SB 463 - Filed by Senator Kel Seliger, the Legislature extended Individual Graduation Committees to September 1, 2019 for students who have failed to meet graduation requirements due to not scoring satisfactorily on up to two End of Course Exams (EOCs).
The original House budget proposal cut all funding for Governor Greg Abbott’s pre-K grant program that received $118 million total in 2015 for pre-K programs that met state standards. Districts that applied for shares of funding in 2015 received $367 per student per year, which was much less than the $1,500 per student originally envisioned for the program. More than 20 districts turned down the grant money because it wasn't enough to cover improvements to their programs.
After threats by Governor Abbott to veto the budget unless funding for his High-Quality Pre-K grant program was added, legislators included $236 million for the program, taking the money from funding already earmarked for every school district. The carve-out of existing money for pre-K with quality standards was a quick fix to appease the governor, with no additional funds, said Representative John Zerwas, R-Richmond, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.
HB 357 - The passage of HB 357 allows children of first responders to be eligible for free pre-k.
HB 2039 - The Legislature approved HB 2039 that establishes a certification program for teachers in pre-k through grade 3.
HB 122 - Introduced by Representative Harold Dutton, aimed to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18 so that teenage offenders who committed non-violent offenses would be incarcerated in the juvenile justice system, instead of adult jails, beginning in 2019. Texas is one of six states that treats 17-year-olds as adults in criminal cases. A dozen states have left that list in the past 10 years. The bill passed the House and was killed in the Senate. Read more about this issue on the Texas Tribune.
Health and Safety
SB 179 - Known as “David’s Law,” SB 179 honors the memory of David Molak, a San Antonio 16-year-old who committed suicide in January 2016 following relentless online harassment. The new law, authored by Senator Jose Menendez, makes changes to school law regarding bullying to include cyberbullying; to allow school districts to establish a districtwide policy related to bullying prevention and mediation; to specify the placement or expulsion of certain students and to specify reports school principals may make to local law enforcement. For more information, read this post from the Texas Tribune.
HB 133 - The goal of HB 133 was to ban powdered alcohol for minors. Lawmakers unanimously approved two bills in the House Licensing and Administrative Committee and voted out one bill in the Senate committee that would regulate the sale of powdered alcohol to minors in Texas. None of the bills were allowed to be considered on the floor of either chamber. A last ditch effort to amend the language onto another bill failed. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission reported to Texas PTA after the legislative session that they will limit sales of powdered alcohol to sales in liquor stores that are prohibited from selling alcohol to minors. It appears the dangerous powder will not be legally available to minors.
No voucher legislation passed during the regular or special session of the Texas Legislature.