The House Public Education Committee held its first meeting of the session Tuesday, kicking off with a briefing from Education Commissioner Mike Morath.
School employees were stung last week by a conversation among senators implying that some school districts may not have tried hard enough to retrieve missing students. But Morath noted in today's meeting that he has heard from educators and parents and believes that they are working extremely hard to get students to attend and engage.
This policy point has been part of the discussion about whether the state should continue to fund school districts at previous levels despite significant drops in enrollment, with administrators and teachers maintaining that the efforts to find and catch up those students who have not been attending classes require additional expenditures. Morath indicated that he hopes to make an announcement soon regarding the requested "hold harmless" funding.
The committee discussed the commissioner's decision to continue to require STAAR testing, along with concerns about graduation requirements for this year's seniors. Rep. Diego Bernal noted that legislators would have to move quickly if they wanted to provide statutory relief in time to affect 2021 graduates.
Rep. Keith Bell asked about districts that may wish to continue with hybrid or virtual learning beyond the current school year. Morath noted that legislation would need to be passed, as the waiver and emergency rules that currently allow such models will expire at the end of this school year.