‘What does virtual learning and remote learning look like moving forward?': Raise Your Hand Texas policy director talks legislative priorities

Bob Popinski, policy director of Raise Your Hand Texas, shared the organization's top education priorities for the ongoing legislative session. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Bob Popinski, policy director of Raise Your Hand Texas, shared the organization's top education priorities for the ongoing legislative session. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Bob Popinski, policy director of Raise Your Hand Texas, shared the organization's top education priorities for the ongoing legislative session. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Bob Popinski is the director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, an Austin-based organization committed to improving public education. He spoke with Community Impact Newspaper in late December about the 87th legislative session, which began Jan. 12.

What are some of Raise Your Hand’s legislative priorities?

Our first and foremost [priority] is to make sure public education is funded fully, especially during the time of COVID. I lived through the 2011 budget cuts with public education when [the state] cut $5.4 billion from school districts. ... It really took about 10 years to recover from the Great Recession and what occurred in 2011, so we’re hoping that we can get through this session without cutting public education at all and hopefully actually investing more in programs that are making a difference. ... First and foremost, we’re going to protect and be vocal about protecting some of the programs that are near and dear to Raise Your Hand’s heart, which is full-day prekindergarten. That was passed during House Bill 3 [in 2019]. ... A fairly big issue this session is, ‘What does virtual learning and remote learning look like moving forward?’ ... Broadband access is going to be another issue.

Are you seeing school districts across the state fall short of enrollment projections?

I think it’s definitely happening in a lot of urban and major suburban districts. I know the Texas School Alliance, which is an association of 40 or so of the larger districts in the state, did a survey, and I think, on average, it was about a 4% enrollment decline. So a lot of these larger districts are having the same issues, and they’re trying to figure out just the stability of going into next semester. ... We actually base our funding on average daily attendance, so if the kids aren’t in the seat, they’re not getting credit for that per-student funding.


What are the long-term concerns about students who may not be showing up during the pandemic?

A school district’s perspective is, ‘We’re going to hopefully find all of these students and get them back to the system. And then, what targeted interventions are we going to need to help them catch up? ... Once you get those kids back in the classroom, how do you ramp it up? Do you extend the day? Do you extend the school year?’

Hannah Zedaker contributed to this report.
By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball | Magnolia & Conroe | Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball|Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.



MOST RECENT

A mandate will remain in effect for the time being requiring all riders to weak masks on vehicles run by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, officials announced March 3.  (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
Mask mandate to remain in effect for all METRO vehicles, properties

The announcement comes one day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded his mask order for the state.

Following Gov. Greg Abbott's March 2 announcement that the statewide mask mandate and COVID-19-related business restrictions will be lifted as of March 10, Harris County and city of Houston leaders are weighing in, and local health care providers are urging residents to continue to take precautions. (Courtesy Pexels)
Harris County, Houston leaders call end of statewide mask mandate a 'distraction' from power grid failures

"At best, today’s decision is wishful thinking. At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.

As of 11:30 a.m. on March 2, eight areas across Harris County remained under boil water notice affecting about 2,300 residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Thousands in unincorporated Harris County remain under boil notices

As of 11:30 a.m. on March 2, eight areas across Harris County remained under boil water notice affecting about 2,300 residents.

The statewide mask mandate will end March 10. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, local officials weigh in on end of state mask mandate

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough thanked the governor for planning to lift state mandates March 10.

The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market is returning in person for its spring iteration. (Courtesy Jennifer Greene/HoustonBallet)
Houston Nutcracker Market to make in-person return this spring

Of the 150 merchants on the roster, nearly 50 will be making their spring debut in 2021.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)
Gov. Greg Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate, business restrictions in Texas

With vaccine distribution increasing, Gov. Greg Abbott said "people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate." Some local officials are pushing back, saying the relaxed restrictions are coming too early.

Kiddie Academy opened in January. (Courtesy Havas Formula)
New Kiddie Academy location opens in northwest Houston

Curriculum at Kiddie Academy of Cypresswood promotes intellectual, social, physical and emotional growth, officials said.

Tomball Fire Chief Randy Parr, pictured here in 2012, has served as chief for 17 years. (Community Impact staff)
Tomball Fire Chief Randy Parr announces retirement after 17 years

"Seventeen years is a long time, and I'm still having a hard time grasping the fact that it has been 17 years," Parr said.

With over 20 years of experience in small engine machine repair, business owner Jimmie Brock opened Mobile Lawn Doctor in June 2019. (Adriana Rezal/Community Impact Newspaper)
Magnolia repairman brings lawnmowers back to life with The Mobile Mower Doctor, sees increase in demand

“A lot of businesses have struggled through the pandemic, but it’s been a blessing for me because more people are at home ... mowing their own grass,” Owner Jimmie Brock said. “They have the lawnmower that’s been sitting in their garage for who knows how long, [and] they need me to get it going so they can mow their grass because they want to save that money.”

The projects are set to wrap up in the third quarter of 2021. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Medical Complex Drive, South Persimmon Street extensions on track for 2021 completion

The projects are set to wrap up in the third quarter of 2021.

Most of the electric grid in Texas is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is not linked to other interconnected national electrical systems. (Courtesy Electric Reliability Council of Texas)
Leaving the Texas power grid 'not likely to be an option' for Harris County, official says

Just two weeks after severe winter weather dropped Harris County temperatures below freezing for three consecutive days, which led to widespread power outages, loss of water and the deaths of at least 50 county residents, Harris County Commissioners Court called for major reform at the state level regarding the Texas power grid and related energy policies.