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Legislative Update: Committee news, bills on the move, and a big school finance announcement

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 3/25/2015 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell, CAE

The House Committee on Public Education met Tuesday, March 24, in a hearing that lasted from 2 p.m. until just before midnight and covered fifteen bills. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter provided this update on the meeting. First, the committee favorably voted out a new version of House Bill (HB) 4 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) relating to a high quality prekindergarten program provided by public school districts. ATPE supported this bill with oral testimony at a prior hearing. It will now head to the full House for consideration. In an unusual move, the committee also voted out HB 767 by Rep. Wayne Smith (R) relating to cardiac assessments of participants in extracurricular athletic activities sponsored or sanctioned by the University Interscholastic League. Reps. Hubert, Sylvester Turner (D), Eddie Lucio, III (D),  and J.D. Sheffield (R) are coauthors of the bill, which would require certain student athletes to undergo cardiac testing. This committee typically does not vote on bills on the same day in which they are heard, choosing instead to wait for a later meeting to take the vote. In this case, the committee took a vote immediately upon hearing the testimony and approved the bill unanimously. The move resulted in a rare standing ovations by members of the audience watching the hearing. ATPE supported the bill. The committee then heard testimony on a number of bills that pertain to reducing high-stakes student testing:

  • HB 1164 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) relating to the assessment of public school students in writing and English language arts.
  • HB 742 by Rep. Huberty relating to eliminating certain state-required assessment instruments and certain end-of-course assessment instruments administered to public school students in certain grades.
  • HB 743 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 each of these testing-related bills, which received excellent favorable testimony by multiple classroom teachers and other educators. Read more about the bills and student testing on our "Issues" page. Another bill supported by ATPE that was heard last night was HB 1843 by Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R). The bill calls for the creation and funding of training academies for public school teachers who provide reading instruction to students in kindergarten through grade three. Teachers selected to participate in the academies would receive stipends from the state. The bill reflects one of Gov. Greg Abbott's top legislative priorities to advance legislation pertaining to early childhood education. ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe, a reading specialist in Round Rock ISD, attended the hearing and stayed late into the night to share her testimony in support of the bill. We applaud Stephanie for her willingness to take time out of her busy schedule to speak out on behalf of her profession and Texas students. ATPE also registered our support for the following bills heard by the committee:
  • HB 462 by Rep. Craig Goldman (R) relating to successful completion of dual credit courses as an alternative to compliance with end-of-course assessment requirements.
  • HB 917 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 2349 by Aycock relating to public school assessment, performance standards, and course requirements.
  • HB 2610 by Rep. Ken King (R) relating to the minimum number of minutes of instruction for students to be provided by public school districts and the scheduling of the last day of school for students by public school districts.
Tomorrow, the committee's Educator Quality Subcommittee will meet to hear four bills relating to the education profession. They include a bill that ATPE opposes, HB 810 by Rep. James White (R), which would allow school districts to employ non-certified teachers without need for a school district teaching permit or any specialized training through an educator preparation program. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann will attend and report on the meeting.
Senate Bill (SB) 6, a bill requiring "A" through "F" accountability grades to be assigned to school campuses continues its move through the Texas Senate despite opposition from most education groups. The controversial proposal by Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor (R) has been placed on the "Senate Intent Calendar," making it eligible for floor debate. Read more about the bill, which ATPE opposes, on our Issues page under the "Testing and Accountability" section. Other high-profile Senate bills on the move include SB 892 and SB 893 which relate to the teaching profession; both bills by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) were approved by the committee yesterday. ATPE supported SB 892 as filed and opposed SB 893, which proposes doing away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers. Read more about SB 892 and 893 on our Issues page under the heading of "Educator Quality and Employment" and watch for updates on these bills in the coming days.
This Thursday is voucher day in the Senate Education Committee. The committee is scheduled to hear three bills calling for state funding of private school vouchers or voucher-like programs. Watch the hearing live starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow or view archived video footage after the hearing at the Senate's website. ATPE and other members of the education committee will be testifying against the bills. To learn more about the proposals that will be heard and ATPE's position on privatization, visit our our Issues page.
ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson reports that the full Senate passed several tax cut measures earlier today. The bills are largely considered to be Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's tax package. Cumulatively, the cost of the legislation is approximately $4.6 billion, consisting of $2.4 billion in property tax reductions through increased homestead exemptions and $2.2 billion in franchise tax reductions. The $2.4 billion property tax reduction will result in the average Texas homeowner seeing a reduction of approximately $200 per year. There is still significant disagreement between the House and Senate on the tax packages and how to spend state revenue.
While the Senate spent most of its day debating tax cuts, the House was looking at ways to tackle school funding. House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R) held a press conference this morning to announce that the House will, in fact, tackle school finance this session. The announcement came as a surprise after most legislators had previously said the legislature would wait for a Supreme Court ruling on pending school finance litigation. Watch for ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson's blog post about the news later tonight.


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