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Lawmakers Talk Grading, Attendance Policies

The Senate Education Committee has sent legislation on minimum grading and attendance policies to the full chamber, but bills on residential development and special education policy have stalled.

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The Senate Education Committee sent legislation on minimum grading policies, employee insurance and attendance policies on to the full chamber this morning. But other bills on residential development in school districts and special education policy stalled. 

Senate Bill 79 will clarify a previous bill prohibiting teachers from setting minimum grades on assignments. In 2009, 11 districts sued the Texas Education Agency because they said the policy applied to apply to individual grades. In some cases, the minimum grade for students had been raised to 70 percent, said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano. 

SB 140 will clarify TEA's mandatory attendance policy, applying it to kindergarten through 12th grade, and prohibiting students from being pulled out of a class for state assessment tutorials.  

And SB 155 mandates that any retiring teacher's health insurance end before the next school year. Controversy arose after Fort Bend Independent School District's insurance policy allowed some policies to carry over into the next school year. 

The committee also agreed on SB 912, a bill allowing teachers more time to request a hearing from school districts after being let go. "We wanted to make a statement by having a bipartisan bill," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, adding that the bill provides teachers and schools with more flexibility. 

But members debated SB 296, which forces developers to register with nearby school districts if their proposed development exceeds 1,000 units. And they failed to reach an agreement on SB 596, which proposes starting the so-called "transition" program for special education students at age 14, rather than 16. The program allows students to learn skills for employment and wellness. The bill stalled because it costs the state some money — dollars that are incredibly tight in the current budget cycle.  

SB 570, which would expand a new teacher mentoring program, was also flagged with a fiscal note but was well-received by members of the committee. 

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