Teachers could take a short breath of relief with the demise last night of House Bill 400 shortly after the stroke of midnight in the House chamber. Ostensibly, the bill was the victim of a missed procedural deadline. In reality, it was killed by the phone calls and emails to legislative offices from thousands of educators and other friends of the public schools.
The relief, though, may be short.
Counting today, there are 18 days left in this legislative session, and although HB400 is gone, the bad ideas it includes, unfortunately, aren’t. Any or all of them – lifting the 221 cap on K4 classes, cutting teacher pay, allowing teacher furloughs, weakening teacher employment rights – could be resurrected by getting attached as amendments to other bills, most likely in the Senate.
One of the likely “vehicles” on which these proposals could hitch a ride is Senate Bill 12 by Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro. It already includes some – but not all – of the same provisions as HB400 but has been blocked from a Senate vote, so far, by the twothirds rule. There has been enough Democratic opposition to keep the bill bottled up, but that could change as pressure mounts on senators, latesession deals are cut, etc.
Or, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the Republican majority could change the Senate rules to allow SB12 to be debated on a simple majority vote. The twothirds rule is a longtime Senate tradition, but on key issues (including a vote on the Senate budget bill just last week) it has been eroding under Republican pressure.
Another possible vehicle is Senate Bill 22, a school finance bill that also has been hung up in the Senate.
Strange – and, often, outrageous – things happen in the closing days of legislative sessions. Bad ideas that people thought were dead are suddenly alive again, and the process isn’t pretty.
So, school district employees who value their jobs, their professions and the quality of their classrooms had better keep calling their state representatives and state senators, demanding that they oppose all of the bad ideas in House Bill 400. Parents who value the quality of their children’s educations should do the same thing.
And, while they are at it, they also should demand that lawmakers find more revenue for the new state budget, another issue that will go down to the wire.