Editor’s note: A summary of Senate Bill 1451 was added after the initial publication of this article.
Several personnel-related bills were passed during the 86th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. These bills are summarized below.
Criminal history and employment (House Bill (HB) 3 Section 2A.014–.015)
This bill amends the criminal history requirements relating to discharge and refusal to hire employees with certain criminal history to cover employees and applicants convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for an offense requiring registration as a sex offender or conviction of a title five felony if the victim was a minor. Current law only considers an offense requiring registration as a sex offender if the victim was a minor or student. (Effective 9/1/2019)
Reporting requirements for termination or resignation (Senate Bill (SB) 1476)
Under current law, a superintendent or director is required to report to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) if an educator was terminated or resigned and there’s evidence of certain misconduct or if a principal reports certain misconduct after an employee’s termination or misconduct. This bill creates an exception to the mandatory reporting if a superintendent or director completes an investigation and determines the educator didn’t engage in the alleged misconduct of abusing or committing an unlawful act with a student or minor, being involved in a romantic relationship, or engaging in sexual conduct with a student or minor. This exception applies if the investigation is completed before the educator’s termination or resignation. (Effective 6/14/2019; applies for the 2019–2020 school year)
Reporting misconduct (HB 3 Section 2A.010)
SBEC is required to develop and maintain an internet portal for school districts, districts of innovation, charter schools, education service centers, and shared service arrangements to confidentially and securely report educator misconduct or new criminal history. The portal for educators must be developed by SBEC as soon as practicable after September 1, 2019. This creates a dual-reporting process. Districts are still required to file a written report with SBEC on a prescribed form but will have the option of reporting through the portal.
In addition, the bill creates reporting requirements for misconduct of non-certified employees like existing requirements for certified employees. Beginning with the 2019–2020 school year, districts will be required to report non-certified employee misconduct in written form to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The portal must be developed as soon as practicable after September 1, 2019. (Effective 9/1/2019)
Do Not Hire Registry (HB 3 Section 2A.016)
TEA is required to create and maintain, through the mandated internet portal, registries of persons (certified and non-certified) ineligible for hire. The Do Not Hire Registry applies to school districts, districts of innovation, open enrollment charter schools, other charter entities, education service centers, and shared service arrangements. Covered entities are required to discharge or refuse to hire a person listed on the registry. Public and private schools will have access to the registry. A TEA HB 3 in 30 video webinar on the do not hire registry is scheduled for August 15, 2019. (Effective 9/1/2019)
Mentor programs (HB 3 Sections 2.009 and 4.001)
This bill amends the optional teacher mentor program address in Texas Education Code (TEC) § 21.458. Districts choosing to have a mentor program are required to assign a mentor for a new teacher for at least two school years. A mentor must serve for at least one school year and start within 30 days of the mentee’s employment. Commissioner rules implementing mentor programs (19 TAC § 153.1011) will be updated to specify the number of mentees assigned to a mentor and add interpersonal skills, leadership skills, and instructional effectiveness to the list of mentor qualifications.
Districts with mentorship programs must provide training about best mentorship practices to mentor teachers and other employees who work with or supervise the mentee teacher. The training must be completed by the start of the school year and supplemental training must be provided during the school year. Training must include content related to best mentorship practices.
Mentors are required to meet with each mentee for at least twelve hours each semester, including observation time. Districts must designate a time for meetings to occur during the regular school day and ensure both the mentor and mentee have time for mentorship activities by reducing their teaching loads or scheduling release time.
Mentor sessions must address the following topics:
- Orientation to the context, policies, and practices of the district
- Data-driven instructional practices
- Specific instructional coaching cycles, including coaching regarding conferences between parents and the classroom teacher
- Professional development
- Professional expectations
A district may create an appropriate curriculum to meet the district’s needs, subject to approval from the commissioner.
The bill repeals the existing funding mechanism for mentor programs in TEC §21.458 (c). A TEA HB 3 in 30 video webinar on new teacher mentoring is scheduled for October 31, 2019. (Effective 6/12/2019)
Teacher appraisal (HB 3 Section 2.007)
Beginning in 2019–2020, teacher appraisals must be done once for the school year rather than during the school year. (Effective 6/12/2019)
Child abuse reporting (HB 621)
This bill strengthens the protection for professional employees who report in good faith suspected child abuse to include protection against any adverse employment action. Adverse employment action is defined as an action that affects an employee’s compensation, promotion, transfer, work assignment, or performance evaluation, or any other employment action that would dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a report of abuse or neglect. In the past, prohibited actions only included suspending, terminating, or discriminating against a person making a report. (Effective 9/1/2019)
Curriculum scope and sequence (HB 4310)
School districts are required to adopt a recommended or designated scope and sequence for a subject in the required curriculum that allows for sufficient time to be provided for teachers to teach and for students to learn the essential knowledge and skills (TEKS) for the subject and grade level. Districts are prohibited from penalizing a teacher who doesn’t follow a recommended or designated scope and sequence for such a subject if the teacher determines the students need more or less time in a specific area to demonstrate proficiency in TEKS. However, if there is documented evidence of a deficiency in classroom instruction obtained through observation or substantiated and documented third-party information, a district may take appropriate action. (Effective 6/14/2019; applies for the 2019–2020 school year)
Jury service (SB 370 and HB 504)
These bills address jurors’ employment and right to reemployment in Texas Civil Practices and Remedy Code. SB 370 provides protection to all employers, not just private employers, and HB 504 extends protection to grand jury service. Under current law, districts are subject to TEC § 22.006, which offers broader protection to district employees, including payment of an employee’s normal daily compensation. (Effective 9/1/2019)
Public Information Act (SB 944)
This bill clarifies officers or employees have no property or personal rights to public information created or received while acting in their official capacity, even on privately held devices. The bill also requires a current or former officer or employee to transfer to the local government body or preserve information on a privately held device in accordance with records laws. (Effective 9/1/2019)
Employment Consequences for Teachers Maintaining Student Discipline (SB 1451)
Beginning with the 2019–2020 school year, a teacher may not be assigned an area of deficiency in an appraisal based solely on disciplinary referrals made by the teacher or documentation regarding student conduct submitted by the teacher. A teacher may document and submit to the principal any conduct by a student that does not conform to the Student Code of Conduct, and the district may not discipline the teacher on the basis of such documentation. A teacher may, however, be assigned an area of deficiency based on documented evidence of a deficiency in classroom management obtained through observation or a substantiated report.
Minimum service requirements (SB 2073)
This bill allows a school district providing fewer than 180 days of instruction to reduce proportionally the number of days of service for an educator below 187 days. A reduction of days of service by the district does not reduce an educator’s salary. (Effective 6/10/2019)
April Mabry is an assistant director at TASB HR Services. Send April an email at email@example.com.