House Bill (HB) 100, a public school teacher funding initiative, was raised out of obscurity earlier this week after Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) made a last-minute change to the bill to introduce education savings accounts (ESA) into the bill.
Creighton announced the Senate Committee on Education would be meeting early Monday morning to lay out the changes and hear public testimony. During the committee hearing, Creighton explained how the new version of HB 100 would include $8,000 in ESA allocations for students, similar to his original school choice bill Senate Bill (SB) 8 which had much of its school choice language watered down in committee. The governor, a vocal proponent of school choice this session, even came forward and said he would veto the bill if it made it to his desk.
The new ESA language in HB 100 would be more inclusive to a wider range of students, including private school and low-income students, than the original SB 8.
Adding on some of the teacher compensation structures present in the original language of HB 100, the new version includes adding teacher compensation and minimum salary schedule increases, additional grant allotments, a teacher residency and mentor program, free pre-K for teachers’ children, and expanded resources for special education programs and students.
During the floor debate Tuesday, 16 different amendments were proposed by Senate lawmakers, with a majority being accepted. During a proposal from Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), Creighton quipped, “It’s acceptable to the author with a hope and prayer that the senator votes yes on the final bill.”
The rapid acceptance of proposed amendments on the Senate floor caused Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) to pause and ask Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) during one of his proposals, “Can you say you read any of the eight prior amendments or have any understanding of what they say?” Johnson replied, “I cannot say I understood the prior amendments.”
After the amendments were added — establishing grant funding for technical skill programs, oversight by the State Board of Education of teacher certification, tutor and private teacher oversight by the state comptroller, and a four-day school week for small school districts — the rules on the floor were suspended to vote on the bill.
“Seems like just yesterday we were here,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as the clock ticked past midnight. The Senate passed HB 100 by a vote of 18 to 13.
In the House, another piece of education legislation was being debated.
The “Teacher Bill of Rights” was coined by Creighton to describe SB 9 during his initial introduction in the Senate.
Provisions in SB 9 include waivers for certifications of public school educators, establishing a set school calendar and work day schedules for educators, allotments for teachers in mentor and training programs, and technical assistance provided by the Texas Education Agency for applying performance and validity standards for assessments.
Just as the Senate loaded HB 100 with amendments that were previously left out during committee hearings, the House did the same and added many of its education priorities to SB 9.
The House tacked on 10 different amendments to the legislation.
Notable amendment additions include an allotment for fine arts programs, the establishment of a continuing education and micro-credential program for teachers, a minimum wage for school bus drivers, and a complaint filing and hearing process for district personnel, students, or parents.
After some commotion on the floor between Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) and Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) regarding the question and debate process, the bill passed to third reading 116 to 24.
However, SB 9 was postponed on the House floor Wednesday morning, effectively killing it for this regular legislative session.
Now the last chance for significant education legislation, including school choice, to pass this session all rests on the House’s acceptance of HB 100 and its recent amendments. If not confirmed, this summer could feature a special session.
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Cameron Abrams is a reporter for The Texan. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Tabor College and a Master’s Degree from University of the Pacific, Cameron is finishing his doctoral studies where his research focuses on the postmodern philosophical influences in education. In his free time, you will find him listening to a podcast while training for an endurance running event.