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Staying After School

The special session hasn't done much to alter the school finance plan that dragged lawmakers into overtime.

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The special session hasn't done much to alter the school finance plan that dragged lawmakers into overtime.

If it survives a conference committee, an amendment from Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington and Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, would revert education funding to current law in two years, sunsetting the measure lawmakers originally put in place to enact the deep cuts without rewriting formulas.

That is a small, significant tweak. But the most far-reaching impact of the special on education policy will come in other areas.

Charter school advocates will score a long awaited victory with the likely approval of legislation that would allow access to the Permanent School Fund for facilities bonds guarantees and expand the number of charters the state can grant.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, will also likely succeed in passing the comprehensive mandate relief package that stalled without the necessary two-thirds votes to come up on the floor during the regular session. SB 8, which is now in conference committee, allows school districts to furlough teachers, reduces contract termination notification requirements, and expands the Texas Education Agency's authority to grant waivers for the 22:1 student teacher size ratio.

In the House, members attached amendments to the bill that would require districts to fire teachers based on evaluations instead of seniority, apply any teacher salary reductions to administrators, and allow them to fire superintendents in mid-contract when declaring financial exigency. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, also changed a provision that reduced termination notification requirements from 15 to 10 days. (That's down from the 45 days required under current law.)

The fate of those amendments is up to the conference committee: Shapiro, Sens. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, and Dan Patrick, R-Houston; House members Eissler, Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, Myra Crownover, R-Lake Dallas, Kelly Hancock, R-Fort Worth, and Dan Huberty, R-Houston.

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