Pay cut bill set for hearing; HB400 is back

The special session will begin to speed up Thursday, and one of the first items of business is a Senate Education Committee hearing on Senate Bill 8 by Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, which would allow school districts to furlough teachers for up to six non-instructional days and reduce their pay accordingly. It also would allow districts to cut teacher pay below what they are making now by repealing a salary floor enacted in 2009. And, it would change the date for notice of non-renewal of a contract from the 45th day before the end of instruction to the 10th day before the end of instruction and remove seniority as a factor in deciding who is terminated during school district reductions in force. TSTA will testify against this bill.

In another development on Wednesday, House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler introduced House Bill 8, which is the same as House Bill 400, which TSTA actively opposed and which died during the regular session. Its anti-teacher language is more far-reaching that Senate Bill 8.

As did HB400, House Bill 8 includes all the provisions of Senate Bill 8. It also would raise the 22-1 class size cap for K-4 to make it easier for districts to fire teachers in the primary grades. Eissler also has filed a separate House Bill 18, which includes only the class size changes.

Thanks to your help, TSTA was instrumental in killing all of the above bad ideas during the regular session. But after a fiscal matters bill necessary to balance the new state budget died in the Senate over the weekend, Gov. Perry called a special session to complete that work. And, he opened the special session to the same provisions by allowing legislation to allow school districts to operate “more efficiently.”

So, the fight begins anew.

Our guess is that Sen. Shapiro will try to win quick committee approval of Senate Bill 8 and try to pass it on the Senate floor on Friday or Saturday. The Senate will not be operating under the two-thirds rule during the special session. That means the Republican majority can pass what it wants, and that means TSTA members and other friends of the public schools need to flood their senators’ and representatives’ offices with calls against this bad legislation. Watch your email for our alerts.

Also on Thursday, the Senate Education Committee will hear Shapiro’s Senate Bill 6, an instructional allotments bill that also died during the regular session.

And, the Senate Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee will hear Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1, respectively, the new fiscal matters legislation necessary to balance the state budget passed during the regular session. Remember, that budget cut $4 billion from the public schools, and SB1 and HB1 include provisions for distributing those cuts among the state’s 1,000-plus school districts.

TSTA will once again urge legislators to spend the remaining $6 billion in the Rainy Day Fund. That, after all, is taxpayer money that taxpayers set aside for an emergency, and this is an emergency. We also will urge lawmakers to find new tax revenue to lessen the budget cuts.