More Questions As HB 6 is Examined

Several questions have been raised concerning HB 6.  I don’ t have all the answers but I will attempt to answer them as best I can.

Question 1: In Section 31.001 it states:

Except as provided by Section 31.104(d), a school district may not charge a student for instructional materials or technological equipment purchased by the district with the district’s instructional materials allotment.

Does this mean that a school district cannot charge a student a usage fee or an insurance fee if the district checks out a piece of equipment to the student to take home?

This is unclear.  I asked a staffer this question.  She wanted to know if this was customary and I told her many districts did this.  I told her it is was similar to paying a usage fee for band equipment.  She told me she would ask the author about this but encouraged me to bring it to the committee’s attention when the bill was heard in the committee.

Question 2: In Section 31.0211 (c) it spells out what the Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA) can be used for. In 31.0211 (c) (2) it states:

pay for training educational personnel directly involved in student learning in the appropriate use of instructional materials and for providing for access to technological equipment for instructional use.

Can a school district use these funds to pay the salary of a FTE (full-time equivalent) to deliver the training?

This question was also raised with the the education committee staffer.  As before, she asked if school districts had used the Technology Allotment for personnel.  I assured her this was done all across Texas.  Again, she told me she would address this with the author of the bill but we needed to bring it up in the hearing.

Question 3: Can school districts use the IMA to purchase equipment? In Section 31.0211(d) (3) it states that the district can purchase:

any other instructional materials or technological equipment as determined by the district.

I think it is clear that a district can use the IMA for computers or devices for students or teachers.

Question 4: Can it be used to pay for Internet?  In 31.0211 (c) (2) it states:

pay for training educational personnel directly involved in student learning in the appropriate use of instructional materials and for providing for access to technological equipment for instructional use.

The Technology Allotment was written before most school districts had ubiquitous Internet access, however, districts probably used this phrase when they paid for this service out of the Technology Allotment.    A case could be made that a district would need bandwidth to access digital content, but this is not as clear as the purchase of equipment.

Question 5: Is the Technology Allotment going away?

HB 6 and SB 6 do eliminate the Technology Allotment but NOT technology funding. These two bills create a new revenue stream for districts to use to fund technology: the Instructional Materials Allotment. The IMA will have a broader scope than the Technology Allotment, but it gives districts flexibility with both the former Technology Allotment and the funds set aside to purchase textbooks.  It actually opens all kinds of possibilities for schools.

Question 6: According to HB 6 how much money would districts get for the IMA?

I am not a school finance expert by any means, so correct me if I’m wrong, but here is my interpretation in how this would work.

Every biennium, the State Board of Education sets aside an annual distribution from the permanent school fund.  Their fund managers advise them as to how much they can give the legislature to help fund schools.  The legislature then decides how to appropriate these funds.  The legislature usually appropriates what is needed to purchase textbooks and then use the remaining funds to budget items for education.  It is my understanding that for many years, the Technology Allotment was funded from the annual distribution of the permanent school fund.

According to HB 6, 50% of the annual distribution would go into the Instructional Materials Allotment.  The other 50% would go into the general fund which would be used for education. This means that every two years, the IMA would have a different amount.  I was told that if this entire allotment was given to the IMA this biennium, schools would receive approximately $100 a student.

Question 7: What is the difference between HB 6 and SB 6?

SB 6 stipulates that for this biennium only, the IMA would only receive 40% of the distribution of the permanent school fund.  I spoke to someone from the Senate Education Committee today and she said that she thought that 40% would be enough to pay for the continuing contracts AND Proclamation 2011.  I told her that TCEA was certainly concerned about students receiving up-to-date content but that we were also concerned about funding the $30 a student that districts received from the Technology Allotment.

The question then becomes, will districts use the flexibility built into HB 6 and SB 6 to purchase what type of content they need and also be able to purchase the equipment and the training that is needed into order to help teachers transition to digital content?

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About Jennifer Bergland

Director of Government Relations at the Texas Computer Education Association
This entry was posted in Budget, Instructional Material Allotment, Technology Allotment and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to More Questions As HB 6 is Examined

  1. If they don’t, they will be left behind. To hold the back the possibility of creating a much better learning environment because some ISDs do not have the visionary leadership they need is not considering the greater good this can do. We are getting tasked with the choice of asking for a mandate on this or allowing local control. Considering we constantly complain about mandates, it only makes sense to appreciate the local control. Then, we start educating our ISD leadership ASAP on the best way to handle these new options.

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