Bill to gut 22-1 is weakened by sponsor; calls are working

In a surprise move Friday, House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler weakened his own bill (House Bill 18) to raise the 22-1 class size cap in K-4. He amended the measure to keep intact the current waiver process requiring parental notification and public hearings whenever a school district wants to put more than 22 kids in a class.

Eissler’s original HB18 would have made it possible for school districts to routinely enlarge primary classes to 25 students without any parental involvement or input. As amended, HB18 now would add a reduction in per-student state aid, which is what will happen under the new state budget, as a reason that districts could apply for waivers. But the current waiver process would remain unchanged.

The bill then won preliminary approval before the House adjourned until Tuesday (June 14).

Thanks to all our TSTA members and other public education supporters who called your lawmakers in opposition to the original HB18. Your calls are having an effect.

The House adjourned without any action on House Bills 19, 20 and 21, which would weaken teacher employment rights. Those bills will be up for debate on Tuesday, so please keep calling your state representatives to demand they vote AGAINST them. You can use the toll-free, 800-260-5444, number.

HB19 would remove a dismissed teacher’s right to an independent hearing officer; HB20 would change the deadline for notification of a contract non-renewal from the 45th day to the 15th day before the end of instruction; and HB 21 would remove seniority as a factor in determining teacher layoffs when districts impose reductions in force.

In other action on Friday, the House gave final approval to Senate Bills 1 and 2, legislation that is necessary to balance the new state budget. Those bills now will go to a House-Senate conference committee to negotiate differences between the two chambers.

Rep. Phil King, a Republican from Weatherford, tried to amend Senate Bill 2 to strip off an amendment added on Thursday to allow a contingency appropriation from the Rainy Day Fund for schools if the fund balance exceeds $6.5 billion during the upcoming budget period.

The vote on his amendment was 79-65, but it failed to receive the two-thirds vote necessary for approval. Seventeen Republican House members voted against King and in favor of keeping the contingency appropriation.

The Senate was not in session on Friday, and neither chamber will be in session over the weekend. The Senate will come back to work on Monday afternoon.