Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 500
By: Grusendorf
Public Education


In 1993, the Texas Legislature mandated the creation of the Texas public
school accountability system to accredit school districts and rate schools.
The Texas school accountability system has gained acclaim, but the system
can be improved.  The state must recruit and retain excellent teachers,
especially in the face of the current teacher shortage.  A recent survey
conducted at Baylor University reveals that teacher morale in Texas is
declining, largely due to student attitudes and behavior and treatment by
administrators.  House Bill 500 provides teacher mentor and induction
programs, targeted assistance to low-performing schools, new ratings and
rewards for schools and districts, alternative teacher certification
options, and a math initiative. 


It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking
authority is expressly delegated to the commissioner of education in
SECTION 8 (Section 39.023, Education Code), SECTION  9 (Section 39.0721,
Education Code), SECTION  11 (Section 39.132, Education Code), and SECTION
13 (Section 42.159, Education Code) of this bill. 


House Bill 500 amends the Education Code relating to various provisions of
public education. 

Coordination of Records

The bill requires the commissioner of education and the commissioner of
higher education to ensure that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) coordinate and
standardize records relating to student performance to permit TEA and THECB
to match individual student records so that a student's academic
performance may be assessed throughout the student's educational career
(Sec. 7.006).  

Teacher Mentor and Induction Programs

To the extent that funds are available, the bill requires the commissioner
of education (commissioner) or a person designated by the commissioner  to
make grants to school districts of $3,000 for each new teacher who holds a
school district teaching permit or alternative certification, and $1,000
for each new teacher who has certification from the State Board for
Educator Certification (certification board).   The bill requires the
school district to use this money for the support of teacher mentoring,
recruitment, and professional development programs (Sec. 21.005). 

Alternative Certification of Person Holding Bachelor's Degree

The bill authorizes the certification board to issue alternative
certification to a person who passes a comprehensive examination
administered by the certification board and who holds a bachelor's degree
in one or more academic majors related to the essential knowledge and
skills curriculum.  The bill provides  that a person whose academic major
is related to only one of these subject areas is authorized to receive a
certificate to teach only in that subject area (Sec. 21.0491). 
Professional School District Employees and Personal Liability

The bill extends personal liability limitations to a professional employee
of a school district who provides personnel information on a current or
former employee of the school district to another school or district (Sec.

Parental Notification

The bill requires a school district to give parents or guardians notice
about the qualifications of district teachers at least once each school
year.  The bill removes the current provision that requires a district to
provide written notice to a parent or guardian if a district assigns an
inappropriately certified or uncertified teacher to the same classroom for
more than 30 consecutive school days.  The bill requires TEA to develop
guidelines regarding the required notice no later than October 1, 2001.
For the 2001-2002 school year, a school district is required to provide the
notice no later than November 1, 2001 (Sec. 21.057 and SECTION 5). 

Bonuses for Service at Low-Performing School Campus

The bill entitles an experienced, extraordinary teacher or principal who
agrees to serve for three school years at a low-performing campus
identified by the State Board of Education to a $3,000 bonus.  The bill
requires the commissioner to adopt criteria to identify such a teacher.
The criteria include the teacher's subject matter expertise, and the
performance of the teacher's students and former students (Sec. 21.411). 

The bill requires the commissioner to determine, withhold, and distribute
each fiscal year an amount for bonuses to be distributed under the educator
duties and benefits provisions.  The bill requires the commissioner to
deduct this amount from the total amount appropriated for allotment under
the Foundation School Fund and then reduce each district's tier one
allocation accordingly (Sec. 42.152). 

Professional Development Institutes in Mathematics

The bill requires the commissioner to develop and make available
professional development institutes for mathematics teachers who teach at
the fifth through eighth grade level.  The bill provides that such
institutes address skills to be taught and effective instruction
techniques, and requires the commissioner to adopt criteria for the
selection of teachers authorized to attend the professional development
institutes (Sec. 21.454). 

Voluntary Standardized Assessment Instruments

The bill authorizes the commissioner to participate in multistate efforts
to develop voluntary standardized end-of-course assessment instruments.
The bill authorizes the commissioner, by rule, to require a school district
to administer such assessment instruments.  It also requires the admission,
review, and dismissal committee of a special education student to determine
whether any modifications or exemptions are necessary for the student.  The
bill requires TEA to release the questions and answer keys to each
assessment instrument after the last time the instrument is administered
for a school year (Sec. 39.023). 

Voluntary Gold Performance Rating Program

The bill requires the commissioner, in consultation with an advisory
committee appointed by the commissioner, to develop a voluntary gold
performance rating program administered by the TEA.  The bill specifies the
criteria to be used to determine voluntary gold performance ratings.  The
bill requires the commissioner to appoint the advisory committee no later
than March 1, 2002 and to adopt any rules necessary for implementation and
administration of the program no later than March 30, 2006 (Sec.  39.0721
and SECTION 9). 

Declaration of Emergency Status at Low-Performing Campuses

H.B. 500 grants the commissioner authority to authorize a school district's
board of trustees upon application to declare emergency status for a campus
in the district that is considered low-performing according to the
accreditation status issued by TEA.  The bill provides that the application
is considered granted if the commissioner does not notify the board of
trustees in writing within 30 days of receipt that the application is
denied.  The bill authorizes the commissioner to waive state laws and rules
in order to aggressively address problems at the campus.  The bill
prohibits the commissioner from approving emergency status at a campus for
longer than two years unless the board of trustees submits a written
application for an emergency status extension not to exceed one year.  The
commissioner is authorized to adopt rules to administer the emergency
status provisions (Secs. 39.131 and 39.132). 

Campus Bonus Allotment

The bill entitles a school district to an annual allotment of $3,000 for
each full-time equivalent teacher at a campus determined by the
commissioner to have shown extraordinary improvement and $1,000 for each
full-time equivalent teacher at a campus determined by the commissioner to
have shown significant improvement in the previous school year.  The bill
specifies that funds be used only at the campus that received the
allotment, and requires the site-based decision-making committee of that
campus to determine the manner in which the allotment will be used.  The
bill authorizes the commissioner to adopt rules to administer the campus
bonus allotment provisions (Sec. 42.159). 


SECTIONS 2, 6, 7, 12, and 13 of the Act take effect September 1, 2001.  The
remainder of the Act takes effect on passage or, if the Act does not
receive the necessary vote, the Act takes effect September 1, 2001.  The
Act applies beginning with the 2001-2002 school year.