/CMSApp/TTV/media/Blog/Texas-Legislature/Screenshot_2021-04-15-Senate-Committee-on-Education.png?ext=.png /CMSApp/TTV/media/Blog/Texas-Legislature/Screenshot_2021-04-15-Senate-Committee-on-Education.png?ext=.png

Texas Senate Education Committee hears virtual school voucher bill

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 4/15/2021

The Senate Education Committee met Thursday to discuss a virtual voucher that would expand full-time virtual schools in Texas.

Senate Bill (SB) 27 by Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) would create a statewide system of full-time virtual schools operated by school districts and charter chains. ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter testified in opposition to SB 27, pointing out the dangerous situation that would be created by the expansion of full-time virtual programs.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has repeatedly told legislators that remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in millions of Texas students falling behind – so much so that the commissioner told the State Board of Education (SBOE) on Wednesday that catching students back up to grade level will require a multi-year investment of state resources.

Yet proponents of full-time virtual programs would like to see those programs expand, regardless of the evidence yielded by the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the vast majority of students being served by full-time virtual programs in Texas were enrolled in one of two programs, each of which has a troublesome accountability record.

SB 27 would laudably create an accountability system for virtual curriculum providers, which is currently absent and sorely needed. Under the current landscape, it is difficult to track out-of-state companies that provide the curriculum virtual programs purchase and deliver to students. While ATPE appreciates this portion of the bill, it should be passed as standalone legislation and policymakers should be given time to evaluate the results.

The committee also heard testimony on the following bills:

  • SB 411 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), which would require charter schools to hold open meetings within the geographical area served by the school and broadcast the open meeting over the internet. ATPE supports this bill.
  • SB 741 by Sen Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), which specifies how school marshals may carried concealed handguns.
  • SB 1232 by Chairman Taylor, which would move management of the permanent school fund (PSF) from the SBOE to a new body made up of three SBOE appointees, one appointee from the General Land Office (GLO), and three gubernatorial appointees that are chosen from a list of individuals jointly nominated by the SBOE and GLO.
  • SB 2158 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), which would require the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to provide at-home fingerprinting and DNA kits for optional use by parents of elementary school students. Parents would be able to submit a child's info to law enforcement to facilitate finding missing kids.
  • SB 396 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), which would require each school health advisory committee (SHAC) to review school policies regarding the marketing of food products not offered through the school meal program and recommend policies for combating the health consequences related to marketing these foods as well as the extent to which that marketing should be allowed.
  • SB 776 by Sen. Lucio, which would require UIL to create an adaptive sports program for students with disabilities.
  • SB 2066 by Sen. Jose Menendez, which would change references to students of limited English proficiency in the code to emergent bilingual students.

The committee voted to advance the following bills:

  • CSSB 279 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen), which would require any student ID card issued to a student in grade seven or higher to include suicide prevention information. ATPE supports this bill. The bill was sent to the local and uncontested calendar.
  • CSSB 560 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), which would require the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to develop a strategic plan to improve and expand bilingual education. The bill aims to increase the number of educators certified in bilingual education instruction and the number of dual language immersion programs in public schools. ATPE supports this bill. The bill was placed on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • SB 746 by Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston), which would require parents to provide student contact info upon their child’s enrollment in school. Sens. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood and Angela Paxton (R-McKinney) voted against the bill.
  • SB 801 by Sen Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), which would require TEA to develop an agriculture education program for elementary school students. The bill was placed on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • SB 1095 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), which would require school districts to notify parents of career and technology education programs or work-based education programs, as well as subsidies based on financial need for AP or IB test fees. The bill was placed on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • SB 1191 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), which would specify that a police officer hired to cover an extracurricular activity or event is not considered a school resource officer. Sen. Bettencourt opposed the bill.


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