Senate Education Committee advances omnibus school library bill
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Date Posted: 5/18/2023 | Author: Mark Wiggins
The Senate Education Committee voted Thursday, May 18, 2023, to advance to the full Senate an omnibus school library bill, utilizing House Bill (HB) 900 by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) as the vehicle. The committee-approved version combined elements of two separate pieces of legislation intended to place restrictions around which books are allowed in school libraries.
Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney) amended HB 900 to include components of her Senate Bill (SB) 13, which ATPE opposed as initially filed due to concerns over its vague definitions of harmful content. The newly expanded bill would retain that problematic definition in addition to requiring the creation of school library advisory councils as proposed in SB 13.
The Senate changes to HB 900 would also require school districts to give parents the option to be notified whenever their child checks out a library book. The omnibus version of HB 900 retains the original House bill’s language requiring the creation of a rating system for library books, however the new version delegates that task to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) instead of textbook vendors as initially filed.
The latest version includes amended liability language that states district and charter employees are not liable for any claim or damage resulting from the unintentional violation of the new regulations or if the violation was remedied after the district or charter became aware of the violation.
HB 900 advanced to the full Senate by a vote of 10-3, with Sens. Morgan LaMantia (D-South Padre Island), Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), and Royce West (D-Dallas) opposing. There was no opportunity for public testimony on the Senate’s committee substitute for HB 900 before it was put to a vote today.
The committee also voted to advance the following bills on which ATPE registered a position:
- HB 1211 by Rep. Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City), which would expand eligibility for school loan repayment to licensed specialists in school psychology (LSSP) and mental health professionals who are employed by a district or charter that receives Title I funding or is located in a mental health care professional shortage area. ATPE supported this bill.
- HB 4363 by Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin), which would create a Future Texas Teachers Scholarship Program. ATPE supported this bill.
- HB 2102 by Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), which would extend approval and notice for a new charter school campus from 18 months to 36 months before opening, granting charter holders additional flexibility without providing additional notice to other districts and charters that might share an overlapping attendance zone with the potential new campus. ATPE opposed this bill.
- HB 1905 by Rep. James Talarico (D-Pflugerville), which would allow a school district to make school safety training courses available at no cost, including active shooter training courses, to employees of accredited private schools or childcare facilities within the district. ATPE supported this bill.
- HB 1883 by Rep. Salman Bhojani (D-Euless), which would allow a district or charter to consider religious holy days in determining when to administer STAAR. ATPE supported this bill.
The committee heard testimony Thursday morning on HB 890 by Rep. Keith Bell (R-Forney), the House version of which would establish a process through which someone may file a complaint against a school district. ATPE supported the bill as passed by the House but revised its position to oppose HB 890 after Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) presented a committee substitute that significantly altered the bill.
The substitute included aspects of SB 595 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), SB 8 by Creighton, and SB 2565 by Creighton, among others, that significantly increase the administrative burdens on educators. It includes provisions from SB 8 regarding parental rights as well as a prohibition against vaccine mandates and “don’t say gay” language applicable to K-12 instruction. The substitute for HB 890 does not include the private school voucher language that is in SB 8. The Senate Education Committee voted to advance its version of HB 890 Thursday afternoon.
The committee also heard testimony on the following bills on Thursday’s agenda:
- HB 681 by K. Bell, which originally would have removed the expiration on the virtual school programs enabled by SB 15 in 2021. Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) presented a substitute that swapped out that language for the language from his SB 1861, which would significantly expand full-time virtual programs and end the moratorium on new programs. ATPE opposed this new version of the bill.
- HB 2162 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), which deals with reading instruction, assessment, and interventions for struggling readers. ATPE opposed this bill due to concerns over its expansion of state-mandated testing.
- HB 2273 by Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress), which would require adding political ideologies such as communism, socialism, fascism, and totalitarianism that conflict with American principles to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standards. The bill would require the use of first-person accounts. ATPE supported this bill on the grounds that it is largely in alignment with current TEKS.
- HB 3708 by Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Killeen), which would create an allotment under the Foundation School Program (FSP) for school districts that allow non-enrolled students to participate in UIL activities. ATPE supported this bill.
- HB 4656 by Rep. Kronda Thimesch (R-Lewisville), which would require the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to establish a one-year temporary educator certificate for educators certified by other states. The bill would require a bachelor's degree and a teaching certificate from that state and would give a military spouse up to three years or longer at SBEC's discretion. ATPE supported this bill.
- HB 1662 by Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne), which would shorten the window for a district to provide notice of a teacher vacancy to five days from 10. The bill would require a district to include compensation plans, leave conditions and procedures, and professional development requirements in its online posting of employment policies. The bill would ensure that a grievance based on this post must be considered timely. ATPE supported this bill.
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