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Texas House committee approves controversial bills on school takeovers, virtual learning, and more

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Texas Legislature COVID-19 Curriculum | Instruction TEA | Commissioner | SBOE Testing | Accountability

Date Posted: 4/07/2021 | Author: Andrea Chevalier

The Texas House Public Education Committee held a formal meeting Wednesday, April 7, to vote on several pending bills. The bills approved by the committee included two virtual education bills and one controversial bill relating to the state’s right to take over a school district. All the committee votes listed in this post were unanimous unless otherwise stated.

ATPE opposes the following bills that were approved by the committee today:

  • 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. Vote: 12 Ayes (Allison, Bell, Bernal, Buckley, Dutton, Gonzalez, Huberty, King, Lozano, Meza, Talarico, VanDeaver), 1 Nay (Allen)
  • 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. Read ATPE’s one-pager opposing the bill here. Vote: 7 Ayes (Bell, Buckley, Dutton, Huberty, King, Lozano, VanDeaver), 6 Nays (Allen, Allison, Bernal, Gonzalez, Meza, Talarico)
Although ATPE is disappointed that the committee voted to advance HB 1468 despite our concerns about the bill, we are pleased that the committee voted in favor of another virtual learning-related bill that ATPE has been supporting, HB 3643 by King, K. (R-Hemphill). Instead of expanding virtual schools, HB 3643 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 in support of the bill, ATPE has recommended that the commission include more educators, representing both elementary and secondary school expertise. Vote: 12 Ayes (Allison, Bell, Bernal, Buckley, Dutton, Gonzalez, Huberty, King, Lozano, Meza, Talarico, VanDeaver), 1 Nay (Allen)

These are the other bills approved by the House Public Education Committee today:
  • HB 256 by Cortez (D-San Antonio) is another ATPE-supported bill that would require school districts to address workplace bullying, including the bullying of teachers by parents.
  • HB 332 by Talarico (D-Round Rock) would allow compensatory education funds to be used for social and emotional learning programs. ATPE supports the bill.
  • HB 1068 by Allen (D-Houston) would allow school district employees to use their personal leave for compensation on days designated as school holidays. ATPE supports the bill.
  • 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 school districts to document management fees paid by or to the district regarding purchasing contracts or programs.
  • 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. Vote: 7 Ayes (Bell, Buckley, Dutton, Huberty, Lozano, Talarico, VanDeaver), 6 Nays (Allen, Allison, Bernal, Gonzalez, King, Meza)
  • 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-related 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 with certain requirements and procedures, including the input of a “retention committee” that involves the child’s teachers.
We expect the House Public Education Committee to meet again next Tuesday, April 13. 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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