As our students return to the classroom, and with COVID-19 cases on the rise, my office has received numerous calls from parents requesting that the STAAR test not be used as a factor when determining academic promotion. During the 2020-2021 school year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) worked with the Legislature to reduce the high-level nature of the test, instead opting to use the STAAR as a diagnostic tool to determine student’s academic standing. I am hopeful TEA will follow the same course of action in order to fairly assess the work of Texas students without punishing them for circumstances out of their control.
With that, here’s an update from your State Capitol…
With Second Called Session of the 87th Legislature officially over, I wanted to take this time to touch on a few of the items that the Texas House worked tirelessly to pass during the final week. These pieces of legislation benefit an array of Texans and are now headed to the Governor’s desk.
One bill currently awaiting Governor Abbott’s signature is Senate Bill 7, which provides the mechanism for a much-needed and well-deserved 13th check to Texas teachers who retired on or before December 31, 2020. I was a proud co-sponsor of this legislation, which will provide retirees with an additional annuity check up to $2,400 this year. The funding for this bill was included in another measure—House Bill 5—which recently passed both the House and Senate.
Funding for another worthwhile initiative was also included in House Bill 5, as the Legislature has given its stamp of approval for an additional $55,000,000 to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. These funds will be used in part to increase capacity and bed space among current foster care providers, but also to provide targeted foster care capacity grants across the state. We know that hundreds of children spent nights in unlicensed facilities this summer, and these grants will serve those high-need children first.
Additionally, both chambers passed Senate Bill 15 in response to the current Delta Variant surge. This bill gives school districts the ability to decide locally whether or not they want to establish new or continue full-time virtual learning programs, and ensures they will receive equivalent funding from the state. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shown that while the vast majority of students do better under traditional in-person instruction, the switch to virtual learning during the pandemic did in fact work better for some students. The principle of local control was the guiding factor when crafting this bill, and I’m proud the Legislature delivered on our promise to allow local communities to choose what is best for their students.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will be posting regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and sharing information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.