83rd Legislative Session: BILLS TO WATCH

Please read the bills listed below, and call your state legislature to voice your opinion regarding any/all bills. Click the following link to look up your state legislature and find his/her contact info: http://bit.ly/TXReps

83rd Legislative Session: BILLS TO WATCH

HB 5 – This omnibus bill by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) is coming to the House floor on Tuesday. It (1) reduces the number of high school EOC exams from 15 to 5, (2) creates one high school diploma with endorsements and allows all graduates to apply to four-year Texas universities and receive financial aid, and (3) allows communities to set goals and evaluate performance locally. HB 3245 -- This bill by Rep. Bill Callegari (R-Katy) is yet another entry in the private-school voucher sweepstakes. The bill takes the form of a tax credit for businesses that donate to private schools, thereby diverting from the state treasury revenue that otherwise would be available for public schools.

SB 2 – This charter bill by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) would (1) make the cap on charter schools rise by 35 each year, (2) establishes an independent board (4 of 7 members would be appointed by the governor) to authorize charter schools, (3) streamlines the charter reauthorization process, (4) lowers the standards for charter operators to open new campuses. and (5) provides for a local school district to convert to a home-rule charter school upon the 2/3 vote of the local school board. This bill accelerates the opening of charter schools without adequate up-front quality control. The positive-sounding “home-rule” label masks the negative content – easing the way for school districts to exempt themselves from state class-size limits, teacher certification, and crucial safeguards of employee rights and benefits, among other state standards of educational quality.

SB 23 – This voucher bill by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) was filed March 8, the deadline for filing. The bill is identical to SB 1410. It would create another tax-credit voucher scheme, which Sen. Patrick would prefer to call an “equal opportunity scholarship” program. Rhetorical window-dressing aside, the reality is that this program would channel substantial sums of foregone tax revenue into the coffers of private schools that would not be held to state accountability standards. SB 1403 – This additional bill by Sen. Patrick would rewrite the law on teacher preparation, pay, and evaluation, tying an unspecified amount of state funding to district adoption of state-prescribed policies of “strategic compensation.” The bill appears to be inspired by a report from the Educate Texas organization, which insists on tying evaluations to students’ test scores – despite the lack of any sound methodology for doing so.

SB 1718 – Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) in this bill would modify the current law on accountability sanctions by authorizing state takeover and operation of local campuses, which would be placed under the direction of a new “Achievement School District.” Campuses taken over by the state as proposed would not be subject to most state educational safeguards and standards, including teacher certification, class-size limits, parental and educator rights, or the Safe Schools Act. SB 1718, like SB 1407 by Sen. Patrick, is a variation on the Louisiana Recovery School District that operates many schools in New Orleans. That Louisiana program is no model to emulate; it ranks dead last among Louisiana school districts in academic performance, with two-thirds of its charter schools earning a “D” or “F” rating under state accountability standards.

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