WEEK IN REVIEW
SENATE SEEKS TO HELP DISTRICTS DEAL WITH TEACHER LAYOFFS
(AUSTIN) — School districts and teachers would have more time to make layoff decisions under a bill approved by the Senate Wednesday. Current law gives teachers 15 days to appeal contract non-renewals after they receive notice from the district. Districts are required to send notices of non-renewal 45 days before the end of the school year, which will be mid-April for most districts. In order to give districts and teachers more time to see how the state budget picture develops, SB 912 would permit teachers up to 30 days to appeal contract non-renewals.
With budget and revenue estimates very fluid, districts will be forced to make decisions on layoffs before a final state budget emerges. Districts could learn that the money they expected to receive in April is different from what they get in the final state budget. They may have more money than they thought, meaning they can layoff fewer teachers. This means that some teachers who received notice of non-renewal in April because of expected revenues might not need to lose their jobs. By giving teachers an extra two weeks to appeal non-renewal, districts and teachers have more time to see how the final budget will end up.
Dallas Senator Royce West, one of the bill's authors, said it was vitally important that this bill pass the Legislature and get signed into law as soon as possible. "It's so important that we get this out and try to get this through the house and to the governor's desk by April, because in April they have to make those decisions," he said.
In committee action this week, the Senate Education Committee considered two bills Tuesday intended to give districts more flexibility to save money. SB 3, by Plano Senator and Committee Chair Florence Shapiro, seeks to reduce some state mandates put on local districts. "Texas will never reach its potential for education excellence until it both removes restrictions on local decision making power over resource allocation and gives districts some much-needed breathing room in controlling the operation of their individual schools," said Shaprio.
The bill would give districts more authority to make employment decisions, and would allow administrators to furlough district employees for up to seven non-instructional days. Districts could fire teachers that don't maintain certification standards, and they could also ignore minimum salary requirements for retired teachers that return to teach part-time. SB 3 would remove the 10 to 1 student to teacher ratio requirement for remedial education classes.
The Education Committee also considered SB 443, by Houston Senator Dan Patrick, which would change student/teacher ratio standards for all classes. It would repeal the current requirement of 22 to 1 student to teachers in class rooms, and permit larger classes, provided the district maintains an average ratio between all class rooms of 21 to 1. The bill, however, would not allow an individual class to exceed 24 students per teacher. Both bills remain pending before the committee.
Wednesday, the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee took testimony on a bill that would end tolls on certain roads. SB 363, by Bryan Senator Steve Ogden, would prohibit an entity from collecting tolls on a road after construction and acquisition costs have been paid off. It would also prohibit surplus revenue from toll roads from going toward new highway projects. This bill also remains before the committee.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, March 14 at 1:30 p.m.
Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.