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$11.2 billion in federal dollars finally announced for public schools
Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, and Speaker Phelan have announced the release of $11.2 billion in federal stimulus money for public schools to address learning loss and expenses associated with COVID-19. The funds are intended to support a comprehensive learning recovery effort over the next three years. Federal requirements allow two-thirds of the funds to be available immediately through grants administered by the Texas Education Agency, with the remaining one-third of funds to be distributed once approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
State's biennial budget near completion
Last week, the House approved a budget for the next two years with several amendments that we are happy about, including one prohibiting state spending on vouchers, several that would require a special session to deal with the distribution decisions regarding federal dollars if those dollars were not available until after the regular session, and one requiring that all federal dollars intended for public education be spent on public education without reducing state spending.
A conference committee made up of five state senators and five state representatives will begin meeting to resolve the differences between the House and the Senate versions of the state’s budget for the next two years.
Last week, Chairman Bonnen and the Legislative Budget Board acknowledged that a combination of factors – higher property values, less than anticipated school attendance increases, and federal funds from the CARES Act – has freed up $5.5 billion to balance the House budget. Comptroller Hegar will release an updated revenue estimate on Monday, May 3, at 2:00 pm.
School finance clean-up bill passes
HB 1525, authored by Rep. Dan Huberty, passed a few days ago with a $330 million price tag to “clean up” issues from last session’s landmark school finance legislation, HB 3. A discussion of fund balances occurred at the end of debate on HB 1525 covering the cash school districts carry in reserve for one-time expenditures for deferred maintenance or to shore up district coffers while waiting for property taxes to arrive. Rep. Huberty has been interested in setting new guidelines for how much school districts should set aside for these reserves. In total, districts have more than $15 billion in fund balances, more than is currently carried in the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund (aka Rainy Day Fund).
Texas PTA speaks out
April 27 — President Suzi Kennon spoke at a press conference organized by Raise Your Hand Texas to urge the state to release federal stimulus money to school districts. Watch the previously livestreamed event here.
April 20  #StopBullying
House Committee on Public Education
▶ WATCH https://bit.ly/3au3JBa (54:24)
Suzi testified in support of HB 1726, "Relating to reporting the number of incidents of bullying and cyberbullying in a school district and open-enrollment charter school through the Public Education Information Management System."
April 12  #InBadTaste
House Committee on Ways and Means
▶ WATCH https://bit.ly/3slBURG (1:01:22)
Suzi testified against HB 211, imploring lawmakers to tax e-cigarette products like traditional tobacco.
Legislation updates on Texas PTA priorities
Digital Connectivity for All: HB 5 (Rep. Ashby’s broadband expansion legislation) was passed by the Senate on April 29. The next step will be the establishment of a conference committee to work out the differences between the House bill and SB 5 by Senator Nichols.

Public School Funding: SB 1 (the budget bill) maintains funding for all components of HB 3, last session’s comprehensive public school legislation.

Cyberbullying: HB 1726 requires schools to report incidents of bullying and cyberbullying. The bill will be considered by the full House this week.

Keep Public Dollars in Public Schools: No voucher bills have passed so far this session. SB 1 contains language prohibiting the use of state dollars on voucher programs.

Vaping Regulation and Taxation: Several bills were filed to regulate and tax cigarettes and e-cigarettes like vapes. SB 248 will be considered in House committee next week. HB 211 regulates and taxes e-cigarettes, but it falls way short of any meaningful tax that would reduce youth vape use. HB 211 has been set for debate on the House floor on Tuesday, May 4. Texas PTA has sent an action alert asking members to urge their state representatives to vote NO on HB 211.

Juvenile Justice Reform: HB 1783 raises the minimum age for criminal prosecution from 10 to 13. The bill is sitting in the Senate for consideration. No Raise the Age legislation is moving this session. 

End of session approaches
We're now less than two weeks away from the first major Floor Calendar deadline. Thursday, May 13 will be the last day for House bills to be heard on the second reading. Any House bill not heard on the House floor by midnight will be in effect dead. However, Senate bills will still be eligible for consideration in the Texas House until May 25.
All of this is building toward the final deadline of Sine Die, the final day of the legislative session on May 31. Click here to download a calendar of important deadlines coming up in the 87th Texas Legislature.
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