Post-Harvey schools, funding on the agenda for House education committee

AUSTIN — Lawmakers in the Texas House this week will continue exploring the state’s response to Hurricane Harvey, this time delving into how schools and their funding are affected. 

The House Public Education Committee will meet in Austin Thursday to explore the scope of school districts’ financial losses — including damages to facilities and how the state will fund schools this year given the state divvies out money based on how many students are enrolled.

Due to Hurricane Harvey, many families have had to move into other districts, leaving lawmakers concerned schools could be punished financially for decreases in enrollment. 

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has said he wants to ensure finances are stable for school districts slammed by Harvey and is expected to announce a plan early this month. 

The hearing follows a week after the House launched its first battery of committee hearings focused on Harvey recovery. Last week, lawmakers from the Appropriations and Urban Affairs committees met at the University of Houston to hear the latest on recovery efforts, and the natural Resources Committee heard testimony from local officials and the public about the need for better flood-control planning. 

House Speaker Joe Straus has ordered several legislative committees to collect testimony and make recommendations on several storm-related issues, including about how the storm has affected schools, how the state can maximize federal funds, and figure out what kind of infrastructure is needed to help flood-control efforts.

The San Antonio Republican also wants lawmakers to recommend measures needed to “prevent unintended punitive consequences” to students and districts from student testing, which is scheduled to take place next spring. Morath, the education commissioner, said last month he did not anticipate making changes to the state’s annual standardized test used as a measuring stick for student and school district performance, but said no decision has been made, yet. 

The House Public Education Committee is expected to explore the testing issue — a hot button issue for school districts and parents, alike — at a future committee meeting. 

Andrea Zelinski covers politics for the Houston Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Send her tips at 


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