Welcome to the Legislative Center! We invite and encourage you to become more familiar with the Texas Legislature and participate in the lawmaking process by contacting your elected state officials. The Legislative Center is an excellent vehicle to assist you in building relationships with lawmakers in order to gain support for HISD and school districts across Texas and the U.S. Please make your voice heard utilizing the resources below. Your input is critical and invaluable if we are to continue making progress in educating the leaders of tomorrow.
Things to know
86th Texas Legislative Session AgendaTexas Supreme Court Ruling on School Finance
The State of Texas has been tied up in school finance litigation seven times since the late 1980’s. On Friday, May 13, 2016, the Texas Supreme Court announced their ruling on the latest school finance case. 600 school districts, including Houston ISD, sued the state after the Legislature cut $5.4 billion out of public education in the 2011 legislative session. We were among many plaintiffs in this historic case.Ideas for Additional State Funding
When the Texas Legislature MeetsThe Texas Legislature convenes at the state capitol in Austin for regular session every odd-numbered year. The regular session lasts 140 days between January and June. The Governor may call the legislature into a special session to consider specific legislation. Special sessions can last up to 30 days. The 86th Texas Legislature will convene for its regular session on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019.How a Bill Becomes LawFor a detailed explanation on how a bill becomes law in the Texas, click hereHISD's Legislative Victories
- Full-day, high-quality Pre-K Programs.
- Special education services and support for children with distinct needs.
- More competitive teacher salaries and benefits, with incentives to work in the toughest schools.
- Equity supports and wraparound services for students living in poverty (including a nurse, counselor, librarian and social workers).
- Scaling successful college readiness programs like EMERGE statewide.
- Investing in local workforce demand through targeted CTE programs and vocational training for students.
- Literacy prep and interventions before third grade.
- Dual-language programs to more effectively address the increasing number of English Language Learners in Texas.
- Interventions for students who are multiple grade levels behind.
- Life skills courses to teach soft skills and other traits needed in the workforce.
HB 1842 and SB 1882
- Elevated discussion and public knowledge of school finance reform and addressing recapture, aka “Robin Hood”.
- Led the effort to pass dual credit legislation.
- Played role in drafting and passage of Governor Greg Abbott’s 2015 Pre-K priority legislation.
- Secured additional state and federal funding for expanded digital learning.
- Defeat of legislation that would harm school districts: Private school vouchers and unfunded mandates.
- In total, saved or secured approximately $250M in state and federal funds through recapture savings negotiations, Pre-K funding, defeat of Title I portability, and more.
HISD is working to transform underserved and underperforming schools through increased supports and centralized assistance under the district’s Achieve 180 Initiative. However, state law threatens severe consequences for long-struggling campuses.
Who’s who at the State Capitol
The GovernorThe Governor of Texas is currently Greg Abbott. The Governor is elected statewide to a four-year term. In addition to his or her executive duties, the Governor makes legislative recommendations to the Texas legislature and he is the final “vote” on all bills approved by the Senate and House. He or she may sign or vetoes bills, or simply allow a bill to go into law without his or her signature. Additionally, the Governor may call the Legislature into Special Session to consider legislation he or she deems a priority for the State of Texas.
The Lieutenant GovernorThe Lieutenant Governor of Texas is currently Dan Patrick. The Lieutenant Governor presides over the Senate and is elected statewide separately from the Governor to a four-year term. While the Lieutenant Governor is not a voting member of the Senate, many believe the position to be the most powerful elected official in Texas due to his or her constitutional powers to control Senate committee membership and determine which proposed legislation will be considered and ultimately sent to the Governor.
The Speaker of the HouseThe Speaker of the Texas House is currently Dennis Bonnen. The Speaker, who is one of the 150 members of the House of Representatives, presides over the House Chamber. He or she is elected to serve as Speaker by fellow members of the House. The Speaker of the House has significant control over the chamber, as he or she creates standing committees and appoints their memberships and determines whether certain bills should advance in the legislative process. Bonnen was elected Speaker of the House in January 2019.
The TEA CommissionerMike Morath was appointed Texas Commissioner of Education by Gov. Greg Abbott in December 2015, took office in January 2016 and was unanimously confirmed by the Texas Senate (85th Legislature) in March 2017. As Commissioner, he heads the Texas Education Agency, which oversees pre-kindergarten through high school education for more than five million students enrolled in both traditional public schools and charter schools.
Members of the Texas LegislatureThe Texas Legislature is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and 150-member House of Representatives. Members of the Senate are elected to staggered four-year terms, while members of the House are elected to two-year terms. Members of the Texas Legislature are not subject to term limits.Senate Education CommitteeSelect a Senator
Contact a Member of the Senate Education Committee
- *Chairman Larry Taylor: R-Friendswood
- *Vice-Chairman Eddie Lucio Jr.: D-Brownsville
- Angela Paxton: R-McKinney
- Beverly Powell: D-Burleson
- Bob Hall: R-Rockwall
- Bryan Hughes: R-Mineola
- Donna Campbell: R-New Braunfels
- Kirk Watson: D-Austin
- Pat Fallon: R-Prosper
- Paul Bettencourt: R-Houston
- Royce West: D-Dallas
House Public Education CommitteeSelect a Representative
Contact a Member of the House Public Education Committee
- *Chairman Dan Huberty: R-Kingwood
- *Vice Chairman Diego Bernal: D-San Antonio
- Alma Allen: D-Houston
- Gary VanDeaver: R-New Boston
- Harold Dutton: D-Houston
- James Talarico: D-Round Rock
- Keith Bell: R-Forney
- Ken King: R-Canadian
- Mary Gonzalez: D-El Paso
- Morgan Meyer: R-Dallas
- Scott Sanford: R-McKinney
- Steve Allison: R-Alamo Heights
- Trent Ashby: R-Lufkin
HISD Legislative DelegationSelect a State Senator
Select a state representative
Who are your lawmakers?
- Allen, Alma
- Alvarado, Carol
- Coleman, Garnet
- Davis, Sarah
- Dutton, Harold
- Farrar, Jessica
- Hernandez, Ana
- Johnson, Jarvis
- Murphy, Jim
- Perez, Mary Ann
- Thierry, Shawn
- Thompson, Senfronia
- Walle, Armando
- Wu, Gene
How to stay engaged
Contact LegislatorsLegislators want to hear from constituents. So, it’s important to reach out to them when they are considering legislation that you believe will have an impact on your lives, children, and community.Remain Current on State LegislationInformation on all current and past legislation can be found here.Watch a committee hearing onlineSign up to speak at a house committee hearingInformation on speaking at a Legislative Committee Hearing can be found here
School Finance Reform and RecaptureMany components of the state’s school finance system are archaic in that they have not been updated since 1984. The demographics and needs of Texas’ public school children have changed significantly over time. For example, three-fourths of Houston ISD’s students are economically disadvantaged and one-third are ELL or English Language Learners. However, the current school finance system views HISD as “property wealthy,” and therefore, we are required to write a check comprised of local property taxes to the state in accordance with a process called “recapture.” The school finance system must be reformed to reflect the current needs of the public school student population in Texas, and significantly reduce the state’s reliance on local property taxes to fund public education. A long-term solution is required to maximize the academic achievement of today’s diverse student population. Recapture (AKA the Robin Hood Law)
Under the state’s public education funding structure, HISD is considered “property-wealthy” and is subject to a recapture payment to the state under Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code, commonly known as the “Robin Hood” law. This funding system was enacted by the Legislature in 1993 to attempt to equalize disparities between property-wealthy and property-poor districts. Although nearly 80 percent of HISD students come from low-income families and a third are learning to speak English, rising property values in Houston and an archaic school finance system caused HISD to go into “recapture” in 2016. Many other school districts in Texas are also subject to recapture. Under current law, it is unclear whether all of the local property tax revenues “recaptured” from property-wealthy districts are being sent to property-poor districts. What HISD proposes the legislature do to address Recapture
HISD has urged the Legislature to reduce its over-reliance on local property tax dollars to fund public education statewide and replace those local tax dollars with state funds. When property values and taxes rise, public schools aren't receiving an increase in overall funding. The state simply reduces its share of public education funding and identifies other spending priorities. The Texas Legislature in 2019 could make changes to the school finance system to avert or lessen the impact of recapture on school district’s budgets.
HISD’s previous legislative agendas have outlined steps on how to address recapture, including:
- Increasing the state-set “wealth” level, otherwise known as the basic allotment, which reduces recapture payments;
- Counting full-day pre-K students in attendance calculations, resulting in several millions in recapture savings; and
- Allowing recapture-paying districts to receive state funding for transportation, resulting in additional state funding for HISD.
Our hearts remain heavy over the devastating tragedies that have taken place in Sante Fe and across the country. Senseless violence on school campuses has become much too commonplace. We cannot accept these tragedies as societal norms, and we must work to ensure that the safety of our children is always held to the highest level. No parent should ever feel uneasy sending their child to school, and no child or teacher should ever feel unsafe on campus.
HISD has taken several proactive steps to increase safety procedures and prepare staff and students in emergency situations, including the following:
- Increasing the number of active shooter emergency and intruder drills at HISD campuses and facilities;
- Selecting, training, and activating a standing Emergency Response Team to respond to threats district-wide;
- Conducting realistic, hands-on officer training on effective practices in responding to an armed assailant;
- Training campus staff on best practices to keep schools secure; and
- Providing officers with additional safety equipment to be used in the event of an emergency.
HISD will pursue funding that will provide for the ability to hire additional district police officers and construct security vestibules at the entrances of every campus. The district will also explore purchasing one-button lookdown systems, gunshot detection and emergency notification systems, and metal detectors for campuses.Local Control and GovernanceLocal school boards are elected by and held accountable to their constituents. As such, the state should give school boards the flexibility and control over their local programs and operations to meet the needs of their students. HISD understands the school board is responsible for student outcomes and the District is committed to the task, as we re-emphasize our focus on historically underserved schools.Educational EquityStudents need a state-supported public education system that rewards strong performance and innovation, trains effective teachers and clears obstacles to learning. HISD has a unique and diverse student population. HISD believes all kids should have what they need to be successful. One barrier for public school students across Texas is access to technology. HISD is a nationally-regarded thought leader and innovator in digital learning. All students need access to the most current digital resources and the Internet both at home and at school. Such resources are essential for students to feel prepared for post-secondary opportunities and life-long careers.Other state issuesHISD is also focused on issues like dual credit and full-day Pre-kindergarten, given our involvement in shaping state legislation in 2015.
Hurricane Harvey RecoveryHurricane Harvey devastated the greater Houston area and its public schools. 2017-18 is not a normal school year. HISD asks the federal government to consider federal relief dollars for public schools; a temporary relaxation of accountability; and a response to increased transportation costs for displaced students.DACA StudentsHouston is a global city, producing global graduates. Some of our students and teachers are part of the DACA program. We urge Congress and the White House to keep DACA in place. Repealing DACA or allowing it to expire would harm the dreams of so many young people who were brought to this country as children. These students call America home.