87th Texas Legislative Session: What happened with education bills?

The Arc of Texas stands with students with disabilities and supports legislation that helps them meet their education goals in a productive and safe learning environment. Critical bills that improve teacher training, parental awareness, and data collection in educational settings for the benefit of students with disabilities were signed by Gov. Abbott on June 4. Once effective, their provisions will optimize learning opportunities and practices that will make a difference for special education learners and their families.

• House Bill 159, authored by Rep. Mary Gonzalez in the House and sponsored by Sen. Eddie Lucio in the Senate, will improve training and staff development for primary and secondary teachers in areas that will reduce barriers in instruction, provide appropriate accommodations, and maintain high achievement expectations of all students. This bill specifically emphasizes the inclusion of students with disabilities. Now part of Texas law, its provisions will go into effect on September 1, 2021.

• House Bill 785, authored by Rep. Alma Allen in the House and sponsored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini in the Senate, revises various rules related to behavior improvement plans and behavioral intervention plans for students in special education. This is particularly important in cases of students being restrained, as students with disabilities are twice as likely to receive disciplinary action. The bill requires parents be notified of such incidences and behavioral intervention plans revised to address the behavior that preceded the restraint. This legislation underscores the need to systematically collect data, which is critical in reviewing behavior improvement and behavioral intervention plans of students with disabilities. The provisions of this bill are effective immediately.

The Arc of Texas thanks Gov. Abbott for signing these bills into law for the benefit of students with disabilities, their families, and educators throughout the state.