The House Public Education Committee on Friday approved House Bill 18 by Chairman Rob Eissler, which would allow school superintendents to more routinely get waivers from the 22-1 class size cap in K-4. This would reduce public input into the waiver process because waiver applications would no longer require action by school boards in public meetings. The bill would require the state education commissioner to grant a waiver request unless it would exceed 25 students in one K-4 class or give a district a K-4 class size average exceeding 22.
TSTA Government Relations Specialist Portia Bosse testified against the bill. She said changing the class size waiver system is unnecessary because the current process could be made more flexible to accommodate the fiscal crisis. The committee approved the bill, 6-3, voting along party lines with Republican members forming the majority.
The House Public Education Committee also approved the following bills:
- House Bill 19 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, which would water down the due process hearing rights for teachers, both probationary and those under continuing contracts, who lose their jobs. It would allow school boards to hire attorneys representing the boards, rather than independent attorneys, to hold hearings and make recommendations to the boards. TSTA also testified against this bill, and it also was approved, 6-3, along party lines.
- House Bill 20 by Rep. Dan Huberty, which would change the notification date for non-renewal of a teacher’s contract from 45 days before the last day of instruction to 15 days before the last day of instruction. The same change would apply to notification of a probationary teacher. Testifying against the bill, TSTA’s Bosse said 15 days wouldn’t give a laid off teacher enough time to find another job for the next school year. The committee approved this bill, 8-1.
- House Bill 21 by Rep. Mark Shelton, which would remove seniority as a factor in determining teacher layoffs during reductions in force. The most senior teachers with continuing contracts no longer would have priority for keeping their jobs. TSTA also went on record against this bill, which was approved, 7-2, with Democratic Rep. Mark Strama of Austin joining Republicans in supporting it.
- House Bill 6 by Eissler, the instructional materials allotment bill.