The Senate Education Committee met Tuesday, May 18. They heard testimony on a number of bills in the morning, then voted out the following, which includes most of the bills on which the committee heard testimony earlier in the day:
- HB 547 by Rep. James Frank would allow home-schooled students who are eligible to participate in UIL activities the option to participate in those activities if their school districts allow them the option. In other words, whether home-schooled students could participate in UIL activities would be left to the discretion of each school district.
- HB 750 by Rep. DeWayne Burns would require a school district that has a website to post its district employment policy on its website. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Charles Perry, said he will offer a floor amendment that would require that forms be made available on a district’s intranet website or at the administration office.
- HB 1461 by Rep. Tan Parker would require TRS to conduct a study to evaluate the use of health reimbursement accounts in conjunction with Medicare plans available through the individual marketplace as a means to provide health and pharmacy benefit coverage for certain retired school employees. Testimony was supportive of the bill earlier in the day.
- HB 1788 by Rep. Cole Hefner extends immunity from liability to school districts, charter schools, and private schools for certain actions of their security personnel, which include: school district peace officers; school marshals; school resource officers; and certain retired peace officers who have been hired by the school district or who volunteer to provide security to the district.
- HB 2120 by Rep. Keith Bell would require school boards, unless otherwise provided by law or policy, to allow for an initial administrative hearing regarding a complaint and an opportunity to appeal the administrative decision following the initial hearing. The bill also requires districts to provide a resolution of a complaint no later than 120 calendar days after the filing of the complaint.
- CSHB 3261 by Rep. Dan Huberty would require that STAAR exams be administered electronically unless the commissioner determines otherwise. The bill creates a matching grant program for schools to acquire the necessary infrastructure to take assessments online and allows schools to use the instructional materials allotment for services, equipment, and technology infrastructure necessary to take online tests and training of personnel to administer online exams.
- HB 3449 by Rep. Four Price would provide for the authorized inclusion of a licensed chiropractor or physical therapist on a concussion oversight team. It also expands the list of persons with authority to remove a student from practice or competition following a concussion. Testimony by chiropractors earlier in the day was supportive of the bill.
- HB 3489 by Rep. Tan Parker 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 earlier in the day.
- HB 3643 by Rep. Ken King would create the Texas Commission on Virtual Education to develop and make recommendations regarding the delivery of virtual education in the public school system and state funding for virtual education under the Foundation School Program.
- CSHB 3932 by Rep. Diego Bernal would require the Commissioner of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, in coordination with TEA, to establish the State Advisory Council on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. The goal of the council would be to provide coordination among state agencies, school district and military installations related to the state’s participation in and compliance with the compact and its activities. The bill establishes the members of the council; allows their meetings to be conducted in person or via telephone or other electronic communication; and requires that the council meet at least quarterly. No testimony was given on the bill earlier in the day.
Other bills on which the committee heard testimony on May 18 were:
- The committee substitute for HB 999 by Rep. Diego Bernal would allow an individual graduation committee to determine student qualifications for graduation without considering performance on any end-of-course assessment instruments. This would apply to any student in 12th grade during the 2020-2021 school year. The bill gives the commissioner the authority, by rule, to extend this provision to any student in in 12th grade during the 2021-2022 school year. Testimony was supportive of the bill, which was left pending.
- 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. The bill was left pending.
- 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. Sen. Royce West said he would like to be sure that African-American history in Texas is included and that the commission itself represent the diversity of Texas. The bill was left pending.
- HB 2519 by Rep. Drew Darby. The bill, as filed, would change the deadline by which teachers must resign from 45 days prior to the first day of instruction to 30 days prior to instruction, among other provisions related to SBEC sanctions. During testimony on the bill, concerns were noted that the 30-day deadline would put districts in a difficult position as teachers are generally asked to begin working about two weeks prior to the first instructional day. With the resignation deadline changed to 30 days prior to the first day of instruction, districts would be interviewing after teachers are needed back in the classroom. The bill was left pending.