The Senate Education Committee heard nine bills, including one that would essentially create a voucher program for special education services. SB 1716 by Senate Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor would allow for a direct payment of taxpayer funds for parents of special education students to purchase supplemental services outside of the purview of the school district, and TCTA opposed the bill. It received some support from parents, but a prominent special education advocacy group testified against the bill, noting that it would be preferable to direct the funding into the school system as established by last session’s HB 3.
Other bills on the agenda (left pending):
- SB 980 by Sen. Beverly Powell would allow districts to opt into a program for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention at the elementary school level. (TCTA supported.)
- SB 1351 by Sen. Borris Miles would expand the law regarding the donation of unused food on school campuses to allow donation of food that was packaged on campus. (TCTA supported.)
- SB 1277 by Sen. Royce West would require that an agreement between a school district and a college regarding dual credit programs must designate an employee of one of the entities as responsible for providing academic advising to students before they begin the course.
- SB 879 by Sen. Eddie Lucio would revise the criteria for dropout recovery programs to be able to participate in the state’s alternative accountability system by designating programs that serve at least 60% students who are age 16 or older (current law – 50%/age 17) as a dropout recovery program.
- SB 1955 by Chair Taylor addresses current-law restrictions on “learning pods,” and would exempt them from many local regulations.
- SB 215 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt would create the Office of Inspector General at TEA.
- SB 2044 by Sen. Jose Menendez addresses prevention and reporting of bullying incidents.
The committee voted out several previously-heard bills:
- SB 741 by Sen. Brian Birdwell relaxes restrictions on the possession/carrying of a handgun on school property by school marshals.
- SB 776 by Sen. Lucio would require the UIL to establish an inclusive sports program to ensure that students with intellectual disabilities can participate in team athletic activities.
- SB 2066 by Sen. Jose Menendez would substitute the phrase “emergent bilingual” for “limited English proficient” throughout the Education Code.
- SB 2158 by Sen. Donna Campbell would require TEA to provide inkless, in-home fingerprint and DNA identification kits to parents of students in kindergarten or elementary school, upon request.
- SB 27 by Chair Taylor relating to a statewide virtual education framework; there are concerns that provisions in the bill equate to a voucher.