Legislative Update: Senate passes revised parent trigger bill, but saves voucher debate for another day

Today the full Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 14, a bill modifying the state’s existing “parent trigger” law. SB 14 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) relates to “empowering the parents of students to petition for the reconstitution, repurposing, alternative management, or closure of low-performing public school campuses.” Existing parent trigger laws on the books in Texas apply to certain low-performing schools and make them susceptible to private management upon petition of the parents of students attending the schools. As filed, SB 14 would make schools susceptible to a parent trigger action and private management after only two years of unacceptable accountability ratings.

ATPE opposed the bill when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 19. The committee approved a substitute version of the bill on April 13 by a vote of 9 to 1 with one member “present not voting.” Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) was the only “no” vote in committee, while Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) abstained. Sens. Larry Taylor (R), Eddie Lucio (D), Paul Bettencourt (R), Donna Campbell (R), Donald Huffines (R), Lois Kolkhorst (R), Kel Seliger (R), Royce West (D), and Van Taylor (R) all voted for the bill in committee.

Today, SB 14 passed the full Senate after four floor amendments were added. Three amendments were offered by the bill’s author, Chairman Larry Taylor, while Sen. Rodriguez offered a fourth amendment. The Rodriguez amendment moves the parent trigger option back from year two to year three. Chairman Taylor’s amendments establish eligibility requirements for alternative management entities that might be hired to operate a school after parent trigger; ensure that laws regarding nepotism, open meetings, public information, and conflicts of interest will apply to an operator of a parent trigger school that’s been turned over for alternative management; and prohibit charter operators from paying for a parent trigger petition drive.

The final Senate floor vote on SB 14 was 25-6. Those voting against the bill on third reading were Sens. Rodney Ellis (D); Jose Menendez (D); Carlos Uresti (D); Kirk Watson (D); John Whitmire (D); and Judith Zaffirini (D). The new version of SB 14 now heads to the House for consideration.

Another bill that was on the Senate’s calendar today but did not come up for debate was SB 4, also by Chairman Larry Taylor. The bill creates a private school voucher program through tax credits and “scholarships.” The bill will be back on tomorrow’s calendar in the Senate. ATPE urges members to keep contacting their senators and asking them to vote against SB 4. For additional information and downloadable talking points on the bill, read our blog post from earlier this morning.

Tomorrow, April 16, the House Public Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Educator Quality meets at 8 a.m. to consider bills relating to educator preparation and certification. The agenda includes legislation to alter the composition of the State Board for Educator Certification, change accountability measures for educator preparation programs, and amend the controversial minimum GPA rule for ed prep candidates. Read more details about these bills on our Issues page under the “Educator quality and employment” section. Next, the Senate Education Committee will meet at 9 a.m. to consider four bills, including a troubling proposal by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R) to create “local control school districts.” SB 1012 effectively changes the existing home rule statute to make it easier to convert public schools to privately managed and deregulated charter schools while removing the authority of their locally elected school boards.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on tomorrow’s legislative action, and for the latest news, be sure to follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter.

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