Texas Senate Passes Bill to Expand Special Needs Micro Grants

The Texas Federation for Children (TFC) today praised Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and the Texas Senate for passing SB 1716 with a bipartisan vote of 21-9. This bill extends and expands the Supplemental Special Education Services (SSES) program which provides families of children with special needs $1,500 grants to purchase services providing additional education support. The SSES program was created during the COVID-19 pandemic for children that were dramatically cut off from essential therapies and interventions because of school closures.  This grant program has been a lifeline to families throughout the state who witnessed years of progress for their child(ren) disappear over the course of just a few months.

“The SSES program has been instrumental in helping children with special needs find the therapy and learning strategies they need to be successful,” said TFC State Director, Mandy Drogin. “At a time when our children need every available tool to enhance their education, this bill is vital. TFC is grateful to Chairman Taylor and Lt. Governor Patrick for leading on this issue and we urge the Texas House to quickly pass this legislation and get it to Governor Abbott’s desk for his signature.”

SB 1716 is a TFC legislative priority and will now go to the Texas House. TFC’s additional legislative priorities and their progress can be found below:

Learning Pods Protection: SB 1955 Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) 

SB 1955 will protect Learning Pods from burdensome regulation by local governments.  A growing number of families have responded to their frustrations with their local school districts by gathering their children together in learning pods and hiring teachers or tutors to assist with educating them. This new and flexible style of educating children must be protected from local governments trying to impose onerous regulations on them.

SB 1955 passed the Senate on April 29.

Public Charter School Expansion: SB 28 Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston); HB 3279 Harold Dutton (D-Houston) 

Charter schools have been very successful in Texas. As a result, there are more than 160,000 Texas families on waiting lists to get their children into these schools. SB 28 and HB 3279 reduce the regulatory burdens placed on charter school operations and their expansion.

SB 28 passed the Senate on April 15.

Virtual School Expansion and Improvement: SB 27 Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood)

Prior to the pandemic, only five school districts and two charter schools could offer full-time virtual instruction in Texas. This law must be changed. SB 27 expands virtual school course options to ensure any gaps in course availability at Texas’s 1,247 school districts are filled.

Education Savings Accounts Creation: SB 1968 Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston); HB 4537 Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston)

SB 1968 and HB 4537 create an Education Savings Account program to financially assist low-income families with private school tuition and fees, purchasing textbooks or other instructional materials, private tutoring, and education therapies. The funding for these bills comes from tax credit incented donations as well as appropriated funds. In addition, we also support SB 1698 introduced by Senator Paxton which would create a scholarship tax credit program.