One Act Play Performances, Baseball, Softball, and Legislative Update

The cast and crew of the one act play will present their award winning version of “Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will?” tonight and tomorrow at 7:00 PM in the HS auditorium. Admission is $5.00. Everyone is invited to attend.

Tonight, the baseball and softball teams continue district competition. The baseball team travels to Scurry and softball travels to Red Oak Life.

Below is an update on legislation that was recently discussed in the Texas House and the Texas Senate. With this legislative session having less than 8 weeks left, the pace in both the house and the senate is sure to increase. The information below comes from a summary furnished by TASB:

House Adopts Anti-Voucher Amendment

During debate of the state budget bill, Senate Bill 1, on the House floor on Thursday, state representatives adopted an amendment by Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) that would prohibit money appropriated to the Texas Education Agency from being used to support school vouchers or scholarships for private primary or secondary education
provided by nonprofit entities using donations received from entities that receive tax credits as a result of the donations. The amendment was adopted on a vote of 103-40.

Senate Education Meets   

The Senate Education Committee met on Thursday to consider the following bills:

SB 1362 (Schwertner) would require the pledges to the state and U.S. flag be
recited daily at each campus of an open-enrollment charter school. Students at a charter school could opt out of the pledge upon their parents’ written request. The bill was voted favorably from committee and sent to the full Senate.

SB 1505 (Schwertner) would require the release of questions and answers from
state assessments every year, as opposed to every third year as stipulated by
current law. The committee substitute would change the first year of release to
the 2014-15 school year from the 2013-14 school year. Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) raised the issues of the $2 million fiscal note and possible field test implications of releasing the tests every year. The bill was left pending.

SB 48 (Zaffirini), as substituted, would repeal the requirement that a student seeking to transfer to another school district do so each year. A transfer agreement could authorize the receiving school district to revoke the transfer at any time if the student fails to comply with a condition of the agreement, engages in conduct that requires removal or expulsion, fails to attend school, or fails to pay tuition. A student would be entitled to due process before the transfer approval could be revoked. Upon revocation, the district would be required to refund a pro rata share of the tuition fee, if any. Dr. Paul Clore of Gregory-Portland ISD testified on behalf of several superintendents in support of the bill, noting that districts must have flexibility to send students back to their home districts when severe discipline or attendance issues necessitate the move. Submitted testimony was overwhelmingly in favor of the bill. The bill, as substituted, was voted
favorably from committee and referred to the local and uncontested calendar.

SB 418 (Ellis) would require a school, including an open-enrollment charter school, to provide written notice to parents if the school does not have a full-time nurse assigned to the school for more than 30 consecutive instructional days in a school year. The committee substitute would allow the written notice to be posted on the district’s website. Patty Quinzi of Texas AFT testified in support of the bill. Amy Beneski of the Texas Association of School Administrators was called up to explain the position of TASA, TASB and the Texas School Alliance, which was against the bill. She noted the groups were in opposition to requiring districts to post information on personnel that
they were not required by law to have. Julie Shields of TASB noted that this notice may give parents the false expectation that a nurse would always be available at a campus, even though some districts rotate nurses among campuses. The bill was voted favorably from committee and was referred to the local and uncontested calendar.

SB 1408 (Patrick) would require the commissioner to adopt district and campus
performance ratings of A, B, C, D, or F. The commissioner would determine the
criteria for each letter rating. A rating of A-C would reflect acceptable performance and D or F would reflect unacceptable performance. The committee substitute requires the commissioner to base ratings on student growth, performance and other measures of postsecondary readiness. Senators Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), Royce West (D-Dallas) and Seliger shared reservations they had with the legislation, primarily that these grades don’t help shed too much more light on district performance and that the commissioner was considering this move against the recommendations of TEA advisory committees that studied this issue. The bill was voted favorably from committee and
referred to the full Senate.

SB 1406 (Patrick, Dan) would clarify that the SBOE shall maintain oversight of
regional education service center services and products concerning student
curriculum. Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) explained that the bill was
brought about after senators held an informational hearing on CSCOPE earlier in
the session and learned that SCOPE had never been under the authority of the
SBOE. The committee substitute would clarify that only CSCOPE would fall under
SBOE oversight because of this bill. An amendment by Sen. Robert Duncan
(R-Lubbock) would provide that CSCOPE lesson plans would be subject to the same
review process as textbooks. Sen. West asked if Chairman Dan Patrick
(R-Houston) would be amendable to sunsetting this process, to which Patrick
expressed his reluctance. The bill was voted favorably from committee and
referred to the full Senate.

SB 1474 (Duncan) would require districts to follow a process that involves
teacher input, a public board meeting and district employee input before
adopting a major curriculum initiative or management system. The bill was voted
favorably from committee and was referred to the local and uncontested
calendar.

SB 17 (Patrick, Dan) would create a school safety training program for employees
of a school district or an open-enrollment charter school who are authorized to
carry a concealed handgun on school premises. The committee substitute would
prevent any district employee from being penalized for or forced to participate
in the school safety program and clarifies confidentiality and liability provisions of the bill. An amendment to the bill would create a special fund in the state treasury for the purpose of collecting donations to help districts send employees to these trainings. An amendment by Sen. Duncan would make provisions for employees carrying weapons during UIL events. The bill was voted favorably from committee and sent to the full Senate.

SB 1556 (Seliger) would create the School Safety Advisory Council that would be responsible for studying best practices for use in school multi-hazard emergency operations planning and reporting them to the Texas School Safety Center. The bill would also create the School Safety Certification Program for districts that enact certain safety and communications measures in case of emergency. An amendment to the bill would change the name of the entity to the School Safety Advisory Task Force because a school safety council already exists. The bill was left pending.

SB 376 (Lucio) would require any school district campus or open-enrollment
charter school to provide a free breakfast during school hours to all students
if the school participates in the national school breakfast program and 80
percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast.
The committee substitute would allow districts flexibility on when meals may be
provided instead of mandating during regular school hours and would provide an
opt-out provision for districts that simply cannot comply with the law through
an annual waiver. Witnesses delivering testimony and cards submitted were
overwhelmingly in support of the bill. The bill was left pending.

SB 709 (Lucio) would allow a person in an impartial due process hearing
brought under federal disability provisions to be represented by an attorney or
an individual with special knowledge or training relating to children with
disabilities. The committee substitute would grant TEA to make rules for
non-attorney advocate qualifications, including knowledge of due process
hearings and special education laws, and would clarify that TEA will not serve
in any kind of certification capacity. Advocates for families with disabilities
testified in support of the bill, noting that many parents aren’t aware of their rights in these matters and have few recourses when attempting to address issues with districts. An attorney from Walsh Anderson testified against the bill, noting that federal IDEA laws determine many of the procedures districts must go through in these situations and that the lack of guidelines and certification for non-attorney advocates can lead to inconsistencies and problems for families going through due process hearings. Janna Lilly from Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education noted that there are protections families forego when option for non-attorney advocates and that some form of notification may be in order. She added that the process itself should be streamlined and simplified to improve results for everyone. The bill was left pending.

SB 860 (Lucio) would allow junior colleges that partner with school districts to provide dropout recovery programs to partner with public technical institutes to provide career and technology courses that lead to certification as part of the dropout recovery program. The technical institute could receive a negotiated amount from the junior college for each student enrolled in a career and technology course. Texas State Technical College Chancellor Mike Reeser testified in support of the bill, saying that it helps broaden support for students seeking options for the future. The bill was left pending.

Bills on the Move

The following bill continued its path through the legislature on Thursday:

SB 1380 (Patrick, Dan) requires districts to place video monitoring cameras in self-contained classrooms where special education services are provided. Districts must provide written notice of the cameras to parents of students who would be affected. Senate floor amendments to the bill would require cameras to cover all areas of a classroom; require districts to keep recorded video from the cameras for at least one year; and allow districts to solicit and accept gifts and donations to comply with this
legislation. The bill was voted favorably from the Senate and now goes to the
House.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

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