The House Public Education Committee gaveled in Tuesday to hear more than 30 bills on the agenda. Led by Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston), the committee also voted out the following bills:
- HB 467, which would adjust the language regarding the capacity available to charter holders under the bond guarantee program to back bonds with the Permanent School Fund (PSF).
- HB 713, which would end the de facto “cap” on special education enrollment unveiled by the Houston Chronicle.
- HB 743, which would allow a social worker to provide services to students and families in a school district, collaborating with school administrators in order to enhance students’ learning environments. ATPE supports this bill.
- HB 2051, which would raise the new instructional facilities allotment (NIFA) to $1,000 from $250.
- HB 1081, which would add renovated or repurposed facilities and leased facilities to the New Instructional Facility Allotment (NIFA) under the FSP.
- HB 1720, which would require schools to provide parental notice if a child is found with lice. Furthermore, school officials would be required to notify the parents of every child in the same classroom as a student found with lice.
- HB 2205, which would require school employees to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to local law enforcement, as well as the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
- HB 3157, which would modify eye exam rules to allow students to be screened using photoscreening.
- HB 1342, which would require elementary and high school students to receive mandatory annual sex abuse training “to promote self-protection, prevent sexual abuse of children, and reduce child pregnancy.”
- HB 2130, which would order a study on the impact of the statewide assessment program on students in special education.
- HB 2442, which would change “minutes of instruction” to “minutes of operation” for the purposes of determining the length of each school day.
- HB 1076, which would revisit the timing of mandatory spinal screenings.
- HB 1776, which would replace the U.S. history end-of-course assessment with the same civics test administered to those applying for U.S. citizenship and allow students to take the test at any time, beginning in grade nine.
The hearing began with HB 1152 by state Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), which would require a successful voter referendum before a board of trustees is allowed to change the name of a school district. The bill was filed after some Houston residents expressed disappointment with recent name changes.
HB 2616 by state Rep. Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto) would make it more difficult to suspend a student in a grade level below grade four, as well as create positive behavior and early detection and prevention programs for students experiencing disciplinary problems. According to the fiscal note, HB 2616 would require TEA hire an additional FTE at cost of about $122,000 per year. Rep. Giddings argued that too many children are being removed from school at a young age, which contributes to the “school to prison pipeline.”
HB 1585 by state Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston) would require a district include student input in the local instructional plan process. Rep. Murphy suggested that such a change would encourage more young people to participate in civics.
HB 3106 by state Rep. Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston) would grant financial assistance to a school district to which an unacceptable school district is annexed. Rep. Faircloth explained districts forced to annex a neighboring unacceptable district must often resort to raising local taxes in order to absorb the incoming schools. According to the fiscal note, HB 3106 would cost the state $10.1 million through the biennium ending August 31, 2019. ATPE supports this bill.
HB 2185 by state Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) would specify that immunity from liability and suit of an open-enrollment charter school is not waived unless immunity is expressly waived in statute. The bill would treat open-enrollment charters the same as traditional public schools for purposes of zoning, permitting, code compliance and development. HB 2185 would also exempt open-enrollment charter schools from the requirement to pay impact fees. Krause argued the changes would bring charter schools more in line with policies regarding traditional public school districts.
HB 545 by state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco) would require principals to allow “patriotic societies” such as Boy Scouts to speak to students about membership at the beginning of the school year.
HB 1540 by state Rep. Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) would add the importance of quickly selecting a major or field of study into the list of post-secondary education information required to be provided to high school students.
HB 1114 by state Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale) would reduce the number of service days required of teachers in a district that anticipates providing less than 180 days of instruction, while preserving the teacher’s salary. ATPE supports this bill.
HB 2729 by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville) would order the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to develop an inventory of certifications and credentials that may be earned through high school CTE programs, including certification fees and salary information.
HB 168 by Rep. Lucio would create a voluntary program to recognize licensed before-school and after-school programs that promote healthy eating and physical activity. ATPE supports this bill.
HB 156 by state Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) would establish a pilot program in a certain South Texas high schools for placement of students in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs as an alternative to placement in disciplinary or juvenile justice alternative education programs.
HB 3606 by state Rep. Terry Wilson (R-Marble Falls) would order the TEA to conduct a survey regarding the number of physical education classes, ratio of students enrolled in PE, average PE class size, etc. Supporters of this bill testified that youth obesity is a national security issue and physical fitness correlates with better classroom performance. Rep. Wilson argued locking specific data points in statute would allow the current health survey to better track long-term trends.
HB 209 by state Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) would require every high school to make voter registration applications available to students and employees. Rep. Canales explained current law already requires schools to make registration forms available, but lack of uniform compliance could be improved by cleaning up the law and streamlining the process. ATPE supports this bill.
HB 3476 by Chairman Huberty would require students who are required to take a physical under UIL rules to take an electrocardiogram. Would require one administration before the student’s first year of participation at the high school level and another time before the student’s third year of participation. Would not create a cause of action or liability for a health care professional, district or district employee. Medical representatives opposing the bill’s mandate cautioned that electrocardiogram results cannot be relied upon with 100 percent accuracy. ATPE supports this bill.
HB 3438 by state Rep. Linda Koop (R-Dallas) would create a state financing program administered by the Texas Public Finance Authority (TPFA) to assist school districts with certain expenses. The program would have the authority to issue up to $100 million in bonds or other obligations, which would be guaranteed by the Permanent School Fund. According to the fiscal note, the program would require the state to hire an additional employee at a cost of $131,000 per year.
HB 2884 by state Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) would expand the requirement for daily physical activity in elementary school from four semesters to six. The bill would add a half credit for health and an additional half credit for physical education to the curriculum requirements for graduation under the foundation high school program. Supporters testified healthier students are better learners, and poor health can put education at risk.
HB 3145 by state Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) would require each district’s board of trustees to adopt a school recess policy with a minimum number of minutes. Rep. Deshotel explained studies have shown regular recess periods correlate to better focus in the classroom and higher test scores.
HB 1638 by state Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) would order TEA and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop statewide goals for dual credit programs, along with a program to evaluate them.
HB 3024 by state Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) would add chiropractors to the list of those able to determine that a student might have suffered a concussion and should be removed by an interscholastic athletic activity.
HB 3795 by state Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) would include a student residing in the boundaries of a school district who is attending an open-enrollment charter school in calculating the district’s WADA. According to the fiscal note, such a change would cost the state roughly $654 million over the next biennium.
HB 2880 by Rep. Dutton would reduce the offense of threatening to exhibit or use a firearm at school to a misdemeanor if the person does not have possession of or immediate access to a firearm. Dutton explained that prosecutors may be hesitant to bring felony charges with lifelong implications against a student who makes a threat without actually possessing a firearm. By creating a misdemeanor charge, Dutton suggested prosecutors could convey the seriousness of the incident without permanently marring a child’s prospects through a felony conviction.
HB 3318 by state Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) would require a district of innovation (DOI) to post its innovation plan online and maintain it in public view on the district’s website. Districts of innovation would also be required to reports plans and changes to plans to the TEA for posting on the agency’s website. ATPE supports this bill.
HB 3251 by state Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) would remove language from statute that makes the adjustment for rapid decline in taxable value of property in a school district subject to appropriation. By guaranteeing the adjustment, the fiscal note estimates HB 3251 would carry a cost of $384 million over the next biennium.
HB 3593 by Vice-chairman Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would create a new high school cybersecurity program. HB 3593 would merge the technology applications requirement into CTE for the purposes of the foundation high school program. The bill would order the State Board of Education (SBOE) to approve a course in cybersecurity, and allow districts to offer cybersecurity courses without prior approval if they are in partnership with an institute of higher education that offers an undergraduate degree program in the subject. HB 3593 would add computer coding as an acceptable substitute for credits in a language other than English, would add cybersecurity and coding to STEM endorsement categories, and would entitle a teacher to a subsidy if they pass a certification examination related to cybersecurity. The bill would also allow a district to use new instructional facilities allotment (NIFA) funds to renovate an existing instructional facility to serve as a dedicated cybersecurity laboratory. According to the fiscal note, HB 3593 would cost roughly $45 million over the next biennium.
HB 2614 by Chairman Huberty would waive the requirement that school districts administer a free nationally norm-referenced preliminary college preparation assessment instrument to students entering high school and students in the 10th grade.
HB 3369 by Chairman Huberty would require additional training and supports for special education teachers and district personnel responsible for determining eligibility for special education programs.
HB 3381 by Chairman Huberty would order the governor to designate a Texas Military Heroes Day in public schools. Would require instruction regarding persons who have served in the armed forces from the community in which the district is located and age-appropriate learning projects at battlefields and gravesites.
HB 1980 by state Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would allow a transfer student to graduate through an individual graduation committee if they transferred after completing grade 11 in a different state and are unable to comply with curriculum requirements or end-of-course assessment instrument requirements needed for graduation. APTE supports this bill.
HB 2087 by Rep. VanDeaver would protect student data. Specifically, the bill would protect students’ personally identifiable information from being gathered by web sites or providers for targeted advertising.
HB 1593 by Rep. Bohac would add programs and interventions that engage a family in supporting a student’s learning at home to requirements for family engagement strategies. ATPE supports this bill.
HB 895 by state Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) would allow for the expansion of full-time virtual school programs by requiring districts pay the cost of full-time virtual schools that were set up after January 1, 2013. Previous legislation capped the growth of additional full-time virtual school programs by confining state funding to those established before 2013.
ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified against HB 895, pointing out the growing body of research that indicates full-time virtual schools provide a poor substitute for brick-and-mortar classroom instruction. The state’s two largest full-time virtual school programs were rated “needs improvement” in 2016, yet continue to serve the vast majority of full-time virtual school students in Texas. As long as full-time virtual school programs continue to fail Texas students, there is no justification for further expansion.
Before adjourning Tuesday’s meeting, Chairman Huberty announced the committee could vote out additional bills as soon as tomorrow.