Legislative Action


As we wrap up the 85th Legislative Session and subsequent special session, we want to thank you for taking time to back the future of Texas children. You came to Austin for Rally Day, contacted elected officials about important pieces of legislation up for debate, and provided a voice for Texas children. Below is an overview of where Texas PTA's priorities stood at the end of the Legislative Sessions.
Support Student Success
The Budget - Back in May, lawmakers reached a compromise on SB 1, the Senate's version of the budget bill. One of the biggest issues they were dealing with was whether or not to tap the Rainy Day Fund to help fill a $2.5 billion budget gap or delay setting aside money for the state's highway fund. They decided to do both, using $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund and $1.8 billion from an accounting trick related to transportation funding from 2015. No additional funding was secured for public schools except to cover the cost of enrollment growth.
HB 21 - During the 30-day special session, HB 21 by Representative Dan Huberty passed. Lawmakers approved spending $311 million instead of the initial amount of $1.8 billion. 
HB 21 does not include vouchers or language to regulate bathrooms, but it does include:
  • a reduction in the increase in premium and deductible costs that current retirees were facing, 
  • authorization of the School Finance Commission sought by the Senate, and 
  • creation of a grant program to fund programs for students with dyslexia and does something similar for students with autism. 
HB 22 - Representative Dan Huberty's bill to overhaul the A-F school accountability system was approved at the very end of the 85th Regular Legislative Session. There are now three categories on which school districts will be graded: Student Achievement, School Progress and Closing the Gaps. Elementary and middle schools will be graded in each of the categories by how well students do on standardized tests. High schools will be graded based on standardized tests, graduation rates, and the rates of students taking advanced courses. Read more about this legislation in this article from the Texas Tribune.

Ensuring Special Education Services are Provided to Those Who Qualify
SB 160  - Filed by Senator Jose Rodriguez and enacted into law, SB 160 prohibits the Texas Education Agency from placing performance indicators in any TEA monitoring system that only measures a school district's or open-enrollment charter school's aggregated number or percentage of enrolled students who receive special education services.
 Individual Graduation Committees 

SB 463 - Filed by Senator Kel Seliger, the Legislature extended Individual Graduation Committees to September 1, 2019 for students who have failed to meet graduation requirements due to not scoring satisfactorily on up to two End of Course Exams (EOCs).


The original House budget proposal cut all funding for Governor Greg Abbott’s pre-K grant program that received $118 million total in 2015 for pre-K programs that met state standards. Districts that applied for shares of funding in 2015 received $367 per student per year, which was much less than the $1,500 per student originally envisioned for the program. More than 20 districts turned down the grant money because it wasn't enough to cover improvements to their programs. 

After threats by Governor Abbott to veto the budget unless funding for his High-Quality Pre-K grant program was added, legislators included $236 million for the program, taking the money from funding already earmarked for every school district. The carve-out of existing money for pre-K with quality standards was a quick fix to appease the governor, with no additional funds, said Representative John Zerwas, R-Richmond, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.  

HB 357 - The passage of HB 357 allows children of first responders to be eligible for free pre-k.   

HB 2039 - The Legislature approved HB 2039 that establishes a certification program for teachers in pre-k through grade 3.  

Juvenile Justice 

HB 122 - Introduced by Representative Harold Dutton, aimed to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18 so that teenage offenders who committed non-violent offenses would be incarcerated in the juvenile justice system, instead of adult jails, beginning in 2019. Texas is one of six states that treats 17-year-olds as adults in criminal cases. A dozen states have left that list in the past 10 years. The bill passed the House and was killed in the Senate. Read more about this issue on the Texas Tribune.

Health and Safety

SB 179 - Known as “David’s Law,” SB 179 honors the memory of David Molak, a San Antonio 16-year-old who committed suicide in January 2016 following relentless online harassment. The new law, authored by Senator Jose Menendez, makes changes to school law regarding bullying to include cyberbullying; to allow school districts to establish a districtwide policy related to bullying prevention and mediation; to specify the placement or expulsion of certain students and to specify reports school principals may make to local law enforcement. For more information, read this post from the Texas Tribune.

HB 133 - The goal of HB 133 was to ban powdered alcohol for minors. Lawmakers unanimously approved two bills in the House Licensing and Administrative Committee and voted out one bill in the Senate committee that would regulate the sale of powdered alcohol to minors in Texas. None of the bills were allowed to be considered on the floor of either chamber. A last ditch effort to amend the language onto another bill failed. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission reported to Texas PTA after the legislative session that they will limit sales of powdered alcohol to sales in liquor stores that are prohibited from selling alcohol to minors. It appears the dangerous powder will not be legally available to minors.


No voucher legislation passed during the regular or special session of the Texas Legislature.
Texas PTA Names Lawmakers to Legislative Honor Roll 
Texas PTA recently named 10 lawmakers to the Legislative Honor Roll based on their work during the 85th Legislative Session. Presentations will occur over the next few weeks and will be shared in our next issue of Under the Dome. A complete list of recipients can be found on the Texas PTA website.