Tell Texas lawmakers: use K-12 federal stimulus money as intended —
to help our schools recover from COVID-19. 
Recent vaccine and other COVID-19 policy changes statewide
Earlier this month, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced that educators and school support staff are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, effective immediately. That same week, Gov. Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-34, which addressed the statewide wearing of face coverings (aka masks), that took effect on March 10. As a result, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) updated its Public Health Guidance. School boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy.
Budget-writing committees holding fast
The House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee are hard at work finalizing their versions of the state budget for the next two years. Despite the fact that Congress has passed a third relief bill that should send billions of dollars to Texas, and despite an improving Texas economy, very few changes have been made to the bills that were filed in January. Texas leaders are waiting for more information on how the relief bill can be used and when the funds will begin to flow. Until they have that information, they are reluctant to put any new spending into the state budget.
All eyes are on State Comptroller Hegar who will release his updated revenue estimate any day now. If the estimate is higher than the revenue amount he released several months ago, the state will have some wiggle room to spend.
Texas PTA shows up for
public testimony
Texas PTA's public testimony at the Capitol is starting to ramp up. President Suzi Kennon has testified several times this month on issues aligned with our legislative priorities for the session:
March 22  #RaiseTheAge
House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues
▶ WATCH https://bit.ly/3rhkJA1 (4:43:30)
Suzi testified in favor of legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18. Revisit Texas PTA's fact sheet on juvenile justice reform.
March 17  #TXDigitalDivide
Senate Committee on Transportation
▶ WATCH https://bit.ly/3s43OlQ (2:41:45)

House Committee on State Affairs
▶ WATCH https://bit.ly/3eWuuRN (21:20)
Suzi testified in favor of the omnibus legislation to expand affordable and reliable access to broadband across the state. SB 5 and HB 5 should be voted out of committee this week and then head back to their respective chambers for consideration. Revisit Texas PTA's fact sheet on digital connectivity.

Hold harmless funding extended
Gov. Greg Abbott and the TEA have agreed to continue the "hold harmless" funding to school systems for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year. Funding will be made available to school systems in Texas that have seen enrollment and attendance declines because of COVID-19, as long as they maintain or increase current levels of on-campus attendance. Districts will be funded based on attendance numbers prior to the pandemic. More details on the specifics of the hold harmless calculation can be found in TEA’s Attendance and Enrollment Funding FAQ
Texas PTA voices concern over voucher language
House Bill 3 (not to be confused with the historic school finance bill of the same name from last session) relates to the state and local government response to a pandemic disaster and was authored by Rep. Dustin Burrows. It originally contained language to create a voucher program during a pandemic in districts that do not offer full-time, in-person instruction. Many organizations including Texas PTA reached out to Rep. Burrows urging him to remove voucher language from the bill. On March 11, HB 3 was heard in committee without voucher language. At this time, the bill is pending in the House Committee on State Affairs. 
COVID-19 has shown us how truly amazing Texas teachers are! Check out these resources from BAND and start preparing for Teacher Appreciation Week now.
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