2011 Legislative Wrap-Up

HB 2557, Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act (TPRRA) – Supported

In April and May, THSC had more than 650 home schoolers participate in two THSC Capitol Days in Austin, at which they learned about the legislative process and actually lobbied the legislature in support of the TPRRA. In April, we also hosted a Parental Rights Rally on the south steps of the Capitol. Response from legislators was very positive.

On April 29, the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence voted HB 2557 out of committee with only one “no” vote. We worked the Calendars Committee very hard, and finally HB 2557 was placed on the House calendar for debate and vote on May 11, the last day to consider House bills. Unfortunately, the parental rights issue died on the House Calendar a dozen or so bills away from being heard.

HB 2557 made it further through the process this session than our bill in the last session. More legislators understand the problem facing fit parents in the abuse of the Grandparent Access Statute, and the support for addressing this devastating problem continues to grow.

HB 2322 / SB 1214, Bills to Allow Private Schools to Compete in UIL – Supported

HB 2322 and SB 1214 would allow private schools to compete against public schools in the University Interscholastic League (UIL).

SB 1214 passed out of the Education Committee in the Senate and, after our efforts on its behalf, was voted out of the Senate on a 22-7 vote. HB 2322 had a hearing in early May and was voted out of committee on May 5 after much home school support but did not make it onto the House calendar prior to the deadline. On May 10, the Senate amended SB 1214 to HB 370, which had already passed the House.

SB 1214 died in the House on the final night of the legislative session. We contacted every member encouraging him to support the bill. While Rep. Rob Eissler, Chairman of the House Public Education Committee, told us that he supported the bill, he continued to delay the bill’s vote in the committee. In fact, those close to him said he decided to finally allow the bill out of committee when it was obviously too late to make it to the floor.

During the Special Session, Rep. John Garza filed HB 54, which is the UIL participation bill from the regular session with additional language that will allow home schooled students to participate in UIL activities in the school district in which they live. Furthermore, the Texas House considered numerous amendments to SB 1 regarding the budget and “fiscal matters.” One of those amendments was the one by Representative Garza, which contained the same language as HB 54.

Unfortunately, the bill was killed on a point of order. Several legislators who strongly opposed the measure in spite of the many reasonable arguments made in favor of the measure, including the fact that two large private schools have been allowed to compete in UIL for almost 10 years, worked very hard to keep this bill from coming to a vote, because they knew it enjoyed a majority support of the House.

This session is the closest that we have come to making this change in the almost 20 years that we have been pushing to allow home schoolers to participate in UIL, and we did so in a cooperative effort with traditional private schools. We had more support than ever before as the Texas Senate passed a bill for private school participation three times. All those involved acknowledge that this bill was stalled until THSC and the home school community got involved.

HB 253, Bill Concerning Police and CPS – Opposed

HB 253, authored by Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, would allow a police officer or school attendance officer to make a “home visit” and seek entrance into a home on the basis of a compulsory attendance violation allegation if the family was also under investigation for abuse or neglect. The danger with this bill was that it allowed, under the guise of investigating truancy allegations, the same kind of intrusion that Child Protective Services (CPS) workers try to accomplish with police officers.

We issued an alert opposing the bill, and legislators on the House Human Services Committee told us that they had received as many as 300 phone calls opposing the bill. At the hearing, I expressed our concerns that penalties for violations of the compulsory attendance statute would be increased dramatically.

Rep. Bryan Hughes and Van Taylor agreed to vote the bill out of committee only if Hilderbran would accept a floor amendment to address any remaining concerns that THSC had. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg expressed the same concerns and voted against the bill in committee.

On the morning the bill went to the House floor, we received a call from Representative Hilderbran’s office, notifying us that the bill was scheduled for a floor vote and stating that he would accept an amendment on the floor by Representative Hughes to delete the sections of the bill to which we were opposed.

We are also extremely grateful to Representatives Hughes, Taylor, and Laubenberg for their strong support. HB 253, without the offending sections, was passed by the legislature during the regular session.

HB 90, Bill Limiting Parent Taught Driver Education (PTDE) – Opposed

In April, we contacted Rep. Byron Cook’s office regarding HB 90, which would change current law for teen drivers seeking to obtain a “hardship” license. His bill would take away the opportunity for a student to use PTDE to obtain such a license. When he refused to entertain our request for an amendment putting PTDE back into the bill, we issued an email to all House members asking them to oppose the bill. Later that day Representative Cook contacted us, asking us to approve language for just such an amendment. We accepted, and the bill passed as amended.

Later we worked with Rep. Todd Smith to amend another bill to make sure that PTDE course providers were treated the same as commercial driving schools. Representative Smith accepted our amendments as offered by Representative Hughes, and the bill passed as amended.

HB 196, Bill Requiring Students Withdrawing from Public School to Sign a Form – Opposed

This bill was sponsored by Rep. Amando L. Walle (D) and would require that home school students withdrawing from a public school sign a form. The bill was not voted out of the Public Education Committee.

SB 207, the companion bill to HB 196, was sponsored by Sen. Mario V. Gallegos (D) and was opposed by THSC for identical reasons. The bill was not voted out of the Education Committee.

HB132, Bill Requiring a High School Diploma In Order To Obtain a Driver License – Opposed

This bill was sponsored by Rep. Pete Gallego (D) and would prohibit students without a high school diploma from receiving a driver license (with certain exceptions).

We opposed this legislation due to the inevitable confusion that will arise when determining whether a home school graduate has really received a high school diploma or whether a student is still “enrolled” in home school. This bill was passed out of committee but was not placed on the House Calendar before the session ended.

HB 567 – Bill requiring proof of compliance with compulsory attendance statue when issued a traffic citation. – amended

HB 567 by Rep. Guillen would have required that students who receive a traffic citation to prove they are in compliance or exempt from the compulsory attendance statute.

Our concern under the original language of the bill was that a judge would have rejected a letter from a home school parent stating that their child was being home schooled and therefore exempt from compulsory attendance in a public school.

We worked closely together with Rep. Ryan Guillen’s office and Rep. James White’s office to draft a committee substitute that addressed our concerns and specified that documentation provided by a parent would be acceptable.

Our committee substitute language was accepted by the author. However, the bill never advanced beyond the initial committee hearing.

Other bills monitored by THSC that never moved out of committees.

SB 242 by Sen. Wendy Davis
SB 245 by Sen. Wendy Davis
SB 482 by Sen. Harris
SB 1534 by Rep. Shapiro
SB 1643 by Sen. Uresti

HB 121 by Rep. Castro
HB 224 by Rep. Strama
HB 435 by Rep. Parker
HB 567 by Rep. Guillen
HB 794 by Rep. Zerwas
HB 835 by Rep. Parker
HB 1194 by Rep. Zerwas
HB 1216 by Rep. Miles
HB 1779 by Rep Naishtat
HB 2135 by Rep. Hochberg
HB 2367 by Rep. Hochberg and Rep. Parker
HB 2466 by Rep. Phillips
HB 2554 by Rep. Fred Brown
HB 2564 by Rep. Christian

HJR 91 by Reps. Menendez, Anchia, Rodriguez, and Eddie
HCR 60 by Rep. Burkett