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Bill would mandate teaching positive character traits in Texas schools


House Bill 729 could cost school districts $25 million in the first year.

The bill’s author said many school districts already teach positive character traits.

The bill has the support of teacher groups.

State lawmakers could start requiring students to learn character traits such as honesty, kindness and school pride as a part of their lesson plans.

The price tag to school districts and public charter schools statewide is an estimated $25 million for next school year and another $4 million in the following year to implement the program and train teachers, according to the Texas Education Agency and the Legislative Budget Board.

But the bill’s author state Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, said that the agencies overestimate the cost of House Bill 729 because half of school districts already teach some sort of character program.

“Plus, I view it as an investment in our children, because what will happen is student attendance levels will go up, student behavioral and disciplinary problems will go down and academic achievement will soar. The science of why children succeed tells us that it’s parent engagement and character skills that matter the most,” Bohac said.

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Bohac said that parents have the most important role in building character but schools must contribute, too. He pointed to studies that have shown that students who have learned through character programs improve on math and reading tests, are less likely to be suspended and more likely to go to school.

The teaching of positive character traits currently are required by the Texas Education Code. But HB 729 would integrate it into the state curriculum and require school districts and charter schools to adopt a character trait program after obtaining input from the parents and teachers. The school district would then have to report to the TEA each year the program’s impact on student absences, academics and disciplinary problems.

A couple of teacher groups told lawmakers this week that they supported Bohac’s bill because they don’t think it’d be too burdensome for public schools to implement such a program.

“When I was superintendent, I didn’t like a lot of mandates out of Austin either,” David Anthony, who formerly headed the education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas, told lawmakers. “But I do think that sometimes when you got a really research-based issue where it’s not being done, people need to have to do it.”

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