Final bill summaries | TCTA
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Final bill summaries

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The following are summaries of the education-related bills we followed that passed both the House and Senate and were sent to the governor. Because of the number of bills passed and the complexity of many of them, this page is subject to additions and revisions as we comb through the legislation.

All bills that passed have now either been vetoed or have become law. Only three bills on our list were vetoed, and those are noted below.

BIG BILLS

SB 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson/Rep. Greg Bonnen

The state budget fully funds last session’s HB 3 commitments to districts. Click here for more specific provisions and details.

Sent to the comptroller for certification.

HB 1525 by Rep. Dan Huberty/Sen. Larry Taylor

Partially a “clean-up” bill to correct school finance issues arising from last session’s HB 3 reform, but also includes a number of new programs and program changes, ranging from restoration of the gifted/talented allotment to extending the deadline for attendance at a literacy achievement academy to 2022-23. Click here for a more detailed description of the bill’s provisions.

HB 1585 by Rep. Stan Lambert/Sen. Eddie Lucio

TRS Sunset legislation. Creates a new “three strikes” system for violations of retire/rehire limitations, and creates a new ombudsman position within TRS to address complaints. Click here for more provisions and details.

Signed by the governor, effective May 26, 2021.

HB 3979 by Rep. Steve Toth/Sen. Brandon Creighton

This legislation has been described as prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), though this term is not used in the bill. Provides that teachers cannot be required to discuss a particular current event or currently controversial topic. Click here for more provisions and details.

HB 4545 by Rep. Harold Dutton/Sen. Larry Taylor

Addresses accelerated learning for students who do not perform satisfactorily on certain STAAR exams, and repeals provisions requiring satisfactory STAAR performance for promotion. Creates a “strong foundations grant program” under which the commissioner may have authority over curriculum and materials, and allows the commissioner to enforce those requirements on certain low-performing campuses. Click here for more provisions and details.

SB 1267 by Sen. Royce West/Rep. JM Lozano

Comprehensive legislation based on the work of the Teacher Workforce Workgroup, in which TCTA was a leading participant, that reduces and streamlines teacher training and professional development, with the goal of providing teachers with more flexibility to self-select relevant professional development. Click here for more provisions and details.

SB 1365 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt/Rep. Dan Huberty

Makes extensive revisions to the accountability system to address schools with failing campuses. Provides districts with more due process in accountability matters. Clarifies how “D” and “F” school ratings factor into accountability ratings over time, and gives districts that would otherwise earn a D or F rating a “pause” in accountability ratings next year while they work to catch students up after COVID disruptions. TCTA is still working through this lengthy and complex bill and will provide a link to more details here when available.

IN RESPONSE TO COVID

(including remote education bills)

HB 999 by Rep. Diego Bernal/Sen. Jose Menendez

For this year’s (2020-21) seniors only, in determining whether a student is qualified to graduate, an individual graduation committee is not required to consider criteria related to the students performance on an end-of-course exam (so that the student does not have to repeatedly fail EOCs before the IGC can consider the student’s qualification for graduation).

Signed by the governor, effective May 31, 2021.

HB 3643 by Rep. Ken King/Sen. Larry Taylor

Creates the Texas Commission on Virtual Education to make recommendations on virtual education and associated funding in public schools. The commission comprises 13 members - four members each appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker, and a member of the SBOE. The governor appointees must include at least on current or retired teacher with at least 10 years of experience, a member of the business community, and a member of the civic community. The appointments from the lieutenant governor and speaker must include three legislators from their respective chambers and one administrator or school board member. The commission will deliver a report containing recommendations for legislative action to improve implementation of virtual education no later than Dec. 31, 2022.

SB 89 by Sen. Jose Menendez/Rep. Mary Gonzalez

Titled the “COVID-19 Special Education Recovery Act”. Requires districts to prepare a supplement for the IEP of a student enrolled in special education during the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school year. The supplement must include information indicating whether the written report of the child’s full individual and initial special education evaluation was completed during one of those years and if so whether it was completed by the required date; whether the IEP was developed during one of those years and developed by the required date; whether the provision of special services during those years was interrupted, reduced, delayed, suspended or discontinued; and whether compensatory education services would be appropriate based on those factors.

These requirements do not apply if the written statement of the child’s IEP documents this information. Districts must complete the supplement by no later than May 1, 2022.

SB 239 by Sen. Beverly Powell/Rep. Nicole Collier

Requires the Department of State Health Services to develop and implement a disease prevention information system to disseminate immunization information during a declared disaster. The department must ensure that educational materials regarding immunizations are available to local health authorities for distribution to schools and other entities. The materials must include the most recent immunization schedules by age as recommended by the CDC, and locations, if any, of local health care providers that offer immunizations. The system must be implemented no later than Aug. 31, 2022.

SB 348 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst/Rep. Jacey Jetton

Provides that parents are entitled to review teaching materials including while their child is participating in virtual or remote learning. Parents may also observe virtual instruction to the same extent the parent would be entitled to observe in-person instruction. Takes immediate effect.

SB 445 by Sen. Bryan Hughes/Rep. Terry Canales

Extends provisions regarding the use of school bus signal lights to include when a bus is stopped to distribute food or technological equipment for educational purposes to a student or parent.

SB 462 by Sen. Eddie Lucio/Rep. Alma Allen

Allows the use of transportation allotment funding to include reimbursement for transporting meals or instructional materials for students during a declared disaster.

SB 481 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst/Rep. Mike Schofield

Allows a student to transfer from a district providing only virtual instruction for more than one grading period to another district that offers in-person instruction and accepts the transfer. The student may not be charged tuition, and is included in the ADA of the school he/she attends. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

SB 1697 by Sen. Angela Paxton/Rep. Ken King

Allows for parents in to opt for their student to repeat preK; enroll in preK if the student would have been eligible the previous year and is not yet in kindergarten; repeat kindergarten; enroll in kindergarten if the student would have been eligible the previous year and is not yet in first grade; or for grades 1-3, repeat the previous year’s grade.

A parent can opt for their student to, in grades 4-8, repeat the previous grade; and in high school, repeat any course in which the student was enrolled the previous year. A student cannot repeat a course if the district/charter determines the student has met all requirements for graduation.

The provisions for grades 4 and up apply only for students who repeat courses from 2020-21 during the 2021-22 school year, and for students who otherwise enroll in 2021-22.

If the district/charter disagrees with the parent’s election to repeat or retake, it must convene a retention committee and meet with the parent to discuss retention. The student cannot be retained or repeat a course if the parent does not meet with the committee, which is composed of the principal or designee, parent, teacher of the grade or course, and additional teachers at the principal’s discretion if the student will potentially repeat multiple courses. If after the meeting the parent still wants the student to repeat or retake, the district/school must abide by the parent’s decision.

A student who receives a passing grade or earns credit for a high school course will retain their original grade unless the district/charter adopts a policy to a different effect. The agency will study whether students retained under these provisions should be considered at-risk. The repeated grade or course will qualify for average daily attendance. Takes effect immediately.

SB 1955 by Sen. Larry Taylor/Rep. Dustin Burrows

Defines “learning pods” as a group of children who, based on the association of their parents, meet to participate or enhance their primary or secondary academic studies. Learning pods are exempted from local ordinances or policies that apply to school campuses or child-care facilities, including provisions related to teacher/student ratios, teacher certification, background checks, or building or fire codes. A group, building or facility associated with or used by a learning pod is exempt from local ordinances and policies if they would not otherwise apply to the group, building or facility.

An employee of a school or other local governmental entity cannot inspect, investigate or visit locations where a learning pod is meeting if they would not otherwise have done so if the pod were not meeting at that location. Districts cannot take action against, deny a benefit to, discriminate against, or otherwise distinguish a child or parent based on participation in a learning pod. A district or local governmental entity cannot require a pod to register with the entity or require someone to report regarding the pod’s existence. Takes immediate effect.

TEACHER ISSUES

HB 750 by Rep. DeWayne Burns/Sen. Charles Perry

TCTA-initiated legislation requiring that districts post on the district website, if the district has one, its employment policy and the full text of any regulations referred to in the policy. Districts must make available any forms referenced in the policy either on an intranet website for district employees or, if the district does not have an intranet website, at a district administrative office.

HB 1589 by Rep. Yvonne Davis/Sen. Jose Menendez

Adds up to seven workdays of paid leave for employees who are members of the Texas military or reserve forces or of a state/federally-authorized search and rescue team, and who are called to state active duty in response to a disaster. During the leave, the employee cannot be subjected to loss of time, efficiency rating, personal time, sick leave, or vacation time.

HB 2519 by Rep. Drew Darby/Sen. Judith Zaffirini

Revises provisions related to teachers (the term here includes other certified educators including principals, counselors, etc.) who resign after the uniform resignation date.

  • Requires SBEC to notify a teacher promptly if their certification is suspended, including the basis for the suspension and how the teacher can respond to the suspension.
  • Provides that if a school district submits a complaint against a teacher for resigning after the resignation date (45 days before the first instructional day), the district must promptly notify the teacher of the basis of the complaint, how the teacher can contact SBEC, and a reminder that the teacher should verify their mailing address with SBEC.
  • Before imposing sanctions against a teacher in this situation, SBEC must consider any mitigating factors and consider alternatives to sanctions, including additional continuing education or training.
  • If the teacher misses the 45-day deadline but files a resignation no later than the 30th day before the first day of instruction, SBEC cannot suspend or revoke the teacher’s certificate.
  • Applies only to suspensions and complaints occurring after Sep. 1, 2021.

Also requires that at least two educator members of SBEC be from rural districts.

SCR 17 by Sen. Bryan Hughes/Rep. Abel Herrero

Urges the U.S. Congress to repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision (the two federal laws that reduce/eliminate Social Security benefits for most Texas school employees).

Signed by the governor.

TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM

HB 2022 by Rep. Drew Darby/Sen. Joan Huffman

Requires TRS to provide an open enrollment period for TRS-Care for retirees who are Medicare-eligible; previously left TRS-Care between Jan. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2019; and reenroll by Dec. 31, 2023.

HB 3207 by Rep. Abel Herrero/Sen. Jose Menendez

Provides that retirees who return to work during a declaration of disaster are not subject to the limitations on retire/rehire. Applies to employment after Sept. 1, 2021. UPDATE: HB 3207 was vetoed by Gov. Abbott. Click here to see his veto statement.

SB 202 by Sen. Charles Schwertner/Rep. Rafael Anchia

Prohibits employers from directly or indirectly passing along the retire/rehire surcharge to the retiree through payroll deduction, imposition of a fee, or any other means designed to recover the cost. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

SB 288 by Sen. Kel Seliger/Rep. Gene Wu

Revises the sanctions for retirees who return to work without having sat out a full 12 months and who exceed the half-time limitation on employment in a position other than a substitute. Current law requires TRS to penalize the retiree the full month’s TRS check; the revised series of sanctions will begin with a written warning to the retiree, then after a subsequent violation a penalty of either the TRS check or the amount of salary earned during the month, and for further violations the loss of the TRS check for the month. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

Adds provisions that remove sanctions for a retiree who might otherwise be in violation if the retiree is performing duties related to the mitigation of student learning loss attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic if the position is in addition to normal staffing levels and is funded wholly through federal COVID-relief funds. This provision extends to such employment until Dec. 31, 2024. It does not apply to disability retirees. Also includes a provision that the employment-after-retirement surcharges are not required for retirees returning under this temporary provision.

SB 321 by Sen. Joan Huffman/Rep. Greg Bonnen

Does not apply directly to school employees/TRS members. Creates a new retirement structure for new state employee hires after Sep. 1, 2022, revamping the state employee pension system to be a “cash balance” plan (a hybrid of the current defined benefit program and a defined contribution program similar to a 401k) for new hires. This is a huge change in the benefit structure for state employees and one that teachers should monitor closely. School employees who have credit in ERS will need to be aware of any possible impact of the change on their ability to transfer credits from one system to the other at retirement; complete details on how this will be addressed are not yet available.

SB 483 by Sen. Charles Schwertner/Rep. Tan Parker

Requires the TRS and ERS boards to submit to the legislature a biennial report comparing the assumed rate of return and the annualized actual time-weighted rate of return achieved by the system for the most recent 1-, 5-, 10-, and 20-year periods. The report must include an estimate of what the market value would have been if the assumed rate of return had been met. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

SB 1444 by Sen. Larry Taylor/Rep. Greg Bonnen

Prohibits districts participating in ActiveCare from offering alternative health insurance coverage to employees, closing the so-called "DOI loophole".

Beginning Sep. 1, 2022, allows participating districts to discontinue participation in ActiveCare by notifying TRS no later than Dec. 31 of the year preceding the first day of the next plan year; a discontinuing district will not be allowed to re-enter until at least five years after leaving the plan. A district wishing to enter or re-enter ActiveCare must notify TRS by the same deadline, and must remain in the plan for at least five years.

Requires education service centers to establish an advisory committee to study regional health care needs and options. The committee will comprise the executive director of the service center as chair, and nine superintendents from districts in the region. The study must include an overview of current plans available to employees including premium amounts, benefits and cost-sharing amounts (such as deductibles); as well as a survey of employees regarding satisfaction levels with their current costs and benefits. The study must include an assessment of three alternative health coverage options available on the open market or through self-funding, including district/employee premium costs, benefits, and whether some or all of the districts in the region should jointly seek coverage under that alternative. Each advisory committee will submit its report to state leadership no later than Nov. 1, 2022.

TEACHER CERTIFICATION

HB 139 by Rep. Brad Buckley/Sen. Beverly Powell

Provides that the commissioner can adopt rules for exceptions to certification exam requirements for out-of-state educators including members of the military, their spouses, and veterans. Requires SBEC to adopt rules providing for a permanent change of station order for establishing residency and providing for a military ID card. Requires any state agency issuing a license that requires Texas residency to adopt rules regarding the documentation needed for a military spouse to establish residency for that purpose, including providing the agency with a copy of the permanent change of station order for the military member. Ensures that such exceptions to certification exams should include appropriate credit for training, education, and clinical/professional experience.

Applies to members/spouses/veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard or Marines, or a reserve unit of such; or of Texas military forces such as the Texas National Guard, etc.

Signed by the governor, effective Sept. 1, 2021.

HB 159 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez/Sen. Eddie Lucio

Adds to requirements for educator preparation programs and staff development to ensure that teachers receive instruction in techniques and practices to help them serve students with disabilities. Field-based experience for certification candidates must to the greatest extent possible involve interaction with a diverse student population including those with disabilities. Effective date: Sept. 1, 2021.

HB 2256 by Rep. Bobby Guerra/Sen. Brandon Creighton

Requires SBEC to establish a bilingual special education certificate. To be eligible, the educator must complete the coursework in an educator preparation program including a skills-based course on providing instruction to students of limited English proficiency with disabilities. This instruction must include the foundations of bilingual, multicultural, and second language special education; providing IEPs for LEP students with disabilities; assessing LEP students with and without disabilities; developing teaching methods to recognize the intellectual, developmental and emotional needs to students in dual language and transitional bilingual education settings; teaching fundamental academic skills to LEP students; and creating partnerships with families and school professionals. The educator must also perform satisfactorily on the bilingual special education certificate exam. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

SB 226 by Sen. Angela Paxton/Rep. Jose Lozano

Defines virtual instruction and virtual learning, and requires that academic qualifications for a teaching certificate require that the candidate receive instruction in virtual learning and virtual instruction. The instruction must cover best practices in assessing students receiving virtual instruction based on academic progress, and in developing a virtual learning curriculum. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

SB 560 by Sen. Eddie Lucio/Rep. Bobby Guerra

Requires TEA, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commissioner to develop a strategic plan for increasing the number of educators certified in bilingual education; increase the number of dual language immersion/one-way and two-way program models used in schools; educate families and school employees about the importance of bilingual education in early childhood; and increase the number of bilingual and multilingual high school graduates. TEA must study the use of the Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test to certify educators in bilingual education and determine the impact of using that test to assess the competencies needed to instruct bilingual programs and determine if there are any barriers to certification based on differences between the educator’s dialect and the dialect used on the test. TEA must submit the plan to state leadership no later than Dec. 1, 2022.

SB 1590 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt/Rep. Gary VanDeaver

Requires that SBEC rules regarding field-based experience or internship for certification include options for candidate observations providing for three in-person observations, or for at least two in-person observations and two additional observations in virtual settings that are equivalent in rigor to in-person options.

COUNSELORS

SB 179 by Sen. Eddie Lucio/Rep. Dan Huberty

Requires districts to adopt and implement a policy requiring counselors to spend at least 80% of their work time on duties that are part of a counseling program as described in current law. Time spent administering assessments does not count toward the 80%.

If a school board determines that this is not possible because of staffing needs, the adopted policy must explain why the counselor needs to spend less than 80% of their time on counseling duties, list the non-counseling duties the counselor is expected to perform, and set the percentage of work time that the counselor must spend on counseling duties.

Districts cannot include a provision in a counselor’s employment contract that conflicts with these policies or that has the effect of authorizing a principal or superintendent to require the counselor to generally perform non-counseling duties.

Districts must annually assess district compliance with these provisions and if requested by the commissioner provide a copy of the assessment to the commissioner. Districts must implement such a policy beginning with the 2021-22 school year. Provisions regarding employment contracts apply only to a contract executed after the bill’s effective date, which is Sept. 1, 2021.

TUTORING

SB 1356 by Sen. Bryan Hughes/Rep. Harold Dutton

Creates a tutoring program involving nonprofit teacher organizations to provide supplemental instruction to K-12 students on an individual or small-group basis. Tutors must be active or retired teachers and apply for the position in a manner specified by the organization, and they must note in their application whether they intend to tutor for free or for compensation, and whether they will tutor in person, online or both.

A district superintendent or charter school CEO, or their designee, will oversee the tutoring program within the district/charter and report to the board the number of teachers who contacted the district to offer tutoring services and the number who were used as a tutor on a volunteer or paid basis. At least quarterly, each participating nonprofit organization will provide to its members a description of the program and guidance on how to participate, and contact information for the persons overseeing tutoring programs within the members’ districts.

Provides that a retiree participating in the tutoring program is not subject to the employment after retirement time limitations (applies only to employment beginning after the bill’s effective date upon the governor’s signature). Requires TRS to provide information to members and retirees about the tutoring program.

ASSESSMENT

HB 3261 by Rep. Dan Huberty/Sen. Larry Taylor

Revises and enhances provisions relating to establishing online statewide assessments. Requires that STAAR, end-of-course and LEP/Spanish statewide assessments be administered electronically by 2023-24.

Provides that funding for instructional materials can be used for services, equipment and technology infrastructure needed to ensure Internet connectivity and adequate bandwidth, and for training personnel in the electronic administration of assessments. Requires the commissioner to biannually assess technology needs of all districts and provide a cost estimate for those resources to the SBOE.

Requires districts, when purchasing technological equipment, to secure technology that meets the varying needs of students and teachers and consider the long-term costs of ownership and flexibility for innovation.

Creates a matching grant program to ensure that all districts and charters have the necessary infrastructure to administer assessment instruments electronically.

Allows districts/charters to request to administer an assessment on the first instructional day of the week if using a different day would result in a significant administrative burden due to specific local conditions.

TEA can recommend, but not require, that districts make external keyboards available for students with tablets for assessment purposes.

With the exception of the 2023-24 date for electronic testing, applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

STUDENTS/CLASSROOM

HB 572 by Rep. Harold Dutton/Sen. Eddie Lucio

Adds to the definition of “student at risk of dropping out of school” a student who is enrolled in a district or charter school designated as a dropout recovery school. Requires TEA to study the implementation of competency-based education programs, analyzing methods for funding for such programs that do not rely on average daily attendance, assessing the performance of competency-based programs under the accountability system, and providing competency-based programs to nontraditional students including adult students.

HB 699 by Rep. Jon Rosenthal/Sen. Judith Zaffirini

Titled as “Riley’s Rule”, requires districts to excuse a student’s absence for a serious or life-threatening illness or related treatment. Such a student’s absences cannot result in a referral to truancy court, and cannot be considered in determining whether the student has met the 90% attendance rule. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

HB 725 by Rep. Jared Patterson/Sen. Judith Zaffirini

Titled as “Jace’s Law”, ensures that a child in Texas who was previously in foster care in another state is eligible for preK. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

HB 1603 by Rep. Dan Huberty/Sen. Kel Seliger

Eliminates the 2023 deadline for statutes creating and implementing individual graduation committees. Provides that the commissioner can authorize a special accreditation investigation if 10% or more of a district’s graduating students on a high school campus are awarded a diploma based on an IGC determination. Takes effect immediately.

HB 2287 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson/Sen. Beverly Powell

Enhances data collection authorization for the Collaborative Task Force on Public School Mental Health Services so that the task force, or TEA on behalf of the task force, can collect and share data regarding the effectiveness of mental health programs for students. Includes provisions for ensuring student privacy.

HB 3165 by Rep. Morgan Meyer/Sen. John Whitmire

Provides an affirmative defense against a truancy allegation for a student’s absences that are due to the child’s voluntary absence from home because of abuse. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

HB 3489 by Rep. Tan Parker/Sen. Larry Taylor

Requires TEA to distribute model health and safety guidelines for best practices for the effective integration of digital devices in public schools. The guidelines must address age- and development level-appropriate use, the amount of time students spend on digital devices in the classroom, frequency of breaks from digital devices, physical positioning of devices, the use of digital devices for homework, recommended daily screen time usage, recommended practices/software to block inappropriate content, and recommended teacher training. School boards must adopt a policy regarding digital device use and may decide whether to adopt the model guidelines. TEA must develop and distribute the guidelines for use beginning with the 2023-24 school year.

SB 289 by Sen. Kel Seliger/Rep. Gary VanDeaver

Allows districts to provide an excused absence to a student age 15 or older to visit a driver’s license office to obtain a license. The student is allowed one day to obtain a learner license, and one day to obtain a driver’s license, and the district must verify the visit. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

SB 2081 by Sen. Jose Menendez/Rep. James Talarico

Extends K-4 class-size ratios to prekindergarten, including private entities with which a district contracts for operation of its preK program. Specifies that although charter schools are subject to preK statutes generally, they are not subject to the new class-size provision. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

ACCOUNTABILITY

HB 773 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver/Sen. Beverly Powell

Adds to the student achievement indicators in the accountability system for high schools an indicator that accounts for students who successfully completed a program of study in career and technical education. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

Signed by the governor, effective May 28, 2021.

HB 1147 by Rep. Dan Huberty/Sen. Larry Taylor

Adds to the student achievement indicators in the accountability system an indicator accounting for students who enlist in the Texas National Guard. Adds that a student has demonstrated military readiness if he/she enlists in the Texas National Guard. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

SB 879 by Sen. Eddie Lucio/Rep. Harold Dutton

Creates new criteria for dropout recovery programs in the alternative accountability system. A program with at least 60% students age 16 or older is a dropout recovery program. The commissioner can create other criteria by which a program can be considered a dropout recovery school. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

Signed by the governor, effective May 24, 2021.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

HB 785 by Rep. Alma Allen/Sen. Judith Zaffirini

Requires that if a behavior improvement plan or behavioral intervention plan is included as part of a student’s IEP, the IEP committee must review the plan at least annually to address changes in the student’s circumstances that might affect behavior, such as a different placement, an increase in disciplinary actions, a pattern unexcused absences or an unauthorized unsupervised departure from an education setting. The review should also address the safety of the student or others.

Provides that commissioner rules on time-out and restraint must require districts to provide detailed written notification to a parent for each use of restraint that notes (if the student has a behavioral plan) whether the plan may need to be revised due to the student’s behavior or (if the student does not have a behavioral plan) information on how to request an ARD committee meeting to discuss conducting a functional behavioral assessment and developing a plan.

Provides that if a district takes a disciplinary action against a student with a disability who receives special education services that constitutes a change in placement, the district must within 10 days seek parent consent to conduct a functional behavioral assessment (if the student has not previously had one, or if the student’s most recent such assessment is more than a year old), and review previous assessments and behavior plans. If necessary the district must develop a behavior plan or revise the existing one. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

HB 1252 by Rep. Joe Moody/Sen. Bob Hall

Titled the Edgar Pacheco Jr. Act. Prohibits the commissioner and TEA from adopting or enforcing a rule that establishes a shorter period for filing a due process complaint and requesting an impartial hearing regarding a violation of state or federal special education laws than the maximum timeline designated under federal law (currently two years; the Texas law currently allows for one year). Applies to complaints/hearing requests filed after Sept. 1, 2022.

SB 1716 by Sen. Larry Taylor/Rep. Greg Bonnen

Creates a supplemental special education services and instructional materials grant program through TEA. Each approved student will receive a grant of no more than $1,500 to purchase supplemental special education services and materials. $30 million will be set aside to fund the program, which will be administered by one or more regional service centers designated by TEA.

Parents will apply for the grant through a process established by TEA. The criteria must require that the student be enrolled and in a special education program in a district/charter in the current school year, and must prioritize students whose district/charter is eligible for a compensatory education allotment.

Supplemental services must be provided by a TEA-approved provider, who must be appropriately licensed or accredited in Texas for the service, including providers of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

A student’s ARD committee must develop a student’s IEP without consideration of any supplemental special services that may be provided under this program. The ARD committee of a participating student must provide to the parent information on the types of supplemental services available under the program and instructions regarding accessing the student’s account for the supplemental services grant award. The program expires Sep. 1, 2024. By Dec. 1, 2021, the commissioner must adopt all necessary rules to implement that program.

SCHOOL AND STUDENT SAFETY

HB 246 by Rep. Andy Murr/Sen. Paul Bettencourt

Clarifies the definition of sexual contact in the context of an improper relationship between an educator and a student. Prohibits districts from releasing the name of an employee accused of committing misconduct with a student until the employee is indicted for the offense. The school can release the name outside of an indictment in order to report the accusation to a state agency or law enforcement, or to report to school members or community in accordance with the school’s policies or with the religious law observed by the school (generally in the case of a private school), or to conduct an investigation. Takes effect Sep. 1, 2021.

HB 1788 by Rep. Cole Hefner/Sen. Bryan Hughes

Provides districts and charter schools with immunity from liability for damages resulting from a reasonable action taken by security personnel to maintain safety at a campus, or by an employee who has written permission by the district/charter to carry a firearm. Provides similar immunity to the security personnel. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

HB 3597 by Rep. Will Metcalf/Sen. Angela Paxton

Removes the authority of the commissioner to determine the specific number of evaluation fire exit drills and lockdown, lockout, shelter-in-place and evacuation drills, leaving in place the requirement that the commissioner designate a total number of drills to be conducted each semester not to exceed eight drills. Allows the Texas School Safety Center to obtain criminal history information for a person registering to provide school safety or security consulting services.

SB 36 by Rep. Judith Zaffirini/Sen. Chris Turner

Ensures that a person with firsthand knowledge of a hazing incident does not commit an act of hazing if they make a report to law enforcement. Clarifies that immunity with regard to reporting hazing may extend to organizations such as student groups. Applies to offenses committed on or after Sept. 1, 2021. UPDATE: SB 36 was vetoed by Gov. Abbott. Click here to see his veto statement.

SB 168 by Sen. Cesar Blanco/Rep. Claudio Ordaz Perez

Requires the commissioner to adopt rules providing best practices for conducting emergency school drills and exercises.

Requires districts, prior to conducting an active threat exercise, including an active shooter simulation, to provide notice to students, parents and staff regarding the date, content, and whether the exercise will include a live simulation that appears to be an actual shooting incident. The exercise must be announced to students and faculty, including whether it will include such a simulation, first responder organizations must be notified, a safe zone must be created to keep out actual firearms or other weapons. The exercise must be age and developmentally appropriate and have been developed by a team of administrators, teachers, law enforcement and mental health professionals with input from parents and students. Data regarding the efficacy and impact of the exercise must be tracked. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

SB 741 by Sen. Brian Birdwell/Rep. Scott Sanford

Revises the law regarding carrying of a weapon by a school marshal so that a marshal who has regular, direct contact with students can carry a concealed handgun (currently limited to marshals who do not have such contact with students) or can keep it not only in a locked and secure safe (current law) but also another “locked and secured location.”

SB 785 by Sen. Brandon Creighton/Rep. Cole Hefner

Provides that a school marshal’s license expires on Aug. 31 after the second anniversary of the license date and each two years thereafter. Applies to all marshals’ licenses regardless of previous issuance or renewal date.

SB 1109 by Sen. Royce West/Rep. Rafael Anchia

Requires the SBOE to require students to receive instruction on the prevention of child abuse, family violence and dating violence at least once in middle/junior high and at least twice in high school. Instruction must include information on the district’s dating violence policy, the prevalence of dating violence and recognition of abuse warning signs, procedures for reporting violence/abuse, and materials and resources available to students.

Requires that districts’ dating violence policies include a clear statement that dating violence is not tolerated at school, reporting procedures for victims of dating violence, and information regarding the instruction on prevention of dating violence. To the extent possible, districts must provide access to age-appropriate educational materials that include information on the dangers of dating violence and resources to students seeking help. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year. UPDATE: SB 1109 was vetoed by Gov. Abbott. Click here to see his veto statement.

SB 1191 by Sen. Kel Seliger/Rep. Gary VanDeaver

Defines “school resource officer” to clarify that it does not include a peace officer who provides law enforcement at a school or event only for extracurricular activities.

SB 1831 by Sen. Larry Taylor/Rep. Senfronia Thompson

Titled the No Trafficking Zone Act. Requires schools to post warning signs in specified locations regarding increased penalties for human trafficking on the premises or within 1,000 feet of a school, or where an official school function or UIL event was taking place, with further increased penalties if the offense was committed during school hours and the offender knew or should have known the minor was enrolled in school. TEA will provide the signs for free, or if not enough signs can be furnished the agency will prioritize distribution to schools in high-crime areas. In a provision titled the “Julia Wells Act” the bill requires the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation to include information on trafficking prevention to be included in driver education and safety courses. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

SB 2050 by Sen. Jose Menendez/Rep. Steve Allison

Requires districts’ bullying policies to include provisions regarding preventing and mediating bullying incidents that interfere with a student’s education opportunities or disrupt a classroom’s/school’s orderly operations. The policy must comply with standards adopted by TEA that emphasize bullying prevention focusing on school climate and healthy relationships, require campuses to establish a committee focusing on prevention efforts and health/wellness initiatives, require students to meet periodically for instruction on building relationships and preventing bullying/cyberbullying, emphasize increasing student reporting of bullying incidents (including providing for anonymous report), require districts to collect information through student surveys and use those results to develop action plans, and require districts to develop a rubric or checklist to assess bullying incidents and determine the district’s response. Districts must annually report bullying incidents through PEIMS, specifying the number involving cyberbullying. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

CHARTER SCHOOLS

HB 189 by Rep. Terry Canales/Sen. Eddie Lucio

Includes charter schools in the current law that penalizes districts that pay more than a year’s salary and benefits in severance pay to a superintendent. The penalty equals the amount above the one year of salary/benefits. Applies to severance agreements entered into after the effective date of the bill.

HB 3610 by Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins/Sen. Drew Springer

Exempts property leased to a charter school from property taxation. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

SB 346 by Sen. Angela Paxton/Rep. Harold Dutton

Makes charter schools eligible for the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Grant Program.

Signed by the governor, effective May 24, 2021.

EXTRACURRICULAR

HB 547 by Rep. James Frank/Sen. Angela Paxton

Allows schools participating in a UIL activity to allow non-enrolled/homeschooled students who otherwise meet eligibility standards to represent the school in league activities. The student is subject to existing policies regarding registration, age, fees, insurance transportation, physical condition, qualifications, responsibilities, event schedules, standards of behavior, and performance. The student can only participate in activities for a school in which the student would normally be enrolled based on residence.

Parents are responsible for the oversight of academic standards; the student must demonstrate grade-level proficiency on a nationally recognized test (such as the Iowa Test or Stanford Achievement Test) for UIL participation during the first six weeks of the school year. After the first six weeks, the parent must periodically (in accordance with the district’s grading schedule) provide written verification indicating that the student is receiving a passing grade in each subject being taught.

A non-enrolled student cannot participate in the same year in which the student was previously enrolled in a public school. Non-enrolled students are subject to the same immunization requirements as enrolled students (i.e., vaccines are required, but with exemptions for health risks or reasons of conscience/religious beliefs).

HB 1080 by Rep. Jared Patterson/Sen. Jane Nelson

Requires the UIL to ensure that league rules do not exclude a student receiving outpatient mental health services from participating in league activities based solely on that criterion. Takes immediate effect.

HB 2721 by Rep. Eddie Lucio/Sen. Eddie Lucio

Provides that a student will be prohibited from participation in any future extracurricular activity if the UIL determines that the student intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to a referee or other official in retaliation for or as a result of the person’s official actions in that capacity. The student can request to be allowed to return to future activities no sooner than one year after the original conduct resulting in the prohibition, if the student was in 8th grade or below; or two years after the conduct if in high school.

The student must also have completed an anger management course and any other course or activity required by the school district, and must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the district and UIL that the student has been rehabilitated and is unlikely to repeat the behavior. In considering the request, the UIL must take into account the severity of the conduct and can set conditions for future participation. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

SB 776 by Sen. Eddie Lucio/Rep. Alex Dominguez

Requires the UIL to establish an inclusive sports program for students with intellectual disabilities. It must accommodate inclusive team sports offered at middle/junior/high schools; identify best practices for districts to incorporate inclusive sports; and require that the program incorporate activities that promote bullying prevention, moral intelligence, character development, leadership development, physical fitness and positive school culture. UIL must consider and incorporate federal guidance and guidance from nationally recognized organizations that promote inclusion and acceptance among students with and without intellectual disabilities.

UIL should, to the extent possible, require that students be subject to the same rules and requirements as those in other athletic programs, including grade and disciplinary requirements and requirements related to student safety in athletic activities. Sports should be organized similarly to other athletic programs including with respect to team practices, seasonal play, and local and statewide competitions. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

CURRICULUM

HB 2681 by Rep. Terry Wilson/Sen. Dawn Buckingham

Revises the current law allowing districts to offer electives on the Old and New Testaments from 9th grade or above to 6th grade or above. Requires that the teacher hold a certificate that qualifies the teacher to teach at that grade level. Is contingent on available funding. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

HB 4509 by Rep. Greg Bonnen/Sen. Larry Taylor

Adds provisions regarding “informed American patriotism” to the formal objectives of education laid out in state law.

Educators must cultivate an informed American patriotism and lead students in a close study of the founding documents of the US and Texas, to increase students’ knowledge of the deepest and noblest purposes of the US and Texas, and enhance intellectual independence so that students may become informed citizens with an appreciation for the fundamental democratic principles of our state and national heritage. “Informed American patriotism” is defined as a reasoned appreciation gained through a study of primary sources of why America has been, is now, and continues to be the destination of choice for those to yearn to live in freedom. “Informed American patriotism is only a conditional pledge of devotion that will be maintained only so long as America adheres to a republican form of government. If we abandon a representative democracy, our pledge of allegiance will be withdrawn as is stated in the Pledge of Allegiance, which swears devotion to a ‘republic.’”

Current law requiring the teaching of US and Texas history is revised to “the teaching of informed American patriotism and Texas history.” Requires SBOE, in adopting foundation curriculum TEKS, to include the fundamental moral, political and intellectual foundations of the American experiment in self-government; the history, qualities, traditions and features of civic engagement in the US; the structure, function, and processes of government institutions at the federal/state/local levels; and the founding documents of the US. Those are specified to include the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Federalist Papers, excerpts from de Toqueville’s Democracy in America, the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, the founding fathers’ writings, Frederick Douglass’s speeches “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” and “What the Black Man Wants”, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

SB 123 by Sen. Nathan Johnson/Rep. John Turner

Adds “personal skills” to statutes involving the integration of positive character traits into the K-12 TEKS. They would include self-management skills, interpersonal skills, and responsible decision-making skills. Applies beginning with the 2022-23 school year.

SB 801 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst/Rep. Ben Leman

Requires TEA to develop an agriculture education program for elementary school students in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and relevant nonprofit organizations. TEA will develop a list of agriculture education programs to be used as curriculum for elementary students. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

SB 1063 by Sen. Carol Alvarado/Rep. Ken King

Adds a half credit in personal financial literacy and economics as an option to the currently required half credit in economics. The course must consist of 2/3 personal financial literacy and 1/3 economics. Applies beginning with the 2022-23 school year.

SCHOOL GOVERNANCE AND OPERATIONS

HB 690 by Rep. Will Metcalf/Sen. Eddie Lucio

Provides that the SBOE must require school board trustees to complete training on school safety. The bill takes effect Sept. 1, 2021; training materials must be developed no later than January 1, 2022.

SB 338 by Sen. Beverly Powell/Rep. Eddie Lucio

Allows districts to adopt uniform general conditions to be incorporated into building construction contracts. Adds a member from TASA and one from TASA to the Texas Facilities Commission committee that performs regular reviews of building construction contracts. Goes into effect immediately.

SB 788 by Sen. Brandon Creighton/Rep. Donna Howard

Requires TEA, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the Texas Workforce Commission to develop model FERPA-compliant data-sharing agreements for use by schools and institutions of higher education.

Signed by the governor, effective Sept. 1, 2021.

SB 797 by Sen. Bryan Hughes/Rep. Tom Oliverson

Requires schools to display in a conspicuous plan in each building a poster or framed copy of the “In God We Trust” motto, if the poster/copy is donated for display or purchased from private donations and made available to the school. The poster/copy must include the US flag centered under the motto along with the Texas flag, and cannot depict any other words or images. Takes effect immediately.

SB 1351 by Sen. Borris Miles/Rep. Alma Allen

Clarifies a recently-enacted law allowing campuses to donate food to a nonprofit organization for storing and redistributing the food. The donation can be made through a person who is directly and officially affiliated with the campus, including a teacher or counselors, or through a parent of a student at the school. The donated food can include snacks served from the cafeteria, and may include unserved food that is packaged on campus and has not been removed from the campus cafeteria. Food that must by law be maintained at a certain temperature cannot be donated unless the campus has maintained the food at that temperature.

SB 1696 by Sen. Angela Paxton/Rep. Terry Wilson

Requires TEA, in coordination with the Department of Information Resources, to establish a system to coordinate anonymous sharing of information between participating schools and the state regarding cyber attacks or other cybersecurity incidents. Districts/charters must report to TEA or the entity administering the system any cyber attack or other cybersecurity incident against the district’s/charter’s infrastructure that constitutes a breach of security as soon as possible after its discovery. The system will include all such reports, preserve their anonymity, and ensure the reports are shared between participating school in as close to real time as possible.

HIGHER EDUCATION

SB 1277 by Sen. Royce West/Rep. John Turner

Requires that an agreement between a district and a public institution of higher education regarding a dual credit course must designate at least one employee of the district or institution as responsible for providing academic advising to a student in the course before the student begins the course. Applies to agreements entered into after Sept. 1, 2021.

SB 1888 by Sen. Brandon Creighton/Rep. Tan Parker

Requires TEA in coordination with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to establish the Texas First Early High School Completion Program, to allow public high school students who demonstrate early readiness for college to graduate early from high school. Eligible universities are the University of Texas (Austin), Texas A&M, Texas State, Texas Tech, UT Arlington, UT Dallas, UT El Paso, UT San Antonio, University of Houston, and University of North Texas. Students would not be guaranteed college admission solely based on early graduation.

Also establishes the Texas First Scholarship program. To be eligible for the maximum scholarship award, a student must graduate at least two semesters early; a student graduating early by less than two semesters would be eligible for half that amount. Scholarship would be available beginning with the 2021-22 school year. These programs take the place of similar existing programs (the pilot for students demonstrating early readiness and the Early High School Graduation Scholarship). Takes effect immediately.

SPECIAL PROGRAMS AND REPORTS

HB 1247 by Rep. Jose Lozano/Sen. Beverly Powell

Requires the Texas Workforce Commission, TEA and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop a strategic framework to encourage work-based learning. The agencies will report to the legislature on the framework; the report must define “work-based learning opportunity” to include a variety of high-quality and rigorous work-based learning opportunities, such as youth apprenticeships, internships, simulated workplaces, service learning and virtual workspaces.

The report must also establish methods of identifying student and adult learner skills and competencies aligned with industry demand, with a particular focus on high-demand, high-growth industries that offer livable wages. Other components of the report should include: aligning priorities and programs across the agencies to develop strategies that strengthen workforce pipelines; identifying ways to partner with schools, institutions of higher education, businesses, and other groups to implement project-based learning in middle/junior high classrooms and work-based learning in high school and post secondary education; identifying opportunities to improve and incentivize regional coordination to better reflect regional workforce needs; and including recommendations to improve funding for work-based learning and training. The report must be delivered no later than Dec. 31, 2022.

HB 2497 by Rep. Tan Parker/Sen. Brandon Creighton

Creates the “1836 Project”, an advisory committee to promote patriotic education throughout the state and increase awareness of Texas values. The committee is composed of nine members intended to reflect the state’s diversity, with three members each appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and House speaker.

The committee’s responsibilities are not directly related to public school courses or curriculum, rather they are directed at educating citizens through information provided at state parks, monuments, museums, etc. However, the committee is also tasked with facilitating the development of the Gubernatorial 1836 Award to recognize student knowledge of Texas Independence.

TEA must provide funding and administrative support for the project, including for pamphlets provided to DPS explaining policy decisions made to promote liberty and freedom for businesses and families, to be given to all persons receiving a driver’s license. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

HB 3932 by Rep. Diego Bernal/Sen. Jose Menendez

Creates the State Advisory Council on Educational Opportunity for Military Children to provide for coordination among agencies, districts and military installations regarding state participation in and compliance with the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. The council consists of the commissioner/designee, a superintendent of a district with a high concentration of military children, the governor/designee, the Senate Education Committee chair/designee, the House Public Education Committee chair/designee, a representative from each branch of the armed services that has an installation in Texas, and representatives of other offices and stakeholder groups. Takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.

MISCELLANEOUS

HB 3456 by Rep. James White/Sen. Sarah Eckhardt

Provides that if the Legislative Budget Board or the governor requests budget reductions, money received by the Windham School District, adult high school diploma and industry certification charter school program, School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, or School for the Deaf, or appropriated for their operations, is considered to be part of the foundation school program and not subject to reductions. Takes effect immediately.

HB 4124 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa/Sen. Charles Perry

Prioritizes enrollment of military students in special-purpose school districts such as those operated by Texas Tech and the University of Texas. Allows such districts to enroll a student who is military dependent, was previously enrolled in a Texas school and who no longer resides in Texas due to a military deployment or transfer.

SB 1232 by Sen. Larry Taylor/Rep. Greg Bonnen

Creates the Texas Permanent School Fund Corporation to manage and invest the permanent school fund and the charter district bond guarantee reserve fund, comprising five members of the SBOE, the General Land Office commissioner, one member appointment by the land commissioner, and two members appointed by the governor from a list of three nominated by the SBOE and three nominated by the School Land Board. The fund is currently managed jointly by the SBOE and School Land Board (an entity of the General Land Office).

SB 2066 by Sen. Jose Menendez/Rep. Harold Dutton

Replaces language in current law regarding “limited English proficient” students or “English learners” with “emergent bilingual” students.