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Senate Education Committee meeting, May 18, 2021

Senate committee advances UIL homeschool bill

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

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Date Posted: 5/18/2021 | Author: Mark Wiggins

The Senate Education Committee quickly voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would allow homeschool students to participate in University Interscholastic League (UIL) activities.

The committee approved the committee substitute for House Bill HB 547 by Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls) in lieu of Senate Bill (SB) 491 by Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), which would grant homeschooled students the ability to participate in UIL activities. SB 491 would create vast inequities in school competitions by allowing homeschooled students to skirt no-pass, no play rules. ATPE submitted testimony in opposition to SB 491, explaining that the lack of limitations on practice hours, insufficient academic oversight, and ability of home-school students and districts to shop each other for the purposes of competition would undercut longstanding UIL rules meant to establish a level playing field for student competitors.

Sen. Paxton presented a committee substitute that replaced the version of SB 547 as it left House, striking amendments adopted on the House floor that would have allowed students in the state juvenile justice program to participate, as well as an amendment that would have allowed coaches to review students’ grades.

The committee passed the bill on a vote of 8-3, with Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and Sens. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Paxton, Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), and Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) voting for the bill. Sens. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), Beverly Powell (R-Burleson), and Royce West (D-Dallas) agreed with ATPE and voted against the bill.

The committee also passed the following bills that were heard during a previous meeting:

  • HB 1788 by Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mount Pleasant) in lieu of its companion SB 534 by Sen. Hughes, which would provide immunity for any reasonable action taken by a school peace officer, school marshal, etc. in the use of a firearm. The bill advanced on a vote of 7-4, with all Republican members supporting the bill and all Democrats opposing.
  • HB 2120 by Rep. Keith Bell (R-Forney), which would require that school boards adopt a grievance policy for employees, parents, students, and the public. ATPE supports this bill, which was passed unanimously and recommended for placement on the Senate’s local and uncontested calendar.

The committee heard testimony on another round of House bills, including bills relating to teacher sanctions and the creation of a commission to study virtual schools. House Bill (HB) 3643 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) is an ATPE-supported bill that would create a Texas Commission on Virtual Education. The commission would be required to study the effects of virtual education, including remote learning conducted during the pandemic, and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding the potential for expansion. ATPE believes this is a much more reasonable approach to the topic of virtual schools than arbitrary and unchecked expansion. An honest assessment of the track record of full-time virtual programs in Texas should confirm what ATPE has long warned, that a virtual setting is a poor substitute for a brick-and-mortar classroom environment for most students.

As written, HB 3643 would only require one educator to serve on the 13-member commission. ATPE submitted testimony in support of the bill with the recommendation that the number of professional educators on the commission be expanded and include educators from both the elementary and secondary levels. The bill was voted out unanimously and recommended for placement on the Senate’s regular calendar.

Another ATPE-supported bill, HB 2519 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), would require the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to promptly notify an educator by certified mail if their certificate is suspended and include the basis of the suspension as well as the method in which the teacher may respond to the suspension.

The bill would also require a school district to promptly notify an educator if the district submits a complaint to SBEC, including the basis of the complaint, information regarding how the educator may contact SBEC, and a reminder that the educator should verify their mailing address is up to date with SBEC. The bill would further require SBEC to consider mitigating factors and consider alternatives to sanctions before imposing sanctions against an educator.

The committee also heard testimony on the following bills:

  • HB 750 by Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne), which would require school districts to post on their website the employment policy adopted by their board and the text of any regulations or forms referenced in the policy. ATPE supports this bill, which was voted out unanimously and recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • HB 999 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), an ATPE-supported bill that would allow seniors graduating this school year and the next school year to utilize individual graduation committees (IGCs) irrespective of their STAAR results.
  • HB 1068 by Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston), which would allow school district employees to use their personal leave for compensation on days designated as school holidays. ATPE supports this bill.
  • HB 1461 by Rep. Tan Parker (R- Flower Mound), which would require the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Texas to study using health reimbursement accounts in conjunction with Medicare plans available through the individual marketplace to provide health and pharmacy benefit coverage for certain retired school employees. The bill was voted out unanimously and recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • HB 2497 by Rep. Parker, which would create a committee to promote Texas history. The bill would require the committee to design a pamphlet for the Texas Department of Public Safety to distribute along with newly issued driver’s licenses.
  • CSHB 3261 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble), which is a cleanup bill for last session’s bill that made several reforms to student assessment. The bill would open up the instructional materials and technology allotment to purchase services, equipment, and technology infrastructure necessary to ensure internet connectivity and for training personnel in the electronic administration of assessment instruments. It includes a matching grant program for those purposes. The bill would also require all assessment instruments to be administered electronically unless the commissioner waives that requirement. The bill was voted out unanimously and recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • HB 3449 by Rep. Four Price (R- Amarillo), which would allow districts to include certain licensed medical professionals on their concussion oversight team. It would include physical therapists in the list of people who can determine that a child had a concussion and needs to be removed from practice or competition. The bill was voted out unanimously and recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • HB 3489 by Rep. Parker, which would require the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to develop and distribute health and safety guidelines for the use of digital devices in schools. The bill was voted out unanimously and recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • HB 3932 by Rep. Bernal, which would create a state advisory council on educational opportunities for military children. It would provide for coordination among state agencies, school districts, and military installations concerning the state's participation with the interstate compact. The bill was voted out unanimously and recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
In response to a question from Sen. West, Chairman Taylor indicated that there will be at least one more committee hearing on Thursday to consider testimony on other House bills that have been referred to the Senate.


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