Legislative Update: From school finance to suicide prevention, a slew of bills set for hearings this week
Date Posted: 4/13/2015 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell, CAE
The House Public Education Committee has moved up its usual meeting time to allow for more bills to be heard on a single day. Starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow, April 14, the committee will consider 19 bills, including Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock's (R-Killeen) school finance overhaul, HB 1759. Originally filed as a placeholder bill, Aycock revealed details of his school finance plan last week and will hear public testimony on the bill this week. Other legislation on tomorrow's agenda include bills by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) promoting the use of a Community Schools Model to turnaround struggling schools, along with a less favorable bill by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) calling for alternative management of certain low-performing schools through a statewide Opportunity School District. The Senate Education Committee already heard and took action on some of the same proposals last week, as we reported previously on our blog. Also on the agenda for the House Public Education Committee tomorrow is HB 2186 by Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), a bill pertaining to suicide prevention training for certain school district employees. ATPE asked Rep. Cook to carry the bill on the request of one of our members, Coach Kevin Childers from the Fairfield Independent School District. Coach Childers lost his teenage son Jonathan to suicide in 2013 and plans to testify in support of HB 2186. The bill aims to modify existing law that requires certain educators and school district employees to be trained in recognizing possible warning signs for suicidal thoughts by students; HB 2186 attempts to ensure that the training occurs on an annual basis. The bill is being referred to as the "Suicide Prevention Training Act in memory of Jonathan Childers." Click on our infographic to the right to learn more about the teen suicide epidemic and our efforts to help prevent it.
The Senate Education Committee will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow, April 14, to hear bills relating to charter schools and a handful of other matters. View the full agenda with links to the individual bills here. Remember also that you can watch live or archived video of most education committee hearings through Texas Legislature Online.
A private school voucher bill is on the move and headed for a likely floor debate this week or next. ATPE has urged its members to contact their senators about SB 4 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood). Read more about the bill here. Also likely to be considered on the Senate floor this week is the upper chamber's version of House Bill 1, the state budget.
The House Committee on Ways and Means has a high-profile hearing planned for Tuesday, April 14, too. The committee will take up a number of bills calling for tax cuts. ATPE has joined forces with other groups affiliated with Texas Forward, a revenue coalition that promotes a balanced approach to state budgeting, and is calling on legislators to consider these proposals very cautiously. Many education stakeholders are concerned that the loss of potentially five billion dollars in state revenue through tax cuts this session would greatly reduce the funding available for public schools and other critical needs.
Adding to tomorrow's busy schedule, watch for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) to mark up its new bipartisan proposal for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. (Central Time) and can be viewed through the committee's website. Read more about the new "Every Child Achieves Act of 2015" in ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann's recent blog post.
Later this week, watch for the House Public Education Committee's Subcommittee on Educator Quality to consider several bills relating to educator preparation and certification. The agenda for the 8 a.m. hearing on Thursday, April 16, includes HB 3494 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble), which is the House companion to SB 892 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), a bill dealing with educator preparation. ATPE originally supported SB 892 as filed, but the Senate version was changed recently to make educator preparation program admission standards and training requirements less rigorous. Read more about SB 892 in one of our recent blog posts here.
Finish off your week of grassroots advocacy by visiting the State Capitol on Saturday to participate in this year's Save Texas Schools rally along with other representatives of ATPE and supporters of public schools from around the state. The rally will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on April 18, featuring guest speakers and live music. Visit SaveTXSchools.org to learn more and register to attend the rally. Public education supporters are also encouraged to help promote the rally this week by tweeting with the hashtag #WhyIRally. Use the hashtag to share your own thoughts on why it's important to prioritize public education during the 84th legislative session, and Save Texas Schools will retweet you.
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