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TOP STORIES OF 2021
School funding once again amajor focus area during legislative session
• maintains funding for House Bill 3 initiatives; • bases funding on enrollment, not attendance; • increases funding for special needs programs; • recognizes challenges the pandemic caused in state accountability assessments; • supports local control and district exibility; and • increases transparency in proposed charter school expansions. SOURCE: AUSTIN ISD COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER TOP PRIORITIES Austin ISD trustees approved 35 legislative priorities in November. According to the district, AISD will support legislation that:
BY NICHOLAS CICALE
funding per student in Texas and provided $5 billion in tax compensation and supporting programs, including the expansion of prekindergarten services and teacher incentives. This year, Austin ISD is supporting legislation that would sustain the funding given through HB 3, according to AISD Policy Oversight Director Edna Butts. However, the coronavirus pandemic has shrunk the estimated fund available for all state programs, she said, which means cuts may be coming. Lawmakers will have to make up a $1 billion shortfall in the current budget caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and Popinski said the state could look to education funding as a possible solution to ll gaps elsewhere. AISD is also asking legislators to increase transparency in the process that
Lawmakers in Texas convened for the 87th legislative session on Jan. 12.
Two years ago, Texas passed an $11.6 billion education funding reform bill that lawmakers called historic. This year, the 87th legislative session, which began Jan. 12, will again be key for the future of the state’s education, according to Bob Popinski, the director of policy at Raise Your Hand Texas, a nonprot that advocates for equal access to public education. “The big issues at the session—I think it’s going to be budget issues; it’s going to be virtual and remote learning and how we fund that and open it up statewide; it’s going to be about the state assessment with AF [accountability ratings for districts]; and there might be some discussion on charter schools,” he said. In 2019, House Bill 3 increased state
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charter schools follow to expand into new areas and “level the playing eld” by making per-student funding equal for public and charter schools, Butts said. Outside of school funding, Popinski said some of the more heavily debated topics might involve expanding virtual learning as a more permanent solution beyond the pandemic and adjusting accountability measures. Although the state’s AF rating system for schools has been put on hold, STAAR testing is still scheduled. How the test will be implemented and scored, or potentially canceled for the current school year, could also be determined early in the session, Popinski said.
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