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Texas House Public Education Committee approves first Senate bills at May 3 meeting

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Texas Legislature Educator Rights Curriculum | Instruction TEA | Commissioner | SBOE

Date Posted: 5/04/2021 | Author: Andrea Chevalier

The Texas House Public Education Committee voted to advance several bills at a formal meeting Monday, May 3, including its first Senate bills of the session.

ATPE opposes one bill that was approved by the committee yesterday. The Committee Substitute (CS) for House Bill (HB) 3979 by Toth (R-Conroe) would circumvent the established State Board of Education (SBOE) process for determining curriculum standards, while also dictating teachers’ pedagogical practices. Neither of these is under the purview of the Legislature.

The bill mandates that SBOE change the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies, government, civics, and related courses to prevent teachers from discussing “current events” or public policy issues that are “widely debated.” HB 3979 also makes changes that could effectively eliminate the use of any private funding for certain instructional materials, training, and technology. Read ATPE’s written testimony against the bill here.
HB 3979 had originally been set on the calendar for full House debate May 4, but the bill was sent back to the committee due to a procedural error associated with the bill. Following yesterday’s committee vote, if the bill makes it onto a House calendar again, HB 3979 could be up for a floor debate by the full House soon. The Senate has already passed a companion version of the bill.

House Committee Vote on HB 3979: 8 Ayes (Dutton, Allison, Bell, K., Buckley, Huberty, Lozano, King, K., VanDeaver), 4 Nays (Allen, Bernal, González, Talarico), 1 Absent (Meza)

ATPE supports the following bills that also received a nod of approval from the committee at its May 3 meeting:

  • HB 24 by Dominguez (D-Brownsville) is an ATPE-supported bill that would provide additional funding for school districts to build an inclusive and accessible playground for students.
  • HB 204 by Thierry (D-Houston) is an ATPE-supported bill that would require school districts and charter schools to provide a landline telephone or “panic button” in every classroom. The committee substitute for the bill eliminates the landline requirement, clarifies that districts can use school safety allotment funds to implement the panic button technology, and provides an opt-out for districts.
  • HB 1417 by Harless (R-Spring) is an ATPE-supported bill that would require campus improvement plans to include plans to address bullying and dropout deterrence, plus teacher training and parent resources on positive relationships with students.

The following bills were also advanced by the committee Monday:

  • HB 4023 by Martinez (D-Weslaco) would create a pilot program employing life skills counselors in a single county.
  • House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 85 by Talarico (D-Round Rock) would designate the first Friday in May as “Career and Technical Education Letter of Intent Signing Day” for a 10-year period starting in 2021.
  • Senate Bill (SB) 203 by Schwertner (R-Georgetown) would change how sites are selected for University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions.
  • SB 289 by Seliger (R-Amarillo) would allow a school district to excuse a student’s absence to obtain their driver’s license.
  • SB 338 by Powell (D-Burleson) would allow a school district to adopt uniform general conditions for all its building construction contracts and add school administrator and school board member representation to the committee that reviews uniform general conditions.
  • SB 481 by Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) would entitle a student who is 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, also without being charged tuition.

Finally, the committee approved the following Senate bills that have been referred to the House Public Education committee and have identical companion House bills that the committee already heard:

  • SB 89 by Menéndez (D-San Antonio)/companion HB 144 by González (D-Clint) would create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) supplement to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and other disruptions to student learning. 
  • SB 204 by Schwertner (R-Georgetown)/companion HB 3129 by Huberty (R-Kingwood) would allow a county or school district to operate a school transportation system for students who live outside their boundary, rather than implementing an interlocal contract as required by current law.
  • SB 1615 by Bettencourt (R-Houston)/companion HB 1942 by VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would allow the expansion of adult high school diploma and industry certification programs in charter schools.
  • SB 1776 by Campbell (R-New Braunfels)/companion HB 1776 by Bell, K. (R-Forney) would require high schools to provide an elective course on the founding principles of the United States and allow public posting of the Declaration of Independence and other American founding documents in school buildings.
The House Public Education Committee is meeting again Tuesday, May 4, to hear a couple of House bills and several Senate bills. The committee is expected to take additional votes on other pending bills. Watch for a separate post about Tuesday’s hearing later on our Teach the Vote blog.

As always, ATPE members are encouraged to visit Advocacy Central to follow the progress of bills and send messages to their lawmakers about bills of interest or concern.


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