Capitol Update: Special Edition May 7, 2013

May 7, 2013 |

Today is a special edition of the Raise Your Hand Capitol Update to keep you updated on yesterday’s passage of the committee substitute for House Bill 5, the session’s major education bill on assessment, graduation requirements and accountability, by the Texas Senate.

Senate Passes HB 5 With Significant Changes

After a great deal of behind the scenes negotiating and just over three hours of floor debate, the Texas Senate passed the Senate’s version of HB 5 by a vote of 31-0. The most significant change contained in the Senate committee substitute is what Chairman Patrick described as the “flex 4X4” which maintains the Foundation diploma and the endorsements, but requires 4 years of math and science (including Algebra II or a locally developed applied mathematics course that is equivalent) in all endorsements except for Business & Industry. The Senate committee substitute stays with 5 end-of-course exams (combining reading and writing portions of English I and II) and limits benchmark tests to two per end-of-course exam.

During the course of floor consideration of the bill, the Senate debated 29 amendments. Among the more significant amendments adopted were the following:

  • An amendment by Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) giving district’s the option to administer two additional end-of-course exams in English III and Algebra II for diagnostic purposes only. These tests cannot be considered for accountability, student grades, class rank, eligibility for state grant programs or other purposes. The two optional exams are in addition to the 5 end-of-course exams contemplated by the bill.
  • An amendment by Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and a member of the Senate Education Committee, providing that a student must take four years of math and science including Algebra II in order to qualify for automatic admission under the top 10% rule or to qualify for state financial aid programs like B-On-Time Loans and Texas Grants.
  • An amendment by Senator Patrick (R-Houston) along with several other senators reflecting a compromise agreement on the accountability system that would assign labels A-F for districts only while maintaining the current labels for individual campuses.

The bill will now be returned to the House, and it is anticipated that a conference committee will be appointed by both chambers to negotiate the final version of the bill.

Charter School Bill Passes House Committee

SB 2 by Patrick, the omnibus charter school bill, made it one step closer to final passage by being reported favorably (7-3) by the House Public Education Committee on Thursday, April 30. The bill was passed as substituted. Changes from the version that was passed by the full Senate include:

  • The charter renewal process would apply to all charters. The bill directs the Commissioner to enact one of three renewal types: expedited, discretionary, expired.
  • All charters would be subject to the automatic revocation process (including dropout recovery schools).
  • Keeping authority for approving charter applications with the State Board of Education (SBOE). TEA Commissioner will have a veto period of 90 days after a charter is granted. (Senate version had the reverse).
  • Charter cap grows by 10 charters per year until it reaches 275 in 2019 (Senate had a staggered increase up to 305 in 2019.) The House version requires dropout recovery charters to be included in the cap count.

For those interested in the players behind SB 2 and the negotiations surrounding the bill, check out this Texas Tribune article by Morgan Smith.

Targeted Bill on Online Classes Passes House

On Friday and Saturday, the House passed HB 1926 by Representative Ken King (R-Canadian) to expand the availability of online classes offered through the Texas Virtual School Network.

The bill does allow private companies and nonprofits to submit courses to TEA for approval and requires TEA to create a clearinghouse of online courses. Significantly, however, the committee substitute would not allow a “virtual voucher” by allowing public funds to flow directly to private providers or by allowing private or homeschooled students to take courses at public expense. Additionally, the bill limits students to three courses per year that may be taken online.

Raise Your Hand Texas worked closely with Representative King to provide input to narrow and focus his bill to provide online courses to rural students and others who may not have a particular course offering in their school.

This stands in sharp contrast to Senator Glenn Hegar’s (R-Katy) SB 1298 in the Texas Senate, which would create a virtual voucher and contains no limit on online courses among other issues. As a result, the bill originally had a fiscal note of nearly $1 billion and continues to have a significant fiscal note of approximately $200 million. Terrence Stutz of the Dallas Morning News has written an excellent article comparing the two measures.

In the article, Stutz quotes Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), who has been a leader in the Texas Senate on virtual education issues, on SB 1298:

“This would be a boon for all these private virtual providers,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, voicing the sentiments of other Democratic senators who are resisting any shift of public school dollars to private companies. “This is how other states have gotten into trouble with virtual providers, who were allowed to come in and make beaucoup bucks.”

Raise Your Hand Texas CEO Dr. David Anthony is additionally quoted in the article, noting that, “Despite their rapid growth, the record to date shows that full-time virtual schools have performed poorly on academic achievement and accountability, and little or no information is available on the financial arrangements of providers who are paid with taxpayer funds…”

Legislative Calendar Becomes Focus as May Arrives

During the last month of the legislative session, the hours get long and the calendar rules become crucially important. Below are a few of the key dates. For the complete list, click here.

May 6, 2013 – Last day for House committees to report House bills/resolutions

May 9, 2013 – Last day for full House to pass House bills/resolutions (second reading/supplemental)

May 18, 2013 – Last day for House committees to report Senate bills/resolutions

May 21, 2013 – Last day for full House to pass Senate bills/resolutions (second reading/supplemental)

May 24, 2013 – Last day for House to act on Senate amendments; Last day for Senate committees to report all bills/resolutions; Midnight deadline for Senate to print and distribute Senate copies of conference committee reports on tax, general appropriations, and reapportionment bills

May 25, 2013 – Midnight deadline for House to distribute House copies of all conference committee reports; Midnight deadline for Senate to print and distribute Senate copies of all conference committee reports

May 26, 2013 – Last day for House to adopt conference committee reports; Last day for Senate to concur or adopt conference committee reports

May 27, 2013 (140th day) Last day of 83rd Regular Session; SINE DIE

Waco Grassroots Luncheon Rescheduled

In light of the tragic events in West, Texas, the Raise Your Hand Texas grassroots luncheon that was originally scheduled for April 19 has been rescheduled for Monday, May 13. For more information about this event, contact us at [email protected].

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