Texas families who promoted parent-driven reforms to the state’s broken public education system are disappointed that lawmakers failed to pass almost all of their recommendations during the regular legislative session that ended on May 29.

Yet some of their legislative priorities could get a second chance during one of the “several special sessions” that Gov. Greg Abbott said he intends to call over the coming months.

“The majority of parent concerns went unanswered during the 88th Legislative Session,” public education advocate Melissa Becket told Texas Scorecard.

Beckett is the spokesman for Texas Education 911—a movement of parents, educators, and pro-family organizations from across the state that advocated all session for fixes to the state’s troubled public education system that put students and families first.

Texas Education 911 set 13 parent-focused legislative priorities for the session, and legislators from both parties filed dozens of bills addressing those priorities.

“We are profoundly disappointed that the majority of them did not advance this session, much less get a hearing,” Beckett said.

The lone win claimed by the network of parents is House Bill 900 by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) to keep sexually explicit books out of children’s school libraries and classrooms.

“We are thrilled Texas lawmakers passed a bill that focused on a parent-identified problem with a parent-identified solution, including strong enforcement,” Beckett said.

Two other key reforms backed by the parent group passed the Senate and advanced through House committees, only to die on the last day for the House to pass Senate bills.

Senate Bill 163 by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R–New Braunfels) would have made the parental opt-in requirement for their students to participate in schools’ sex education permanent.

Senate Bill 595 by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) would have required parental opt-in before schools can give students and psychological tests or mental health surveys.

“We were rooting for them until the very end,” Beckett said.

Another reform parents were rooting for, House Bill 890 by State Rep. Keith Bell (R–Forney), would have made it easier for families to navigate school districts’ grievance process for resolving complaints.

The Senate added several other provisions to the bill, and it eventually died before the two chambers could agree on a compromise.

”While we supported the efforts to improve the grievance and we are disappointed those bills died, what parents desperately need is the ability to enforce the laws our legislators and their staff work so hard to enact. Bills that would have resulted in parent-approved enforcement across the board were mostly ignored.”

In the final weeks of the regular session, with most of their legislative recommendations on life support, Texas Education 911 called the need for reforms “so urgent and serious” that a special session was warranted to act on the parent-identified solutions that lawmakers failed to address.

With the list of lawmakers’ failures now complete, Beckett said this week it is “imperative we have a special session focused on the solutions parents want and need, especially addressing the elephant in the room: enforcement.”

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.