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Texas House Committee on Public Education Releases Interim Report

01.08.2019 — The Texas House Committee on Public Education has released its Interim Report to the 86th Texas Legislature. Former Speaker of the House Joe Straus first issued interim charges related to Hurricane Harvey on September 14, 2017. Then, on October 23, 2017, he issued additional interim charges to all House committees. On June 1, 2018, he issued interim charges related to school safety.

Hurricane Harvey
The interim report highlights the testimony the Committee heard in 2017 involving the negative effects Harvey had on school district enrollment and property values, as well as facility damages and loss of instructional materials. The report also notes the effects that student displacement resulting from the hurricane had on FSP for pre-K and compensatory education, and the impact it had on the accountability ratings of affected LEAs, dropout calculations, national school lunch and school breakfast programs, and mental health needs.

Committee recommendations (page 14) include:

  1. provide funding during the 86th Legislature to make LEAs whole for financial losses;
  2. explore statutory changes to help LEAs access instructional materials more quickly after a natural disaster;
  3. consider statutory changes for more timely assistance to Chapter 42 districts that experience a natural disaster, and
  4. the Committee and TEA should work together to develop legislation to improve the dropout calculation methodology used by the agency.

Teacher Compensation
Related to teacher compensation, the interim report highlights professional development opportunities, mentoring and induction programs, and strategic placement programs.

Committee recommendations (page 20) include the Legislature creating a new FSP allotment to provide funding for LEAs to implement differentiated compensation plans for teachers.

Student Assessment
The report highlights streamlining of the TEKS, Readiness vs. Supporting TEKS standards, the SBOE’s TEKS streamlining efforts, and recommendations by the Texas Commission on Next-Generation Assessments and Accountability. The report also addresses attempts to reduce standardized testing, the STAAR calendar, STAAR and special circumstances, the ETS contract, the Student Success Initiative, and Individual Graduation Committees (IGCs). Last, the report outlines alternatives to STAAR such as Rep. Gary VanDeaver’s Writing Assessment Pilot Program (HB 1164, 84th Texas Legislature), computer-adaptive testing, and portfolio and performance assessments such as those used by the New York Performance Consortium.

Committee recommendations (page 27) include limiting STAAR to Readiness TEKS only, removing the sunset date on IGCs, and limiting state tests to only those required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Students with Disabilities
The report highlights the U.S. Department of Education monitoring report resulting from TEA’s 8.5-percent cap on special education enrollment, TEA’s subsequent Corrective Action Plan, and TEA’s Strategic Plan for Special Education (including estimated funding). The report also outlines innovative programs such as those offered in Eanes ISD, Northside ISD, and the $40 million autism and dyslexia grants provided through HB 21 (85th Texas Legislature) to fund innovative school models.

Committee recommendations (page 35) include one that suggests the Legislature provide additional funding to LEAs to improve the identification of students with dyslexia and related disorders and to provide training for appropriate staff in evidence-based practices.

Charter Schools
The report highlights the problematic issues surrounding enrollment growth and expansion of charter schools, such as:

  1. districts not being notified that charters within their geographic boundaries are expanding until after the expansion is approved;
  2. TEA rules relating to charter applications and amendments notice provisions that vary with regard to which district officials are supposed to receive the notice, resulting in confusion and inconsistency;
  3. unlike districts, charters may exclude from admission students who have a documented criminal or disciplinary history;
  4. charters can expel students for Ch. 37 offenses as well as any conduct listed in their codes of conduct as ones that result in expulsion. NOTE: For the 2016-17 school year, 43 percent of expelled students were charter school enrollees — a statistic that is out of proportion with the overall percentage of Texas public education studente enrolled in charters.
  5. a study that showed that charter enrollment of students with disabilities is being impacted by a lack of knowledge about federal laws and regulations protecting these students, the absence of a special education infrastructure at these schools, and the “counseling out” of these students during the admissions process;

The report also covers funding disparities between charters and districts, including FSP calculations, facility funding, and TRS contributions. (Charters are not subject to the state minimum salary schedule; the state pays its full 6.8 percent on the total amount of charter employee salaries. This funding equates to an estimated $16 million benefit for charters that districts do not receive.)

In addition, the report includes information about SB 1182 district-charter partnerships.

Committee recommendations (page 43) include:

  1. the Legislature should require charters to send expansion requests to TEA, and notices should be sent to districts at least 12 months prior to a new charter campus opening;
  2. TEA should revise rules regarding district notice of charter expansion amendments to ensure that the same district officials receive all notifications;
  3. the Legislature should reconsider provisions that allow charters to exclude students based on disciplinary history;
  4. TEA should ensure charters understand their responsibilities to students with disabilities before authorizing those charters, and;
  5. the Legislature should explore options to reduce funding disparities between charters and districts in state averages in FSP calculations, facility funding, and state contributions to TRS.

Monitor Implementation of Legislation
The report notes testimony on legislation passed during the 85th legislative session, including HB 21 (school finance), HB 22 (A-F ratings), and SB 179 (anti-bullying).

Committee recommendations (page 49) do not directly address HB 21, as the Texas Commission on Public School Finance has issued its own report. However, several recommendations were made related to HB 22 (A-F ratings), including:

  1. revisit certain CCMR indicators in order to ensure small and rural LEAs are not put on unequal footing with LEAs that have the resources needed to offer a wider range of opportunities for their students, and;
  2. the Legislature should include appropriations sufficient to cover the costs associated with the federal requirements for certain students to take the SAT or ACT in high school.

The recommendation related to SB 179 (anti-bullying) is that the Committee continue to monitor TEA’s implementation of the bill to ensure the public is aware of the changes made by the legislation.

Educator Preparation Programs (EPP)
The report highlights the issues around the charges to review the Accountability System for Educator Preparation (ASEP), ensure that EPPs are meeting the workforce needs of school districts to prepare teachers for high-needs areas, and to examine joint partnerships between EPPs and public schools to meet regional workforce needs.

The report notes research that shows an increasing gap in quality among EPPs in particular as demonstrated by a growing difference in five-year teacher retention rates for various types of EPPs (noted in the chart on page 52).

Committee recommendations (page 54) include:

  1. monitoring TEA’s development of its EPP data dashboard, and;
  2. considering incentivizing EPP partnerships that provide teachers and paraprofessionals affordable options to gain additional credentials and certifications.

School Safety
The report highlights testimony from numerous professionals who provided input on school safety issues. It divides the recommendations into categories (pages 67-70):

  • Mental Health and Well-Being – The Legislature should ensure that LEAs in rural areas or communities with limited access to mental health services have the financial resources needed to participate in TWITR or similar programs utilizing telemedicine for psychiatric screenings.
  • School Mental Health Professionals – The Legislature should provide additional financial resources for LEAs to increase the number of school mental health professionals, including school counselors, LSSPs, and social workers, present on campus and clarify in statute the duties of those professionals. LEAs should also be encouraged to use these resources to hire support staff to take over the clerical and administrative duties currently being handled by these professionals, and to consider utilizing volunteers.
  • School Safety and Planning – One recommendation is that the Legislature should provide the Texas School Safety Center with the additional resources needed to exercise oversight and audit responsibilities over districts' Emergency Operation Plans and to offer LEAs increased technical assistance and training related to those plans.
  • School Safety Infrastructure – One recommendation states that, due to the vast differences in the needs of LEAs across Texas, the Legislature should allow flexibility on expenditures if the decision is made to provide state funding for school-safety related capital items, including an option to focus funding on school safety personnel rather than capital items.
  • Law Enforcement Resources – One recommendation states that, while LEAs should be allowed the flexibility to determine how to best provide security for their own campuses, consideration should be given to the overwhelming testimony regarding the benefits of having increased numbers of law enforcement officers who have been trained to work with children in educational settings.
  • Charter School-Specific Issues – One recommendation is that the Legislature should ensure that statutory  provisions related to school safety that apply to school districts also apply to charters.

Download the full report.