Finding Real Solutions for All Texans
We have completed 18 of the 30 days of the special session and while the Texas Senate hurried many bills through that will hurt Texans, I am proud of the diligent approach the Texas House has done under the leadership of House Speaker Joe Straus. Below are highlights of progress made by the House.
House Passes School Finance Plan
During the regular session, the Texas House passed a school finance plan, House Bill 21, which I supported. The legislation would have added desperately-needed funding to our public school system, boost per-student funding, increase the basic funding for almost all school districts, and more. HB 21(85(R)) was an important first step in school finance reform, however the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee refused to appoint conferees to negotiate with the House and the bill died.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Public Education Dan Huberty re-filed HB 21(85(R)) as HB 21(85(1)) in the first called special session, which is almost identical to the bill that passed the House during the regular session, “minus existing debt allotment (EDA) and charter school funding,” according to the Association of Texas Professional Educators. Today, the House again passed this school finance plan.
I support this legislation because it improves our public schools. HB 21 allocates $1.8 billion into public schools, simplifies the complex and outdated formulas for allocating that money, and targets certain disadvantaged student groups for more funding. Without additional funding some rural schools will be at risk of closing. The Legislative Budget Board estimates about 96 percent of districts and 98 percent of students would see more money under the bill.
Here are some of the key provisions:
*The House plan adds an additional $1.8 billion for public education-funding that is greatly needed to reduce the chronic underfunding of our schools.
*HB 21 would boost per-student funding for nearly every public school in the state while also reducing the amount of money wealthier school districts are required to give to less wealthy school districts. Known as the Robin Hood plan, the practice has become a hot-button political issue as large districts like Houston have recently had to begin making payments.
*HB 21 would increase the basic funding for almost all school districts from $4,765 to $5,140 per student every year.
*HB 21 would increase the amount of money the state gives to schools for students with dyslexia and English language learners.
*HB 21 is estimated to lower payments that property-wealthy school districts make to the state to subsidize property-poor school districts by $163 million in 2018 and $192 million in 2019.
Disparity and inequity in this system force school districts to make sacrifices in various departments while struggling to keep up with the minimum education standards set by the state. Past funding cuts have caused districts to raise taxes or seek donations to keep extracurricular programs, extra school supplies, and other options available to students. This is why I support HB 21 and other bills that will improve our public schools.
Ending Maternal Mortality in Texas
Texas’ maternal mortality rate is alarmingly high. A 2016 study in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed that it is not only higher than the national average, but is the highest in the developed world. It is important to note that maternal mortality disproportionately impacts Black women; while Black women account for just 11% of total births in Texas, they constitute 30% of all maternal deaths. The Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force was formed in 2013 to study the causes of maternal mortality and morbidity and to make recommendations for ways to reduce incidence of pregnancy related deaths among Texas women.
This week, the Texas House passed bills addressing maternal mortality: House Bills 9, 10, and 11. The bills will now head to the Texas Senate. All three bills extend the Task Force to 2023.
You can read about these important bills below.
HB 9 by Rep. Cindy Burkett adds the following items to what the Task Force will study regarding maternal morbidity: trends, rates, disparities, at risk populations, the socioeconomic status of mothers, and best practices used in other states to reduce maternal morbidity.
HB 10 by Rep. Armando Walle requires the task force to review trends, rates, and disparities in pregnancy related deaths and severe maternal morbidity and provides for certain studies to address these issues. It also requires the Task Force to determine practice opportunities and determine evidence based best practices for maternal health care. HB 10 utilizes the work done by the task force for Texas Mothers and goes beyond writing another report.
HB 11 by Rep. Shawn Thierry adds rates, health conditions and factors, and disparities in pregnancy related deaths to what the Task Force shall study. As Black women are disproportionately more at risk compared to other groups in Texas, HB 11 also instructs the Task Force to gather information on health conditions and variables surrounding the deaths of Black women identified in the biennial report.
Texas is finally putting mothers in the spotlight. Our song of the week is “A Song For Mama” by Boys II Men.