Capitol Update 2/22: An Insider’s Guide to Key Legislative Issues in Texas Public Education Policy

February 25, 2013 |

Senate Education Committee Hears Controversial Charter Schools Bill

On Thursday, February 21, the Senate Education Committee heard Chairman Patrick’s omnibus charter school bill, SB 2.

Chairman Patrick opened the hearing by announcing that he would be amending the bill to change a requirement that school district lease unused or underutilized facilities to charter schools for $1 to substitute fair market value. This provision had generated widespread concern, and still has a number of unresolved questions including who would own the facility if a charter school is closed.

Other provisions of the bill include:

  • Strengthening the authority to close failing charter schools;
  • Authorizing unlimited expansion of charter schools by eliminating the cap current cap of 215 charters in the state;
  • Weakening current standards for opening additional charter school campuses, which is currently limited to high-performing charter schools;
  • Substituting an appointed seven-member “Charter School Authorizing Authority” for the elected State Board of Education (SBOE) that currently approves new charters;
  • Providing facilities funding for charters;
  • Requiring school districts to make any empty or “underutilized” facilities available to interested charter schools for $1;
  • Promoting “home-rule districts” by granting them the fewer restrictions that charters enjoy and allowing a district to become home-rule with a majority vote, instead of the current 2/3 vote requirement.

“The question we need to ask ourselves is are we just trying to create more charters, or better charter schools?” says Raise Your Hand Texas CEO Dr. David Anthony. “While SB 2 includes some language to strengthen charter oversight, it provides for radical expansion of charters before we have shown we can effectively manage the ones we have and weakens standard for replication. We’re advocating for a patient approach to charters that puts effective oversight in place and issues charters to only the most qualified applicants. We think that this will be better for students, and ultimately for the long term success of charter schools.”

Raise Your Hand Texas CEO Dr. David Anthony testified in opposition to the bill as introduced, emphasizing the following concerns that Raise Your Hand Texas has with the bill:

  • Authorizing more charters when Texas has been unable to effectively manage existing charters will not produce better choices for students and parents.
  • SB 2 would significantly weaken the standards for replication of charter school campuses in the state, which should be limited to high-performing charters.
  • SB 2 would provide facilities funding to charter schools from the Institutional Facilities Allotment at a time when $5.3 billion has been cut from public school budgets.

Read Dr. Anthony’s complete testimony here.

Chairman Patrick indicated during the hearing that he hopes to report the bill from committee one week from Tuesday.

Senate Education Committee Holds Hearing on Testing, Reports Out SB 3

In an informational hearing on testing, the Senate Education Committee heard nearly eight hours of testimony on Tuesday, February 19. The majority of the testimony hearing focused on harsh criticism for the current STAAR and End-of-Course (EOC) exams.

Raise Your Hand Texas CEO Dr. David Anthony was invited to testify on a panel to offer Raise Your Hand Texas’ perspective on testing and accountability. Read Dr. Anthony’s testimony here.

The Senate Education Committee also voted 7-0 to favorably report Senate Bill 3 to the full Senate as substituted with two senators shown as “Present Not Voting” on the bill. SB 3 is Chairman Patrick’s assessment bill that restructures graduation requirements for high school students.

House Public Education Committee Discusses Assessment & Accountability Bills

Chairman Aycock held a 10+ hour hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 19 to discuss his omnibus HB 5, relating to public school accountability, including assessment, and curriculum requirements. Several related bills were also on the agenda.

The committee heard from more than 100 witnesses, including students, parents, school officials, education advocates, business community representatives and others. The testimony was overwhelmingly positive and appreciative for the thoughtful changes HB 5 would make to the current accountability and assessment systems. Read the testimony of Raise Your Hand Texas CEO Dr. David Anthony here.

All bills were left pending and it is expected that the committee will take Tuesday’s testimony into account, and move HB 5 forward accordingly.

House & Senate Article III Groups Meet to Discuss Budget

Both the Article III Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance’s Article III Workgroup met during the past week to discuss initial considerations of the public education budget. While no decisions were made, it is expected that their recommendations will be made public in the coming week.

Senate Education Committee to Hold Hearing Featuring Gov. Jeb Bush

In lieu of its regular Tuesday committee hearing, the Senate Education Committee will meet Wednesday, Feb. 27 in the Senate Chamber to hear from former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. Gov. Bush is expected to speak about virtual education, charter schools and school choice.

House Public Education Committee to Consider a Variety of Bills

The House Public Education committee will meet on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. or upon adjournment to consider a variety of bills. To view the agenda, click here.

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