The legislature placed a substantial focus on addressing the needs of students, providing additional education options and ensuring each child has the opportunity to learn in the best way possible. Several key items included allowing a child to transfer schools to utilize in-person learning, permitting homeschool students to participate in UIL activities, and equalizing opportunities for open-enrollment charter schools.
SENATE BILL 481 ensures the needs of students are met by allowing a child to transfer schools if the current school is offering only virtual instruction and permitting the funding for the student to transfer as well.
SENATE BILL 346 allows open-enrollment charter schools to compete for the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Grant Program funds that are used to purchase and install equipment for the development of career and technical education courses. Open-enrollment charter schools would be treated just like any other entity eligible for such a grant.
HOUSE BILL 3610 gives open-enrollment charter schools key rights afforded to school districts by providing that any property purchased or leased by a charter holder using state funds is exempt from property taxation. The bill also provides open-enrollment charter schools have the right to pursue various types of legal action, just school districts do.
HOUSE BILL 547 allows home-school students or students from a nonpublic school to participate in UIL activities on behalf of the public school that the student would attend, while making clear that UIL participation does not authorize a governmental entity to involve itself in home-school activities.
SENATE BILL 321 makes two key reforms to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), a state pension fund which is currently in a precarious financial position. First, the bill requires the state to make a payment each year to pay down the unfunded liabilities of the under-performing pension fund. Second, to minimize the chances that the state will have to inject more funds to shore up the system, SB 321 provides that new members of TRS will participate in a cash balance plan rather than a defined benefit plan. This change will ensure that TRS members will bear investment risk, similar to how most private sector workers bear risk in their retirement investments. In addition, addressing the current funding shortfall now rather than several decades from now will save taxpayers millions of dollars.
SENATE BILL 204 makes it easier for students to attend a school that best fits their needs by providing access and removing barriers to bus transportation.
SENATE BILL 1365 addresses a critical state obligation to remedy failing schools by permitting the TEA commissioner to intervene or sanction school districts after an investigation determines the school is not adequately performing. The bill also requires an annual publication of data on failing schools.
SENATE BILL 1955 exempts “learning pods”, a group of children who, based on the voluntary association of the children's parents, meet together at various times and places to participate in or enhance the children's primary or secondary academic studies, from any ordinance or rule that applies to a school district campus or child-care facility. This bill codifies the independence and autonomy of learning pods.
SENATE BILL 15 authorizes school districts and open-enrollment charter schools with an overall performance rating of C or higher in the preceding year to operate a remote learning program to offer virtual courses outside the state virtual school network.