In a stunning move, House Speaker Joe Straus is trying to change the school finance system without input from educators or citizens.
Just before the Texas House adjourned on Monday, Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood) moved to suspend the rules to allow him to hold a hearing on Tuesday on a major school finance bill that he filed less than two hours earlier.
Conservative House members rallied to object to the hearing, arguing less than 24-hours notice would mean that constituents would be unable to attend the hearing to testify. House Speaker Joe Straus quickly adjourned before members could reconsider the motion.
The bill, HB 21, was filed at 12:13pm and referred to the House Public Education Committee at 2:11pm. The hearing is scheduled for 12:00pm on Tuesday.
As a result of the rush and such short notice, many school officials will be unable to testify on the bill.
“I had to run back to my office to tell my superintendents about the hearing,” said State Rep. Briscoe Cain, (R–Deer Park). “It’s not acceptable that lobbyists are given an opportunity to testify on a bill before everyday Texans have a chance to read it.”
A quick reading of the bill shows that parents and educators should be concerned.
Huberty’s bill would repeal language that bans school districts from charging students in order to ride the bus to and from school as well as make major edits to the existing school funding formula.
The actions by Huberty and House leadership appear designed to diminish the opportunities for citizens to be involved in the process—opportunities that are supposed to be safeguarded in the rules of the House that guarantee five-days notice of a hearing.
With little time to prepare, testimony in the hearing is guaranteed to be dominated by Austin insiders and lobbyists.