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The Senate Education Committee met Friday and Saturday, May 21-22, to hear numerous bills previously passed by the House. On Saturday evening they voted out the following bills, which will now go to the full Senate for consideration:

  • HB 1468 by Rep. Keith Bell, as substituted in the Senate Education Committee, would allow schools to create their own virtual instruction programs for students who live within their district/charter attendance zones. The bill, as substituted in the Senate committee, exempts students receiving virtual instruction from the 90% rule; requires that a school must receive at least a C state rating to offer virtual courses; requires that virtual students have reasonable access to in-person services; allows a school to bring a student back to campus if the student is not meeting academic performance standards; allows schools to enter into agreements with other schools to provide virtual instruction; allows virtual students to participate in UIL activities; requires the commissioner to evaluate the performance of students enrolled in the program separately from the performance of other district or school students and assign separate campus overall and domain performance ratings for the program; and prohibits schools from enrolling more than 10% of students in virtual programs. The substitute also sets an expiration date of September 1, 2023, for this legislation.

(On Friday, TASA President Dr. Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD, testified in support of HB 1468, noting that he appreciates that schools can serve students within their attendance zones and externally with agreements, that districts can pull students back in if they are not succeeding, and that virtual students are included in district average daily attendance. He asked that the committee consider extending the sunset date because districts will be expending significant resources to create these programs and districts want to have some assurance that the ability to provide virtual programs will continue. Taylor said a commission is being formed to study virtual instruction and that the expiration date will align with its work.)

  • HB 4545 by House Public Education Committee Chair Harold Dutton, as passed by the House, would remove grade promotion requirements and retesting tied to STAAR reading and math tests for students in grades 5 and 8 and establish Accelerated Learning Committees (similar in purpose and composition to current Grade Placement Committees) for students who do not perform satisfactorily on grades 3, 5, and 8 math and reading STAAR tests. Mandates that the superintendent or the superintendent’s designee meet in person with the Accelerated Learning Committee if the student fails the STAAR in the same subject area the following year. Prohibits the superintendent’s designee from being a member of the Accelerated Learning Committee, and allows the designee to be an ESC employee. Requires accelerated instruction for any student who fails a STAAR test in grades 3-8, prohibits a district from pulling a student from recess for accelerated instruction, and requires the district to place the student in the following school year with a Master, Exemplary, or Recognized certified teacher. Districts receiving federal COVID relief funds must provide the accelerated instruction as prescribed by the state in the bill, including providing the accelerated instruction individually or in groups of no more than three students to one teacher. Allows a parent or guardian to choose the student’s teacher the following school year under certain circumstances. Mandates the accelerated instruction requirements be applied to high school students who fail an EOC exam. Allows the commissioner to establish a “Strong Foundation” grant program available to campuses serving students in preK-5 that includes multiple “rigorous” components. The commissioner may require certain campuses to follow all of the Strong Foundation requirements if an eligible campus is assigned an overall performance rating of D or F; or the campus is in the bottom 5% of STAAR grade 3 reading scores in the state, as determined by the commissioner, and allows the commissioner to establish rules to monitor compliance. The bill as passed by the House, does not include an outcomes-based funding provision.
  • HB 129 by Rep. Mary González, as substituted, would add cyberbullying prevention and response; digital ethics, etiquette safety, and security; and media literacy to topics that should be covered under curriculum standards for digital citizenship. The Senate committee substitute removes language regarding a person’s race, religion, or political affiliation as to not restrict language that would incite violence.
  • HB 572 by Dutton, as substituted by the Senate Education Committee, would create a study on competency based educational programs best suited for non-traditional student populations.
  • HB 999 by Rep. Diego Bernal, as passed by the House, would provide that an individual graduation committee may determine that a student is qualified to graduate without considering performance on any end-of-course (EOC) state assessment if the student is a senior during the 2020-21 school year. It allows the commissioner of education to adopt rules for students that are seniors in the 2021-22 school years. This subsection expires September 1, 2023. Prior to the committee vote, Sen. Jose Menendez, the bill’s Senate sponsor, told the committee that he would offer a Senate floor amendment that would limit the bill to apply only to the current graduating class (2020-21 school year) to address concerns that the provisions are only needed for the 2020-21 cohort of seniors.
  • HB 1068 by Rep. Alma Allen would allow a school district employee with available personal leave to use the leave for compensation for a day designated as a school holiday for which the employee would otherwise not receive compensation. To reduce the financial impact on schools, the Senate committee substitute clarifies that the bill applies to non-exempt, non-salaried employees and caps the number of days an employee may take on non-paid holidays.
  • HB 1252 by Rep. Joe Moody would prohibit the commissioner and TEA from adopting or enforcing a rule that establishes a shorter deadline for filing a due process complaint alleging a violation of state or federal special education laws and requesting an impartial due process hearing than the maximum time allowed under federal law. This would expand the time from one year to two years.
  • HB 1504 by Rep. Christina Morales would allow ethnic studies to count toward social studies graduation requirements.
  • HB 1754 by Rep. Ana Hernandez would require that each student ID card issued by a public school to students in grade 6 or above have contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline printed on the back.
  • HB 2022 by Rep. Drew Darby would allow retirees who opted out of TRS-Care between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2019, a one-time opportunity to reenroll in the program. (During testimony on the bill on Friday, Tim Lee with the Texas Retired Teachers Association testified in support, stating that there was much confusion following 2017 changes to the plan, and some TRS retirees have found that they were ill-advised to opt out. This bill would allow a one-time exception for those people to re-enroll.)
  • HB 2256 by Rep. Robert Guerra would require the SBOE to establish a bilingual special education certificate.
  • HB 2287 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson would authorize TEA to collect and share additional data for the Collaborative Task Force on Public School Mental Health Services related to the impact of mental health programs on academic achievement, school discipline, and students’ well-being. (During testimony on the bill on Friday, Senate sponsor Sen. Beverly Powell said the task force was created during the last legislative session, and since then has found that TEA lacks the data needed to implement and assess programs.)
  • HB 2391 by Rep. Alex Dominguez, as passed by the House, would provide both charter schools and district magnet programs the flexibility to use weighted admissions lotteries if they choose to do so in order to increase the likelihood that students receiving special education services or who are limited English proficient are selected in admissions lotteries. The Senate committee substitute allows schools to set aside seats for these students and adds economically disadvantaged students to bill.
  • HB 2497 by Rep. Tan Parker would establish the 1836 Project as an advisory committee to promote patriotic education and increase awareness of Texas values. Patriotic education would include the presentation of the history of the state’s founding and foundational principles, examination of how Texas has grown closer to those principles throughout its history, and explanation of why commitment to those principles is beneficial and justified.
  • HB 2554 by Rep. Gary Gates, as passed by the House, would allow a school district to establish a district campus charter high school or a campus charter program to offer the Vocational Education Program. The bill also limits the number of hours of instruction for which a district can draw down funding under the CTE allotment. The bill limits the eligibility to qualify for funding to 10 contact hours per week per student to limit the fiscal impact of the bill.
  • HB 2681 by Rep. Terry Wilson would allow a district to offer elective courses on the Bible and increases the certification requirements for a teacher who teaches such a course. The Senate committee substitute removes a provision allowing these courses to count as social studies courses in grades 6, 7 and 8.
  • HB 2756 by Rep. Alma Allen would permit a school district or charter to donate food to a nonprofit organization through a person who is directly and officially affiliated with the campus, including through a parent of a student enrolled.
  • HB 3400 by Rep. Chris Paddie would require, on the request of a peace officer who is a parent or a person standing in parental relation to a student and who reasonably fears for the student’s safety, the board of trustees of a school district or the board’s designee to transfer the student to another district campus or to another school district.
  • HB 3597 by Rep. Will Metcalf would update state law on the topic to include the five phases of a multi-hazard emergency operations plan, updates language regarding a school safety plan to protect against a train derailment, ensures schools are implementing proper school safety drills, requires increased information sharing with the Texas School Safety Center, and allows the school safety center to complete criminal background checks. The Senate committee substitute clarifies that the Texas School Safety Center is the specific entity reference in the bill.
  • HB 3819 by Rep. Stephanie Klick would allow a school nurse to administer prescription asthma medicine to a student. The Senate committee substitute clarifies that a student must be in respiratory distress before the nurse administers the medication and parents must be notified that same day.
  • HB 3864 by Rep. Andrew Murr would allow a school to excuse a student from school for a Career Investigation Day to visit a professional’s workplace for the purpose of determining the student’s interest in pursuing a career in the professional’s field.
  • HB 3880 by House Public Education Committee Chair Harold Dutton would redefine “special services” as it relates to special education as “specially designed instruction” and would expand the components of that type of instruction to include adaptation of the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of a student resulting from the student’s disability and ensure the student’s access to the required curriculum to allow the student to meet educational standards set by TEA. The bill also defines “specific learning disability.” The committee substitute requires (as opposed to “allows” as in House version of the bill) a district to hire a person to provide services to students with dyslexia and related disorders. The substitute also calls for a joint interim study on this issue and pushes the effective date back one year later to 2022-23.
  • HB 4124 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa 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.
  • HB 4465 by House Public Education Committee Chair Harold Dutton would allow the commissioner to provide grants to districts using his discretionary federal relief funds. The bill requires school districts and charter schools to adopt a plan for use of federal funds each year and must submit the plans to TEA for comment, and it requires local plans to be posted on TEA’s website and school districts’ websites. The bill also seeks to ensure that students in need of remediation are identified and receive appropriate services to get back on grade level. The Senate committee substitute adds comprehensive after-school learning, summer learning, or summer enrichment to remedial options that a district plan must consider.
  • HB 4509 by Rep. Greg Bonnen would require the SBOE to adopt TEKS that develop students’ civic knowledge of the United States. The Senate committee substitute adds documents to the list of founding documents included in the bill.
  • HB 4525 by Rep. Gary Gates would require the SBOE to approve and annually update career and technology courses that are offered online or through an internet portal maintained by the district or TEA.