COMMITTEES TAKE UP HOUSE GRADUATION AND WATER PLANS
(AUSTIN) — Two Senate committees Tuesday looked at House bills dealing with two of the session's top issues: high school graduation standards and water infrastructure. The first of these, HB 5, is the House version of SB 3, which would change the requirements for students to graduate from high school. According to its Senate author, Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, this bill gives students more flexibility to either go to college or find a good job right out of high school. What the bill does not do, he stressed, is dumb down high school education. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "It's creating flexibility to follow the passions of the student so they can perform at an even higher level."
HB 5 and SB 3 would create a system of degree endorsements depending on what curriculum a student pursued, for career and tech training or college preparation. It would allow students to substitute in certain courses for others depending on their endorsement plan. For example, a student with a math and science focus could take an extra science course instead of a social studies course. In contrast to the current minimum graduation standards that exist today, the bills would add another year of science and two years of a foreign or computer language to graduate.
There are a number of House provisions that Patrick kept in the Senate plan. As amended in the House, HB 5 would limit the number of days a student could be pulled out of class for remedial education to ten percent of total class days. It would require all districts to offer Algebra 2 as a course, and it would direct the state Board of Education to designate six career and technology courses that could substitute for a fourth year of math. The bill will likely come up for a final committee vote on Thursday.
The Natural Resources committee approved the House's version of the bill that would create the framework to fund the state's water plan. The bill, HB 4, is identical to its Senate companion, SB 4 by Horseshoe Bay Senator Troy Fraser, and would create the State Water Infrastructure Fund of Texas. This fund would operate with money from the state's Rainy Day Fund and would be used to pay for regional water plans. A different bill will need to pass in order to actually put money into this fund, but HB 4 will create the organizational and oversight structure for the infrastructure fund.
Both of these bills will likely head to a conference committee, according to their Senate sponsors. Should the Senate pass these bills, they will head back to the House, where that body will decide whether to concur with Senate amendments, or more likely, request the appointment of a conference committee. Then five members from each chamber will meet to work out the differences between the versions, and then take that compromise legislation back to the House and Senate for final approval.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, April 17 at 11 a.m.