House speaker releases interim charges leading to 2021 session

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen released his “interim charges,” directions to committees and state bodies on legislation to review and issues to address for possible legislation next session. Additionally, he noted that he will be announcing “several Select Committees addressing issues of extraordinary interest and concern” in the coming weeks.

Here are some highlights relating to public education and higher education, but you can read the full release of charges here.

Public Education

(Public Education Committee)
Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

• HB 3, which relates to public school finance and public education. Monitor the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) implementation of the bill, including the extensive rulemaking process and broad unintended consequence authority of the commissioner. Examine the pay raises districts have provided to staff and the various
approaches adopted to differentiate these salary increases according to experience.

• HB 1842 (84R), HB 22 (85R), SB 1882 (85R), and HB 3906, which relate to public school accountability, assessment, interventions, and district-charter partnerships. Monitor the ongoing progress of the TEA’s implementation and rulemaking of the A-F rating system, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), and public school sanctions and interventions.

• SB 1873 (85R), which relates to reporting certain school district health and safety information. Review the report on physical education prepared by the TEA and determine what, if any, next steps are needed based on the data collections.

Related to Behavioral Health (Joint charge with Committee on Public Health)

• HB 18, which enhances school safety and mental health resources for students and school personnel and works to reduce the stigma around mental health conditions. Monitor the process by which state agencies coordinate to implement the legislation and their compliance with various requirements, including providing required guidelines and resources to schools.

• HB 19, which places non-physician mental health professionals at education service centers to provide resources for educators and administrators in school districts and charter schools.

• HB 906, which creates the Collaborative Task Force on Public School Mental Health Services.

• SB 11, which creates the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to facilitate access to mental health care services through telehealth and expands the mental health workforce through training and funding opportunities. Monitor the creation of the consortium and agencies’ rulemaking processes. Review how school districts are spending their school safety allotment.

Determine if any barriers exist in providing a digital learning environment for all children, including an evaluation of the competitive marketplace for blended learning products and
services. Evaluate the effectiveness of the Technology and Instructional Materials Allotment (TIMA) in providing districts the resources necessary to equip students with instructional materials and technology, including in the review all programs and initiatives funded by setasides from the TIMA. Monitor the performance and accountability of the state’s full-time virtual schools and online courses provided through the Texas Virtual School Network.

Monitor the progress of the TEA’s compliance with the Corrective Action Response required by the United States Department of Education, the implementation of the state’s Special
Education Strategic Plan, and the state’s compliance with other federal requirements regarding special education, including maintenance of state financial support for special education. Recommend solutions to barriers the agency, school districts, students with disabilities, and parents face in accessing a free and appropriate public education and in meeting the milestones of the plan and any measures needed at the state level to ensure that students with disabilities are being located, fully evaluated, and appropriately identified for
special education instruction and services.

Higher Education

(Higher Education Committee)
1. Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

• HB 449, HB 1735, and SB 212, which relate to sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking at public and private postsecondary educational institutions. Monitor the process by which institutions of higher education adopt policies on sexual assault prevention, victim outreach programs, and disciplinary hearings. Monitor rules and regulations at the federal level that could necessitate changes to state law.

• HB 1638 (85R), which relates to statewide goals for dual credit programs. Review best practices for providing opportunities to high school students to earn college credit while ensuring that courses taken reflect authentic, college-level rigor.

• SB 18, which relates to the protection of expressive activities at public institutions of higher education. Monitor the process by which institutions of higher education implement policies to protect the expressive rights of persons guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and of this state.

• SB 25, which relates to measures to facilitate the transfer, academic progress, and timely graduation of students in public higher education. Monitor the process by which the Higher Education Coordinating Board adopts rules via negotiated rulemaking. Monitor the progress of institutions developing recommended course sequences and the progress of the feasibility study to implement statewide meta majors.

• SB 16, which relates to a student loan repayment assistance program for peace officers. Monitor the process by which the Higher Education Coordinating Board implements the loan repayment program and administers the grants to eligible peace officers.

Review progress toward the goals of the 60X30TX plan, including institutional strategies for responding to diverse and rapidly changing workforce needs and demands, including workforce education, industry certification, and degree programs to address healthcare shortages. Specifically review community colleges’ capacity to meet the goals of 60X30TX, including a review of taxing districts and service areas versus geographic areas of need. Review the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative’s work-based learning, industry-aligned internships, and industry credential initiatives. Consider whether legislative action may be  needed to expand work-based learning and recruitment efforts for adults who have previously completed some college level coursework.

Study the prevalence of online courses and degrees in higher education. Examine how institutions providing online courses and programs are accredited, particularly courses and programs originating from states other than Texas. Evaluate how students whose courses and degrees are primarily online perform in terms of persistence and degree completion versus students who take courses in traditional classroom settings. Study labor market outcomes for students with primarily online courses and degrees versus more traditional programs.

(Appropriations Committee)
Review formula funding for higher education institutions in Texas. Examine the general efficiency and equity of formula funding for these higher education institutions. Monitor the implementation of mission-specific pilot formulas at the state’s health-related institutions.