Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Outlawing drag queens and causing trans kids to commit suicide are not among the priorities of House Speaker Dade Phelan. Instead, he would like to improve school safety, better support Texas teachers and provide a cost-of-living adjustment for retired educators in the state.

He chose six bills he would like to see passed during the current session, each written by Republicans. They’re common sense pieces of legislation that will benefit everyone in Texas, are affordable and don’t erode anyone’s rights.

Here they are:

House Bill 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows would streamline and further define the roles and responsibilities of the Texas School Safety Center and Texas Education Agency so that school safety standards can be properly enforced. Under HB 3, at least one armed security officer would be required to be located on every campus. The legislation would also provide an annual $15,000 in base funding per campus for school safety related mitigation measures.

House Bill 11 by Rep. Harold Dutton would make a number of improvements to the state’s teacher recruitment, preparation and retention policies, including the implementation of a restructured approach to minimum salary that results in an increased pay by recognizing the various pathways related to the profession. Under HB 11, children of Texas teachers would be eligible for free public school pre-kindergarten, providing more flexibility for educators in need of child care. Additionally, a new grant would be established to help teachers offset the costs of receiving special education or bilingual credentials. HB 11 would, among other things, also increase the mentor program allotment for every first- or second-year teacher, allowing educators to receive even more assistance early in their teaching careers.

House Bill 13 by Rep. Ken King would also address school safety in Texas, increasing the school safety allotment to $100 per student and requiring school districts to develop an Active Shooter Preparedness Plan. The active shooter plan would clarify the chain of command for active shooter events to ensure continuity between school officials and law enforcement, designating points of contact during such emergencies. HB 13 would also increase state funding toward mental and behavioral health resources for schools, expanding accessibility to programs such as Mental Health First Aid training so that educators and administrators can better detect early warning signs and intervene as necessary.

House Bill 100, also by Rep. King, would help provide certainty to school districts for the purposes of calculating their budgets by shifting to an enrollment-based system for most allotments in the state’s school finance system. Under HB 100, special education funding would also be expanded across the state. The legislation would also increase the transportation allotment, alleviating the burden that school districts have faced when paying for diesel due to inflation.

House Bill 400 by Rep. Stephanie Klick would further advance the mental and behavioral health workforce at institutions of higher education in Texas by establishing a new grant funding stream. The funding stream, under the oversight of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, would create a behavioral health grant program focused on the behavioral health workforce, specifically in rural parts of the state, as well as a psychiatry graduate medical education specialty, with an emphasis on pediatric psychiatry care in Texas.

House Bill 600 by Rep. Greg Bonnen would provide a cost-of-living adjustment for retired Texas educators in the state while also maintaining the actuarial soundness of the Teacher Retirement System pension fund. Eligible retired educators would receive a one-time, upfront cost-of-living increase beginning in 2024 based on the years of retirement, with a $5,000 cash payment for the state’s oldest retirees. Beginning in 2028, retired teachers could also begin receiving an annual cost-of-living adjustment of at least 1 percent. Bonnen has also filed House Joint Resolution 2, which would put House Bill 600 on the Texas ballot if passed by the Legislature, leaving it up to voters to decide whether it is adopted as state law.

— David Taffet