Senate approves budget; House bill addresses $17B in federal funds for schools

The Senate gave unanimous approval to the budget Tuesday, sending SB 1 to the House, which will substitute its version. As we noted last week, the two-year budget plan does not include more than $17 billion for Texas schools from the federal pandemic relief funds approved by Congress in December and March. A House bill heard in committee today would allow a small group of legislators to determine how those federal funds are distributed and spent. Click here to read why TCTA opposes HB 2021, and read what H-E-B's CEO said about these funds below in today's Featured News.

A 12-hour House Public Education Committee meeting this week included testimony on a TCTA supported bill (HB 3804) to streamline training and professional development. TCTA’s Holly Eaton served as a subcommittee lead for the workgroup tasked with evaluating current requirements and eliminating redundancies, and testified in favor of the bill. 

In other action this week:
Throughout the session, you can find daily Updates from the Capitol and track key legislation related to education in our Bill Summaries.
H-E-B's CEO urges governor to give federal funds to local ISDs

H-E-B CEO Charles Butt sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott this week urging the state to send all of the federal funds intended for schools to local districts as quickly as possible. Texas is expected to receive more than $17 billion for schools from the latest rounds of pandemic relief funds approved by Congress.

Many states have started allocating these funds, including Florida, where the governor proposed a $1,000 bonus for educators this week. Texas has not sent any new federal money to local schools, and Butt said districts need the funds now so they can determine how to address learning loss. “We cannot afford for this current health crisis to become a generational education crisis that impacts the Texas economy for years to come,” Butt wrote.

In other pandemic-related news this week:
  • Gov. Greg Abbott banned state agencies and organizations receiving public funds from creating "vaccine passports" or otherwise requiring someone to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to receive services.
  • As of April 6, 16.9% of Texans are fully vaccinated and 29% have received at least one dose. Those wanting to make appointments can register with the Texas Vaccine Scheduler, call 833-832-7067, get on waitlist for a large vaccine hub or sign up at retail pharmacies.
Secret Service releases report on thwarted plots to attack schools

Students whose plots to attack schools were stopped demonstrated the same types of troubled histories as those who carried out attacks. They were badly bullied, often suffered from depression with stress at home, and exhibited behavior that worried others, according to a new study by the U.S. Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Center. It examined 67 thwarted school plots nationwide from 2006-2018 in K-12 schools.

In analyzing 100 students responsible for threats, researchers said all of the plots were serious planned attacks in which the plotters took some initial steps toward carrying them out. The informants who alerted authorities likely saved lives. "The findings demonstrate there are almost always intervention points available before a student resorts to violence," said Dr. Lina Alathari, the center's director.

Researchers hope schools use the information from this study, which follows up on a 2019 report, to be better equipped to deal with the warning signs and prevent attacks. Click here to see the full report.
Technology issues disrupt STAAR writing, English exams

TEA advised local districts to cancel the first day of STAAR testing Tuesday after technology issues prevented most students from accessing the online test system. Grade 4 writing, grade 7 writing and the English I end-of-course exams were affected.

“We understand the frustration this has caused students, parents, teachers and administrators. What happened today is completely unacceptable," TEA's Student Assessment Division said in a statement. “We are working to ensure that our students do not experience future testing issues.”

TEA said no further disruptions were reported when testing resumed Wednesday. ETS holds the current STAAR contract, but TEA will use a new vendor, Cambium Assessment, starting with the 2021-22 school year as it transitions to fully online testing by the 2022-23 school year.
Principal sues over nonrenewal of contract, citing discrimination

A principal sued a school district after it voted to nonrenew her contract, alleging that the district's decision constituted discrimination against her based on her race and age. The district said its decision was based on the principal's violations of district policy, citing an investigation into financial misconduct. A district court dismissed the lawsuit, but the principal appealed. Click here to read more.
Schools can apply for Purple Star Campus Designation

TEA is accepting applications through June 1 for its Purple Star Campus Designation program. The honor, created by the 86th Texas Legislature, recognizes schools that show their support and commitment to meeting the needs of military-connected students and their families. Click here for more information and application instructions. The designation lasts two years.
USDE reviews regulations on sex discrimination in schools

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is reviewing the department's regulations implementing Title IX to fulfill an executive order from President Biden that guarantees an education environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity. The review will include public input on the regulations, ultimately leading to possible revisions through rulemaking. Click here to read more.
Spring into savings with TicketsatWork deals in April

Savings are springing up on TicketsatWork in April, with featured deals in conjunction with National Financial Literacy Month and National Stress Awareness Month. Choose from a selection of discounted tax filing services, discover life-changing relaxation practices, find your perfect fitness program, save on spring getaways, and more. Click here to log in or become a member using company code SWTCTA.

To check out more of TCTA's cost-saving programs, click here to log in.
  • The State Board of Education meets April 13-16.
  • The TRS Board meets April 15-16.
  • The State Board for Educator Certification meets April 30.
  • Voting ends May 5 in the TRS election for the Public School District Employee position on the TRS Board of Trustees.
  • Register now for your chance to win cash during H-E-B's Virtual Tribute to Teachers on May 8.
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