Day 77 and a big week ahead

Today is day 77 of the 86th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature and this is a big week for several items that impact TSLAC and libraries, archives, and records programs across the state.

Concerning our budget, so far the House budget contains a number of items in our legislative appropriations request, including funding to allow the agency to continue to store records on contract for other state and local agencies. Without that funding, TSLAC will be out of storage space by the end of 2019. The House budget also includes funding requested for cybersecurity upgrades to safeguard online resources and personally identifiable information. We were also very happy to see the House adopt our recommendation for targeted salary increases to allow us to remain competitive in recruitment and retention of qualified staff to discharge our core mandates.

So far, the Senate budget includes none of these items, however, this Thursday, the Senate Finance committee will be hearing recommendations from their budget subcommittees, so we will see if any of our requested items are adopted. If not, the resolution of our request will be up to the budget conference committee that will be created in a few weeks.

Our Sunset bill progresses. We anticipate a committee vote on HB 1962 by Rep. Lambert in tomorrow’s meeting of the House Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism. We are anticipating a committee substitute that will ensure that our agency is able to continue to monitor and assist local governments in the management of their public records.

Also this week, several bills that we have been following are coming up for consideration in committee. Today, the House State Affairs Committee is taking up three bills related to broadband policy in Texas. HB 1960 by Rep. Price would create a statewide broadband council in the Governor’s Office, which I and others have often stated would be a great advance for the future of broadband development in Texas. Interestingly, HB 2423 by Rep. Anderson has recommended the creation of a broadband office at the Public Utility Commission so it will be interesting to see how the committee resolves these two bills. HB 2422 also by Rep. Anderson would implement a “one-dig” policy in Texas to facilitate broadband deployment with other utility development.

We look forward to updating everyone as the session continues. For those of you who are going to the Texas Library Association Annual Conference this year, we hope you will join us for our program updating you on the session in progress on Wednesday, April 17, 9:45 to 10:45. We should have plenty more to report by then!

A sweet victory

The statewide library community was thrilled this week when Senator Jane Nelson announced from the floor of the Texas Senate that her SB 3, providing a permanent $5,000 per year pay increase to classroom teachers, would be extended to include K-12 librarians. A collective cheer went up across the state among librarians of all types for this hard-won victory.

The Texas Library Association led the charge to include school librarians in SB 3. TLA President Jennifer LaBoon and Frisco ISD librarian Nancy Jo Lambert delivered very eloquent and emotional testimony February 25 to the Senate Finance Committee. The same day, an editorial ran in the Texas Tribune titled “Librarians are Teachers.” In that column, author Sara Stevenson outlines the many ways librarians are not only teachers but “literacy leaders” on their campuses. A few days later, Jennifer LaBoon was featured on the widely-heard “Texas Standard” radio program on NPR speaking about why librarians should be included. And on March 10, an editorial by a prominent university librarian, Lorraine Harricomb at UT Austin, ran in the Austin American Statesman extolling the vital and unique role of K-12 libraries.

In fact, the question of including librarians so came to dominate the story that much of the coverage of the pay raise measure featured librarians as much as teachers. “Senate passes teacher pay raise, adds librarians,” read the Austin American-Statesman headline on March 5. “Texas Senate unanimously passes $5,000 teacher pay raises, adding librarians,” said the Texas Tribune.

The victory is more than just the pay raises. It is a validation–long overdue–of the role of K-12 libraries in student success. That role has been documented repeatedly in dozens of studies in many states. Unfortunately for our students, it is a message that many school administrators and policy makers have been slow to understand and accept. Meanwhile, K-12 librarians work tirelessly to improve reading skills (one of Governor Abbott’s initiatives), raise STAAR test scores, and otherwise prepare students with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in work and life.

Congratulations to the K-12 librarians of the state for your huge success!


Articles cited above:

“Texas Senate unanimously passes $5,000 teacher pay raises, adding librarians,”Texas Tribune, March 4, 2019.

“Librarians are Teachers,” Sara Stevenson, Texas Tribune, February 25, 2019.

“School librarians say they should be included in the proposed $5K teacher pay raise,” Texas Standard radio program, February 28, 2019.¬†

53 down, 87 to go!

The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature is in full swing and we are watching their progress with great interest.

The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days at the beginning of every odd-numbered year. We are now 53 days in with 87 to go (not that we are counting). It is a busy session so far and TSLAC has a number of matters of interest under consideration in this session.

Budget – As is the case every session, we are following the progress of our budget request as it is considered by both the House and Senate. Included in our budget is a very large request for new funding–nearly $38 million. Of that figure, $30.8 million is for expansion of storage space to allow us to continue to store records for state agencies, one of the most important services that TSLAC offers to the state. Without new funding, we will be completely out of records storage capacity by the end of 2019. That request is currently included in the House version of the budget, but not the Senate version. We have also asked for funding to add much more e-book content to our very popular and heavily used TexShare and TexQuest online information services. That item was not included in either budget, but has been pended for further consideration in the House version. Other exceptional funding requests for TSLAC include hiring an agency¬† general counsel, providing for cybersecurity needs, conducting a statewide outreach program, and securing salary increases to recruit and retain agency staff.

Sunset bills – Every twelve years, most state agencies have to go through a reauthorization process known as sunset review. This session TSLAC is up for reauthorization and two bills have been filed to maintain the agency until 2031. SB 618 by Senator Hall, and HB 1962 by Representative Lambert are identical and would continue the agency with no loss of authority and with a number of statutory changes that will strengthen our work. Further, the legislation would expand our authority to allow the agency to purchase advertising to promote agency services, most notably the Talking Book Program, and would also allow us to sell educational materials such as reproductions of archival materials.

Other bills – We are following a number of other bills in this session that either name TSLAC directly or would impact our work. Such bills include:

  • HB 679 by Rep. Guillen that would also give us the ability to advertise services and sell educational materials.
  • HB 700 by Rep. Guillen that would add libraries and schools to eligibility to participate in a skills development fund.
  • HB 703 by Rep. Harris that would extend the date at which birth and death records are made available to the public from 75 to 125 years.
  • HB 1960 by Rep. Price that would establish a Governor’s Broadband Council.
  • HB 1784 by Rep. Capriglione that would codify recommendations contained in the Texas Digital Storage Study published in 2018, including to create at TSLAC the new position of State Information Governance Coordinator.
  • HB 2422 by Rep. Anderson relating to the coordination of broadband projects by the Texas Facilities Commission.

We will continue to monitor the progress of our budget, our sunset bills and these other bills as the session continues. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions about any of these issues.