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SB 408 - Private Schools and Open Records Laws

It has been a priority for Senator Kirk Watson (D, Austin) and Representative Giovanni Capriglione (R, Southlake) to pass meaningful ethics reform for our state government.  The way SB 408 was initially drafted, in order to make sure that government entities were as transparent as possible in keeping their records, it was thought that private schools may have been caught up in this definition of entities subject to open records requests. 

This was in no way the intent of the bill authors, and their staff worked diligently to make sure that it is very clear that private schools should not be subject to open request laws.  To see Senator Watson clarifying his legislative intent, go to 3:24 mark in this video.  We thank both Senator Watson and Rep. Capriglione for working with us to make sure that private schools are not unintentially included in any legislation. 

May Featured Schools

Congratulations to Bethesda Christian School in Ft. Worth, Holy Trinity Academy in Dallas, St. Cyprian's Episcopal School in Lufkin, St. Michael Catholic School in Weimar, and The Monarch School in Houston.  These schools are our featured schools for the busy month of May! 

Changes to Immunization Conscientious Exemption Form

You may notice the the Conscientious Exemption Form for Immunizations that parents bring when enrolling a child looks slightly different now.  Some changes include improved formatting and the new DSHS logo on the upper left. 

The process remains the same and the old forms may be used under the existing rules.  For more information, contact the Immunization Unit at 1-800-252-9152 or email Margaret Horton at [email protected]

TEA Ombudsman

As part of ESSA - the Every Student Succeeds Act which replaced No Child Left Behind, each state is required to have an ombudsman whose responsbility is to ensure that private school students are receiving their equitable share of Title I, II, and IDEA funds. 

The ombudsman for Texas was announced a few weeks ago, and Cory Green will be serving in this role.  LaNetra Guess will assist Cory in his duties.  To contact them relating to any issues with equitable services or proportionate share, email [email protected].

Legislative Update - Epi Pens, School Marshals, and School Choice

Senator Van Taylor (R, Plano) spoke to Texas Private Schools Association board members in the Capitol on April 18th about how our legislative priorities are progressing this session.  After the meeting, board members took to the halls of the Capitol to talk to more lawmakers about issues affecting private schools.

The Epi Pen bill (SB 579/HB 1583) has passed the Senate and the House Public Education committee.  We are waiting on a floor vote for this important bill that allows schools to stock unprescribed epi pens and provides some liability coverage in their appropriate use.

The school marshal bill (SB 444/HB 867) was heard in both the Senate and House Public Education committees on the same day!  This bill simply allows access to the school marshal training provided at the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.  We are hopeful that this bill will continue to advance.

HB 1335 by Representative Ron Simmons (R, Carrollton) was heard in the House Public Education committee on the same day as the school marshal bills.  It was a busy day for private schools in the Capitol!  This bill establishes an Education Savings Account program for students with special needs in private or public schools to use for educational resources including private school tuition. 

Representative Simmons spoke passionately and eloquently about his struggle to find the right educational fit for his son with autism.  He recalled that after his son was allowed to participate in sports at the small Christian school that they chose, his son said, "Dad, I finally have a team."  He wants to provide this kind of opportunity to all children with special needs in Texas.  This bill has not been voted on in the committee yet.

It does not appear that our tax credit scholarship bills (SB 542/HB 1184) will be getting a separate hearing in either the House or the Senate.

Bullying Legislation and Private Schools

Senator Jose Menendez (D, San Antonio) introduced SB 179, an anti-cyberbullying bill commonly known as "David's Law." Written after a heartbreaking incident that led to a teen suicide in his district, this legislation requires that school districts have a written bullying policy and requires reporting of bullying incidents to the proper authorities within a few days of occurence. 

Originally, mandates for private schools were included in this bill.  However, after conversations with the Senator and his very responsive staff about how private schools are governed, they removed private schools from the bill and instead came and spoke to the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission in order to share best practices to the commissioners so that they can consider including them in their accreditation standards. 

The TEPSAC Commissioners look forward to staying in touch with the Senator's office in order to share how private schools are handling this important and pervasive issue.