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Texas Senate interim charges for 2024 released

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 4/12/2024 | Author: Heather Sheffield

A little more than halfway between the end of the 88th and the beginning of the 89th regular sessions, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has announced 57 Senate interim charges. In an April 11 press release, Patrick said his priorities include “school choice, continued property tax relief, and strengthening in the power grid.” Committees will meet between now and Dec. 1 to develop and report back findings and policy recommendations. 

The Senate Education Committee is tasked with looking at four interim charges: reading and math readiness, testing reform, oversight on the spending of COVID relief funds, and monitoring the implementation of recent bills on school safety, school library content, and high-quality instructional materials and open-educational resources. The Finance Committee’s first interim charge is examining further property tax relief, a perennial topic of discussion. In addition to studying the cost of eliminating all property taxes, the committee is also tasked with determining the cost of eliminating all school property taxes as well as only maintenance and operations (M&O) property taxes.  

During the past few election cycles, we’ve heard candidates, “think tanks,” and, most recently, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) talk about eliminating M&O property taxes. School district budgets (tax rates) are derived from two sources: M&O, covering day-to-day operations, and Interest and Sinking (I&S), covering bond/debt services. Keep in mind that M&O taxes are the source of funds for district employee salaries, which constitute the largest component of all school district budgets. Although the governor, lieutenant governor, and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) have all campaigned on the promise of cutting property taxes, they have differed on their approach.   

The interim charges assigned to other Senate committees can also have significant impacts on public education, such as charges to recommend a responsible regulatory framework for artificial intelligence development as well as new state laws monitoring funding appropriated for mental health services and broadband.  

One notable absence from this round of interim charges is a charge related to private school vouchers, often referred to as “school choice.” It’s also important to note that just because vouchers aren’t mentioned in the charges doesn’t mean they aren’t important to Patrick. The lieutenant governor and governor are aligned in their mutual support for vouchers, but Patrick may feel the Senate majority already has all the information (and votes) they need on that subject.  

Some interim charges may produce bills which never get a hearing or get addressed next session, and other hot topics which are not the subject of an interim charge may rise to the top of the priority bill list between now and January 2025. That said, interim charges and the hearings in which committees study them provide us with clues about the next legislative session and the cast of characters on each side of an issues. Below is the full text of charges that impact public education the most: 

Education Committee 

  • Reading and Math Readiness: Study current local, state, and national policies and programs that improve student achievement in reading and mathematics, with an emphasis on “early readiness” in grades preK-5. Make recommendations to ensure every student has a strong academic foundation in reading and math.  
  • Testing Reform: Review the state's current development and phase-in of the STAAR test redesign and ongoing innovative assessment reforms, including the Texas Through-Year Assessment Pilot (TTAP). Recommend ways to accelerate current testing improvement efforts and the development of a real-time testing program that meets the educational needs of Texas students.  
  • COVID-19 Funding Oversight: Examine and report on COVID-19 how public schools spent federal funds since the beginning of the pandemic, including funds received under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), with a dual focus on demonstrated improved student outcomes and efficient use of taxpayer funds. 
  • Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 88th 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: 
    • Measures ensuring public school safety; 
    • Oversight of public school library procurement and content policies; and 
    • High-quality instructional materials and open-educational resources for public schools. 

Finance Committee  

  • Continue Cutting Property Taxes: Identify the best combination to further increase the amount of homestead exemption and compression to continue cutting Texans' property taxes. Additionally, establish and report on the cost of eliminating:  

    • School maintenance and operation property taxes;
    • All school property taxes; and
    • All property taxes.

    Determine the fiscal consequences of each action, including whether revenue reallocations would be required for public education funding and local government funding, and impacts on the state's ability to respond to disasters and other urgent priorities. For example, determine the effect on other state programs if general revenue were used to fully replace school property taxes, particularly during economic downturns. Evaluate and report on how much state revenue would need to be generated to replace foregone property tax revenue, and from what source. 

  • Mental Health Services and Inpatient Facilities: Monitor the implementation of Senate Bill 30, 88th Legislature, Regular Session, with regard to appropriations made for expanding mental health services and inpatient facilities across the state. Report on the progress of inpatient facility construction projects. Assess and report on the effectiveness of spending on mental health services. 
  • Monitor Property Tax Relief and Infrastructure Funds: Monitor the appropriations supporting, and implementation of, the following legislation passed during the 88th Legislature, Regular or Special Sessions, and approved by voters, amending the Texas Constitution: 
    • Property Tax Relief: Senate Bill 2 and House Joint Resolution 2, 88th Legislature, Second Called Special Session;  
    • Texas Energy Fund: Senate Bill 2627 and Senate Joint Resolution 93, 88th Legislature, Regular Session; 
    • Texas Water Fund: Senate Bill 28 and Senate Joint Resolution 75, 88th Legislature, Regular Session; 
    • Centennial Parks Conservation Fund: Senate Bill 1648 and Senate Joint Resolution 74, 88th Legislature, Regular Session; 
    • Broadband Infrastructure Fund: House Bill 9 and House Joint Resolution 125, 88th Legislature, Regular Session. 

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates as ATPE participates in discussions on these topics.  


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