The Texas 87th Legislative Session opened in January of 2021. Please review our Legislative Priorities adopted by the Board of Trustees in July 2020.
Leander ISD advocates for legislation that:
Student Data Privacy
Requires the Texas Education Agency and technology vendors doing work with schools in Texas to de-identify students by masking all student data.
LISD is charged with safeguarding the personal data of more than 41,000 students without state-level guidance or requirements of vendors or agencies, such as the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
How do we ensure that LISD and our vendors comply with national and state data safety standards and best practices during the transfer of student records and programs?
School districts contract with third party vendors that have access to student data. There is currently no standard of data protection statewide such as the use of a unique ID (to assist in masking a student’s identification), nor a standard statewide data sharing agreement. Vendors range from small local companies to large national firms. These companies possess differing standards of protection and request varying degrees of student information, sometimes much more than necessary to perform their function.
There are concerns that this lack of standard is creating a large digital footprint for a child before they reach adulthood, and that this data is vulnerable to theft and malicious use. A child’s data is some of the most sought after data by hackers. There have been recent cyber attacks against school districts in the US where hackers obtained student data from third-party vendors and sent ransom notes or threatening personal messages to parents and teachers.
This resulted in school closures, as well as student data (including addresses, phone numbers, grade levels, etc…) being published on public platforms.
LISD seeks to require all vendors with student data to protect it with the unique ID, and adhere to an agreement which requires them to uphold a high standard of protection, while limiting the data to only what is necessary for the vendor’s contracted purpose.
Supports protecting students and parents by ensuring special education advocates and hearing officers adhere to ethical standards and possess qualifications in Texas law and special education.
- How do we best support special education students, families and teachers?
- How do we best protect the rights of parents and students with disabilities?
- How do we ensure that the dispute resolution process results in the most efficient system for our students, parents, and staff?
Impact to Leander ISD
LISD serves 4,882 special education students and employs 383 special education teachers.
Unfortunately, when disputes arise between the District and student representatives regarding special education, the process can often be long and arduous. All too often some of these disputes revolve around misconceptions regarding special education law and processes. LISD seeks legislation that would require training for paid advocate representatives to ensure these individuals have a comprehensive understanding of the student and their families’ rights under special education laws. Thus, alleviating the necessity for some of the delay in the process. Additionally, due process hearing officers have very little training in special education law, which is an extremely nuanced subsect of the law. LISD seeks to ensure that all hearing officers possess special training in laws that impact special education students. As individuals in this setting are more qualified and prepared, more students will benefit from a higher standard of representation and a more efficient process.
Leander ISD supports:
Increased funding for staff and professional development for the purposes of providing quality mental health-related services.
Impact to Leander ISD
LISD provides effective mental health programs and interventions for students through brief individual counseling or small group skills development.
LISD employs two teams – with a total of 11 employees – which provide short-term transitional mental health services to more than 40,000 students. On that team, we have six social workers and four licensed professional counselors.
LISD employs 43 people that are a Licensed Specialist in School Psychologists (LSSP). These programs serve 987 students with psychological services as part of an IEP, while 131 students also receive counseling as part of their IEP. These are services provided by an LSSP because of the students’ related services needed in special education.
- How do we properly provide additional support for student services for mental health with the current funding limitations and for students who do not qualify for special education, but may possess mental health issues?
- How do we effectively provide mental health services and provide for the whole child in our education setting?
As LISD continues to be a leader in serving the whole child, the expense and need for innovation in mental health services continues to escalate. The Texas Legislature made numerous changes to the statute last session in an attempt to increase resources when combating mental health issues in school. Unfortunately, these costs are still not fully funded and additional funding would greatly increase the effectiveness of LISD mental health services. LISD seeks to ensure that children continue to receive necessary intervention and assistance when dealing with mental health illnesses. Early intervention and the ability to address with highly-qualified staff is necessary to ensure all students receive necessary services.
Fast Growth School Solutions
By the Numbers
LISD adds approximately 1300 new students every year. Many of our campuses are at or close to capacity. These continued costs of expansion and addition of new campuses costs the district $1.7 million for an elementary school (800 students), $2 million for a middle school (1,300 students), and $3.2 million for a high school (2,400 students).
- How do we continue to provide a high-quality education with so many new students arriving each year?
- Is there an existing mechanism for the Legislature to provide additional funding to fast-growth school districts?
As the state transitions to a system which utilizes the current year appraisal values, the Legislature created a Fast Growth Allotment to help “soften the blow” as districts with a high rate of growth were left with less planning time from year-to-year and less funding. However, LISD was not made whole and did not see the funding increase as originally intended by the legislation.
Instead, the calculation led to very small districts receiving the benefit, districts who had significant percentage increases in students, but were of the size that it did not significantly affect their facilities or programs.
LISD seeks an alteration of the statute to ensure Districts with a high rate of growth that results in new programs and facilities be the primary beneficiaries of the Fast Growth Allotment.
Focus for Session
Support allowing flexible options via a more holistic and comprehensive accountability system for students to ensure their education fits their current and future needs.
Support local control and ensuring local decision-making remains intact and all options within reason are available for local policymakers to represent their constituents, as those who are closer to their specific communities have the best ability to react to their needs.
Support the legislature’s continued support of public education through additional dollars to assist in funding programs to include, but not limited to:
- Early Childhood Initiatives: specifically, full and adequate funding for full-day prekindergarten;
- Special Education;
- Adjustments for changing demographics and student populations;
- Employee benefits and additional support to recruit and retain highly qualified employees.