Legislative Update: Budget Debate Begins

Earlier today, the Texas House of Representatives began what is expected to be a long debate on the state budget, a central decision for the 83rd Legislative Session.

House lawmakers took up the $193.8 billion budget bill Thursday morning. With a set of 267 proposed amendments before lawmakers in Austin, debate was predicted to stretch into the evening, or even Friday morning.

The House budget bill would add about $2.5 billion back into public education, $1 billion more than approved by the Texas Senate last month. Based on funding plan models currently proposed, Spring Branch ISD might gain $6 million over the next two years, far less than neighboring districts based on an “equity” funding formula.

Two years ago, the Texas Legislature reduced education funding by $5 billion, and SBISD’s revenue has fallen $37 million since then.

Differences in the House and Senate versions of the two-year budget might head to what is called conference committee where a final budget plan is put together for a final vote by both legislative chambers.

In other recent legislative action in Austin:

• Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams told the Senate on Tuesday that his agency plans to move forward using an accountability system that rates public schools on a letter grade A to F basis. This grading plan for schools would take effect in 2014, he said.

• Also Tuesday, Commissioner Williams announced that he has certified that there is enough money in the state’s education budget to provide a remedial tutoring program for fifth- and eighth-graders who fail the state’s required battery of standardized tests. Based on his announcement, students who fail the exams will not be promoted to the next grade. The 2013-14 budget for a tutoring program called the Student Success Initiative is about $25 million a year. It was funded at about $152 million before the Legislature’s $5 billion funding reduction to education two years ago.

• As 3 million students across Texas began taking standardized tests, several legislators had their bills heard in committee this week that could affect, or limit, testing for elementary and middle school students. Ninth- and 10th-graders are currently waiting to see if House and Senate proposals to scale back state testing for graduation from 15 to as few as five exams  becomes state law.

To learn more:

Texas Legislature Online

Texas Tribune


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