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The House Public Education Committee met Tuesday, April 18. Following is a summary of the hearing.

HB 2808 (VanDeaver) prohibits TEA from auditing, investigating, or modifying the academic or financial accountability ratings of schools after final ratings have been released. Rep. VanDeaver explained this bill is the result of a situation in which a district received an A rating, publicly celebrated its move from a C to an A, then TEA called certain data into question but ultimately decided that no error had occurred and the district had indeed earned an A. Maud ISD Superintendent Chris Bradshaw testified that this happened in his district, “putting the district in a bad situation with the community” for several months while the issue was being resolved. Rep. Hinojosa asked VanDeaver if this bill precludes TEA from correcting a rating that should have been higher. He said the bill won’t prevent districts from using the regular appeal process. Another committee member suggested that language be added to the bill to ensure that couldn’t happen. The bill was left pending.

HB 4375 (VanDeaver) allows TEA to accept donations for providing instruction and assisting districts in providing instruction in CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to students. The bill requires the SBOE to require instruction on CPR and use of AEDs for students in grades 7-12. It was left pending.

HB 2120 (Keith Bell, et al.) permits a public secondary school licensed to operate a school for barbering and cosmetology to operate an establishment on the same campus as the school and would permit the school to employ a person who holds an individual permit or student permit. Bell laid out a subsitute bill that he said removes unnecessary exemptions to allow them to exist on the same campus. A representative of Huckabee Architects testified in support of the bill, which was left pending.

HB 3315 (Keith Bell, et al.) specifies components of a grievance procedure adopted by a board of trustees to address complaints concerning violations of the laws governing parental rights and responsibilities. A grievance procedure must allow: a parent’s complaint to be filed in writing with the school principal; the parent to appeal on written request to the superintendent or their designee; and an appeal to the board. If those three steps fail to grant relief, the board must notify the parent of their right to appeal to the commissioner. TEA is required to adopt a model grievance procedure that does not include a time period within which a parent may file a complaint. Rep. Bell said that district policies aren’t written to ensure parent grievances are handled in a timely manner and that this bill codifies a timeline by which they must process grievances and details what must be included in the process. He said the bill requires districts to provide for a resolution to the grieved situation within 120 calendar days, including the board’s final decision and disposition. If a district can’t do this in 120 days, under this bill, they must decide in favor of the parent. Testimony by at least one parent went beyond the scope of the bill, asking the committee to “strengthen the grievance process” beyond adding a timeline and requiring the involvement of an impartial ombudsman. This parent also asked that charters be required to have the same grievance processes as traditional public schools. The bill was left pending.

HB 3991 (Isaac, et al.) designates the first Friday in April as Texas Fruit and Vegetable Day in public schools, with the goal of promoting awareness of the health benefits of fruits and vegetables and to encourage students to consume more fruits and vegetables. Isaac laid out the bill, which requires “appropriate instruction, as determined by each school district” on Texas Fruit and Vegetable Day. The bill was left pending.

HB 1149 (Swanson) requires that a school district employee obtain written consent of a child’s parent before the employee can conduct a psychiatric exam or a psychological or psychiatric treatment on the child, except when required by state or federal law. “Exams” include any method designed to elicit information regarding an attitude, habit, trait, opinion, belief, feeling, or mental disorder or condition. “Treatment” includes planned, systematic use of a method, technique, or psychoactive substance that is designed to affect behavioral, emotional or attitudinal characteristics of an individual or group. Swanson said the language in existing law on this topic has become outdated, so her bill is intended to clarify by providing more concrete definitions of pyschiatric exam, etc. Rep. Talarico asked if the bill’s language would preclude a teacher from simply asking how a student feels that day. Swanson said she is working on a substitute bill that includes language that would clarify that such inquiries by a teacher are OK. A series of parents/parent reps expressed concerns that students are being subjected to mental health exams in the form of checklists or other exercises in instructional materials or via social emotional learning apps without parental consent. Others expressed concerns that districts are getting paid by vendors for student psycho-social data and that this information is being collected at all by the “government.” Opponents of the bill said it makes it difficult for a teacher to fulfill their duty of reporting abuse because they must ask certain questions to ascertain if a student is being abused. A representative of the ACLU testified against the bill but offered to work with Swanson to fix it, noting that included definitions are vague and would put pressure on schools and students. The rep said the unintended consequences of the bill could include tying the hands of teachers or other school officials in emergency situations such as students suffering panic attacks during which they can pass out before parental consent can be obtained to help the student. The witness also said it could negatively impact LGBTQ students, for whom a school employee might be the only person they can talk to if parents are anti-LGBTQ and might abuse them or eject them from their homes if they knew. The bill was left pending.

HB 4477 (Landgraf) repeals the provision in law that requires the SBOE to prohibit participation in UIL area, regional, or state competition during testing and administration of student assessment instruments. The bill was left pending.

HB 4716 (Manuel, et al.) requires school districts to refer students that receive SPED services, as well as those suspected of having intellectual or developmental disabilities, to a local intellectual and developmental disability authority for services, including services under a Medicaid waiver program. Rep. Manuel says this will allow students to receive services at a much younger age. A representative of the ARC of Texas testified in support of the bill, which was left pending.

HB 2102 (Goldman) permits charters 36 months instead of 18 months to provide written notice of a new campus opening and also permits a charter holder to request approval of an expansion amendment up to 36 months (instead of 18 months) prior to the date expansion would be effective. A representative of the charter school association testified for the bill, stating that short notice is often a point of friction between traditional school district and charters and this bill is intended to ease that. The bill was left pending.

HB 1926 (Hull) repeals the expiration date of the Supplemental Special Education Services Program, which allows public school students receiving special education services to access a $1,000 grant for supplemental services. This law is set to expire on September 1, 2024. A TCASE board member testified in support of the bill but asked for certain changes to the bill related to the ARD committee’s role. The bill was left pending.

HB 3908 (Wilson, et al.) requires districts to annually provide a minimum of 10 hours of research-based instruction related to fentanyl prevention and drug poisoning awareness to students in grades 6-12. Rep. Wilson explained this would be done via a “fentanyl awareness week.” He is working on a committee substitute. Testimony was mixed on the bill, which was left pending. .

HB 4460 (Gervin-Hawkins) permits a child who has not graduated from high school and who is 18 years or younger and eligible for enrollment in grades 9-12 on September 1 of any school year to transfer one time for the purpose of athletic participation. The receiving district and parent must agree to the transfer in writing. Testimony was mixed on the bill, which was left pending.

HB 2125 (Bucy) requires a student’s representative (if not a parent or person standing in parental relation) for an impartial due process hearing to complete a special education law training course prior to the hearing. The bill requires TEA to contract with the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities to develop and offer a training course on special education law for people serving as representatives for students or as hearing officers for impartial due process hearings or as facilitators for IEP facilitation. The course must require completion of at least 30 hours of instruction in SPED law and pass an exam adopted by the council and approved by the council’s executive director. The bill permits a person to serve as a facilitator for a school district’s IEP facilitation without completing the required training if the person is certified in SPED or has served as a facilitator for at least five years and satisfactorily passes the required exam. Representatives of Leander ISD, TCASE, and others testified in support of the bill. There was also testimony against the bill. The bill was left pending.

HB 2273 (Oliverson) requires that the SBOE include an understanding of “political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with principles of freedom and democracy” and the student’s shared rights and responsibilities as a resident of the state when they adopt TEKS for the foundation curriculum. Additionally, when adopting TEKS for social studies, the SBOE would be required to include curriculum that would instruct students in the “civic-minded expectations of an upright and desirable citizenry that recognizes and accepts responsibility for preserving and defending the blessings of liberty inherited from prior generations and secured by the U.S. Constitution” and would also ensure students are capable of advocating effectively before governing bodies and officials. The SBOE would also be required to adopt oral history resources to be used by districts that provide portraits in patriotism based on the personal stories of diverse individuals who demonstrate civic-minded qualities.

HB 2510 (Cain, et al.) requires school boards to post information on contracts where the district did not use competitive bidding to select a vendor on the district’s website. The information posted must include the amount paid by the district for the contract, the person the contract was awarded to, and the duration of the contract. The bill would also prohibit school districts from spending more than $10,000 in legal fees to defend the district in a legal proceeding involving: disputes over the amount of property taxes owed to the district; a violation of parental rights; acquisition of property; disputes between the district and a district employee; and due process complaints against a district alleging violation of federal or state SPED laws. If a school district spends 80% of the limit of $10,000 in a legal proceeding and intends to continue, the superintendent must submit a report to the board, which must then direct the district to settle the proceeding before exceeding the limit imposed by law or must authorize the district to spend an amount in excess of the limit. Districts must post a report regarding each ongoing legal proceedings where the legal fees exceed the limit imposed by law and also must submit the report to TEA, which must post that information on the TEA website.

HB 3202 (Noble, et al.) grants TEA access to certain criminal history records of certain private school employees.

HB 3303 (Guerra) requires the State Board for Educator Certification to establish a dual language immersion bilingual education teaching certificate that would enable teachers to provide instruction to high school students in bilingual education programs using a dual language immersion/one-way or two-way program model. SBEC must also allow a person seeking certification who fails to perform satisfactorily on the test to retake only the sections of the test that they failed.

HB 4070 (Schaefer) removes private schools from the requirement to post warning signs of increased trafficking penalties on school campuses.

HB 4342 (Plesa) requires that the one-half credit in economics required by the foundation high school program include personal financial literacy and economics. A representative of the Frisco ISD Chamber of Commerce testified in support of the bill. Another individual testified that the bill was not needed as there was legislation that passed last session that called for the creation of an economics course with an emphasis on personal financial literacy. The bill was left pending.

HB 4690 (Dutton) requires school boards to adopt a grievance policy that provides multiple levels of review to address a grievance that becomes subject of a complaint filed by a student or parent. The bill requires that such grievance policies: require a complaint to be filed and addressed at each level of review; require the district to provide the policy to each parent and student at the beginning of the school year; prohibit the board or a district employee from retaliating against a student or parent who files a complaint; require a student or parent with multiple grievances arising out of a single event or series of events to address all grievances in a single complaint; permit any notice, form, or decision required to be written to be submitted physically or electronically; require all parties strictly comply with deadlines; also establishes requirements for withdrawal of a complaint. Complainants may appeal the dismissal of a complaint by submitting notice to the district within ten business days after the dismissal. The complainant must also participate in each level of review and provide notice at least three days before a conference to postpone the meeting or have a designee participate instead. The bill creates four levels of complaint: principal, superintendent, board, then hearing examiner. A parent complainant may appeal a decision made by a hearing examiner to the commissioner no later than 30 days after the decision.

The committee voted the following previously heard bills out of committee. They will now go to the full House for consideration:

  • CSHB 768 (Allen), heard in committee March 7, would pay certain school employees who currently don’t get paid during state holidays (e.g., bus drivers and paraprofessionals). Rep. Allen said the substitute bill reduces the paid days from the two-week winter break to two days and allows employees to use sick leave on top of that.
  • CSHB 1225 (Metcalf), heard in committee March 14, would require the availability of paper state assessments if requested by a parent. The substitute bill makes several changes to the bill as filed. It is not yet posted.
  • CSHB 1614 (Dutton), heard in committee March 21, is related to the eligibility for free pre-K programs in public schools of certain children who are eligible for the subsidized child-care program administered by the Texas Workforce Commission. The substitute bill changes it from an entitlement to a grant program.
  • CSHB 2164 (Guerra), heard in committee April 4, would direct TEA to develop a deeper and more robust monitoring system for bilingual education programs to allow the agency to identify inadequate programs and provide support where needed. It would also require TEA to develop and make available training materials and other resources on bilingual education to educators and administrators.
  • CSHB 2923 (Dutton), heard in committee March 21, is related to the operation of free pre-K programs by certain school districts and to the early education allotment under the Foundation School Program.
  • SB 1008 (Flores), the identical companion to HB 1955 (Buckley), which was heard in committee March 14 and passed out of committee without amendment March 21, relates to establishing residency for purposes of admission into public schools for families who are members of the armed forces (including state military forces or the reserves).