July 2017

Understanding new legislation affecting HR administration

by April Mabry

Since the close of the 85th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, HR Services has been working with TASB Legal Services and Governmental Relations to understand how new laws will affect school HR operations.

Legislation aimed at preventing improper relationships between educators and students was passed early in the session and the requirements of Senate Bill (SB) 7 are outlined in a separate article in this issue. Other laws of relevance to HR administrators are listed below.

Effective immediately

HB 1934—Flexibility for military spouses with out-of-state certification

This law requires the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to establish procedures to expedite the processing of a certification application under the out-of-state provisions for an educator married to an active duty member of the Armed Forces and to establish a temporary three-year permit. The requirements of the law are contingent on the appropriation of funds, which did not occur. However, SBEC can proceed with rule making using other available funds.

HB 2039—Early childhood teaching certificate

The intent of this law is to ensure the developmental needs of early childhood students are met. The law directs SBEC to establish an early childhood (EC) certificate to make certain there are teachers with special training in early childhood education focusing on prekindergarten through third grade. The new EC-3 certificate will be optional and does not replace the current EC-6. The provisions of this law also were included in SB 1839 (see Section 5).

HB 2442—Minutes of instruction

This law changes the measurement of time of school operations from minutes of instruction to minutes of operation. The requirement for a school day to be at least 420 minutes (seven hours) is removed beginning with the 2018–2019 school year. The law authorizes the commissioner to adopt rules to implement the statute, including determining the minutes of operation that are equivalent to a day of instruction, defining instruction time, and establishing the minimum number of minutes of instruction required for full-day and half-day programs. A June 27, 2017, memo from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) explaining rules for the 2017–2018 school year can be found here.

HB 2486—Reemployment rights of military service members

Protections granted exclusively to a state employee who is a member of the Texas military forces, a reserve component of the armed forces, or a member of a state or federally authorized urban search and rescue team have been extended to employees of a political subdivision of the state. An employee of a political subdivision is entitled to be restored to the position the employee held when ordered to duty. This standard must be coordinated with the reinstatement rights of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) that require restoration according to the escalator position or to an equivalent position.

HB 3349—Abbreviated educator prep program for trade and industrial workforce certification

This law is an attempt to help districts deal with a shortage of technical skills educators, which has resulted in a shortage of trained workers in the technical professions. The law requires SBEC to create an abbreviated educator preparation program for candidates seeking certification in trade and industrial workforce training.

HB 3563—Notice to parents regarding teacher qualifications

This law updates Texas Education Code and replaced references to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) with references to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This will eliminate the need for districts to send two notices to parents when their child’s teacher does not meet certification requirements at the grade level and subject area to which the teacher is assigned.

SB 1398—Video cameras in special education settings

This law amends current law relating to the placement and use of video cameras in certain self-contained classrooms or other settings providing special education services. The law clarifies that a request for cameras is limited to classrooms where the requesting parent has a child in regular attendance, specifies how long the district must continue to operate a camera, clarifies who can view video recordings of an alleged incident, and provides a timeline for installing and activating equipment.

SB 1839—EC-3 certification and various issues

This bill provides various changes and additions to law. Provisions for the EC-3 Certification, that are the same the provision in HB 2039 above, were included. Other issues addressed include the following:
  • SBEC certification requirements that include a bachelor’s degree must also require training in digital learning, including digital literacy, and comply with statutory digital learning requirements.
  • Continuing education requirements for the classroom teacher and principal must provide no more than 25 percent of training every five years to reference digital learning and digital teaching. SBEC is authorized to propose rules allowing for credit toward an educator’s continuing education requirements for courses that use technology. Digital technology was added to the list of optional staff development training topics and specific requirement for such digital learning training is addressed.
  • SBEC rules for candidates seeking certification in a class other than classroom teacher must allow for formal observation to occur either on the candidate’s site, through electronic transmission, or other video or technology-based means. This provision was also addressed in SB 1963.
  • Adds an exception for the field-based experience requirement to allow a candidate to satisfy up to 15 hours with long-term substitute teaching.

Effective September 1, 2017

SB 1—Appropriations bill

SB 1, the appropriations bill, provides for an increase in the TRS-Care annual state contribution (1.0 to 1.25 percent of active employee payroll) and district contribution (0.55 to 0.75 percent of active employee payroll). These increases are effective September 1, 2017.

HB 441—Instruction on Memorial Day

Beginning with the 2017–2018 school year, districts are prohibited from providing student instruction on Memorial Day. Districts that planned to use the day as a make up for school closure will need commissioner approval to reduce the annual required number of minutes of operation.

HB 3976—Changes to TRS-Care

This law makes significant changes to the retiree health insurance program. The 2017 TRS-Care plan options for retirees not eligible for Medicare will be limited to one high deductible health savings plan. The revised plan will have higher premiums, deductibles, and maximum out-of-pocket costs.

SB 179—Student harassment, bullying, and cyberbullying

Known as “David’s Law,” this law seeks to deter bullying on school property or property hosting a school-sponsored event and cyberbullying on or off school property.  The law requires districts to develop policies prohibiting cyberbullying, provide notice of an incident of bullying to a parent of a victim no later than the third business day after the incident is reported, and develop procedures for anonymous reporting. A principal or designee is authorized to make a report to local law enforcement on certain conduct constituting assault or harassment and allows districts to alternatively place or expel certain students who bully. The law allows victims of cyberbullying to get temporary restraining orders and creates a civil action as well as a new criminal statute. In addition, counselors will be required to serve as an impartial, nonreporting resource for interpersonal conflicts and discord involving two or more students, including accusations of bullying under Texas Education Code § 37.083.

SB 490—PEIMS reporting of school counselors

Beginning with the 2017–2018 school year, districts and charter school are required to report via the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS), the number of counselors at each campus. The law also requires the number of school counselors providing services at each campus to be included on the district annual performance report.

SB 589—Behavioral analyst licensing

This law creates specific occupational licenses to provide scientific-based, step-by-step treatment for children in the autism spectrum. The law creates an advisory board, complaint procedure, licensure requirements, disciplinary procedures, and authorizes the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to create administration and enforcement rules. Behavioral analyst license requirements go into effect September 1, 2018. The new law does not apply to teachers or employees of public schools who provide behavior analysis within the scope of the teacher’s or employee’s work, as long as the persons do not offer applied behavior analysis services outside of the scope of employment or get paid for providing such services outside of the compensation received from the school.

SB 1566—School board governance, Dallas County Schools, and possession of firearms

This law addresses various issues relating to school board governance and policy. The law authorizes the board to compel a district’s chief business official, curriculum director, or person holding an equivalent position (e.g., chief human resource officer) to appear at an executive session of the board or testify at a public hearing of the board.

The law also provides for the dissolution of Dallas County Public Schools with a possible implementation date for the 2018–2019 school year (see also HB2065).

Provisions relating to the possession of firearms on school property are also incorporated into law. A district may not prohibit a person, including an employee, who holds a Texas license to carry a handgun from transporting or storing a handgun, firearm, or ammunition in a locked, privately owned or leased motor vehicle in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area provided by the district or charter school, provided that the handgun, firearm, or ammunition is not in plain view. Districts must coordinate these provisions with the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act requirement that such a firearm be properly stored and unloaded. 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(2)(B).

What didn’t become law

There were numerous bills that did not pass, including SB 789 that addressed TRS health benefit plans and provided districts the ability to opt out of TRS ActiveCare. Some of the bills we reported on in previous issues of HR Exchange became amendments to another bill. Others that failed in this session include the following:
  • HB 816—Teacher mentor programs
  • HB 1918—Professional development grant programs
  • SB 196—Parent notification regarding assignment of full-time nurse, librarian, or counselor
  • SB 1317—Prevented a district from requiring a teacher to report for service at the beginning of a school year earlier than the seventh business day before the first day of instruction
  • SB 1634—Allowed districts to reduce teacher duty days below the currently required 187 duty days proportionate to the reduction in days of student instruction below 180.
  • SB 1886—Creation of a new office of inspector general within the TEA
The Special Session just began and we’ll continue to keep our members informed as the session progresses.