This week, the Texas House Public Education Committee met for the first time this session. State representatives serving on the committee this session are as follows:
- Chairman Dan Huberty (R) of Kingwood,
- Vice Chair Diego Bernal (D) of San Antonio,
- Rep Harold Dutton (D) of Houston,
- Rep. Alma Allen (D) of Houston,
- Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D) of Clint,
- Rep. Scott Sanford (R) of McKinney,
- Rep. Trent Ashby (R) of Lufkin,
- Rep. Ken King (R) of Canadian,
- Rep. Gary Van Deaver (R) of New Boston,
- Rep. Morgan Meyer (R) of Dallas,
- Rep. James Talarico (D) of Round Rock,
- Rep. Steve Allison (R) of San Antonio, and
- Rep. Keith Bell (R) of Forney.
Chairman Huberty, who is returning for his third session as chair of the committee, opened the first hearing by welcoming new and returning members and emphasizing the non-/bi-partisan nature of the committee’s work. He shared a story about the glass apple he keeps in front of him on the dais during each hearing. The apple was given to him by a supporter, friend, recently retired teacher, and long-time ATPE member, Gayle Sampley.
After the chairman’s opening remarks, the committee heard a series of presentations from various high-level staff at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) meant to update the committee on a range of education issues. Links to the individual presentations can be found below:
- The current education landscape, presented by Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath
- TEA operations and strategic plan, presented by Commissioner Morath
- TEA’s legislative appropriations request (LAR), presented by Commissioner Morath
- Assessments and STAAR, presented by Commissioner Morath
- Accountability with an emphasis on implementation of House Bill 22 from the 85th legislative session, presented by Jamie Crowe, Executive Director of Performance Reporting
- Implementation of and continuing issues related to Senate Bill 1882 from the 85th legislative session, presented by Joe Siedlecki, Associate Commissioner of School Improvement, Innovation, and Charters, along with Heather Mauze, Director of Charter School Administration
- Charter schools, also presented by Siedlecki and Mauze
- College, career, and military readiness, presented by Lily Laux, Deputy Commissioner of School Programs
- TEA’s Special Education (SPED) Strategic Plan, presented by Justin Porter, State Director of Special Education
- Educator certification, presented by Ryan Franklin, Associate Commissioner of Education Leadership and Quality
It is worth noting that during Franklin’s presentation on educator certification, the chair questioned whether the State Board of Education (SBOE) should continue to have oversight and veto authority over rulemaking by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). Under state law, the elected SBOE has the ability to review and reject rules that have been adopted by SBEC board, whose members are appointed by the governor. The SBOE cannot change SBEC rules, however, and any veto of an SBEC rule, which is extremely rare, essentially requires the certification board to start its rulemaking process over to correct perceived flaws in the rule. ATPE has supported and often relied on SBOE’s oversight of SBEC rules to help prevent the enactment of policies that would be detrimental to teachers or overall teacher quality,.
During the hearing, Chairman Huberty also laid out the committee’s schedule for the next two weeks. First, the committee will meet twice next week on Feb. 5 and 6 to hear from selected members of the Texas Commission on Public School Finance regarding the current condition of Texas’s school finance system and the commission’s recommendations for changes to tit. During the following week, on Feb. 11 and 12, the committee plans to hear invited testimony from a broad range of experts and stakeholders who have comments and concerns with the commission’s plan, or who may want to offer solutions of their own for the committee to consider as it begins its work moving forward a bill to overhaul the state’s school finance system.