View this webinar for an overview of the 2021 Texas education bills passed during the Regular Legislative Session. The webinar also includes a lively discussion full of questions and best practices from your colleagues across the state. To hear what they had to say, be sure to tune into the recording.
This was a big year for Texas education in the Legislature. Budget concerns due to the pandemic were top of mind, and winter storm Uri shifted attention away from other issues, creating focus on energy and the environment. Overall, more than 7,000 bills were filed and 1,073 have passed. Our guest speakers describe the special nature of this year’s legislative session and break down some important bills introduced this year.
Special thanks to our guests from Educate Texas - Priscilla Garza, Director of Policy, and Ryan Franklin, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy.
Updates from this legislative session
Many people went into this year’s legislative session concerned about the education budget. However, with Senate Bill (SB) 1, legislators continued funding for investments passed last session under House Bill (HB) 3, alleviating some concerns. Another big statewide bill getting a lot of attention from across the state is House Bill 5, which creates the infrastructure to support expanded access and investments to broadband throughout Texas.
Education budget - SB 1 by Sen. Nelson:
- Proposes a $148.5 billion biennial budget
- Funds public education investments from 2019’s HB 3, including enrollment growth
- Provides state and federal funding for targeted programs for students and schools affected by the pandemic
Broadband - HB 5 by Sen. Ashby:
- Establishes the Broadband Development Office within the Comptroller’s office
- Calls for a state broadband plan, including a grant program to award grants, low-interest loans, and other incentives to build broadband access throughout the state
School finance and pandemic response
After the historic passage of HB 3 last session, House Bill 1525 was passed this year to provide updates and changes needed due to COVID-19. The bill includes learning acceleration support, reinstates the gifted and talented allotment, and adjusts career and technical education (CTE) funding to encourage programs of study. House Bill 4545 focuses on accelerated instruction for students not performing at grade level, especially students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades who receive lower test scores.
School finance - HB 1525 By Rep. Huberty:
- Establishes COVID-19 learning acceleration supports
- Reinstates the gifted and talented allotment
- Adjusts CTE funding weights to encourage programs of study
- Allows for associate degrees earned during high school to count for the college, career, and military readiness (CCMR) outcomes bonus
- Expands options for the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program, the Texas Regional Pathways Network, and Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) grant program
- Makes human sexuality instruction an opt-in instead of opt-out program and requires additional transparency related to that instruction
Mental health - HB 2287 by Rep. Thompson:
- Provides a mental health task force with more ability to obtain data, including data from districts
Learning loss - HB 4545 by Rep. Dutton:
- Strengthens the framework around local supports necessary for students who are not performing at grade level
- Creates the Strong Foundations Grant Program for instructional materials and calls for accelerated instruction for students who do not pass required exams
Testing, graduation, and attendance
This year we see big changes that position electronic assessments as the default for statewide exams beginning in the 2022-23 school year. We also see attendance exceptions for students with long-term or life-threatening illnesses. Expect additional guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Texas Association of School Boards on attendance rules and accepted illnesses.
Electronic administration of assessments - HB 3261 by Rep. Huberty:
- Establishes electronic assessments as the default beginning in 2022-23 school year
- Allows instructional materials and technology allotment to be used for internet connectivity and staff training in administering electronic assessments
- Caps State Board of Education instructional materials requests to 75% of total available funds under allotment
- Establishes a matching grant program to support schools in transitioning to electronic assessments
- Allows state assessment on Mondays
- Limits weighting of multiple-choice items to no more than 75% of total available points
Individual graduation committees - HB 1603 by Rep. Huberty:
- Removes the expiration date for individual graduation committees
Attendance for students with severe illnesses - HB 699 by Rep. Rosenthal:
- Allows long-term or life-threatening illnesses to be a valid exemption from attendance-based promotion or graduation requirements
Dual credit, CCMR bonus, and accountability
Finally, we see some changes to college, career, and military readiness standards. A dual credit advising bill by Sen. West requires a single academic advisor to act as a point person for students taking dual credit courses. The hope is that this law will improve the advising quality for all students taking dual credit courses. House Bill 773 and House Bill 1147 allow CTE programs of study to be accepted as indicators of achievement in the accountability system, and military readiness to include enlistment in the Texas National Guard.
Dual credit advising - SB 1277 by Sen. West:
- Requires future dual credit agreements to designate one employee as responsible for academic advising for a student who enrolls in a dual credit course before beginning the course. The bill does not indicate whether the advising must be provided by the K-12 school district or the higher education institution.
Accountability and CTE programs of study - HB 773 by rep. VanDeaver:
- Adds successful completion of a CTE program of study as an additional indicator of achievement in the public school accountability system
Military Readiness Definition - HB 1147 by Rep. Hubert:
- Includes enlistment in the Texas National Guard as an indicator of military readiness for determination of the college, career, and military readiness outcomes bonus and in making accountability determinations
Check out the webinar recording for answers to common questions from educators around the state and information on additional bills introduced this session.
Financial aid requirement
Last year, House Bill 3 introduced a new financial aid graduation requirement, going into practice this school year. Beginning in 2021–22, all 12th graders will be required to take one of the following actions to graduate:
- Complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- Complete and submit the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA)
- Submit a signed opt-out agreement
Texas OnCourse has partnered with the TEA to make sure every student has the information they need to submit their financial aid forms. This summer, we will launch a new website with tailored information for educators, students, families and partner organizations. As always, the site is designed to align with legislative requirements in HB 3.
Our high school program manager, Samantha Kimmel, noted the upcoming site will have these features:
- An explanation of the new graduation requirement
- Tools and resources that each audience can use for financial aid applications
- Tips and advice that simplify the financial aid process
The website is expected to launch this July. If you’d like to be the first to know when it launches, sign up for our monthly newsletter. The Educator Playbook provides important updates for counselors, advisors, and other educators supporting students with college and career readiness. Every month, we provide the best resources for educators, students, and families.