During the 85th Legislative Session, Texas Democrats once again led the fight to invest in Texas public schools, students and teachers and put community-focused solutions ahead of failed privatization schemes. Texas’ 5.3 million public school students deserve the best opportunity for success possible. The success of our state is dependent on an educated, skilled workforce — and that only comes from ensuring our public schools are second to none.
Yet state Republicans have short-changed public school students again and again. Instead of pursuing long overdue school finance reform, Texas Republicans continue to focus on vouchers schemes that will send taxpayer dollars from public schools to private schools.
Here’s a sample of some of the legislation championed by Texas House Democrats in 2017:
End School Suspensions for Younger Students
The bill will end the practice of suspending students in 3rd grade and below. Suspending young students has been proven to negatively impact their student success paths. It is better for schools to find appropriate disciplinary paths towards misbehavior that addresses the issue, instead of sending the student out of school and away from a learning environment.
School Facility Funding
Currently, money for public school instructional facilities is limited to buildings specifically created as instructional facilities. This bill will allow campuses that convert existing facilities to instructional facilities to receive funds appropriate for the purposes of the building.
Cybersecurity Courses for Students
The bill encourages high schools to create cybersecurity courses that can count as credit, and further would allow internships and partnerships with higher education institutions to count for college credit. The bill is a great example of ensuring students can prepare for important 21st century jobs.
Credit for Computer Science Courses
This bill makes sure that high school students that take computer science courses can have their classes count towards their graduation and/or towards any necessary requirements for college.
Safe Passageways for Students Walking to School
The bill allows schools to receive additional transportation dollars to create safe passageways to schools, so that students living in high-violence areas don’t have to worry about safely making it from home to school and back home every day.
Fairer Evaluations for Special Education Students
Special education students may make progress in a school year and deserve passage, but are not allowed due to federally mandated tests. The bill creates an admission, review, and dismissal committee for a student that fails the federally mandated tests, to determine if the student should still proceed to the next grade level in fifth and eighth grades.
Helping Students with Mental Health Needs
The bill changes current state law relating to what mental health programs can be offered in public schools to ensure additional best practices and resources are also available to be used at a school’s discretion, thus better reaching students who have mental health concerns.
Gun Safety in Public Schools
The bill improves student safety by ensuring appropriate punishments are taken for the threatened exhibition or use of a firearm in or on school property or on a school bus.