AUSTIN (KXAN) — On one of the final days of the 87th Texas Legislative Session, the Texas Senate added 23 new amendments to HB 1525, a clean up bill intended only to make subtle corrections to the historic public education funding from last session.
One of those changes would give the Texas Education Agency discretion to use more than half a billion dollars.
That’s not sitting with some lawmakers and education advocates who say it’s the district’s that need full control of that money, not the state.
“At a minimum, we need to understand what is going on here. Why are we taking this money from the school districts and giving it to the TEA?” questioned Representative Gina Hinojosa, a democrat from District 49.
Hinojosa tweeted on Friday, pointing to the last-minute amendment that pulled $620 million earmarked for school districts to spend on technology and books.
Sen. Larry Taylor, the author of the amendment, explained school districts will have a wealth of funds to use at their disposal from the billions of dollars the U.S. Department of Education is providing as a stimulus package for COVID-19 relief.
In addition, Taylor said the TEA will be required to use that money to implement intensive support for school districts, like college and career readiness grants and high level tutoring for struggling students.
Even still, Hinojosa said this change is rushed and isn’t allowing for discussion from both chambers.
“I think it’s important to shine a light on what we are doing, create transparency, especially when it comes to our public schools,” Hinojosa said.
On Friday, Rep. Dan Huberty refused to concur on Texas Senate amendments, so the final details will be ironed out behind closed doors in a conference committee.
Mark Wiggins with the Association of Texas Professional Educators said it’s important to keep an eye on what changes are made during that conference meeting.
“It’s really incumbent on members to take a good look at what the legislation is, what it does, the amendments that were added on both sides, and we cannot take our eyes off the ball,” Wiggins said.