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The House Public Education Committee met April 20 to hear testimony on the following bills:

Rep. Terry Canales laid out HB 278, which would require TEA to review the criminal history record of anyone being appointed by the commissioner of education to serve on the board of managers for a school district. The bill authorizes TEA to obtain information from DPS as well as the FBI. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Ken King laid out HB 424, which would require the State Board of Education to adopt a schedule for an ongoing review of essential knowledge and skills for foundation curriculum and for revisions to the essential knowledge and skills to narrow the number and scope of student expectations for each subject and grade level. The bill also sets forth what must be taken into account when the Board considers whether essential knowledge and skills should be revised. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Michelle Beckley laid out a committee substitute for HB 517, which would require the board of trustees of a school district to adopt a policy for custodian workload for district facilities. The policy must establish benchmarks for the amount of square feet that can be assigned to each janitor during an eight-hour shift. The policy must be posted on the school district’s website. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Sheryl Cole laid out HB 586, which would create a financing program that would facilitate the Texas Public Financing Authority with assisting school districts with certain expenses. Under this bill the Authority is permitted to issue and sell obligations to finance loans to school districts for purchasing vehicles, equipment or applicants, costs associated with improvement of instructional facilities, etc. The bill would create the School District Equipment and Improvement Fund, administered by the comptroller, and made up of proceeds of obligations issued by the authority. The aggregate amount of obligations permitted to be issued under this law would not exceed $100 million. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins laid out HB 605, which would require each school district to adopt a healthy and safe school water plan. The plan must include periodic testing for lead in school water and provisions for reducing exposure to elevated levels of lead in school water. TEA, in collaboration with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Department of State Health Services, regional ESCs, and other stakeholders must develop a model water plan that may be used by a school district to comply with this requirement. If funds are available, TEA may reimburse a school district for testing lead concentrations in water. Representatives for the Texas Mold Assessors and Remediators Association and the U.S. Green Building Council testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Ryan Guillen laid out HB 1206, which would allow funds from a district’s instructional materials and technology allotment to be used for costs associated with distance learning beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. This would include Wi-Fi, internet access hotspots, wireless network service, broadband service, and other services and technological equipment that are necessary to facilitate internet access. A representative of TCEA testified in support of the bill, noting that it codifies current practice.

Guillen also laid out HB 1302, which would add students who have earned a diploma after no more than 3.5 years of high school attendance as a performance indicator for high school campuses as well as for districts that include high school campuses. Additionally, the bill would add performance indicators for evaluating elementary, middle, and junior high school campuses and the districts that include those campuses. The indicators include students who: in grades 7 or 8 complete a pre-AP or pre-IB course; have been promoted to a higher grade level than those which the student should ordinarily be assigned; are identified as GT and have been promoted to higher grade levels than what they should be assigned; have receive credit by exam; are identified as GT and have received credit by exam; and complete at least 10 project-based learning projects during a school year. A representative from The University of Texas at Austin High School District testified “on” the bill as a resource witness.

Rep. Ray Lopez laid out HB 1613, which would extend the requirement that each classroom teacher in a K, 1, 2, or 3rd grade as well as the principals at those campuses have attended a teacher literacy achievement academy to no later than the 2023-2024 school year. A representative of Northside ISD testified in support.

Rep. Steve Allison laid out HB 1726, which would allow the commissioner to establish rules to require school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to annually report the number of reported incidents of bullying and cyberbullying. The bill would begin in the 2021-2022 school year. Maurine Molak, co-founder of David’s Legacy Foundation, testified in support of the bill, as did Suzi Kennon, president of the Texas PTA.

Rep. Robert Guerra laid out HB 1744, which would require TEA to develop a program that would prepare students in pursuing a career teaching bilingual education, ESL, or Spanish. The program would be used in career and technology programs. The bill would also require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to establish a program that would provide financial incentives, such as tuition assistance or student loan repayment to assist people in obtaining certification to teach bilingual ed, ESL or Spanish in a public elementary or secondary school, as well as to provide assistance to schools with a shortage of teachers who teach these subjects in hiring certified individuals. The bill establishes eligibility requirements, including the requirement that a person enters into a written agreement that requires the person to obtain a certification in the subject areas; accept full-time employment to teach bilingual ed, ESL or Spanish in a school with a shortage of teachers in those fields; and must actually teach bilingual ed, ESL or Spanish at that school for at least two years. Individuals who do not meet the requirements must reimburse the board for any assistance they received. A representative of IDRA and Texans Care for Children testified in support.

Rep. James Talarico laid out HB 1754 for Rep. Ana Hernandez. The bill relates to the inclusion of suicide prevention information on certain student identification cards issued by a public school. Individuals representing Texans Care for Students and another organization testified in support of the bill.

Guerra also laid out a committee substitute for HB 2258, which would require TEA to collaborate with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as well as the Texas Workforce Commission to develop a strategic plan that would increase the number of educators certified for bilingual instruction; increase the number of dual language immersion models used in public schools; educate on the importance of bilingual ed in early childhood; adopt a uniform process for identifying students with limited English proficiency; and increase the number of bilingual and multilingual high school graduates. The plan must be submitted no later than December 1, 2022. A representative of IDRA and Texans Care for Children testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Gary VanDeaver laid out HB 2688, which would require a trustee of the school district to seek reelection at the next regularly scheduled trustee election, regardless of the time remaining in the trustee’s term, if the trustee votes in favor of making a severance payment to a superintendent less than one year after the trustee voted in favor of accepting or extending the superintendent’s contract or increasing his/her salary. The person elected serves for the remainder of the trustee’s term. Grover Campbell, respresenting TASB, testified “on” the bill expressing concern that there were several circumstances in which a superintendent and board might decide it is best to part ways after less than a year, e.g., a serious illness. Campbell asked the committee to consider these circumstances moving forward.

Rep. Eddie Lucio III laid out HB 2721, which would ban a student from participating in extracurricular actives or UIL events if the student engages in conduct that constitutes assault against a referee, judge or other official of an extracurricular activity in retaliation for the official’s actions in performing their duties as a referee, judge or other official. A representative for the Texas Association of Sports Officials testified in support of the bill. Jamey Harrison with UIL testified “on” the bill as a resource witness. An attorney for Fred Garcia, a referee who was assaulted by a Texas high school football player in December 2020, testified in support, saying that the bill moves sports in Texas in the right direction. Referee Fred Garcia also testified in support of the bill saying that students must not be allowed to assult referees, judges, or other officials and actions must have consequences.

Rep. Elizabeth Campos laid out HB 2769, which would require the SBOE to adopt TEKS that include coding for video games. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Garnet Coleman laid out HB 2846, which would require that parents/guardians be notified by public schools and open enrollment charter schools that do not have a full-time nurse or the equivalent, for more than 30 consecutive instructional days during the same school year. The notice requirement may be satisfied by posting the notice on the school’s website. School districts and open-enrollment charter schools with student enrollment of less than 10,000 are exempted from the notice requirements of this law. Coleman said that the House had passed the bill before, but it got “tripped up” at the governor’s office. He said that he believes changes made to the bill this session would be acceptable to the Governor. A representative of the National Association of Social Workers Texas testified in support of the bill.

Rep. Stephanie Klick laid out HB 3033, which would add to the reporting requirements to include reporting the total number of students, including their age, race, and gender, that have been transported for emergency detention under Chapter 573 Health and Safety Code. A representative of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights Texas testified in support of the bill.

Rep. James White laid out HB 3456, which would designate funds received for: operating schools in the TDCJ system; operating the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; operating the Texas School for the Deaf; for operating a juvenile justice alternative education program as part of the foundation school program, and therefore, not subject to budget reductions. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Tan Parker laid out a committee substitute for HB 3489, which would require TEA, in consultation with HHSC, to develop health and safety guidelines for best practices for the effective integration of digital devices in public schools. The guidelines must address divide usage for varying age ranges and developmental levels; amount of time a student spends using devices in the classroom; appropriate frequency of breaks from the use of devices; etc. The school board or governing body may decide whether the adopt the guidelines, and if they adopt them, may implement them in the manner that best meets their individual needs. A parent testified in support of the bill.

VanDeaver also laid out HB 3862, which would allow a member of the board of trustees of a school district to be removed from office upon a 3/4 majority vote passing a resolution of censure against the member. The bill lists the findings that can justify censure of a trustee, including: intentional misuse of school district funds; repeated refusal to act in accordance with laws, regulation or policies of Texas relating to public school districts; repeated refusal to act in accordance with the policies of the district, etc. Grover Campbell, representing TASB, testified “on” the bill. He said that there are current statutory provisions about the process of removing a school trustee, that involve a county judge as a third party. Campbell expressed concern that under the provisions of the bill a situation could arise in which board members could turn against a “true reformer” who has good intentions. VanDeaver closed by saying that he appreciates the work that he does with TASB.

Rep. Penny Morales Shaw laid out a committee substitute for HB 3888, which would allow teachers employed under term contracts to resign any time during a state of emergency or disaster that has been declared by the governor, president, or during a pandemic as declared by the WHO. The declaration must cover the geographic area where the school district is located or in cases where the disaster/emergency/pandemic can be reasonably anticipated to impact or jeopardize the teacher’s health or well-being. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Cole Hefner laid out HB 4042, which would prohibit an interscholastic athletic team sponsored or authorized by a school district or open-enrollment charter school from allowing a student to participate in an activity that is designated for the biological sex that is opposite to the student’s biological sex as determined by the student’s birth as stated on their birth certificate. Female students may be permitted to participate in an activity designated for male students if a corresponding athletic activity designated for female students it not offered by the school or unavailable. Chairman Dutton noted that there were 80 people registered to testify and asked that testimony be kept brief. Rep. Talarico posed several questions to Hefner, stressing that there is much data that shows there is a high suicide rate for transgender students in comparison to their peers but there is no data showing situations of transgender students injuring other students during a UIL athletic event in Texas that would be an impetus for the bill. Rep. Huberty pointed out that there was a UIL rule that addressed participation suggesting that this legislation was not needed. UIL’s Dr. Jamey Harrison testified on the current UIL rule.
A lengthy discussion continued prior to testimony provided by 80 individuals.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa laid out a committee substitute for HB 4124, which would allow a special purpose school district operated by an institution of higher education to prioritize military-connected students when enrolling students or creating a waitlist for enrollment. School districts may enroll and receive funding if the student: is a dependent of a member of the US military; was previously enrolled in school in Texas; and does not reside in the state due to military deployment or transfer. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Bryan Slaton laid out HB 4198, which would permit the board of trustees of a school district to adopt a policy that exempts students from: the eighth grade social studies assessment; the US history end of course assessment; the English II end-of-course assessment; any other assessment that is not required by federal law and any federally required assessment that the commissioner obtains a waiver for. There was no testimony on the bill.

Rep. Greg Bonnen laid out HB 4509, which would require the SBOE to adopt TEKS that develop students’ civic knowledge, including an understanding of the foundations of the American experiment in self-government, as well as the history and traditions of civics in the US; the structure, function and process of government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels; and an understanding of the Founding documents of the United States. A representative of the Texas Public Policy Foundation testified in support of the bill. Representatives of the Children’s Defense Fund Texas, a civics organization and others testified “on” the bill.

Rep. Gary Gates laid out HB 4525, which would require the SBOE to approve career and technology courses that are offered online or through an internet portal maintained by the district or TEA; and must update the list of approved courses at least once a year to provide current and relevant courses. There was no testimony on the bill.