Taking Note of Progress on Some Education Issues

While impasses engineered by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on school finance and other matters dominated the headlines, the legislative session just ended did see some little-noted progress on other issues of importance to parents and education employees. For example:

Special education—SB 1398 by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) and Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) will scale back the use of video surveillance in special-ed classrooms, so that a request for video monitoring by a parent applies only to the classroom of that parent’s child, not campus-wide or district-wide. Separately, the Legislature also prohibited any continuation of the arbitrary cap imposed by the Texas Education Agency on the percentage of students who qualify for special-ed services (SB 160 by Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, and Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston).

Nurse-staffing notification—The Legislature finally passed a long-sought bill to notify parents when their child’s school lacks full-time nurse staffing. SB 196 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) applies to school districts with 10,000 or more students. The bill also requires notification of the lack of full-time counselor or librarian staffing. Sen. Garcia and Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) deserve a lot of credit for getting the bill passed. It has been a longstanding priority of the Texas AFT School Nurse Task Force. Now it’s up to the governor to decide whether to allow SB 196 to become law. His deadline for vetoes is June 18.

Three-point seat belts on school buses—Starting with model year 2018, school buses newly purchased by school districts must include three-point seat belts, unless the local school board convenes a meeting on the issue and votes against the seat-belt requirement on budgetary grounds. That’s the gist of SB 693 by Sen. Garcia and Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont).