TXSC Legislative Goals and Objectives
Thanks to all of you who were in attendance for our September 29 membership meeting. For those of you who may have missed the meeting, the Texas School Coalition Goals and Objectives for the 83rd Legislature are posted on our website. You can access those, including a PDF document you can print and share, here.
Additionally, a fall legislative update PowerPoint presentation for TXSC districts has been posted in the members-only resources section of our website. You can download that presentation and customize it for use in your particular district. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Senate Education Hearing on Virtual Learning
The Senate Committee on Education met last week to study their interim charge on virtual schools. Newly appointed Chairman of the committee, Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston), offered some opening comments, but the hearing had been planned and was chaired by Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio). Newly appointed Commissioner of Education Michael Williams was also in attendance.
A representative from the Texas Education Agency provided an overview of the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN), including the history and requirements of that program. She reported that over 6,000 students are enrolled in on-line course offerings through the three full-time schools in the TxVSN. Representatives of Regional Education Service Center 10 provided information regarding their role with the statewide online course catalog. They described the TxVSN as program that primarily supplements full-time live course offerings in a school district, as a method for students to enroll in courses not otherwise offered at their school.
The second panel of experts provided information regarding national research on virtual learning opportunities and an overview of the practices of other states.
The final two panels included practitioners from Texas school districts that serve as virtual learning providers and subscribers. A representative of Plano ISD explained PISD’s on-line course development process, infrastructure, and learning supports for students, as well as the barrier in current law that prevents public virtual schools from providing services to students in other districts. A representative from Gruver ISD spoke about the demand for virtual learning versus the inadequate access/bandwidth for schools to offer such courses and the lack of computers in students’ homes. A representative of Houston ISD described that district’s full-time virtual school, which includes truancy officers who visit students’ homes who fail to complete lessons.
Public testimony was offered by both proponents of virtual learning and those who expressed concerns over the type of virtual learning that replaces the classroom rather than enhancing it.
To view the video archive of the October 8 hearing or access any of the handouts distributed during the hearing, please visit the Committee website.
Final Senate Education Interim Hearing
The Senate Committee on Education will meet for their final interim hearing on Tuesday, October 30 in room E1.036 of the Texas Capitol. They will first meet that morning at 9:30 a.m. in a joint hearing with the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice to discuss their charge on student discipline practices. Then, upon adjournment of that joint hearing, the Committee will discuss their interim charge to monitor implementation of legislation passed by the Committee during the last session, including the Instructional Materials Allotment, the flexibility granted to boards of trustees through SB 8, bullying in public schools, and the state’s accountability system and new state assessments. Both invited and public testimony will be heard on these issues.
TEA Sunset Report
The Sunset Advisory Commission released its staff report regarding the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which includes the recommendation for the continuation of TEA for 12 more years. The Sunset Advisory Commission conducts a periodic review of every state agency to evaluate whether the State still has need for its existence and to provide recommendations for more efficient and effective operations of that agency.
The report notes that changes in the level of agency funding, a new commissioner, and the implementation of the new STAAR tests has TEA in a time of significant transition. Among the findings of the Commission, the report lists thirteen issues and related recommendations evaluating what the report calls, “the effectiveness of the agency in reshaping its role and priorities with the education system.”
Some of the specific recommendations include things such as relocating responsibilities for adult education and driver’s education to different and more appropriate state agencies. Additionally, the report notes several outdated and unnecessary statutory provisions that are inconsistent with TEA’s core function, and that educator certification could be more efficiently managed without a separate SBEC board.
The full report can be found here: TEA Sunset Commission Report
The Sunset Commission has scheduled a public hearing on this report for Tuesday, November 13, at which public testimony will be taken. In addition to offering testimony at the public hearing, anyone who wishes to provide written feedback to the Sunset Advisory Commission, may do so using this form.
As of October 15:
- 7 days until the school finance trial begins.
- 23 days until the November election.
- 85 days until the 83rd Legislative Session begins.