Senate committee advances bill restricting voter oversight of charter schools
Texas Legislature TEA | Commissioner | SBOE Deregulation | Charter Schools
Date Posted: 3/31/2021 | Author: Mark Wiggins
The Senate Committee on Education met briefly Wednesday, March 31, to vote on several pending bills.
The committee voted to approve an updated version of Senate Bill (SB) 28 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), which ATPE opposed when it was heard by the committee last Thursday, March 25. As we previously reported here on Teach the Vote, SB 28 would reduce voter oversight of the approval of new charter school chains.
Today Sen. Bettencourt introduced a new committee substitute version of his original bill for the committee’s approval. The committee substitute would preserve the State Board of Education’s (SBOE) ability to veto new charter applicants, but it would increase the current veto threshold of a simple majority to a 10-member supermajority. The substitute would also place explicit guidelines around the circumstances under which the SBOE’s veto may be exercised, further limiting the board’s authority.
Sen. Bettencourt represented that the changes to his bill were made in consultation with members of the SBOE, but he acknowledged under questioning from Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) that the board members had not actually agreed to the substitute version. In fact, SBOE members sent a memo to committee members Wednesday morning vigorously opposing the change to require a supermajority for a veto of a charter application.
The bill now heads to the full chamber, where it must receive support from at least 18 of the Senate’s 31 members in order to be brought to the floor for a vote.
The committee passed SB 28 on a vote of 6-3 with Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and Sens. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), Bettencourt, Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), and Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) voting for the bill. Sens. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), Beverly Powell (D-Burleson), and West voted against the measure. Sens. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) were absent for the vote.
The Senate Education Committee also voted to advance the following bills:
- SB 89 (committee substitute) by Sen. Menendez, aimed at addressing individualized education programs (IEP) that were disrupted during the pandemic.
- SB 203 by Sen. Schwertner, which would detail requirements for institutions of higher education and other entities seeking to host UIL events.
- SB 226 (committee substitute) by Sen. Paxton, which would require instruction in virtual learning and virtual instruction in order to obtain a teaching certificate. The virtual learning portion of the educator preparation program curriculum would have to cover both synchronous and asynchronous virtual instruction.,/li>
- SB 289 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) to allow a school district to excuse a student’s absence in order to obtain their driver's license.
- SB 481 (committee substitute) by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), which would entitle a student enrolled in a district that offers only virtual instruction for any part of the school year to transfer to another school district that offers in-person instruction.>
These five bills passed unanimously and were recommended for placement on the Senate’s local calendar for uncontested bills. The committee is not scheduled to meet again this week, and the Senate will not be in session on Friday in observance of the Easter holiday.
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