The Senate Education Committee met for a hearing on several bills, but first heard from Education Commissioner Mike Morath. Morath presented an overview of education issues, including information about learning losses that can be attributed to COVID-19 disruptions, and about the billions of dollars in federal COVID relief funding that Texas is expecting. Click here to see the slide deck that accompanied Morath’s presentation.
Senators expressed concern about Morath’s projection that around half of the state’s students will be below grade level by the end of this school year. Sen. Beverly Powell noted that districts will need information soon about how the state plans to allocate the federal funding, pointing out that these funds will be important for districts to plan for how to address the learning losses that Morath identified. Several senators expressed a desire for some kind of criteria that districts must meet in order to receive the funding.
The committee heard the following bills:
- SB 89 by Sen. Jose Menendez is titled the COVID-19 Special Education Recovery Act. It requires districts to prepare a supplement to be included with the written statement of a student’s IEP that would include information indicating whether the child’s evaluation was completed during 2019-20 or 2020-21. It would also note whether the provision of special education services during one of those years was interrupted, reduced, delayed, suspended or discontinued; and whether compensatory services would be appropriate for the student.
- SB 178 by Sen. Eddie Lucio would create a phased-in approach to improving student:counselor ratios, so that by 2029-30, a district with 300+ students must have a counselor at each school, and a 300:1 ratio. The requirements can be met by employing a part-time counselor, part-time teacher certified as a counselor, or entering a shared services arrangement with one or more other districts. TCTA supported the bill.
- SB 179 by Lucio would require districts to adopt a policy requiring counselors to spend at least 80% of their work time on duties that are components of a counseling program. TCTA supported the bill.
- SB 204 by Sen. Charles Schwertner would allow district and county school boards to operate a school transportation system outside the district/county for students served by the system who live outside the district/county.
- SB 338 by Sen. Beverly Powell would address issues relating to construction contracts.
- SB 442 by Bryan Hughes would require school boards to adopt a policy establishing a process for adopting curriculum or curriculum materials for the district’s sexuality instruction. The board would have to convene the local school health advisory council to make recommendations on the curriculum. The bill would also address issues regarding notice to parents about sexuality instruction.