More than 50 education-related bills have gotten halfway through the legislative process (see more about the process here). The state budget (the only bill the Legislature is required to pass) has now passed both the House and Senate and will likely be headed to a conference committee to negotiate the differences between the two version of the bill. NOTE – bill descriptions apply to the most recent version of the bill as of April 22, 2021. Bills are subject to changes as they move through the process.
FUNDING / SCHOOL FINANCE
- HB 1525 by Rep. Dan Huberty is the “clean-up bill” for last session’s HB 3, primarily addressing technical corrections to the legislation. It includes a TCTA-initiated provision protecting the pay raises that school employees received as a result of HB 3. Passed the House.
- SB 1 by Rep. Jane Nelson is the general appropriations bill – the state budget. It includes full funding of last session’s HB 3 provisions, and continues the requirements of SB 12 which required increasing contributions to TRS from the state, school districts, and school employees. Passed the Senate and House.
- SB 462 by Sen. Eddie Lucio includes the transportation of a meal or instructional materials in the description of “transportation services” for the purposes of reimbursement of mileage. Provides that during a declared disaster, a district located in an affected area will be reimbursed on a per-mile basis for the cost of transporting meals or instructional materials to student residences or other locations for pick-up by the student. Passed the Senate.
- SB 1522 by Taylor would allow the commissioner to adjust the average daily attendance during a calamity only up to one school year beyond the semester in which the calamity happened. Passed the Senate.
EMPLOYEES / BENEFITS
- HB 1342 by Rep. Jeff Leach would require TRS to provide districts in ActiveCare with any requested data in connection with a district’s efforts to search for alternative health insurance for its employees. Passed the House.
- HB 1461 by Rep. Tan Parker would require TRS to conduct a study to evaluate the use of health reimbursement accounts in conjunction with marketplace Medicare plans as a substitute for TRS-Care for Medicare-eligible school retirees and their spouses. Passed the House.
- HB 1585 by Rep. Stan Lambert is legislation arising from the Sunset Advisory Commission review of the Teacher Retirement System. It requires TRS to take actions to improve the agency’s relationships with its members, such as creating an ombudsman position, implementing an outreach program to members and stakeholder groups, and providing benefit counseling in areas outside of Austin. The bill also includes provisions relaxing return-to-work provisions for retirees. Passed the House; passed the Senate Administration Committee.
- HB 1589 by Rep. Yvonne Davis would expand current military leave provisions for public employees, including school employees, to ensure that an employee called to state active duty in response to a disaster is entitled to a paid leave of absence, up to seven days in a fiscal year (in addition to the 15 days allowed under current law). The employee could not be subjected to loss of time, efficiency rating, personal time, sick leave or vacation time. Passed the House.
- HB 2519 by Rep. Drew Darby adds two rural school district members to the State Board for Educator Certification. It expands the ability of SBEC to consider mitigating circumstances and consider alternatives to sanctions for a teacher who resigns after the resignation deadline. Revises that deadline from 45 days prior to the first day of instruction to 30 days prior. Passed the House.
- SB 179 by Sen. Eddie Lucio would require districts to adopt a policy that requires counselors to spend at least 80% of their work time on counseling duties, which do not include time spent administering standardized tests. If a school board determines that local staffing needs do not allow for the 80% provision, the policy must include the reasons why, list the non-counseling duties expected of the counselor, and specify an alternate minimum percentage of time for counseling duties. Passed the Senate.
- SB 202 by Sen. Charles Schwertner would make districts ultimately responsible for the payment of the surcharges associated with hiring retirees, and would prohibit directly or indirectly passing along the surcharge costs to the retiree. Passed the Senate.
- SB 288 by Sen. Kel Seliger creates a first-warning system for retirees who violate return-to-work limitations. After an initial warning, further violations would result in financial penalties. Passed the Senate.
- SCR 17 by Hughes urges the U.S. Congress to repeal the two provisions of federal law that reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for most Texas school employees (the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision). Passed the Senate.
CURRICULUM / GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS
- HB 129 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez expands the definition of “digital citizenship” to include topics such as cyberbullying prevention and response, digital ethics, online etiquette, safety and security. The bill requires 6th grade students to complete instruction in digital citizenship as part of the district’s social studies curriculum. Passed the House.
- HB 773 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver would add information about students who successfully completed a program of career and technology education to the student achievement indicators of the accountability system. Passed the House.
- HB 999 by Rep. Diego Bernal would, for this year’s juniors and seniors, provide that an individual graduation committee is not required to consider qualification criteria related to end-of-course performance, with the intent that students would not be required to fail EOC exams multiple times before being eligible for an IGC review. Passed the House.
- HB 1603 by Rep. Dan Huberty removes the expiration dates of the laws regarding individual graduation committees, which currently expire in September 2023. Passed the House.
- SB 442 by Sen. Bryan Hughes would require districts to adopt a policy regarding how curriculum and materials are adopted for the district’s human sexuality instruction. The policy must require the board to convene the local school health advisory council to make recommendations regarding the curriculum and materials. Passed the Senate.
- SB 1063 by Sen. Carol Alvarado would add a half-credit in personal financial literacy and economics as an alternative to the required half-credit in economics. Two-thirds of the course must be devoted to personal financial literacy and one-third to economics. Passed the Senate.
CERTIFICATION / TRAINING
- HB 139 by Rep. Brad Buckley would make it easier for military service members, veterans or their spouses who have come to Texas from another state to establish residency for purposes of obtaining licensing/certification, including teacher certification. Passed the House, voted out of Senate Veteran Affairs and Border Security Committee.
- SB 226 by Sen. Angela Paxton defines “virtual instruction” and “virtual learning” and adds these subjects to the required training for teacher preparation. Passed the Senate.
- SB 1267 by Sen. Royce West is the product of the Lt. Governor’s Teacher Workforce Workgroup regarding teacher training and professional development, in which TCTA was an active participant. The bill streamlines and eliminates duplication in teacher training requirements to ensure that educators are better able to self-select meaningful training. It also requires SBEC to publish a clearinghouse of information regarding continuing education and training requirements that includes best practices and industry recommendations for frequency of training. Passed the Senate.
- HB 411 by Rep. Julie Johnson would change statutory references to ARD committees to instead refer to IEP teams. Passed the House.
- HB 785 by Rep. Alma Allen would require IEP committees to review a behavior improvement plan at least annually if one is included in a student’s IEP, in order to address any changed circumstances or student safety. Requires districts to notify parents of any use of restraint against a student receiving special education services. Passed the House.
- SB 89 by Sen. Jose Menendez would require districts to prepare supplemental information in student IEPs regarding the services received and evaluations performed (or lack thereof) during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Passed the Senate.
HEALTH / SAFETY
- HB 690 by Rep. Will Metcalf would require school board trustees to complete training on school safety. Passed the House.
- HB 1788 by Rep. Cole Hefner provides immunity from liability in certain situations for school security personnel and school marshals and school guardians. Passed the House.
- SB 239 by Sen. Beverly Powell requires the Department of State Health Services to implement a disease prevention information system regarding immunizations during a state of disaster, and ensure that related educational materials are provided to schools. Passed the Senate.
- SB 347 by Paxton would designate local school health advisory councils as governmental bodies for purposes of the open meetings and open records acts. Passed the Senate.
- HB 699 by Rep. Jon Rosenthal would create an excused absence and exemption from the 90% requirement for students who are diagnosed with or undergoing treatment for a severe or life-threatening illness; a student could not be denied promotion if the district determines the student’s failure to pass a statewide assessment was due primarily to the student’s serious or life-threatening illness. Passed the House.
- HB 725 by Rep. Jared Patterson would make children who are or have been in foster care in another state eligible for free prekindergarten, if the child currently resides in Texas. Passed the House.
- HB 1147 by Rep. Dan Huberty provides that for purposes of the college, career or military readiness outcomes bonus, a graduate is considered to have demonstrated military readiness by enlisting in the US armed forces (as under current law) or by enlisting in the Texas National Guard. Passed the House.
- HB 3165 by Rep. Morgan Meyer would create a new affirmative defense to a truancy charge if the child’s absences were due to abuse. Passed the House.
- SB 29 by Sen. Charles Perry would require students to participate in UIL athletic activities based on their biological sex, per their birth certificate. Provides some exceptions for female athletes participating in activities designated for males. Passed the Senate.
- SB 36 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini would clarify current laws regarding hazing and reports of hazing, and ensure that an individual or entity can meeting the law’s reporting requirements by reporting a hazing-related incident to a peace officer or law enforcement agency (current law only addresses reporting to an official of the educational institution). Passed the Senate.
- SB 289 by Seliger allows districts to excuse an absence for a student aged 15 or over to visit a driver’s license office to obtain a license or permit. Passed the Senate.
- SB 481 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst would allow students in a district providing only virtual instruction for more than one grading period to transfer to another district that offers in-person instruction, if the second district accepts the transfer. Passed the Senate.
- SB 28 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt grants new authorities to charter schools as governmental entities (e.g., not subject to local zoning requirements), and places limitations on the State Board of Education’s ability to veto charter approval decisions of the commissioner. Passed the Senate.
- SB 346 by Paxton would allow charter schools and eligible nonprofits to participate in the Jobs and Education for Texans Grant Program. Passed the Senate; passed the House International Relations and Economic Development Committee.
- SB 1696 by Paxton adds charter schools to current laws regarding school district cybersecurity policies. Requires TEA to develop a system to coordinate the sharing of information among public and private schools and the state regarding cybersecurity incidents. Passed the Senate.
- HB 1247 by Rep. J. M. Lozano requires TEA, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop a framework to encourage work-based learning. Passed the House.
- HB 2683 by Rep. Terry Canales provides that members of the public must be allowed to listen and speak, if applicable, at an open meeting that is held wholly or partly by phone or video conference (with a majority of the members participating other than in person). Passed the House.
- SB 203 by Schwertner would require the UIL to select locations for statewide competitions through a process that involves a request for proposal from institutions of higher education and other appropriate entities seeking to host a competition. Passed the Senate.
- SB 204 by Schwertner would allow district and county school boards to operate a school transportation system for students residing outside the district/county without the necessity of an interlocal contract. Passed the Senate.
- SB 445 by Hughes would provide that a school bus driver can operate flashing warning lights when the bus is stopped to distribute food to a student or parent. Passed the Senate.
- SB 788 by Sen. Brandon Creighton would direct Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Education Agency, and Texas Workforce Commission to develop model data sharing agreements to protect student information when data is shared between schools and other entities. Passed the Senate; passed the House International Relations and Economic Development Committee.
- SB 797 by Hughes would require schools to display in each building a durable poster or framed copy of the “In God We Trust” motto. It must include an image of the US flag centered under the motto, and an image of the Texas flag, and no other words, images or information. The poster must be donated or purchased with donated funds. Passed the Senate.