Take Action at #txlege: Week of Feb. 25

Bills are being referred to committees, and hearings are getting underway, especially in the House. Here are some bills and hearings of interest this week. Be sure to jump down for our weekly feature on Public Education bills, too.

There are also many lobby days and rallies over the next several weeks. You can view our full list of rallies and lobby days (updated as we learn about new ones) here.

HOUSE

COMMITTEE: International Relations & Economic Development

TIME & DATE: 10:00 AM, Monday, February 25, 2019

PLACE: E2.014

Several bills on protecting workers from wage theft and wage discrimination, as well as a bill on raising the minimum wage in Texas to $15 from $7.25.

 

COMMITTEE: Criminal Jurisprudence

TIME & DATE: 2:00 PM, Monday, February 25, 2019

PLACE: E2.012

Includes HB 595, which increases the penalty on individuals who make false reports to law enforcement because of bias or prejudice.

 

COMMITTEE: Human Services

TIME & DATE: 8:00 AM, Tuesday, February 26, 2019

PLACE: E2.030

HB 285 is an attempt to add even more stringent “work requirements” on SNAP benefits for working adults without children in the home. Texas already has stronger work requirements than required by federal law, and the proposed bill would prevent the state from being able to waive time limits, even in emergencies like hurricanes, or for former foster children.

 

COMMITTEE: Homeland Security & Public Safety

TIME & DATE 8:00 AM, Wednesday, February 27, 2019

PLACE: E2.016

Includes HB 238, which would prevent law enforcement from enforcing any federal gun law that is stricter than state gun laws.

 

COMMITTEE: Redistricting

TIME & DATE: 10:30 AM or upon final adjourn./recess, Thursday, February 28, 2019

PLACE: JHR 140

The committee will hold an organizational hearing on the topic “2021 Redistricting: Data and Tools” with invited testimony* from the following entities:

Texas Legislative Council

U.S. Census Bureau

*invited testimony only

 

SENATE

COMMITTEE: Finance

TIME & DATE: 10:00 AM, Monday, February 25, 2019

PLACE: E1.036 (Finance Room)

SB 3, Relating to additional funding to school districts for classroom teacher salaries.

See the hearing notice for details on giving testimony

________________________

Contributed by Felicia Miyakawa, Special Education Advocate

Tuesday, Feb. 26, will be another long day for the Texas House Public Education Committee. 21 bills are on the schedule! (See the full list here.) They are set to begin at 10:30 AM or whenever the House adjourns.

From my perspective as a Special Education Advocate, two bills bear mention this week:

HB 239 will allow social workers to serve students in schools, which is a step forward towards wrap-around services, making sure that there’s a network of care for all students who need help in and out of school.

HB 455 mandates that every school district

  1. develop a policy about the a minimum number of unstructured playtime (recess) minutes per week AND whether or not removal from recess can be used as a punishment; and
  2. review these policies at least every five years to be consistent with local school health advisory councils.

Why this matters: Despite consistent data showing that kids learn more and retain more when they have sufficient unstructured play time during their day, schools have moved towards restricting free play time into order to focus more on academics.

Similarly, we have years of data and research showing that kids with certain neurotypes–such as ADHD–need more movement in order to focus. Yet schools still resort to punishing kids for excess movement, talking, fidgeting, lack of focus, not finishing work, etc., by taking away recess. Even though both federal and state law make clear that positive behavior supports should be in place, taking away recess as punishment is still happening at many schools.

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. For everyone else, please call or email YOUR representative to discuss your stance on these bills. This is especially helpful if your representative is on the Public Education committee (Dan Huberty, Diego Bernal, Alma Allen, Steve Allison, Trent Ashby, Keith Bell, Harold Dutton, Mary González, Ken King, Morgan Meyer, Scott Sanford, James Talarico, and Gary VanDeaver).

*****Please tell your representatives: Schools should never take away recess, especially from struggling learners!

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

Senate committee hearings

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