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Legislative Update: A busy week of hearings, good and bad bills on the move

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 4/06/2015 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell, CAE

The House Public Education Committee is set to meet tomorrow afternoon, April 7, for a public hearing on a dozen bills. The agenda includes a controversial bill to do away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers, a bill that may eventually become an overhaul of the state's school finance system, and a popular Senate bill that would give some high school students a chance to graduate despite failing a STAAR exam. First, the committee is slated to hear House Bill (HB) 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) relating to public school teacher performance appraisals, continuing education, professional development, career advancement, and compensation. HB 2543 is identical to SB 893 as filed, a bill that ATPE similarly opposed on the Senate side. In lieu of compensation tied to the state's minimum salary schedule, the bill calls for tying teacher compensation and appraisals to students' performance on standardized tests. It places too much emphasis on student testing and not enough emphasis on observations and giving teachers meaningful feedback through the evaluation process. HB 2543 needlessly eliminates the minimum salary schedule in favor of performance-based strategic compensation systems, which districts can already implement on their own as a supplement to the salary schedule. Additionally, HB 2543 infringes on local control by requiring districts to adhere to a state-imposed framework for personnel actions. ATPE is encouraging our members to contact their state representatives and ask them to oppose HB 2543 (along with its Senate companion bill, SB 893, which is expected to be debated soon on the floor of the Senate). Visit our Officeholders page to find contact information for your state representative. Another bill on tomorrow's agenda in the House Public Education Committee is Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock's (R) HB 1759. The bill is merely a placeholder at this point for a future plan to try to fix the state's broken school finance system. Read more about the bill here. Also on tomorrow's agenda is SB 149 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), the bill that allows individual graduation committees to recommend that an 11th or 12th grade student be permitted to graduate despite being unable to pass a STAAR exam that is required for graduation. ATPE supports the bill, which already passed the Senate by a vote of 28-2 last month. These are the remaining bills scheduled to be heard by the committee tomorrow:

  • HB 744 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) relating to the purchase of certain insurance by public school districts.
  • HB 1170 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) relating to the applicability to open-enrollment charter schools of certain laws regarding local governments and political subdivisions.
  • HB 1171 also by Rep. Farney relating to the applicability of certain immunity and liability laws to open-enrollment charter schools.
  • HB 1706 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) relating to reducing paperwork and duplicate reports required of a school district.
  • HB 1796 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R) relating to public school choice, including school campus information, student transfers, the public education grant program, and the transportation allotment.
  • HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) relating to local control school districts.
  • HB 1804 by Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D) relating to notice by campuses and open-enrollment charter schools about events that may significantly impact the education of certain foster children.
  • HB 1993 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R) relating to the authorization of independent school districts to use electronic means to notify parents of a student.s academic performance.
  • HB 2545 also by Rep. Sheffield relating to the eligibility of certain students to participate in a school district's special education program.

Earlier today, the House Public Education Committee held an impromptu meeting to vote out pending bills that had already been heard. All the bills except one were approved by the committee unanimously. The bills approved today included the following:
  • HB 506 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D) relating to the issuance of tax-supported bonds by certain school districts and increasing the tax rate limitation on the issuance of those bonds. The committee's substitute version of the bill was approved by a vote of eight to one, with Rep. Dan Huberty (R) voting against the measure.
  • HB 743 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Huberty relating to the essential knowledge and skills of the required public school curriculum and to certain state-adopted or state-developed assessment instruments for public school students. ATPE supported the bill at its prior hearing.
  • HB 771 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) relating to funding for the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities.
  • HB 917 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Jason Villalba (R) relating to school marshals for private schools, notifying a parent or guardian whether an employee of a public or private school is appointed school marshal, and the confidentiality of information submitted to or collected by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in connection with a certification for appointment as school marshal.
  • HB 1305 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R) relating to a program to provide a free or reduced-price breakfast to eligible students attending a public school and the method of determining the number of educationally disadvantaged students.
  • HB 1430 by Rep. Susan King (R) relating to the inclusion of mental health in the public services endorsement on a public school diploma and in information about health science career pathways. ATPE supported the bill at a prior hearing.
  • HB 1843 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) relating to providing training academies for public school teachers who provide reading instruction to students in kindergarten through grade three. ATPE supported the bill at its prior hearing.

The Senate Education Committee is meeting tomorrow morning (April 7) to take up bills that would place certain low-performing schools into a special statewide school district. The idea was conceived in Louisiana around the time of Hurricane Katrina, when many struggling schools were placed into that state's Recovery School District. The idea has been replicated in a few other states and has been fraught with controversy. In 2013, legislation was filed in Texas to create a similar program called an "Achievement School District." ATPE opposed that legislation, which would have opened the door for private management of public schools by entities not accountable to local parents and taxpayers. Those bills died, but similar proposals have resurfaced this session and are now being called "Opportunity School Districts" or "Innovation Zones." The bills on tap for tomorrow's hearing include SB 669 by Sen. Royce West (D); SB 895 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the committee; and SB 1241 also by Sen. Larry Taylor. It is also believed that the committee may vote out a series of private school voucher bills during tomorrow's hearing. SB 4, SB 276, and SB 642 were all heard by the committee on March 26; ATPE testified against the bills and will continue to oppose any effort to funnel taxpayer dollars to unregulated private or home schools. Read more about the voucher bills and our position on privatization here. Finally, the Senate Education Committee is also expected to hear SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) tomorrow. The bill, which ATPE supports, encourages the use of a community schools model for turning around struggling schools and as an alternative to reconstitution or privatization. The plans combine wraparound services and community partnerships to help a struggling school improve its academic performance and avoid closure.
Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on tomorrow's hearings, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter for the latest developments.


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