Last week, before the start of the 85th Legislature’s special session, Rep. Diego Bernal highlighted wins for our community, but reminded members of the Education and Workforce Development Council that the fight was not over yet, stressing the need for continued engagement.
Serving as the Vice Chair of the House Public Education committee, Bernal noted that much of the work for the committee during the regular session focused on key areas like school finance, accountability, special needs children, and education savings accounts (also known as vouchers). School finance was the most prominent issue of the session and listed as a top priority of the Speaker of the House Joe Straus and several members of the House leadership.
Bernal remarked that despite the great momentum and support for some type of change to the “byzantine” system, House Bill 21 (the main school finance bill) became a casualty of politics as it moved from the House to the Senate. “This was the first time we had the ability to have a real talk about school finance without a lawsuit pushing us there or the threat of a lawsuit,” remarked Bernal. “We lost a great opportunity to take some important steps forward to fix a system that is not adequately serving our more than five million Texas school children.”
Moving to the area of accountability and technical education, Bernal emphasized that there was some positive legislation that was passed. This included one of his own bills, focusing on coursework in the areas of cybersecurity and coding for students in K-12. Further, this legislature was able to pass a bill to help correct issues with the Texas’ accountability system for schools and ISDs. The system known as A-F, rolled out preliminary ratings in the last year that highlighted several deficiencies in the system. With the passage of House Bill 22, the hope is to correct some of those areas of concern while allowing for continued evaluation of the system and how it will impact ISDs and individual campuses.
Finally, Bernal highlighted the need for continued engagement by our members, particularly in opposing policies that hurt San Antonio businesses and school children. Focusing on the proposed privacy legislation, Bernal emphasized how important it was for business leaders to continue to oppose any type of policies that are discriminatory. “Any policy or law that isolates one specific group is not good for business and not good for our community,” Bernal said. “The focus should be on funding our schools and infrastructure needs not what bathroom people use on any given day.”
For more information on the Chamber’s Education/Workforce Committee please email Priscilla Camacho.
For more information on Rep. Diego Bernal you can visit his individual webpage or follow him on twitter @DiegoBernalTX.