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Texas House Public Education Committee hearing, March 30, 2021

Texas House Public Education Committee hears virtual education bills, votes on school finance clean-up and more

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

School Finance Texas Legislature Curriculum | Instruction Privatization | Vouchers Testing | Accountability

Date Posted: 3/31/2021 | Author: Andrea Chevalier

The Texas House Public Education Committee met Tuesday, March 30,to hear new bills, including several pertaining to virtual education. Student testing and accountability were also major topics of discussion in the fourth substantive hearing on bills the committee has held this session. The committee also took votes Tuesday night on some pending legislation, including a high-profile school finance bill.

ATPE opposed several of the bills regarding virtual education heard by the committee today:

  • House Bill (HB) 538 by Patterson (R-Frisco) would allow new full-time virtual education programs in Texas. Existing full-time virtual programs have performed worse than brick-and-mortar public schools, which is why ATPE opposes the expansion of this educational model without further study.
  • HB 1468 by Bell, K. (R-Forney) would codify the pandemic-related ability of school districts to offer virtual instruction to students. The bill would allow school districts to partner together in offering virtual instruction and allow districts to determine which students could access the virtual option and the standards for the student to remain in the virtual option. ATPE opposes this bill because it treats virtual instruction as an entitlement, fails to delineate quality standards, and expands an unproven educational option without any intent to study its effects. For more information, read ATPE’s joint testimony submitted with the three other statewide teacher groups about this bill.
  • HB 3528 by Sanford (R-McKinney) would extend Texas Virtual School Network courses into grades K-2. ATPE opposes this based on evidence that younger students have an even greater need in-person instruction.
ATPE testified in support of HB 3643 by King, K. (R-Hemphill), which instead of expanding virtual schools would create a “Texas Commission on Virtual Education” to study and make recommendations for virtual education, including instructional delivery and funding. As outlined in ATPE’s written testimony, ATPE has recommended that the commission include more educators, representing both elementary and secondary school expertise.

ATPE submitted written testimony on two bills heard today that relate to ATPE’s legislative priority regarding student testing and school accountability:
  • ATPE testified in support of HB 2344 by Zwiener (D-Dripping Springs), which would enable a portfolio assessment method for state-required writing assessments and require the Commissioner of Education to adopt rules allowing teachers to grade the writing portfolios of students at their campus. Portfolio assessment is better-suited to accurately reflecting the writing ability of students, reduces the high-stakes nature and stress associated with a standardized assessment by spacing out writing assessments throughout the year, and allows teachers who grade the assessments to better understand student performance and adjust instruction accordingly. Read ATPE’s written testimony in support of the bill here.
  • ATPE opposed HB 3731 by Dutton (D-Houston), which would make several changes to the state’s “A through F” accountability rating system for schools, including treating D-rated schools as failing in some instances. ATPE opposes this bill because it creates further instability in the rating system without providing any greater effectiveness in identifying why certain schools are struggling and providing resources to those schools. For more information, read ATPE’s written testimony against the bill.
Other bills heard by the House Public Education Committee today included the following:
  • HB 256 by Cortez (D-San Antonio) would require school districts to address workplace bullying, including the bullying of teachers by parents. ATPE supports the bill.
  • HB 332 by Talarico (D-Round Rock) is an ATPE-supported bill that would allow compensatory education funds to be used for social and emotional learning programs.
  • HB 437 by Goodwin (D-Austin) would include a half-credit in personal financial literacy in the required courses for graduation, while lowering the required electives by one-half credit to maintain a net-zero change in requirements.
  • HB 1068 by Allen (D-Houston) is an ATPE-supported bill that would allow school district employees to use their personal leave for compensation on days designated as school holidays.
  • HB 1133 by Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) would allow Rusk County to order an election to revoke its county equalization tax.
  • HB 1496 by VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would require districts to document management fees paid by or to the district regarding purchasing contracts or programs.
  • HB 2230 by Bucy (D-Cedar Park) is an ATPE-supported bill calling for a study on incorporating fine arts into the foundation curriculum for public schools.
  • HB 2605 by Rosenthal (D-Houston) would build upon prior work of the Legislature to address the risk of cardiac arrest in students. The bill aims to increase awareness and education of students, parents, and coaches.
  • 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 requiring an interlocal contract, as is required by current law.
  • HB 3204 by Dutton (D-Houston) would change the definition of career readiness to include students who are employed at or above a minimum salary level established by the education commissioner. It would also let school districts use a portion of their College and Career Readiness Outcomes Bonus to pay students who voluntarily report their employment and salary information to the district.
  • HB 3270 by Dutton (D-Houston) is a bill aimed at the ongoing legal battle between Houston ISD and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) stemming from low accountability ratings at a campus in the district. ATPE opposes this bill because it bases statewide policy on a single district, which could create unintended consequences for other school districts. Additionally, the bill gives the education commissioner increased power to take over school districts, which is an unproven method for improving performance that runs contrary to efforts to infuse struggling schools with resources. The bill garnered over an hour of testimony about the situation in Houston ISD, whether state takeovers provide enough accountability and due process, and whether state takeovers improve low-performing districts.
  • HB 3346 by Meza (D-Irving) would add an indicator to the “Student Achievement” domain of the accountability system that is based on non-assessment-based standards, as set by the education commissioner. The indicator would be equally weighted with the existing indicator that uses student performance on standardized assessments.
  • HB 3557 by King, K. (R-Hemphill) would create an option for parents to let their child repeat grades PK-8 or high school courses certain requirements and procedures, including the input of a “retention committee” that involves the child’s teachers.
  • HB 3591 by Jetton (R-Richmond) would require TEA to establish a grant program for districts to provide high-speed internet, infrastructure, and devices.
Pending bills:

The committee also voted to approve several bills that were previously heard, recommending them for consideration by the full House:
  • HB 129 by González (D-Clint) is an ATPE-supported bill that would implement a digital citizenship curriculum for middle school students.
  • HB 353 by Dutton (D-Houston) is another ATPE-supported bill to disaggregate accountability data by sex in addition to race/ethnic group.
  • HB 363 by VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would create student data security protocols for certain vendors working with TEA. 
  • HB 999 by Bernal (D-San Antonio) is an ATPE-supported bill that would allow Individual Graduation Committees to graduate seniors impacted by the pandemic in 2020-2021, 2021-2022, and 2022-2023 without considering their end-of-course exams. Bernal stated that he would likely reduce the school years included in the bill when it is considered on the House floor.
  • HB 1525 by Huberty (R-Kingwood) is the “clean-up” bill to last session’s omnibus school finance bill, HB 3 (2019). The committee voted to approve a substitute version of the bill that contains several changes. ATPE is pleased to see that the committee substitute includes an extension of the reading academies deadline to “not later than the 2023-2024 school year” and an exception for teachers who have already passed the Science of Teaching Reading exam. Some of the other changes in the bill include expanding the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) to cover some non-certified professionals, as well as teachers at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Texas School for the Deaf. CSHB 1525 also corrects unintended negative consequences to career and technical education funding for small and midsized districts, and it removes TIA funding in recapture calculations. Huberty explained that HB 1525 has a cost of $330 million and said he was working with budget-writers on the bill.
  • HB 2120 by Bell, K. (R-Forney) is an ATPE-supported bill to require school boards to adopt a grievance policy for employees, parents and students, and the public, including a 120-day deadline for resolution.
  • HB 2261 by Wu (D-Houston) would allow a municipal management district to include public education facilities as part of the improvement projects or services they can provide.
  • HB 2287 by Thompson, S. (D-Houston) would build upon the Collaborative Task Force on Public School Mental Health Services created last session by creating a protocol for data sharing and collection between the task force, TEA, and school districts. The committee substitute approved today removes the cost from the bill.
  • HB 2519 by Darby (R-San Angelo) is an ATPE-supported bill that would include rural educators on the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and improve laws regarding educator contracts. The bill would shorten the “no-penalty” resignation deadline for educators from 45 to 30 days before the first day of instruction, along with other changes to increase educators’ awareness of disciplinary actions being taken against them and their ability to respond to allegations. The bill would also enable SBEC to consider other factors in contract abandonment cases.
  • HB 2557 by Rogers (R-Graford) would create a school security volunteer program enabling retired law enforcement and military veterans to provide security services to schools and carry a handgun at school. The committee substitute for the bill limits its impact to counties with a population of 150,000 or less and adds a background check for participating volunteers.
  • HB 2954 by Thompson, S. (D-Houston) is an ATPE-supported bill calling for a suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention program for optional implementation in elementary schools. The committee substitute approved today makes the bill permissive, allowing rather than requiring TEA to establish the program.
All of the bills were approved with a vote of 12 ayes to 0 nays (with Rep. González absent), except for HB 2557, which was voted with 9 ayes, 2 nays (Meza, Talarico), and 1 member “present not voting” (Bernal).

We expect the House Public Education Committee to meet again next Tuesday, April 6. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates. ATPE members are also encouraged to visit Advocacy Central to follow the progress of bills and send messages to their lawmakers about legislation of interest or concern.


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