The board has identified several areas it wants lawmakers to address at the state Capitol, such as funding for special education programs, pre-K classes, relief for fast-growth districts such as LISD and more. According to Nichols, several pieces of legislation that would affect LISD’s priorities have been filed, the deadline for which is March 10.
“Currently, I think I’m tracking over 1,000 bills at this point,” he said. “So we’ll hopefully slow down a little bit on that end, but then obviously the work starts.”
LISD’s top priorities include increased funding for hiring staff and providing professional development, monitoring student data privacy and ensuring data mining by vendors is prohibited, and supporting legislation to ensure special education advocates and hearing officers adhere to ethical standards and possess state qualifications.
One of the bills the district will continue to watch is House Bill 18, which Nichols said could preempt previous legislation to mitigate the collection of student data and their academic performances by outside parties.
“We did not want our kids to be data mined,” board President Trish Bode said. “We didn’t want it to be like you’re trying to collect all of our kids' data to use it against them, to sell to them, market them—all of that.”
Among the district’s areas of focus, officials want to see amendments to House Bill 4545, which established requirements for schools to implement acceleration instruction, meant to help students improve their performance on end-of-year exams. The district has been calling for changes in the bill to allow for greater flexibility related to 3-to-1 teacher-to-student ratios and allow discretion on the number of tutoring hours necessary for an individual student.
A piece of legislation to revise HB 4545 was filed Feb. 23, which would allow districts to determine the scope of remediation efforts for students who do not perform well on state exams. Nichols said it has more to do with cleaning up the code that enables criminal history and background checks to be performed on tutoring companies.
“I’m not sure that it goes far enough, to be honest with you,” he said. “The ratio is still there. It goes from [3-to-1 to 4-to-1]. They do lower the number of tests, so it would be mathematics, reading, English one, English two, and algebra. That would mean no science or social studies. ... That is helpful, but I still have a lot of questions.”