85th Legislative Session Round-Up

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The 85th Legislature concluded Monday, and many changes are coming for Texas schools. More importantly, quite a few potentially reductive laws were staved off by thoughtful policymakers.

Below are the highs and lows of Texas’ most recent round of lawmaking:

Texas Aspires Priorities:

  1. HB 22 | Author: Huberty et al., Sponsor: L. Taylor
    HB 22 is the compromise legislation negotiated by House and Senate leaders to improve the A-F accountability system. The bill maintained strong academic and achievement measures championed by Senate leadership and Chairman Taylor while leaving many important decisions up to the commissioner through the rulemaking process. HB 22 also introduces a process for districts to develop local indicators to include in their overall rating. The bill delays implementation of campus grades to the 2018-2019 school year. Texas Aspires will continue to weigh in on our accountability system to safeguard important student protections.
  2. HB 3349Author: Gervin-Hawkins, et al., Sponsor: V. Taylor
    Dubbed “industry-to-classroom certifications”, this bill allows trade/industry professionals to pass an abbreviated teacher preparation program and teach career and technical education courses in their fields of practice. HB 3349 enjoyed bipartisan support in both chambers and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
  3. SB 1480Author: Hughes, Sponsors: Murphy/Shine
    Charter schools receive no funding for facilities, which is a problem the Senate attempted to address this session. They did get a major helping hand with SB 1480, however, which allows charters to borrow at lower rates with the backing of the Permanent School Fund. This legislation helps charters keep more money in classrooms instead of being spent on higher interest rates, and passed out of both chambers with large margins.
  4. SB 1882Authors: Menéndez/Bettencourt, Sponsor: Koop
    District-charter partnerships encourage collaboration between traditional ISDs and public charter schools to bring about educational environments that work for Texas students. SB 1882 (and its companion HB 3439) incentivize these partnerships by offering a boost in funding and extra flexibilities from the state. The two bills were authored/coauthored by eight Democrats and fourteen Republicans, and the legislation was passed handily out of both the Senate and House.
  5. SB 2200 by Lucio, Jr. and HB 2941 by Dutton 
    Legislation to set up a requirement for districts to report their efforts to recruit, develop, and retain teachers and set up a grant program to adopt best practices was popular among many lawmakers. With many other bills gaining traction, both bills stalled after positive hearings.
  6. SB 2049 by L. Taylor and HB 3778 by J. Johnson
    These proposals would have reintroduced an exit-level assessment in Texas high schools. Though both pieces of legislation ultimately failed, a productive conversation about the importance of postsecondary readiness was woven in throughout the session. Fortunately, certain provisions worked into the state’s accountability system will ultimately redirect the focus of public education to postsecondary readiness and the ability of all Texas high school graduates to succeed in college and careers.

Other Legislation:

  1. HB 515 | Author: VanDeaver, et al., Sponsor: L. Taylor 
    HB 515 would have significantly reduced the number of subject-specific STAAR tests. A considerable number of teachers expressed concern with the bill, highlighting the importance of the social studies and writing assessments in student learning. In the last week of session, conferees from both chambers were unable to reach a compromise, and the bill faltered.
  2. HB 1333 | Author: Isaac, et al.
    Test reduction has been the rallying cry for anti-reformers for a few sessions now. Accordingly, the “Teaching over Testing Act”, HB 1333 would have stripped Texas of a uniform statewide test, eliminated critical subject-level assessments, removed objective student performance measures from teacher evaluations, and shifted schools’/districts’ focus to non-academic measures of quality. House leadership stood firm and defeated the bill in multiple forms.
  3. SB 463Author: Seliger, Sponsor: Huberty
    To create a workaround to graduation for students who do not pass all of the state’s five required end-of-course exams, the 84th Legislature passed a law to create individual graduation committees (IGCs). The first year the committees met, approx. 6,000 students graduated via this route, while the second year saw an increase of over 50 percent. SB 463 as engrossed, largely due to the leadership of Sen. Seliger, extends the sunset date for IGCs to 2019 (instead of Huberty’s proposed 2021) and creates a study to look at the postsecondary performance of students who have graduated via committee.
With the grueling five-month legislative session behind us, Texas Aspires now looks to being a partner with stakeholders as the extensive rulemaking process begins. In addition, we will continue to build networks of concerned Texans to be voices for students and dig deep into the research that informs our work every day. We hope to see you at some point along the way!
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