Texas legislature considering wide-ranging bills that could affect students, schools


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The state legislature is considering a number of bills this session that could affect students and schools if signed into law.

Austin Keefer, Staff Reporter

The 85th Texas State Legislature convened Jan. 10 and will continue until May 29. Here are summaries of several major bills that could affect high school students that have been heard/passed the past couple months:


School Choice

Senate Bill 3, passed by the Senate in March, is now in the House, where it is facing stiff resistance. If passed, the bill will create two state programs aimed at supporting costs associated with private school tuition and homeschooling for thousands of Texas students. The bill not only proposes an education savings account program, but also creates a tax credit scholarship program, which would gives tax credits to certain businesses if they make donations toward students’ private school tuition.


School Grading System

On the same day, the house passed House Bill 22, proposed by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), which will revamp the state’s A-F grading scale implemented in 2015. The bill is in response to complaints from numerous schools who learned in January they were earning Cs, Ds, and Fs from a rough draft of the state’s report card despite their previous belief that they had been doing fine. The schools claim that the scale is too vague and is too dependent on standardized test scores. House Bill 22 will delay the implementation of the A-F accountability system until 2019 and cut down the number of categories under which schools are graded, from five to three.



House Bill 1485 was proposed by Rep. Valoree Swanson (R- Spring) on February 3.  The bill would require education and school officials to “assist teachers in finding effective ways to present scientific subjects required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education that may cause controversy.” Many critics of the bill have stated that it essentially protects those who teach creationism in classrooms. Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., has said the bill would block administrators and school boards from reprimanding teachers who focus science teachings on divine creation. The bill was heard on Tuesday, May 2, a day away from the three-month anniversary of its introduction.


Medical Marijuana

Representative Eddie Lucio (D- Brownsville) has introduced House Bill 2107, which would authorize the use of previously illegal marijuana to help debilitating patients with qualifying conditions. Among those who could be helped by this bill are sufferers of autism and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mothers of autistic children and veterans who suffer from PTSD rallied outside the state capitol last week in support of the bill, saying that cannabis could alleviate their symptoms as well as replace other drugs with harmful side effects.


Sanctuary Cities

Perhaps the most significant and controversial bill passed this week was the ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” in the form of Senate Bill 4.” The recent bill cracks down hard on these cities. It allows law enforcement to question a suspect’s immigration status at any time, and cities are required to work with federal agencies such as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Appointed or elected officials who refuse to cooperate could lose their jobs, and police chiefs and county sheriffs who refuse to comply with federal requests could face up to a year in jail. After hours of bitter debate, the bill passed both the Senate and the House, and was signed into law Sunday evening by Governor Greg Abbott, who broadcasted the signing on Facebook Live. Immediately after signing, Abbott declared, “Texas has now banned sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State.”


Still To Come

Still to come this week is Senate Bill 457, filed by Sen. Donna Campbell, (R-New Braunfels), which would allot $50 million to school districts in facilities funding to pay off construction debt, and Senate Bill 2095, which, if passed, would allow the state’s high school athletics organization to disqualify transgender athletes who are undergoing hormone replacement therapy.