Texas Senate to debate education reform bill Monday after hastily arranged meeting

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Tears welled up in State Senator Larry Taylor’s eyes as he heard members of the Senate’s public education committee criticize the pace at which the panel debated its school funding plan.

“This has been a grueling process, but it’s worth it,” Taylor said, holding back tears.

“We do have challenges in this state but we can meet those challenges,” he said. “We’re Texans, that’s what we do.”

The committee discussed House Bill 3, one of two overarching versions of the state’s plan to reform the education system in Texas. The framework is outlined, but the specific details, lawmakers said, were lacking during the Wednesday hearing

“I lament the committee process not being drawn out, (because) there’s so many good things in this bill,” Houston Republican Paul Bettencourt said. He and two others voted “Present Not Voting” as the panel sent the bill to the full Senate in an 8-0-3 vote. Bettencourt cited funding holes that are unresolved.

“I’m reading stuff for the first time that is concerning to me,” he said. “Even the stuff that’s here, I do have to laugh that this bill was originally a shell and blank bill, and there’s still some blanks.”

Other lawmakers outlined their concerns.

“I just want to be sure as we move forward that we have the opportunity to deliberate over those things that educators aren’t comfortable with that families in our districts aren’t comfortable with,” State Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Fort Worth, said.

“I know the gun we’re under,” State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said. “I think it’s gonna be important that on the floor, we have the opportunity to really talk through some of these things, otherwise I worry the process becomes so rapid that people don’t understand the bill.”

Part of the urgency came from the leader of the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. He tweeted Wednesday morning about his desire to get both the property tax and education bills moved through the legislative process “ASAP.”

Taylor recognized the haste at which the meeting was called and the shortened timeline.

“I apologize we’re having to do this at the pace we’re doing but based on the time of where we are in the session and what’s going on with the House changing some of our revenue sources on this, some of those bills start in the House so we had to get started to get this out to show them we have a bill they need to help us fund,” he explained.

Taylor’s office confirmed Thursday evening the bill would be up for debate on the Senate floor on Monday. Taylor asked senators to submit amendments by Friday at noon so they could be reviewed over the weekend.

“We’re involved in an imperfect process,” Taylor said. “This is going to be our best effort to change the trajectory of education in Texas, and that’s all I can tell you — at this point, we’re about halfway through the process.”

The last day of session is May 27th.

Reporter’s Note: A previous edition of this article incorrectly indicated State Sen. Beverly Powell lives in Dallas. She lives in Forth Worth.

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