Return to Headlines

Tuesday, April 14, Was a Full Day of Education Discussions at the Capitol

04.14.2015 — SB 4, the main voucher bill, was not heard on the Senate floor Tuesday as expected, but the Senate passed its two-year, $211.4 billion budget, and many other education-related bills were discussed in both chambers' education committees.

The Senate Education Committee passed the following bills that were first discussed earlier this month:

  • SB 69 by Rodney Ellis, et al. – would require a public school, including an open-enrollment charter school, that does not have a full-time nurse or the equivalent of a full-time nurse assigned to be present on the campus for more than 30 consecutive instructional days during the same school year to provide written notice of the absence of a nurse to a parent or another person standing in parental relation to each student enrolled in the school.
  • SB 265 by Ellis – would allow a student to possess and use topical sunscreen while on school property or at a school-related event or activity to avoid overexposure to the sun and not for the medical treatment of an injury or illness if the FDA has approved product for over-the-counter use.
  • SB 810 by Kel Seliger – would allow an ISD and a municipality, located wholly or partially in the boundaries of a county in which the district is located, to contract for the district to contribute district resources to pay a portion of the costs of the design, improvement, or construction of an instructional facility, stadium, or other athletic facility owned by, on the property of, or under the control of the municipality. A district may contribute district resources under this subsection only if the district and municipality enter into a written agreement authorizing the district to use that facility.
  • SB 925, SB 934 by Lois Kolkhorst – would require the commissioner of education to develop and make available literacy and mathematics achievement academies for teachers who instruct students in kindergarten or first, second, or third grades. (Committee substitutes passed)
  • SB 935 by Kolkhorst – would require the commissioner of education to establish and make available reading excellence teams to school campuses rated academically unacceptable on the basis of student performance on the reading assessment instrument administered to third-grade students. (Committee substitute passed)
  • SB 945 by Larry Taylor – would add Education Code 42.101(a-1) to provide that the district’s compressed tax rate for a district that adopted a maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate for the 2005 tax year below the maximum rate permitted that year would include the portion of the district’s current M&O tax rate in excess of the first six cents above the district’s compressed tax rate under 42.101(a), until the district’s compressed tax rate computed in accordance with this new subsection is equal to the state maximum compressed tax rate. (Committee substitute passed)
  • SB 972 by Kolkhorst – would require the commissioner to develop and make available reading-to-learn academies for teachers who provide reading comprehension instruction to students at the fourth or fifth grade level. (Committee substitute passed)
  • SB 1003 by Paul Bettencourt – relating to eliminating the commissioner of education’s authority to approve a school district’s issuance of a teaching permit. (Committee substitute passed)
  • SB 1200 by Taylor – would establish the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability to develop and make recommendations for new systems of student assessment and public school accountability (Committee substitute passed)
  • SB 1494 by Carlos Uresti – relating to the educational needs of homeless students. (Committee substitute passed)

The House Public Education Committee began early and finished late, hearing testimony on nearly 20 bills. A wide range of education-related groups testified against HB 1536 by Rep. Harold Dutton. The bill would establish the Texas Opportunity School District and require the commissioner to determine, after a campus has been identified as unacceptable for two consecutive school years, whether the district has instituted meaningful change. If so, the commissioner could reevaluate the campus after the conclusion of the subsequent school year; if not, the district superintendent could operate the campus with the same powers and authority granted to the superintendent of the TOSD to operate a campus placed under its jurisdiction unless the commissioner orders one or more of the following: reconstitution; repurposing; alternative management; or placement in the TOSD. Former Texas Commissioner of Education Jim Nelson also testified on behalf of TASA and TASB against this bill.

Superintendents from across the state testified on HB 2804 and HB 1759 by Jimmie Don Aycock. Most were supportive; others testified neutrally and pointed out concerns they requested be considered.

HB 2804 would require each school district to assess students in science, social studies, and writing, choosing from a commissioner-approved list of assessment instruments for science and writing and rubrics that establish criteria for selecting, compiling, and evaluating student-produced work in science, social studies, and writing. Each district would adopt a policy that requires assessment of students in these subjects during specified grades.

HB 1759 would add approximately $3 billion above the funding needed to cover enrollment growth to the House budget allocation for public schools and make other changes to current law on school finance.

Amy Beneski, TASA associate executive director of governmental relations, testified in support of HB 1759, expressing appreciation for the additional funding but pointing out that certain provisions, such as those involving CEI and adjustments for small and mid-sized districts, are still necessary. She asked that legislators work with TASA on updating those provisions.

The House Public Education Committee voted out two bills:
  • HB 742 by Dan Huberty – relating to eliminating certain state-required assessment instruments and end-of-course assessment instruments administered to public school students. (Committee substitute passed)
  • HB 2349 by Jimmie Don Aycock relating to public school assessment, performance standards, and course requirements. (Committee substitute passed)