Yesterday was round two of bills up for public hearing in the House Public Education Committee. Twenty-one bills were discussed, covering topics including the instructional materials allotment, social work and mental health services in schools, posthumous diplomas, community schools, and cardiac assessments.
ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter testified in support of House Bill (HB) 199 by Vice Chairman Bernal, D-San Antonio. HB 199 would allow the instructional materials and technology allotment (TIMA) to be used for the salary and other expenses of an employee who is directly involved in student learning or in addressing the social and emotional health of students. Exter testified that there is already a prioritization of the TIMA in statute requiring it to be used for materials first and that it is important to allow districts to use any leftover funds for those who deliver the instruction associated with the materials: educators. Exter further explained that the bill allows for the most efficient use of dollars and the least waste.
ATPE registered positions in support for the following bills:
- HB 92 (Rodriguez, D-Austin): Would allow a campus turnaround plan to permit a campus to operate as a community school and would require that no campus can be closed without being given the opportunity to operate as a community school for at least two years.
- HB 129 (Bernal, D-San Antonio): Would require a school counselor or other non-faculty health professionals at campuses with 90% or more students who are educationally disadvantaged, homeless, and/or in foster care. These individuals may not administer state assessments and are to be funded by the state.
- HB 198 (Thierry et al., D-Houston): Would allow school districts to provide mental health services as a part of their cooperative health care programs for students and families. Would also require school district health care advisory councils to include a licensed mental health service provider and allow for school-based health centers to provide mental health services and mental health education. Additionally, the statistics obtained from school-based health centers must include mental health through this bill.
- HB 204 (Thierry et al., D-Houston): Would include instruction on mental health within the enrichment curriculum that districts must offer. Other enrichment curricula include physical education, career and technical education, and fine arts, among others.
- HB 239 (Farrar et al., D-Houston): Would create a new section of law to clarify and define the role of social workers in school settings.
- HB 314 (Howard et al., D-Austin): Would allow funds allocated under the compensatory education allotment to be used for child-care services, assistance with child-care expenses, or services provided through a life skills program for student parents and students who are pregnant.
- HB 330 (VanDeaver et al., R-New Boston): Would allow districts to exclude from dropout and completion rates students who have suffered a condition, injury, or illness that requires substantial medical care and leaves the student unable to attend school.
- HB 422 (Allen, D-Houston): Would require that school boards annually certify to TEA that they have established district- and campus-level decision-making committees.
- HB 455 (Allen et al., D-Houston): Would require TEA to develop a model policy on recess that encourages age-appropriate outdoor physical activities.
The following bills were also heard in committee:
- HB 76 (Huberty, R-Humble): The Chairman laid out a substitute for this bill, which gives parents the option to participate in the screening program, rather than requiring an echocardiogram (ECG) or electrocardiogram (EKG) for any student participating in a University Interscholastic League (UIL) activity that currently requires a physical examination. The bill offers that school districts could partner with a nonprofit to provide the service or could pay for the service themselves. Lengthy testimony was heard on this bill from private citizens and representatives from school sports departments and associations, who supported the bill with stories of students who had suffered heart conditions while playing sports. On the other hand, the American College of Cardiology said that ECG/EKGs are not scientifically proven in detecting every potential cardiac defect.
- HB 391 (Blanco, D-El Paso): Would require a school district or charter school to provide instructional materials in printed book format if the student does not have reliable access to technology at home, at parental request. Parent requests must be documented and included in an annual TEA report to the legislature.
- HB 396 (VanDeaver, R-New Boston): Would allow the TIMA to be used for inventory software or systems for storing and accessing instructional materials and also allow the TIMA to be used for freight, shipping, and insurance, regardless of whether it is intrastate.
- HB 397 (VanDeaver, R-New Boston): Would allow the TIMA to be used for inventory software or systems for storing and accessing instructional materials. This bill does not include the intrastate freight change. Rep. VanDeaver said that this bill is a back-up to HB 396.
- HB 403 (Thompson, S., D-Houston): Would require each school board trustee and superintendent to biennially complete a one-hour training on identifying and reporting potential victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other maltreatment of children. Additionally, the bill requires at least 2.5 hours of continuing education requirements for a superintendent every five years on identifying and reporting these issues.
- HB 613 (Springer, R- Muenster): Would allow for districts to hold elections outside of the requirement that these elections be jointly conducted with other elections.
- HB 637 (Gonzalez, D- Clint): Would update the codes dictating the salaries of the superintendents of the Texas School for the Deaf and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired so that they may only be set through the appropriations process.
- HB 638 (Capriglione, R- Southlake): Would allow posthumous diplomas to be awarded to students regardless of whether they were in the 12th grade and on academic track to graduate.
- HB 663 (King, K., R- Canadian): Would limit the proclamation of the State Board of Education (SBOE) to 75% of the total amount used to fund the TIMA and require a review of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) to ensure that they could be taught and mastered by students within one year. Rep. King said that this will allow districts 25% of the TIMA to spend as they see fit.
- HB 674 (Patterson, R- Frisco): Would require that regional education service centers gather information from districts and report on which state mandates districts report are burdensome and expensive. The committee substitute for this bill eliminated reporting on federal mandates.
- HB 678 (Guillen, D- Rio Grande City): Would allow American Sign Language to count for the graduation requirement of a language other than English.
Chairmain Huberty said that he intends to reveal a plan for his school finance bill later this week and that next week’s hearing will cover topics related to assessment. He also added that the testing companies will be in attendance at the hearing.