The House Public Education Committee held a formal meeting May 11 during which they voted out the following bills, sending them to the full House for consideration:
- SB 168 by Sen. Cesar Blanco (companion to HB 1016 by Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez) requires a school district to adopt trauma-informed methods and policies regarding active shooter drills prior to conducting a drill.
- SB 226 by Sen. Angela Paxton adds training in virtual learning and virtual instruction to the training requirements for a teaching certificate. Instruction required must cover best practices in grading students receiving virtual instruction, based on academic progress and developing a virtual learning curriculum that includes synchronous and asynchronous virtual instruction.
- SB 462 by Sen. Eddie Lucio allows for state reimbursement for miles driven to bring meals and academic materials to students. The reimbursement is the same as for transportation systems’ normal routes, allowing districts to maintain funding when their transportation may not otherwise be in use.
- SB 560 by Lucio (companion to HB 2258 by Rep. Robert Guerra) provides for the development of a strategic plan for the improvement and expansion of high-quality bilingual education in Texas.
- SB 746 by Sen. Borris Miles requires student contact information for every student be provided by their parent or legal guardian no later than two weeks after the start of the new school year or day of enrollment. The contact information provided will come in written form and include students’ address, phone number, and email address. If the contact information changes during the school year, the information must be updated within two weeks of the initial change.
- SB 1063 by Sen. Carol Alvarado creates a one-half credit course entitled “Personal Financial Literacy and Economics.” The new course will consist of one-third instruction time in economics and two-thirds instruction time in personal financial literacy. Students will be able to take the personal financial literacy course and fulfill the existing one-half credit requirement in economics.
- SB 1356 by Sen. Bryan Hughes provides a framework for the state’s nonprofit teacher organizations to offer tutoring services to help public school students make up for learning loss due to COVID-19. To participate, a tutor must be an active or retired teacher, apply with the nonprofit teacher organization, designate whether the tutor intends to serve on a paid or voluntary basis (or both), and not be on the Do Not Hire Registry. Each public school superintendent must oversee the tutoring program at the local level.
- SB 1436 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt allows eligible property owners to obtain permission from the school districts where the property is located to join with them in challenging SOAH determinations. Once in court, the court is required to order changes to the PVS if it finds that the comptroller acted arbitrarily or the PVS findings are not reasonably supported by a preponderance of evidence presented a trial de novo. The bill changes the current substantial evidence de novo standard to a trial de novo to allow full consideration of the facts by the trial court. The use of de novo review is consistent with how appeals of appraisal review board determinations are conducted.
- SB 1522 by Senate Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor limits the amount of instructional days that may be adjusted by the commissioner of education in addition to providing an adjustment for the amount of instructional days during the semester in which the calamity first occurred, equivalent to one school year. SB 1522 also gives the commissioner ability to divide the adjustment between two consecutive school years.
- SB 1590 by Bettencourt requires the State Board for Educator Certification to propose rules providing flexible options for persons for any field-based experience or internship required for certification, including options for candidate observations to occur in virtual settings that are equivalent in rigor to in-person options for observation.
- SB 1831 by Taylor is called the “No Trafficking Zone Act.” It increases penalties for offenses occurring on and around school premises and premises in which school functions are taking place. Offenders contacting, arranging meetings, or picking up students within this designated “no trafficking zone” would be charged with a first degree felony. This would include the practice of using technology and social media to arrange pick-ups during school hours. “No trafficking zones” would be established on school grounds, at school functions, school sponsored events, and within 600 feet of these areas.
Several bills were brought up that failed to be voted out of committee. These bills could be brought back before the committee, as they were left pending. They include:
- CSSB 28 by Bettencourt requires certain laws relating to permitting and zone by applied to both traditional school districts and charter schools equally. The substitute removes all provisions dealing with the State Board of Education.
- SB 347 by Paxton requires the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) to be subjected to the Open Meetings Act.
- SB 797 by Hughes requires the display in a conspicuous place in each building of the school or institution a durable poster or framed copy of the United States national motto “In God We Trust.”
- CSSB 1696 by Paxton establishes a system for the sharing of information regarding cyber attacks or other cybersecurity incidents occurring in schools. Requires the district’s cybersecurity coordinator to report to TEA any cyber attack or other cybersecurity incident against the district cyberinfrastructure that constitutes a breach of system security as soon as practicable after the discovery of the attack or incident. Requires TEA to establish and maintain a system to coordinate the anonymous sharing of information concerning cyber attacks or other cybersecurity incidents between public and private schools and the state in coordination with the Texas Department of Information Resources.
CSHB 1696 removes charter schools from the requirement to designate a cybersecurity coordinator but maintains the requirement for charter schools to notify TEA and parents of potential cybersecurity breaches, as we require public schools.
The rationale is mostly due to the fact the requirement to appoint a coordinator is not appropriate for a smaller one-campus school like it would be for larger districts.