The House Public Education Committee heard HB 3270 by Chairman Harold Dutton, which is designed to address problems the Texas Education Agency and Commissioner Mike Morath have had in holding the Houston ISD school board accountable for numerous governance and academic issues in the district. The bill drew considerable opposition from districts across the state, both because of greater authority granted to Morath to close or take over districts with low-performing campuses and because the bill is not limited to Houston but could affect any district in the state.
Another bill with extensive testimony was HB 1468 by Rep. Keith Bell, which would provide funding to districts for virtual instruction of their students beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Several superintendents showed up to support the bill. A substitute version of the bill included a provision that TCTA and other groups had suggested: a prohibition on “roomies and zoomies” where a teacher is responsible for both in-person and virtual instruction at the same. TCTA also asked for the inclusion of class size limits for virtual classes and an assurance that assignments of teachers to virtual classes would be voluntary, but neither provision is currently in the bill.
Other bills heard Tuesday included:
- HB 256 by Rep. Philip Cortez, which would require districts to have a policy regarding workplace bullying, including situations involving bullying of students by parents.
- HB 332 by Rep. James Talarico, which would expand the uses of compensatory education funding to include social-emotional learning programs (such as Communities in Schools and similar programs).
- HB 2230 by Rep. John Bucy, which would require a study on incorporating the fine arts into the foundation curriculum.
- HB 2344 by Rep. Erin Zweiner, which provides that for a reading STAAR exam or English I or II end-of-course exam, the portion of the assessment that is not multiple choice can be used as part of a classroom portfolio method to assess writing performance.
- HB 3204 by Dutton, which would revise how a district can demonstrate a graduate’s “career readiness” for the career readiness bonus by including a student who is employed at a certain minimum salary after graduation.
The committee voted out several bills, including:
- HB 363 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver, which provides enhanced protection of student data.
- HB 999 by Rep. Diego Bernal, which would allow the use of individual graduation committees for students in the graduating classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023 without considering performance on any end-of-course assessments.
- HB 2519 by Rep. Drew Darby, which addresses how SBEC can handle situations of contract abandonment by teachers who resign after the resignation deadline under particular circumstances.
- HB 2557 by Rep. Glenn Rogers, which allows districts to have volunteer security forces composed of retired law enforcement or veterans; the committee substitute limits the bill to districts in counties with a population of less than 150,000.