A bill that had sparked a legislative fight over charter schools was given final passage by the House on Wednesday after the sponsor, Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio, pulled down the charter provision. In its approved form, the bill, SB738, simply allows parents of children in failing schools to petition the state education commissioner for corrective steps already allowed in current law.
Villarreal won preliminary approval of the bill last Saturday after amending the Senate version to allow parents in a school that had been failing for two years to petition the commissioner to convert the campus into a charter school. TSTA opposed that provision and alerted House members, whose opposition then prompted Villarreal to amend the bill to apply only to schools in Bexar County (San Antonio) and to limit such conversions to five per year.
When several other legislators from Bexar County also opposed that version, Villarreal relented and restored the bill to its original version, which won approval on third reading on Wednesday.
In other action Wednesday, the House approved the conference committee report on HB275, authorizing the expenditure of about $3.3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund. That leaves about $6 billion of the Rainy Day Fund unspent, despite a $4 billion shortfall in the new budget for public education and an anticipated $4.8 billion Medicaid shortfall.
The Senate approved the conference committee report on HB275 a short time later, sending the bill to the governor.
As another part of the budget-balancing act, the Senate on Wednesday night also approved a negotiated, revised version of House Bill 4, a bill formalizing cuts for the current biennium. And, on Thursday, the House and Senate conferees on House Bill 1, the appropriations bill, are expected to formally approve the new state budget, cutting $4 billion from the public schools.
One major piece of legislation related to the budget, Senate Bill 1811, remains unresolved, with House and Senate conferees working, so far unsuccessfully, to reach agreement on new school finance language to distribute the budget cuts among the state’s 1,000-plus school districts. This bill also could become a vehicle for anti-teacher legislation opposed by TSTA.
The House, meanwhile, accepted Senate amendments to the following bills and sent them to the governor:
- HB1907 by Madden and Whitmire, requiring teachers and other school employees to be notified immediately if a student in their class is arrested for a violent offense.
- HB359 by Allen and Lucio, allowing parents to refuse to allow corporal punishment to be administered to their children.
- HB3278 by Shelton and Shapiro, relating to the membership of the state education commissioner and the Texas Education Association on certain advisory committees, commissions and task forces.
- HB1334 by Allen and Wendy Davis, relating to the effect of a delay by the State Board for Educator Certification in renewing an educator’s certification.
- The House also passed the following bills:
- SB 975 by Juan Hinojosa and Sergio Munoz, allowing public junior colleges to partner with school districts to provide dropout recovery programs on the junior college campuses.
- SB 49 by Judith Zaffirini and Ryan Guillen, requiring a school district to provide the parents of a student removed to a disciplinary alternative education program with written notice of the district’s obligation to provide the student with an opportunity to complete coursework required for graduation. The notice must include information about all methods available for completing the coursework and state that the methods are available at no cost to the student.
- SB 391 by Dan Patrick and Rob Eissler, requiring publishers of adopted textbooks for grades other than prekindergarten to submit electronic sample copies of the books.
- SB 1042 by Glenn Hegar and Jim Jackson, prohibiting school contractors or subcontractors from letting employees work at a school if they have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor that would prevent them from being employed under Section 22.085(a).
- SB 1383 by Florence Shapiro and Rob Eissler, requiring the state education commissioner to establish and administer a comprehensive appraisal and professional development system for principals.
- SB 1545 by Dan Patrick and Beverly Woolley, granting immunity from civil liability under certain circumstances to a health care practitioner if a student athlete he or she examines is later injured or dies. This immunity would apply to health care practitioners who conduct physical exams or medical screenings of student athletes without compensation.
- SB 1619 by Robert Duncan and Jimmie Don Aycock, providing that a school district is not required to pay a student’s tuition or other associated costs for taking a college credit course.
- SB 1620 by Robert Duncan and Jimmie Don Aycock, requiring the State Board of Education to establish a process under which an applied STEM course may be reviewed and approved for purposes of satisfying the mathematics and science curriculum requirements for the recommended and advanced high school programs.
- SB 1788 by Dan Patrick and Dan Huberty, requiring the Texas Education Agency to develop a model form for use in developing an individualized education program.