Both Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus have released their interim charges for the education committees in each chamber to study in preparation for the 85th Legislative Session, which begins on January 10, 2017.
With the release of these charges, the committees are directed to hold interim hearings on each issue, hear public testimony, and release interim reports by the end of 2016. These reports are often a preview of the legislative issues to be considered by the legislature when session begins.
Included in the Senate interim charges are charges focused on: charter schools (including handling of property purchased with state funds when a charter closes); teacher preparation, retention and shortages; efficiency and productivity reviews for public schools; and school board governance.
The House interim charges focus on: a number of school finance issues including the Cost of Education Index (CEI) and school district facilities needs; career and workforce partnerships between public education, higher education and employers; and a review of middle school policies focused on research-based practices to ensure student retention, success and post-secondary readiness.
Both the House and Senate interim charges include monitoring charges directing the committees to oversee the implementation of legislation in areas such as pre-kindergarten (HB 4), school turnaround (HB 1842), teacher preparation (HB 2205) and end-of-course tests (SB 149, HB 743).
Regrettably, both the House and the Senate interim charges each include a charge devoted to the divisive issue of vouchers and neo-vouchers, such as education savings accounts and tax credit scholarships, which are publicly funded, yet not accountable to taxpayers.
A better focus for their efforts would be on strengthening the school choice options that already exist in our district and charter schools that are required to be accountable for their academic and financial performance, and on the successful implementation of legislation (HB 1842) giving districts greater freedom and autonomy to innovate to meet the unique needs of students.
Raise Your Hand Texas will be actively monitoring and reporting on these issues as committee hearings are scheduled.
To stay informed on these critical issues for public education in Texas, sign up for the Raise Your Hand Texas Monthly Newsletter and our Capitol Updates today!