The House Public Education Committee met March 30 and heard testimony on the following bills:
Rep. Travis Clardy laid out CSHB 1133, which would allow Rusk County to hold an election to either recommit to or revoke a county equalization tax it imposed. The bill was left pending.
Rep. Erin Zwiener laid out HB 2344, which seeks to build off the work of the Texas Writing Pilot Project. It would allow school districts to use a writing portfolio for the non-multiple choice portion of a state reading assessment instrument or an English I or English II end-of-course assessment to assess writing. The commissioner shall adopt rules to allow that portion of the assessment instrument to be scored by a classroom teacher assigned to the same campus as the student to whom the assessment instrument is administered. A Dripping Springs ISD parent testified in support of the bill, as did Dr. Bruce Gearing, superintendent of Leander ISD and former superintendent of Dripping Springs ISD. The bill was left pending.
Rep. Jon Rosenthal laid out HB 2605, which would create new requirements around student athlete cardiac health guidelines, calling for training to be created by TEA and mandatory removal of students suffering certain symptoms from athletic practices and games until a cardiac assessment can be performed by a healthcare professional and the student cleared for activity. Rep. Dan Huberty said that the bill seemed to repeal some of the work the Legislature did in a previous session on this issue and asked for clarification on that. He said he had worked for eight years to get a similar bill passed and did not want to go backward on that. Rosenthal said he would work with Huberty and UIL on the bill. A former school district coach who is the parent of a student who died of cardiac arrest during an athletic event testified in support of the bill. She said the bill is about raising awareness about the sometimes complicated signs of cardiac arrest. Representatives of UIL and the Texas Medical Association testified on the bill as well. The bill was left pending.
Rep. Philip Cortez laid out HB 256, which would require school district employment policy to include anti-bullying measures to address bullying in the workplace, including provisions to address bullying of a teacher by a parent. The bill was voted out of committee last session but didn’t get heard on the House floor. Two former teachers testified in support of the bill, which was left pending.
Chair Harold Dutton, Jr., laid out his bill, HB 3270, the companion bill to SB 1365 (Bettencourt) heard March 25 in the Senate Education Committee. HB 3270 would make commissioner decisions, orders, or determinations final and unappealable and prohibits local funds from being used to initiate or maintain any action or proceeding against the state arising from such a decision. The bill would also make several changes to special investigations TEA may conduct of districts. The bill would allow the commissioner to grant a district or campus an accountability rating of “not rated” if the school is subject to a declaration of a state disaster. SB 1365 would also allow the commissioner to appoint a board of managers to a district if a campus has had a conservator assigned to it for two consecutive years. Another committee member expressed concern for districts that have improved from an F to a D but would still suffer consequences under the bill. Dutton said that problem would be taken care of in an upcoming committee substitute for the bill, but it would not be acceptable for schools to maintain a D without further improvement. There was lengthy discussion on the larger issues surrounding this bill by several committee members, including Chair Dutton and Rep. Alma Allen. Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, then testified for the bill (as he did before SB 1365 in the Senate Education Committee on March 25). David Thompson with Thompson & Horton testified against the bill on behalf of TASA, the Texas School Alliance, and the Texas Urban Council. He said that the bill would provide a school district with less due process than a person would have when appealing a traffic ticket and that it shifts authority to a single appointed person with no transparency. Ann Williams, representing the Alief ISD Board of Trustees and the Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members, testified against the bill. The bill was left pending after additional testimony and extensive discussion of the bill.
Rep. Keith Bell laid out CSHB 1468 Bell, which would make changes to curriculum and eligibility requirements for the provision of local remote learning to qualify for state funding and calculation of average daily attendance to facilitate the provision of online instruction to district students. Forney ISD Superintendent Justin Terry testified in support of the bill, stating that the district had researched remote learning prior to the pandemic because the skills students learn are essential for the 21st century and throughout the pandemic it has given the district greater scheduling flexibility, etc. Mesquite ISD Superintendent David Vroonland also testified in support of the bill, pointing out three key elements: elements of local control that permeate the bill, especially related to curriculum; the need for this new model of learning to be restricted to students of the district and not allow districts to recruit students from other districts; making certain that remote programs are aligned with the campus in-person programs. TASA President Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD, testified on behalf of TASA and the South Texas Association of Schools in support of the bill. He said it is important because there is not yet a pediatric vaccine and the bill allows local discretion that would prove success in virtual learning going forward. The full funding for virtual learners is needed, he said, as it’s not cheaper to teach students remotely. David Anderson, general counsel for Raise Your Hand Texas, testified in support of the bill as well, stating that remote learning students being enrolled in local schools rather than in a statewide remote learning program puts the reponsibility for any needed remediation on the district — a good thing for students — and it gives students a connection to a school community. Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa testified in support of the bill on behalf of Texas School Alliance and Texas Urban Council. Dr. Bruce Gearing, superintendent of Leander ISD, also testified in support of the bill, which was left pending.
Rep. Gary VanDeaver laid out HB 1496, which would add clarifying language to law to require school districts to include in mandated reports any management fees paid to or received by the district under certain cooperative purchasing contracts. The bill was left pending.
Rep. John Bucy laid out HB 2230, which would call for a study on incorporating fine arts into the foundation curriculum for public schools. Robert Floyd of the Texas Music Education Association testified in support of the bill, which was left pending.
Rep. James Talarico laid out CSHB 332, which would add costs associated with implementing social and emotional learning programs to the costs that can be paid using a district’s compensatory education allotment. The bill was left pending.
Rep. Alma Allen laid out HB1068, which would allow a school district employee with available personal leave to use the leave for compensation for a day designated as a school holiday for which the employee would otherwise not receive compensation. The bill was left pending.
Rep. Terry Meza laid out HB 3346, which would create a state accountability indicator of achievement for improving student preparedness for success in subsequent grade levels other than performance on STAAR for public elementary, middle school, and junior high campuses and districts. The bill was left pending.
Rep. Brad Buckley laid out CSHB 538 by Rep. Jared Patterson. It would remove restrictions on funding and payment of costs for full-time online educational programs that were operating on January 1, 2013. The substitute adds a program establishment fee due from school districts to TEA. The bill was left pending.
Rep. Dan Huberty laid out HB 3129, which would allow a school district to transport any student who is enrolled in the district, regardless where the student lives, and would not require an interlocal agreement to do so. Rep. Ken King expressed concerns for rural districts separated by great distances. Huberty said he would work with King on the bill. Hearne ISD Superintendent Adrain Johnson testified against the bill, stating that five or six districts pick up students from within his district each day. He said it allows receiving districts to pick and choose students. Walcott ISD Superintendent Darla Bryant testified in support of the bill. She stated that her K-6 district has been busing in students for 25 years. Adrian ISD Superintendent Steve Reynolds also testified in support of the bill and said that his district has also been busing in students for years, attracting them with quality CTE programs. Elgin ISD Superintendent Jodi Duron testified on behalf of her district against the bill. She said it opens the door for districts to “cream” students from neighboring districts, makes it harder for districts to budget for upcoming school years, and creates discord between districts. Paint Rock ISD Superintendent Ron Cline testified in support of the bill, but acknowledged that those opposing the bill have valid concerns and that some guidelines should be in place. Huberty asked fellow committee members to work with him on the bill to figure out a way to make it work. The bill was left pending.
Rep. Jacey Jetton laid out HB 3591, which would create a high-speed Internet access grant program to provide high-speed broadband access to districts and charters to facilitate student instruction for economically disadvantaged students. Jetton said that he worked with TEA to draft the bill, which was left pending.
Rep. Ken King laid out HB 3557, which would allow parents and guardians to elect for a student to repeat or retake a course or grade or enter prekindergarten or kindergarten if they were eligible to enter that grade the previous year. The bill was left pending.
Rep. Ken King laid out HB 3643, which would create the Texas Commission on Virtual Education comprised of 13 members equally appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker and includes one member of the SBOE. The commission would develop recommendations to address issues related to the delivery of and funding for virtual education, including alternative instructional delivery methods and alternative methods of funding. The commission would need to make a report by December 31, 2022, to the governor and the Legislature. King likened his vision for the commission with the school finance commission that met for a year leading up to the passage of HB 3. He said whatever virtual learning bills are passed this session should have a sunset date so that more information can be gathered by a commission in preparation for a major virtual learning bill to be passed in 2023. The bill was left pending.
Chair Dutton laid out CSHB 3731, which would substitute in state law references such as “unacceptable rating” or “acceptable rating” with actual letter grades from the state accountability system for both district and charter sanctions available to the commissioner. The bill would include D-rated schools in the “unacceptable rating” group, as opposed to just F-rated schools as is current practice. Dee Carney testified against the bill on behalf of the Texas School Alliance. TASA President Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD, set aside his prepared testimony and, among other comments about support for low-performing districts, asked “When we call a district unacceptable, are we helping them improve or are we putting more impediments in their way?” He said that moving high performing teachers to campuses rated unacceptable is not easy. See a letter opposing the bill that TASA submitted to the committee jointly with five other organizations. The bill was left pending.
Chair Dutton laid out HB 3204, which relates to the methods to achieve a college, career, or military outcomes bonus under the Foundation School Program. The Texas Public Policy Foundation testified in support of the bill, which was left pending.
Two bills were pulled from agenda; no testimony was heard on them:
- HB 437 by Vikki Goodwin, which would require at least one-half credit in personal financial literacy as part of the foundation high school curriculum.
- HB 3528 by Scott Sanford, which would expand the grade levels that can be served by the TxVSN down to kindergarten and expand the parent notification required yearly about the TxVSN to be all parents K-12.
Following all testimony at 9 p.m., the committee voted out the following pending bills (including the HB 3 cleanup bill, HB 1525) on which testimony was heard in prior hearings:
- CSHB 129 by Mary Gonzalez (12-0) adds to the topics that should be covered under essential knowledge and skills related to “digital citizenship.” The substitute removes the fiscal note.
- CSHB 353 by Dutton (vote of 12-0) breaks down the closing the gap domain for African Americans and Hispanics by gender for evaluating school districts and campus performance.
- CSHB 363 by Gary VanDeaver (vote of 12-0) requires any operator or product that possesses any covered information about students to utilize a unique ID for each student that is already used
across the state as the Texas Student Data System. Effective date would be September 2023.
- CSHB 999 by Diego Bernal (vote of 12-0) would allow the graduating classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023 to not need to pass end-of-course exams to make them eligible for IGCs.
- CSHB 1525 by Dan Huberty (11 votes in favor). The substitute removes the tuition allotment, adds language to allow noncertified teachers to qualify for local teacher incentive allotment, extends the deadline for training for literacy academies, creates a tiered incentive structure for CTE, ensures districts receive TIA funding if subject to recapture, fixes a concern by Fast Growth School Coalition on the fast-growth school allotment. The cost of the bill is approximately $330 million. Huberty said he has been working with Senate Education Chair Larry Taylor, who has the companion bill in the Senate.
- CSHB 2120 by Keith Bell (vote of 12-0) requires school boards to adopt a process in which the board has a duty
to provide for an initial administrative hearing, an opportunity to appeal the administrative decision following the hearing and provide for a resolution of the complaint no less than 120 calendar days.
- HB 2261 by Gene Wu (vote of 12-0) includes public education facilities to the list of improvement projects and supplemental services that a management district may allocate generated funds toward.
- CSHB 2519 by Drew Darby (vote of 12-0). The bill would provide that, in a disciplinary proceeding to suspend or revoke a certificate or permit, a board must include in the findings any available information regarding the respondent’s response to the allegations on which the proceeding is based. The substitute would ensure rural districts are represented and revises the notice to teacher regarding suspension or revocation of certificate or permit to address stakeholder comments on language ambiguity.
- CSHB 2287 by Senfronia Thompson (12-0) authorizes TEA to collect and share additional data for the task force related to the impact of mental health programs on academic achievement, school discipline, and students’ well-being.
- CSHB 2557 by Glenn Rogers (vote of 9-2-1) allows a district to design a plan for veteran or qualified law enforcement officer to provide campus security on a volunteer basis. The substitute brackets the bill to apply only to school districts in a county with a population of 150,000 or less.
- CSHB 2954 by Senfronia Thompson (12-0) creates an elective program that provides elementary with tailored assistance in accessing public and private mental health resources, recommendations for best practices and assistance with implementing best practices and assistance with implementing best practices on campus.