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The Senate Education Committee met Wednesday, March 29. The committee voted out the following bills, sending them to the full Senate for consideration:

  • SB 16 (Hughes), which relates to the purpose of public institutions of higher education and a prohibition on compelling students enrolled at those institutions to adopt certain beliefs.
  • SB 13 (Hall, et al.), which relates to a school district’s library materials and catalog, the creation of local school library advisory councils, and parental rights regarding public school library catalogs and access by the parent’s child to library materials and to affirmative defenses to prosecution for certain offenses involving material or conduct that is obscene or otherwise harmful to children.
  • SB 294 (Johnson) would make a variety of changes to the law governing administration of medications for respiratory distress on public and private school campuses.
  • SB 412 (Paxton), which relates to protections for pregnant and parenting students enrolled in public institutions of higher education.
  • SB 459 (Paxton), which relates to early registration for parenting students at public institutions of higher education.
  • SB 798 (Middleton) would prohibit school counselor candidates from being required to have experience as a classroom teacher in order to qualify for certification.
  • SB 838 (Creighton), which relates to school districts and open-enrollment charter schools providing panic alert devices in classrooms.
  • SB 902 (West), which relates to the establishment of the Texas Leadership Scholars Program to serve as a merit-based scholarship and leadership opportunity for high-achieving, emerging leaders with financial need.
  • SB 1008 (Flores), which relates to establishing residency for purposes of admission into public schools. Currently, families with a parent/guardian who is a member of the armed forces (including state military forces or the reserves) are permitted to establish residency by providing a copy of a military order requiring the parent or guardian’s transfer to a military installation in or adjacent to the district’s attendance zone. Proof is required to be provided no later than 10 days after the arrival. SB 1008 would change that timeline to permit proof of residence to be provided to the school district no later than 90 days after the arrival date.
  • SB 1563 (Creighton), which relates to the eligibility of Sam Houston State University to receive formula funding for the Sam Houston State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The committee also heard testimony on nine bills:

  • SB 2482 (Menendez) relates to Holocaust Remembrance Week in public schools. Sen. Menendez laid out a committee substititute, explaining it is simply the Legislative Council draft. He said the bill would initiate a survey of schools to understand how Holocaust Week is being observed, how many schools have participated, gauge teachers’ familiarity with the material, and ask for recommendations for additional resources that would be helpful to schools. The substitute bill was left pending.
  • SB 2565 (Creighton) is related to instructional materials and technology, the adoption and revision of essential knowledge and skills of the public school foundation curriculum, and creating allotments for the procurement of certain instructional materials under the Foundation School Program; it authorizes a fee. The bill is identical to Chairman Buckley’s HB 1065, which was recently heard in the House Public Education Committee. Public testimony varied from “for,” “against,” or “on,” meaning the testifier(s) had recommendations or considerations on the bill. TASA, TACS, and IMCAT submitted written testimony “on” the bill. The fiscal note for SB 2565 as filed indicates a negative impact of more than $843 million through the biennium ending August 31, 2025. TEA anticipates the need for 58 FTEs to implement the bill. The fiscal note also shows two new allotments under the FSP of $40 per student for districts to purchase the state-designated high-quality materials and another of $20 per student for printing and shipping costs of OER resources. (Note: When anticipating costs for your district to participate in this state proposed initiative these allotments are not annual, they are per biennium amounts.) The bill was left pending.
  • SB 544 (Blanco) allows SBEC to substitute two semesters of experience as a full-time instructor for the Community College of the Air Force for certification from another state when issuing a teaching certificate. Sen. Blanco said that the substitute bill he laid out incorporates suggestions of stakeholders, including teacher groups, and requires a bachelor’s degree of certification candidates. The substitute was adopted. Two witnesses testified for the bill.
  • SB 1396 (Middleton) allows school boards to adopt a policy requiring every campus to provide students and employees with an opportunity to participate in a period of prayer and Bible reading on each school day if individuals involved provide signed consent. The bill also deletes the prohibition against encouraging a student to engage in or refrain from prayer in school. Several pastors and others testified in support of the bill.
  • SB 1861 (Bettencourt, et al.) would put into statute recommendations of the Texas Commission on Virtual Education. The commissioner would indefinitely authorize school districts and charters wishing to operate full-time virtual campuses or full-time hybrid campuses. The commissioner would be required to revoke virtual campuses that receive a D or F for two out of three years or perform unacceptably according to the commissioner’s approved performance evaluation. The commissioner would also be required to evaluate the performance of a private or third-party acting as a whole campus virtual instruction provider for a district or charter. Students could not be forced to take virtual courses and would be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities as if they were taking courses in person. Teachers could not be coerced into providing virtual instruction or be required to teach virtual and in-person courses during the same class period. Teachers would be required to take professional development in virtual instruction and have sufficient previous experience. A school could charge a student tuition and fees if they are not eligible to enroll in public school “not enrolled in a course not offered” at the school. Sen. Bettencourt said that the bill would fund students attending a school’s virtual program similarly to students who are in person so that it would be easy for students to move in and out of virtual instruction if needed. Testimony was given in support of and against the bill.
  • SB 13 (Paxton, et al.) would require districts to provide notice to parents of their option to receive notice each time their child obtains a school library material. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission would propose school library standards to the SBOE for approval. The standards would have to prohibit acquisition or retention of harmful material (Sec. 43.24, Penal Code) and demonstrate compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act. Boards would create local school library advisory councils of at least five members with a majority being parents to help ensure that local community values are reflected in school libraries. The committee substitute includes additional definitions of what is not allowed by including a definition from the Federal Communications Commission and specifies that this applies only to school libraries. More than 90 witnesses were registered to testify but due to the late hour the bill was heard, testimony for, against, and on the bill was given by 20-plus witnesses. The bill was left pending.
  • SB 164 (Campbell) would remove institutions of higher education from the requirement to display donated posters of the national motto, “In God We Trust,” and add the US Constitution, US Declaration of Independence, and essays 10 and 57 of the Federalist Papers to the items public schools must display if donated. The bill also would create a half-credit elective that public high schools must offer that provides instruction on US founding principles. Sen. Campbell said that the bill was passed by the Senate last session but didn’t make it out of the House. Several witnesses testified for the bill, which was left pending.
  • SB 163 (Campbell, et al.) relates to parental approval for a student’s participation in human sexuality instruction in public schools. Campbell said this bill was filed simply to remove an expiration date for parent opt-in for human sexuality instruction. It was left pending after several witnesses testified in support and against the bill.
  • SB 2089 (Creighton) would add requirements to the adoption of instructional materials and supplemental instructional materials adopted by the State Board of Education to include presentation of scientific theories in an objective manner, presentation of positive aspects of the US and its heritage, presentation of contrasting points of view regarding significant political or social movements in history in a balanced manner, and fair treatment of all groups. Materials could not condone civil disorder, include blatantly offensive language, or encourage lifestyles that deviate from generally accepted standards of society. Testimony on the bill was mixed. The substitute bill was left pending.