In a board of trustees workshop held April 4, CISD Superintendent Curtis Null discussed the effect two proposed bills could have on the district, among other legislation covering topics such as safety.
Senate Bill 9, authored by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, proposes a salary increase for classroom teachers, but Null said the smaller increase available to districts with more than 20,000 students would have a negative consequence in CISD, which has an enrollment of about 73,000 as of the 2022-23 school year.
“Senate Bill 9 is what I believe ... the most dangerous bill at the moment for Conroe ISD,” Null said. “This is the one where we need your voices to be heard.”
Null said the bill offers a salary increase of $2,000 for districts with enrollment over 20,000 and $6,000 for districts with enrollment under 20,000. That means every district in Montgomery County except CISD would get a $6,000 raise for teachers.
The impetus behind the measure, Null said, is to close the gap for small districts in areas such as West Texas with lower salaries for teachers. However, Null said it would have the unintended consequence of putting CISD behind other districts in the area.
“We would immediately become the lowest-paid school district in Montgomery County by far, and that would be a problem for us. We have no mechanism to close that gap,” Null said at the meeting.
He said he has been in conversation with Creighton, who leads the Senate Committee on Education, about potential solutions, such as funding based on enrollment that would provide additional funds for teacher raises.
Null also said SB 8, which concerns the creation of an education savings account that could provide qualifying parents with up to $8,000 in state funds annually to send a child to private school, is also on the district’s radar. The bill, also authored by Creighton, was on the legislative calendar as of April 5.
“There’s nothing positive in a voucher system for Conroe ISD, nothing at all,” Null said. “To create a parallel system to us that has zero accountability to taxpayers and had zero expectations from the state, of all these rules and unfunded mandates that we are forced to follow, ... I believe is completely unfair.”
Creighton announced the bills in a March 10 news release, stating they were part of a package he called the Texas Parental Bill of Rights.
“I authored Senate Bill 8 to place parents, not government, squarely in the center of the decisions for their children,” Creighton said in a statement. “Giving parents the power to determine the best school for their child will encourage competition and innovation, ensuring that each Texas student has the opportunity to succeed.”
In the release, Creighton stated SB 8 also prevents instruction in gender identity and sexual orientation as well as requiring parents to be informed of changes to their child's mental, emotional or physical health.
As of April 6, SB 8 and SB 9 were each out of committee and placed on the intent calendar, according to the Texas Legislature website.