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House Public Education Committee hears 31 bills on playgrounds, pre-K, and more

House Public Education Committee meeting, April 23, 2019

On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, the House Public Education Committee heard 31 bills relating to a variety of topics, including the use of school counselors’ time, special education evaluation notices, the role of the fine arts curriculum, and creating inclusive playgrounds that are accessible to all students.

ATPE supported several bills considered at the hearing, including:

  • House Bill (HB) 142 (Moody, D-El Paso): Would require TEA to develop a notice for distribution and internet posting that includes reporting changes for special education indicators and the rights of children to special education evaluation. Would also require districts to include additional information on the notice about initiating a referral for special education services. Rep. Moody stated that there is money set aside in the proposed state budget to accomplish the goals of his bill.
  • HB 727 (Gonzalez, M., D-Clint): Would require that school boards adopt a policy requiring school counselors to spend at least 80% of their time on core counseling duties. If the district can’t meet this requirement, the policy must include reasons why, duties the counselor will have to do, and set the actual percentage in the policy.
  • HB 1763 (Blanco, D-El Paso): Would add children of educators employed by school districts to the eligibility list for free pre-kindergarten.
  • HB 4030 (Dominguez, D-Brownsville): Would provide funding for school districts to provide at least one playground in the district that is inclusive and accessible for students with disabilities.
  • HB 4414 (Allison, R-San Antonio): Would require TEA to develop a rubric for Regional Education Service Centers (ESCs) to use for identifying resources related to student mental health. ESCs would be required to use the rubric and report back to TEA. TEA would also have to create a statewide inventory of mental health resources and a statewide plan for student mental health.

During Tuesday’s hearing, ATPE also provided written testimony against HB 3623 by Rep. Matt Schaefer. The bill would affect teachers employed under continuing contracts, making them eligible to stay in their jobs only if the majority of their students meet a “minimum growth standard” to be determined by the district and approved by the Commissioner. ATPE testified that HB 3623’s reliance on an unspecified “minimum growth standard” hints at the use of value-added modeling (VAM), which has been widely criticized as a tool that improperly uses students’ standardized test scores for high-stakes purposes. ATPE also pointed out that many teachers do not teach tested subjects or grades. ATPE’s testimony also questioned what the due process protections would be for affected teachers whose students do not meet the standard. In the hearing, Rep. Schaefer faced questions from Reps. Allen, Gonzalez, and Talarico on the vagueness of what “growth” means in the bill and on the importance of other non-academic factors. Read ATPE’s written testimony on HB 3623 here.

The following bills were also heard by the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday:

  • HB 535 (Neave, D-Dallas): Would require students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TAFSA), in order to graduate, with some exceptions. Rep. Neave noted that this was recommendation #27 in the Texas Commission on Public School Finance final report issued last year.
  • HB 2217 (Raymond, D-Laredo): Would provide that school boards do not have to hear complaints concerning parent participation in extracurricular activities that do not involve a violation of a right.
  • HB 2526 (Leach, R-Plano): Would enable students whose parent(s) reside within the school district to be granted automatic admission. Rep. Leach shared that this bill would fix the predicament of his constituent who had the district boundary line in her backyard.
  • HB 3005 (Talarico, D-Round Rock): Would open college preparatory math and English language arts courses to 11th graders who demonstrate that they would otherwise be unable to take it in their 12th grade year and complete the requirements for high school graduation. Rep. Talarico said the bill was requested by Pflugerville ISD.
  • HB 3025 (Talarico, D-Round Rock): Would allow districts or schools to provide parents with a facilitated meeting with the school counselor regarding accepting or declining a special education evaluation on behalf of the student, should the parent dispute the referral. Rep. Talarico said this bill was brought to him by special education advocates.
  • HB 3026 (Talarico, D-Round Rock): Would require that school districts with 400 or more students have a ratio of 400:1 students to behavioral health professionals (which includes school counselors, licensed specialists in school psychology, social workers, and licensed professional counselors). The bill also outlines duties of the mental health professional within the school setting.
  • HB 3153 (Raymond, D-Laredo): Would allow a nepotism exception for a teacher in a subject or geographic area certified as a critical shortage area.
  • HB 3179 (Stucky, R-Denton): Would require the Commissioner to adopt rules to allow districts to submit information in the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) on the cost of assessments, including administration, participation, preparation, and training.
  • HB 3316 (White, R-Hillister): Would expand the campus crime stoppers program by adding school districts and charters to the entities that a crime stoppers organization reports to, as well as adding threats to public safety or an individual to the activities that the crime stoppers report on. This bill would also add a student advisory member to the program.
  • HB 3344 (Bucy, D-Austin): Would add fine arts to the required foundation curriculum. Rep. Bucy stated that students in fine arts have better educational outcomes.
  • HB 3452 (Dutton, D-Houston): Would require the Commissioner to evaluate all dropout recovery schools under the alternative education accountability system, and to only consider performance at the level of “approaches grade level.” The “closing the gaps” domain would be used for reporting purposes only.
  • HB 3489 (Cole, D-Austin): Would require TEA to create a task force on sex-based harassment in schools to evaluate and provide recommendations and best practices, including school district professional development.
  • HB 3651 (Davis, Y., D-Dallas): Would require the Commissioner to conduct a study on the relationship between district size, cost, and academic effectiveness.
  • HB 3851 (Lang, R-Granbury): Would require the Comptroller to publish and maintain a list of unfunded mandates and report to the legislature on findings about the benefits and costs of each mandate.
  • HB 3880 (Wilson, R-Marble Falls): Would transfer the duty to develop and provide information to students about steroids from the State Board of Education (SBOE) and TEA to the Department of State Health Services Mental Health and Substance Abuse, in conjunction with the University Interscholastic League (UIL).
  • HB 3888 (Ramos, D-Richardson): Would add suicide to the conditions addressed by the school health advisory council (SHAC). Would also add require SHACs to provide strategies to increase parental awareness regarding risky behaviors, early warning signs of suicide risks, and available community programs and services to address these. The bill would require districts where at least 70% of the students are educationally disadvantaged, homeless, or in foster care to develop and implement a plan to increase parent and student knowledge of behavioral health disorders and treatment options.
  • HB 4094 (Beckley, D-Carrollton): Would require districts to make at least one attempt by phone or e-mail during each week of a student’s meal account grace period to make arrangements with the parent for payment of a negative balance and help the parent complete an application for free or reduced price lunch (FRPL). After the grace period ends, the district may allow the student to continue purchasing meals or provide alternative meals at no cost. The bill would also allow districts to pay a negative balance using donations.
  • HB 4186 (Sanford, R-McKinney): Would create the “Next Generation Commission on Digital Learning” to make recommendations for a framework for digital teaching and learning in public schools following the same structure as last year’s school finance commission.
  • HB 4302 (VanDeaver, R-New Boston): Would prohibit issuance of subpoenas for audio/video surveillance of special education settings unless they meet under Texas Education Code (TEC) Section 29.022. Rep. VanDeaver cited a case  in which video was subpoenaed to observe the “educational record” of a student that did not involve complaints of abuse or neglect. Only cases of abuse or neglect were the focus of the original intent of the video camera law enacted in 2015.
  • HB 4313 (Dominguez, D-Brownsville): Would require the UIL to create an adaptive sports program for students with disabilities.
  • HB 4324 (VanDeaver, R-New Boston): Would allow the Commissioners of both TEA and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to approve a format of electronic submission of student records, such as the Texas Records Exchange (TREx), that allows for the transfer and efficient and effective extraction of data elements from student transcripts.
  • HB 4383 (Bohac, R-Houston): Would require school districts and charters to prepare a list of instructional materials provided to students that cover each Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) element. This list would be part of an existing annual certification that each district and charter school must submit to the SBOE and Commissioner.
  • HB 4578 (Gervin-Hawkins, R-San Antonio): Would require the SBOE, TEA, and stakeholders to enter into a memorandum of understanding on the development of culturally inclusive instruction.
  • HB 4589 and HJR 150 (Anchia, D-San Antonio): Would add a “global competitiveness” objective to the public education mission in the Texas Constitution by stating that students will earn a post-secondary credential after high school. This bill would also require that each legislature establish standards that public schools must satisfy and align then with the state’s “60×30” plan, which provides that by 2030, at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 will hold a certificate or degree.

At the end of Tuesday’s House Public Education Committee hearing, Chairman Huberty announced that the committee will meet again on Wednesday afternoon, April 24, to vote on pending bills that have already been heard. He added that next week the committee will meet to hear mainly Senate bills that have made their way over to the House and been referred to House Public Education. Up to this point, the committee has not yet heard any public testimony on Senate bills, so stay tuned!

House Public Education Committee hears 21 bills

Yesterday was round two of bills up for public hearing in the House Public Education Committee. Twenty-one bills were discussed, covering topics including the instructional materials allotment, social work and mental health services in schools, posthumous diplomas, community schools, and cardiac assessments.

ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter testifying in the House Public Education Committee on February 26, 2019

ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter testified in support of House Bill (HB) 199 by Vice Chairman Bernal, D-San Antonio. HB 199 would allow the instructional materials and technology allotment (TIMA) to be used for the salary and other expenses of an employee who is directly involved in student learning or in addressing the social and emotional health of students. Exter testified that there is already a prioritization of the TIMA in statute requiring it to be used for materials first and that it is important to allow districts to use any leftover funds for those who deliver the instruction associated with the materials: educators. Exter further explained that the bill allows for the most efficient use of dollars and the least waste.

ATPE registered positions in support for the following bills:

  • HB 92 (Rodriguez, D-Austin): Would allow a campus turnaround plan to permit a campus to operate as a community school and would require that no campus can be closed without being given the opportunity to operate as a community school for at least two years.
  • HB 129 (Bernal, D-San Antonio): Would require a school counselor or other non-faculty health professionals at campuses with 90% or more students who are educationally disadvantaged, homeless, and/or in foster care. These individuals may not administer state assessments and are to be funded by the state.
  • HB 198 (Thierry et al., D-Houston): Would allow school districts to provide mental health services as a part of their cooperative health care programs for students and families. Would also require school district health care advisory councils to include a licensed mental health service provider and allow for school-based health centers to provide mental health services and mental health education. Additionally, the statistics obtained from school-based health centers must include mental health through this bill.
  • HB 204 (Thierry et al., D-Houston): Would include instruction on mental health within the enrichment curriculum that districts must offer. Other enrichment curricula include physical education, career and technical education, and fine arts, among others.
  • HB 239 (Farrar et al., D-Houston): Would create a new section of law to clarify and define the role of social workers in school settings.
  • HB 314 (Howard et al., D-Austin): Would allow funds allocated under the compensatory education allotment to be used for child-care services, assistance with child-care expenses, or services provided through a life skills program for student parents and students who are pregnant.
  • HB 330 (VanDeaver et al., R-New Boston): Would allow districts to exclude from dropout and completion rates students who have suffered a condition, injury, or illness that requires substantial medical care and leaves the student unable to attend school.
  • HB 422 (Allen, D-Houston): Would require that school boards annually certify to TEA that they have established district- and campus-level decision-making committees.
  • HB 455 (Allen et al., D-Houston): Would require TEA to develop a model policy on recess that encourages age-appropriate outdoor physical activities.

The following bills were also heard in committee:

  • HB 76 (Huberty, R-Humble): The Chairman laid out a substitute for this bill, which gives parents the option to participate in the screening program, rather than requiring an echocardiogram (ECG) or electrocardiogram (EKG) for any student participating in a University Interscholastic League (UIL) activity that currently requires a physical examination. The bill offers that school districts could partner with a nonprofit to provide the service or could pay for the service themselves. Lengthy testimony was heard on this bill from private citizens and representatives from school sports departments and associations, who supported the bill with stories of students who had suffered heart conditions while playing sports. On the other hand, the American College of Cardiology said that ECG/EKGs are not scientifically proven in detecting every potential cardiac defect.
  • HB 391 (Blanco, D-El Paso): Would require a school district or charter school to provide instructional materials in printed book format if the student does not have reliable access to technology at home, at parental request. Parent requests must be documented and included in an annual TEA report to the legislature.
  • HB 396 (VanDeaver, R-New Boston): Would allow the TIMA to be used for inventory software or systems for storing and accessing instructional materials and also allow the TIMA to be used for freight, shipping, and insurance, regardless of whether it is intrastate.
  • HB 397 (VanDeaver, R-New Boston): Would allow the TIMA to be used for inventory software or systems for storing and accessing instructional materials. This bill does not include the intrastate freight change. Rep. VanDeaver said that this bill is a back-up to HB 396.
  • HB 403 (Thompson, S., D-Houston): Would require each school board trustee and superintendent to biennially complete a one-hour training on identifying and reporting potential victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other maltreatment of children. Additionally, the bill requires at least 2.5 hours of continuing education requirements for a superintendent every five years on identifying and reporting these issues.
  • HB 613 (Springer, R- Muenster): Would allow for districts to hold elections outside of the requirement that these elections be jointly conducted with other elections.
  • HB 637 (Gonzalez, D- Clint): Would update the codes dictating the salaries of the superintendents of the Texas School for the Deaf and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired so that they may only be set through the appropriations process.
  • HB 638 (Capriglione, R- Southlake): Would allow posthumous diplomas to be awarded to students regardless of whether they were in the 12th grade and on academic track to graduate.
  • HB 663 (King, K., R- Canadian): Would limit the proclamation of the State Board of Education (SBOE) to 75% of the total amount used to fund the TIMA and require a review of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) to ensure that they could be taught and mastered by students within one year. Rep. King said that this will allow districts 25% of the TIMA to spend as they see fit.
  • HB 674 (Patterson, R- Frisco): Would require that regional education service centers gather information from districts and report on which state mandates districts report are burdensome and expensive. The committee substitute for this bill eliminated reporting on federal mandates.
  • HB 678 (Guillen, D- Rio Grande City): Would allow American Sign Language to count for the graduation requirement of a language other than English.

Chairmain Huberty said that he intends to reveal a plan for his school finance bill later this week and that next week’s hearing will cover topics related to assessment. He also added that the testing companies will be in attendance at the hearing.