While the weather may not feel like spring, it's time for spring break. Either you're currently on spring break and reading this upon your return or you're about to embark on spring break, we recognize that on Saturday night you're going to lose an hour of time--time you probably don't have to spare. So here is a quick list of highlights you need to know:

  • Speaker Phelan released interim charges for House Committees this week.
  • The Teacher Vacancy Task Force was named this week, and they will be meeting every other month. They join the ranks of two existing special commissions.
  • We're still waiting on official word about a possible ADA Hold Harmless, and the natives are getting restless.
House Interim Committee Charges
Speaker Dade Phelan released the interim charges for House committees yesterday. If you would like to see the full list of charges, you can access that on the House website here. Or if you prefer a scaled down version focused on the charges that pertain to public education in some form or fashion, we have that edited down version here.

A few highlights to be aware of:
  • The House Appropriations Committee will review the use of federal ESSER dollars to address learning loss and mental health challenges.
  • The Higher Education Committee will jointly study with the Public Education Committee the impact of the pandemic on the teacher workforce.
  • The Ways & Means Committee will conduct a comprehensive review of Chapter 313, and tax incentives offered in other states.

The House Public Education Committee will study:
  • The implementation of both HB 3 from 2019 and the more recent HB 1525, pertaining to school finance, along with HB 4545.
  • The efforts to ensure parents play a meaningful role in their child's education.
  • Partnerships between districts, higher education institutions, employers to promote college and career readiness.
  • The effects of COVID-19 on learning loss and how to address achievement gaps.
  • The impact of COVID-19 on students' mental health, and barriers to providing mental health services.
  • Causes and contributors for chronic absenteeism.
  • Assessments and accountability, as well as state policy on curriculum and the instructional materials used in schools.

Teacher Vacancy Task Force
Governor Greg Abbott directed the Agency to create a task force to help address staffing challenges facing Texas public schools, so in response to that TEA recently announced the creation of the Teacher Vacancy Task Force. The Task Force is comprised of practitioners in the public school system, including superintendents, human resources administrators, and two teachers. Two of the administrators are from charter schools, and the remainder are from traditional school districts, representing a variety of geographic locations and student populations.

This group will meet every other month for the next year. For more information on this task force, including its membership, you can visit the Teacher Vacancy Task Force website.
Still waiting on word about a hold harmless
Back when there were regular Superintendent calls with the Commissioner, Commissioner Morath was giving regular assurances that TEA was examining every option available, and he explained that low attendance waivers are temporarily unavailable as they look for a more comprehensive solution.

In January, TEA updated their FAQ document to state:

LEAs have reported to TEA that attendance rate declines continue to occur due to COVID during the spring semester. As a result, the agency is exploring options to ensure school systems will not experience significant financial difficulties and the agency has temporarily closed the low attendance waiver. Please expect more on this at a future date.

We're still waiting for the future, but we're not alone in our waiting. The members of the House Public Education Committee sent a letter to the Governor and Commissioner requesting that an ADA hold harmless be provided to districts for the 2021-22 school year. Their suggestion is to apply the district's attendance rate from the 2018-19 school year to Fall PEIMS snapshot enrollment data from the 2021-22 school year.

Nothing has been officially announced by TEA at this time, and as they explore every available option, they could come up with something other than the House suggestion. But we certainly hope that an announcement of the decision is eminent, and we'll keep you updated as things change.
Commissions, task forces, and committees
For those of you who are keeping score, we have a lot to keep track of this interim. In addition to the usual legislative committee activity we have come to expect each interim (although the last interim didn't involve any actual committee hearings), there are several other commissions and task forces to keep track of.

We mentioned this one above.

This Commission has already had one meeting, and the next time they will meet again is on March 30. The appointed members of the Commission include legislators, parents, a superintendent, an ESC representative, and it is Chaired by Rex Gore from SBEC.

The members of this 7-member commission have not yet been announced, but statute requires that it include three members of the House, three members of the Senate, and a Chair to be appointed by the Governor. We expect this commission to conduct its first meeting sometime soon.

Mark your calendar now for our Legislative Planning Workshop coming up June 8-9 in Dallas. We will begin at 11 am on Wednesday, June 8, break late in the afternoon and then reconvene the following morning and conclude by 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 9, to allow time for everyone to travel. We'll assess the current state of affairs, make some projections about what to expect, and work to make plans and establish priorities. We hope you will make plans to join us! More details to come.
Thank you to our annual sponsors!
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