BILL ANALYSIS

 

 

 

C.S.H.B. 1883

By: Bhojani

Public Education

Committee Report (Substituted)

 

 

 

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

 

State-mandated exams, including the STAAR test and end-of-course exams, are scheduled by the State Board of Education. Testing dates are routinely scheduled on religious holy days, putting certain students in the position of having to choose between practicing the traditions of their faith, such as fasting and prayer, or scoring well on high-stakes exams. C.S.H.B. 1883 seeks to ensure that exams such as the STAAR test and end-of-course exams are not scheduled on dates of holy days or periods of observation, including All Saints' Day, Christmas Day, Diwali, Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Good Friday, Immaculate Conception, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Vaisakhi, Vesak, and Yom Kippur.

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE IMPACT

 

It is the committee's opinion that this bill does not expressly create a criminal offense, increase the punishment for an existing criminal offense or category of offenses, or change the eligibility of a person for community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision.

 

RULEMAKING AUTHORITY

 

It is the committee's opinion that rulemaking authority is expressly granted to the Texas Education Agency in SECTION 1 of this bill.

 

ANALYSIS

 

C.S.H.B. 1883 amends the Education Code to authorize the board of trustees of a public school district or the governing body of an open-enrollment charter school to consider the dates of religious holy days or periods of observance likely to be observed by the students enrolled in the district or charter school during the period set by the State Board of Education (SBOE) for the administration of certain statewide standardized tests and end-of-course tests in establishing the following:

         the district's or charter school's calendar for that school year; and

         the instructional days within that period on which district or charter school students are administered the required tests, provided that the board of trustees or governing body may not exclude more than two instructional days from that period based solely on the occurrence of a single religious holy day or period of observance.

The bill requires the board of trustees of a district or the governing body of a charter school, in establishing that school calendar, to provide for alternative dates for the administration of the applicable tests to a student who is absent from school to observe a religious holy day or period of observance on the date a test is administered. The bill authorizes the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to adopt rules as necessary to ensure a student may be administered a test on an alternative date as necessary to comply with the bill's provisions. The bill applies beginning with the 2023‑2024 school year.

 

C.S.H.B. 1883 defines a "religious holy day or period of observance" as a holy day or a period of holy days observed by a religion whose places of worship are exempt from property taxation as a religious organization, including All Saints' Day, Christmas Day, Diwali, Eid al‑Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Good Friday, Immaculate Conception, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Vaisakhi, Vesak, and Yom Kippur.

 

EFFECTIVE DATE

 

On passage, or, if the bill does not receive the necessary vote, September 1, 2023.

 

COMPARISON OF INTRODUCED AND SUBSTITUTE

 

While C.S.H.B. 1883 may differ from the introduced in minor or nonsubstantive ways, the following summarizes the substantial differences between the introduced and committee substitute versions of the bill.

 

The substitute does not include a requirement in the introduced for the SBOE to ensure that certain statewide standardized tests and end-of-course tests are not administered on a religious holy day, including All Saints Day, Christmas, Diwali, Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Vaisakhi, Vesak, and Yom Kippur. Instead, the substitute authorizes the board of trustees of a district or the governing body of a charter school to consider the dates of religious holy days or periods of observance likely to be observed by the students during the period set by the SBOE for the administration of certain tests in establishing the district's or school's calendar for that school year and the instructional days within that period on which district or school students are administered the required tests.

 

The substitute includes the following provisions absent from the introduced:

         a requirement for the board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of a charter school to provide for alternative dates for the administration of the tests to a student who is absent from school to observe a religious holy day or period of observance;

         an authorization for TEA to adopt rules as necessary to ensure a student may be administered a test on an alternative date; and

         a definition of "religious holy day or period of observance" as a holy day or a period of holy days observed by a religion whose places of worship are exempt from property taxation as a religious organization, including All Saints' Day, Christmas Day, Diwali, Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Good Friday, Immaculate Conception, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Vaisakhi, Vesak, and Yom Kippur.