Legislative Review

Marty DeLeon
Escamilla & Poneck

The 86th Legislative Session is 8 months away and the Texas Legislature will look markedly different for sure. The March Primary Elections have come and gone. As many as seven incumbents (7 State Representatives / 1 Senator) in the Texas Legislature lost their bid to be re-elected. More incumbents may be in jeopardy as there are 9 primary races to be decided in a run-off election to be held on Tuesday, May 22. Also, let’s not forget that another 14 lawmakers decided to retire, including Speaker Joe Straus, a stalwart champion for public education. On the subject of Speaker, the Texas Republican Caucus has agreed to nominate one of their own, seeking to pick a leader who will be more conservative than Speaker Straus. Their caucus vote is non-binding and will be secret. The House will elect a new Speaker on the first of session.

The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on teacher compensation, studying current, local, state, and/or national compensation strategies for classroom teachers as well as seeking recommendations to attract, retain, and reward teachers. The committee also examined current student discipline mandates in code and best practice models to reduce classroom discipline issues. The committee will issue report with recommendations later this year.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath recently released his decisions regarding the new A-F Accountability Framework. HB 22 from last session required TEA to develop ratings for school districts for the 2017-18 school year, Individual school campuses will continue to be rated “Met Standard” or “Needs Improvement” for the 2017-18 school year. Campuses will receive an A-F rating in the 2018-19 school year. TEA also finalized its state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and will be incorporated in state accountability system.
TEA has made clear that although the commissioner’s final decisions regarding the A-F Accountability Framework have been published, it intends to make additional changes through amendments it plans to submit to USDE on the state ESSA Plan. Additionally, TEA emphasized that the A-F Accountability Framework will serve as the basis for the 2018 accountability manual which is scheduled to be published as a proposed rule for further public comment in mid-May. During this 30-day period, the public may submit comments at this time.
After years of debate, the State Board of Education voted at its April meeting to create curriculum standards for a Mexican-American studies class. But thanks to the objections of one member, it'll now be called “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.” The SBOE had been debating more than four years over how and whether to offer teachers materials and guidance to teach Mexican-American studies.

In other SBOE news, the agency received 21 applications for charter schools, but only 14 applications made it to the second round. The proposed charter schools are in Ft. Worth (4), Houston (4), San Antonio (3), Lubbock (2) and the Valley (1). The applicants will be interviewed on May 21. TEA Commissioner makes his decision on June 1. Final approval or veto by the SBOE is June 15. If approved, the charters will open in the 2019-2020 school year.

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