On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the state’s 86th legislative session will begin, and, for 140 days, Texas lawmakers will work to set the state’s budget for the next two years and address policies and laws in areas as diverse as transportation, border security, health care, and education. Even though the session doesn’t kick off until January, pre-filing of bills began in November, and, by noon of that first day, more than 400 bills had been filed. To give perspective of the enormity of the process, more than 6,600 bills were filed during the last legislative session.
Sometimes, the work of legislators seems so far removed from our everyday lives, but the reality is the decisions made in Austin during the upcoming January-May timeframe impact all of us.
As for Burnet Consolidated Independent School District, there are two specific areas for which we will be advocating and watching closely.
At a time during which schools face an increasing demand for school safety and mental health support, BCISD believes every school district needs access to additional state funding to help support local needs. This funding should be flexible and allow local leaders to address their own specific needs and not create future unfunded mandates.
The Texas Education Agency has requested funds to support these efforts in fiscal year 2020, but the TEA should not be picking winners and losers regarding this funding. Funding should be made available to all school districts. An increase in state funding, or through an allotment, will allow schools to have adequate dollars moving forward to fully invest in these programs with local solutions.
Ask any teacher the biggest challenge they face, and time to plan and teach is always at the top of that list. The State Board of Education and the TEA have increased the number of testable standards while going through a process of streamlining the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
Within the 22 tested subjects, the number of standards has grown from 924 to 995. The more standards that are mandated for teachers to teach at each grade level or content area, the less time for teachers to teach those standards and for students to learn those standard before the high-stakes assessment takes place.
With the state’s accountability system relying heavily on one exam, it is critical that students have sufficient time to master “essential” standards of the TEKS.
BCISD believes that the number of standards expected to be taught and learned should be reduced and students only should be assessed on the “essential” standards or “readiness” standards.
An early positive note for education during the upcoming legislative session is the fact that Dennis Bonnen, the projected next speaker of the House, singled out school finance as the priority for the House. As I mentioned earlier, BCISD will be advocating and watching closely.
HALL OF HONOR
The deadline to submit nominations for the sixth annual BCISD Hall of Honor is quickly approaching. Nominations are being accepted through Jan. 7 and can be submitted online at burnetcisd.net by selecting the Hall of Honor link under the Community tab at the top of the homepage.
In February, we will honor four individuals in the following categories:
- Distinguished Burnet High School Graduate
- Distinguished Burnet High School Athlete
- Distinguished Former School Board Member
- Distinguished Former Employee
We are looking for nominations of individuals who have not only brought great honor to themselves but have also brought great honor to Burnet Consolidated Independent School District.