2016-2017: Texas legislature’s education priorities
Unlike the national government, the legislature (House and Senate) in Texas only meets every other year. The next legislative session is coming up in 2017, but lawmakers are already thinking ahead and hosting discussions on their key policy priorities.
The last legislative session saw some losses, compromises, and wins in education. The biggest education issue that the legislature tackled was pre-K. A seemingly innocuous, bipartisan issue, the governor pushed for full-day pre-K funding. What emerged was something of a compromise— some pre-K funding was administered, not shaped into the budget, but rather as a separate measure. This means that in the next legislative session, the battle for maintaining that pre-K funding is beginning now.
So what’s on legislator’s minds as they look forward to the next legislative session in Austin? Thanks to a recent event with the Chief of Staff of Senator Royce West, LaJuana Barton, and Representative Kenneth Sheets, here’s a sneak peek.
- Pre-K funding
- In the last session, pre-K received some funding, but that funding was not built into the budget, meaning that it has to be renegotiated. In the next session, pre-K advocates will be fighting to extend the current funding, and ideally to increase it
- Funding for mental health
- Focus on ensuring that funding and services are accessible for mental health issues.
- Studying school choice
- What’s happening in other states? What’s successful? How can that be replicated here?
- School funding
- Regulations for charter schools (CMOs)
- As charter schools lobby for more public school dollars, they may be subject to increased state accountability.
- Teacher shortage and retention
- As many teachers near retirement, ensuring a pipeline of qualified and effective teachers for Texas.
- Learning in the digital age
- Student privacy and protection; increasing digital learning options.
- College and career readiness
- Ensuring that pathways to careers are accessible for all students.
As you can see, many of these issues revolve around or involve funding, meaning a rocky road ahead for education advocates. The legislature officially reconvenes in Austin on January 10, 2017 and will be in session until May 29.
Want your voice to be heard? Both Barton and Sheets encouraged locals to speak out on issues that matter to you. 70-80 percent of the legislation passed during the session has been debated and discussed in the interim. Attend a public education hearing in Austin or write your local representative or senator. And be sure to tune in next week to view a companion piece on the top educational policy issues that Texas nonprofits will be advocating for in the next session!