House Public Education met on May 18 to discuss SB 1716 (Taylor) and pending business. The full notice can be found here, and the meeting archive can be found here.


This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.


Pending Business


Public Testimony

SB 1716 (Taylor) – Relating to a supplemental special education services and instructional materials program for certain public-school students receiving special education services.

  • Bonnen – Supplemental Special Education program was created to respond to the pandemic with grants that supplement services provided by public schools
  • Cannot be used by private school students nor for private school programs – must be public school related
  • Bill permanently establishes the Supplemental Services program so that those receiving additional support now will continue to receive support for students
  • Directs TEA to prioritize students receiving compensatory funding grants, specifically low-income special education students
  • Capped at $30 million annually
  • Additional changes may be coming, including a sunset provision and language clarification
  • Dutton – Does this program represent as a voucher?
    • No, you don’t qualify for the program unless you are enrolled in a public school
    • Money goes through ESE’s, not families directly
  • Dutton – Is the grant funding for services districts can’t or don’t provide?
    • Key is that this funding will enhance and supplement what is available to Special Needs students
  • Dutton – Couldn’t we just mandate districts provide the services?
    • This is an enhancement/supplement – districts will still receive the same funding for Special Needs students, but the grants will provide some additional funding
  • Huberty – Reviews context around special education program in the state, and concerns and support for the bill – State attempting to increase oversight to meet targets and guidelines for special education
  • Allen – Where do the grant funds go?
    • ESC’s manage grants, and they provide the funds to approved providers for services, such as speech therapy
  • Allen – How many grants can a student receive?
    • One per year, and limited cap to $30 million total, which likely will not cover every student who needs support
  • Allen – Will applications be served first come first serve?
    • To the extent the $30 million will cover, then yes – some students who qualify for funding will not receive grants
  • Huberty – Roughly 18,000 students currently qualify for the program, with a maximum grant of $1,600 per student
  • Bernal – Geographic availability of services poses a challenge. If we know students have these challenges, and we have the money to support them, why isn’t this an internal exercise for districts?
    • Depends on if you consider an ESC as inside or outside the system. I consider ESCs as inside: services are contracted outside the system because the system doesn’t support enough of those services internally
    • Efforts to remediate loss for all students, but especially special needs, is complex but necessary – we have a poor track record with remediation in other areas of education, so its critical to get it right now
  • Bernal – These services are all extracurricular?
    • Yes, but it doesn’t harm services offered in schools during school hours – its supplemental
  • Bernal – Isn’t the essence of the bill an acknowledgement that in-school services aren’t enough?
    • No, its about going above and beyond the pre-pandemic standards due to the losses of the pandemic
  • Bernal – Your bill is an acknowledgement of we weren’t doing enough before, and its worse now, and its outsourcing
  • Meza – Some people have expressed concerns for these funds being used for religious purposes, such as non-secular publications, tutoring/instruction, etc.
    • That’s a concern I haven’t heard, and unsure how people could arrive at that conclusion
    • ESC’s control the funding and vet potential services, so parents don’t have access to the funds directly
  • Meza – Could these funds be used to subsidize therapy for certain students?
    • Yes, many types of special education students could qualify for funding for many types of therapy
  • Meza – Is there a way to subsidize therapy through HHSC programs?
    • Not aware of other programs or projects
  • Meza – Some people are concerned with the TEA commissioner’s power already, how will this impact the office’s authority?
    • The TEA has a role to play, but it’s a whole team of individuals, not just the commissioner
    • TEA implements programs and strategies that the legislature approves, and will stay within the guardrails we set them
  • Allen – If the money isn’t appropriated by the legislature, TEA can appropriate the funds through other means. How does that work?
    • Agencies have been told to find the funds within their own budgets for programs if the legislature falls short
    • Intent with this legislation is to appropriate the funds needed to implement this bill’s provisions


Charles Luke, Coalition for Public Schools – On

  • Changed testimony from Against to On the bill due to amendments offered


Christine McGuire, TCASE – Against

  • Special needs students did have significant impacts from COVID
  • Districts are already considering compensatory services as a result of COVID, due to federal IDEA requirements
  • Bill doesn’t really help districts fulfill their IDEA obligations – just extra
  • Not sure why ARD committee isn’t involved in this conversation and involved in the potential distribution of these grants
  • Could be setting up districts for FAPE violations due to parent/ESC involvement, rather than the ARD committee
  • Huberty – Think this is red herring. Bill is about supplementing district services. Will include ESCs in process. They’re servicing 11,000 kids, and you’re against additional services for 11,000 kids, are you confused about the language or don’t want those special kids to have these services.
    • Not against most vulnerable students getting supplemental services
    • Program now being run on gear funds vs this bill
    • State funds where ARD committees aren’t making those decisions so how would the system help provide IEP services
  • Huberty – We have proved that it works and are beneficial. There are fed funds, money being held back and all kinds of grant funds. Are you aware that in 2016 we passed specific grants for kids with learning disabilities?
    • Yes
    • Supported it then
    • Difference between that and this is that it was supported through the ARD communities
  • Huberty – It is a very similar program, that is how we built this
    • Disagree
    • It was not the parents deciding it was the school
  • Huberty – So the parents shouldn’t have any part in the decisions?
    • Of course they should but parents are part of the ARD committee
    • If there is an extra surplus of money than sure
    • Her members are begging for compensatory programs for students
    • Bill essentially says they’re going to use GR funds
  • Huberty – Did you know that the school districts put 600 million in their fund balances last year? Or that they have 25 billion in their accounts at this moment?
    • Did not know that
  • VanDeaver – Nothing in his amendment of the bill relieves ARD committee or school district. School district is responsible for proving for these students and what they need, and ARD committee is in charge of that.
  • What they are doing by involving ARD committee so there’s not a mess of services with no communications.
  • Bill gives ARD community opportunity to provide more information to parents – Not giving ARD committee veto power, decision is still in the hands of the parents.
    • Appreciates no waiting of compliance with federal law, that is her issue if funds aren’t being spent appropriately
  • West – You don’t have any objection to children receiving supplemental services?
    • Not against as long as it doesn’t take away from idea from districts needing help from providing services
  • West – So you’re objecting to the process to which how they get the funds
    • Yes, Circumvents process
    • Can’t guarantee that it goes to the neediest students, as it just prioritizes low income
    • Wants them to receive it from the legal entity that provides those services


Stephen Alleman, Disabilities Rights Texas – Against

  • Not familiar with amendments
  • Sees flaws with bill
  • Need to be protection for parents and children in process
  • No provision for appeal rights for parents, needs to be mechanism for parents to reverse decisions being made about their access or other things they might have received
  • Face to face contact is often essential
  • Bill does not support implementation of IDEA or bring state into compliance with Department of education
  • Bill doesn’t assist satisfying state financial support requirement that they have been in trouble with federal oversight


Linda Litzinger, Texas Parent to Parent – Against

  • The people who can write the grant can afford to pay for therapy themselves for the most part
  • For those who can’t are the ones in many cases need the services for their child as they won’t be getting it anywhere else
  • Program has been designed where it doesn’t fit or serve everyone
  • Families don’t know how to fill out the
  • West – is your understanding of the bill is that parents have to write an application? That’s not in the bill
    • Yes, it is
  • Huberty – Explained how simple the website and registration is
    • Parents have an issue that only intellectual disabilities count
    • They are getting turned away without explanation
    • Children cannot fill these forms out by themselves if they don’t have ID nor do they know how
  • Huberty –parent, guardian or coordinator is the one filling it out not the child
    • Was told you needed to have intellectual disability
  • Huberty – There is a specific list of things that qualify, ID is not the only thing needed. Have you looked at the website?
    • The parents that came to me don’t understand why they’re turned away
  • West – have the parents that are concerned actually read the bill
  • VanDeaver – Thinks concerns highlight why his amendment is needed, to bring the ARD community in to take parents through the application in 5 minutes


David Anderson, Raise Your Hand Texas – Neutral

  • Originally against, but changed to neutral
  • Amendments as discussed brought 2 issues
  • All issues have to be incorporated with ARD committee
  • Should pay attention to where money is being set aside from


Mandy Drogin, Texas Coalition for Children, For

  • Program is set up to help those most in need, not the rich
  • Shared stories and testimonies of families who received grants


Nancy Waterhouse, ISD District – Neutral

  • In their district they set a point person for parents involved
  • Online access was helpful and received well
  • Personally, trained lots of parents on how to navigate process
  • West – Have you had trouble expressed by parents in program?
    • Only mostly on technology part, some parents were struggling with internet and such
    • But after parents got more educated and knew they had help, it got better
  • West – How many students did you have participated
    • Thinks about 80 that have been approved
    • Don’t have most recent numbers, but number has been growing
  • West – Was there any difficulty in application process that you saw
    • Not really
    • Asks for very basic information so it is easy to fill out


Justin Porter, TEA – Resource

  • Huberty – Asked about those who aren’t applying or those applying and getting denied
    • For those who are denied they can email and get a response on why they were denied
    • There is an appeal process, but it could be stronger going forward
  • Huberty – 11,500 students qualified on 8,000 applications is that correct?
    • Yes and they are still accepting grants
    • There are about 6,000 parents that haven’t applied for whatever reason but probably could


Monty Exter, Association with Texas Professional Educators – Against

  • Appreciate discussion about stop-gap measure, there is more that can and should be done
  • Bill muddles compensatory services
  • Thankful that they are coming to ESCs
  • Appreciate that ARD committee isn’t making recommendations on best decisions, they are educating parents on all services that can be attained through the program
  • If ARD committee is being involved, then it might be appropriate to ask their take on things not currently in the amendment
  • There is a good system as is
  • Bill doesn’t have a lot about quality control on vendor side
  • new bureaucracy would be needed to vet the numerous number of vendors, or they do the opposite and make it easy for any vendor to enter the market
  • Sunset provision on this bill is helpful as it forced committee to analyze every aspect


Bonnen In Closing

  • The common goal is to offer compassionate care to kids


VanDeaver, Amendment 1

  • Brings ARD committee into process, many people have testified on this aspect’s benefit
  • Creates chain of documentation for the child
  • Expiration date September 2024
  • Adopted (11-0)


Bell, Amendment 2

  • Changes word credit with grant
  • The child is offered this money as long as requirements are met, but money doesn’t go into their account
  • Adopted (11-0)


Buckley, Amendment 3

  • Agency shall designate 1 or more reginal education centers to implement program
  • Will keep it more in touch with local education
  • Adopted (11-0)
  • (10-1) Bill will go to full house