BREAKING: Lieutenant Governor issues 2022 interim charges for Senate committees
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Date Posted: 4/04/2022 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) released the 87th Legislature's interim committee charges for the state Senate today. For the remainder of the year, Senate committees will meet to discuss and hear from stakeholders on these issues, ultimately preparing a report before the start of the next legislative session in January 2023. As with the House interim charges issued last month, ATPE’s lobby team will be monitoring the work of these committees and providing input on the interim charges that are important to our members.
Two weeks ago, Patrick announced changes to the structure of Senate committees, making the Senate's Higher Education Committee, previously chaired by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), a subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee and appointing Creighton as chair of the larger committee. Today, the lieutenant governor shared what are effectively the committee's "homework assignments" for the remainder of the year.
"Parent empowerment" tops the list of charges for the Senate Education Committee, as well as looking at standards for reviewing school library books. Patrick also wants the committee to look at local government practices that he says "are prohibiting the expansion of charter schools." Conspicuously absent from the list is a charge pertaining to private school vouchers — long a priority for Lt. Gov. Patrick. See the full list of the committee’s interim charges below.
Interim Charges for the Senate Education Committee:
- Parent Empowerment: Review Texas’ existing parental rights and responsibilities in current law. Evaluate current public school practices toward parental and community engagement related to: curriculum and learning materials, campus and district management, governance, accessibility to school officials, and data usage and privacy. Make recommendations to enable parents to exert a greater influence on their child's learning environment, including enacting meaningful change at their public school campus or district, and affirm parents as primary decision-makers over their child's schooling options.
- COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Educator Talent Pipeline: Examine the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the public school educator talent pipeline, staffing patterns and practices, and declining student enrollment and attendance. Review any policies and regulatory actions that prevent students from receiving instruction from a highly effective teacher. Monitor the impact of both the Teacher Incentive Allotment and non-administrator compensation increases directed under House Bill 3 (86th Legislature), as well as the teacher pay raises implemented in 2019. Explore innovative models to improve recruitment and make recommendations to maintain a strong educator workforce pipeline, while adapting resilient school strategies to meet emergent demands in public education.
- Student Discipline: Review and evaluate the operation of disciplinary alternative education programs (DAEP) and juvenile justice alternative education programs (JJAEP) with an emphasis on: quality of academic instruction, lengths of placements, physical conditions, administration of student discipline and law enforcement interventions, implementation of positive behavior management strategies, and the availability and delivery of mental health support services. Make recommendations to support and promote the success of these programs and enhance the ability of public schools to meet the needs of students through innovative school discipline models.
- School Library Advisory Council Review: Assess current standards adopted by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the State Board of Education, and public school policies and practices related to materials in campus libraries or servers. Assess current adoption, placement, and review structures for library materials and make recommendations to ensure: 1) materials are grade, age, and developmentally appropriate; 2) publicly searchable and accessible; and 3) parents and the public are given a prominent role in the process.
- Vaping in Schools: Examine the enforcement of current law, which requires school districts to prohibit the use or possession of e-cigarettes, tobacco products, or “vape pens.” Determine whether existing practices are effective at preventing vaping or use of other tobacco products on school campuses. Identify methods for schools to determine the contents within vape pens, including whether the pen contains nicotine, THC, or other chemicals. Investigate and report on the impact to student health, and determine if additional policies or laws are needed to protect students' health.
- Bond Efficiency: Conduct a comprehensive review of the school district bond issuance process. Specifically, review public notice and disclosure requirements, the bond election process, procurement requirements, and how unused bond proceeds may be utilized. Study the best practices implemented by school boards and make recommendations to improve bond issuance efficiencies.
- Local Government Exclusion: Investigate how some cities and counties are prohibiting the expansion of charter schools through local ordinances. Make recommendations to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of charter schools and independent school districts.
- Homestead Exemption: Study the use and effect of the optional homestead exemption available to independent school districts. Examine and report on costs to the state if school districts receive incentives to increase the optional percentage exemption.
- Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 87th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
- Senate Bill 3 (87th Legislature, Second Called Session), Relating to civics training programs for certain public school social studies teachers and principals, parental access to certain learning management systems, and certain curriculum in public schools, including certain instructional requirements and prohibitions;
- Senate Bill 15 (87th Legislature, Second Called Session), Relating to virtual and off-campus electronic instruction at a public school, the satisfaction of teacher certification requirements through an internship teaching certain virtual courses, and the allotment for certain special-purpose school districts under the Foundation School Program;
- Senate Bill 1365 (87th Legislature), Relating to public school organization, accountability, and fiscal management;
- Senate Bill 1716 (87th Legislature), Relating to a supplemental special education services and instructional materials program for certain public school students receiving special education services;
- House Bill 1525 (87th Legislature), Relating to the public school finance system and public education;
- House Bill 4545 (87th Legislature), Relating to the assessment of public school students, the establishment of a strong foundations grant program, and providing accelerated instruction for students who fail to achieve satisfactory performance on certain assessment instruments;
- House Bill 3 (86th Legislature), relating to public school finance and public education; and
- House Bill 3906 (86th Legislature), relating to the assessment of public school students, including the development and administration of assessment instruments, and technology permitted for use by students.
Patrick gave the Senate Higher Education Committee its own charges, which include a charge pertaining to workforce education and one regarding financial aid for teachers, as follows:
- Workforce Education: Evaluate state efforts to support access to work-based learning and microcredential opportunities, including apprenticeships, industry-based certificates and certifications, as well as competency-based education. Assess the potential benefits of expanding access to work-based learning, apprenticeships, microcredentials, and industry-based certifications that are aligned to workforce needs and provide in-demand workforce skills and competencies. Evaluate existing resources and programs at institutions, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Workforce Commission to support these opportunities and ultimately reach Tri-Agency goals. Consider recommendations to standardize these programs in order increase postsecondary degree completions
- Teaching and Health Care Workforce Participation: Review financial aid and scholarship opportunities in Texas related to teaching, health care, and law enforcement, and examine methods to increase participation in these and other high-demand fields. In particular, study the participation rates of the Math and Science Scholars Loan Repayment Program, the Peace Officer Loan Repayment Program, and the Nursing Corps Loan Repayment Program, and make recommendations on ways to increase participation rates in each area.
A few other Senate committees will also look at interim charges that intersect with education matters. For example, the Senate Finance Committee will review how the federal COVID-19 relief funding for schools has been used and will monitor changes made to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) through last year's pension-related legislation. Studying ways to reduce property taxes is also on the committee's assignment list.
The Senate Committee on Local Government will also be looking at property tax reform and will compare voter turnout and bond election results between May and November elections. One of the more politiically motivated charges on Lt. Gov. Patrick's priority to prevent governmental entities, such as school districts, from engaging in advocacy activities, which he refers to as "taxpayer funded lobbying." The interim charge is explained as follows:
- Taxpayer Funded Lobbying: Study how governmental entities use public funds for political lobbying purposes. Examine what types of governmental entities use public funds for lobbying purposes and what level of transparency is available to the public. Make recommendations to protect taxpayers from paying for lobbyists who may not represent the taxpayers' interests.
Additionally, the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce will be looking at broadband funding and infrastructure, including monitoring the implementation of major bills passed in 2021 to expand broadband in Texas.
Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on any of the Senate committees' interim work this year.
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