Transforming Education by Putting Kids First
IDRA Newsletter – This Issue's Focus:
Education Policy
In This Issue
Exciting Advances for Emergent Bilingual Students in Texas 

Politicizing Education Hurts Texas Students

Federal Education Policy News – What Educators Need to Know 

Texas Legislature Takes Some Steps Toward Addressing the Digital Divide

Student Health and Engagement Response to COVID-19 in Texas

Family and Student Advocacy Persisted During the Texas Legislative Session Despite Structural Barriers

Most Opportunities Missed to Expand College Preparation and Access in Texas
 
Recent News

Note: The Texas governor called a second special section that opened Saturday, August 7. Look for bilingual email updates to our Texas Education CAFE Advocacy Network and Twitter for news.
Exciting Advances for Emergent Bilingual Students in Texas
by Araceli García 

Despite the difficult circumstances of Texas’ 2021 legislative session, IDRA helped ensure passage of four major bills benefiting emergent bilingual students. Several of these bills were part of the Texas Early Childhood English Learner Initiative, a collaborative project to discuss challenges and opportunities for emergent bilingual students and provide a policy roadmap. 

• Senate Bill 560, by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., creates a statewide strategic plan for educating the over 1 million emergent bilingual students in Texas. 

• House Bill 2256, by Rep. Bobby Guerra, creates a bilingual special education certification to help ensure that students’ needs are appropriately met. 

• SB 2081, by Sen. José Menéndez, sets critical ratios and classroom caps for pre-K classes offered by public schools. 

• Finally, SB 2066, championed by Sen. Menéndez, aims to empower students by adopting the term emergent bilingual and recognizes the unique potential for bilingualism embodied by these students.  
Politicizing Education Hurts Texas Students
by Ana Ramón

While the 87th Texas legislative session began during the COVID-19 pandemic and the historic response to racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd, the legislature squandered its opportunity to develop serious policy solutions to improve education for all Texas students in favor of injecting partisan ideology into policy decisions.

Important bills that failed to pass in the session include a measure that would have ensured accurate and accessible data on school discipline and the CROWN act that would have prohibited discrimination against students based on their hairstyles.

One of the most horrifying examples of the legislature’s harmful focus was HB 3979, by Rep. Steve Toth, that will impede how teachers and students are able to discuss current events, history, and discrimination in Texas classrooms, particularly as they relate to the nation’s history of racism and sexism. (See IDRA’s resources on HB 3979, SB 3 and similar measures.)

Our students deserve much better.
See our video gallery of students testifying against classroom censorship
Federal Education Policy News – What Educators Need to Know
by Morgan Craven, J.D. 

This article provides an update on federal court decisions and legislative policies that will impact schools across the nation. 

Federal court decisions include confirmation that schools can regulate some off-campus student speech if it constitutes harassment or disruption to the school environment, allowing a lower court decision to stand stating that forcing students to use the bathroom matching the gender assigned at birth violates federal law, and a ruling on DACA that allows it to remain in place for current recipients. 
The U.S. Department of Education issued a number of guidance documents to instruct education agencies and schools on how to use federal relief funds to support students.

And several bills were reintroduced in the U.S. Congress that IDRA supports as they relate to school discipline, particularly prohibiting the use of corporal punishment and creating a grant program that would support the hiring and training of counselors, social workers, and other important school staff.  
Texas Legislature Takes Some Steps Toward Addressing the Digital Divide
by Thomas Marshall

Student success depends on the quality of their educational resources, and this includes access to reliable Internet service, devices like computers, and the knowledge of how to use relevant devices, programs and services. 

The Texas Legislature passed an important bill addressing the digital divide during the 2021 session. House Bill 5, the state broadband bill led by Rep. Trent Ashby, includes key provisions for a statewide broadband office, a statewide broadband plan, and a grant program so that schools and other entities can apply for federal broadband dollars distributed by the FCC. 
Student Health and Engagement Response to COVID-19 in Texas
by Christina Quintanilla-Muñoz, M.Ed.

Some of the bills passed during the 2021 Texas legislative session, including those related to access to student mental health resources, represent a step in the right direction for Texas students. 

SB 179, by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., is a long-overdue win for student mental health advocates that will expand school counselors’ capacity to deliver critical counseling services to students. 

HB 2287, by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, et al., will help the Collaborative Task Force on Public School Mental Health Services to monitor and maintain mental health resources. 

Missed opportunities include bills that would have uplifted student and community voices.  
Proven Strategies for Re-engaging Students Who Need You the Most
Family and Student Advocacy Persisted During the Texas Legislative Session Despite Structural Barriers
by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed.

IDRA was proud to work with students and families across the state, from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio to the lower Rio Grande Valley, who demanded education justice even as the pandemic and some members of the legislature limited public participation.

IDRA helped by coordinating advocacy training sessions, weekly virtual “office hours,” a student summit, a “train the trainer program” to help women of color in the lower Rio Grande Valley, engagement with student advocates, weekly meetings of the Texas Legislative Education Equity Coalition (TLEEC), regional virtual roundtables, and a “Save Civics Town Hall” and press conference. 

Important community-based policy and implementation work is still happening, and IDRA is supporting a student advocacy council to focus on student-led policy work across the state. 
Most Opportunities Missed to Expand College Preparation and Access in Texas
by Altheria Caldera, Ph.D.

Though many expected the Texas 2021 Legislative session to focus on higher education, COVID-19 and other issues dominated legislators’ time and attention, leaving important issues related to robust college preparation and expanded access unaddressed. These bills included a requirement that would have restored Algebra 2 to the foundational program to ensure Texas students would be ready for college, a bill that would have required college readiness counselors to undergo implicit bias training, and a bill that would have permitted students to relieve social studies credit for ethnic studies courses. 

One bright spot that was passed was SB 1277, by Sen. Royce West, requiring that school districts designate an academic advisor specifically to assist students enrolled in dual credit courses. 

Additionally, the legislature passed HB 1603, by Rep. Dan Huberty and Rep. David Spiller, making individual graduation committees permanent. 

HB 999, by Rep. Diego Bernal, provides critical protection for many students whose education was disrupted by the pandemic by allowing them to graduate without having to pass an end-of-course assessment. 
Recent News
Media Coverage in June and July


4 takeaways from Texas’ top education lawmakers, Emily Donaldson, Dallas Morning News, July 14, 2021


New SAISD, TAMU-SA digital help desk aims to become national model, by Brooke Crum, San Antonio Report, July 7, 2021

Consent decree lifted from county schools, The Randolph Leader, July 7, 2021



‘Critical race theory’ is latest lightning rod in Texas, Bill Whitaker, commentary, Waco Tribune-Herald, June 19, 2021

Juneteenth is a federal holiday. Can it be taught after Texas limited teaching on race?, by Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 18, 2021

Words Matter – The Case for Shifting to “Emergent Bilingual,” by Araceli García (IDRA Newsletter), Language Magazine, June 17, 2021

SSD grapples with discrimination, equity, by T. Lee Brown, The Nugget Newspaper (Oregon), June 8, 2021

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Phone: 210-444-1710
The Intercultural Development Research Association is an independent, non-profit organization. Our mission is to achieve equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college. IDRA strengthens and transforms public education by providing dynamic training; useful research, evaluation, and frameworks for action; timely policy analyses; and innovative materials and programs.
 
IDRA works hand-in-hand with hundreds of thousands of educators and families each year in communities and classrooms around the country. All our work rests on an unwavering commitment to creating self-renewing schools that value and promote the success of students of all backgrounds. 
August 9, 2021