House OKs $4.5 billion for teacher pay raises
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The Texas House last Thursday passed two education-related bills, one that allocates $4.5 billion for teacher pay raises and another to increase the annual per-student base funding from $6,160 to $6,300 – a 2.3% increase.
The Austin American-Statesman reported the bill would create minimum salaries for teachers ranging from $35,000 to $63,000 depending on experience and level of education. It would also increase funding for special education and fine arts.
Some education advocates worry the per-student funding is insufficient to keep up with inflation, which has grown by 17% in the last four years, the Statesman reported.
The bill also creates a method to adjust the per-student funding for inflation every other year, starting in 2025.
Voters may decide fate of broadband expansion
Voters could decide whether the state should invest $5 billion to expand internet availability if a bill passed last week by the Texas House makes it through the Senate. House Bill 9, sponsored by state Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, would create the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund, the Texas Tribune reported.
Nearly 7 million Texans do not have reliable broadband service, a fact hammered home during the pandemic, when connectivity often was crucial for schools and people trying to work from home. However, state Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in March that it would take closer to $10 billion to get all Texans connected.
The state is also expected to receive federal dollars for broadband expansion out of the infrastructure package passed by Congress in 2021, though it is unknown how much Texas will receive out of the $42.45 billion allocated for broadband expansion. The state will need to match one-fourth of whatever it receives from the federal government.
Bill calls for armed officers at all schools
A bill that would require school districts to place at least one armed officer on each campus has passed the Texas House, the Statesman reported. The measure comes almost a year after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in a mass shooting in Uvalde last May.
Any officer or school employee would have to complete handgun safety training. The measure also requires at least one audit for intruder detection each year in all districts. The state would provide at least $100 per student and $15,000 per campus to maintain and improve school safety.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, has filed several gun control measures in that chamber that have yet to receive a hearing. Gutierrez represents Uvalde and says more needs to be done besides the House measure.
“Let me be very clear: I’m for anything that’s going to make our schools safer,” Gutierrez said in the Statesman story. “But the three things that is going to really make our schools safer is extreme risk protective orders, you take guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, Florida did it, it worked; raising the age limit, take guns, AR-15’s out of (the hands of) 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, Florida did it, it worked; closing the gun show loophole and universal background checks.”