Keyword: Public Education
Judgments about the actual policy achievements of the 86th necessarily await their implementation and evidence of sustainability. In the meantime, legislative incumbents will hope to bask in the faint praise they earned in 2019, while worrying that they might well be drowned out in another election year defined by the deafening volume of chaotic national politics.
The Texas House will take up HB3, the omnibus school finance bill years in the making, on Wednesday. As with any attempt to tweak the school finance system in Texas, the attention of legislators in the House has shifted to the "runs", the document produced by the Legislative Budget Board outlining how funding will change for each member's school districts. Old timers in the process will remember how, in the past, when new runs were released, members walked around with sheafs of paper, looking for the small handful (or less) of members who could walk them through the implications.
Ah, technology! For those who enjoy looking at the data themselves and maybe even playing with it, we have converted the .pdf's released by the LBB into spreadsheets and shared them for easy access.
The latest University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, which Ross Ramsey wrote about in a batch of stories released through the week, covered a range of subjects and issues with an emphasis on the current legislative session. As always, we’ll continue to mine the data and connect it with happenings at the legislature as the session kicks into a higher gear, but below are a first set of observations, hopefully more than hot takes but certainly less than the in-depth treatment we’ll give them in coming weeks.
The implementation by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) of an A-F school rating system has been a matter of heated debate since the idea was introduced in Texas, a debate that has been reignited by the release of the first round of district grades by the TEA on August 15. Wherever one falls in the wisdom or usefulness of the much-debated system, the idea was to provide information for parents, the public, and policy makers. To this end, we created Google maps below to make it easy to look up the ratings of Texas schools, along with contextual information for each one.
The House Education Committee began hearings on HB 21 this week, the bill sponsored by Committee Chair Dan Huberty, intending to begin the process of changing Texas' beleaguered school financing system. Also released with the bill are were the "runs" for 2018 and 2019, the tables of legislative lore which show how the proposal would impact the operating budgets of each district compared to current law, including the impact that it would have on per student funding (according to the weighted average daily attendance for each district, aka the WADA). We worked a little with the data in the run, and produced some maps and a table.
It’s hard not to see the late-breaking addition of the Public Education Committee chair Dan Huberty’s just-filed HB 21 to the committee's agenda Tuesday as a bit of a chess move against both voucher advocates and the Senate, where the State Affairs Committee will be holding a high profile hearing on SB 6, the bathroom access bill championed by the Lt. Governor.
The week was barely underway when the new Public Education Chair in the Texas House illustrated just how much style and personality can make the same position feel really different when it comes from a Huberty rather than an Aycock. The House managed to make a fight out of the one issue that there seemed to be universal agreement on in the Legislature, while the Texas Supreme Court decided they want to hear arguments about gay marriage after all. Meanwhile, in the commanding heights, Governor Abbott was invited by the other two-thirds of the big three to have a fight with one of them, but it was no cigar. Instead, the Governor was plenty happy to take the resolution passed by the Senate joining the call for a Convention of the States, though conservatives are not all of the same mind on whether that’s a good idea or not. If the governor has to change their mind, maybe he ought to ask the President, who seems to have done a good job of moving Republicans toward a more open-minded position on the President of Russia -- though it turns out Attorney General Sessions may have jumped the gun on that front at least a little.
The Texas Tribune published stories all week long on the February 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, and we'll be mulling and writing about the results in the coming weeks. Ross Ramsey wrote stories about it all week long, bless his heart. But here are some first takes to end the week. We've posted many graphics, including lots of crosstabs at the latest poll page at the Texas Politics Project website - we'll post data files soon.
Governor Greg Abbott’s state of the state speech to the Texas Legislature provided the big event of the week, and it yielded the emergency designations that enabled Senate committees to propel two of the four emergency items – sanctuary cities legislation and ethics reform – out of committee. This meant an early-session, late night meeting of the Senate State Affairs committee, punctuated by heated feelings from the gallery likely spurred on by the polarized national reactions to Donald Trump’s delivery on his campaign promise to halt the flow of Syrian refugees, and more broadly to stem the entry of Muslims into the country, which, in effect, he did last week with his executive orders. The week also saw Lt. Governor Dan Patrick preside over the unveiling of Senator Larry Taylor’s SB 4, the long awaited school choice bill providing for educational savings accounts and a scholarship program for private school students funded by redirected insurance premium tax funds. No sign of the v-word here! Read on for data related to the week in Texas politics.