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Both Chambers File Budget Bills; House Zeroes Out Testing

Both the Senate and the House filed their budget bills late Tuesday as promised.

Both budgets allow for enrollment growth in public schools at current funding levels and both promise to reverse the deferral of school district payments and return tax collections to their normal timing.

But that's where the similarities end. The House budget bill, House Bill 1, contains no funding for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests; however, the Senate's budget bill, Senate Bill 1, provides about $94 million annually for testing.

"I think legislators and the public want to have a broad discussion about testing and this is one way to force it," Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said.

Ratcliffe said Texas has been giving standardized tests since 1980, and she couldn't recall a time when either chamber had made such a move, even symbolically.

The defunding proposal is likely an indication that the subject of testing will dominate the conversation this session. Addressing the House on the opening day of session last week, Speaker Joe Straus said, "to parents and educators concerned about excessive testing — the Texas House has heard you."

"We will continue to hold our schools accountable," Straus said. "But we will also make our accountability and testing system more appropriate, more flexible and more reasonable."