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Senate Passes HB 4 Pre-K Bill, SB 669 Opportunity School District Bill, and Others

05.07.2015 — The full Senate passed the following bills Wednesday-Thursday:

  • HB 4 by Dan Huberty (Gov. Greg Abbott’s pre-K bill) would provide at least $130 million, up to $1,500 per student, for pre-K programs in districts that meet certain requirements. The Senate passed floor amendments that: clarify that the bill was not intended as a mandate to districts to expand to full-day pre-K but rather to offer “high-quality” programs, full-day being optional; prohibit schools from using the Common Core State Standards; specify that the funding would be distributed as a grant program rather than through the funding formula (much discussion ensued over this point); ensure the program funding doesn’t exceed $130 million for the biennium; ensure all districts report data from the pre-K programs to the state; clarify that $1,500 is intended to be allotted per student, regardless of whether the student is enrolled part time or full time; address district concerns about cost of retroactive CDA certificates for pre-K teachers; and encourage districts to maintain a recommended student-to-teacher/aide ratio of 11-to-1. HB 4 now goes back to the House. If the House concurs with the Senate’s changes, the bill will go to the governor for signature. If the House does not concur with the Senate amendments, both the House and Senate must designate representatives for a conference committee that will determine final details of the bill.
  • SB 669 by Royce West would establish the Texas Opportunity School District (TOSD), allowing the commissioner of education to put campuses that have been rated low performing for two consecutive years in the TOSD managed by a commissioner-appointed superintendent, who could contract with private companies to run the schools. It passed 20 to 11 with amendments from the floor that: allow the TOSD to contract with a school district (not just a charter school); apply open government laws to any managing entity; give the commissioner the ability to order repurposing or alternative management in addition to reconstitution or TOSD; strike language that would have allowed the commissioner discretion in considering performance for 2016-17 and preceding years; strike language that said only eligible students could attend a TOSD campus; clarify that each campus would operate “under the jurisdiction of” TOSD; and specifies that campus employees not retained by the TOSD have the right to employment within their former school districts. (CSHB 1536, which would also establish the Texas Opportunity School District but is not identical to SB 669, passed out of the House Public Education Committee on May 5 and is also headed to the House floor.)

  • SB 968 by Royce West would require the SBOE to adopt TEKS for the health curriculum that address the dangers, causes, consequences, signs, symptoms, and treatment of nonmedical use of prescription drugs. SB 968 is identical to HB 1820.

  • SB 996 by Van Taylor would require a school district or open-enrollment charter school to provide a parent or guardian written notice indicating whether any school employee is currently appointed a school marshal if the parent or guardian inquires in writing. The notice could not disclose confidential information. The bill would also make confidential all information, not just identifying information, about those who train for appointment as school marshals. SB 996 is identical to HB 370.
  • SB 1896 by Larry Taylor would require TEA to develop or contract for the development of interactive electronic tutorials that provide a comprehensive review for each EOC assessment instrument. TEA would make the tutorials available to public school students through the state virtual school network no later than the 2016-17 school year. A student could not be charged a fee for access to a tutorial or materials used in conjunction with a tutorial. SB 1896 is identical to HB 1802.

These bills now go to the House.