85th Legislature: Sen. Rodríguez amends bill to provide high school graduation option 

Austin – The 85th Texas Legislature’s Regular Session has ended. State Sen. José Rodríguez passed 50 bills, including those addressing education, health care, courts, criminal justice, local governance, and more. Sen. Rodríguez will send information regarding some of those over the course of this week. Today’s bulletin explains how Sen. Rodríguez amended a bill to give more deserving students an alternative path to a high school diploma.

Individual Graduation Committees:

In 2015, state Sen. Kel Seliger passed S.B. 149, which established Individual Graduation Committees. The committees, which are made up of teachers, counselors, and principals, can award a diploma to a student who has met all curricular requirements to graduate but did not pass the high-stakes State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test.

The bill was welcomed by education advocates; however, it only applied to students who had taken the STAAR test, which replaced the previous test, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), in 2012. Because the tests begin in grade 9, students in grade 10, who had taken TAKS in 2011, continued to take it, while 9th grade students that year began taking STAAR. The two tests overlapped until 2015, when the TAKS was discontinued. 

“This left students who took the TAKS unable to access the alternative path to diploma afforded by the IGCs,” said Sen. Rodríguez. “The issue was highlighted by members of my Education Advisory Committee, one of several district committees set up to provide legislative proposals, among other functions.” 

S.B. 149 was set to expire in September 2017. Consequently, Sen. Seliger filed S.B. 463 this session to extend the IGCs through 2019. As a result of the Education Committee’s advocacy, Sen. Rodríguez worked with Sen. Seliger to include students who took the TAKS among those eligible to receive a diploma through an IGC. 

“I am proud of the work our offices have done to improve the lives of Texans,” said Georgina Perez, the State Board of Education member representing El Paso, and a member of the District 29 Education Advisory Committee. “This is meaningful change that will have a direct impact on the lives of the residents of Senate District 29 and State Board of Education District 1.”

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José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which includes the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He represents both urban and rural constituencies, and more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. Senator Rodríguez currently serves as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Natural Resources and Economic Development; Transportation; Veteran Affairs and Border Security; and Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs (Vice Chair).

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