The House and the Senate on Monday adopted conference committee reports on Senate Bill 2, a fiscal matters bill, and Senate Bill 6, an instructional allotments bill. The so-called “Howard amendment,” which would have made a $2.2 billion provisional appropriation from the Rainy Day Fund for public schools, was stripped from Senate Bill 2 by conferees before the final vote.
The amendment by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would have spent money from the Rainy Day Fund if the fund’s balance exceeded the projected $6.5 billion during the upcoming budget period. The House initially adopted the amendment, but it was removed from the final version of the bill under pressure from conservative ideologues.
That means at least $6.5 billion (and maybe more) will remain unspent in the Rainy Day Fund over the next two years while public school funding is cut by about $5.3 billion. The cuts include $4 billion from school district funding formulas and another $1.3 billion from discretionary funds for such things as full-day, pre-kindergarten. This is the first time in at least 60 years that the Legislature hasn’t fully funded school finance formulas and anticipated enrollment growth.
Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Shapiro substitutes the term, “instructional materials,” for “textbooks” in sections of the education code dealing with funding, adoption, and purchase. The bill adds the subject of economics with emphasis on the free enterprise system to social studies for K to 12 and removes it as a stand alone subject. The bill allows open enrollment charter schools to receive the instructional materials allotment as if they were independent school districts. The bill converts the textbook fund to the “Instructional Materials Fund.”
School districts are entitled to an annual allotment from the Instructional Materials Fund for each student enrolled in the district on a date during the preceding school year specified by the state education commissioner. The commissioner shall determine the amount of the allotment per student each year on the basis of the amount of money available in the fund. Senate Bill 6 also changes the adoption schedule. The bill establishes the technology lending program, which allows the commissioner to award grants to school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to implement a technology lending program for students.