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Thursday, February 18, 1999     (512) 463-0300
Photo: Amarillo Senator Teel Bivins  speaks to the press after unanimous passage of CDDB1 in the Texas Senate
Amarillo Senator Teel Bivins, sponsor of CSSB1 which will end social promotion in Texas' public schools, speaks to the press after unanimous passage in the Texas Senate. With Bivins is Governor Bush, Austin Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, Lt. Governor Rick Perry, and Senators Royce West of Dallas, Greg Luna of San Antonio, and Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville.

Texas Senate Passes Legislation to End Social Promotion in Public Schools

AUSTIN - The Senate unanimously passed the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 1, the legislation ending social promotion. The bill is designed to reduce the number of children promoted even though they fail the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test. Senators adopted three floor amendments, including one by Dallas Senator Royce West which requires the Texas Commissioner of Education to certify that schools have sufficient funding for the program. The state must provide funding for programs laid out in the bill or schools will not be required to implement them.

Bill sponsor and Education Committee Chair Teel Bivins of Amarillo stated, "These are the children that have consistently not been addressed and with the passage of this legislation we're sending a message, as Governor Bush said, that every child can succeed in Texas."

The bill would begin with the kindergarten class entering school in the fall of 1999. A grade placement committee composed of the child's parent, teacher and principal can override a decision to hold a student back based on the TAAS test. Bivins said that a method of local control is important so the people who know the child best can make the final decision about their future.

Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso voiced concerns about bilingual education because for the first time in Texas history the incoming class is 42% Hispanic. Bivins agreed and said if this bill did not address the issues, they would be handled later in the session, "A big part of that training and intensive remediation has to be bilingual based because as you know, as you said, the face of our public school population is changing in Texas and we have to acknowledge this."

Many senators praised Bivins for his work on the legislation. Lt. Governor Rick Perry praised the success of bipartisanship in passing CSSB 1, "These Senators have shown that a very bipartisan mood is in the Texas Senate."

This morning the Senate Finance Committee passed emergency appropriations legislation which included funding for programs laid out in CSSB 1. Senate Bill (SB) 472 allotted $18 million to train kindergarten teachers to identify and solve reading difficulties early in a student's education. The committee also passed SB 148, sponsored by Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay, exempting small businesses from the corporate franchise tax.

Senators Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth and Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant held a press conference today to discuss the takeover of Sensitive Care nursing home facilities, after accusations of medicare fraud, the federal government cut off funding for Sensitive Care. The Texas Department of Human Services stepped in to operate the facilities. Nursing homes in Fort Worth and Richland Hills have closed.

Moncrief and Ratliff said they are angry the State of Texas is left to clean up the problem and take responsibility for nursing home residents without federal funds or assistance. "As a taxpayer it makes my head turn. As an elected official it makes my blood boil," said Moncrief.

Moncrief filed SB 597, raising the amount of the nursing and convalescent home trust funds from $5 million to $10 million to handle crisis situations in the future.

The Senate will reconvene Monday, February 22, at 1:30 p.m.

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