Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

ATPE 2023 Legislative Wrap-Up

ATPE entered the 88th session of the Texas Legislature in January 2023 with five priorities: increasing educator pay, defeating vouchers, enhancing educator recruitment and retention, improving school safety, and providing a cost-of-living adjustment for Teacher Retirement System (TRS) retirees. 

Educator pay and defeating vouchers—arguably our top two priorities—were inexorably linked even before the regular session began and continued to be linked all the way through to sine die (the last day of the session). We’ll begin this wrap-up by looking at the effort to pass vouchers this session and how we ultimately defeated that effort. Then, we’ll look at the impact of vouchers on efforts to increase educator pay. Related to that, we’ll also look at efforts to enhance educator recruitment and retention, including attempts to improve working conditions.  

The fight against vouchers

Legislative Priority: Keeping public schools public 

ATPE opposes any voucher, tax credit, scholarship, or other program to fund private or home schools using taxpayer resources that public schools need to serve all students. 

Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who had before only flirted with the issue of vouchers, campaigned heavily on “school choice” in the 2022 general election. At the start of the session, he made “educational freedom” an emergency item in his State of the State address, which meant it was an item the Legislature could act on immediately, without following the normal procedural timeline. As the session continued, Abbott launched a school choice tour, with stops at private schools in areas of the state represented by legislators who had opposed past efforts at school privatization. Abbott also held a sparsely attended Capitol rally March 21, days before a Senate hearing on what was perhaps the biggest and most talked about voucher bill of the session, Senate Bill (SB) 8.  

SB 8 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe) was the Senate’s priority voucher legislation. The bill was dubbed a “Parent Bill of Rights” and had provisions for parental grievances, review of instructional materials, and creation of an online parent portal to view instructional material. The voucher portion of the bill would have created an education savings account (ESA) funded at $8,000 per student that “education assistance organizations” would spend on behalf of program participants to pay for private school tuition, tutors, and other education-related expenses. In an effort to win the votes of rural Republican legislators who have traditionally opposed vouchers due to the financial drain they would cause on their communities, the bill as filed also contained a $10,000 stipend for those schools with fewer than 20,000 students that lost students under the program. That provision was removed in later iterations of SB 8. The bill was passed by the Senate in early April, with Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville) and all Senate Democrats opposing it. SB 8 then stalled in the House Public Education (HPE) Committee.  

While the Senate majority seemed eager to pass a voucher, the House remained resistant. During the April 6 House budget debate, Rep. Abel Herrero (D–Robstown) offered an anti-voucher amendment similar to those offered in the past several sessions. The amendment known as the Herrero Amendment specifically prohibits the use of state funding for vouchers. The House has passed it with bipartisan support every session in which it has been offered. This year, however, voucher proponents in the House attempted a new tactic to keep the amendment from passing. House Public Education Committee Chairman Brad Buckley (R–Salado) asked for the amendment to be tabled. Despite the budget process having no impact on what bills can be heard in committee, Buckley argued the HPE Committee would be taking up several voucher bills the following week and that those bills deserved the chance to be heard by the public. The motion to table was defeated, and though Buckley also spoke against the amendment, it ultimately passed 86-52. Although the Herrero amendment was, as expected, stripped out of the budget by the Senate, it did send a signal that the House remained unwilling to pass a voucher.  

In early May, Buckley attempted to revive SB 8 with a late-night meeting to push a secretly rewritten version of the bill through the HPE committee without a public hearing or testimony. This iteration of the bill had grown to over 80 pages, which committee members had little time to review, and it included a complete overhaul of the state’s standardized testing and accountability system. The unscheduled meeting to vote on the bill would require approval of the full House, typically a formality. As Buckley went to the mic to request the rules be suspended to allow the committee to meet and act swiftly on the unvetted legislation, Rep. Ernest Bailes (R–Shepherd) objected to the motion in a dramatic speech on the House floor in which he forcefully denounced “backroom, shady dealings” aimed at sneaking a voucher through the chamber. Buckley’s motion was voted down, and the committee was not allowed to meet that night. 

The committee met in a posted public hearing the following Monday, limiting testimony only to invited witnesses. However, as the committee prepared for the hearing over the weekend, the governor put out a statement that said he would veto SB 8 if it reached his desk because he believed the voucher in the House version did not go far enough and should be universal. As a result, Buckley never called a vote on the bill, and SB 8 as a standalone bill died in committee. Died in House committee   

Another bill, House Bill (HB) 100 by Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian), was hijacked late in the session by voucher promoters in the Senate. The bill’s original version dealt with school funding and teacher pay. It did not include a voucher until the Senate added one during the last week of the session, hoping to tie funding, teacher pay, and vouchers together. The ESA voucher planted by the Senate in HB 100 was very similar to the universal voucher originally filed in SB 8. The bill died over the weekend after the Senate refused to remove the ESA during conference committee negotiations. Died in conference committee  

Other voucher bills heard in committee during the regular session included:  

  • SB 176 by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston), which would have created a universal ESA program allowing all families, including those currently attending private or home school, to qualify for the voucher. This bill was preferred by private and home school families over the more high-profile SB 8, which was limited to only those students entering K-12 education for the first time or students who were currently enrolled in public schools. Ultimately, SB 8 was the bill that moved forward, and SB 176 was left pending in committee. Its companion in the House, HB 4807 by Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian), was also left pending in committee. Died in committee 
  • HB 4340 by Rep. James Frank (R–Wichita Falls), the most high-profile of the House ESA bills. This bill was structured similarly to SB 8 and would have established an ESA voucher for students entering school age or who had been previously enrolled in public schools. ATPE had multiple members who testified against the bill, including State President Stacey Ward, State Vice President Jayne Serna, and Region 13 Director Stephanie Stoebe, as well as Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter. The bill, along with all other House ESA bills, was left pending in committee. Died in committee 
  • HB 619 by Rep. Matt Shaheen (R–Plano), which would have given tax credits to individuals or corporations that contribute to private school scholarships. Like the other voucher bills, ATPE opposed HB 619, and this bill was left pending in committee. Died in committee 
  • HB 3781 by Rep. Jacey Jetton (R–Richmond), which would have adjusted the special education allotment for public schools, created a grant program for special needs students dealing with pandemic-related learning losses, reimbursed districts for the additional TRS costs of hiring retired teachers to teach special education, and created an ESA for special needs students. The bill contained many provisions recommended by the Texas Commission on Special Education Funding, but ATPE opposed it because of the ESA voucher provision, and the bill was left pending in committee. Died in committee 

Ultimately, no voucher bill passed during the 88th regular session (88-R). Abbott and Lt. Gov Dan Patrick (R), however, have vowed to hold as many special sessions as it takes to pass vouchers. During a June press conference, Abbott said he intends to again try to tie school funding, teacher pay, and vouchers together in a single bill. 

Abbott has staked much of his political capital on passing school vouchers, but it is unclear that he has moved the needle much in the House. Will a special session change that? If the special session on school choice rumored for September materializes, we are likely to find out.

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Improving the education profession

Legislative Priorities: 

Staffing & compensation:  

ATPE supports measures to ensure schools have appropriate staffing levels to meet all students’ needs, along with the resources to guarantee all school staff are adequately paid and have access to affordable health care and retirement benefits. 

Educator recruitment & retention:  

ATPE supports comprehensive strategies to make the education profession more attractive and rewarding in order to improve educator recruitment, retention, and job satisfaction. 

  • The Legislature should enact measures to support and improve educators’ mental health, including providing adequate leave time and ensuring workloads are reasonable. 
  • The state should increase compensation to reflect the professionalism and training required of Texas educators. 
  • Legislation and local policies should respect educators’ professionalism and autonomy and promote collaboration among school employees, parents, school boards, and other elected officials. 
  • Educator preparation laws should maintain high standards for entrance to the profession and hold providers accountable for high-quality training and ongoing support of their certification candidates. 

We entered the 88th regular legislative session with a $33 billion budget surplus and teacher staffing crisis. From an objective perspective, it seemed logical that increasing teacher pay would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, politics is rarely objective or logical, and the actions taken (or not taken) to support Texas educators, especially in terms of pay, were no different. Despite teachers, administrators, school board members, parents, and other pro-education advocates all calling for increased funding for teachers, legislators in neither chamber granted a single hearing on legislation that would have provided a meaningful, ongoing pay raise for the majority of educators. The Senate tied the few bills with a modest pay raise to the passage of voucher legislation, knowingly dooming any possibility of raising teacher pay.  

The Teacher Vacancy Task Force released its final report at the end of February, after a year of work. The task force’s primary recommendations included increasing teacher salaries by increasing the Basic Allotment, revising the minimum salary schedule, and expanding the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA). The task force also recommended expanding pathways to certification, such as residencies, and expanding mentorship programs. Although many bills were filed to address these recommendations, none made it across the finish line. Regarding teacher time, there was a push to limit time spent lesson planning by providing state-approved, prepackaged lesson materials. Legislators also looked to lowering standards for teachers and counselors as a potential solution to shortages.  

While legislators filed several bills that would have resulted in a compensation increase for educators, the two bills that made it the furthest were HB 100 by Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian) and SB 9 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe).  

  • As originally filed, HB 100 would have changed most of the funding formulas from attendance- to enrollment-based. It also would have created a three-tier minimum salary schedule with increases at years 5 and 10. The three-tier structure was meant to deliver larger step increases than the 20 steps currently in statute and would have given raises to approximately 70,000 teachers, or one-fifth of the total teacher population. However, placing the final mandatory increase at year 10 could have resulted in veteran teachers not seeing any further pay increases. HB 100 passed the House and was held by the Senate until the last week of the regular session. The Senate then added an ESA voucher to the bill and quickly passed it through the chamber. K. King killed the bill in conference committee after the Senate would not budge on removing the ESA provision. Died in conference committee 
  • SB 9 was billed as a “Teacher Bill of Rights.” Technically, the bill did not contain a pay raise but rather a temporary one-year increase of $2,000 for most certified teachers. The increase would have excluded other educators such as librarians, counselors, and nurses. The bill was also aimed at ensuring new teachers have proper training and support and creating a residency program as a potential certification pathway for them. It would have expanded TIA by adding a new category and expanded prekindergarten programs to make teachers’ children eligible for pre-K. Although the bill did contain some modestly helpful provisions, ATPE opposed SB 9 because the teacher pay increase was insultingly low and would have expired after one year, potentially leaving districts forced to cut salaries the following year or scrambling to make up the difference. Additionally, ATPE felt that the bill did little to address the actual working conditions it purported to fix and that the money would be better used to ensure appropriate staffing. The bill passed the Senate in April, along with the so-called “Parent Bill of Rights,” SB 8, but it died in the regular session’s final week due to political wrangling. Died on the House floor 

Other bills aimed at recruitment and retention issues included efforts to expand TIA and mentorship programs, plans to reduce the amount of time teachers spent planning through the introduction of an “optional” canned state curriculum, and legislation to lower the certification requirements for certain groups of new educators.  

Educator recruitment and retention: 

  • HB 11 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D–Houston) was designed to attract teachers to the field and retain them by expanding certification and training options, as well as offering bonus pay to teachers through expansion of the TIA. ATPE was neutral on the bill and believed that while it had some good provisions, it was too expensive. ATPE argued the money could be better spent giving teachers real pay raises and increasing the minimum salary schedule. The bill ultimately died in the Senate Education Committee, which never held a hearing on it. Died in committee 


  • HB 1605 by Rep. Brad Buckley (R–Salado) was the chairman’s signature bill this session outside of voucher legislation. The bill was intended, ostensibly, to lighten the workload of teachers, especially new teachers, by financially incentivizing districts to adopt an off-the-shelf curriculum purchased by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and approved by the State Board of Education (SBOE). Although the legislation specifies the curriculum is optional for districts, its use is heavily incentivized through an allotment given to districts that adopt it. ATPE voiced concerns the bill would stifle teacher creativity by forcing them to teach from a canned curriculum or face losing liability protections. The bill did ultimately pass and was signed by the governor June 12. Passed and signed by governor 

Certification requirements: 

  • HB 621 by Rep. Matt Shaheen (R–Plano) allows veterans to obtain a temporary five-year teaching certificate, subbing their leadership or training experience for the required training teachers in an educator preparation program (EPP) receive. ATPE took a neutral position on the bill, working with the author to ensure the military veterans taking advantage of the bill would only receive a temporary certification and would need to complete an EPP to obtain full certification. As the bill worked its way through the chambers, first responders were added to the bill. HB 621 was also changed to require at least 20 hours of training before these candidates enter the classroom and to restrict their placement to only career and technical education (CTE). Ultimately, the bill passed both chambers and was signed by the governor June 13. Passed and signed by governor 
  • HB 2729 by Rep. Cody Harris (R–Palestine) changes the requirements for educators who teach prekindergarten. As originally filed, it would have allowed a pre-k teacher in a public school to teach without a bachelor’s degree. ATPE testified against lowering the standards for pre-k teachers, arguing that the early childhood years are critical in a child’s development. ATPE also worked with stakeholders to suggest improvements to the bill, including structuring the bill similarly to HB 621, allowing for only a temporary certificate while working toward full certification. The final version of the bill does require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, as well as additional supervision or certification requirements. The bill passed both chambers and was signed by the governor June 13. Passed and signed by governor 


  • HB 890 by Rep. Keith Bell (R–Forney) was, as originally filed, an ATPE-supported bill that would have set a 120-day timeline for the grievance process in a public school, more clearly spelling out the process for both the school and the parent filing the complaint. Once the bill reached the Senate, however, it was drastically changed, adding provisions of several other bills, and more than tripling in length. The bill’s content was altered to include the parental rights provisions from SB 8, prohibitions on vaccine mandates, and provisions from several other bills that would have restricted classroom discussions concerning gender identity and sexuality. The bill passed the Senate as amended but died on the House floor. Died on the House floor 
  • HB 3315 by Rep. Keith Bell (R–Forney) was another bill aimed at establishing clear grievance procedures and timelines. ATPE did not support this legislation in the House but did support it once it reached the Senate. However, HB 3315 never made it out of the Senate Education Committee. During the final weekend of the regular session, the bill was added into SB 9 on the House floor in an effort to keep its provisions alive, but SB 9 was ultimately postponed, and the bill died. Died in committee/on the House floor 

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Keeping students and educators safe

Legislative Priority: School safety 

ATPE urges the state to prioritize the health and safety of the school community through funding and resources to increase students’ access to mental health professionals and nurses, modernize and secure school facilities, and improve coordination and preparedness of school staff and other first responders to identify and address crises. 

HB 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) was one of two main safety bills to come out of the House. Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville) ultimately merged portions of HB 3 with HB 13 by Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian) and his own SB 11, incorporating recommendations from ATPE to improve all three. As originally filed, HB 3 would have required each public school campus to employ an armed guard. It also would have allowed the agency to establish an office of school safety and security and provide technical assistance to school districts, as well as allowed the commissioner to take over school districts that do not comply with school safety requirements.  

The final version of HB 3 negotiated in conference committee includes the provision requiring an armed officer at every campus, but it gives districts that cannot meet that standard other options to comply with the law. Instead of allowing the commissioner to completely take over districts not in compliance with safety requirements, the final version of HB 3 incorporates ATPE-recommended language that allows the agency to appoint a conservator whose authority is limited to helping districts achieve compliance. The bill includes $1.3 billion in school safety funding, as well as a provision taken from HB 13 to require mental health training for district employees. The bill passed in the final weekend of the regular session and was signed by the governor June 14. Passed and signed by governor   

HB 13 as originally filed would have required each district employee who regularly interacts with students to complete mental health first aid training, with the hope of increasing awareness of student behavior that should cause alarm. ATPE submitted testimony urging legislators to provide educators with a stipend for any additional training required and allow schools more flexibility regarding the training vendor. HB 13 passed through the House, but the Senate Education Committee never considered the bill. Died in committee; portions incorporated into HB 3 

SB 11 as originally filed contained funding for school safety and security, redefined truancy, and allowed education service centers (ESCs) to act as school safety resources. ATPE provided neutral testimony on SB 11, expressing concern about the potential expansion of power of the TEA commissioner under the bill. After passing through the Senate and the House Public Education Committee, the bill was killed on the House floor. Died on the House floor; portions incorporated into HB 3 


This session saw a lot of movement toward banning the use of restraints on students. Although no one wants to have to restrain a student, special education advocates and teacher groups pointed out that restraints are sometimes necessary when a student is a danger to themselves or others.  

  • As originally filed, HB 459 by Rep. Lacey Hull (R–Houston) would have prohibited the use of physical restraints (such as handcuffs) or chemical irritants on students 10 and younger by a school peace officer. When the bill reached the House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety, however, there was discussion about potentially adding language from another bill that would have banned the use of prone and supine restraints. ATPE opposed the addition of this language because educators, especially those in special education who are specifically trained to do so, sometimes need to use these restraints as a last resort when working with students. ATPE testified neutrally on the bill, asking the author to keep the original language. HB 459 was ultimately voted favorably out of committee with language that banned “full body immobilization” but didn’t clearly define that term. However, the bill never made it off the House floor. Died on the House floor 
  • SB 133 by Sen. Royce West (D–Dallas) was a similar bill that, like the original version of HB 459, banned the use of physical restraints, chemical irritants, or tasers on children 10 or younger. This bill was ultimately considered in the House in place of HB 459 and passed both chambers. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed it into law June 18. Passed and signed by governor 


School counselors play a vital role in the school community and have many duties beyond the actual counseling of students. This session two primary bills were filed by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston) to lower the certification requirements to become a school counselor. ATPE supports providing additional staff to support student mental health, but the association opposes efforts to lower certification requirements.  

  • SB 798 by Middleton changes the law to state that a school counselor may no longer be required to have classroom teaching experience. ATPE opposed this bill, defending the requirement that counselors have classroom teaching experience. Ultimately, the bill passed both chambers, was signed by the governor, and will go into effect Sept. 1. Passed and signed by governor 
  • SB 763 by Middleton allows chaplains to be employed by public schools, potentially even replacing school counselors. This was a highly controversial bill, and ATPE opposed it and its companion, HB 3614, because counselors should continue to be highly trained, experienced professionals. Counselors not only provide mental health services for students but also academic and post-secondary advisement. They also frequently manage school master schedules and student schedules and are also often in charge of testing for the school. Under the bill, chaplains would not be required to take any additional training to be placed in a school and would not be qualified to provide the many other services that school counselors provide. During debate on the House floor, when asked directly if chaplains would replace school counselors, the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Cole Hefner (R–Mount Pleasant) said he trusted local school districts to make those decisions. The bill did ultimately pass both chambers and was signed by Abbott June 18. Passed and signed by governor 

Confidential reporting: 

School safety and parental rights were both huge issues coming into the regular session. Both issues showed up in discussions of how to handle the confidentiality of mandatory reporting – sometimes with conflicting results.  

  • SB 1720 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) ensures that an educator who reports a threat may elect to do so confidentially. The purpose of the provision is to encourage the reporting of threats without subjecting the reporter to potential repercussions that might decrease their likelihood to report. ATPE testified in support of the bill, which was ultimately passed into law. Passed and signed by governor 
  • HB 63 by Rep. Valoree Swanson (R–Spring) requires those reporting cases of suspected child abuse, including educators who are mandatory reporters, to provide their name, telephone number, and home or business address. Under the bill, individuals using the state’s toll-free telephone number for reporting suspected child abuse who refuse to provide this information must now be told that their report cannot be accepted, and they will be redirected to contact local law enforcement. ATPE testified against the bill because it was likely to discourage reporting, but the bill passed despite these concerns. Passed and signed by governor 

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Protecting educators’ futures

Legislative Priority: Retirement & financial security 

ATPE encourages the Legislature to dedicate existing state revenue to providing an immediate cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for all current TRS retirees and to explore solutions for providing guaranteed COLAs for future retirees.  

Retired educators had much success this session. Contingent on voter approval this November, retirees are set to receive their first COLA in 20 years in January of 2024. In the meantime, many retirees will receive a one-time stipend this September. 

SB 10 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston) was the priority TRS legislation this session. Under this bill, retirees aged 70–74 will receive a one-time stipend of $2,400, while retirees aged 75 and over will receive $7,500. These stipends are expected to be paid in September 2023.  

Additionally, if the constitutional amendment provided for under House Joint Resolution (HJR) 2 by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–Friendswood) is passed by voters this November, retirees will receive a COLA in an amount based on their date of retirement: 

  • Those who retired between Sept. 1, 2013, and Aug. 31, 2020: 2% COLA. 
  • Those who retired between Sept. 1, 2001, and Aug. 31, 2013, 4% COLA. 
  • Those who retired on or before Aug. 31, 2001: 6% COLA. 

SB 10 was signed by the governor June 13. Passed and signed by governor   

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Additional public education bills


This year, passing the budget should have been relatively easy. After all, the state had a $32.7 billion surplus. Legislators should have had broad latitude to significantly address many pressing needs. Unfortunately, this largely did not come to fruition, especially in the area of public education, and many were left frustrated.  

HB 1 by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–Friendswood) is the state’s budget for this biennium, constitutionally the only bill the Legislature is legally required to pass. This budget, despite the historic surplus, does little to help school districts deal with record inflation and declining enrollment. The budget contained approximately $4 billion for school funding and teacher pay, but the funding was contingent on passage of HB 100. As returned from the Senate, HB 100 contained a voucher provision—a poison pill that forced the bill’s author, Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian), to kill the bill. This means the budget does not have a Basic Allotment increase, nor does it include teacher pay raises. There is $23.9 billion appropriated to the Foundation School Program (FSP) for 2024 and $24.7 billion in 2025. This represents a total decrease in the FSP of $3 billion and a per-student decrease of $232 as compared with the 2022/23 budget. There is also school safety funding tied to HB 3, the House’s major school safety legislation, which would give each campus $15,000 along with a $10 allotment per student. The comptroller certified the budget June 7, and it was signed by the governor June 18. Passed and signed by governor 

SB 30 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston), the supplemental appropriations bill, includes $1.1 billion for school safety grants. It contains no other major funding provisions for public schools. It was signed by the governor June 9 and is effective immediately. Passed and signed by governor 


  • HB 4402 by Rep. Keith Bell (R–Forney) would have reformed the STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) testing process and the A-F accountability system. It also would have provided an extracurricular and cocurricular allotment. The bill would have changed the STAAR test from a once-yearly exam to a through-year test taken at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. HB 4402 also would have added new indicators for the A-F accountability system. The bill passed the House and was referred to Senate Education but never taken up. Died in Senate Education Committee 
  • HB 4514 by Rep. Steve Allison (R–San Antonio) would have removed the social studies test in grade 8 and changed the indicators used to provide an A-F rating of districts. Instead of an overall rating, campuses and districts would have been evaluated and given a rating for each discrete indicator. ATPE supported the bill, but it never made it out of the House Public Education Committee. Died in House Public Education Committee 
  • HB 1225 by Rep. Will Metcalf (R–Conroe) allows parents to request paper administration of the STAAR test for their child. Spring 2023 was the first fully online administration of the STAAR test, with a 1% cap on the number of students who could receive a waiver to take a paper test. This bill was supported by ATPE. Passed and signed by governor 
  • HB 1416 by Rep. Keith Bell (R–Forney) was a much-anticipated and much-needed bill this session as it sought to alleviate some of the unintended consequences of HB 4545 passed by the 87th Legislature in 2021. HB 4545 required 30 hours of accelerated instruction for each STAAR exam a student failed to pass. HB 1416 lowers that hourly requirement and allows districts to use computerized instruction to meet the law’s requirements. ATPE supported this bill as a way to help improve working conditions for educators. The bill was signed by the governor June 9. Passed and signed by governor 
  • HB 2808 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R–New Boston) was a bill meant to keep TEA from revising a district’s A-F rating once it had been released by the agency. The bill passed the House but was never heard by the Senate Education Committee. Died in the Senate Education Committee 

Charter schools: 

The 88th Legislature saw efforts to expand the approval, power, and scope of charter schools while minimizing the power of the State Board of Education (SBOE) to veto new charter applications.  

  • HB 2890 by Rep. Charles Cunningham (R–Kingwood) would have changed the charter school veto threshold to make it harder for the SBOE to reject charter applications put forth by the commissioner. The current veto threshold is a simple majority of members present. HB 2890 would have changed the threshold to two-thirds of the board, or 10 votes, regardless of the number of members present. As the only point in the lifecycle of a charter school chain where elected officials have a direct say over the process, the SBOE’s veto power is a critical oversight tool. Once the board approves a charter application, the commissioner can unilaterally approve requests by the charter chain to expand throughout the state without returning to the SBOE for more approval. The bill made it through the House Public Education Committee but died after failing to meet procedural deadlines. Died in the House 
  • HB 1572 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D–Houston) would have provided facilities funding for charter schools, building on HB 21 from the 85th Legislature in 2017, which provided $60 million annually in charter facilities funding. The charter facilities funding contemplated by HB 1572 would not have been subject to voter approval, as ISD bonds are, and could have been spent to pay for rent of property privately owned by charter management organizations (CMOs). Under this scenario, taxpayer dollars could have been used to pay for property that would stay in the hands of private entities or persons associated with the charter even if the charter closed. ATPE opposed this bill, and it ultimately died, never reaching the House floor after making it out of the House Public Education Committee. Died in the House 

Virtual schools: 

Following the pandemic-forced school closures of 2020, many legislators expressed serious concerns over the impact and effectiveness of virtual education. Despite this, the 87th Legislature passed SB 15 during the second special session of 2021, providing for a limited expansion of virtual programs. However, the bill contained a sunset provision of Sept. 1, 2023. During the 2021–22 interim, the Texas Commission on Virtual Education met and produced a report calling for a more permanent expansion of virtual education. Although several bills were filed during the 88th Legislature’s regular session to expand virtual schools, none reached the governor’s desk.   

  • HB 3141 by Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian) would have expanded full-time virtual schools while also granting them average daily attendance (ADA) funding. ATPE opposed the bill, noting the high number of failures among the programs currently available in Texas and urging caution in expanding such programs. The ATPE Legislative Program opposes the use of public funds for for-profit virtual schools. The bill made it out of the House Public Education Committee but did not reach the floor of the House. Died in the House  
  • It was ultimately HB 3141’s companion, SB 1861 by Sen Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), that got the farthest in the process, dying on the final weekend of session when postponed by K. King on the House floor. Died in the House 
  • SB 1068 by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston) would have ended Texas’s current moratorium on full-time virtual schools and allowed districts to pay a one-time fee to TEA to establish a full-time virtual program. Current Texas law restricts virtual schools to those operating as of 2013. ATPE opposed this bill due to the dubious success and track record of virtual schools in Texas. The bill passed a Senate committee but was never brought to the floor of the Senate. Died in the Senate 

On June 12, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a directive to TEA to waive requirements for school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to offer virtual options through the Texas Virtual School Network (TVSN) until more permanent legislative solutions could be made by the 89th Legislature in 2025. This directive will allow districts and charters that provide this option to students to receive full funding for each student in grades 3-12 who enrolls in the program.  

Religion in schools: 

There was a strong push this session to insert more religion into the classroom. Proponents of this effort touted it as “expanding religious freedom,” but critics were concerned that people of all faiths were not being included or considered in these efforts and that their religious liberties were being violated.  

  • SB 1515 by Sen. Phil King (R–Weatherford) was a bill that would have required the posting of the Ten Commandments in every classroom. ATPE opposed the bill on the grounds that it could conflict with the personal religious freedoms of staff and students. This bill was controversial and received a lot of media attention and concern. The bill died on the House floor due to a procedural deadline. It was filed again by the Senate in the first special session (as SB 9), but it was outside the scope of the governor’s call, and the House adjourned sine die without passing it. Died on the House floor 
  • SB 763 by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston) allows public schools to employ chaplains, in some cases replacing trained public school counselors. ATPE opposed this bill due to the high level of training and experience required of counselors, including a master’s degree and two years of classroom teaching experience. During debate on the House floor, Rep. James Talarico (D–Round Rock) asked the House bill sponsor, Rep. Cole Hefner (R–Mount Pleasant), whether the intent was to have chaplains replace school counselors. Hefner replied that he trusted school districts to make those decisions locally. The bill was signed by the governor June 18. Passed and signed by governor 


Books and library materials were a hot topic in the 2022 interim, with a sharp increase in materials being debated, challenged, and removed from school libraries. There was a concerted effort to publicize explicit material found in a few controversial books in some public school libraries. This set the stage for legislation this session addressing the content of library materials.  

HB 900, otherwise known as the READER (Restricting Explicit and Adult Designated Educational Resources) Act, by Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) seeks to rate library content that may be inappropriate as “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant.” Sexually explicit materials would be removed from libraries, while sexually relevant material would be put into a separate section of the library and require parental consent for students to check out. The burden of rating the content falls on library material vendors. The House passed the bill after some controversy, including a notable exchange during a House Public Education Committee hearing in which Rep. James Talarico (D–Round Rock) pointed out that classic works of literature such as Lonesome Dove could potentially be banned under this rating system. The READER Act passed both chambers, was signed by the governor May 12, and was effective immediately. Passed and signed by the governor 


This session, bills filed regarding the University Interscholastic League (UIL) mostly dealt with expanding access. The 87th Legislature in 2021 allowed homeschoolers to participate in UIL activities at the campuses to which they were zoned. The 88th Legislature saw proposals to clarify that law, as well as efforts to open up transfers for UIL activities. There was criticism from coaches and officials that this would lead to athlete recruitment and system inequality.  

  • HB 699 by Rep. James Frank (R–Wichita Falls) is a clean-up bill for the 87th session’s HB 547, which allows homeschool students to take part in UIL activities at the school they are zoned to. HB 699 clarifies that UIL may not use a different formula for determining a school’s UIL classification based on whether the school allows home-school student participation. The bill was signed by the governor June 10 and effective immediately. Passed and signed by the governor 
  • HB 4460 by Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D–San Antonio) would have allowed inter-district transfers for athletic purposes. The bill was inspired by the story of the San Marcos High School football team, which was suspended following allegations of recruiting. ATPE opposed the bill on the grounds that it would potentially create inequity and make it possible for top schools to recruit athletes, leaving shortages at other schools. The bill was left pending in the House Public Education Committee. Died in the House Public Education Committee 

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Of historic note

The 88th Legislature took two actions of historic note following reports from the House General Investigating Committee chaired by Rep. Andrew Murr (R–Junction). On May 9, the House expelled Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) following allegations of inappropriate behavior with a young staffer. The vote to expel was unanimous and resulted in the House’s first expulsion in nearly 100 years. 

On May 27, the House impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) following a three-month investigation by the House General Investigating Committee into his request for the State of Texas to pay a $3.3 million settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit filed against him by several of Paxton’s former employees. The next step is a trial in the Senate scheduled to begin Sept. 5. Paxton is the first state-level official impeached since 1975. 

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