The House Public Education Committee met for 19+ hours beginning on Tuesday morning and continuing throughout the night until around 6 a.m. Wednesday. The hearing included bills on controversial topics including revision of the so-called critical race theory bill and legislation regarding transgender students participating in UIL athletic competitions.
Specifically, the bills heard were:
- SB 15, regarding virtual/electronic instruction. The bill includes provisions that would allow districts to receive full funding for virtual instruction, limited to no more than 10% of the district’s students. It include safeguards ranging from teacher protections (no “roomies and zoomies” during the same class period, and teachers cannot be assigned to provide full-time instruction unless they agree in writing or in their contract) to an expiration date of 2023 (with the intent that a commission meeting during the interim will make recommendations regarding virtual instruction to the legislature for the 2023 session). There are concerns that the elimination of a provision in an earlier version of the bill will allow unlimited enrollment in some existing full-time virtual programs, including two charter schools with poor performance ratings.
- SB 9, which addresses how schools provide instruction relating to the prevention of child abuse, family violence and dating violence. The version of the bill that passed during the regular session was vetoed by Gov. Abbott because it did not include an opt-out provision. The current version includes the opt-out; a number of parents testified that it should be an opt-in, with some committee members responding that the families in which such instruction would be most important were unlikely to opt their child in.
- HB 28, relating to civics instruction. This House version of the critical race theory (CRT) bill includes provisions that would considerably increase paperwork provisions for teachers. As TCTA noted in our testimony against the bill, “HB 28 would require every teacher to catalogue all instructional materials, teacher materials, and ‘any other material a student is given the option to select for the student’s instruction.’ The information required to be posted would have to include, ‘a list disaggregated by subject area and grade level that states all information, including the title, author, organization, or Internet website, as applicable, necessary to identify a teaching material that was assigned, distributed, or otherwise presented to the district’s or school’s students during the preceding month….’” (Note: SB 3, the Senate version of the civics bill that did not include the new paperwork requirements, was originally scheduled to be heard but was withdrawn from the agenda. However, most of the provisions of SB 3 are included in a proposed committee substitute for HB 28.)
- SB 2, requiring students to participate in UIL athletic activities based on their biological sex according to their birth certificate. More than 100 witnesses registered to testify on the bill for more than nine hours through the night and wee hours of Wednesday morning.
SB 15 was approved by the committee and is expected to be heard on the House floor later this week. The other bills were left pending.