Cutting teacher salaries on special session agenda

It’s déjà vu all over again.

The special legislative session started Tuesday, and several bills quickly were filed. So far, the old SB1811, the fiscal matters-school finance bill that died in the Senate at the end of the regular session, has become the new Senate Bill 1. Bills are refilled with new bill numbers and often re-written for special sessions. This is the bill that must pass in order to balance the new state budget, House Bill 1, which was approved in the regular session and cuts $4 billion from school districts over the next two years. The governor and the legislative leadership do NOT intend to rewrite House Bill 1.

Parts of the old Senate Bill 12 and House Bill 400 are now in Senate Bill 8. See below for more details.

The Senate will hold committee hearings on Thursday on all the bills that are eligible to be heard under the current call for this session. So far, the call includes the following two items:

  • Legislation relating to fiscal matters necessary for the implementation of House Bill 1, as passed by the 82nd Legislature, Regular Session, including measures that will allow school districts to operate more efficiently.
  • Legislation relating to healthcare cost containment, access to services through managed care and the creation of economic and structural incentives to improve the quality of Medicaid services.

The governor, who sets the agenda for special sessions, can add more items at any time and is expected to do so.

We must continue our fight to provide more funding for public schools and stop attempts to cut teacher salaries in order to balance district budgets. Things will be moving pretty quickly over the next several days, and we will be getting alerts out as quickly as we can. Bills are still being filed, and committees will be holding hearings at the end of the week. If you can get a group together to come to Austin, please let us know when you plan to be here. Also, if you can schedule a group visit your legislator now would be a good time.  We may consider making this a more-organized effort as we get a better idea of the legislative schedule.

Meanwhile, here are the bills about which you need to be concerned. These were filed on Tuesday, and there likely will be more. We will provide updates as more bills are introduced.

Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Robert Duncan. This is the new SB1811, the fiscal matters bill necessary to balance the new state budget passed during the regular session. It also includes provisions for distributing $4 billion in public education cuts among the state’s 1,000-plus school districts. It also would allow the state contribution rate for the Teacher Retirement System pension trust fund to be lower than the member contribution rate for fiscal 2012. And, it would allow the state contribution to TRS-Care to be less than 1 percent of the payroll of active employees for 2013, the second year of the biennium.

Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Florence Shapiro. This is the new instructional allotments bill. It would substitute the term, “instructional materials,” for “textbooks” and would add the subject of economics with an emphasis on the free enterprise system to the required social studies curriculum, removing economics as a stand-alone subject. The bill would allow open enrollment charter schools to receive the instructional materials allotment as if they were independent school districts. It would convert the textbook fund to the “Instructional Materials Fund” and require that it be used to fund the instructional materials allotment and purchase special instructional materials for blind and visually impaired students. School districts are entitled to an annual allotment from the fund for each student enrolled in the district on a date specified by the state education commissioner. The commissioner will determine the per student allotment each year on the basis of the amount of money available.

Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Shapiro. This bill includes some of the provisions from Senate Bill 12 and House Bill 400 from the regular session. It would change the date for notification of contract non-renewals from 45 days before the end of instruction to 10 days before the end of instruction. The same change also would apply to terminations of probationary contracts. The bill would allow school districts to order teachers to take furloughs for as many as six non-instructional days and reduce their salaries accordingly. It also would allow districts to cut teacher pay by repealing the salary floor enacted in 2009. And, the bill would eliminate seniority as a consideration when reductions in force are implemented.