House Finally Kills Class Size Bill

State Rep. Rob Eissler (c, top), R-The Woodlands, and State Rep. Borris Miles (c, bottom) wait for a ruling on HB400 point of order on April 26, 2011.
State Rep. Rob Eissler (c, top), R-The Woodlands, and State Rep. Borris Miles (c, bottom) wait for a ruling on HB400 point of order on April 26, 2011.

In what may be the Democrats' first concrete victory of the session, the House at last sent HB 400 to its grave when it failed to take up the controversial legislation before its midnight deadline.

The bill from Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, would have lifted the state's student-teacher class size ratio in lower grades, changed requirements for teacher contract renewals, and authorized unpaid furloughs for school district employees — though now, the measures could live on as amendments to other bills.

After the House adjourned, Eissler said his bill wasn't dead — and joked that he was going to move his seat up to the front microphone so that he could attach it to every bill that went by. 

The lower chamber was initially set to take up the bill two weeks ago. Since then, Democrats have successfully delayed it on technicalilties three times. Last time the bill was on the floor Eissler made significant concessions to try to pass it. He offered an amendment from the floor that kept the 22-1 class size ratio for kindergarten through fourth grade but made it significantly easier from districts to get a waiver exemption as long as they maintained a 22-1 district wide average. And, after initially saying he believed making the measure temporary would be "creating havoc" in school districts, he accepted a change from Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, that would do just that.

Throughout the week, Eissler said he had been working behind the scenes to make the bill more palatable to his colleagues. In the end that failed — and when he knew it wouldn't pass, Eissler may have decided to keep his bill off the floor to avoid strife .

"You saw the night end on a friendly tone," he said, "If HB 400 had been up there it wouldn't have been as friendly."

A similar proposal, SB 12 from Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, has hit an impasse in the upper chamber.

 

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