Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 704
By: Delisi
Public Education


At the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year, Texas had approximately
44,000 teacher openings.  It was estimated that only 14,000 new recruits
were available to fill these positions, leaving 30,000 unfilled classrooms.
Educational aides, returning retirees, and substitutes make up a portion of
the shortfall, but innovative action is needed for the public school system
to overcome the shortage of qualified teachers. Possible recruits might
come from professionals in the private sector who have lost employment due
to large-scale layoffs or who desire a change in career.  House Bill 704
establishes a program to assist persons in obtaining state certification as
an elementary or secondary school teacher or educational aide and to
facilitate their employment in Texas school districts. 


It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking
authority is expressly granted to the Texas Education Agency in SECTION 1
(Section 21.607, Education Code) and to the commissioner of education in
SECTION 1 (Section 21.611, Education Code) of this bill. 


House Bill 704 amends the Education Code to require the Texas Education
Agency (TEA) to establish a program to assist individuals in obtaining
certification as an elementary or secondary school teacher or educational
aide, and to facilitate the employment of those persons in school districts
in Texas that: 

_receive federal grants for having developed or adopted challenging content
and student performance standards on the basis of having concentrations of
educationally-disadvantaged children in the district; and  

_have a shortage of qualified teachers, in science, mathematics, computer
science, or engineering, or educational aides. 
The bill requires the commissioner of education  (commissioner) to adopt
rules to implement the program. 

The bill sets forth eligibility requirements for a person planning to
participate in the program. The bill provides for the development and
distribution of applications and information regarding the program and the
selection of program participants by TEA.  The bill requires TEA when
selecting participants to give preference to an individual with
substantial, demonstrated career experience in science, mathematics,
computer science, engineering, or a field identified by TEA as important
for state educational objectives. The bill requires the commissioner to
determine the level of experience considered to be substantial for purposes
of selecting preferred individuals. 

H.B. 704 provides that a person selected for the program must enter into a
written agreement with TEA under which the person agrees to: 

_obtain certification in Texas as an elementary or secondary school teacher
or as an educational  aide within the period TEA requires by rule; and 

_accept an offer of full-time employment for at least two school years in a
school district receiving a federal grant and experiencing a shortage of
qualified teachers in science, mathematics, computer science, or
engineering, or educational aids. 

The bill requires TEA to pay each program participant a stipend equal to
the lesser of $5,000 or an amount equal to the total federally-defined cost
of attendance at an institution of higher education, including: 

_tuition and fees;

_an allowance for books, supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous

_an allowance for room and board;

_an allowance for expenses incurred by a student for dependent care; and

_an allowance for expenses related to a student's disability.

The bill requires the person to reimburse TEA for a portion of the stipend
if the person fails to obtain certification or employment, or  voluntarily
leaves or is terminated from employment in a public school in Texas after
working for less than two years.  The bill provides that the obligation to
reimburse TEA is a debt to the state, and that a discharge in bankruptcy
does not release the person from the obligation to reimburse TEA.  The bill
also sets forth provisions regarding the rate of interest applied to the
amount owed.  The bill sets forth circumstances under which a participant
in the program is not considered to be in violation of the agreement, as
well as circumstances under which an individual is excused from
reimbursement of the stipend. 

The bill authorizes TEA to enter into an agreement with a school district
that first employs as a full-time elementary or secondary school teacher or
an educational aide a participant in the program who has received
certification.  The agreement must provide that the district agree to
employ the person full-time for at least two years at a specified salary in
a school that meets the criteria set forth in this bill. Additionally, the
agreement must provide that the state is required to pay the district
$5,000 each year for no more than two years for the person hired. 


September 1, 2001.