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Texas PTA hosts Rally Day event at Capitol

Rally Day acts as an advocacy event for members of various associations to speak face-to-face with local legislators on the matters they want addressed.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Parent Teacher Association (Texas PTA) was at the State Capitol on Monday to rally for more funding for students and other improvements within the public education sector.

Hundreds of Texas PTA members, educators, parents and students took to the Capitol's south steps to lay out their legislative priorities. They were joined by House Reps. Gina Hinojosa and James Talarico and State Sen. Jose Menendez.

The bi-annual event, joined by area school bands, drumlines and various other educator associations, took place before Texas PTA members met directly with legislators to negotiate the association's legislative focus.

The legislative focus for the Texas PTA includes:

  • Increasing the basic allotment for per-student funding and basing funding on enrollment
  • Opposing legislation that authorizes state funds to pay for private school tuition and related costs
  • Improve teacher retention and increase teachers 
  • Increase student mental health interventions 
    • Includes systems to identify students in need and prepare them to cope with personal challenges
  • Adding parent engagement to the A-F accountability system
    • Includes advocating for an accountability system to broadly review school performance

At the rally, State Rep. Hinojosa, a former board member with Austin ISD, said it was time to better support Texas public educators.

"No more hoops to jump through, just pay them their worth," Hinojosa said. "My God, what's it going to take?"

State Rep. Talarico, a former teacher in San Antonio and a vocal advocate for public education, has pushed for his bill, which would give teachers a $15,000 raise. He's been openly opposed to school vouchers.

"Tell our legislators that instead of passing voucher scams, let's fully fund our public schools," Talarico said.

Gov. Greg Abbott has been advocating for school vouchers, also called "school choice" and "education savings accounts," and has listed it a priority this legislative session. School vouchers would allow parents to use public education funds for their student's private education.

Gov. Abbott said public schools would still be fully funded, but educators at the Capitol on Monday said public education lacks proper funding to begin with.

The rally comes during a time when a Central Texas school district is figuring out ways it will save money.

Pflugerville ISD recently proposed to close at least one elementary school, but decided last week to keep all schools open and instead find other ways to save money within the district.

PfISD Superintendent Dr. Douglas Killian said he is looking at everything from underutilized computer systems to leases on portable buildings on campuses.

"There will probably be some levels of cuts or reassignments to staff members," Dr. Killian said.

The superintendent told KVUE that each year he has been in his position with PfISD, more and more cuts have had to be made. He said school funding does not adjust to inflation, and that has taken its toll. The school district has also reported a drop in attendance and enrollment. In Texas, schools are funded by daily average attendance rates.

Dr. Killian said he feels at peace with not closing down any schools in his district, but is depending heavily on the state to better fund public education so that, in the future, school closures do not have to be considered again.

"I need the community to help me move mountains because the mountain we need to move is the Legislature with $32 billion-plus in funding," Dr. Killian said.

The Texas PTA is rallying for local legislators to focus on these issues to help "make every child's potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children," according to the association's mission statement

In addition to its main focus, the Texas PTA has other legislative priorities and will support legislation on the following issues:

  • Providing state funding for alternative disciplinary placement plans
    • Provides students with repeated violent offenses on campus to have their placement costs funded by the State, not districts
  • Require charter schools to guarantee parents the same rights and responsibilities as public schools
  • Address the learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Continued enforcement of David's Law and any new legislation related to cyberbullying
  • Ensure all Texas public school students have access to reliable digital connectivity and devices 
  • Strengthen distracted driving laws to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes that affect children
  • Legislation that addresses drug overdoses on school campuses
  • Decriminalize victims of human trafficking 
    • Waives criminal responsibility for children and youth when the activity is a result from exploitation by a human trafficker. 
  • Provide local control and "parental opt-out for library books"
  • Fully fund breakfast and lunches for all public school students 
  • Increase funding for school safety and determine what additional safety measures are needed in each school district
  • Support comprehensive reform of the juvenile justice system
    • Includes increasing the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18, and reducing the "school-to-prison pipeline"
  • Provide medically accurate sex education with parental opt-out
  • Provide adequate special education services
  • Have a reduced emphasis on state-mandated testing and eliminate tests not required by federal law
  • Ban flavored vape devices and regulate them further  

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