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The House Public Education Committee met Tuesday, April 13, to hear 31 bills. Chair Harold Dutton began the meeting by noting that the committee would not vote out any bills on Tuesday, but would have a floor meeting on Thursday, April 14,  to do so.

Rep. Alex Dominguez laid out HB 24, which directs the commissioner of education to distribute appropriated funds or any other available funds to each school district to provide at least one playground in the district that is inclusive and accessible for students with disabilities. Dominguez stated that it is important that each school district have at least one playground that can ensure all students can be fully included in recess. Dr. Adrain Johnson, superintendent of Hearne ISD, testified in support of the bill. He said that with a significant SPED population, he sees the need for accessible playgrounds so that all children can participate in recess.

Rep. Shawn Thierry laid out a committee substitute for HB 204, which requires that each school district and open enrollment charter school provide each classroom in the district or school with a panic button (the committee substitute removes the landline requirement) that allows for immediate contact with district emergency services or emergency services agencies, law enforcement agencies, health departments, and fire departments. For school districts and junior colleges, the provision of a panic button (or telephone for junior colleges) must be provided for in their district multi-hazard emergency operations plan. The plan must also certify that the district in compliance with requirements that each classroom be equipped with a panic button. Thierry said that provisions in the committee substitute suggest that school districts use their school safety allotment (already allocated to districts to use at their local discretion) to purchase the mandated panic button software (estimated costs are $2,000 per campus). The vendor associated with Thierry’s bill, Raptor Software, testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins laid out HB 370, which provides that the implementation of a rule adopted by the commissioner of education or the Texas Education Agency that affects methods or procedures for administering the Texas accountability system may be delayed until the second school year after the year the rule was adopted, unless other law requires adoption and implementation in a shorter period. Keith Haffey, executive director of accountability and research with Spring Branch ISD, and Theresa Urrabazo, senior executive director, Accountability, Research, Evaluation & Testing with San Antonio ISD, both members of ATAC, testified in support of the bill saying that the bill aligns with ATAC recommendations.

Rep. DeWayne Burns laid out HB 742, relating to procedures for the alternative assessment of certain public school students that receive special education services and alternative accountability plans for certain campuses serving students that receive special education services. Kristin McGuire testified “on” the bill on behalf of TCASE, saying that she wanted to clarify that sections 1 and 3 appear to be a violation of federal law, which requires that 95% of students participate in state testing. McGuire expressed appreciation for Section 2 of the bill regarding special education supports. A TEA resource witness confirmed McGuire’s testimony saying that there is not an “alternative” to the alternative assessment, and no waivers or opt-out provisions are allowed by federal law.

Rep. DeWayne Burns laid out HB 750, relating to requiring a school district to post the district’s employment policy on the district’s website. Burns said that this was a refile from last session and was brought to him by a teacher organization. A representative of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA) testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Matt Krause laid out a committee substitute for HB 764 relating to removing some of the high stakes of the state’s assessment system, noting the timing for the bill was on point after the problems that occurred during last week’s STAAR writing and EOC exams online administration system prevented many students from finishing the assessment on the scheduled day. The bill would eliminate all tests that are not federally required, removing fourth grade writing, eighth grade social studies, and all EOCs, allowing the SAT/ACT to suffice. The committee substitute puts adds formative assessments back into the language. Dr. Rick Westfall, Keller ISD superintendent, a special education teacher, and a representative of iStation testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez laid out a committee substitute for HB 1016, which provides rule-making authority for TEA, in consultation with the Texas School Safety Center and state fire marshal, to adopt rules regarding best practices and procedures regarding drills and emergency evacuations. The substitute requires school districts to adopt a policy on active threat exercises, including active shooter simulations that include notifications to parents, students, staff, and first responders about the date and content of the drill and/or exercises. The substitute also requires that schools report data and feedback to the Texas School Safety Center from students, staff, and family members on the exercises and drills. In addition, open-enrollment charter schools who conduct active shooter drills must adhere to the same requirements.

Rep. Joe Moody laid out HB 1252 relating to the limitation period for filing a complaint and requesting a special education impartial due process hearing. Thompson & Horton’s Andrew Tatgenhorse testified in opposition to the bill on behalf of TASA and TSA. Kristin McGuire of TCASE also testified in opposition to the bill. See the written testimony submitted by TCASE on behalf of several education organizations, including TASA. Read the testimony.

Rep. Ron Reynolds laid out HB 1288 relating to the date on which an election for trustees of certain school districts must be held. Grover Campbell with TASB testified in opposition to the bill. Campbell noted that Fort Bend ISD is the seventh largest district in Texas and recently won an H-E-B award for school districts of that size. Campbell also noted in his testimony that Fort Bend ISD is represented by four different House representatives who have differing opinions on election dates, and that TASB would be happy to work with Rep. Reynolds’ office on the bill moving forward.

Rep. Ron Reynolds laid out HB 1311, which applies to Fort Bend ISD, and would require the board of trustees to divide the school district into two multi-member voting districts of roughly equal population – one voting district being the east side of the school district and the other voting district representing the west side. They would also be required to designate each position on the board by number. Moving forward, one member of the board would be elected at-large, and the other six would be elected from the two multi-member districts. Residents of each multimember voting district are entitled to case votes for all three trustee positions within the voting district.

Rep. Mayes Middleton laid out HB 1568, which would change some percentages in the study the comptroller conducts to determine the taxable value of all property in each school district. The bill would require that the aggregate local value of all of the categories of property sampled be not less than 80% (current law is like 90%) of the lower limit of the margin of error as determined by the comptroller. Additionally, for determining whether the local value for a school district is valid, the comptroller is required to use a margin of error that does not exceed 10% (current law is 5%) unless the comptroller determines the sample if properties makes that margin of error unfeasible.

Rep. Alex Dominguez laid out HB 2193 relating to the creation of an adaptive sports program by the University Interscholastic League to provide students with disabilities access to team sports. Dominguez said that there will be a committee substitute forthcoming. A student, a higher education representative, and an individual representing a parent organization testified in support of the bill. Jamey Harrison with UIL testified “on” the bill, saying that the committee members would be invited to the first UIL Special Olympics event in the near future.

Rep. Alex Dominguez laid out a committee substitute for HB 2391 relating to the use of weighted lotteries for student admission to public schools or for student transfers within a school district. Ellen Williams testified “on” the bill on behalf of TASA and TASB, stating concerns that the bill needs to be amended to allow a weighted lottery only if: the questions are on a form separate from the charter Common Admission Application; are optional for a parent; are limited to checking a box on special education or limited English proficiency; and are only used to increase a student’s chances in a lottery. We do not want to go back to letting charters ask inappropriate questions that can be discriminatory and have a chilling effect on certain parents.

Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins laid out HB 2465 relating to requiring cultural inclusion curriculum as part of the enrichment curriculum for public schools. She said that the SBOE needs to create curriculum and materials that reflect the diversity of society and that cultural diversity is important for every student to work within our state and with others. This bill would require all school districts that provide K-12 to provide this kind of instruction. An individual testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Armando Martinez laid out HB 2664 relating to the authority of an independent school district to change the date of the general election and terms for officers. The bill would move the election date for school boards to November. If a district decides not to move the election to November, it would be in violation of the Texas Education Code. Martinez stated that there are some districts that can’t comply with the requirement to hold a joint election because they can’t move to November but also have no other entity to partner in May. Allowing them to move their elections to November would allow them to bring themselves in compliance with the joint election requirement. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Terry Wilson laid out HB 2681 relating to public school elective courses providing academic study of the Bible offered to students in middle school. A representative of Texas Values Action, Marble Falls ISD Superintendent Dr. Chris Allen, and other individuals testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Jay Dean laid out HB 2800 relating to the limitation on administration and use of certain assessment instruments in public schools, noting that House members over the years have heard of numerous problems associated with the STAAR assessment system. Dean said that the bill would limit standardized tests to only those required federally. Rep. Dan Huberty said that he does not agree with eliminating those tests.

Rep. Lacey Hull laid out HB 3089 requiring members of  school districts’ local school health advisory council voluntary members to be subject to open records act. A Texas Value Action representative and others testified in support.

Rep. Chris Paddie laid out HB 3400 relating to the transfer of certain public school students who are children of peace officers. Paddie said that the bill was brought to him by peace officers, many of whom also testified in support of HB 3400 at the hearing. He said the bill is intended to simply help these students feel safe. Transportation would not have to be provided. If only one school is available in the district, the student is able to transfer outside the district.

Rep. Brooks Landgraf laid out HB 3430 relating to the establishment of a grant program for school districts or open-enrollment charter school campuses that are designated as full-service community schools.

Rep. Four Price laid out a committee substitute for HB 3449 relating to the membership of a public school concussion oversight team and the removal of a public school student from an interscholastic athletic activity on the basis of a suspected concussion. Price said that the committee substitute makes two tweaks to previous legislation by including licensed chiropractors and physical therapists to participate in the process. The executive director of Texas Physical Therapy Association testified in support.

Rep. Vikki Goodwin laid out a committee substitute to HB 3485 relating to information reported through the Public Education Information Management System and to parents regarding disciplinary measures used by a school district or open-enrollment charter school. Goodwin said that the provision that would have tracked teachers removing students was not in the committee substitute and that FERPA protection language was added to ensure small numbers are not identifiable. A representative of Texas Appleseed and other individuals testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Jarvis Johnson laid out a committee substitute for HB 3638 relating to the establishment of the African American studies advisory board by the State Board of Education.

Rep. Gary VanDeaver laid out HB 3668 relating to eliminating certain state-required assessment instruments and certain end-of-course assessment instruments not required by federal law, removal of high-stakes on children and temporary suspension of accountability determinations including criterion for promotion or graduation of a public school student.

Rep. Penny Morales Shaw laid out HB 3889, which, as filed, would prohibit TEA from requiring a student who is educationally disadvantaged from paying any fees or costs for a program established by TEA for the purpose of providing broadband internet access to public school students.

Rep. Steve Toth laid out HB 3979, which would require the SBOE to include essential knowledge and skills that develop students’ civic knowledge when the board adopts TEKS for social studies curriculum.

Rep. Donna Howard laid out a committee substitute for HB 4096 relating to the development of a model data-sharing agreement for sharing student information between public schools, public and private postsecondary educational institutions, and certain community organizations. The bill would make it easier for local entities to share data for student success and create FERPA complaint data sharing templates to give targeted student intervention. The committee substitute cleans up language and requires multiple templates to be created to allow the entity to choose the best one for them. A representative of Commit Dallas testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Penny Morales Shaw laid out a committee substitute for HB 4257, which, as filed, would amend the law that governs “trauma informed care policy” to require that any policy must address the school district’s plan for providing support to students, teachers, and district staff in the event of a crisis, including through provision of mental health first aid and referrals to community providers for mental health services.

Rep. Ina Minjarez laid out HB 4334 relating to the provision of information regarding certain public assistance programs by public schools. She stated that lack of knowledge is hindering her local constituents. The bill would require public school districts to provide necessary information to parents and families to educate these populations on medical supplemental programs, CHIP, and SNAP programs. Texans Care for Children testified in support, stating that this bill will ensure students have access to medical care and be food secure.

Bills Removed from the Agenda

Rep. J.M. Lozano’s HB 3332 relating to a study on the gap in student grade point averages resulting from the accessibility of dual credit courses to public high school students was removed from the agenda.

Chair Harold Dutton’s HB 3880 relating to a student’s eligibility for special education services provided by a school district was removed from the agenda.