Bill Recap: 2009 Texas Legislature
Texas Freedom Network monitored and lobbied on legislation ranging from education reform to religious freedom. Click on the links below for more information about each bill.
State Board of Education
Texas Freedom Network supported the following bills. Each would have helped rein in an out-of-control, deeply politicized State Board of Education that promotes the personal and political agendas of board members over the interests of Texas schoolchildren and families. Click here to read a TFN Education Fund report about the State Board of Education.
HB 772 by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, requires the State Board of Education to broadcast board meetings both in audio and video over the Internet beginning in September 2009. This legislation will help people learn more about how the state board is politicizing our schoolchildren's education. PASSED
HB 2488 by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, calls on the state's largest research institutions of higher education to provide open-source instructional materials to public schools. Among other advantages, the heavily politicized State Board of Education would have limited oversight. PASSED
SB 440 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and HB 3382 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would have transferred authority for textbooks adoptions, curriculum approval and other statutory functions from the SBOE to the Texas Education Agency. FAILED TO PASS
SB 513 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and HB 710 by Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, would have placed the SBOE under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. HB 710 passed the House Public Education Committee but narrowly failed to pass the full House on almost straight party-line vote. FAILED TO PASS
SB 2275 by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would have transferred authority for adopting curriculum standards and textbooks from the State Board of Education to the Texas commissioner of education. FAILED TO PASS
HB 420 by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would have made SBOE elections nonpartisan. Nonpartisan elections would force candidates to better inform voters about their real positions on issues. FAILED TO PASS
HB 1235 by Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, would have transferred authority over adopting textbooks, approving curriculum standards and other statutory functions from the SBOE to a new Legislative Education Board. FAILED TO PASS
HJR 77, a constitutional amendment by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would have created a Permanent School Fund Management Council. PASSED THE HOUSE BUT FAILED TO PASS IN THE SENATE
HB 2037 by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would have moved management of the Permanent School Fund from the SBOE to a new Permanent School Fund Management Council. PASSED THE HOUSE BUT FAILED TO PASS IN THE SENATE
HB 2261 by Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, would have created a select committee to review how the state funds, adopts and purchases textbooks. FAILED TO PASS
HB 3523 by Rep. Diana Maldonado, D-Round Rock, would have required that State Board of Education members visit public schools in their districts. FAILED TO PASS
HB 3865 by Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, would have State Board of Education members elect the board chair by a two-thirds vote. Currently, the governor nominates a board member to serve as chair. By majority vote, state board members would also elect a vice chair and secretary. Terms would be two years, and there would be no term limits. FAILED TO PASS
TFN had no position on this bill.
HB 3639 by Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, would have made State Board of Education members appointees of the governor rather than elected. FAILED TO PASS
Texas Freedom Network strongly opposed the following bills.
HB 4224 by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, would have inserted directly into the Texas Education Code a requirement that students learn “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. Evolution opponents have promoted that requirement as a tool for challenging evolution in public school science classes. Even more troubling, however, is that the bill would have also forbidden any governmental entity from stopping a teacher who offers just about any argument against a scientific theory so long as the teacher portrays it as based on “scientific evidence and information.” FAILED TO PASS
HB 2800 by Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, would have exempted certain private nonprofit educational institutions from state regulation applicable to degree-granting institutions. This legislation was an attempt by evolution deniers to get around the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's rejection in 2008 of an application by the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research to offer master's degrees in science education. FAILED TO PASS
Sexuality Education Reform
Texas currently has the nation’s third-highest rate of teen births, and that rate is rising. Yet more than nine in 10 school districts teach students nothing about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention except abstinence. Clearly, ignorance is not protecting young people in Texas. Click here to read a TFN Educaton Fund report about sexuality education in Texas public schools. Texas Freedom Network supported the following bills.
SB 1076 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and HB 1567 by Rep. Michael Villarreal, D-San Antonio, would have required that information about contraception and disease prevention in sexuality education classes be scientifically accurate. It would also have required that sexuality education classes not discourage sexually active people from using any form of contraception or method approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for reducing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. The bill provided specific sources for determining whether information is scientifically accurate. FAILED TO PASS (An effort to add a requirement for medically accurate sex education information to other legislation, SB 283, failed in the House.)
“Education Works” bills SB 515 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and HB 741 by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, would have required that information taught in public school sexuality education classes be medically accurate. They would also have required that schools teaching about sexuality education include medically accurate information about contraception and other methods of responsible pregnancy and disease prevention. FAILED TO PASS
SB 1100 by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and HB 1694 by Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, would require that sexuality information taught to students be medically accurate and that schools inform parents about what they are teaching in sexuality education classes. FAILED TO PASS (A TFN-supported amendment requiring that parents be notified about the content of sex education instruction was added to SB 283.)
SB 283 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, strengthens requirements for community input on School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs). SHACs advise local school boards and administrators on health education policies, including policies related to sexuality education. Polls show that most parents support teaching the importance of abstinence as well as information on contraception and methods of preventing sexually transmitted diseases. Yet most district policies don’t reflect this broad public support for responsible sexuality education. This bill was amended to include a requirement that school districts notify parents about the content of sex education instruction. PASSED
HB 1371 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would bar state agencies from accepting federal Title V abstinence-only education funding, as is the case in 24 other states. FAILED TO PASS
Stem Cell Research
Medical research involving both adult and embryonic stem cells gives hope to families struggling with serious medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, juvenile diabetes, cancer and spinal cord injuries. Texas Freedom Network supported the following bills.
SB 208 by Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, and HB 1764 by Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, would have barred human cloning and the sale of human embryos but protects responsible medical research using embryonic stem cells. The bill directed the Health and Human Services Commission to develop guidelines for such research. FAILED TO PASS
HB 543 by Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, and SB 1802 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would have established guidelines to bar human cloning at public institutions of higher education and forbid the sale of human embryos but would protect responsible medical research using embryonic stem cells. FAILED TO PASS
TFN opposed the following bills.
SB 1695 by Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, would have prohibited the use of state money or facilities for embryonic stem cell research. Sen. Ogden attached this prohibition to the Senate's state budget bill, but that requirement was stripped out in conference committee. FAILED TO PASS
HB 1700 would have forbidden funds awarded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas from being used for embryonic stem cell research. FAILED TO PASS
TFN had concerns about the following bills.
SB 73 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, and HB 2379 by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R- Brenham, for the creation of an adult stem cell research program but did not directly address embryonic stem cell research. On the other hand, the bill originally restricted the use of facilities constructed with funding from the program to adult stem cell research only. Other research, including embryonic stem cell research, would not have been permitted in those facilities. FAILED TO PASS
Texas lawmakers in 2007 considered a number of bills that raised concerns about protecting religious freedom, particularly in Texas public schools. Texas Freedom Network affirmed its commitment to religious liberty by supporting constitutional provisions protecting separation fo church and state in the 2009 Legislature. TFN had concerns about the following bill.
HB 492 by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, creates various mechanisms to facilitate and expand efforts to support faith-based social services. Texas Freedom Network worked with legislators in previous sessions to add important safeguards for religious freedom to similar bills. In addition, TFN supported the addition of provisions that provided stronger oversight of the entities created by this legislation. These critical safeguards for religious freedom remained in the bill. PASSED
Texas Freedom Network has long monitored similar efforts to facilitate links between faith-based service providers and government. Over the years, the so-called "faith-based initiative" has included policies that would fund faith-based organizations with tax dollars; loosen regulations and licensing of faith-based providers; and permit providers to discriminate openly in hiring practices. The Texas Freedom Network studied the first five years of the “faith-based initiative,” or “charitable choice,” in Texas.
Defending Neighborhood Schools
Texas Freedom Network supports strong neighborhood public schools that provide a quality education for all Texas schoolchildren. TFN opposed the following bills, which would have created voucher schemes that drain money from public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools.
HB 41 by Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, would have created a voucher pilot program in the state's six largest school districts. FAILED TO PASS
Charter schools in Texas have been plagued by fiscal mismanagement and poor academic performance. Until the state has sufficiently cleaned up the current system, Texas Freedom Network opposes the expansion of the current number of charter schools. TFN opposed the following bills.
Texas Freedom Network supported the following legislation.
HB 828 by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, would have directed the state commissioner of education to provide grants to public schools to help cover the cost of educating students with disabilities. FAILED TO PASS
SB 186 by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, would have barred the state's commissioner of education from using a drop-out prevention program as an avenue for providing publicly funded private school vouchers. Last year the commissioner established rules that permit the state to provide public tax dollars to private schools for drop-out program services that public schools can provide. FAILED TO PASS (But the state budget now includes a provision barring the use of public funds for private school vouchers.)