Texas House Public Education Committee sides with ATPE on charter school bill
School Finance Educator Preparation | Certification Texas Legislature Deregulation | Charter Schools School Safety
Date Posted: 5/11/2021 | Author: Andrea Chevalier
Last week, the Texas House Public Education Committee announced it would no longer hold public hearings on bills but would instead hold formal meetings to vote on any bills referred to the committee. Under the House rules of the 87th Legislature, there is no requirement for the committee to hold public hearings and take testimony on bills.
The deadline has passed for the committee to vote on House bills, so the representatives are turning their attention to Senate bills that have come over from the upper chamber. The committee voted to advance several bills at a formal meeting held earlier today, Tuesday, May 11, including some Senate bills that have not been heard in a House public hearing.
One major bill that ATPE opposes was unable to make it out of the committee today and left pending after it failed to garner enough support. Senate Bill (SB) 28 by Bettencourt (R-Houston) would arbitrarily weaken taxpayer oversight and public accountability for charter schools, even though they are publicly funded. Although the proposed committee substitute for the bill eliminated its provision that would require a supermajority of SBOE members for a charter veto, the bill still limits the discretion of the elected body in making determinations about new charter applications. Furthermore, the bill would not address the lack of taxpayer oversight over the main mode of charter expansion, which is through expansion amendments approved solely by the Commissioner of Education. Read ATPE’s written testimony opposing the committee substitute to SB 28 here. Though the bill failed to receive enough votes for approval by the committee, Chairman Dutton moved that SB 28 be left pending in the committee, which means the bill is not yet dead and could be voted on again. Vote: 3 Ayes (Dutton, Allison, Huberty), 5 Nays (Allen, Bell, K., Bernal, González, King, K.), All others absent.
ATPE supports the following bills that received a nod of approval from the House Public Education committee at its May 11 meeting:
- SB 168 by Blanco (D-El Paso) would require districts and charter schools to adopt a policy on active shooter drills before conducting one. Each policy must prohibit realistic simulations and surprise simulations. The bill was advanced in lieu of the House companion bill, HB 1016 by Ordaz Perez, which the committee heard April 13.
- SB 462 by Lucio (D-Brownsville) would allow a school district to use its transportation allotment funds for delivering food and instructional materials to a student’s home.
- SB 560 by Lucio would require a strategic plan to improve and expand bilingual education, including increasing the number of educators certified in bilingual education instruction and the number of dual language immersion/one-way and two-way program models used in public schools. The House companion for the bill is HB 2258 by Guerra, which the committee already voted to advance during its April 23 meeting.
- SB 1590 by Bettencourt, as amended on the Senate floor, would require the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to establish rules allowing either a hybrid approach to provide certification candidates with two in-person and two virtual observations, OR three in-person observations. ATPE only supports the bill as amended by the Senate; we opposed SB 1590 as originally filed because it would allow educator preparation programs to perform all observations virtually, which could inhibit the rigor of programs and resulting educator quality. The House companion for the bill is HB 3989 by VanDeaver, a bill that has not received a hearing by the House committee. Vote: 9 Ayes (Allison, Bell, K., Bernal, Buckley, Huberty, King, K., Talarico, VanDeaver, Dutton), 2 Nays (Allen, Gonzalez).
The following bills were also advanced by the committee today:
- SB 226 by Paxton (R-McKinney) would require instruction in virtual learning and to obtain a teaching certificate.
- SB 1063 by Alvarado (D-Houston) would allow students to take a hybrid personal financial literacy and economics course to satisfy the economics credit required for graduation.
- SB 1522 by Taylor (R-Friendswood) would limit the education commissioner’s ability to adjust a district's average daily attendance (ADA) based on a calamity to one year beyond the semester in which the calamity first occurred.
- SB 1356 by Hughes (R-Mineola) would allow the creation of a tutor program to match active and retired teachers with students who request tutoring services.
- SB 746 by Miles (D-Houston) would require parents to provide student contact info upon their child’s enrollment in school.
- SB 1436 by Bettencourt would allow eligible property owners to join school districts in litigating property value studies.
- SB 1831 by Taylor would establish “no trafficking zones” on school grounds, surrounding areas, and at school-related events and would increase penalties for trafficking offenses that occur in these designated areas.
In addition to SB 28, here are a few other bills considered by the House Public Education Committee today that failed to receive approval:
- SB 347 by Paxton would subject school health advisory committee (SHAC) meetings to the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act. The bill was left pending. Vote: 5 Ayes (Allison, Bell, K., Huberty, King, K., VanDeaver), 4 Nays (Allen, Bernal, Dutton, González), all others absent.
- SB 1696 by Paxton would order the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to coordinate the anonymous sharing of information concerning cyber-attacks or other cybersecurity incidents between public and private schools. A substitute for the bill offered today removed the requirement that charter schools designate a cybersecurity officer. The bill was left pending. Vote: 2 Ayes (Bell, K., Buckley), 8 Nays (Allen, Allison, Bernal, González, Huberty, King, K., Talarico, VanDeaver), 1 Present-not-voting (Dutton).
- SB 797 by Hughes would require schools and institutions of higher education to openly display a durable poster or framed copy of the national motto “In God We Trust” if the item is donated or purchased using private donations and meets certain requirements. Vote: 6 Ayes (Allison, Bell, K., Buckley, Huberty, King, K., VanDeaver), 1 Nay (Dutton), 4 Present-not-voting (Allen, Bernal, González, Talarico). Although SB 797 did not garner enough support to advance out of the committee today, we note that similar bill language was amended onto SB 1776, which the full House approved on second reading Monday, May 10.
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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