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Recap: Senate Education Committee Interim Hearing

Notes on the Committee's May 24 Interim Hearing

May 27, 2022
The Texas Senate Committee on Education met on Tuesday, May 24. The House Committee on Public Education was meeting simultaneously to address similar charges.

Interim Charges Addressed
  • COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Educator Talent Pipelines
  • Monitoring:
    • HB 3 (86th Legislature), relating to public school finance and public education;
    • HB 1525 (87th Legislature), relating to the public school finance system and public education;
    • HB 4545 (87th Legislature), relating to the assessment of public school students, the establishment of a strong foundations grant program, and providing accelerated instruction for students who fail to achieve satisfactory performance on certain assessment instruments;
  • Bond Efficiency
  • Homestead Exemption

The hearing was paused several times as news of the tragic shooting in Uvalde at Robb Elementary was shared with members. All panels were completed, and the committee is expected to meet later in the summer to continue with interim charges.


Interim Charge: COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Educator Talent Pipelines
Commissioner Morath’s testimony ranged in topic, including:
  • More teachers are currently being employed than in past years.
  • Student enrollment has stopped growing, a trend expected to continue as birth rates are down. Although there has been a noted increase in recent weeks, enrollment has not returned to pre-pandemic numbers.
  • Interest in becoming a teacher has been declining over the years compared to interest in other professions.
  • Recruiting teachers tends to become more challenging when there is a strong economy.
  • Teacher attrition rates increased between the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, with a significant jump in retirements in 2021.
  • Commissioner Morath shared several slides related to teacher pay, noting that teacher pay overall has increased. He specifically highlighted the Teacher Incentive Allotment, the requirement included in HB 3 (2019) to increase teacher wages and examples of school district methods for changing compensation.  
  • See Commissioner Morath’s slides.
Dr. Scott Muri, Superintendent of Ector ISD; Clifton Tanabe, Dean at University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP); and Superintendent Andrew Kim of Comal ISD and serving member of the State Board for Education Certification provided testimony sharing a variety of approaches to preparing and supporting educators. These panelists shared their experiences with teacher shortages in their regions and discusses their approaches to growing the educator pipeline. Panelists shared similar testimony that highlighted the value of school district partnerships with higher education and intensive coaching for first year teachers:
  • Dr. Muri encouraged legislators to maintain flexibility permitted through Districts of Innovation and to provide sustainable funding for proven models to educator recruitment and retention, noting that most programs are grant funded, therefore not incentivized.  
  • Dean Tanabe provided an overview of UTEP’s residency program (which is in its third year), noting that UTEP is tracking teacher retention data to determine if this strategy will result in increased teacher retention.
  • Senator Creighton asked the panelists about classroom conduct and the challenges teachers face. Dr. Muri responded that an established counselor pipeline would help and would also help students have better access to mental health professionals. He stated that teachers and coaches are currently impromptu counselors but having more support would lead to better access. Watch the exchange.
 
Notable Exchange:
Philanthropy Advocates has commissioned research from the University of Houston Education Research Center to analyze the implementation of teacher certification waivers and policies that allow for flexibility in teacher certification, such as the Districts of Innovation policy. At a time when many school districts are struggling to recruit and retain teachers, we aim to provide further nuance and detail around how current flexibility in hiring certified educators is implemented.

Watch notable exchanges in this hearing related to our work:

1. Commissioner Morath outlined pathways into teaching on slide 19 of his presentation and shared data on the impact of teacher preparation on the retention of teachers.

Watch the video for this exchange.

 
Interim Charge: Monitoring
Commissioner Morath provided a recap of: 
  • HB 1525 (87th Legislative Session, 2021), the “cleanup” bill companion to HB 3 (86th Legislative Session, 2019).   
  • HB 4545 (87th Legislative Session, 2021), which was passed to help improve school districts ability to accelerate student learning. He shared updates on appropriations the Legislature made to implement HB 4545, including providing an update on the Vetted Texas Tutor Corps and vetted vendor lists TEA has published. Commissioner Morath noted that despite efforts to accelerate learning, ultimately only 7 percent of students are catching up.
  • See Commissioner Morath’s presentations on HB 1525 and HB 4545.
There was further discussion among committe members:
  • Senator West asked Commissioner Morath what options the state has used in the past to address learning loss along with reading academies. Commissioner Morath spoke to the efficacy of preparation programs for teachers. Senator West expressed a desire for more information and more to be done regarding reliable models for measuring teacher preparation.
  • Senator Schwertner asked about 60X30 Texas (now Building a Talent Strong Texas) issues and what legislators could expect regarding accelerating students that are far behind. Morath answered that recovery will be a multi-year process. 
  • Senator Powell discussed ESSER funds, noting the state has spent $74 million of $3.977 billion available. Commissioner Morath agreed the usage of funds was light, but reassured the Committee that there is more spending to come. Some members of the Committee suggested that there may be administrative barriers delaying the use of these funds.

Monitoring: HB 3
Ben Mackey, Interim Director of the Texas Impact Network (TIN) discussed reforms passed in HB 3 in 2019 that TIN is supporting school districts to implement, including the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA), the College, Career, Military Readiness (CCMR) Bonus and the Additional Day School Year (ADSY) program. Mackey spoke to: 
  • TIA's value in teacher retention,
  • The role of advising in supporting students to transition from secondary to postsecondary education, and
  • The impact of additional time in the year for student achievement and support for teachers. Watch Mackey’s testimony here.
Monitoring: HB 4545
Dr. Sharla Horton-Williams of the Commit Partnership, and Superintendent HD Chambers of Alief ISD discussed HB 4545, specifically addressing tutoring as a method to accelerating student learning.
  • Dr. Horton-Williams spoke on the positive effects of high impact tutoring. She offered suggestions on how to achieve the most success through tutoring with flexibility of scheduling, a narrowed scope of grades to serve, and focusing on math and reading.
  • Superintendent Chambers spoke to how schools are currently spending federal funds. He stated that although schools may be trying to hire tutors, sometimes there is not an abundance of tutors. He said there is work to be done to continue to fix staffing to allow schools to have the supports they need.

Interim Charge: Bond Efficiency
Bonding/Capitol Improvements panelists included Dr. Rolinda Schmidt of the Kerrville ISD School Board, Terrel Palmer with Post Oak Municipal Advisors, Kimberly Smith, CFO of Frisco ISD, and Dr. Devin Pativil, Superintendent of Taylor ISD. Panelists shared similar comments, including:
  • Stating that no trustee wants to raise taxes, but they are necessary for classroom facility maintenance, operations, and safety.
  • Advocating for more information to be shared to promote greater transparency with voters making decisions regarding school district bond elections.  

Interim Charge: Homestead Exemption
  • Dell Kramer with the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association; Leo Lopez, TEA Chief School Finance Officer; Abilene ISD Superintendent, Dr. David Young; and Andrew Kim with Comal ISD spoke on the Homestead Exemption and recapture.
  • The Senate Finance Committee met on property taxes on May 23, which included, in part, a discussion on the Homestead Exemption. Watch the Senate Finance archived video here.  

Public testimony began at 6:28:04 of the May 24 Senate Education Committee archived video.
 

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