Senate Education Passes Testing, Accountability Bills and More in Final Committee Hearing of Session
05.21.2015 — The Senate Education Committee met Thursday, May 21, passing out the following bills, which now go to the full Senate for consideration:
- HB 731 by Eddie Lucio, III, would create a pilot program to enable the state to evaluate the benefit of providing additional funds at the pre-K level for low-income students. The commissioner would provide funding for a half-day pre-K program in Brownsville ISD for a number of low-income students equal to twice the number of students who received, as a result of participation in an early high school graduation program operated by the district, a high school diploma during the preceding school year after three years of secondary school attendance. This would expire September 1, 2023.
- HB 743 by Dan Huberty, et al., as passed by the House, would require that before it is administered, an assessment instrument be determined to be valid and reliable, based on empirical evidence, by an independent entity. TEA would ensure that an assessment instrument is designed to primarily assess the SBOE-identified essential knowledge and skills for the subject and grade level for which it is administered. The bill would require that an assessment instrument be designed to be completed within a certain amount of time by 85 percent of students: 120 minutes for students in grades 3-5 and 180 minutes in grades 6-8. The time allowed could not exceed eight hours and could occur on only one day. The bill would also require TEA to study the essential knowledge and skills of the required curriculum and assessment instruments. TEA would develop a comprehensive methodology for auditing and monitoring performance under contracts for services to develop or administer assessment instruments. (The committee voted out a substitute bill for which the language was not yet available.)
- HB 1164 by Gary VanDeaver, et al., as passed by the House, would require each school district to evaluate student achievement in writing by assessing students in grades 4 and 7 and at the end of English I and II secondary-level courses in accordance with the writing TEKS. A district could use any method it determines appropriate for assessing students, including portfolio assessment. (The committee voted out a substitute bill that made this a pilot program. Bill language was not yet available.)
- HB 1171 by Marsha Farney, et al. would provide that an open-enrollment charter school, charter holder, employees, volunteers, or governing body members are immune to the same extent as a school district or its employees, volunteers, or trustees.
- HB 1431 by Susan King would require the SBOE, in consultation with the commissioner of higher education and business and industry leaders, to develop an advanced language course that school districts may use to provide students with instruction in industry-related terminology that prepares students to communicate in a language other than English, in a specific professional, business, or industry environment.
- HB 1786 by Harold Dutton would transfer driver and traffic safety education from TEA and the Department of Public Safety to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, change the amounts of certain fees, and amend a provision subject to a criminal penalty. (The committee voted out a substitute bill for which the language was not yet available.)
- HB 2186 by Byron Cook, et al., as passed by the House, would require that training provided by a school district under the Health and Safety Code specifically address the prevention of youth suicide, and that certain district employees participate in the training at least once annually. The bill would delete the recordkeeping requirement. (The committee voted out a substitute bill for which the language was not yet available.)
- HB 2251 by Rafael Anchia would allow a charter school to ask the commissioner for an alternate payment schedule of Foundation School Program funding if student enrollment in that school has increased by 10 percent compared to the preceding year.
- HB 2593 by Four Price would amend Education Code 42.105 pertaining to the sparsity adjustment. Certain districts with fewer than 130 students in ADA would be provided an adjusted basic allotment on the basis of 130 students in ADA if the district offers a K-4 program and has preceding or current year’s ADA of at least 75 students or is 30 miles or more by bus route from the nearest high school district. This would apply only to a district that does not offer each grade level and whose prospective or former students generally attend school in a bordering state for the grade levels the district does not offer, that serves both students residing in Texas and students residing in a bordering state who are subsequently eligible for in-state tuition rates at institutions of higher education in either state regardless of the state in which the students reside, and that shares students with an out-of-state district that does not offer competing instructional services.
- HB 2804 by Jimmie Don Aycock, as amended, gives districts and campuses A-F ratings based on their performance in five domains outlined by the bill. Student performance on STAAR would continue to be the primary measure of school performance (55 percent), but other factors, including community engagement, AP course enrollment, attendance, and dropout rates, would account for 45 percent. (The committee voted out a substitute bill for which the language was not yet available.)
- HB 2811 by Ken King would require the SBOE to review (as specified in the bill) the essential knowledge and skills of the foundation curriculum and narrow the number and scope of student expectations for each subject and grade level to require less time for a demonstration of mastery than the essential knowledge and skills adopted as of January 1, 2015. It would permit the SBOE to issue only proclamations for instructional materials in which the total projected cost of the proclamation does not exceed 75 percent of the total amount used to fund the instructional materials allotment (IMA) for that biennium. It would require the SBOE to consider the cost of all instructional materials and technology requirements for that biennium in determining the disbursement of money to the available school fund and the amount that will be used to fund the IMA. It would change the IMA from an annual to a biennial allotment. It would require the comptroller, in connection with installment transfers of funds from the general revenue fund to the Foundation School Fund, to permit TEA to make temporary transfers from the Foundation School Fund for payment of the IMA. These temporary transfers could impact the timing of transferring installments and the amount. The bill would repeal provisions related to use of instructional materials that are not on the list and changes in subscription-based or electronic instructional materials.
- HB 3987 by Marsha Farney would allow a school district or open-enrollment charter school to establish a school-based savings program to facilitate increased awareness of the importance of saving for higher education and facilitate personal financial literacy instruction. This program could be offered in conjunction with a personal financial literacy course.
The committee chair, Sen. Larry Taylor, announced that the Thursday hearing would be the last one of the session for the committee but that it would hold a formal meeting Friday, May 22, to vote out CSHB 1842.