Chapter 41 district list reaches all-time high
You may have noticed the Texas School Coalition in the news this week. When the Texas Education Agency posted the new list of districts eligible under Chapter 41, we issued a press release pointing out that the number of districts considered “property wealthy” has reached an all-time high, including quite a few districts who have never had that designation before. That press release can be found here. To date, 27 news media outlets throughout the state have provided coverage on this story.
Chronology of Robin Hood Payments Map
This week, the Texas Association of Business Officials (TASBO) published a map showcasing the chronology of Robin Hood payments in Texas. In less than a minute, you can see the location of school districts across Texas color coded according the amounts of their Robin Hood payments from 1993 until present day. We appreciate our friends at TASBO making this information available. Click here to view.
TEA Legislative Appropriations Request
The 2014-15 Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for the Texas Education Agency was discussed during a hearing before the Legislative Budget Board and legislative staff this week.  This LAR will serve as the starting point for the appropriations process for the upcoming legislative session.
The baseline contemplated in the agency’s request includes current spending and anticipates enrollment growth, but it does not recommend restoration of the cuts made during the previous legislative session, such as the cuts made to Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR). Additionally, TEA did not request that the delayed August Foundation School Program payment be moved back to August from September. 
There were exceptional items requested in the Agency’s LAR, which were justified by the statutory requirement that Texas rank among the top ten states for college readiness. Aside from the $220 million requested for instructional materials, these exceptional items would primarily fund agency operations such as implementation of the new accountability system.
It should be noted that TEA’s request was developed primarily under the leadership of former Commissioner Robert Scott. While Commissioner Williams was not in attendance at the hearing this week, his staff stated that while the Commissioner was involved in the preparation of the request, he reserved the right to make adjustments as he learns more about agency operations and the state’s educational system as a whole.
You can view the complete TEA LAR here.


Senate Education hearing on extended learning
The Senate Education Committee conducted a hearing on Thursday, September 13, to review their interim charge dealing with the impact of extended learning time on school success, including longer school days, extra days in the school year, including Saturdays, and after school programs. 
The committee heard both invited and public testimony about the positive effects in several school districts where grants are funding extended learning time for students. The senators showed interest in what they saw as a relatively low cost for the dramatic results as well as pursuing flexibility in laws to allow more schools to utilize innovative extended learning time programs.
For more information, including audio archives and handouts from the September 13 hearing, visit the committee website by clicking here.
House Ways & Means hearing on Chapter 313
The House Ways and Means Committee met this week and discussed Chapter 313 tax abatements, which are set to expire in 2014 if the legislature does not take action.
Proponents of Chapter 313 agreements said that allowing the agreements to expire would have negative consequences on the state’s ability to attract new business capital. Using the agreements to attract Toyota to San Antonio and wind farms to West Texas were cited as examples of how the agreements have benefitted state and local economies. 
The Wind Coalition pointed out that given the competition among states, Chapter 313 agreement program was a huge factor in the reason why the size of the Texas wind industry is so large compared to other states in the nation.
However, the widespread use of the agreements to attract wind farms was the primary source of criticism of the agreements, as opponents argued that wind power projects do not create enough jobs to justify the agreements. Almost two-thirds of Chapter 313 agreements were used for wind farms, rather than manufacturing projects which are said to create significantly more jobs.
Dick Lavine of the Center for Public Policy Priorities recommended bringing Chapter 313 supplemental payments to school districts inside the finance formulas to preserve equity among districts. Levine also suggested that future Chapter 313 agreements be between the state and companies, rather than between school districts and companies.
To view more information about the September 13 hearing, including broadcast archive, visit the committee website here.
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