Category Archives: Uncategorized

Late night House hearing tackles Tebow bill, vouchers

The House Public Education Committee met Thursday morning just hours after the House wrapped up a marathon floor session on immigration legislation. Members heard a handful of bills just hours after debate from the previous day wrapped up on the House floor, then broke for another long day of floor activity. After the committee resumed its meeting Thursday evening, members voted out the following items of pending legislation:

  • HB 145, which would require any district with a student enrollment that includes more than 1,000 African-American males to use only the academic achievement differentials among African-American males for accountability purposes under the first domain of “A through F.”
  • CSHB 306, the anti-cyberbullying bill. A committee to the bill substitute removed language relating to bullying “causing a student to suffer substantial negative mental health affects.” The substitute also removed language that would have prohibited bullying outside of school related activities. The new version loosened time restraints on reporting, removed the protection for anonymous reporting and removed mandatory reporting to law enforcement. It added a mental health training provision, removed the liability cause of action for parental responsibility, removed the newly-created crime of cyberbullying and added cyberbullying to harassment penal code. The substitute removed all of the felony language and added a severability clause.
  • CSHB 674, which was heard Thursday morning.
  • CSHB 811, which would extend ASATR through 2021 at an estimated cost of $402 million over the next two years. A committee substitute moved the expiration of ASATR to September 2019 for most districts.
  • HB 884, which would order the State Board of Education (SBOE) to review and revise the foundation curriculum Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) to be narrower and require less time than the TEKS adopted as of January 1, 2017.
  • CSHB 1152, which would require a successful voter referendum before a board of trustees is allowed to change the name of a school district. State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) voted against the bill, and Vice-chair Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) voted present.
  • HB 1799, which would create a registry for teachers who have been involved in inappropriate relationships with students or those who have been deemed ineligible to teach as a result of their criminal history.
  • CSHB 2209, which would incorporate “universal design for learning” into the required training for all classroom teachers. It would require additional continuing education and require SBEC to add training in disabilities to the requirements for educator preparation programs (EPPs).
  • CSHB 2395, which would order each district and charter to test their water for lead using a third-party testing service.
  • HB 2782, which would prohibit the Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner from implementing an accountability system designed to produce A-F results along a bell curve, and would require implementation in a manner that provides the mathematical possibility that all districts and campuses receive an “A” rating.
  • HB 2790, which would allow an independent apprenticeship committee to conduct an apprentice program and receive funding.
  • CSHB 3349, which would allow for abbreviated certification for CTE.
  • CSHB 3526, which would rename the instructional materials allotment to the technology and instructional materials allotment. A committee substitute removed the study requirement.
  • CSHB 3606, which 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.
  • CSHB 3887, which would add physical and emotional trauma training to the mental health training requirements for school staff.
ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testifying before the House Public Education Committee, April 27, 2017.

ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testifying before the House Public Education Committee, April 27, 2017.

Thursday’s hearing stretched into the early morning hours, finally wrapping up just after 3:00 a.m. Friday. The day’s hearing began Thursday morning with HB 674 by state Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas), which would prohibit a student under six from being placed in out-of-school suspension unless he commits a violent or drug-related offense.

HB 2159 by state Rep. Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto) would allow at least a two week grace period for students whose meal card expires and extend credit in order for them to be able to continue to purchase meals. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 2093 by state Rep. Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land) would order TEA conduct a study and issue a report to determine the most appropriate method for including the performance of gifted and talented students in determined school accountability.

HB 3684 by state Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) would add instruction to prevent the use of e-cigarettes to the tobacco prevention section of the duties of the local school health advisory committee.

HB 1759 by state Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) would allow a school district and county to enter into a contract for the district to contribute resources to pay for an instructional facilities or stadium owned by, on the property of or under the control of the county. Rep. Smithee explained it would allow his local school district to utilize a former minor league baseball facility.

HB 3861 by state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) would allow a failing campus to operate as a community school as a campus turnaround plan. The bill would require a school partner with a lead organization that has experience implementing a community school plan and would require approval of at least 75 percent of campus faculty and staff, as well as 75 percent of parents. It would prohibit the TEA commissioner from closing a campus without first giving them the opportunity to operate as a community school, essentially establishing the model as a backstop.

HB 3437 by state Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) would order the TEA to develop a special education recovery program for the benefit of students negatively affected by the special ed “cap.” The bill would order the agency to identify students who were denied special education services and offer reevaluation. It would determine the districts required to participate by identifying those whose special education enrollment declined by 75 percent or 200 students from the 2004-2005 school year to the 2016-2017 school year. Rep. Moody introduced a committee substitute that would focus on parental notification that the cap is no longer in effect, while allowing for the incorporation of forthcoming guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.

HB 1692 by state Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mount Pleasant) would allow a licensed handgun owner to store a firearm in a vehicle parked in the parking lot of a public school, open-enrollment charter school or private school.

HB 1516 by state Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) would allow a school district to excuse a student on final exam day if they’re exempt from the final without the district losing ADA funding.

HB 3472 by state Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) would exempt those teaching applied STEM or noncore mathematics courses from the requirement to hold a bachelor’s degree and obtain permission from the TEA commissioner in order to obtain a school district teaching permit.

ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified against HB 3472, pointing out that school districts are already allowed to designate uncertified subject matter experts as teachers through the district permit process, which can be renewed. Exter noted that it is educationally inappropriate for an individual without a college degree to be teaching a mathematics course.

HB 2329 by state Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale) would prohibit the Dallas County school district from assessing a countywide equalization tax. Burkett explained her bill deals with concerns over the management of Dallas County Schools, which provides transportation services to several districts in the Dallas area.

HB 867 by state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) would expand the school marshal program to private schools.

HB 930 by state Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Frisco) would allow a board of trustees of an independent school district to enact or lift term limits.

HB 3244 by state Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) would allow a district to provide a salary bonus “or similar compensation” to a teacher who completes autism training through a regional education service center. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 1261 by state Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) would ban charter schools from discriminating based generally on discipline history.

ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified in support of HB 1261, pointing out that discriminatory admissions policies are not product envisioned in the original idea that charter schools operate as laboratories of innovation. If charters are to be deemed successful, they should be deemed so by proving they are capable of successfully educating the same mix of students as traditional schools.

HB 3270 by state Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) would waive background check requirements for certain construction subcontractors working under specific conditions that render student contact unlikely.

HB 1687 by Rep. Bohac would require each district to develop a written agreement between the student, teacher and parents for every grade level that outlines the responsibilities of each. Parents and teachers would be required to sign, and the district would be responsible for determining enforcement of signatures and provisions.

HB 1577 by state Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville) would prohibit UIL from assigning a school to a district for competition purposes that would require the school to travel more than 100 miles to compete, unless placement in an appropriate conference based on the school’s enrollment is unavailable and the school declines placement in a district in a conference for schools with higher enrollment.

HB 4027 by state Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) would add additional guidelines to the transition plan for special education students preparing to leave the public school system. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 2730 by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville) would allow the TEA commissioner to create additional CTE credentials or certificates. The bill would order the commissioner to conduct a study to identify unmet needs and create a credential or certification for information technology in accordance with the results of the study. According to the fiscal note, HB 2730 could cost $535,000 over the biennium ending August 31, 2019. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 1335 by state Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) would create a voucher in the style of an “education savings account” (ESA) for certain children with special needs and other educational disadvantages. According to the fiscal note, HB 1335 would cost the state as much as $212 million over the next biennium. Under extensive questioning by committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston), Rep. Simmons acknowledged that an ESA voucher would likely not cover the full cost for a school that specializes in special education. TEA staff pointed out districts are already required to contract with private programs for the full cost of special education services in the event that the district does not provide those services itself. Such a contract could cost $76,000 per year for a single student for whom the district generates roughly $10,000 in per-pupil funding.

ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified against HB 1335, pointing out that the bill is open to students that have not been in the public school system, which would dramatically increase the fiscal note. Exter also noted that the bill does not specify who will determine whether children should be enrolled in a special education program. Exter suggested that concerns about a special education voucher being a toehold for a full voucher program could be allayed if lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment to limit any voucher program to special education. Such an amendment would require a legislative supermajority to reverse.

HB 4193 by Rep. Simmons would set up a bank account and debit card for qualifying special education students to receive money for educational services and therapies. The program could be funded through special education grants under Chapter 29. The bill would establish the financial framework for a special ed ESA. According to the fiscal note, the true fiscal impact of HB 4193 cannot be determined due to the uncertainty of the grant program, but costs to the state could be quite substantial. ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified neutrally on HB 4193, raising concern over the way the language mirrors an ESA.

HB 1323 by state Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), referred to by some supporters as the “Tim Tebow bill,” would allow home-schooled students to participate in University Interscholastic League (UIL) sponsored activities. This would create an uneven playing field that would leave public school students at a significant competitive disadvantage.

ATPE submitted written testimony against HB 1323, pointing out that home-schooled students would not be subjected to the same requirements as students enrolled in the public school system. Home-schooled students would not be required to meet the same attendance requirements, and giving parents responsibility for their children’s academic eligibility is problematic.

HB 356 by Chairman Huberty would allow a school board member or administrator who is licensed to carry a handgun to lawfully carry a handgun to a school board meeting.

HB 3800 by state Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) would state that an open-enrollment charter school is not a political subdivision or local governmental entity unless a provision in Chapter 12 states that a specific statute applies to an open-enrollment charter school. The bill would specify that an open-enrollment charter school is a political subdivision for the purposes of Chapter 617, Government Code, which prohibits strikes and collective bargaining by public employees.

HB 3716 by state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) would remove the prohibition on including student information in the results of individual student performance on the physical fitness assessment.

House Public Education hears pre-K, testing bills

The House Public Education Committee met Tuesday morning to begin another busy week of hearing House bills. During a break in testimony, the committee approved the following bills:

  • CSHB 2683, which would exempt school buses from paying a toll for the use of a toll project.
  • CSHB 2616, which 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.
  • HB 545, which 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 69, which would require each school district and open-enrollment charter school to include in the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) report the number of children with disabilities residing in a residential facility who are required to be tracked by the Residential Facility Monitoring (RFM) System and are receiving educational services from the district or school.
  • HB 1650, which would allow a student who passes a dual credit course on U.S. history to skip the U.S. history end-of-course exam.
  • CSHB 4064, which would add a digital education requirement to the qualifications for teacher certification and add a continuing education credit for instruction in digital technology. The bill would also include digital learning in the requirements for staff development. The substitute includes a number of requirement, such as that teacher candidates be instructed in digital literacy.
  • HB 895, which 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. The bill passed by a vote of seven to four, with Vice-Chair Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) voting against.
  • HB 3439, which would allow school districts to contract with a charter to operate a district campus and share teachers, facilities or resources. Such schools would be entitled to the greater of the funding per weighted average daily attendance (WADA) entitled to the district or the charter.
House Public Education Committee meeting April 25, 2017.

House Public Education Committee meeting April 25, 2017.

The meeting began with HB 3526 by state Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), which would rename the instructional materials allotment to the technology and instructional materials allotment. Rep. Howard explained the change would reflect the reality that the fund is being increasingly utilized to fund technology expenses. Rep. Howard introduced a committee substitute that would include a study on the effectiveness, value and best use of electronic instructional materials, considering a variety of demographics. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 2997 by state Rep. Justin Holland (R-Rockwall) would refine the “A through F” accountability system, keeping the current five domains for high school and compressing junior high and middle schools to four.

HB 2790 by state Rep. James White (R-Hillister) would allow an independent apprenticeship committee to conduct an apprentice program and receive funding. Texas Workforce Commission staff testified the bill would be unlikely to negatively impact the agency’s budget.

HB 3384 by state Rep. Mike Schofield (R-Katy) would require a district provide information requested by a trustee within ten days of the request. It would allow a member to bring suit against a district that does not comply and recover court costs and attorney’s fees, to be paid from the budget of the district superintendent’s office. Citing concerns with the bill, Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston) suggested bracketing it to a single district could make it more likely to advance from the committee.

HB 2782 by state Rep. Terry Wilson (R-Marble Falls) would prohibit the Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner from implementing an accountability system designed to produce A-F results along a bell curve, and would require implementation in a manner that provides the mathematical possibility that all districts and campuses receive an “A” rating. Rep. Wilson explained the bill would put current TEA policy into statute. ATPE supports this bill.

SB 22 by Senate Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) would replace the current tech-prep program with a Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program. State Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville), the bill’s House sponsor, explained the bill would help address the skilled labor gap. Rep. Lucio stated SB 22 would rectify shortcomings in the current program and address regional workforce needs as well as credit transfer policies. According the fiscal note, SB 22 would cost the state roughly $5 billion over the next biennium. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 1865 by state Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) would remove school calendar start and end date from the list of eligible DOI exemptions. It would also move the start date to the Tuesday after Labor Day and end date to between May 15 and the Friday before Memorial Day. Rep. Krause presented a committee substitute that would confine the bill to solely removing school start date from the list of DOI exemptions.

ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified neutrally on the bill, pointing out that charter schools currently have a competitive advantage over public schools in their ability to set their own start dates without going through a waiver process such as DOI. Exter suggested both systems should be encouraged to adopt policies that best serve their students, including with regard to a uniform start date. Exter further suggested that if lawmakers determine summer flexibility is important, it should be extended to public schools as well.

HB 2806 by state Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) would require school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to report to PEIMS the number and percentage of students enrolled in voluntary after-school and summer programs, along with the number of campuses that offer such programs.

HB 4085 by state Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) would create an additional exemption from SBOE approval for special programs if the district partners with a local economic development corporation and local businesses to develop and provide the course.

HB 3635 by Rep. Krause would require the commissioner to establish objective eligibility and performance standards, including academic and financial performance, for districts pursuing DOI status. Would require DOI plans to include performance objectives and allow the commissioner to terminate a DOI after a single unacceptable performance rating. According to the fiscal note, HB 3635 would require TEA hire two additional full-time equivalent staff, costing the state an estimated $217,000 per year.

ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified in support of the bill, pointing out that many of the provisions eligible for exemption under the DOI model were specifically put in place in order to safeguard students’ classroom environment. If districts are allowed to waive class size ratios, teacher certification and parental notification requirements, they should be able to justify why those exemptions are needed and show if they meet performance objectives.

HB 1042 by state Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) would expand a parent’s right to request their student be allowed to take home instructional materials. It would require a school district or open-enrollment charter to provide instructional materials to a student in printed book format if the student does not have reliable access to technology at home. Districts or charters would also be required to document and report all denials of such requests, and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) would be required to submit an annual report to the legislature.

HB 633 by state Rep. Mary González (D-El Paso) would remove student discipline under Subchapter A, Chapter 37, from the list of eligible exemptions available to districts of innovation (DOIs). According to TEA, more than 70 DOIs have exempted themselves from provisions under Chapter ATPE supports this bill.

HB 2247 by state Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) would grant a right to a relative caregiver to enroll a child who lives with them in school if the child’s parent or legal guardian could not be reached for authorization. The bill also outlines an affidavit the relative would be required to sign.

HB 3759 by state Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) would exempt districts from a number of hand-picked sections of the Education Code and Health and Safety Code, alleging that they amount to unfunded mandates. Chairman Huberty voiced serious concerns about exempting districts from provisions of the Education Code meant to protect special education students. ATPE opposes this bill.

HB 2047 by state Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) lays out a mechanism through which adjoining school districts could agree to change a boundary.

HB 1180 by state Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) would prohibit a school district from scheduling the last day of school after the Friday before Memorial Day and would extend the grandfather clause for year-round schools to those operating year-round during the 2016-2017 school year. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 1857 by Educator Quality Subcommittee Chair Ken King (R-Canadian) would require instructional materials approved by the State Board of Education (SBOE) be suitable for the subject and grade level for which the instructional material was submitted. Current statute only specifies that instructional material be free from factual errors, so this bill would give SBOE an additional tool for vetting textbooks. SBOE member Tom Maynard (R-Florence) testified in support of the measure.

HB 2255 by Chairman King would open up high-quality prekindergarten to any child three years of age or older, and give districts the option of offering full-day or half-day pre-K. Districts that operate full-day pre-K would be allowed to include full days of attendance for calculating ADA. Would also increase requirements on private entities contracted to provide pre-K services. According to the fiscal note, HB 2255 would cost roughly $4.5 billion over the biennium.

ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified in support of HB 2255, pointing out numerous studies that show prekindergarten offers substantial benefits to students. The 2005 HighScope Perry study found adults who attended pre-K as a child earned more money, were more likely to hold a job, committed fewer crimes and were more likely to have graduated high school. Pre-K saves taxpayer money on K-12 education, child welfare and the criminal justice system. In evaluating pre-K programs, ATPE looks at universality, half-day and full-day options, and high quality. Wiggins suggested King’s bill moves forward in all three areas.

HB 880 by Chairman King (R-Canadian) would allow a school district to assign a teacher certified for English as a Second Language (ESL) to a bilingual education program for one school year if the commissioner has determined that there is a shortage of teachers certified for bilingual education for the school year and one is not reasonably available to the district.

HB 1333 by state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) would reduce the standardized tests required of public school students. The bill calls for delinking teacher evaluations from student test scores, but it would also require Texas to seek a waiver of federal laws that require several tests currently administered to students starting in grade three and moving through the high school grades. The fiscal note estimates HB 1333 would save the state $1.8 million through the biennium ending August 31, 2019.

ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified neutrally on HB 1333, registering strong support for three major components of the bill. Testing should be taken down to the federal minimum, should be a smaller percentage of overall accountability system, and should be removed from teacher evaluations. Exter highlighted a data comparability concern stemming from the idea of allowing districts to utilize various different tests across the state, since doing so would lost the potentially beneficial data gathered through a single test.

HB 1651 by state Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) would replace the current classroom supply reimbursement program, which is subject to appropriation and not guaranteed, with a blanket $200 reimbursement per teacher per school year. The fiscal note anticipates districts would see a combined cost of $69.4 million each year if all 347,000 teachers receive the full $200 reimbursement. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 3347 by Chairman Huberty would allow districts to establish before-school or after-school programs, but prohibit them from using state or local funds appropriated to the district for educational purposes to support such a program. Districts would be allowed to contract with a licensed child-care facility.

House Public Education Committee approves mentor bill

The House Public Education Committee met following Monday’s floor session to vote out a handful of bills. The committee approved the following bills unanimously:

  • CSHB 515, which would eliminate writing and social studies assessments and require only end-of-course assessments in reading, math and science as required by federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • CSHB 539, which would allow the children of military service members to enroll full-time in the state virtual school network.
  • CSHB 816, which would create a mentor program for new teachers in Texas.
  • HB 1918, which would create a grant program to provide online professional development courses for new teachers, those teaching out of their certification or those teaching at underperforming schools.
House Public Education Committee meeting on the House floor, April 24, 2017.

House Public Education Committee meeting on the House floor, April 24, 2017.

CSHB 2185 failed on a tie vote, with five members voting for and five voting against the measure. The bill would have specified that immunity from liability and suit of an open-enrollment charter school is not waived unless immunity is expressly waived in statute. It would have treated open-enrollment charters the same as traditional public schools for purposes of zoning, permitting, code compliance and development. HB 2185 would also have exempted open-enrollment charter schools from the requirement to pay impact fees. Voting against the committee substitute, state Rep. Linda Koop (R-Dallas) explained it would negatively impact Dallas ISD.

The committee will meet at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday to consider more than two dozen bills on the agenda.

House Public Education advances teacher misconduct bills

The House Public Education Committee met Wednesday afternoon to vote out several pending items. Most of the bills were passed by a unanimous vote:

  • HB 23 by Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston), which would create a five-year grant program to provide money for districts and charters that provide innovative services to students with autism. 
  • HB 79, which would eliminate the cap the percentage of special education students who take alternative assessments, as opposed to standard assessments.
  • HB 168, would create a voluntary program to recognize licensed before-school and after-school programs that promote healthy eating and physical activity. The committee recommended this bill for placement on the local and consent calendar.
  • HB 404, which would create higher education curriculum review teams charged with reviewing changes to the TEKS.
  • HB 639, which would authorize districts to obtain health benefit plan, liability or auto insurance for partner businesses and students participating in CTE programs. State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) voted “present.”
  • HB 1556, which would require training for foster parents of a child with disabilities before making educational decisions on the child’s behalf.
  • HB 1593, which would add programs and interventions that engage a family in supporting a student’s learning at home to requirements for family engagement strategies. The committee recommended this bill for placement on the local and consent calendar.
  • HB 1980, which 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.
  • HB 2039, which would create a new Early Childhood through Grade 3 Certificate, which the SBEC is currently in the process of thoroughly reviewing as one of several avenues to help early childhood teachers get the specific instruction needed to best teach early childhood students.
  • HB 2729, which 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 2880, which 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.
  • HB 3024, which 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 3563, which would make it more difficult for a school to avoid notifying parents when their child is assigned to an uncertified teacher.
  • HB 3593, which would create a new high school cybersecurity program.
  • HB 3769, which is the House companion to SB 7.
  • SB 7, which is the teacher misconduct bill aimed to crack down on inappropriate student-teacher relationships and end so-called “pass the trash” practices that result in teachers guilty of misconduct obtaining work in other school districts.
  • HB 713, which would end the de facto “cap” on special education enrollment unveiled by the Houston Chronicle. The committee reconsidered its previous vote in order to recommend this bill for placement on the local and consent calendar.

Chairman Huberty concluded the formal meeting by reminding members that HB 21, House leadership’s priority school finance bill, is scheduled for floor action next Wednesday. Amendments are due by 5pm Monday.

House Public Education committee advances flurry of bills

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:

House Public Education committee meets April 11, 2017

House Public Education committee meeting April 11, 2017

  • 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.

House Public Education Committee convenes first meeting

HPE02-21-17

The House Public Education Committee met at the Texas State Capitol on Feb. 21, 2017. The committee heard invited testimony only.

The House Public Education Committee held its first meeting of the 2017 legislative session today, Feb. 21. Newly-appointed chair Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) began the hearing by appointing state Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) chair of the Subcommittee on Educator Quality, where he is joined by Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) as vice-chair and Reps. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas), and Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston).

Chairman Huberty kicked off the hearing by noting the committee’s efforts to address school finance during the interim. After the Texas Supreme Court ruled the current system “lawful but awful,” according to Huberty, the committee spent much of 2016 working on fixes under the leadership of then-outgoing Public Education Committee chair Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) and Appropriations chair John Otto (R-Dayton).

Notably, Huberty vowed the committee would get to work on school finance early, and suggested the topic would be the focus of hearings during the next two to three weeks.

Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath briefed the committee on agency operations and priorities. The agency currently serves roughly 5.3 million students and oversees $56 billion in funds. About 348,000 teachers are employed across 8,685 campuses. Texas boasts an 88 percent high school graduation rate, despite serving a student body that is almost 60 percent economically disadvantaged.

Morath highlighted a brief list of priority initiatives, including an agency “lesson study” initiative – a professional development tool used to develop best approaches to individual Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) components – as well as high-quality pre-kindergarten, math innovation zones, and rolling out the “A through F” accountability system.

Chairman Huberty pressed the commissioner on several areas of recent interest, beginning with informal “caps” on special education enrollment unveiled by a Houston Chronicle investigation. Morath told the chairman the special education performance indicator at issue had “outlived its usefulness.” House Bill 363 filed this session by Huberty would require TEA to cease using the indicator. Morath assured the chair, “If for some reason it doesn’t pass, we’re going to do it anyway.”

Chairman Huberty also asked the commissioner about TEA’s interaction with testing vendor Educational Testing Service (ETS) over faulty STAAR tests. Morath said the agency has imposed financial penalties on ETS. Continuing on the testing subject, Huberty prodded Morath on efforts to shorten the STAAR test as required by Huberty’s House Bill 743 from the 2015 legislative session. Morath indicated the process of creating a shorter test has cost the agency more than anticipated, and teachers may not have been provided adequate practice time with testing changes.

In response to Huberty’s inquiry regarding Districts of Innovation (DOI), Commissioner Morath testified that 105 districts have applied for DOI status thus far. According to the commissioner, the most popular exemptions are from teacher certification requirements, the first day of instruction, and class-size limits.

With regard to charter schools, Morath told the committee the state currently hosts 178 public charter entities, which operate a total of 603 campuses and serve roughly 245,000 students – about five percent of the total student population. A total of 22 entities have had their charters revoked, and seven have been non-renewed.

Chairman Huberty pointed out the state has not reached the charter cap and is not in danger of doing so. Rep. VanDeaver, a former superintendent, noted that in districts forced to pay recapture such as Houston ISD, the state pays more to educate a student in a charter school than in a public school.

Finally, the committee received a briefing from Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim, who chaired the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. The 15-member commission was convened as a result of House Bill 2804 in 2015, and delivered a report to the legislature in August 2016, which included nine final recommendations for new systems of student assessment and public school accountability. You can read the commission’s full report here.

Chairman Huberty concluded today’s hearing by announcing that the committee will begin school finance discussions at the next meeting. The committee will hear from school districts when it meets again next Tuesday, and school finance bills will be posted for hearing the following week. Once those bills are voted out, Huberty said the committee will take up accountability issues, including A through F.

Dan_Huberty_HD127_2016pic

Rep. Dan Huberty

Related: House Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Huberty will be one of our legislative panelists for ATPE at the Capitol, our upcoming political involvement training event exclusively for ATPE members on March 5, 2017.

 

Latest preview of the 85th Texas Legislature Express

As the Man in Black famously sang, “When I hear that whistle blowin’, I hang my head and cry.”

Johnny Cash was singing about the hard life in Folsom Prison, but the sentiment perfectly captures the feeling some Texas Capitol watchers have as the legislative locomotive rounds the bend for another 140-day odyssey of lawmaking.

The regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature is approaching like a freight train, and the biggest question around town is which of its three conductors will wind up with the tightest grip on the controls. Will it be the fire-stoking lieutenant governor? The sure-handed house speaker? The governor with the deft touch?

While the latter has kept his plans close to the vest, political observers got a little better look this week at how the leaders of the state’s two legislative bodies view their priorities.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released his third set of legislative priorities this week, bringing his total up to 25 items. The list is heavy on culture wars issues, with top billing given to issues involving bathrooms, abortion, and immigration. It’s customary to reserve the lowest bill numbers for the highest priority items, and Lt. Gov. Patrick’s top ten list also includes a “Pass the Trash” bill (SB 7), aimed to elevate reporting requirements and penalties for inappropriate student-teacher relationships, as well as an alternative school choice vehicle (SB 3) reserved for vouchers.

The lieutenant governor has continued to beat the drums for an alt-school choice measure in the run-up to session, and expanded upon his rationale this week to a small tea party split-off group in Tarrant County. Patrick accused Texas schools of failing, yet having plenty of money. Both claims crumble under scrutiny. Texas schools continue to perform well, despite billions in still-unrecovered cuts from 2011 and a steadily declining state share of education funding responsible for shifting the burden of paying for schools onto local homeowners. According to those in the audience, Patrick admitted that money public school children lose to vouchers would not be reimbursed, and wouldn’t answer a question about accountability.

Concerns about accountability for private businesses receiving public taxpayer money and already inadequate public school funding make the current session a difficult environment for vouchers. The alt-choice lobby has responded by specifically targeting teachers with a payroll deduction measure (SB 13) that would prohibit the ability of teachers to safely and securely contribute to organizations, including ATPE, which support their interests in the legislature.

Make no mistake. This measure is directly tied to the voucher fight, and voucher backers hope teachers won’t notice. This measure has been declared a priority by Lt. Gov. Patrick, and it is already being fiercely lobbied in order to silence teachers for daring to raise their voices in the Texas Capitol. We encourage all of our members to contact their state senators and representatives and urge them to oppose this measure at all costs.

Despite what’s brewing in the Texas Senate, vouchers are again expected to get a chilly reception in the pragmatic Texas House of Representatives. Speaking to state politicos Tuesday at a symposium hosted by the Texas Tribune, Texas Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) pointed out the variety of school choice options now available, including public charter schools and district transfers, drawing a distinction between alternative-choice ideas like vouchers. ”It depends on what you mean by school choice,” Straus explained. ”I think we ought to keep an open mind about all that.”

While he hasn’t released a bullet list like his senate counterpart, Speaker Straus has committed to focus broadly on critical areas, such as education, transportation, and the ongoing crisis within the state’s Child Protective Services and foster care system. Straus indicated that the lieutenant governor’s politically explosive bathroom bill would not be “the most urgent concern of mine,” and instead emphasized the pressing need to address a broken and unfair school finance system that affects all Texas schoolchildren. Straus urged members to “listen to their school districts” regarding school finance, highlighting the failure of the Robin Hood system to meet the needs of districts such as Houston and Austin.

“I’m not expecting a miracle,” Straus said of the school finance challenge, while at the same time warning against inaction. “Not addressing this may be more problematic than addressing it.”

There’s still plenty of room for positioning before the 85th Texas Legislature Express roars into the station on Jan. 10. Now is a critical time for letting legislators know where our members stand with regard to vouchers (SB 3) and the critical payroll deduction measure (SB 13). By contacting your legislators this month and expressing forcefully and early that your voice will not be silenced, you’ll help clear the track ahead of what could otherwise be some rough riding.

If everyone pitches in to make the Express a success, we’ll be able to sing the refrain together, “And I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away.”

 

Mark Wiggins joins the ATPE GR team

Mark WigginsThe ATPE Government Relations Department is proud to introduce its newest team member, ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins!

Mark joins our team this week, bringing with him a wealth of valuable experience. Before coming to ATPE, Mark worked as a reporter at Austin’s ABC News affiliate, where he covered Texas politics for more than a dozen sister stations across the state. He’s interviewed governors, presidential candidates, and elected officials at every level.

You may recognize Mark’s name as the recipient of ATPE’s 2016 Alafair Hammett Media Award, which is given to three journalists annually who demonstrate excellence in education reporting. Certainly, Mark is no stranger to ATPE.

During his time covering the Capitol and Texas politics, Mark says he learned a lot about how things get done in Texas and the plethora of factors that shape our state. Based on this, he shares that one thing is clear: “It all begins with education. Strong public schools are the foundries of our future. Each day, educators are shaping future leaders, workers, and innovators. Our government, our economy, our Texas way of life relies on strong public schools and outstanding educators. I’m here to go to bat and make sure you have what you need to be successful!”

Mark is a proud native Texan and comes from a family of Texas educators. We are excited that Mark has joined the team and look forward to all he will bring to ATPE. Please join us in welcoming Mark!