Senate Ed Committee approves special ed voucher bill

The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 1871 by Sen. Davis, a special education voucher bill that would allow parents to take education funding from public schools and funnel those funds to private institutions designed to rehabilitate and serve students with severe, pervasive learning disabilities. Sen. West claimed the measure was not a voucher bill and asked to be a coauthor. TSTA opposes the bill.

The committee also heard House Bill 500, which would change the end of course testing requirements for a high school diploma. This bill was left pending after Chairwoman Shapiro laid out a committee substitute. TSTA appeared and was prepared to testify for the bill but had to remain neutral on Shapiro’s proposal because copies of her substitute weren’t immediately available, not even for committee members.

TSTA will draft an analysis of the committee substitute when a copy of the language becomes available.

As approved by the House, HB 500 by Rep. Eissler would amend the end of course testing requirements for both the minimum and recommended high school programs.  It would remove the requirement that 15 percent of a student’s final grade in a course be determined by the end of course exam and leave the weight to be determined by school districts.

The bill also would require a student to pass fewer end-of-course exams. Instead of having to pass 12 end-of-course exams – in English, math, science and social studies – a student would have to pass only four exams. The four would be in English III; Algebra I for the minimum plan and Algebra II for the recommended plan; world geography, world history, or U.S. history; and biology, chemistry, or physics. The new requirements would be effective for entering 9th graders in the 2013-14 school year.

Amendments adopted on the House floor included one prohibiting TEA from using the Texas Projection Measure to represent an actual level of annual improvement in student achievement. It may be used only to show an expected level of annual improvement. Other amendments would allow an ARD committee to determine whether passage of end of course exams is necessary for a special education student to receive a diploma, would allow a student in 5th or 8th grade taking a course that is at the high school level requiring an end of course exam to be excused from an assessment in that course, and would create a pilot program allowing at least 20 campuses to apply to the commissioner for reduced assessments in grades 3rd to 8th.

In other action, the committee approved the following bills: 

  • House Bill 34 by Rep. Branch, providing for personal financial literacy, including adding instruction in methods of paying for college and other postsecondary education and training. This bill was certified for the Local & Uncontested Calendar. 
  • House Bill 1286 by Rep. Howard, relating to adoption of rules by the University Interscholastic League. This bill was certified for the Local & Uncontested Calendar. 
  • House Bill 1682 by Rep. Weber, prohibiting school board members or other school district employees from coercing employees to make or refrain from making charitable contributions or to attend meetings called for the purpose of soliciting charitable contributions. This bill was certified for the Local & Uncontested Calendar.