20 July 2020

Capitol Update: Cancelling the STAAR Test and Coronavirus Aid for Local Governments

With the primary elections finally behind us, I want to offer my congratulations to all of the candidates who were successful in securing their place on the ballot for the General Election in November 2020. Those who came up short deserve recognition, as well, for having the courage to seek public office and carry out a campaign in these trying times. I’d also like to thank all of our election workers and volunteers for working tirelessly to ensure a fair and efficient election process.

With that, here’s this week’s Capitol update. . .

Capitol Update

I recently wrote a letter to Governor Abbott urging him to exempt Texas public schools from STAAR testing requirements for the 2020-2021 school year. Given the massive disruption our schools have experienced over the last few months, it’s more important than ever that we allow our teachers and students to focus on quality instruction, development and growth without the burden of high-stakes testing. During this time of uncertainty and stress, high-stakes standardized tests will only add to the strain of recent months and will not give an accurate assessment of a school, teacher, or a student’s performance. Rather than relying on the skewed accountability metrics of STAAR, we should empower our school districts and educators to tailor their own exams to accurately measure academic progress without the fear of a looming test date. Though Governor Abbott—in coordination with Texas Education Agency (TEA)—sought fit to alleviate the burden of high-stakes testing at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2019-2020 school year, it is my hope that he will employ that same compassion and wisdom to once again waive testing requirements during the 2020-2021 school year.

Governor Abbott recently announced that his Public Safety Office (PSO) will provide over $40 million in federal funds through the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program to assist cities and counties throughout the COVID-19 response. Funds awarded under this program will be used by local governments for first responder overtime and hazard pay, personal protective gear, county jail costs associated with the medical needs of inmates, and improvements in teleworking technologies to enhance our communications infrastructure. Local governments that are interested in learning more about this program can contact PSO at (512) 463-1919 or send an email to egrants@gov.texas.gov.

In a similar vein, Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dennis Bonnen recently announced a plan to invest $57 million in federal funds to maintain financial aid programs for our institutions of higher education. This investment will offset potential coronavirus related cuts to the financial aid programs that support scores of Texans throughout their post-secondary education. As we begin to rebuild our state’s economy, it is critical that we continue supporting students in their pursuit of a college degree or certificate so that they can successfully enter the workforce and make a meaningful contribution to the recovery process.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office if we can help you in any way. Our District office may be reached at (936) 634-2762.

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