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The House Public Education Committee met May 4 to hear testimony on the following bills. The committee also voted out three bills.

Rep. Thresa Meza introduced HB 4064, which would expand existing bullying prevention policies and procedures to include harassment prevention policies. Harassment is defined to include threatening to cause harm or bodily injury to another student, engaging in sexually intimidating conduct, causing physical damage to the property of another student, subjecting another student to physical confinement or restraint, or maliciously taking any action that substantially harms another student’s physical or emotional health or safety. The bill also specifies conduct that constitutes bullying or harassment to include conduct that occurs due to another student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, ethnicity or religion, a distinguishing characteristic of another student; or a student’s association with a person or group with one or more actual or perceived characteristics. The bill also adds requirements to any bullying or harassment prevention policies to specify that no remedial action may be taken solely on the basis of an anonymous report of an incident. Plans must also: distinguish various responses to reported incidents; encourage positive and preventative approaches to discipline for bullying or harassment that minimize a student’s removal from the classroom; require that a school district employee be designated to serve as a primary contact regarding the policies and procedures for bullying and harassment prevention, etc. The bill also requires that TEA develop model guidance for bullying and harassment. This includes TEA hiring a safe school specialist to identify evidence-based training resources and providing additional technical assistance for policy implementation. Requires TEA to investigate and issue a report for any school district that TEA determines is out of compliance. Tightens up issues with David’s Law, including “balance of power.” One student testified in support of the bill. A representative of Texas Values Action testified in opposition saying it adds layers of bureaucracy and includes terms that are not clearly defined. Another individual testified against the bill. The bill was left pending.

As the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. J. M. Lozano introduced SB 226 by Sen. Angela Paxton, which would add training in “virtual learning” and “virtual instruction” to the existing requirements for teaching certificates for teachers. Language in the bill describes that training must cover the “best practices” in assessing students receiving virtual instruction based on academic progress and developing a virtual learning curriculum. There was no testimony on the bill. The bill was left pending.

Rep. Cole Hefner introduced SB 347 by Sen. Paxton. As filed, the bill would expand the definition of a “governmental body” for the purposes of the open meetings act and public information act, to include local school health advisory councils. A constituent of Sen. Paxton’s testified against the bill saying that parents, doctors and others who serve on a SHAC on a voluntary basis and who are not school district employees should not be deemed a governmental body and have their personal information subject to the open records act. A representative for Texans Action for Healthy Kids, who also served on Austin ISD’s SHAC, testified in opposition to the bill, saying that it would result in discouraging parents and other volunteers from serving on a SHAC. Julia Grizzard, executive director for the Bexar County Education Coalition, testified in opposition to the bill. Cory Vessa, vice president of the Round Rock ISD school board, testified in opposition to the bill, saying that she would not be able to recruit SHAC volunteers if they were to be subject to open records. A representative for the Institute for Public Health and Medicine and another individual testified in support of the bill, which was left pending.

Rep. Alma Allen introduced SB 462 by Sen. Eddie Lucio. As engrossed, it would permit a district to use funds from their transportation allotment to transport meals or instructions materials, and would allow that the district be reimbursed on a per-mile basis for transporting a meal or instructional materials to a student’s residence or other location designated by the district for the duration of a declared disaster. A representative for a transportation organization and who works in a large school district testified in support of the bill. The bill was left pending.

Rep. Tom Oliverson introduced the SB 797 by Sen. Bryan Hughes. As engrossed, it would require public elementary schools, secondary schools, and institutions of higher education to display a poster or framed copy of the U.S. national motto, “In God We Trust.” The poster must be donated for display or purchased from private donations. The poster/framed copy must have the U.S. flag as well as the state flag only. An individual testified in support of the bill. The bill was left pending.

Rep. Ken King introduced SB 1063 by Sen. Carol Alvarado. As engrossed, it would require that, of the three credits in social studies required by the TEKS, at least one-half credit come from economics or personal financial literacy and economics. It would also require the SBOE to ensure that a personal financial literacy and economics course allocate two-thirds of the instruction time to instruction in personal financial literacy and one-third of instruction time to instruction in economics. A representative of the League of Women’s Voters testified in support of the bill. The bill was left pending.

Rep. Steve Allison introduced SB 1522 by Sen. Larry Taylor. As engrossed, it would limit the amount of adjustment for amount of instructional days to the equivalent of one school year. The adjustment may be divided by the commissioner between two consecutive school years. There was no testimony on the bill. The bill was left pending.

Although HB 1411 was on the agenda, the bill was not heard.

The committee voted out the following bills, which will go to the full House for consideration:

  • SB 179 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (HB 589 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez) requires school counselors to spend at least 80 percent of their time performing statutory duties.
  • SB 879 by Lucio (HB 998 by Chair Harold Dutton) changes the designation of a dropout recovery charter school to at least 60 percent of students must be at least 16 years old.

Failing to get the vote of a majority of committee members to pass out of committee was CSSB 29 by Sen. Charles Perry (HB 4042 by Rep. Cole Hefner), which would have prohibited districts and charter schools from allowing students to participate in sports of opposite sex, essentially codifying current UIL policy.