Hundreds of bills affecting public education were filed during the 87th Texas Legislature, which concluded its regular session at the end of May.Advocates with the statewide public education nonprofit Raise Your Hand Texas applauded lawmakers for maintaining public school finance reforms passed in the 86th legislative session in 2019, not penalizing school districts for pandemic-related enrollment declines and committing to sending schools federal stimulus funding for pandemic recovery efforts.

The following education-related bills passed during the regular 87th legislative session.

ACADEMICS & TESTING

House Bill 1603 (Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston)—The bill removed the 2023 expiration date for individual graduation committees, which may allow students who failed up to two end-of-course exams to graduate if they have otherwise successfully completed all course requirements.

House Bill 4545 (Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston)—HB 4545 removed the requirement that fifth- and eighth-graders must pass certain State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to move to the next grade level. Districts must provide accelerated learning to students who fail these exams.

CURRICULUM

House Bill 3979 (Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands)—The bill outlines what can and cannot be taught in public school social studies courses. Teachers cannot be required to discuss controversial public policy or social issues. Concepts that one race or sex is superior to others or that one is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive based on their race or sex cannot be taught in public schools.

Senate Bill 801 (Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham)—The bill requires the Texas Education Agency to develop an agriculture education program for elementary students.

SCHOOL FINANCE

House Bill 1525 (Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston)—Known as the “cleanup bill” for the 86th session’s House Bill 3, HB 1525 adjusted various allotments and allows compensatory education funds to be used for social-emotional learning, instructional coaches and attendance officers. It also prohibits the reduction of teacher salaries from 2019-20 levels.

House Bill 3610 (Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, D-San Antonio)—The bill exempts open-enrollment charter schools from paying property taxes on properties purchased, leased, built or renovated with state funds after Sept. 1, 2001.

DISTRICT EMPLOYEES

Senate Bill 179 (Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville)—SB 179 requires school boards to adopt policies requiring counselors spend at least 80% of total work time on duties included in the school’s comprehensive counseling program. A copy of the policy must be available in the school office for employees, parents and the public.

Senate Bill 1356 (Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola)—The bill created a program to facilitate public school tutoring by active and retired teachers. Teachers can tutor on a for-hire or voluntary basis.

HEALTH

House Bill 699 (Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston)—The bill requires school districts to excuse absences when a student cannot attend school due to a serious illness or related treatment. The student’s parent or guardian must provide documentation from a licensed Texas physician specifying the illness and anticipated length of absence.

Senate Bill 279 (Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, D-McAllen)—SB 279 requires student IDs for grades 6-12 and higher education institutions include contact information for suicide prevention hotlines.

ATHLETICS

House Bill 547 (Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls)—HB 547 allows public schools to allow home-schooled students who meet eligibility standards to participate in University Interscholastic League activities.

Senate Bill 776 (Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville)—The bill requires the UIL to ensure students with intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to participate in team athletic activities. The UIL must establish, maintain and expand an inclusive sports program.

 

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By Harry