AUSTIN (KXAN) – State and school leaders from across Texas speak with KXAN Investigative Reporter Kelly Wiley and Education Reporter Nabil Remadna about some of the most important challenges facing our schools: from the governor’s push for Education Savings Accounts to school safety in the wake of the Robb Elementary School mass shooting.

The panel includes veteran Del Valle ISD teacher Cristela Rocha, rural Rockdale ISD principal Cheyenne Miller, Pflugerville ISD Superintendent Dr. Douglas Killian, Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Mandy Drogin, and from the Capital: Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin; Rep. Gary VanDeaver, R- New Boston; and Rep. Brian Harrison, R-Waxahachie.

School Funding

The Great Resignation was perhaps felt hardest by schools across the country, and Texas was no different. Since the pandemic, an unprecedented number of Texas educators left the profession, according to Texas Education Agency data.

Nearly 93,000 classroom teachers left the profession in that time frame, some retiring early and many quitting to pursue different career fields, TEA data showed. The teacher shortage is expected to come up in another anticipated special session focused on education in October.

School Choice

Education Savings Accounts. School vouchers. School choice. The conversation around state dollars potentially going to private schools is one of the most divisive issues the Texas legislature is facing this year.

Gov. Greg Abbott and proponents say the program could give parents more control and low-income or high-need students the freedom to go wherever they want. But, Democrats and some Republicans argue the idea is unfair and will ultimately de-fund public schools.

School Safety

The mass shooting at Robb Elementary sparked action inside the Texas legislature – leading to hearings to figure out what happened and several bills to address gun violence on school campuses.

House Bill 3 became law on Sept. 1, mandating school districts place one armed officer at every public school and add new safety features to the physical building. The price tag of safety improvements has proved challenging for school districts.

Many school districts across the state and Central Texas have passed resolutions claiming an exemption in the bill for school boards who say lawmakers did not provide enough additional funding to make the required changes.

News Director Haley Cihock, News Producer Santos Gonzalez, Graphic Artist Wendy Gonzalez, Senior Science Reporter Eric Henrickson, Lead Editor Eric Lefenfeld, Investigative Photographer Chris Nelson, Education Reporter Nabil Remadna, Graphic Artist Christina Staggs, Executive Producer John Thomas, and Executive Producer Laney Valian contributed to this report.