A Wrap-Up of the 83rd Legislature: Key Public Education Bills from Rep Burnam's Ed Alert

Read about the restoration of some of the Rainy Day Funding and the reduction of end of course exams required for graduation from 15 to 5.

Ed-alert June 6, 2013 volume 26
A Wrap-Up of the 83rd Legislature: Key Public Education Bills
Message from  State Representative Lon  BURNAM, District 90

We won some key battles for public schools during the session. We made some bad bills better. And we lost a few.
I was very proud that Democrats stood together to block use of the Rainy Day Fund for water projects unless additional funds were also committed to public education. In the end, funding for water projects was approved and funding for public education was increased.
Democrats also united with many Republicans in opposition to numerous voucher bills that would have shifted public funds to private schools at the expense of our children in public schools.
With your help, we dodged these bullets and others. But many of the bills I opposed that failed will be back in two years, if not sooner, in special session, supported by advocates of public school privatization who are well-funded to push their agenda.
We’ve got a lot of work to do to protect and strengthen our public schools as we move forward together.
I will stay in touch this summer to update you on important education issues, and I’ll keep you informed if public education is added to the call for the special session.

Summary of key education legislation
• Restored $3.4 to the Foundation School Program for public schools, a far greater amount than I thought was possible at the beginning of the session, plus an additional $330 million for the Teacher Retirement System.
• Added $ 10.5 million to funding for the Student Success Initiative, a program I strongly supported.
• Added $5 million to Adult Basic Education budget, which I was able to include as a rider in the final budget.
• Defeated numerous voucher proposals that would have shifted millions of public dollars to private schools.
• Reduced the number of end-of-course exams required for high school graduation from 15 to five.
• Expanded the cap on the number of charters in Texas and gave local school boards the authority to convert neighborhood schools to charter schools with a simple majority vote, which I strongly opposed and spoke against on the House floor. 
• Gave the Texas Education Agency more authority to close poor performing charters and added more financial oversight for charter operations.

Key Education Bills that Passed

SB 1 and HB 1025 – State Budget 
• Increases per pupil formula funding by $3.4 billion over the biennium.
• Includes $330 million for one-time transition aid to districts for the Teacher Retirement System.
• Adds $5 million to Adult Basic Education.
• Restores partial funding to grant programs that were some of my top priorities:
ª Increases the Student Success Initiative by $10.5 million for prevention of academic failure.
ª Includes $30 million for Prekindergarten grants.
ª Restores $11 million to Communities in Schools.
ª Restores $2.5 million to the Advance Placement Initiative.

HB 5 – Testing and Curricula Reform 
• Reduces end-of-course exams required for high school graduation from 15 to five; required tests include English I, English II, algebra I, biology and U.S. history.
• Requires that students take four science credits and four math credits including algebra II to quality for the top Ten percent program.
• Changes high school graduation plans and creates “endorsements” which allow students to take a sequence of courses in one of five specific subject areas.
• Removes the requirement that a student’s performance on end-of-course exams must count for 15 percent of the student’s final grade in each course tested.

SB 2 – Expansion of Charter School System 
• Increases the cap on charters from 215 to 305 by 2019, which will result in hundreds of new charter schools. Charter operators can operate multiple schools once the charter is approved by the state.
• Allows a majority vote of a school board to convert neighborhood schools into charter schools, resulting in the loss of certain rights and protections under the Texas Education Code for parents, students, and teachers.
• Gives the Texas Education Agency, not the State Board of Education, authority over charter approval, monitoring, and closure.
• Adds additional financial accountability for charter schools and provides TEA with additional authority to close low performing charters.

HB 1926 – Virtual Schools 
• Expands the Virtual School Network to for-profit operators.
• Prevents statewide “virtual vouchers” for any entity that wants to start a for-profit online school.

HB 2836 – Testing 
• Limits the number of tests given in lower grades while conforming to federal requirements.
@house.state.tx.us C: 512.415.7031

Key education Bills That Failed
• SB 23 – Tax Credit Vouchers
• SB 115 – Special Education Vouchers
• SB 1575 – School Vouchers
• SB 1718 – “Achievement district” for low performing schools
• HB 3245 – Tax Credit Vouchers
• HB 3497 – School Vouchers
• HB 2976 – Parent Trigger
• HB 1957 – “Achievement District”
• HB 300 – Home Rule
• SB 218 - TEA Sunset

For more information For past issues of EdAlert: 
http://tinyurl.com/burnam-edalerts
Review of key education bills 
Texas AFT Legislative Hotline
http://texasaftblog.com/hotline/?page_id=2
Contact Rep. Burnam’s office: 
Patti Everitt
patti.everitt@house.state.tx.us
C: 512.415.7031

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