Late in the day Thursday, October 19, House Public Education Committee Chair Brad Buckley filed HB 1. The 184-page bill covers myriad topics, including an education savings account (ESA) voucher program.
A hearing on HB 1 has not been scheduled because all the other topics covered in the bill (for example, those that are teacher-related) are not included in the governor’s proclamation that specifies the scope of the special session. Currently, the only education-related issue on the governor’s call is ESAs. The governor may expand the proclamation at any time.
While there is no official fiscal note for HB 1 available, its total cost is estimated to be $10 billion, considerably more than the $5.2 billion included in the Senate’s SB 1, which provides only for an ESA/voucher program.
Highlights from HB 1 by Chairman Buckley, as filed, include:
ESA /Taxpayer-Funded Voucher Program
- Provides that ESAs (vouchers) would be administered by the state comptroller, who has the authority to enter into contracts or agreements and engage in marketing, advertising, and other activities to promote the development and use of the program. Authorizes the comptroller to retain up to 3 percent of the funding to administer the program.
- Establishes that ESAs would be available to students who are eligible to attend public schools in Texas and were enrolled in a public school in this state for 90 percent of the previous school year; are enrolling in kindergarten or first grade for the first time; or attended a private school on a full-time basis or were home-schooled during the previous school year. Siblings of each eligible category of students would be allowed to participate in the program.
- Ends eligibility for the program when a student graduates from high school or when a student is no longer eligible to attend a Texas public school.
- Caps enrollment at 25,000 during the 2024-25 school year and then increases the cap by 25,000 for each following school year through 2026-27.
- Provides up to 75 percent of the statewide average per-student funding.
- Approves education-related expenses to include tuition and fees for a private school; a higher education provider; an online educational course or program; or a program that provides training for an industry-based credential. Other allowable expenses include textbooks, uniforms, assessments, private tutors, transportation, and educational therapies.
- Requires that participants be assessed annually in the same subject area or high school course as required for public school students. Requires TEA to report to the comptroller the results of the assessments in aggregate as well as disaggregated by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and status as a child with a disability. Provides that a child’s results on an assessment are confidential. Requires ESCs to administer these assessments.
- Allows home-schooled students to receive $1,000 per year for transportation and other educational expenses.
Basic Allotment (BA) & Employee Compensation
- Increases the BA by $30 for the 2023-24 school year to $6,190 and provides an additional $310 for a total of $6,500 in 2024-25. In 2026, the BA includes an inflation adjustment based on the Texas Consumer Price Index.
- Increases the percentage of the BA that must go to employee compensation from 30 percent to 50 percent.
- Provides a one-time teacher retention stipend in the 2023-24 school year of $4,000 for full-time employees subject to the minimum salary schedule and $2,000 for part-time classroom teachers, librarians, counselors, and nurses.
Other Funding & Grant Programs
- Increases the cap on charter school facilities funding from $60 to $300 million per year.
- Moves special education to enrollment-based funding, creates tiered funding levels based on intensity of services, and increases the special education transportation allotment to $1.75 per mile.
- Allows $500 per student for the purpose of conducting a full individual and initial special education evaluation.
- Provides increases in the Mid-Size Allotment.
- Eliminates the cap on the Fast Growth Allotment.
- Changes the school safety allotment from $10 per ADA to the greater of the BA x 0.005 for each student in ADA. Provides the following campus funding:
- $30,000 for each campus with 500 or fewer students
- $50,000 for each campus with 501 to 1,000 students
- $75,000 for each campus with 1,001 to 1,500 students
- $87,500 for each campus with 1,501 to 2,000 students
- $100,000 for each campus with more than 2,000 students
- Allows the commissioner to administer grants to eligible school districts to offset a reduction in the district’s Foundation School Program funding resulting from the use of the state value for the 2022 and 2023 tax years. Prohibits the Property Value Study Hardship Grants program from exceeding $60 million per school year. The program expires September 1, 2025.
- Creates a two-year grant program established by TEA to provide training in dyslexia for teachers and staff. School districts would have to submit a proposal on the use of the funds that incorporates evidence-based and research-based design and increases local capacity to appropriately serve students with dyslexia by providing high-quality training to teachers and administrators or training to intervention staff resulting in appropriate credentialing related to dyslexia.
- Creates a two-year grant program providing innovative services to students with autism.
- Reduces the additional day school year (ADSY) funding requirement from 180 days to 175 days.
- Creates a Fine Arts Allotment of 0.008 for grades 6-12.
- Creates a $3 per student book safety allotment.
- Provides for military transition aid of 0.08 for the first year a military-connected student is enrolled in a school district.
- Provides a Communities in Schools Expansion allotment capped at $50 million per year.
- Authorizes $10 million to The University of Texas at Austin to enhance education outreach and visitor experiences and engagement for students and educators at The University of Texas McDonald Observatory at Mount Locke.
- Provides $20 million in grant funding to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center to enhance telehealth services to public school students who receive services from school-based health centers located in partner schools that participate in the Texas Child Health Access through Telemedicine program.
- Establishes the Local Optional Teacher Designation System to provide money and technical assistance to expand implementation of local optional teacher designation systems; and increase the number of classroom teachers eligible for the designation. Authorizes rulemaking for the commissioner of education.
Assessment & Accountability
- Contains conflicting provisions on pages 183-184, Section 8.08: (a) … the commissioner of education may not assign A through F ratings, domain-scaled scores, or overall scale scores … for the 2022-23 school year. (b) … the commissioner may, using abbreviated notice as determined practicable by the commissioner and without a public hearing, but with input from the Legislature, adopt rules for determining the accountability of public schools for the 2022-23 school year. The two provisions conflict as rules should not need to be adopted for 2022-2023 if ratings are not to be issued for 2022-23.
- Sunsets TEC Chapter 39 on August 31, 2026, and establishes the Texas Commission on Assessment and Accountability to develop and make recommendations for improvements to the current system and for the adoption of a new system that complies with the Every Student Succeeds Act. The 15-member commission would include: four members appointed by the governor; five members appointed by the lieutenant governor; five members appointed by the speaker of the House; and one member of the State Board of Education. Requires a report to the governor and Legislature with recommendations on statutory changes to improve the system by December 31, 2024.
- Requires the commissioner of education to use the 2022 Accountability Handbook rules when assigning ratings for the 2023-2024, 2024-2025, and 2025-2026 school years.
- Creates a Local Accountability Grant program to assist at least one school district in each regional education service center area in developing a local accountability system. Authorizes TEA with rulemaking for the program.
- Requires districts to report the results of benchmark assessments as defined in statute to a child’s parent within 30 days after the assessment results are available.
- Makes changes to the early reading instrument (ERI) process and approved list, limits administration of ERI to three times per school year; requires reading intervention based on the results of the ERI until the student achieves “satisfactory” performance; requires a district or charter to make available “high-quality” tutors from a list approved by TEA, the district, or charter for students needing reading intervention over two consecutive years. Requires a district using staff as a tutor for this purpose to issue supplemental pay to the teacher. Note: These same provisions were part of HB 2162, 88th Regular Legislative Session, which did not pass.
- Expands the definition of military readiness to include passing the ASVAB or completing a JROTC program.
- Requires the TEA commissioner to study CCMR indicators as related to post-secondary success.
Highlights from Other Provisions in HB 1 as Filed
- Requires TEA to collect data from school districts and charter schools for the recruitment and retention of classroom teachers, including the classification, grade level, subject area, duration, and other relevant information regarding vacant teaching positions.
- Creates the Texas Teacher Residency Partnership Program to enable qualified educator preparation programs to form partnerships with school districts or charter schools to provide residency positions at school districts or schools.
- Provides school districts with an annual allotment of 0.012 per ADA for regional disaster insurance variation for property and casualty insurance as determined by the commissioner of education.
SB 1, the Senate’s ESA bill, has passed the full Senate and has been referred to the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment, but it has not yet been set for a hearing. The bill does not provide any additional funding for schools or employees and is specific to an ESA/voucher program. TASA will provide additional information when/if HB 1 and SB 1 are set for hearings.