Tag Archives: home rule

Governor selects Mike Morath to be new Texas commissioner of education

It was announced today that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has tapped Mike Morath to serve as the state’s next commissioner of education. Morath will succeed Commissioner Michael Williams who is stepping down at the end of the year.

Morath is a business executive with a background in finance. He has been a member of the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) board of trustees since 2011. Morath gained notoriety when he joined reformers in voicing strong support for an effort last year to make DISD the first-ever home rule charter district in Texas. That effort, which was underwritten in large part by the Arnold Foundation, failed, as we reported on Teach the Vote. Morath also serves on the advisory board of Texans for Education Reform (TER).

Today’s announcement comes just one month after Abbott also selected Morath to chair the new Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, which the legislature created to recommend changes to our state’s student testing and accountability systems. The governor’s press release today states that “Morath is a product of Texas public schools” and that he once briefly taught computer science at Garland High School “during a school year when the previous teacher unexpectedly resigned.”

There has been much speculation lately as to whether the governor would select an education insider or a reformer/business leader to head the Texas Education Agency going forward. Morath’s name was not one that was more widely circulated, but his selection sends another signal that Abbott is very interested in the agenda of the education reform and pro-privatization crowd. Morath joins the list of other recent reform-minded appointees we’ve written about on Teach the Vote, such as newly-minted Pension Review Board chair Josh McGee.

As the state’s largest educator association, ATPE looks forward to an opportunity to meet with Morath and share our members’ input and experiences with him. We anticipate that he will want to pursue innovative approaches to regulations dealing with such issues as charter schools, teacher appraisals, and student testing. We hope that Morath will be the type of commissioner who is receptive to educators’ voices in matters of policy and will support local control.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Nov. 13, 2015

On this Friday the 13th, here’s a look at stories that made education news in Texas this week:


There is talk in the nation’s capital of a compromise that could make it possible for Congress to finally reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has reported extensively on our blog, the U.S. House and Senate have passed respective bills that would replace the outdated federal accountability act with a new law. Late this week came news that congressional leaders have reached a tentative agreement on legislation to move to the House and Senate floors shortly after Thanksgiving, with conference committee meetings expected to take place next week. A joint statement about the negotiation was dispatched late today.

It’s unclear what will make it into an agreed-upon bill; most of the reauthorization debates have focused on differing expectations over how to measure accountability, particularly for subgroups of students, while at the same time minimizing the federal government’s role in state policy decisions. “Portability,” a House-favored concept that would enable Title I funding to follow each child, has also been a sticking point and something ATPE has urged Congress to avoid. ATPE State President Cory Colby emphasized that in a recent letter to Texas’s congressional delegation encouraging them to take steps to get a reauthorization bill passed this year.

The outdated and onerous accountability and funding provisions of ESEA have prompted most states, including Texas, to seek waivers from the U.S. Department of Education. Our state’s waiver is in jeopardy going forward, however, since the federal government has placed Texas on “high-risk” status for failing to meet certain prescriptive teacher evaluation criteria favored by the Obama administration. Of course, reauthorization of the federal law by Congress, coupled with next year’s presidential election, could render such waivers obsolete.

ATPE’s Washington-based lobbyists will be providing additional information as developments unfold. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote next week for updates.

 


 

ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended a NoJS Tweet 11-12-15v. 12 actuarial briefing by staff of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). Read his new blog post to learn more about the current state of the pension fund as well as the healthcare programs for active and retired education employees and what the legislature must do to keep them solvent into the future.

 


 

On Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released final school accountability ratings for 2015. The ratings are meant to provide analysis on more than 1,200 school districts and charter schools with more than 8,500 campuses represented. TEA reported in a press release that “more than 90 percent of school districts and charters across Texas achieved the rating of Met Standard.”

However, one school district that has not fared so well under the state’s academic and financial accountability systems is La Marque Independent School District, which TEA officials announced this week is facing closure next summer on account of poor performance. The district had already been informed earlier this fall that its school board and superintendent would be replaced under a decision by Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. La Marque ISD was essentially on probation pending the release of new accountability ratings. Now, according to news reports, the district will be annexed by another district that has not yet been named. The district in Galveston County is home to approximately 2,500 students.

 


 

Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday that he has tapped Mike Morath to lead the brand new Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. Morath, a business executive with a background in finance, has been a member of the Dallas ISD board of trustees since 2011 and sparked controversy with his support for a recent failed effort to convert DISD to a home rule charter district.

The new state commission is being created pursuant to House Bill (HB) 2804 that the Texas legislature passed earlier this year and is supposed to make recommendations for new statewide student testing and accountability systems. Enabling the commission to comprehensively study accountability concerns over the next year was part of an effort to postpone the implementation of controversial “A through F” ratings of school campuses that were also mandated as a component of HB 2804.

Under HB 2804, the governor appoints four members to the commission, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus get three appointments each. The commission will also include the chairs of the Senate and House committees on education and higher education or their designees, along with a member appointed by the State Board of Education. Here are the other individuals who’ve been named to join the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability:

Additional appointments by Gov. Abbott:

  • Andrew Kim, superintendent of Comal ISD
  • Theresa Trevino, an Austin psychiatrist
  • Quinton Vance, superintendent of KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth Public Charter Schools

Appointments by Lt. Gov. Patrick:

  • Kim Alexander, superintendent of Roscoe Collegiate ISD
  • Paul Castro, superintendent of A+UP Charter School in Houston
  • Michael K. McLendon, dean of the School of Education at Baylor University

Appointments by Speaker Straus:

  • Pauline Dow, chief instructional officer for North East ISD in San Antonio
  • Maria Hernandez Ferrier, director of Texas A&M System’s Office of Mexico and Latin American Relations
  • Catherine Susser, a community volunteer and member of the Corpus Christi ISD board of trustees

SBOE designee: Erica Beltran

 


 

The State Board of Education (SBOE) and the TRS Board of Trustees are both slated to meet next week in Austin. The SBOE agenda includes an opportunity to review a recent ATPE-opposed decision by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to change requirements for becoming a school superintendent in Texas. In advance of the regular SBOE meetings Wednesday through Friday, the board is also conducting a full-day work session at the state capitol on Tuesday, Nov. 17; the roundtable discussion will focus on digital instructional materials and the use of technology in the classroom. View the complete SBOE meeting agendas here. The TRS board meets Nov. 19-20; view its agenda here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for reports from the ATPE lobby team on both boards after next week’s meetings, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for even more news.

Legislative Update: The rundown on education bills at week’s end

With 10 days remaining until the legislature adjourns sine die, it’s time to look at where major education bills stand in the 84th legislative session.


Budget, TRS, and school finance

HB 1 by Rep. John Otto (R) is the state’s appropriation bill and the one piece of legislation that must pass this month in order to avoid a special session. HB 1 was sent to a conference committee for representatives and senators to work out a compromise on what amounts the state should spend on public education and other needs. A major sticking point in the negotiations was how and how much money to provide for tax cuts, which numerous legislators made campaign promises to pursue this session. The House version of the budget contained funds for enrollment growth as well as an additional $2.2 billion aimed at increasing equity within the public education system; the proposal assumed that the legislature would pass a school finance reform bill, which is discussed below. The Senate’s version provided for an additional $1.8 billion in new revenue after their property tax cuts were factored in. The Senate’s version also assumed that the cost of enrollment growth would be covered by increases in property tax revenue. Under the HB 1 compromise announced this week and voted out by the conference committee last night, the budget funds enrollment growth and includes $1.5 billion in new funding for public education, which is far less than the amount the House had proposed in its version of the budget. The bill will go next to the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote in each chamber.

The budget deal between the House and Senate hinged on reaching an agreement on tax cuts. Differences in opinion about whether to focus on property tax reductions, lowering sales taxes, or slashing the business franchise tax held up a compromise not only on the main budget bill, but also on supplemental appropriations, including money for retired educators’ healthcare. Yesterday, May 21, the House Ways and Means Committee passed SB 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R) containing the Senate’s favored proposal to increase the homestead exemption for property taxes by $10,000; that bill is subject to voter approval in a November election. On Wednesday, May 20, the Senate Finance Committee voted to approve HB 32 by Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R), which permanently reduces the state’s franchise tax by 25 percent. The compromise means the House get its preferred franchise tax cut while the Senate gets some of the property tax relief it sought. The impact on typical taxpayers is likely to be minimal (less than $200 saved per year), while there are serious concerns about the potential loss of revenue for public education and other state services as a result of the cuts. As we’ve reported before, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced early in the legislative session that he would veto any budget that did not include a business tax cut. It appears that the House and Senate finally landed on a deal that will help them avoid the governor’s veto pen or a special session.

In addition to tax cuts, the 84th legislature has also been considering multiple measures to curtail state spending. For instance, the House Appropriations Committee today passed a version of SB 9 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R), which is designed to limit the state’s constitutional spending limit to population growth and inflation. It is believed that most of these bills restricting future appropriations would have a negative long-term impact on public education funding.

Much-needed funding for TRS-Care is addressed in the state’s supplemental appropriations bill, HB 2 by Rep. John Otto (R). The House passed HB 2 back on April 1.The Senate Finance Committee kept the bill on hold pending negotiations on the main budget bill, HB 1, until today. The committee voted this morning to approve HB 2 and send it to the Senate floor. The bill includes an extra $768 million for retirees’ health care.

With regard to active employees’ health insurance, HB 3453 by Rep. J.M. Lozano (R) establishes a joint interim committee to study TRS-ActiveCare, including options for allowing districts to opt out of the program and for allowing regional rates to be created. Currently, districts cannot opt out of the plan, and the TRS Board only adopts statewide premium rates, instead of differentiated, regional rates. The House passed HB 3453 as amended on May 11 by a vote of 121 to 12. It has been referred to the Senate Committee on State Affairs, but not yet scheduled for a hearing. The bill’s companion, SB 1232 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), was never heard by a Senate committee.

As for bills affecting the TRS pension fund itself, few serious legislative proposals have been offered this session after changes were made in 2013 to ensure that the fund and the benefits it provides are secure. The House Pensions Committee heard some bills a few weeks ago that would increase benefits for current retirees – either through a one-time 13th check or a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA). However, all of those bills were left pending in the committee.

Finally, it appears that another session will go by without a serious school finance fix. Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R), chairman of the House Public Education Committee, filed HB 1759 in an attempt to reform the state’s school finance system, which has been ruled unconstitutional. The bill was approved by the House Public Education Committee, but failed to gain enough traction to make it all the way through this session. On May 14, the last day for the House to pass major House bills on second reading, Aycock laid out HB 1759 for floor debate but ended up withdrawing the bill from the day’s calendar as a favor to other legislators needing to pass bills before the midnight deadline. Aycock was facing the certainty of hours of debate by the House; numerous contentious amendments, including some that would try to add vouchers to the bill; and several planned points of order (technical challenges to the bill). Additionally, Aycock expressed doubt that the Senate would give the bill any real shot at passing and would therefore be a waste of the representatives’ time on such a critical day. The fact that many education advocates believed the bill would not do nearly enough to help underfunded school districts was undoubtedly another factor in the chairman’s decision.

Private school vouchers

SB 4 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) has been heavily promoted by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) as the Senate’s signature voucher bill, but as we were hoping, the bill has received a chilly reception in the House. SB 4 calls for creating a tax credit for businesses that contribute money to private school scholarships. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 18 to 12 on April 21. All Democratic senators voted against the bill except for Sen. Eddie Lucio (D), who voted for it. All Republican senators voted for the bill except Sens. Konni Burton (R) and Robert Nichols (R), who opposed it; Sen. Kel Seliger (R) was absent on the day of the SB 4 vote. Voucher supporters pushed hard for House Speaker Joe Straus (R) and other state representatives to move the bill forward in the House. Despite the intense lobbying and paid advertising efforts, the bill has not been heard by the House Committee on Ways and Means. We appreciate all the ATPE members who’ve called their legislators to oppose this harmful bill. Click here to read more about ATPE’s opposition to SB 4.

Likewise, the House Public Education Committee has not allowed a hearing for SB 1178 by Sen. Don Huffines (R). That bill originally called for creating a private school voucher program through the use of education savings accounts that parents could tap into in order to pay their children’s private school tuition or home-schooling expenses. Facing strong opposition, SB 1178 was converted into a mechanism to simply study the idea of education savings accounts during the interim. The Senate passed SB 1178 on May 11 by a vote of 21 to 10. Even as a study proposal, the bill appears stalled.

A virtual voucher bill, SB 894 also by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), also appears doomed. It is a costly bill to expand home-schooled and private school students’ access to the state’s Virtual School Network and part of a package of controversial reform proposals favored by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and pushed by Texans for Education Reform (TER). ATPE opposed the bill in committee. SB 894 has bounced on an off the Senate Intent Calendar and struggled to to gain enough support for a floor hearing. Even in the conservative Senate that is friendly to voucher bills, SB 894 faced significant hurdles with legislators questioning its large fiscal note. Taylor is also carrying a charter school bill, SB 1897, that includes language allowing for expansion of virtual charter schools and was approved by the Senate, but the House Public Education Committee has not opted to hear that bill. Read more below in our section on charters.

Student testing and curriculum

There is one major student testing-related bill that has already made it through the legislative process and become law. SB 149 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) allows for individual graduation committees to decide if certain students may be graduated from high schools despite failing a required STAAR test. ATPE strongly supported the bill. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed SB 149 into law on May 11, and the bill took effect immediately.

This week the Senate Education Committee heard and passed a trio of other testing-related bills that ATPE has supported this session: HB 743, HB 1164, and HB 2349. HB 743 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) attempts to reduce the amount of time spent on state-mandated testing in grades three through eight and limit the breadth of curriculum standards (TEKS) that are included on those tests. The bill also calls for auditing of the state’s contracts with test vendors. HB 743 previously passed the House on May 4 with Reps. David Simpson (R) and Jonathan Stickland (R) opposing the bill. HB 1164 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) would eliminate state-mandated STAAR writing tests and instead have school districts assess students’ writing ability using locally-approved methods. It passed the House by a vote of 142 to 6 on April 30. HB 2349 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) relates to student testing and curriculum standards; it already received a unanimous vote in the House on May 11.

The Senate Education Committee also approved a couple of House bills this week that relate to curriculum. Yesterday, the committee heard and voted out HB 2811 by Rep. Ken King (R) relating to curriculum standards and instructional materials, along with HB 1431 by Rep. Susan King (R) which calls for development of an industry-related course to train students to communicate in a language other than English for business purposes

A bill that did not make it through this session is HB 742 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R), which would have eliminated the requirement for an eighth-grade social studies STAAR test. As filed, the bill called for eliminating state tests in writing, social studies, and U.S. history that are not required by federal law. The House Public Education Committee amended the bill so that it would only eliminate the eighth-grade social studies test. ATPE supported the measure, but it died on the House calendar last week for lack of a floor debate and vote.

Accountability and “A through F” ratings

ATPE has opposed legislative proposals calling for “A through F” grading of public school campuses in lieu of existing accountability ratings. The original bill on “A-F” ratings was Sen. Larry Taylor’s (R) SB 6, which was a major component of a reform package being pursued by Texans for Education Reform (TER) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R). ATPE opposed SB 6, which the Senate passed but the House left pending in committee, opting instead to add “A-F” language to HB 2804. (Two identical companion bills, HB 2109 and HB 2176, were not heard.)

HB 2804 is a comprehensive accountability overhaul bill by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) that now includes a requirement that school campuses be rated using “A-F” accountability grades. The A-F language was not part of Aycock’s original bill as filed, but hoping to reach a compromise with the Senate, he added it to HB 2804 in committee, despite objections from several committee members and testimony from ATPE and other groups opposing the idea. The House passed the ATPE-opposed bill late last week by a vote of 102 to 26. It’s a bill that barely survived the House’s strict calendar rules, having passed the House on second reading with only 25 minutes remaining before the midnight deadline on the last day for it to be considered.  As we reported last week, the House floor debate was robust; several amendments were considered, including bipartisan efforts to try to strip out the A-F language from the bill, resulting in very close, but ultimately unsuccessful votes. Some amendments that were added to the House version of the bill included ATPE-requested language requiring the commissioner to consult with ATPE and other education groups in developing the new campus accountability grades, and an amendment requiring school ratings to factor in the percentage of an elementary school’s students assigned for two consecutive school years to a first-year or improperly certified teacher. Unfortunately, both of those amendments have been stripped out of the Senate’s proposed new language for HB 2804. The Senate Education Committee heard and voted out its substitute version of HB 2804 yesterday. ATPE similarly testified against the bill during yesterday’s hearing. The committee’s vote was unanimous, although Sens. Royce West (D) and Sylvia Garcia (D) stated that they were “begrudgingly” voting for HB 2804. The committee also recommended that the new version of HB 2804 be placed on the Senate’s special “local” calendar for uncontested bills, a rather surprising move considering the opposition the bill has faced from many stakeholders.

HB 1842 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) deals with school accountability sanctions and interventions. The bill provides for alternative management options, as well as other school turnaround strategies, for schools considered low-performing. The House passed HB 1842 last week by a vote of 143 to 1, with Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R) casting the lone vote against the bill. The Senate Education Committee heard the bill this week and proposed a comprehensive substitute for HB 1842. The committee voted its version of the bill out unanimously today, with Chairman Larry Taylor (R) calling it “still a work in progress.” It will head next to the Senate floor for consideration, and most likely, a number of floor amendments.

SB 1200 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) is an ATPE-supported bill that calls for creation of a committee to recommend a new system for student assessment and public school accountability. It has passed the Senate unanimously on April 30, and the House Public Education Committee approved it yesterday. The bill is a rare one that is supported by a variety of stakeholders, including educator groups such as ATPE and reform groups such as TER. (Its identical companion bill, HB 4028, was never heard.)

ATPE has also supported a set of bills promoting the use of a community schools model for turning around struggling schools as an alternative to reconstitution or privatization. Unfortunately, those bills appear to be hopelessly stalled. SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D), was taken off the Senate Intent Calendar containing bills eligible for floor debate in the upper chamber. The House version of the bill, HB 1891 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D), passed the lower chamber on May 14. It took the addition of a bizarre amendment by Rep. Geanie Morrison (R) stating that community schools would be prohibited from partnering with abortion providers in order for conservatives in the House to support the bill. HB 1891 was only yesterday referred to a Senate committee, leaving practically no time for it to make it through the legislative process at this stage. The community schools language had been added at one point to Chairman Aycock’s HB 1842 through a floor amendment in the House, but that amendment was later stripped out. A correlating bill also by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez to provide for grants to community schools, HB 1892, was voted down in the House 60 to 82, and the Senate version of that bill, SB 1484 by Sen. Garcia, was not heard in a committee.

Teacher salaries and evaluations

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and his friends in the group Texans for Education Reform (TER) have aggressively pursued a pair of bills this session to try to get rid of the state’s minimum salary schedule for teachers. In addition to promoting performance-based compensation for teachers, SB 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) and HB 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) would impose new state requirements for appraisals and personnel decisions. With any luck, these bills are dead. HB 2543 was heard but never voted out of the House Public Education Committee before its deadline. SB 893 has not been voted out of the House Public Education Committee either, which has a Saturday deadline to act on Senate bills. We appreciate all the ATPE members who helped us lobby against these bills with persistent calls and emails to their legislators. Learn more about the bills here.

By contrast, another salary-related bill was considered this session that ATPE supported. SB 1303 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D) called for teachers to receive a $4,000 pay raise. It was heard by the Senate Education Committee on April 30, but the bill was left pending and is not expected to move. Other pay raise bills have been filed but not heard this session.

Payroll deduction

SB 1968 is Sen. Joan Huffman’s (R) bill to prohibit school districts and some other public employers from offering their employees a payroll deduction option for paying their voluntary association dues. Its co-authors are Sens. Paul Bettencourt (R), Donna Campbell (R), Bob Hall (R), and Van Taylor (R). The bill is being pushed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R), conservative activists, and some business groups; ATPE and all of the state’s major teacher organizations have opposed the measure, along with state employees working in a variety of professions. A number of firefighters, police, and EMS workers have also opposed the bill, even though it specifically excludes them from the prohibition on payroll deduction – a differentiation that also renders the bill unconstitutional, in all likelihood. View the full witness list from the Senate committee hearing here to find out who openly supports or opposes the bill.

SB 1968 passed the Senate on May 7 by a party-line vote of 20 to 11. All Republican senators voted for the bill, while all Democratic senators opposed the bill. On May 15, SB 1968 was referred to the House Committee on State Affairs, which left little time for it to be considered. An initial attempt to suspend the rules in order for the committee to conduct a full public hearing on the bill this week failed, as we reported Tuesday. A motion was offered that day to suspend the House rules for notice of hearings in order for the committee to hold a public hearing and take testimony on this bill on Wednesday. That motion, which required a two-thirds vote of the House, failed, but it did not defeat the bill since the committee could still bring up SB 1968 and vote it out in a formal meeting without testimony. Accordingly, the House agreed on Wednesday to hear the motion to suspend once again, approve the motion, and allow the bill be heard with public testimony in a committee hearing on Thursday of this week.

The House State Affairs Committee’s public hearing that followed yesterday on SB 1968 was a limited one. Rep. Byron Cook (R), the committee’s chairman, allowed only a couple hours for testimony, which meant that many witnesses who signed up to speak against the bill – including ATPE’s Brock Gregg – were unable to do so. Read more about the contentious hearing in our Thursday blog post. As of now, the bill remains pending and has not been voted out by the committee. The committee only has until tomorrow, May 23, to vote out and report SB 1968 favorably in order for it to stay alive. We will be watching this one closely and will report on any developments here on Teach the Vote. Read more about the bill and our opposition to it here.

Deregulation of low-performing schools

With the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), Texans for Education Reform (TER) has once again pursued a bevy of bills this session that call for certain low-performing schools to be deregulated in similar manner as charter schools and even subjected to alternative management by outside entities. The legislation includes variations on parent trigger actions, converting school districts to home rule charter districts, and creating a special statewide school district with an appointed superintendent. ATPE has opposed the bills, which we consider to be ineffective strategies for turning around schools that are struggling under our standardized test-based state and federal accountability mandates. Fortunately, most of these TER-backed efforts this session have failed, although there is always the risk that school deregulation and privatization language could be added as eleventh-hour amendments to other bills.

One of the only deregulation bills still in play at this point is SB 1241 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), which the House Public Education Committee approved last night. SB 1241 subjects low-performing schools to the possibility of alternative management through the creation of “Innovation Zones.” ATPE has opposed the bill. Previously, the Senate approved SB 1241 on May 11 by a vote of 22 to 9. Those voting against the bill were Sens. Rodney Ellis (D), Chuy Hinojosa (D), Lois Kolkhorst (R), Eddie Lucio (D), Jose Menendez (D), Jose Rodriguez (D), Carlos Uresti (D), Kirk Watson (D), and John Whitmire (D); Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D) first opposed the bill on second reading and then voted for the bill on third reading. SB 1241 must now be placed on a House calendar for floor consideration before time runs out.

A bill that appears not to have made it through this session is Sen. Larry Taylor’s (R) SB 14 to expand and expedite the state’s parent trigger law that enables certain low-performing schools to be deregulated and managed by outside entities. ATPE and most educator groups opposed the bill, but Texas PTA did support it, interestingly. The Senate approved the bill in mid-April after adding several favorable amendments to it. The Senate’s floor vote was 25 to 6, with Sens. Rodney Ellis (D), Jose Menendez (D), Carlos Uresti (D), Kirk Watson (D), John Whitmire (D), and Judith Zaffirini (D) voting against it. The House Public Education Committee heard the bill Tuesday, May 19, but left it pending. (A House companion bill, HB 1727, was never heard.)

Legislators also filed several bills this session calling for the state’s lowest performing schools to be placed into a statewide, largely deregulated “Opportunity School District.” Similar bills were attempted last session, when the idea was called an “Achievement School District.” ATPE opposed these TER-backed bills based on concerns about privatizing the management of otherwise public schools and exempting them from education laws aimed at ensuring quality, such as class-size limits and requirements to hire certified teachers. The bills filed this session included HB 1536 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D), SB 895 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), and SB 669 by Sen. Royce West (D). HB 1536 made it out of the House Public Education Committee but did not survive the House’s stringent calendar deadlines. Its companion bill, SB 895, was deliberately left pending in the Senate Education Committee, as its author and committee chair, Sen. Larry Taylor, agreed to support SB 669 instead. West’s SB 669 passed the Senate with amendments on May 7 by a vote of 20 to 11. Click here to find out how your senator voted on the measure. Ultimately, the House Public Education Committee opted not to hear SB 669.

SB 1012 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R) and HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) were bills to modify existing state laws allowing for the creation of privately managed home rule charter districts. Dallas ISD is the only school district that has attempted to convert to a home rule charter under the existing state law. The two bills filed this session would change the name of home rule districts to “local control school districts,” a rather misleading term considering that locally elected school boards would most likely lose much of their authority to govern the district under these proposals. The bills were also troubling because they would exempt “local control school districts” from many of the quality control measures, such as elementary school class-size limits, found in the Texas Education Code. SB 1012 and HB 1798 were among bills supported by TER while opposed by ATPE and most of the education community. The Senate Education Committee heard SB 1012 on April 16, but left that bill pending. On Wednesday, May 13, the House spent three hours debating Rep. Deshotel’s HB 1798 and considering floor amendments, including some relating to class-size limits and teachers’ contract rights, before putting the bill to a vote. HB 1798 failed to pass by a vote of 59 to 76. Read our May 13 blog post to learn more about amendments that were considered and find out how your representative voted on the “local control school district” bill.

Despite a well-funded lobbying and advertising effort, TER has had little success pushing through its controversial agenda this session. The very public defeat of HB 1798, in particular, was a significant blow to reformers who have tried 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. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter expertly delivered most of our testimony against these deregulation bills in hearings that were frequently contentious with backers of the bill bringing in parents from out of state to testify for the measures. Exter noted that schools already have statutory authority to implement many of the charter-style reforms that proponents of the two bills favored, such as making elementary class sizes larger. He also cautioned against proposals often backed by corporate and charter school management interests that offer parents “false hope” and fail to recognize the larger community’s interest in how schools are operated and the need for both transparency and accountability to voters.

Home-school students participating in UIL

SB 2046 by Sen. Van Taylor (R), often referred to as a “Tim Tebow bill,” would require school districts to permit area home-schooled students to participate in UIL activities at the public school. ATPE opposes the bill and the selective participation of home-schooled students in public school activities, especially when they are not held to equal academic standards as their public school student peers and competitors. The Senate passed SB 2046 on May 11 by a vote of 27 to 4. Those voting against the bill were Sens. Robert Nichols (R), Jose Rodriguez (D), Kel Seliger (R), and Kirk Watson (D). The House Public Education Committee opted not to hear the bill.

Charter schools

An ATPE-requested bill to protect charter school employees narrowly missed the House’s midnight deadline for passage on the last night for consideration of House bills on second reading. HB 4047 by Rep. Alma Allen (D) would ensure that charter school teachers have the right to join or not join a professional association and the right to be politically active in the same manner as teachers at traditional public schools. It unanimously passed the House Public Education Committee on April 23, and it was only three bills away from being debated by the House when the clock ran out on May 14. ATPE sincerely appreciates Rep. Allen’s work to try to pass the bill.

SB 1897 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) would authorize the commissioner of education to grant multiple charters to a charter holder in certain circumstances. In addition to providing for the expansion of charter schools, the bill waters down laws pertaining to charter school accountability measures and sanctions for low-performance. Language was added to the bill relating to expansion of the state’s virtual school network. ATPE opposed the bill, which passed the Senate on Monday, May 11, by a vote of 22 to 9. Check out our earlier blog post for a breakdown of the Senate vote. As we discussed above in our section on private school vouchers, the House Public Education Committee has opted not to hear this particular bill.

Several bills dealing with regulation of and funding for charter schools remain pending. HB 2251 by Rep. Rafael Anchia (D) to accelerate funding for charter schools experiencing enrollment growth has made it through the House and been recommended for the Senate’s local and uncontested calendar. Rep. Marsha Farney (R) has filed HB 1170 to classify certain charter schools as local governmental entities and HB 1171 relating to immunity provisions for charter schools; both bills easily passed the House and are pending in the Senate where they’ve been recommended for the local and uncontested calendar. (Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) carried companion bills to those two measures, SB 1567 and 1569.)

HB 3347 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) and SB 1898 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) would clean up laws passed in 2013 relating to procedures for revoking a charter. HB 3347 didn’t survive the House’s calendar deadlines, and SB 1898 is stalled in the Senate. SB 1900 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R) providing for funding of charter facilities was approved by the Senate Education Committee but hasn’t seen a floor vote either and is likely dead.

Educator preparation and certification

SB 892 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) was originally filed as a bill to increase the rigor of educator preparation by adding a new requirement for each cohort entering an educator preparation program to maintain an overall GPA of 3.0. However, the bill was amended with language requested by representatives of for-profit alternative certification programs and now has the effect of watering down the standards for becoming a teacher. Specifically, SB 892 would lower the individual GPA requirement for admission to an educator preparation program from 2.75 to 2.5. (The legislature raised the GPA requirement in statute from 2.5 to 2.75 in 2013, but the State Board for Educator Certification that is responsible for implementing the law complained that the new statute was vague and refused to raise its own admission rules to reflect the higher GPA requirement.) The state’s largest alternative certification providers are for-profit companies that seek to maximize their profits through high enrollment numbers; they would obviously benefit from putting lower GPA standards in law, but they also want the legislature to codify current practices that enable them to delay providing their candidates with significant training before they are hired as teachers of record. ATPE believes the watered down standards and weak training requirements do a disservice to would-be educators pursuing alternative certification, since they are placed into high-stakes teaching environments before they have received adequate preparation and often without the necessary content knowledge in the subjects they are teaching. We support higher standards for educator preparation to ensure that all new teachers are well-equipped to meet the rigors of their first classrooms. SB 892 passed the Senate unanimously on April 7. It was approved by the House Public Education Committee last night. Rep. Marsha Farney (R) was the only committee member to vote against the bill, and she did so because of its lowering of the GPA standard. (A companion bill, HB 3494 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R), was left pending in committee.) SB 892 must now be placed on the House calendar for debate before time runs out this session.

Another educator preparation bill is HB 1300 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R), which the Senate unanimously passed today. The ATPE-backed bill amends a law that permits educator preparation programs to exempt up to 10 percent of each cohort of candidates from the state’s minimum GPA requirement. The bill as approved requires those exempted from the GPA rule to pass a content exam prior to admission. The House passed HB 1300 last week by a vote of 141 to 2, with Reps. Jonathan Stickland (R) and James White (R) voting against it.

Yet another educator preparation bill filed this session was HB 2566 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R). The bill called for a number of changes to educator preparation rules and the accountability system for educator preparation programs, including requiring consideration of the results of a teacher satisfaction survey. HB 2566 also would require all candidates for teacher certification, including those pursuing alternative certification, to undergo training relating to the instruction of students with dyslexia (currently required only for candidates in traditional educator preparation programs). A version of HB 2566 was unanimously approved by the House Public Education Committee on April 28, but the bill was unable to survive the House’s calendar deadlines. In order to keep the measure alive in some manner, VanDeaver amended some of the language in his more comprehensive HB 2566 onto another bill, Rep. Crownover’s HB 2205. The pieces of VanDeaver’s bill that were added to HB 2205 include the administration of a new teacher survey to assess new teachers’ satisfaction with the training provided by their educator preparation programs; the requirement for alternative certification program candidates to receive training in the detection and education of students with dyslexia; and the establishment of educator preparation program approval and renewal standards, risk factors to be used in assessing the programs, and a process for submitting complaints against an educator preparation program.

HB 2205 by Rep. Myra Crownover (R) changes the composition of the State Board for Educator Certification and requires one non-voting member of the board to have worked for an alternative certification program. It also makes changes to the accountability system for educator preparation programs. The bill adds two indicators to the Accountability System for Educator Preparation (ASEP), which seeks to hold educator preparation programs accountable for their quality and effectiveness at preparing candidates for certification and entering the profession. Those two new indicators are the ratio of field supervisors to candidates and the percentage of teachers employed within one year of completing the preparation program. ATPE supported HB 2205 when it was heard by the House Public Education Committee, which unanimously approved the bill on April 28. The House passed the bill last week by a vote of 126 to 5, after several floor amendments were added to HB 2205. The amendments included one by Rep. Ina Minjarez (D) to create a school turnaround specialist endorsement that may be added to a principal certificate issued by SBEC. HB 2205 was also amended to incorporate language from another bill, VanDeaver’s HB 2566, which is discussed above.

When HB 2205 was sent to the upper chamber, the Senate Education Committee proposed a substitute version of the bill, which ATPE testified against on May 20. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann explained in her testimony that there are several good provisions in the bill (including Rep. VanDeaver’s language that requires a new teacher satisfaction survey, training for all certification candidates in educating students with dyslexia, and a complaint procedure for candidates to pursue against ed prep programs); however, Kuhlmann told the committee that ATPE opposes lowering the standards for entrance into the education profession. HB 2205 would decrease the state’s current statutory minimum GPA requirement for admission to an educator preparation program from 2.75 back down to 2.5, even though the law and SBEC rules already allow several exceptions to the GPA rule. ATPE supports keeping the minimum GPA requirement at 2.75 while maintaining those exceptions. The Senate Education Committee unanimously voted to approve its committee substitute for HB 2205 on Wednesday, May 20. It must now be approved by the full Senate.

Early childhood education

HB 4 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) is an ATPE-supported bill to increase funding to pre-kindergarten programs that implement certain quality control measures. Broadly supported and also declared a priority issue by Gov. Greg Abbott, HB 4 generated controversy after a panel of advisors to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) publicly derided the bill and public schools. Both the House and Senate ultimately passed different versions of the bill. The House voted yesterday, May 21, to concur in amendments made by the Senate. That unanimous vote to accept the Senate’s language sends the bill to the desk of Gov. Abbott, who has been a strong supporter of the measure and who declared early childhood education a priority issue for consideration this legislative session.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has already signed into law SB 925 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R). The ATPE-supported bill calls for the commissioner of education to create literacy achievement academies for teachers of reading in Kindergarten through third grades. In selecting educators who are eligible to participate, preference will be given to teachers at campuses where at least 50 percent of the students are educationally disadvantaged. The bill entitles a teacher who attends a literacy achievement academy to receive a stipend.

Suicide prevention

ATPE has been pursuing legislation this session to try to curtail the epidemic of youth suicide by making available additional training for educators in spotting and responding to the warning signs of suicide. At ATPE’s request, Rep. Byron Cook (R) filed HB 2186 in memory of Jonathan Childers, who committed suicide in 2013. Jonathan was the teenage son of Coach Kevin Childers, an ATPE member from Fairfield ISD. The Childers family’s story is featured in our latest issue of ATPE News. The House passed HB 2186 on May 7 by a vote of 139 to 3 with Reps. Matt Rinaldi (R), Matt Schaefer (R), and Jonathan Stickland (R) voting against it. The Senate Education Committee approved HB 2186 yesterday and recommended that it be placed on the House’s special calendar for local and uncontested bills.  A similar bill, SB 1169 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R), passed the Senate last week by a vote of 29 to 1, with only Sen. Robert Nichols (R) voting against it.

Breast-feeding accommodations for school employees

The legislature is considering a couple of bills relating to accommodations for new mothers working in public schools, and ATPE has been supporting the measures.

HB 786 by Rep. Armando Walle (D) would require schools and other public employers to provide certain accommodations for employees to express breast milk and prohibit workplace discrimination against such employees. The House passed HB 786 by a vote of 90 to 47 on April 27. It passed the Senate’s Business and Commerce committee this week and is on the Senate Intent Calendar for floor consideration as early as today.

SB 1479 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) is a similar measure that applies particularly to school employees and requires school districts to provide break times and suitable locations for educators to express breast milk. The Senate Education Committee approved the bill on May 5 by a vote of 9 to 2, with Sens. Lois Kolkhorst (R) and Donna Campbell (R) voting against SB 1479. It was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar for floor debate earlier this week, but was removed from the calendar and is facing some opposition.

Epi-pens

SB 66 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D) deals with the use of epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as epi-pens, in school settings. Epi-pens are often used to treat anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction. SB 66 requires each school district and open-enrollment charter school to adopt a policy on epi-pen use, including training and authorizing school employees to administer an epi-pen. The bill requires districts and charters to provide parents with annual written notice of their epi-pen policies. Related to the lawful use or non-use of an epi-pen in a school setting, SB 66 also includes immunity protections against liability for school personnel and calls for a state advisory committee to review schools’ usage of epi-pens.

The Senate passed SB 66 on April 15 by a vote of 24 to 7. Sens. Brian Birdwell (R), Konni Burton (R), Brandon Creighton (R), Bob Hall (R), Kelly Hancock (R), Don Huffines (R), and Lois Kolkhorst (R) voted against the bill. The House added one floor amendment and then approved the bill unanimously last Wednesday, May 13. The Senate voted Tuesday, May 19, to accept the lower chamber’s amendments to the bill, which means SB 66 is now headed to the governor’s desk. The vote on the motion to concur was 24 to 7, again with Sens. Brian Birdwell (R), Konni Burton (R), Brandon Creighton (R), Bob Hall (R), Kelly Hancock (R), Don Huffines (R), and Lois Kolkhorst (R) voting against it.

Cardiac assessments for student athletes

On Tuesday, May 19, the Senate Education Committee listened to hours of testimony yesterday, mostly from parents and medical professionals, on HB 767 by Rep. Wayne Smith (R). The bill calls for cardiac assessments of students participating in UIL athletic activities. The House passed HB 767 in mid-April by a vote of 82 to 62.

Cameras in the classroom

The House Public Education Committee voted last night to approve SB 507 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D), a somewhat controversial bill requiring school districts to equip self-contained classrooms serving students in special education programs with video surveillance cameras. The Senate approved the bill on May 11 by a vote of 24 to 7, with Sens. Brandon Creighton (R), Bob Hall (R), Don Huffines (R), Jane Nelson (R), Robert Nichols (R), Charles Perry (R), and Charles Schwertner (R) voting against the measure.

Commissioner’s subpoena power

SB 1222 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R) gives the commissioner of education power to subpoena documents when investigating educators accused of misconduct. Bettencourt originally accepted and then removed an ATPE-requested amendment to ensure that accused educators would have access to the same information received by TEA investigators through the subpoena process. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann submitted written testimony against SB 1222 to the House Public Education Committee, which considered the bill yesterday. While we do not necessarily oppose giving the commissioner limited power to subpoena documents, we believe educators who are targeted in an investigation should have equal access to evidence gathered by the commissioner. The committee approved the bill today and it will head next to the full House for consideration where amendments are possible. SB 1222 previously passed the Senate on May 4 by a vote of 29 to 2, with Sens. Kirk Watson (D) and Rodney Ellis (D) voting against it.

Paperwork reduction

On Tuesday, May 19, the Senate Education Committee heard HB 1706, a bill by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) to try to reduce school paperwork requirements. The bill was voted out unanimously by the committee today and recommended for placement on the Senate’s local and uncontested calendar, making it more likely to pass. ATPE supports the measure, which the House passed unanimously on May 4.


As a reminder, tomorrow (May 23) is the last day for House committees to report Senate bills. With the House still in session, impromptu meetings could still be scheduled anytime tonight or tomorrow to vote out additional bills. Stay tuned to our Teach the Vote blog for updates and follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for the latest developments.

Legislative Update: Senate committee approves “A through F;” House hears payroll deduction; suicide and early education bills progress while reform bills languish

The clock is ticking on the 84th legislative session. Here’s the latest news on the following legislation we are following closely:


“A THROUGH F” SCHOOL RATINGS

Earlier today the Senate Education Committee heard HB 2804 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R). ATPE Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg testified against the bill this morning. He explained to the committee that the bill contains accountability provisions that ATPE supports but that we cannot support HB 2804 in its current form because of its language requiring “A through F” accountability grades to be used for campus ratings. Gregg said it was “egregious and wrong” to refer to students as failing. ATPE also submitted as written testimony a copy of a column penned by ATPE Governmental Relations Manager Jennifer Canaday for the Summer 2015 issue of ATPE News. In the article entitled “The Failed Rhetoric of Failing Schools,” Canaday contends that “stigmatizing children” by labeling their schools as failing ‘”does nothing to support them or the educators working on their behalf.”

This evening the committee voted out a substitute version of the “A-F” bill. The vote was unanimous, although Sens. Royce West (D) and Sylvia Garcia (D) stated that they were “begrudgingly” voting for HB 2804. The committee also recommended that the new version of HB 2804 be placed on the Senate’s special “local” calendar for uncontested bills, a rather surprising move considering the opposition the bill has faced from many stakeholders.


OTHER BILLS IN THE SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE TODAY

The Senate Education Committee also heard today HB 2811 by Rep. Ken King (R) relating to curriculum standards and instructional materials and HB 1842 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) dealing with interventions and sanctions for low-performing schools. The committee is proposing a comprehensive substitute for HB 1842, and because of its length, Chairman Larry Taylor (R) advised the the committee would not attempt to vote out the bill until tomorrow. HB 2811 was approved by the committee this evening. A late addition to the committee’s agenda for today was HB 1431 by Rep. Susan King (R) which calls for development of an industry-related course to train students to communicate in a language other than English for business purposes. The committee voted out that bill with a favorable recommendation, along with HB 2186 by Rep. Byron Cook (R), the ATPE-backed suicide prevention training bill for educators. Among other pending bills that the committee voted out today were Rep. Gary VanDeaver’s (R) bill eliminating the STAAR test for writing, HB 1164, and Rep. Dan Huberty’s (R) HB 743 pertaining to testing and curriculum standards; ATPE has supported both of those bills.

PAYROLL DEDUCTION

The House Committee on State Affairs held a limited public hearing today on SB 1968 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R), a bill eliminating the payroll deduction option for school and state employees to pay voluntary dues to a professional association. ATPE opposes the bill. Rep. Byron Cook (R), the committee’s chairman, allowed only a couple hours for the hearing, which meant that many of the witnesses who signed up to testify – including ATPE’s Brock Gregg – were unable to do so. While the limitations on testimony upset some members of the committee, Cook stated that he was trying to strike a balance between “folks who think we’re going too slow and folks who think we’re going too fast” in considering SB 1968. Cook called the bill poorly drafted and said that SB 1968 had “languished in the Senate,” had arrived in the House “very flawed,” and would be subject to “a valid point of order” that would kill the bill if his committee sent it to the House floor as written. After hearing two hours of testimony, Cook announced that the committee was adjourning and leaving the bill pending. At this point, no plans have been announced for the committee to meet again prior to Saturday’s deadline for bills to be voted upon and reported out of House committees.

STATE BUDGET

Pieces of the budget puzzle are being filled out as the end of session nears. Conference committee meetings are continuing today on HB 1 by Rep. John Otto (R), which is the state’s budget bill. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson reports that the committee is recommending $1.5 billion in new funding for public education, which is far less than the amount the House had proposed in its version of the budget. HB 1 is the only bill the legislature must pass in order to avoid a special session. A deal between the House and Senate hinged on reaching agreement on tax cuts. We reported yesterday that the Senate Finance Committee passed the House’s plan to reduce the business franchise tax. Today, the House Ways and Means Committee passed SB 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R) containing the Senate’s favored proposal to increase the homestead exemption for property taxes by $10,000; that bill is subject to voter approval in a November election.

BILLS IN THE HOUSE PUBLIC EDUCATION COMMITTEE TODAY

The House Public Education Committee also held its last regular meeting today. Its agenda included hearing one bill that ATPE opposes, SB 1222 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R) to give the commissioner of education subpoena power. While we do not necessarily oppose giving the commissioner limited power to subpoena documents, we believe educators who are targeted in an investigation should have equal access to evidence gathered by the commissioner. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann submitted written testimony against SB 1222.

In addition, the committee took votes this evening on several pending bills that have already been heard, including SB 1200 and SB 1241 both by Sen. Larry Taylor (R). SB 1241 is Taylor’s bill to create deregulated “innovation zones” for some low-performing schools, which ATPE has opposed. Sen. Kel Seliger’s (R) educator preparation bill, SB 892, was approved tonight, as was SB 507 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) to require cameras in special education classrooms, and a handful of other bills.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

There have been major developments on a couple of bills ATPE supported this session pertaining to early childhood education. First, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has signed into law SB 925 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R). The bill calls for the commissioner of education to create literacy achievement academies for teachers of reading in Kindergarten through third grades. In selecting educators who are eligible to participate, preference will be given to teachers at campuses where at least 50 percent of the students are educationally disadvantaged. The bill entitles a teacher who attends a literacy achievement academy to receive a stipend.

Additionally, the House voted today to concur in amendments made by the Senate to HB 4, which is Rep. Dan Huberty’s (R) high-profile pre-Kindergarten bill. Today’s unanimous vote sends the bill to the desk of Gov. Abbott, who has been a strong supporter of the measure and who declared early childhood education a priority issue for consideration this legislative session.

BILLS IN JEOPARDY

A pair of ATPE-supported community schools bills appear to be on life support. SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D), was taken off the Senate Intent Calendar containing bills eligible for floor debate in the upper chamber. The House version of the bill, HB 1891 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D), passed the lower chamber on May 14, but was only today referred to a Senate committee, leaving practically no time for it to make it through the legislative process at this stage.

Most of the components of a package of priority legislation favored by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), including several high-profile bills pushed by the well-funded group Texans for Education Reform (TER), appear far less likely to pass this session. One of the bills is Sen. Larry Taylor’s (R) SB 14 to expand and expedite the state’s parent trigger law that enables certain low-performing schools to be deregulated and managed by outside entities. The Senate approved the bill in mid-April; the House Public Education Committee heard the bill Tuesday night but left it pending. Neither SB 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) nor HB 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) to repeal the state minimum salary schedule for teachers has been voted out of the House Public Education Committee, which has a Saturday deadline to act on bills. Sen. Larry Taylor’s (R) virtual voucher bill, SB 894, has not garnered enough support for a floor vote in the Senate; Taylor is also carrying a charter school bill, SB 1897, that includes language allowing for expansion of virtual charter schools and has already been approved by the Senate, but the House Public Education Committee has not opted to hear that bill. Similarly, the House Public Education Committee has not heard SB 669 by Sen. Royce West (D), which is the TER-backed bill to create a statewide Opportunity School District. With TER’s “local control school district” bill (HB 1798) already defeated by the House, that means the reform group has had little success this session, despite an expensive marketing and lobbying campaign, in attempting to deregulate and privatize the management of public schools it deems to be unacceptable. Last but not least, there is SB 4 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), the private school voucher tax credit bill lauded by Lt. Gov. Patrick, which has failed to gain traction in the House after passing the Senate by a vote of 18 to 12 on April 21.


This is a critical time for education bills both good and bad. ATPE encourages you to remain actively involved in the legislative process and keep talking to your legislators about bills of concern. For the very latest updates, follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter.

Legislative Update: Feisty debates and narrow votes on A through F ratings, other proposals for struggling schools

This week marked the passage of several significant session-related deadlines that have the effect of dramatically lowering the number of bills still in play in the 84th legislative session. There has already been a growing sense that few education bills will be passed this session – which is not necessarily a bad thing – and the failure of many such bills to survive this week’s deadlines or to overcome the hurdle of a successful floor vote reinforces that sentiment. Here are the latest updates on bills dealing with the following education issues:


State budget

HB 1 by Rep. John Otto (R), the state appropriations bill, remains pending in a conference committee. As House members were busy expediting some bills and “chubbing” others (asking questions to prolong debate, often on fairly non-controversial measures, in order to delay consideration of more significant bills of concern), high-level talks were occurring yesterday afternoon behind closed doors. Legislative leaders and the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, and house speaker were meeting Thursday to try to reach a compromise on tax cuts and a few other politically charged issues: border security, the open carry of handguns, and how to prosecute elected officials who violate ethics laws. Differences in opinion over tax cuts – whether to focus on property tax reductions, lowering sales taxes, or slashing the business franchise tax – have been holding up a compromise on the state’s budget and supplemental appropriations, including money for retired educators’ healthcare. By mid-week, many believed the negotiators were getting close to an agreement that would enable the legislature to pass a budget before the session ends, but the failure to announce a deal by the end of this week signaled that those discussions may have slowed down a bit.

School finance

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R), chairman of the House Public Education Committee, filed HB 1759 in an attempt to reform the state’s unconstitutional school finance system, but the plan failed to gain enough traction this session. On Thursday, the last day for the House to pass major House bills on second reading, Aycock laid out HB 1759 for floor debate but ended up withdrawing the bill from the day’s calendar as a favor to other legislators needing to pass bills before the midnight deadline. Aycock was facing the certainty of hours of debate by the House; numerous contentious amendments, including some that would try to add vouchers to the bill; and several planned points of order (technical challenges to the bill). Additionally, Aycock expressed doubt that the Senate would give the bill any real shot at passing and would therefore be a waste of the representatives’ time on such a critical day. The fact that many education advocates believed the bill would not do nearly enough to help underfunded school districts was undoubtedly another factor in the chairman’s decision.

Accountability, “A through F” ratings, and community schools

Only 25 minutes before the House’s midnight deadline, HB 2804 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) passed on second reading last night after a robust debate and some very close votes. Aycock filed the bill to try to overhaul the state’s accountability system and place slightly less emphasis on the role of student test scores in how schools are rated. Unfortunately, the bill includes a controversial plan, which ATPE opposes, to assign “A through F” grades to school campuses in lieu of existing accountability ratings. During the debate, Aycock acknowledged that the idea of giving grades to campuses was unpopular among schools and educator groups, but he told his colleagues, “We have to call them something.” The A-F language was not part of Aycock’s original bill as filed, but hoping to reach a compromise with the Senate, he added it to HB 2804 in committee, despite objections from several committee members and testimony from ATPE and other groups opposing the idea. (Sen. Larry Taylor’s SB 6 and two House companion bills, HB 2109 by Rep. Morgan Meyer (R) and HB 2176 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R), also contained the A-F proposal but did not make it through the legislative process.) During last night’s debate, multiple representatives from both sides of the aisle attempted unsuccessfully to strip the A-F language from HB 2804. Rep. Larry Phillips (R) filed an amendment that came closest to passing after he implored his colleagues to “stand up for sanity in our schools” by doing away with the harmful labels. The amendment appeared initially to pass, prompting calls for a verification of the vote count. After verification, the vote was announced as 69 to 75 and the Phillips amendment failed. Rep. Sylvester Turner (D) also made an impassioned plea for the House to pass an amendment to strip out the A-F language; his amendment failed by a vote of 50 to 89.

Altogether, there were seven amendments added to HB 2804 last night, including some favorable changes that ATPE requested. Chairman Aycock added language to require the commissioner of education to report on the correlation between each school’s rating and its student demographics. Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) added an amendment at our request requiring the commissioner to consult with representatives of education groups, including ATPE, in developing rules for assignment of the new letter grades to districts and campuses. VanDeaver successfully added another ATPE-requested change that will allow for schools rated with an “A,” “B,” or “C” to be considered as performing acceptably, rather than only those schools that are graded with an “A” or “B.” An ATPE-supported amendment by Rep. Helen Giddings (D) adds to school ratings consideration of the percentage of an elementary school’s students assigned for two consecutive school years to a first-year or improperly certified teacher. Following consideration of all amendments, the vote to pass HB 2804 to third reading last night was 98 to 44. The House approved HB 2804 on third reading today after adding one technical, non-substantive amendment to the bill. An ATPE-requested amendment to try to hold school districts accountable for equitably distributing Title I funds among their campuses was also laid out today but withdrawn after Chairman Aycock told the House that he was “not real fond of” the idea. The final House vote today on third reading of HB 2804 was 102-26.

As we reported yesterday, Aycock’s HB 1842 relating to sanctions and interventions for low-performing schools was also approved by the House this week. It was amended on second reading to add language from another bill allowing for use of a community schools model for school turnaround purposes, but that amendment was stripped out of the bill on third reading. The main community schools bill is HB 1891 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D), and it also made it through the House this week. ATPE has supported promoting the use of a community schools model for turning around struggling schools as an alternative to reconstitution or privatization. It took the addition of a bizarre amendment by Rep. Geanie Morrison (R) stating that community schools would be prohibited from partnering with abortion providers in order for conservatives in the House to support the bill on second reading late last night. The vote to advance the bill as amended to third reading was 81 to 54, followed by another vote today to pass the bill 69 to 52. (SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) is the Senate’s companion version of this bill, which remains pending on the Senate’s calendar for floor debate.) A correlating bill also by Rep. Rodriguez to provide for grants to community schools, HB 1892, did not survive a vote in the House last night. Representatives voted it down last night 60 to 82, and the Senate version of that bill, SB 1484 by Sen. Garcia, has not been heard in a committee.

SB 1200 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) is another ATPE-supported bill that calls for creation of a committee to recommend a new system for student assessment and public school accountability. It has passed the Senate and is now scheduled for a hearing by the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday, May 19.

Private school vouchers

Despite heavy lobbying and paid advertising efforts by voucher supporters, the Senate’s primary voucher vehicle, SB 4 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), has not yet been set for a hearing by the House Committee on Ways and Means after passing the Senate on an 18 to 12 vote. The bill, backed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, calls for creating a tax credit for businesses that contribute money to private school scholarships. Click here to find ATPE’s talking points in opposition to SB 4, which you are encouraged to share with your state representatives.

Also pending in the House is SB 1178 by Sen. Don Huffines (R), which has been referred to the House Public Education Committee. That bill originally called for creating a private school voucher program through the use of education savings accounts that parents could tap in order to pay their children’s private school tuition or home-schooling expenses, but SB 1178 was converted into a mechanism to simply study the idea of education savings accounts during the interim. The Senate passed SB 1178 on Monday of this week by a vote of 21 to 10.

Meanwhile, a virtual voucher bill, SB 894 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), remains on the Senate Intent Calendar but has yet to be heard on the floor of the Senate.

Student testing

A bill that might be one of very few education measures enacted into law this session is the ATPE-supported SB 149 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R). Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on Monday of this week, and it took effect immediately. SB 149 allows for individual graduation committees to decide if certain high school students may be graduated from high schools despite failing a required STAAR test.

HB 742 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) is one of the House bills that died on the calendar this week for lack of a floor debate and vote. The bill would have eliminated the requirement for an eighth-grade social studies STAAR test. Huberty’s other bill aimed at de-emphasizing the role of student testing is HB 743, which already passed the House and is awaiting a committee hearing in the Senate. 

Teacher salaries and evaluations

There has been no movement in the House, fortunately, on SB 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), despite ongoing efforts by Texans for Education Reform (TER) and conservatives in the Senate to keep the bill alive. SB 893 proposes eliminating the state minimum salary schedule for teachers in favor of compensation models based more heavily on student performance. Learn more about the bill here.

Payroll deduction

Last week we reported on the Senate’s passage of SB 1968 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R) to eliminate educators’ ability to use payroll deduction to pay dues to educator associations. Late this afternoon the bill was referred to the House Committee on State Affairs, but it has not been scheduled for a hearing. Click here to read ATPE’s talking points against SB 1968.

Parent trigger or “empowerment”

SB 14 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), a bill to expand and speed up existing “parent trigger” laws that make certain low-performing public schools more susceptible to private management, is scheduled for a hearing by the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday, May 19. It is another bill being promoted by Texans for Education Reform (TER).

“Local control school districts”

On Wednesday, the House took up 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.” ATPE and most education groups opposed the bill, which had the backing of Texans for Education Reform (TER) and was part of a controversial package of reform proposals being pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The House spent three hours debating the bill and considering floor amendments before putting HB 1798 to a vote. The bill failed to pass by a vote of 59 to 76. Read our blog post from yesterday to learn more about some of the amendments that were offered and to find out how your representative voted on this controversial bill.

Charter schools

An ATPE-requested bill to protect charter school employees narrowly missed the House’s midnight deadline for passage last night. HB 4047 by Rep. Alma Allen (D) would ensure that charter school teachers have the right to join or not join a professional association and the right to be politically active in the same manner as teachers at traditional public schools. It unanimously passed the House Public Education Committee and was only three bills away from being debated last night when the clock ran out.

SB 1897 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) dealing with the expansion of charter and virtual schools is now pending in the House after passing the Senate on Monday of this week by a vote of 22 to 9. Check out our earlier blog post for a breakdown of the Senate vote. This bill has been referred to the House Public Education Committee but not yet set for a hearing.

Educator preparation and certification

There are several bills pertaining to educator preparation and certification still on the move this session. First, HB 1300 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R) amends an existing law that permits educator preparation programs to exempt up to 10 percent of each cohort of candidates from the state’s minimum GPA requirement for future teachers. It requires those exempted from the GPA rule to pass a content exam prior to admission to the educator preparation program. ATPE supported the bill in the House where it passed this week by a vote of 141 to 2 with Reps. Jonathan Stickland (R) and James White (R) voting against the bill. It has been referred to the Senate Education Committee and quickly set for a hearing on Wednesday, May 20.

HB 2205 by Rep. Myra Crownover (R) also pertains to educator preparation and is a bill that ATPE supported when it was heard in a House committee last month. The bill adds two indicators to the Accountability System for Educator Preparation (ASEP), which seeks to hold educator preparation programs accountable for their quality and effectiveness at preparing candidates for certification and entering the profession. Those two new indicators are the ratio of field supervisors to candidates and the percentage of teachers employed within one year of completing the preparation program. HB 2205 also changes the composition of the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and requires one non-voting member of the board to have worked for an alternative certification program. After getting unanimous approval from the House Public Education Committee, HB 2205 was passed by the House on second reading yesterday after several amendments were added. The amendments included one by Rep. Ina Minjarez (D) to create a school turnaround specialist endorsement that may be added to a principal certificate issued by SBEC. HB 2205 was also amended to incorporate language from another bill, HB 2566, which is discussed below. Today, the House passed HB 2205 on third reading by a vote of 126 to 5.

Another educator preparation bill that was on the House calendar was HB 2566 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R), which called for several changes to educator preparation rules and the accountability system for educator preparation programs, including a requirement for considering the results of a teacher satisfaction survey. HB 2566 would require all candidates for teacher certification, including those pursuing alternative certification, to undergo training relating to the instruction of students with dyslexia (currently required only for candidates in traditional educator preparation programs). Since HB 2566 was too far down the calendar to beat last night’s midnight deadline in order to stay alive, VanDeaver amended some of the language in his more comprehensive bill onto Crownover’s HB 2205. The pieces of VanDeaver’s bill that were added to HB 2205 include the administration of a new teacher survey to assess new teachers’ satisfaction with the training provided by their educator preparation programs; the requirement for alternative certification program candidates to receive training in the detection and education of students with dyslexia; and the establishment of educator preparation program approval and renewal standards, risk factors to be used in assessing the programs, and a process for submitting complaints against an educator preparation program.

SB 892 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), a bill that lowers the standards for entrance to an educator preparation program, appears stalled in the House after passing the Senate. With the end of session nearing, watch for possible attempts to append language from SB 892 onto other bills that are still alive.

Pre-kindergarten

A major bill supported by the governor to increase funding for pre-K programs is still pending. HB 4 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) passed the House and Senate with differing language provided by each chamber. The House must now decide whether to accept the Senate’s changes or refer HB 4 to a conference committee.

Suicide prevention

ATPE is supporting a pair of bills to try to curtail the epidemic of youth suicide by making available additional training for educators in spotting and responding to the warning signs of suicide. At ATPE’s request, Rep. Byron Cook (R) has filed HB 2186 in memory of Jonathan Childers, who committed suicide in 2013. Jonathan was the son of Coach Kevin Childers, an ATPE member from Fairfield ISD. The House passed HB 2186 on May 7 by a vote of 139 to 3 with Reps. Matt Rinaldi (R), Matt Schaefer (R), and Jonathan Stickland (R) voting against it. HB 2186 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee. A similar bill, SB 1169 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R), passed the Senate this week by a vote of 29 to 1, with Sen. Robert Nichols (R) voting against it. SB 1169 has been referred to the House Public Education Committee.

Other health and safety bills

SB 66 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D) regarding the use of epi-pens in schools to treat anaphylaxis, passed the Senate earlier this session and passed the House this week. Since the two chambers passed different versions of the bill, the Senate must decide whether to accept the House changes to the bill or send it to a conference committee.

On Tuesday, May 19, the Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear HB 767 by Rep. Wayne Smith (R) relating to cardiac assessments of students participating in UIL athletic activities. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 82 to 62 back in mid-April.


The last two weeks of the session will be critical, and ATPE encourages you to keep communicating with your legislators about bills of concern. Don’t forget to follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for further updates from the capitol next week.

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.

Troubling bills in the 84th Legislature: Where do they stand?

With less than a month remaining in the 84th Texas Legislature’s regular session, the clock is working against several high-profile education bills. Next Monday, May 11, is the last day that House committees can report out House bills, which means that any House bill not voted out of committee this week is likely dead. However, it’s not time to let down our guard. Most bills have companion versions filed in both the House and Senate, the Senate has already passed a number of bad bills, and House committees have until May 23 to hear and report out Senate bills. Furthermore, as always occurs during the last few weeks of any legislative session, attempts will be made to amend dead bills onto other bills that are still moving through the process.

Most of the bills of greatest concern to educators this session are part of a controversial package of education reform legislation being pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) with the backing of well-financed business groups such as Texans for Education Reform (TER). They include a number of bills proposing various means of subjecting low-performing campuses to alternative management. Private school vouchers and reducing teachers’ rights and benefits have also been proposed. Here’s a rundown of several high-profile bills that ATPE has been fighting this session and where they currently stand:

Teacher salaries and evaluations

Two bills have been filed proposing to do away with the state minimum salary schedule for teachers and change the way school districts conduct appraisals and make personnel decisions, calling for more emphasis to be placed on student performance as a factor in those decisions. SB 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) and HB 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) are both pending in the House and appear, fortunately, to be stalled. SB 893 passed the full Senate on a vote of 27 to 4, with Sens. Rodney Ellis (D), Eddie Lucio (D), Jose Menendez (D), and Royce West (D) casting the only votes against it. SB 893 has not yet been heard by a House committee. HB 2543 was heard by the House Public Education Committee but has so far been left pending, thanks to sustained opposition to the bill. Read ATPE’s most recent message to legislators on “The Truth about SB 893 and HB 2543.”

“A through F” grades for campus accountability ratings

Another bill ATPE has opposed is a measure calling for “A through F” grading of public school campuses in lieu of existing accountability ratings. The primary bill on “A-F” ratings, which were popularized a few years ago by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, is SB 6 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the Senate Education Committee. SB 6 is part of Lt. Gov. Patrick’s reform package. (Two identical House companion bills, HB 2109 and HB 2176, have not been heard this session.) The full Senate passed SB 6 by a vote of 20-10. All Republican senators supported it, and all Democratic senators opposed it except Sen. Lucio, who was absent for the vote. A House committee heard the bill on April 28 and left it pending, but similar “A-F” language has now been added to another accountability bill that is on the move, HB 2804 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R), who chairs the House Public Education Committee. HB 2804 is expected to undergo several changes when it is ultimately heard on the House floor. It remains to be seen what changes will be made to the “A-F” language in HB 2804; for now, however, SB 6 also appears to be stalled. Read ATPE’s statement in opposition to SB 6 here.

Parent trigger or “empowerment”

Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Larry Taylor (R) has also filed a bill to expand and speeding up existing “parent trigger” laws that make certain low-performing public schools more susceptible to private management. On April 15, the Senate passed an amended version of his SB 14, relating to “empowering the parents of students to petition for the reconstitution, repurposing, alternative management, or closure of low-performing public school campuses.”   As originally filed, SB 14 would make schools susceptible to a parent trigger petition and private management after only two years of unacceptable accountability ratings, but a Senate floor amendment pushed the timeline for a parent trigger action back to year three. Other favorable floor amendments were added before the full Senate approved SB 14 by a vote of 25 to 6. Those voting against the bill on third reading were Sens. Rodney Ellis (D); Jose Menendez (D); Carlos Uresti (D); Kirk Watson (D); John Whitmire (D); and Judith Zaffirini (D). SB 14 has been sent to the House for consideration but not yet heard by a House committee. A House companion bill, HB 1727, has not been heard this session. Many stakeholders believe the House has opted to consider other alternative management options for low-performing schools in lieu of changing the parent trigger laws as proposed in SB 14.

Home rule or “local control” school districts

A couple of bills have been filed this session, also supported by TER and opposed by ATPE, to amend the state’s existing home rule charter district laws in order to facilitate the creation of less regulated “local control school districts.” SB 1012 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R) and HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) change the name of the existing “home rule” statutes to refer instead to “local control school districts.” ATPE believes the proposed new name is a misnomer, given that locally elected school boards would actually lose – not gain – governing authority over their public schools upon conversion to a home rule or “local control” district. The bills would make it easier for voters to approve home rule proposals, such as one that faltered in Dallas ISD recently. Once approved by voters, home rule or “local control” districts can opt out of many state education regulations and be operated more similarly to charter schools with outside management companies hired to oversee them. The House Public Education Committee passed a substitute version of HB 1798 on a vote of 8 to 3 on April 28. The Senate Education Committee heard SB 1012 on April 16, but that bill remains pending in the committee.

Opportunity School Districts

In 2013, the Texas Legislature considered but did not pass a couple of bills calling for the state’s lowest performing schools to be placed into a statewide Achievement School District and managed by outside entities such as charter operators. The same proposals have resurfaced this year but are now being referred to as “Opportunity School District” bills. They include HB 1536 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D), SB 895 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), and SB 669 by Sen. Royce West (D). Many education groups have opposed these bills based on concerns about privatizing the management of public schools and exempting them from state education laws in much the same manner as charter schools, home rule charter districts, or parent trigger schools. ATPE believes the OSD bills diminish the governing authority and accountability of locally elected school boards, promote ineffective school turnaround strategies, and eliminate important quality control measures such as elementary school class-size limits and requirements that schools hire certified teachers.

Rep. Dutton’s HB 1536 was approved by the House Public Education Committee by a vote of 9 to 2 on April 28. On April 7, the Senate Education Committee heard Chairman Taylor’s SB 895, but the chair later announced his intent to sign on as a co-author for Sen. West’s OSD bill instead of pushing forward his own bill. A substitute version of West’s SB 669 was approved by the Senate Education Committee on April 23 by a vote of 6 to 1, with Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) voting against the measure. SB 669 is now on the Senate Intent Calendar, signaling that a floor debate is expected soon.

Innovation zones

Yet another variation on the theme of private management for low-performing schools is found in SB 1241 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R). Chairman Taylor’s bill also subjects low-performing schools to the possibility of alternative management through the creation of “Innovation Zones.” As with the similar proposals for home rule districts or Opportunity School Districts, ATPE opposed SB 1241 when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on April 7, and we voiced our concerns about enabling private entities to manage public schools, the potential impact on educators’ contract rights, and the likelihood that parents and local voters would lose their ability to provide input in school governance decisions. The Senate committee approved SB 1241 on April 22 by a vote of 8 to 1, with Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) casting the only vote against it. The bill has been placed on the Senate Intent Calendar making it eligible for a floor debate.

Vouchers

A bill calling for spending huge sums of state money to expand home-schooled and private school students’ access to the state’s Virtual School Network is SB 894 also by Chairman Larry Taylor (R). This bill would vastly expand the virtual school network in Texas by setting up a system of virtual vouchers with few requirements holding virtual education providers accountable to taxpayers. ATPE and many other education stakeholders opposed the bill when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 12, pointing out that SB 894 would allow home-schooled and other children not currently enrolled in public schools free access to virtual courses on the state’s dime; the bill would cause the cost of the program to balloon and would further burden Texas’s already underfunded public school system. The committee approved SB 894 by a vote of 6 to 3 on April 27. Sens. Sylvia Garcia (D), Lois Kolkhorst (R), and Jose Rodriguez (D) voted against the measure. Sen. Royce West (D) was present not voting, and Sen. Kel Seliger (R) was absent. Those voting for the virtual voucher bill were Chairman Larry Taylor (R), plus Sens. Eddie Lucio (D), Paul Bettencourt (R), Donna Campbell (R), Don Huffines (R),  and Van Taylor (R). SB 894 was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar, signaling that a floor debate was expected soon, but the bill has since been removed from the calendar. It is believed that many legislators have had second thoughts about the bill’s enormous fiscal note.

SB 4, also by Chairman Larry Taylor (R), is the Senate’s signature voucher legislation. While not on the list of bills that TER is officially pushing forward this session, SB 4 is a major part of Lt. Gov. Patrick’s high-priority education reform package. In fact, Patrick has been one of the most outspoken proponents of vouchers since entering the Legislature. SB 4 as filed provided for both tax credits to educational assistance organizations that pay scholarships for students to attend private schools and education tuition grants to be awarded to parents of eligible children attending private schools. The Senate Education Committee heard the bill on March 26, and ATPE testified against it. The committee amended and voted to approve a substitute version of this bill on April 7 by a vote of 7 to 3. Sens. Garcia (D), Rodriguez (D), and West (D) opposed SB 4; while Sens. Larry Taylor (R), Lucio (D), Bettencourt (R), Campbell (R), Huffines (R), Kolkhorst (R), Seliger (R), and Van Taylor (R) all voted for the voucher bill. The new version incorporates elements of other private school voucher bills and sets up a voucher tax credit for businesses that contribute money to private school scholarships. The full Senate passed SB 4 on April 21 by a vote of 18 to 12. All Democratic senators voted against the bill except for Sen. Lucio. Republican Sens. Konni Burton (R) and Robert Nichols (R) also opposed SB 4 on the Senate floor. Sen. Kel Seliger (R) was absent for the vote. While it is unlikely that the House will allow SB 4 to proceed, you can find talking points opposing SB 4 to share with your representatives here.

Home-school students participating in UIL

SB 2046 by Sen. Van Taylor (R) has been called a measure to provide “equal opportunity” for home-schooled students to participate in UIL. Its supporters often refer to SB 2046 and similar legislation filed in other states as “Tim Tebow bills,” named after the formerly home-schooled NFL quarterback. SB 2046 requires school districts to enable local home-schooled students to participate in UIL activities at the public school, and it enables parents of the home-schooled students to attest that their children have met certain academic eligibility requirements. ATPE opposed the bill based on long-standing positions in our member-written Legislative Program that oppose the selective participation of home-schooled students in public school activities, especially when they are not held to the same academic standards as their public school student peers. SB 2046 was heard by the Senate Education Committee on April 23 and left pending.

Payroll deduction

Sen. Joan Huffman (R) has filed an anti-union bill that would also do away with educators’ ability to use payroll deduction to pay dues to educator associations and for other conveniences. SB 1968 is not part of Lt. Gov. Patrick’s official reform package, but it has the support of many conservative senators who oppose unions and trade associations that represent public servants such as educators and state employees. SB 1968 does not have an identical House companion; there are a few related bills that have been filed by House members, but those have not been heard. As of today, SB 1968 remains on the Senate Intent Calendar but has not yet been brought up for a floor vote. Even if the payroll deduction bill makes it out of the Senate, it is unlikely to succeed in the House where there is greater opposition. Read ATPE’s talking points against SB 1968 here.

Educator preparation and certification

A pair of companion bills are pending that would lower the standards for entrance to the education profession. SB 892 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) and HB 3494 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) were both originally conceived as measures to increase the rigor of educator preparation by adding a new requirement for each cohort entering an educator preparation program to maintain an overall GPA of 3.0. However, both bills have been amended with language requested by representatives of for-profit alternative certification programs and now have the effect of watering down the standards for becoming a teacher. Specifically, these bills would lower the individual GPA requirement for admission to an educator preparation program from 2.75 to 2.5. (The legislature raised the GPA requirement in statute from 2.5 to 2.75 in 2013, but the State Board for Educator Certification that is responsible for implementing the law complained that the new statute was vague and refused to raise its own admission rules to reflect the higher GPA requirement.) The state’s largest alternative certification providers are for-profit companies that seek to maximize their profits through high enrollment numbers; they would obviously benefit from putting lower GPA standards in law, but they also want the legislature to codify current practices that enable them to delay providing their candidates with significant training before they are hired as teachers of record. ATPE believes the watered down standards and weak training requirements do a disservice to would-be educators pursuing alternative certification, since they are placed into high-stakes teaching environments before they have received adequate preparation and often without the necessary content knowledge in the subjects they are teaching. We support higher standards for educator preparation to ensure that all new teachers are well-equipped to meet the rigors of their first classrooms. The Senate unanimously passed SB 892 on April 7. The House Public Education Committee heard HB 3494 on April 16 in its Educator Quality Subcommittee but has not yet voted out the bill.


ATPE appreciates all the members and public education supporters who’ve called and written to legislators asking them to oppose these harmful bills. We encourage you to keep up the pressure as we head into the home stretch of the 84th legislative session, and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on any new developments. Don’t forget you can also follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for even more capitol coverage.

Legislative Update: Senate committee tackles teacher pay and pre-K, graduation bill heads to governor’s desk, anti-suicide bill gains support

Today the Senate Education Committee is hearing House Bill (HB) 4 by Rep. Dan Huberty, a bill to increase funding to pre-kindergarten programs that implement certain quality control measures. ATPE supports HB 4, which Chairman Larry Taylor (R) says he expects the committee to vote on later today. The bill represents one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s legislative priorities but has been at the center of recent tensions among state leaders after a panel advising Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) blasted the bill and referred to public schools as “Godless.” (For related content, check out this week’s op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman by Charles Johnson of Pastors for Texas Children responding to the group’s remarks about the pre-K bill and criticizing the Senate’s passage of several “bills designed specifically to demoralize teachers.”)

The Senate committee will also hear Senate Bill (SB) 1303 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D), a bill calling for teachers to receive a $4,000 pay raise. Read ATPE’s press statement in support of SB 1303. Teacher salaries have been a hot topic for debate this session, as two high-profile bills to do away with the state minimum salary schedule for teachers are languishing over on the House side.

Other bills on today’s Senate Education Committee agenda include SB 625 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D) on prohibiting the use of tasers against public school students, SB 1004 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R) regarding certain dual-credit courses offered by junior colleges in the Harris County area, and SB 1058 also by Sen. Hinojosa on superintendents’ requirement to report information about educators in their districts who engage in certain misconduct. The committee may vote out other bills that are pending and have already been heard when it reconvenes later today.


Following a motorcycle accident that necessitated surgery, Sen. Kel Seliger (R) returned to the Senate this week in time to see his SB 149 sent on its way to the governor’s desk. The bill allows for the creation of individual graduation committees to determine if certain students should graduate high school despite having failed a mandatory STAAR test. The Senate voted yesterday, April 29, to concur in amendments added to the bill by the House of Representatives. The final Senate vote on the ATPE-supported bill was 29 to 2, with Sens. Kelly Hancock (R) and Charles Schwertner (R) voting against the motion. SB 149 now awaits the governor’s signature.


A bill to do away with educators’ ability to use payroll deduction to pay dues to educator associations and for other conveniences remained on the Senate’s calendar, but did not get called up for a floor debate today. The bill is SB 1968 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R). Additionally, Sen. Larry Taylor’s virtual voucher bill, SB 894, was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar earlier this week but then removed. Senators appear to be having second thoughts about the bill’s hefty fiscal note and lack of accountability measures. ATPE has opposed both measures.


The House Public Education Committee held another nine-hour meeting on Tuesday, April 28, during which numerous bills were put to a vote. The committee heard lengthy debate on SB 6 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), the bill calling for “A through F” accountability grades to be assigned to public school campuses in lieu of existing accountability ratings. Most education groups offered testimony against the bill, including ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter who described SB 6 as worthless and emphasized the need to “dig down deeper than the indices” to make real changes to the accountability system before merely tinkering with labels. He added that “oversimplification in the name of transparency” would be “unproductive” for public school students. Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R) surprised some members of the committee by announcing that he was incorporating the “A through F” campus ratings into his accountability overhaul, HB 2804, which the committee then voted out favorably on a 7 to 4 vote. Aycock was later quoted as saying, “I’m personally willing to swallow ‘A through F’ if we get a better accountability system out of it.”

The committee also approved a duo of controversial bills that ATPE and similar education groups opposed based on concerns about privatizing the management of public schools and exempting them from state education laws. One bill is HB 1536 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D) calling for the establishment of a statewide Opportunity School District for low-performing schools, which passed on a vote of 9 to 2. The other bill is a substitute version of HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) relating to local control school districts. Deshotel’s bill changes the existing home rule charter district law to make it easier for districts to opt out of state regulations; HB 1798 made it out of committee on a vote of 8 to 3.

Here are some of the other bills that got a nod of approval from the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday evening:

  • HB 18 by Chairman Aycock relating to college and career readiness training for certain public school counselors.
  • CSHB 1300 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R) relating to the required qualifications of persons admitted to educator preparation programs.
  • CSHB 1842 by Chairman Aycock relating to the assessment of intervention in and sanction of a public school that does not satisfy accreditation criteria.
  • CSHB 2205 by Rep. Myra Crownover (R) relating to educator preparation programs, including the appointment of a member of the State Board for Educator Certification with experience and knowledge of alternative educator preparation programs.
  • CSHB 2566 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) relating to educator preparation programs.
  • CSHB 3347 by Chairman Aycock relating to revocation of a charter for an open-enrollment charter school and procedures for the disposition of property owned by a charter school after revocation or surrender of a charter.
  • CSHB 3987 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) relating to programs in public schools designed to facilitate planning and saving for higher education and facilitate personal financial literacy instruction.

The House Public Education committee also heard but left pending HB 4047 by Rep. Alma Allen (D), a bill that ATPE requested to ensure that charter school employees retain the right to participate in political activities and join educator associations, if they choose.


Childers Senate Ed 04-28-15Also on Tuesday of this week, the Senate Education Committee heard SB 1169 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R) relating to suicide prevention training for educators. The bill is very similar to HB 2186, which ATPE urged Rep. Byron Cook to file on behalf of our member, Coach Kevin Childers, who lost his son Jonathan to suicide two years ago. The Childers family was on hand Tuesday to testify in support of SB 1169, which the committee passed on a vote of 6 to zero.

The Senate Education Committee also voted to send to the floor SB 507 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D). The controversial bill would require schools to video-tape classrooms upon the request of a parent of a student with special needs. Video would have to be kept on file by the school district for at least a year, and the bill would cost millions to be implemented statewide. It is worth noting that school districts already have the ability to videotape classroom  interactions, and several of them already do so.


Ina_MinjarezFinally, ATPE congratulates Rep. Ina Minjarez, who was officially sworn in this afternoon as a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Following a string of special elections, today’s ceremony marks the first time this session that the 84th Legislature has been full. San Antonio’s Minjarez won a special election to fill the unexpired term of former representative and now Sen. Jose Menendez, who gave up his HD 124 House seat in order to run for the Senate.

Full agenda today for House Public Education Committee with votes anticipated on bad bills

The House Public Education Committee is meeting now to hear several bills, including Senate Bill (SB) 6 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) calling for public school campuses to be rated with “A through F” accountability grades. While the bill contains improved language supplied in a Senate floor amendment by Sen. Jose Menendez (D), many educators remain opposed to SB 6 and giving letter grades to campuses. Read more about SB 6 here.

Below are the other bills slated to be heard by the House committee today:

  • HB 233 by Rep. Jessica Farrar (D) relating to school social work services in public schools.
  • HB 1231 by Rep. Allen Fletcher (R) relating to the membership of school district and open-enrollment charter school concussion oversight teams.
  • HB 1783 by Rep. Joe Moody (D) relating to the right of a school employee to report a crime and persons subject to the prohibition on coercing another into suppressing or failing to report information to a law enforcement agency; creating a criminal offense.
  • HB 1935 by Rep. Ken King (R) relating to additional state aid for tax reduction provided to certain school districts.
  • HB 2017 Rep. Rick Miller (R) relating to permissible locations of open-enrollment charter schools created by institutions of higher education.
  • HB 2151 by Rep. Tracy King (D) relating to consideration by the board of trustees of a school district of parental complaints concerning student participation in extracurricular activities.
  • HB 2156 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) relating to requirements for providers of certain technology services in public schools.
  • HB 2218 by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D) relating to instruction regarding mental health, substance abuse, and youth suicide in educator training programs.
  • HB 2593 by Rep. Four Price (R) relating to the method of determining the average daily attendance in certain school districts.
  • HB 2928 by Rep. Ryan Guillen (D) relating to enrollment in public schools by a child without a parent, guardian, or other person with legal control of the child under a court order.
  • HB 3260 by Rep. Abel Herrero (D) relating to a study and report regarding the use of open-source instructional materials at public schools.
  • HB 3281 by Rep. James Frank (R) relating to public school accountability.
  • HB 3282 by Rep. Ron Simmons (R) relating to the establishment by the commissioner of education of an autism program to provide applied behavior analysis services to students with autism spectrum disorder and to the coordination of autism services in this state.
  • HB 3417 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D) relating to providing for endorsements for public high school students enrolled in special education programs.
  • HB 3546 by Rep. Morgan Meyer (R) relating to the provision of credit by examination for public school students.
  • HB 3815 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R) relating to instruction in positive character traits in public schools.
  • HB 3896 by Rep. Sylvester Turner (D) relating to access to school textbooks.
  • HB 4047 by Rep. Alma Allen (D) relating to the extension to open-enrollment charter school employees of certain rights granted to school district employees. This bill was filed at the request of ATPE.

Later today, the committee is also slated to vote on a number of pending bills that have already been heard. These include two bills of great concern to the education community. First, House Bill (HB) 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) deals with the ability to convert public school districts to home rule charter districts that are exempt from many of the laws applicable to other public school districts. Deshotel’s bill changes the name of the privatization mechanism under existing law to “local control school districts” and does away with the requirement in current law for at least 25 percent voter turnout in an election to convert a school district to a “local control school district.” Also scheduled to be voted out today is HB 1536 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D) calling for creation of a statewide Opportunity School District for certain low-performing schools.

Both of these bills, HB 1536 and HB 1798, would facilitate alternative management of public schools by private entities, and they are being pushed forward by the wealthy lobbying group, Texans for Education Reform (TER). The bills promote ineffective school turnaround strategies and eliminate important quality control measures that exist for most other public schools, such as elementary school class-size limits and requirements to hire certified teachers. The alternative management structure envisioned by both HB 1536 and HB 1798 would remove the governing authority of locally elected school board members, which serves to diminish true local control in the long run. Also, neither bill would provide for increased resources or even encourage a reallocation of resources to ensure that the campuses that are struggling the most will receive the most support, which is essential to any successful turnaround effort. For these reasons, ATPE urges members to ask their state representatives and especially members of the House Public Education committee, to vote against HB 1798 and 1536 today.

Fortunately, another TER-backed bill, HB 2543, is not expected to be voted upon by the House committee today. HB 2543 is Rep. Marsha Farney’s (R) bill to do away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers. We appreciate all the ATPE members who’ve been calling their state representatives to oppose this bill.

Legislative Update: Senate passes revised parent trigger bill, but saves voucher debate for another day

Today the full Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 14, a bill modifying the state’s existing “parent trigger” law. SB 14 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) relates to “empowering the parents of students to petition for the reconstitution, repurposing, alternative management, or closure of low-performing public school campuses.” Existing parent trigger laws on the books in Texas apply to certain low-performing schools and make them susceptible to private management upon petition of the parents of students attending the schools. As filed, SB 14 would make schools susceptible to a parent trigger action and private management after only two years of unacceptable accountability ratings.

ATPE opposed the bill when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 19. The committee approved a substitute version of the bill on April 13 by a vote of 9 to 1 with one member “present not voting.” Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) was the only “no” vote in committee, while Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) abstained. Sens. Larry Taylor (R), Eddie Lucio (D), Paul Bettencourt (R), Donna Campbell (R), Donald Huffines (R), Lois Kolkhorst (R), Kel Seliger (R), Royce West (D), and Van Taylor (R) all voted for the bill in committee.

Today, SB 14 passed the full Senate after four floor amendments were added. Three amendments were offered by the bill’s author, Chairman Larry Taylor, while Sen. Rodriguez offered a fourth amendment. The Rodriguez amendment moves the parent trigger option back from year two to year three. Chairman Taylor’s amendments establish eligibility requirements for alternative management entities that might be hired to operate a school after parent trigger; ensure that laws regarding nepotism, open meetings, public information, and conflicts of interest will apply to an operator of a parent trigger school that’s been turned over for alternative management; and prohibit charter operators from paying for a parent trigger petition drive.

The final Senate floor vote on SB 14 was 25-6. Those voting against the bill on third reading were Sens. Rodney Ellis (D); Jose Menendez (D); Carlos Uresti (D); Kirk Watson (D); John Whitmire (D); and Judith Zaffirini (D). The new version of SB 14 now heads to the House for consideration.

Another bill that was on the Senate’s calendar today but did not come up for debate was SB 4, also by Chairman Larry Taylor. The bill creates a private school voucher program through tax credits and “scholarships.” The bill will be back on tomorrow’s calendar in the Senate. ATPE urges members to keep contacting their senators and asking them to vote against SB 4. For additional information and downloadable talking points on the bill, read our blog post from earlier this morning.

Tomorrow, April 16, the House Public Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Educator Quality meets at 8 a.m. to consider bills relating to educator preparation and certification. The agenda includes legislation to alter the composition of the State Board for Educator Certification, change accountability measures for educator preparation programs, and amend the controversial minimum GPA rule for ed prep candidates. Read more details about these bills on our Issues page under the “Educator quality and employment” section. Next, the Senate Education Committee will meet at 9 a.m. to consider four bills, including a troubling proposal by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R) to create “local control school districts.” SB 1012 effectively changes the existing home rule statute to make it easier to convert public schools to privately managed and deregulated charter schools while removing the authority of their locally elected school boards.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on tomorrow’s legislative action, and for the latest news, be sure to follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter.