district will ask state lawmakers to make changes that would keep local tax dollars in Houston schools.

Under the state’s current school finance system, HISD is considered “property wealthy” and is subject to sending $162 million in local property taxes to the state – a process known as “recapture.” But on Election Day, Houstonians voted down the ballot measure that would have authorized the $162 million payment and future payments totaling more than $1 billion. This means that, starting in July, the Texas Education Agency can detach $18 billion worth of nonresidential, commercial property from HISD’s tax rolls and reassign those businesses to other school districts for taxing purposes. The TEA will continue to detach property every July for the foreseeable future.

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HISD voters to decide whether to send local school tax dollars to the state

Board also calls special election for Trustee District VII

In order to comply with Texas’ school finance law, Houston ISD trustees on Thursday called a special election to let voters decide whether they are willing to send an estimated $162 million in local tax dollars to the state of Texas.

Under Texas law, HISD is now considered a “wealthy” school district because of rising property values, even though three-quarters of all students come from low-income households. As a result, HISD is being asked to pay the state about $162 million later this fiscal year. That payment cannot be made unless voters approve.

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