For this weekly feature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) profiles a noteworthy bill that is currently going through the legislative process. The bill may relate directly to TCDD’s Public Policy Priorities or another disability-related issue.
Bill: House Bill (HB) 2256, which would create a bilingual special education certification to teach students with disabilities who have limited English proficiency
Bill Author: Rep. Bobby Guerra, Texas House District 41 (McAllen)
What does the bill do?
HB 2256 would create a bilingual special education certificate for teachers to serve students with disabilities who have limited English proficiency. Under the terms of the bill, a “student of limited English proficiency” means a student whose primary language is other than English and whose English language skills are such that the student has difficulty performing ordinary classwork in English.
To be eligible for this certification, a teacher must satisfactorily complete the coursework in an educator reparation program, including a skills-based course on providing instruction to students with disabilities who have limited English proficiency. The skills-based course must:
- Include the foundations of bilingual, multicultural, and second language special education
- Provide culturally responsive, individualized education programs for students with disabilities who have limited English proficiency
- Provide assessment for equity and inclusion of students with and without disabilities who have limited English proficiency
- Develop teaching methods to recognize the intellectual, developmental, and emotional needs of students in dual language and transitional bilingual education settings
- Teach fundamental academic skills, including reading, writing, and mathematics, to students of limited English proficiency
- Create a dynamic and collaborative partnership with families and school professionals
Additionally, a person must perform satisfactorily on a bilingual special education certificate examination and satisfy any other requirements prescribed by the State Board of Educator Certification.
If passed, HB 2256 would take effect Sept. 1, 2021.
Statement from bill author, Rep. Bobby Guerra:
“I believe Texas bilingual students with disabilities deserve the same chance as other students to achieve the highest level of academic success. Texas teachers need to be able to tell the difference between learning delays and language barriers. That’s why I filed HB 2256 to start training a group of educators who are uniquely equipped to handle the needs of students at this identity.”
Where is the bill in the process?
On April 6, 2021, HB 2256 received a public hearing by the House Committee on Public Education and was left pending. When a bill is left pending, this means that the committee did not vote on the bill, and it could be considered again at a future committee meeting. You can watch the discussion here, beginning at the 02:59:18 mark.
Who supports the bill and why?
The following comments were given at the April 6, 2021, public hearing of HB 2256 by the House Committee on Public Education:
- Texans Care for Children: David Feigen, early childhood policy associate at Texans Care for Children: “We heard point-blank from experts and families that Texas schools are just not equipped to provide an education to our young English learners who have disabilities and developmental delays. We are the state with the highest percentage of English learners, but we do not have the personnel in place to assist their developmental needs while also helping cultivate their English and second language skills in an effective way. If we are able to pass HB 2256, diagnoses will be more accurate, they will happen soon enough to start services when they’ll be most effective, and they will be followed by services that meet students’ language needs and address students’ disabilities at the same time.”
- IDRA: Chloe Latham Sikes, deputy director of policy for Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA): “Currently, English-learning students experience both an overidentification and an under-identification for special education services, and this is because not enough educators and diagnosticians have the appropriate training in addressing both the linguistic needs and developmental needs of students who might be requiring both types of services. Students who have only linguistic needs can often be inappropriately identified for special education or vice versa with students who have both linguistic and special education needs but may only be identified for the language programs. This misidentification of English-learning students and their special education needs is inefficient and ineffective for addressing students’ actual learning.”
The following groups also registered their support for the bill but did not provide testimony: Disability Rights Texas, Girls Empowerment Network, the Texas Association of School Boards, the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Texas American Federation of Teachers, the Education Trust in Texas, the Arc of Texas, the Texas State Teachers Association, the Texas Association of Community Schools, the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children, San Antonio ISD, Texas Parent to Parent, the Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Children at Risk, Project Lead the Way, the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Every Texan, and United Way of Texas.
Who opposes the bill and why?
No opposition was registered against the bill.
TCDD: Sabrina Gonzalez, public policy analyst for TCDD, provided written comments on the bill: “The instruction of both students with disabilities and English-language learner students often requires educators to think outside the box and use techniques that are not always used in general education classrooms. In order to be most effective for the students they serve, the approach taken by English-language learner and special education teachers should be distinct and research-based. Unsurprisingly, meeting the needs of students at an intersection of disability and English-language learner status also requires specialized methods of instruction. A bilingual special education certification will be immensely helpful in preparing educators to meet the needs of students with disabilities who use English as a second language.”
Though TCDD takes no formal position on HB 2256, the Council lists the topic of early childhood and inclusive education among its 2021 Public Policy Priorities. That priority reads as follows:
Ensure children with disabilities ages 0-22 receive necessary services to promote healthy growth and development to support long-term success and independence. Children with disabilities in Texas deserve access to quality care and education such as inclusive childcare, therapy and case management services, special education services, and transition planning, which meet or exceed federal standards to increase childhood and long-term outcomes.
How much will the bill cost?
The Legislative Budget Board determined the bill would not increase the state budget in a significant way.
Is there a Senate companion to the bill?
Sen. Brandon Creighton has filed Senate Bill (SB) 1101, which is identical to HB 2256.
For the latest information about where HB 2256 is in the process, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.
Bill of the Week Updates:
HB 797: This bill, which would allow home health nurses to administer any FDA-approved vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, received a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on April 14, 2021. It was later voted out of the committee and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
SB 50: This bill, which would develop a competitive and integrated employment initiative for working-age adults with disabilities, received a public hearing before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 13, 2021. It was later voted out of the committee and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
SB 89: This bill was passed out of the Texas Senate with unanimous support on April 13, 2021. The bill is currently awaiting referral to a committee in the House. SB 89 would require schools to provide an individualized education plan (IEP) supplement for students enrolled in special education during the COVID-19 pandemic.