Hays CISD sets 2021 legislative priorities

By Megan WehringTexa

HAYS CISD — With the 87th Legislative Session quickly approaching next month, the Hays CISD Board of Trustees adopted a list of priorities they hope will be considered. 

Ranking on the top of the list is to attract and retain professionals. The district supports keeping the Texas Retirement System (TRS)  a “defined benefit,” increased state contributions to TRS active care and a proposed $5,000 student loan forgiveness for five years of service in Texas public schools. 

“We are in the people business,” Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright said. “It’s so important that we keep our teachers and staff taken care of. We continue to allow them to move forward with cost of living increases and whether that’s on the benefit side or payroll side. I think that’s something we always need to be cognizant of and treat our educators like the professionals they are.”

Through the first 18 weeks, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Commissioner guaranteed they would hold the district harmless for average daily attendance so Hays CISD proposed that school districts would not be held liable beyond the first 18 weeks for funding losses.

“They want to see school districts buy down their fund balances,” Wright said. “It would be devastating for the majority of the districts across the state if that hold harmless didn’t remain in effect.”

Further down the list, the district proposed for more transparency with charter schools and increased local votership. Hays CISD advocates for local voters to elect local representatives to the governing board of charter schools, allowing local voters to vote on public funding and decision-making for charter school expansion to be moved to the State Board of Education.

Board President Esperanza Orosco said there also needs to be transparency with the public about what Hays CISD prioritizes as a district, even if it may be more challenging this year. 

“We took the legislative priorities, shared it and made sure people were aware of what our priorities were and empowered them to advocate for those items,” Orosco said. “It’s pretty difficult this time with COVID to really get out in the public, but we can definitely have these conversations via Zoom and so on.” 

Lastly, the district proposed increased state funding for accessible mental health services and support in public schools for the well-being of students and staff.

“We’ve been dealing with COVID for almost a year now,” Wright said. “With that in mind, we know that we are going to have needs and we need to be able to assist our students and staff in dealing with the anxieties and issues associated with COVID-19.”

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Megan Navarro (Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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