Take Action at #txlege: Week of Feb. 18

Contributed by Felicia Miyakawa, Special Education Advocate

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, The House Public Education Committee will hear meet for the first time to discuss proposed bills hear public testimony about those bills. The hearing will start around 11:30 (or whenever the house adjourns) and it’s going to be LONG: there are 12 bills on the schedule! These bills cover a variety of topics: bonds, trustee elections, teacher training, sex trafficking prevention, class size limits, notification about physical fitness assessments, etc. You can find the livestream here.

As a Special Education advocate parent of two young people who receive Special Education services, I will be watching a few of these bills closely. (If you are also watching these bills and have different takes on the meaning of the bills, I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

1. HB 65 is about mandatory reporting of out-of-school suspensions. This bill would require schools to report certain demographic information about students who are suspended, as well as reasons for which the student was suspended.

Why this matters: Students of color and students with disabilities are suspended and otherwise punished with disciplinary actions at rates that are hugely disproportionate, and for issues that have little or nothing to do with the student code of conduct.

2. HB 116 is about teacher training and preparation. This bill would mandate that all K-12 educators-in-training receive instruction in how to help students of ALL abilities access the curriculum.

Why this matters: a vast majority of students who receive Special Education services do so in the General Education environment for at least part of their day. (It’s very important to understand that Special Education is a service, not a place.) Currently, there is no mandated training for general education teachers to learn the specialized approaches that Special Education teachers are supposed to learn. Yet in many cases, those teachers serve the same students. Federal law requires that we educate kids in Special Education with their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible, but when General Education teachers don’t have this training, they are unprepared to include our students.

3. HB 165 is about amending the Education Code to allow students who receive Special Education services to receive endorsements in high school, and provides ways for these endorsements to be determined.

Why this matters: an increasing number of kids in special education are college-bound. (More and more colleges and universities are offering tailored programs for students with disabilities to meet the growing demand.) Currently, however, students who need modifications to their curriculum or who struggle to pass standardized tests like STAAR cannot earn endorsements on their transcripts. Allowing these students to earn endorsements helps them with entrance into college.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  1. If any of these issues are important to you personally, consider going to the capitol to give testimony. If you can get to the Capitol but don’t want to give testimony, please know that you can still weigh in. There are computer kiosks located close to the hearing rooms where you can register and indicate whether or not you support a bill and whether or not you want to testify. You can hang out and watch the hearing or leave. This is a great option for folks who don’t enjoy public speaking.
  2. If you would like to submit written testimony and can’t get to the capitol, let me know and I can try to connect you with someone who can help you.
  3. For everyone else, please call or email YOUR representative to discuss your stance on these bills. As a reminder, James Talarico is on the Public Education committee. If you live in HD 52, he will really want to hear from you!

Remember: you can watch a live stream of committee hearings. Bookmark these links:
House committee hearings

Senate committee hearings

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