Tracking the hustle and bustle of state legislation can be difficult for even the most involved spectators. Now that the 85th Legislative and subsequent special session concluded late last month, I would like to highlight a few of the bills passed this year that impact Leander ISD.
The formula our state uses to fund public school districts has been a topic of conversation and concern for many years – it topped the list of legislative priorities set by our Board of Trustees last November. It also dictates the amount of operations dollars LISD has available to pay teachers and to support students.
Ultimately, lawmakers postponed addressing the funding formula, decreasing the state contribution for public education by $1.1 billion while local property taxes increase their portion of the funding formula by $1.4 billion, according to the Texas Tribune. In LISD, that means we are maintaining our tax rate at $1.51 per $100 valuation with increasing property values supplanting decreasing state funding.
Addressing shortfalls in TRS-Care, which provides health insurance for retired teachers, was another high-priority issue. At the end of the special session, lawmakers agreed to allocate $212 million to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) to help ease rising out-of-pocket expenses for retirees.
This funding, however, did not impact the employer contribution to TRS-Care. So, as health insurance costs continue to rise, and without increasing contributions from the state, LISD was left to allocate nearly $500,000 from our 2017-18 budget to cover the shortfall.
Senate Bill 693 takes aim at student safety by requiring all new school buses to be equipped with seatbelts. The new law will not affect our existing bus fleet, but we anticipate needing 88 new propane buses in the next four years that would need to comply.
Another important student safety measure passed this spring was SB 179, also known as “David’s Law,” which went into effect on Sept. 1.
David’s Law allows districts a temporary injunction against social media accounts used to electronically harass or cyberbully someone under the age of 18 with the intent of causing them to commit suicide or harm themselves. It also criminalizes cyberbullying.
While we are committed to maintaining enforcement of strict rules that keep students safe, our focus continues to be on supporting students’ social development with proactive and caring programs at the elementary, middle and high school levels. We need our parents and students to partner with our team, to be vigilant and active in reporting any incidents involving student safety.
We value the time and energy spent by so many in our community to stay informed of the laws that impact our schools and communities; to communicate with legislators and neighbors; and to advocate for the students and teachers in LISD. Together, no matter what may change at the Capitol, I know we will succeed with 1 Purpose, 1 Community, 1 LISD.