The House Committee on Public Education conducted a hearing on Monday, October 28. The committee heard invited testimony from the Commissioner of Education and other invited guests on the Texas Education Agency's implementation of
(from the most recent legislative session), as well as
(relating to accountability from the 85th Legislative Session in 2017).
Click here to view the full agenda.
The Commissioner and invited panel first tackled the topic of accountability and discussed the treatment of districts with a D rating, the disproportionate number of campuses that have received D and F ratings, and also the success some districts have had with implementing improvement plans. A theme the witnesses brought forward was the fact that the STAAR test alone is not the best measure of a student or a school’s achievements.
On the topic of HB 3, Commissioner Morath first applauded the Committee for this work on HB 3 and expressed deep gratitude over what he described as an “overwhelmingly positive” bill that has created the “single most equitable system in the US.”
The Commissioner provided the committee
with an overview of the steps taken by the agency to implement HB 3
as intended and to both communicate with and involve districts in the process. He then focused his comments on the letter he sent to the Governor and Legislative Budget Board regarding his proposed adjustments to the entitlements under HB 3 to address unanticipated losses or gains. Those proposed adjustments are as follows:
- P-TECH and New Tech Funding. There are some who may interpret the additional $50 per student in ADA to apply only to certain CTE courses. The Commissioner requested the authority to provide that additional $50 per ADA for all students attending a campus designated a P-TECH or New Tech, which is what was intended when HB 3 was passed by the Legislature.
- Impact on Entitlement for Formula Transition Grant Districts in Regards to Teacher Pay Raise. Since formula transition grant dollars will expire in 2025, the Commissioner requested authority to make adjustments to the requirement for those districts receiving them to spend 30% of those new dollars to be used for a pay increase, as transition grant dollars will expire and not continue down the road.
- Charter School Special Education Funding. When charter schools received the state average of the adjusted allotment, it resulted in less special education funding for some charters. The Commissioner requested the authority necessary for a maintenance of effort on special education funding.
- Supplement for Service Centers. Finally, when the staff supplement allotment was eliminated and rolled into the Basic Allotment, one of the unintended consequences was that Education Service Center employees that previously received that allotment no longer received it. The Commissioner requested the authority to continue that funding for ESCs.
Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) asked about the issue impacting certain small districts in which CTE enrollment is causing those districts to lose some of their small size adjustment. Commissioner Morath responded that the issue with small schools and CTE is also an unintended consequence with a few fixes available. Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) asked why this particular issue was not included in the unintended consequences letter, and Commissioner Morath said that it would be included in a future communication.
The Committee also discussed the Fast Growth Allotment and whether the percent of growth that was used to qualify districts for that funding was really what was intended. Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) pointed out that the use of percentages without a bifurcated system has the unintended consequence of making it seem that very small districts have an extraordinary amount of growth, when really the change in the number of students is relatively small and doesn’t carry increased costs. This is an issue the Legislature may look at next session.
Nicole Conley Johnson of Austin ISD described the positive effects of HB 3 in her district in regard to teacher pay raises, but also noted that while the additional funding has been helpful, Austin ISD is still in the position of needing to close schools in order to make ends meet. She addressed some of the possible unintended consequences of the College Career Military Ready (CCMR) Incentives, and she raised concerns about some of the additional reporting burdens districts may face under HB 3 overall.
Elizabeth Fagen of Humble ISD addressed the issues of teacher pay and teacher incentives, pre-kindergarten, and the incentive for additional days. There was discussion in regards to whether a district that is offering the minimum required number of instructional minutes, but not the full 180 days, may be eligible for the incentive funding for additional days. TEA General Counsel Von Byer explained that only districts that offer the full 180 of instruction may qualify, as that is the letter of what the new law says.
Please let us know if you have any questions or need any additional details in regards to this hearing or any of the information discussed.