Here at the House – Making schools and teachers a priority
By Rep. John Cyrier
Texas House of Representatives, Dist. 17
For many families across our district, the past two weeks have been quite busy with back-to-school preparations. With our students and teachers returning to school, I thought it appropriate to update you on new laws passed by the Texas Legislature to support and impr
ove public education.
First and foremost, I am pleased to report good news on school funding. Texas is a high growth state. Over the next two years, we estimate that approximately 80,000 new students will enroll in Texas public schools each year. The new state budget, recently passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Abbott, provides new funding to meet this growth.
Many of us in the legislature also believe that additional resources can help to improve classroom education. That is why the budget increases the state’s per pupil commitment to provide an additional $1.5 billion to local school districts above and beyond the new funds for enrollment growth.
Like former President George W. Bush, I believe that government should do few things but do them well. Public education is one of those things we ought to do well. Together with faith and values, a high quality education builds a firm foundation for young Texans to grow, achieve, and prosper. That is why I am excited to help provide these new resources to our students, their parents, and their teachers.
The healthcare plan for retired teachers is another priority that received additional funding. If you are like me, you can still remember your favorite teachers from school. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to these women and men whose salaries never came close to matching the impact they made in the lives of young people.
As we entered the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature, the health plan for retired teachers faced a significant shortfall of $768 million, due largely to the rising costs of medical care and prescription drugs. It was my honor to keep the promise we made to our retired teachers by voting to fill this budget shortfall and fully fund their state health plan for the next two years.
We were able to provide this new funding for schools and teachers by making them a budget priority while also holding other state spending in check. This careful and conservative approach resulted in an overall budget that kept spending well below the constitutional spending cap, protected the Rainy Day Fund, and also left room to provide about $3.8 billion in new tax relief for Texans.
Finally, I am pleased to report that the legislature passed and Governor Abbott signed into law a new school accountability system that puts less emphasis on standardized tests and increases local control by incorporating locally designed measures of student success. By reducing the incentive to “teach to the test,” increasing local control, and enhancing accountability, we are introducing meaningful reforms that empower parents, teachers, and local school districts to prepare our young people for a future of success.
If you have questions for me or if I can be of service to you, please feel free to reach our Capitol office or our new district office in downtown Bastrop at (512) 463-0682, or email me at John.Cyrier@house.state.tx.us.
Rep. John Cyrier is serving his first term as State Representative for District 17, which includes Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes, and Lee Counties.