A Look at Texas’s New Education Laws

It feels like only yesterday that my two girls came bounding home from their last day of school excited to begin their long awaited summer vacation, and yet here we are already beginning the preparations for the new school year that is quickly drawing near.  This especially hits home for me as I consider how quickly my children are growing up and how in less than a month I am going to be the father of a high school student! As families begin the process of preparing for the new 2013-2014 school year, I wanted to bring to your attention some of the changes made to our state education laws during the recent 83rd Legislative Session that could positively affect your child’s experience in the classroom.

Much of the 83rd Legislative Session was focused on reforming and rejuvenating our state’s education system, and many of these critical reforms were accomplished through the passage of House Bill 5. This measure gives students more flexibility to explore their individual interests as they prepare for higher education and entering the workforce by providing multiple pathways to graduation. Importantly, the measure also reduces the burden of standardized tests, which have played too large a role in our education system, by reducing the number of mandated end-of-course exams from 15 to 5, and stripping the “15 percent rule” that required end-of-course exams to count for 15 percent of a student’s final grade.  The passage of Senate Bill 2 similarly seeks to expand educational options for parents and students through allowing for an increase in public charter schools in the state.

To help families prepare for sending their children back to school, I authored successful legislation that moves our sales tax holiday weekend to a weekend in August that is most convenient for parents and families.  During this annual holiday, Texas shoppers have the great opportunity to purchase tax free many of the items that we shop for regularly, including essential back to school clothes and supplies, giving families a much needed break during this busy time of the year.  Remember that this tax saving weekend is quickly approaching on August 9th – 11th.

Additionally, I am proud to have sponsored several successful bills this session that seek to help some of our most vulnerable populations in the state.  Senate Bill 939 requires all new and existing school employees to receive training on prevention techniques and recognition of the signs and symptoms of child abuse.  There is nothing more important to me than making sure our children are safe and healthy, and with schools being the number one reporter of child abuse, it is vital that we equip our teachers and school administrators with the resources necessary to protect our children from the ravages of child abuse and neglect. Additionally, Senate Bill 1404 provides several different provisions for helping foster students graduate on time, taking into account the many unique challenges that foster children face in high school.

Several other important pieces of legislation that may have not hit your raider screen, but that I would like to make you aware of include House Bill 897, which ensures that students in grades 7 through 12 are trained in CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator, and Senate Bill 260, which allows a student to be marked as having an excused absence if they miss school to be with a parent who is an active member of the military and has been called into duty, ensuring that these families have much needed time together needed to say goodbye.  For more information regarding the bills I mentioned, or the many other bills passed into law that affect our state’s education system, you can check out the legislative briefing book provided by the Texas Education Agency.  The briefing can be found online at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/legislative-reports/83briefingbook.aspx.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues.  If you would like to share a thought with me, please feel free to contact me at info@tanparker.com