Tag Archives: class-size

House Public Education reviews grab bag of school bills

The House Public Education Committee met Tuesday to consider a score of bills touching a variety of subjects. Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston) began the hearing by referring the following bills to the Subcommittee on Educator Quality, chaired by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian): HB 49, HB 218, HB 331, HB 333, HB 460, HB 816, HB 972, HB 1255, HB 1403, HB 1469 and HB 1485.

The day’s testimony began with HB 1291 by state Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), which would add “American principles” to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The TEKS would include the study of the Founding Fathers of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalist Papers. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 639 by state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco) would authorize districts to obtain health benefit plan, liability or auto insurance for partner businesses and students participating in CTE programs. Anderson suggested insurance is important in the event of accidents related to CTE instruction.

HB 1645 by state Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville) would require school districts that offer varsity letters to adopt a policy that allows students to earn a letter for participating in a Special Olympics event. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 69 by state Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) 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 264 by state Rep. Ana Hernandez (D-Houston) would require TEA to continue until 2020 providing outreach materials to districts required under Section 28.015, Education Code, regarding public school curriculum changes under House Bill 5, which passed in 2013. The section includes explanations of the basic career and college readiness components of each endorsement, requirements to gain automatic college admission, and financial aid requirements for the TEXAS grant and the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant Program. The section is currently set to expire September 1, 2018.

HB 452 by state Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) would require report cards to include the number of students in each class. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 728 by state Rep. Bobby Guerra (D-Mission) would create an advanced computer science program that would satisfy the curriculum requirements for a third math or science credit.

HB 1270 by state Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) would allow schools to excuse student absences for the purpose of visiting a military recruitment center. A similar provision currently allows for excused absences to visit a college or university campus.

HB 136 by state Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) would include a CTE objective under the public education objectives enumerated in Section 4.001(b), Education Code. The text would read, “Objective 11: The State Board of Education, the agency, and the commissioner shall assist school districts and charter schools in providing career and technology education and effective workforce training opportunities to students.”

HB 1389 by state Rep. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) would include prekindergarten in the 22-student class size limit currently in effect for kindergarten through grade four. The bill would result in smaller class sizes for schools that are currently over the limit, but would not carry a significant fiscal impact to the state budget. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 710 by state Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) would extend free half-day prekindergarten to full-day for the same set of eligible students. Research has shown early childhood education improves student learning through the elementary grades, leading to improved educational outcomes overall. According to the fiscal note, the change would cost $1.6 billion over the 2018-2019 biennium. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 620 by state Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) would allow districts the option of moving the school start date to the second Monday in August, up from the fourth, and require instruction time measured in minutes, as opposed to days. This would allow districts more flexibility in scheduling, provide additional time to prepare for first semester assessments, and allow for earlier summer release. No fiscal impact to the state is anticipated. ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified in support of the bill, pointing out that current restrictions can be burdensome when it comes to predictably and adequately allocating instruction time.

HB 729 by state Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) would integrate character traits instruction into the TEKS, and require a center for education research to study the effects of character traits instruction on student attendance and disciplinary problems. Bohac suggested emphasizing positive character traits would improve school performance overall. ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified in favor of the bill, noting that statewide standards would eliminate the patchwork implementation of character traits instruction.

HB 404 by state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) would create higher education curriculum review teams charged with reviewing changes to the TEKS. Currently, the State Board of Education (SBOE) appoints TEKS review committees composed largely of K-12 teachers, as well as up to seven “experts” as defined by board rules. This bill would define a process and expert panel with at least five years of higher education teaching experience in the relevant subject or a doctorate in education. The panel would be selected the Higher Education Coordinating Board and higher education commissioner, which would insulate the experts from the appearance of political influence. The bill would also protect the panel’s recommendations by setting a two-thirds vote threshold for SBOE.

Rep. Anchia described the bill as “a work in progress.” ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified in favor of the bill, and advocated for ensuring that K-12 educators have a meaningful impact on the process as well. Recently, SBOE has taken steps to improve its TEKS review process, and ATPE supports a collaborative effort to codify improvements in statute in order to ensure the success of future reviews.

HB 539 by state Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would allow the children of military service members to enroll full-time in the state virtual school network. According to TEA, roughly 12,000 students, about 0.3 percent of the state’s total enrollment, are currently enrolled in the virtual school network. Approximately 63,500 military dependents are enrolled in grades three through twelve. The Legislative Budget Board assumes 0.5 percent, or 318 students, would enroll in the virtual school network. Based on that, the fiscal note assumes the change would cost an additional $5.3 million – which Chairman Huberty and Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Highland Park) disputed, suggesting the expense was overstated.

HB 367 by Vice-Chairman Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would expressly allow schools to donate surplus unserved cafeteria food to hungry children on campus through a third-party non-profit. Some schools already do this, but this bill would guarantee that right in statute and give rulemaking authority to the commissioner of education. No significant fiscal implication to the state is anticipated.

HB 357 by Chairman Huberty would extend free prekindergarten eligibility to the children of anyone eligible for the Star of Texas Award for police, firefighters and emergency medical first responders killed or seriously injured in the line of duty. According to the fiscal note, no significant impact on the budget is expected. ATPE supports this bill.

All those bills were left pending.

The board unanimously approved HB 223 by state Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), which would provide districts the option of providing childcare services or assistance with childcare expenses to students at risk of dropping out through the existing compensatory education allotment. Since the allotment provides a set amount of funding, the change would not fiscally impact the state. The bill will head to the House floor next.

The committee also resumed consideration of HB 21, House leadership’s priority school finance bill that would add $1.6 billion to public education. Huberty warned that without HB 21, the budget would effectively fund $140 less per pupil and there would be no plan for dealing with the expiration of ASATR.

Noting he has had numerous meetings with stakeholders, Huberty suggested hardship grants for districts losing ASATR could be stair-stepped. Additional transportation funding could be capped at five percent of the total spend, Chapter 41 districts at 15 percent and ASATR at 80 percent, or $100 million in 2018 and $60 million in 2019. Discussing whether lawmakers should offer more or less flexibility regarding grant fund allocation, TEA recommended erring on the side of being more prescriptive in order to provide clear direction.

For the 327 school districts whose property taxes are maxed out at $1.17, the committee entertained testimony suggesting raising the yield on “copper pennies.” It’s important to note that the more the state spends on public education in general, the less school districts will be forced to rely on local homeowners for funding. In other words, real property tax relief – not the bumper sticker kind, but meaningful relief – begins with putting more state money into public education.

Concluding the hearing, Chairman Huberty signaled his intent to vote on a committee substitute at next Tuesday’s hearing. That meeting will focus on bills dealing with public school accountability, including “A though F.”

House Public Education Committee convenes first meeting

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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.

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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.

 

Big developments on education bills in the Texas House today, including a defeated “local control school district” bill

We reported yesterday on many of the education bills that are still in motion at the state capitol. A number of high-profile bills were acted upon today by the Texas House, and we’ve provided a few updates below on these topics:


State budget

Negotiators on the budget bill, HB 1 by Rep. John Otto (R), may be nearing a compromise, according to media reports. As we reported yesterday, the main sticking points are differences between the House and Senate on how to approach tax cuts. Watch for updates tomorrow.

School finance

We also reported yesterday that HB 1759 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) was not yet listed on a House calendar and in danger of dying. Because of strict end-of-session deadlines, the school finance overhaul bill must be heard by the House no later than tomorrow, May 14. We can now report that HB 1759 has been placed on the calendar for possible floor debate tomorrow, if time permits.

Accountability and “A through F” ratings

HB 2804 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) is still on the House calendar today but hasn’t yet been heard. Aycock’s HB 1842 relating to sanctions and interventions for low-performing schools was approved on second reading yesterday. It was brought up today, May 13, on third reading. An amendment was added without a record vote that stripped ATPE-supported language from the bill allowing for use of a community schools model for school turnaround.  The House finally passed HB 1842 as amended by a vote of 143 to 1, with Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R) casting the lone vote against the bill.

“Local control school districts”

Today the House considered HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D), a bill to make it easier for school districts to be converted to home rule charter districts using the proposed new moniker of “local control school districts.” The high-profile school deregulation bill is one that has been backed by Texans for Education Reform (TER) and opposed by ATPE and other educator groups. After three hours of debate, the bill failed to pass by a vote of 59 to 76. Prior to the final vote on the bill, several floor amendments were considered. Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D) offered a floor amendment to require local control school districts to comply with class-size laws, but the amendment was defeated by a vote of 73 to 67. The House approved an amendment by Rep. Donna Howard (D) to increase transparency in petitions to convert a school district to a local control district, but rejected an amendment by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D) to ensure that teacher contract rights would be preserved in local control school districts. The defeat of the bill is a significant blow to education reform groups that have proposed a host of bills to strip educators of their salary protections and contract rights, exempt schools from quality control measures such as class-size limits, and remove transparency and accountability to local voters.

Based on preliminary reports, these are the state representatives who supported educators by voting to kill this bill today: Allen, Alma(D); Alonzo, Roberto(D); Anchia, Rafael(D); Ashby, Trenton(R); Bell, Cecil(R); Bernal, Diego (D); Burns, DeWayne (R); Canales, Terry(D); Clardy, Travis(R); Coleman, Garnet(D); Collier, Nicole(D); Cook, Byron(R); Craddick, Tom(R); Cyrier, John (R); Darby, Drew(R); Davis, Yvonne(D); Farias, Joe(D); Farney, Marsha(R); Farrar, Jessica(D); Frullo, John(R); Giddings, Helen(D); Gonzalez, Mary(D); Guerra, Bobby(D); Gutierrez, Roland(D); Harless, Patricia(R); Hernandez, Ana(D); Howard, Donna(D); Israel, Celia (D); Johnson, Eric(D); Kacal, Kyle(R); Keffer, Jim(R); King, Ken(R); King, Susan(R); Landgraf, Brooks (R); Larson, Lyle(R); Longoria, Oscar(D); Lucio III, Eddie(D); Martinez Fischer, Trey(D); Martinez, Armando(D); McClendon, Ruth Jones(D); Metcalf, Will (R); Miles, Borris(D); Minjarez, Ina (D); Moody, Joe(D); Munoz, Sergio(D); Murr, Andrew (R); Naishtat, Elliott(D); Nevarez, Poncho(D); Oliveira, Rene(D); Otto, John(R); Paddie, Chris(R); Phillips, Larry(R); Pickett, Joe(D); Price, Four(R); Raney, John(R); Raymond, Richard(D); Reynolds, Ron(D); Rodriguez, Eddie(D); Rodriguez, Justin(D); Romero, Ramon (D); Rose, Toni(D); Sanford, Scott(R); Schubert, Leighton (R); Sheffield, J.D.(R); Simpson, David(R); Smithee, John(R); Spitzer, Stuart (R); Thompson, Ed(R); Thompson, Senfronia(D); Turner, Chris(D); Turner, Sylvester(D); VanDeaver, Gary (R); Walle, Amando(D); Workman, Paul(R); Wray, John (R); and Wu, Gene(D).

These representatives voted in favor of the TER-backed reform bill, HB 1798: Anderson, Doc(R); Anderson, Rodney(R); Aycock, Jimmie Don(R); Bohac, Dwayne(R); Bonnen, Dennis(R); Bonnen, Greg(R); Burkett, Cindy(R); Burrows, Dustin (R); Capriglione, Giovanni(R); Dale, Tony(R); Davis, Sarah(R); Deshotel, Joe(D); Dutton, Harold(D); Elkins, Gary(R); Faircloth, Wayne (R); Fallon, Pat(R); Fletcher, Allen(R); Flynn, Dan(R); Frank, James(R); Galindo III, Rick (R); Geren, Charlie(R); Goldman, Craig(R); Guillen, Ryan(D); Huberty, Dan(R); Hughes, Bryan(R); Hunter, Todd(R); Isaac, Jason(R); King, Phil(R); Klick, Stephanie(R); Koop, Linda (R); Krause, Matt(R); Laubenberg, Jodie(R); Leach, Jeff(R); Lozano, Jose(R); Meyer, Morgan (R); Miller, Rick(R); Morrison, Geanie(R); Murphy, Jim(R); Parker, Tan(R); Paul, Dennis (R); Pena, Gilbert (R); Phelan, Dade (R); Riddle, Debbie(R); Rinaldi, Matt (R); Schaefer, Matt(R); Schofield, Mike (R); Shaheen, Matt (R); Sheets, Kenneth(R); Simmons, Ron(R); Springer, Drew(R); Stephenson, Phil(R); Stickland, Jonathan(R); Tinderholt, Tony (R); Turner, Scott(R); Villalba, Jason(R); White, James(R); White, Molly (R); Zedler, Bill(R); and Zerwas, John(R).

NOTE: If your state representative is not listed above, he or she may have been absent at the time of the vote. Keep in mind that the list above is not an official record of the vote.

Epi-pens

SB 66 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D) regarding school usage of epinephrine auto-injectors, also known as epi-pens, was passed by the House today. The House added one floor amendment and then approved the bill unanimously. Next, the Senate must decide whether to accept the House changes to the bill or send it to a conference committee.


Your outreach to legislators on these education bills is making a difference, and ATPE encourages you to keep it up! Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates and follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for even more information about pending legislation.

Vote for candidates who will insist on class-size limits

This is the sixth post in our A Dozen Days, A Dozen Ways to Vote Your Profession series.


At issue: Research shows that smaller classes improve education by increasing the interaction between teachers and individual students, minimizing discipline issues, improving classroom management, boosting teacher morale and producing dramatically better educational outcomes for students. Studies have linked a rise in scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to reductions in class size, especially after class-size limits were first adopted in Texas. State law limits classrooms in grades K-4 to no more than 22 students per teacher. However, the law allows schools to request waivers of the 22:1 class-size limit if they have limited facilities, a shortage of teachers or an unexpected surge in enrollment. Although the law has been tightened and made more transparent in recent years, thousands of schools still routinely request class-size waivers each year.

Class-size limits are a necessary and worthwhile expenditure: It costs money to keep classes small, and class-size limits are unpopular among politicians who want to cut education spending wherever possible. Larger classes often require less physical space and fewer teachers. That’s why class size is usually one of the first quality control measures sacrificed whenever money is limited.  Immediately after the drastic education budget cuts of 2011, the number of 22:1 class-size waiver requests more than tripled.

Students deserve more one-on-one instructional time with their teachers, a distraction-free classroom and, above all else, a safe learning environment: Opponents of class-size limits typically argue that school districts should have more “flexibility” and “mandate relief” so that they can staff and fill classrooms as they see fit. They also insist that high-quality teachers should be able to successfully teach a greater number of students. Critics of 22:1 tend to ignore the fact that class size affects not only instruction but also student safety and classroom discipline. Consider the many sad incidents of school shootings reported in the news and the heroic acts of many teachers involved. When teachers are tasked with keeping their students safe, even in potentially life-threatening situations, do we want their classes to be larger or smaller? Despite the obvious safety issue, legislators continue to try to weaken or abolish the 22:1 law every legislative session.

You can help educators and students by voting for candidates who respect the importance of class-size limits: Teach the Vote has many resources to help you find pro-public education candidates. For instance, ATPE asked all legislative candidates in a survey, “Would you vote to maintain a hard cap on the number of students per class, or should school administrators be given more flexibility to increase class sizes?” You can read their responses by visiting our 2014 Races search page, looking up the candidates in your district and opening the Survey Response section in each candidate’s profile. Don’t forget that the early voting period continues through Friday, and election day is March 4.

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talks to Senate Education committee

The Senate Education committee held an informational hearing this morning featuring Florida’s former Gov. Jeb Bush as an invited speaker. Bush spoke on behalf of his Foundation for Excellence in Education, along with Patricia Levesque, who was previously an education adviser to Bush and now serves as CEO of the foundation founded by the former governor.

Bush’s foundation advocates for reforms including vouchers, digital learning and grading schools on an “A” through “F” scale. The foundation has been criticized recently for aggressively lobbying for policies that would provide a financial benefit to some of its major corporate donors, including the testing giant Pearson and the for-profit virtual school company K12.

At today’s hearing, Bush encouraged aggressive reform of the Texas public education system with big ideas, even if those ideas are unpopular. He emphasized the need for proper funding to make reform measures successful and described how the state of Florida sent additional funds to schools that improved their “grades” under the state’s accountability system based on student test scores.

During his tenure as governor, Florida dramatically expanded charter schools, online and virtual learning programs and private school voucher initiatives, all ideas being touted by current Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston). There have also been bills filed this session that would include the same  “A” though “F” ratings assigned under Florida’s accountability system.

According to Bush, these types of reforms helped turn around Florida’s struggling education system. However, critics say the turnaround was largely due to increases in the amount of funding the state spent on education. More recently, Florida students’ scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) have actually declined.

In response to questions from senators attending today’s hearing, Bush and Levesque confirmed a few noteworthy distinctions that exist between our state and Florida: unlike Texas, Florida law provides for universal pre-K and strict class-size limits in all grades (a maximum of 18 students in pre-K through third grade, 22 students in grades four through eight and 25 students in high school core curriculum courses).

Ethan Herr contributed to the reporting of this story.