Bills on the Move, for Good or Ill

With just over 30 days to go in the regular session of the Texas legislature, here are some of the notable bills that moved ahead, for good or ill, during the past week.

SB 718 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Democrat of San Antonio, makes a reasonable change in the Safe Schools Act to focus discretionary expulsions from disciplinary alternative campuses on serious misconduct. The bill, passed by the Senate and sent to the House this week, changes the permissible grounds for discretionary expulsion, sending students from the school system to the juvenile-justice system. Current law says school districts may expel students from DAEPs for “serious or persistent” misbehavior. SB 718 by Van de Putte deletes the “or persistent” phrase, signaling to school districts that they still have discretion to use expulsions in serious cases but not for merely minor instances of misbehavior.

Around the state, there have been cases of discretionary expulsions from DAEPs under current law for truly trivial reasons. But serious misconduct in a DAEP still should have serious consequences. Van de Putte’s bill strikes a reasonable balance, in our view.

Today the House Pensions Committee approved a bill strongly backed by Texas AFT to let Teacher Retirement System members directly elect their representatives on the TRS board of trustees, instead of just voting in a “beauty contest” to select a slate of nominees for the governor to choose from, as we do now. HB 3747 by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, Democrat of San Antonio, now goes to the House Calendars Committee, which will determine if and when the bill is scheduled for a vote.

A bill to revamp teacher evaluation, which slipped through the Senate yesterday (see the April 28 Hotline for the details) without essential amendments proposed by Texas AFT and other teacher organizations, was sent to the Texas House today but has not yet been referred to the House Public Education Committee. The bill, opposed by Texas AFT, is SB 4 by Sen. Florence Shapiro, Republican of Plano.