More interim-study directives from Speaker Straus

n addition to interim assignments for the House Public Education Committee that we reported yesterday, Speaker Joe Straus issued study directives to the House Pensions Committee and House Higher Education Committee that also deserve notice.

House Pensions Committee:

1. Review the state’s oversight of pension systems and study the effectiveness of corrective mechanisms, including the Funding Soundness Restoration Plan and Pension Review Board Funding Guidelines. Make recommendations to enhance state oversight and to maintain or achieve soundness among local pension systems.

2. Evaluate the governance structures, including investment oversight, of the Employee Retirement System (ERS), Teacher Retirement System (TRS), Texas Municipal Retirement System, Texas County and District Retirement System, and Texas Emergency Services Retirement System. Identify best practices and make recommendations to strengthen oversight within the systems.

3. Review and evaluate health incentive programs within the group benefit programs at ERS and TRS. Identify best practices among similar programs and barriers to implementation. Make recommendations for achieving further savings through existing and/or new programs.

4. Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 85th Legislature.

House Higher Education Committee
1. Determine, to the extent possible, the scope of financial losses to 2- and 4-year institutions, including facilities, that resulted from Hurricane Harvey. Recommend possible state actions to mitigate any negative impact on institutions and ensure governance structures and parameters allow for effective responses. Review the educational opportunities offered to students displaced by Harvey throughout the state. Recommend any changes that could improve the process and what additional services might be needed for these displaced students.
2. Determine the impact of any federal action pertaining to Title IX and the potential effects on current state laws and rules pertaining to sexual misconduct policies at institutions of higher education.
3. Examine the rapid growth of dual credit course offerings across the state, and evaluate whether dual credit is effectively reducing time-to-degree and improving affordability for students and the state. Evaluate institutions’ policies and processes for ensuring rigor and quality, and the adequacy of student advising regarding the potential applicability of dual credit courses to future academic program requirements. Review the current state funding methodology and costs of, and the share of state funding attributable to, dual credit programs.
4. Examine efforts of 2- and 4-year institutions to implement innovative and non-traditional models of education delivery to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body and the demands of a rapidly changing workforce. Identify any obstacles to institutional innovation. Make recommendations to scale innovative educational models to better serve students and employers.
5. Review current data available to the public about Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) and make recommendations to ensure the data is transparent, user-friendly, and actionable. Review the current EPP accountability system and recommend any new indicators or changes, including evaluating the ability of programs to meet the workforce needs of school districts by preparing teachers for high-needs areas. Determine ways to measure the effectiveness of teachers prepared by individual programs. For traditional EPP programs, make recommendations on how to more fully involve boards of regents in an effort to elevate the importance of teacher preparation within our state institutions. Examine current joint partnerships between EPPs and public schools to meet regional workforce needs, and make recommendations on how to scale these partnerships. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Public Education S/C on Teacher Quality)
6. Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 85th Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the Committee will also specifically include: S.B. 2118 (85R) and 60x30TX, the higher education strategic plan.