We are thankful for you. We're thankful for your support and participation in the work of the Coalition, and we are especially grateful for the work you do on behalf of students in your district and the State of Texas each and every day. This year has been one like no other, so please know how much we appreciate your work--now more than ever!

The Texas School Coalition office will be closed during the week of November 23 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. If you need anything during that time, please send an email to christy@txsc.org.
Prior Purchase Reimbursement Program
Earlier this week, the Governor Greg Abbott, along with other state leaders, announced a $420 million Prior Purchase Reimbursement Program (PPRP) for schools to cover costs associated with the purchase of Wi-Fi hotspots and electronic learning devices (such as laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets) to allow for remote instruction during the pandemic.  

The program will be jointly managed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and funded by federal Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars available through the CARES Act. It acknowledges that while many districts were able to make such purchases through the Operation Connectivity Bulk Purchase Program, many were not. This reimbursement program is intended to cover up to 75% of the costs associated with qualifying purchases independent of the bulk purchase program.  

The application window for these reimbursement dollars opens today, and runs through December 11. Please note that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath encouraged districts to apply as early as possible to increase the likelihood that your district will qualify for the maximum amount of funds for which you are eligible.  

TEA is hosting a webinar at 9:30 a.m. this morning to provide additional information.  
Senate Education Committee Hearing on Digital Learning, School Finance, and more
The Senate Committee on Education met last Friday, November 13, to hear invited testimony on interim charges related to digital learning, special education, monitoring of legislation regarding HB 3 (school finance) and HB 3906 (assessments), and best practices for providing instruction during COVID-19.

The theme throughout the testimony on digital learning seemed to be the desire for public school districts to have ability to continue provide remote digital instruction beyond the time of the waivers provided for the current school year in a manner that would allow districts to receive the same full-time funding for students to which charter schools and other providers are entitled.

Dr. Chris Bigenho, Director of the Virtual Learning Academy in Lewisville ISD, proposed fully-funded full-time online schools for students within district boundaries, which would provide the same type of accountability to taxpayers and communities as a traditional model does. Tiffany Cary, the Director of Innovative Learning in Frisco ISD, expressed concern over the quality of some of the online learning programs available to students and pointed out that current law does not prevent students from receiving online instruction, it merely prevents students from receiving online instruction from their home district.

Hector Madrigal, Superintendent of Karnes City ISD, spoke about virtual learning and also mentioned the large amount of recapture his district is required to pay. Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) responded that HB 3 sought to reduce recapture by half, but Mr. Madrigal didn’t have that information available. The TEA Summary of Finance shows that Karnes City ISD’s recapture in FY 19 was $32 million. Following the passage of HB 3, the district’s recapture rose to $46 million.

There was very little mention of recapture when it came to the witnesses invited to testify in regards to House Bill 3. Education Commissioner Mike Morath urged the Senators to consider legislation to address some of the unintended consequences of HB 3. The three superintendents who testified from Aldine ISD, Longview ISD, and Garland ISD all praised the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) and urged continuation of funding for that program. Josh Sanderson, the Deputy Executive Director of the Equity Center, pointed out some perfecting changes that are needed in regards to the small and mid-sized allotments, specifically in regards to CTE funding. He also urged legislators to use any additional stimulus dollars the US Congress may send to Texas to keep district formula funding whole.

Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim testified about the best practices in his district during the COVID-19 pandemic. He mentioned the innovative practices among teachers and more widespread use of technology. He also expressed concern over how to engage remote learners who are falling behind and how to address the over-participation of parents in the elementary grade levels.

Kristen McGuire of TCASE and Steve Alleman of Disability Rights Texas urged committee members to transition away from funding special education placements and fund serves instead. There were concerns expressed about the number of students with disabilities lost during the pandemic and not receiving services.

If you would like to watch the archived video broadcast of that hearing, click here.
Texans for Local Schools
In case you missed it on our social media channels, please check out (and share!) the video below that seeks to explain about school property taxes in about a minute. This is brought to you by our grassroots network, Texans for Local Schools. Please feel free to share this video and the link to texansforlocalschools.org with those in your community who may wish to subscribe to that newsletter and stay informed during the legislative session.
Bills filed for the 87th Session
As we reported last week, bill filing for the 87th Texas Legislature is underway. The Legislative Reference Library prepared the graphic you see below to compare the amount of bills filed during the first week of filing, compared to that same period prior to previous sessions. As you can see, we are well ahead of schedule. Our legislators may be staying home and not conducting many meetings in the Texas Capitol, but that doesn't mean that they (and their staff) haven't been hard at work preparing bills to file.

At the time this report was written, a total of 803 bills and resolutions had been filed. Approximately 95 of those bills relate to public school districts in some way.  We'll be sending you more information and highlighting some bills of interest in the coming weeks and months, but keep in mind that many of bills filed (especially during the first weeks of bill filing) will never receive a public hearing, much less be considered for a vote.

If you are ever interested in looking up any bills, or establishing alerts for certain legislative actions you can visit Texas Legislature Online.
Senate State Affairs hearing December 7
The Senate State Affairs Committee will meet on Monday, December 7, at 10:00 a.m. to hear invited testimony on interim charges, including their charge to study how governmental entities use public funds for political lobbying purposes, examine what types of governmental entities use public funds for lobbying purposes, and make recommendations to protect taxpayers from paying for lobbyists who may not represent the taxpayers’ interests.

Click here for the notice of that hearing.
Special offering for CFO/Business staff
We're partnering with our friends at the Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO) to provide a special training opportunity for those serving as the Chief Financial Officer, Business Manager, or anywhere in the business/finance staff in one of our districts, and especially those who are new to that role.

We will cover some of the nuts and bolts for business officials in our districts, talk about timing, deadlines, and what you can do to put your district in the best possible position during the legislative session to predict and plan (as much as we can!).

If this sounds like something that interests you, please mark your calendar for Tuesday, December 8, at 2:00 p.m. You can register via the link below. Or if you know of someone else in your district who might benefit from this offering, please forward this message their way.
Salary Survey Reminder
This is just a reminder for any district that decided to submit salary & wage increase data outside the form provided by TEA that HB 3 calls for districts to submit that information to the Texas Legislature by December 1, 2020. Each district is required to submit to the legislature a report on salary or wage increases provided to district employees as required by HB 3 in the 2019-2020 school year. The report must include the employee's position in the district and the amount of the increase.

For those districts that submitted via the TEA-provided form, your information can be found on the Required Reporting on Salary Increases page of the TEA website.
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