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The House Committee on Public Education met on Monday, August 30, to hear testimony on three bills.

HB 233, as filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, addresses the difficulties school district leaders and staff are experiencing while implementing the requirements of HB 4545 passed during the 87th Legislature’s regular session. TASA, TASB, TACS, and TEPSA provided joint written testimony in support of HB 233 as filed.

During Monday’s hearing, Huberty laid out a committee substitute for the bill. Key differences in the committee substitute from HB 233 as filed include: (1) requires districts that have received COVID-19 relief funding to provide supplemental instruction in a setting of 4:1 unless the parent or guardian authorizes a bigger group; (2) allows, for the 2021-2022 school year only, school board trustees to adopt a resolution authorizing supplemental instruction to be provided in a group of 10:1 without parent authorization; and (3) allows the bill to take immediate effect if it receives a vote of two-thirds by all members elected to each chamber. After hearing public testimony, the bill was voted out of the committee unanimously. The next step is for the bill to be scheduled on the House Floor Calendar.

The other two bills on the hearing agenda were related to the requirement of face coverings in schools. HB 164, as filed by Chair Harold Dutton, allows board trustees to determine policy requiring the use of face coverings in public schools. See TASA’s written testimony of support based on our cornerstone priority of local control.

HB 141, as filed by Rep. Jeff Leach, would prohibit face covering mandates for public school students. See TASA’s written testimony in opposition based on the same cornerstone priority of local control.

After a brief discussion, Dutton and Leach decided they would merge their bills, resulting in legislation that would allow school trustees to determine policy regarding face covering mandates, but also allow a parent to opt out of any face covering requirement. Public testimony included individuals both for and against mask requirements. The bills were left pending.

Virtual Learning and 13th Check Bills Advance

Senate Education Committee Chair Larry’s Taylor’s SB 15, as amended, left the House on a vote of 119 to 7. The Senate must approve of the House amendments before the bill is sent to the governor. SB 15 is set on the Senate Items Eligible Calendar today, August 31. The bill expands and funds virtual learning through September 2023. One new provision in House amendment language would prohibit students who did not take, or who did not pass STAAR tests last year, from being eligible to participate in a district’s virtual learning program with corresponding state funding.

SB 7, by Sen. Joan Huffman, has passed both chambers, and is headed to the governor’s desk. The bill will provide a one-time payment to retired educators.