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Senate Education Committee meeting, April 13, 2021

Senate Education Committee hears bills on educator preparation, bilingual education, and more

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Teach the Vote

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Date Posted: 4/13/2021 | Author: Mark Wiggins

The Texas Senate Education Committee met Tuesday morning, April 13, to hear testimony on another round of bills, including one that would allow virtual observations to replace in-person observations currently required of educator preparation program (EPP) candidates. Senate Bill (SB) 1590 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) would require the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to propose rules providing options for candidate observations to occur in virtual settings that are “equivalent in rigor to in-person options for observation.” ATPE submitted written testimony opposing SB 1590.

Academic research has long shown that in-person observation provides more high-quality feedback and improves rigor in the educator preparation process. For that reason, ATPE has advocated that observations should be required to be conducted in-person to the greatest practicable extent. Any exceptions should address a specific need and be limited in both scope and time.

In response to the temporary transition to remote learning necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, SBEC allowed for virtual observations to take the place of traditional, in-person observations during the 2020-21 academic year. This specific, time-limited exemption was an appropriate response to conditions that rendered in-person observations temporarily unsafe or not allowed because of restrictions on in-person gatherings. This exemption is no longer needed after the return to in-person learning.

Unlike a temporary exemption, SB 1590 would make virtual observations a permanent alternative. Without limits around the circumstances under which virtual observations may be substituted for in-person observations, there is nothing to prevent an educator preparation program (EPP) from conducting all the required field-based observations virtually. Many programs could be expected to make such a transition, even if for no other reason than to reduce costs.

SB 1590 would reduce rigor and leave educator candidates less prepared to deliver critical instructional content to students in an in-person classroom environment. ATPE believes this would be a disservice both to future educators and their eventual students.

The committee also heard testimony on the following bills:

  • SB 272 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), which would require each school board to appoint a student trustee.
  • SB 279 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen), which would require any student ID card issued to a student in grade seven or higher to include suicide prevention information. ATPE supports this bill.
  • SB 560 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), which would require the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to develop a strategic plan to improve and expand bilingual education. The bill aims to increase the number of educators certified in bilingual education instruction and the number of dual language immersion programs in public schools. ATPE supports this bill.
  • SB 746 by Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston), which would require parents to provide student contact info upon their child’s enrollment in school.
  • SB 801 by Sen Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), which would require TEA to develop an agriculture education program for elementary school students.
  • SB 1095 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), which would require school districts to notify parents of career and technology education programs or work-based education programs, as well as subsidies based on financial need for AP or IB test fees.
  • SB 1191 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), which would specify that a police officer hired to cover an extracurricular activity or event is not considered a school resource officer.
  • SB 2105 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), which would allow a school district to appoint an educational representative for a student who is disabled and unable to provide informed consent for the student's IEP. The professional must be a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, or clinical psychologist and may not be a district employee.

The Senate Education Committee also voted Tuesday to approve the following bills and send them to the full Senate:

  • SB 369 (committee substitute) by Sen. Kolkhorst, which would allow a parent to opt their child out of the requirement to fill out a free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) in order to graduate.
  • SB 462 (committee substitute) by Sen. Lucio, which would allow transportation allotment funds to be used to deliver food and instructional materials to students. The pandemic saw many districts utilize school vehicles, including buses, to deliver these items to students learning from home. ATPE supports this bill.
  • SB 785 by Sen. Creighton (R-Conroe), which would standardize the expiration date of school marshal licenses. This bill was recommended for placement on the Senate’s local and uncontested calendar.
  • SB 1063 by Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), which would allow a student to take a course in personal financial literacy and economics in lieu of the existing economics course required for graduation.
  • SB 1267 (committee substitute) by Sen. West (D-Dallas), which among other things would eliminate some duplicative training requirements in state law. The bill is the result of a collaborate working group involving ATPE and other stakeholders that met over the interim. ATPE supports this bill. Sen. West said he will offer a floor substitute intended to address concerns raised by disability rights organizations. Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) supported the bill, saying he will work with West to ensure the final version does not water down suicide prevention language in the law.
  • SB 1356 (committee substitute) by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), which would allow the creation of a tutor program to match retired teachers with students who request tutoring services. The bill was recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • SB 1522 by Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), which would set limits on the education commissioner’s ability to “hold harmless” school district funding during a calamity. This bill was recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • SB 1615 (committee substitute) by Sen. Bettencourt, which would allow adult charter schools, notably the Goodwill Excel school, to expand to a maximum of six campuses.
  • SB 1696 by Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), which would order TEA to coordinate the anonymous sharing of information concerning cybersecurity between public and private schools.
  • SB 1697 by Sen. Paxton, which would allow a parent or guardian to elect to have their child repeat a grade or course. This bill was recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first of two scheduled for this week. The Senate Education Committee will meet again Thursday, when it will consider bills including the lieutenant governor’s priority bill to permanently expand full-time virtual education, SB 27 by Sen. Taylor.


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