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Major Public Ed Overhaul Bill Gains Approval by Texas Senate

After hours of debate and about 30 amendments, members of the Texas Senate agreed unanimously on their version of House Bill 5 – the measure that changes high school graduation requirements and drops the number of end-of-course, or STAAR, exams.

Lawmakers hugged and congratulated State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, chair of the Senate Education Committee, for passing the Senate version of HB 5. Democrats who had concerns before the bill came up on Monday said they’re pleased with the final version.

"I feel very good about what the Senate did today in large part because we have reduced the number of exams students will have to take so teachers will be freed up to teach critical thinking," State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said.

The Senate version requires students to choose a foundation plan or choose between the following: business and industry, arts and humanities, science and tech or a distinguished plan. If they select business and industry – a workforce plan for students who don’t plan to attend a four-year college -- they would not have to take Algebra 2. That means they wouldn’t qualify for the top ten percent who are guaranteed entry into a public state university.

Sen. Patrick says he’s been working with State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, the House author of HB 5 and expects the two chambers to agree on a final version. Sen. Patrick says he’s especially pleased that both sides now want to give grades to school districts, rather than individual schools, with an A through F.

"We’re talking about one of the most important pieces of legislation, not just of this session, but any session, because it impacts over 5 million students and families," Sen. Patrick said. "So you have to get it right."

Lawmakers expect grade point averages in Texas to increase under this plan. But Sen. Patrick says that will only happen if schools hold up their end of the bargain.