Texas AFT responds to Speaker’s decision not to run again; AND Now State Senate committees have their interim assignments, too

Texas AFT responds to Speaker’s decision not to run again: Texas AFT President Louis Malfaro offered this comment on Speaker Joe Straus’s surprise announcement today that he will not seek re-election in 2018, thus ending his tenure as speaker in January 2019:

Texas AFT regrets House Speaker Joe Straus’s decision not to seek another term of office as a state representative and as speaker. His contributions have been many and distinguished, especially in cultivating a climate of respect for individual members’ district priorities and of bipartisan comity in conducting the business of the House. Speaker Straus has been a strong supporter of public education and those who serve the children in our public schools. Our hope for the Texas House is that, in matters of both process and substance, his eventual successor in the speakership will continue in that tradition.

Now State Senate committees have their interim assignments, too: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, presiding officer of the Texas Senate, over the past two days has issued a spate of interim study directives to his chamber’s committees in preparation for the 2019 regular legislative session. The interim assignments give an early indication of the lieutenant governor’s priorities for 2019. For instance, Lt. Gov. Patrick’s Education Committee instructions frame several issues in a manner likely to please would-be privatizers of public education. Patrick also has named special committees on “employment practices” and “election security” to conduct interim studies on hot-button issues of immigration and suppression of voting rights. The Senate interim charges on education issues for several key committees are reprinted below.

Education Committee

  • Teacher Compensation: Study current local, state, and/or national compensation strategies for classroom teachers and make recommendations to elevate the teaching profession as well as comprehensive policies to attract, retain, and reward teachers.
  • Mandate Relief/Innovation: Review, modify, or abolish chapters of the education code. Specifically, study cost-drivers, unnecessary mandates, reduction/elimination of inefficiencies, focus on policies or opportunities targeted to improving student outcomes, and better utilization of taxpayer resources.
  • Classroom Conduct and Teacher Support: Examine current student discipline mandates in code, study best practice models to reduce classroom discipline issues, and provide direct support for students and classroom teachers.
  • Expand High Quality Education Opportunities: Examine high-quality campus/programs in Texas and other states and make recommendations on incentives to expand high-performing campuses and programs. Review should include but not be limited to: program and course variety, unique public school models, transfer or open-enrollment policies within a district, collaboration between districts or public charters, online learning, and whether children with special educational needs, children of military families, and student populations in chronically high poverty areas should have additional options to meet their unique educational needs.
  • Virtual Education in the 21st Century Classroom: Review the Texas Virtual School Network (TVSN) and recommend methods of updating and improving the system to boost online virtual education.
  • Dual Credit: Review dual credit opportunities throughout the state, examining the impact of HB 505 (84th Legislature) on students in particular. Look at the outcomes of statewide studies completed in Texas regarding dual credit, and examine the current rigor of dual credit courses, as well as how to improve advising for students in dual credit. (JOINT CHARGE with HIGHER EDUCATION)
  • Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 85th Legislature, relevant agencies, and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction. Make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation including:

–State matching of the federal E-rate program (SB 1),

–Improper relationships between educators and students and reporting of educator misconduct (SB 7), Establishment of a Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) and workforce pathways (SB 22),

–A prohibition of a monitoring system performance indicator based solely on the number or percentage of students receiving special education service (SB 160),

–A school district contracting to partner with an open-enrollment charter school to operate a district campus (SB 1882).

Higher Education Committee
  • Improving Transferability: Examine and make recommendations regarding policies that will help students make informed decisions regarding transferring credits among institutions and promote efficient completion of degrees and credentials. Study the adequacy of advising for transfer students in secondary and post-secondary settings. Focus on statewide solutions that will address transfer for all Texas students, including Fields of Study curricula, the role of the Core Curriculum and additional tools that will help students transfer credits efficiently toward a degree.
  • System/Campus Expansion: Consider what role the state should have in overseeing the approval and development of new higher education locations into geographical areas already served by existing institutions. Develop a long-term statewide strategy for authorizing new locations and programs which includes a plan to ensure adequate support for expansion. Explore where there are underserved areas of the state and what type of programs would best serve the population to fill regional workforce needs.
  • 60×30 TX Statewide Plan Review: Examine progress in achieving goals within the 60x30TX plan, and review efforts of higher education institutions to implement innovative and non-traditional models of education delivery to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body. Consider whether current state policies and regulations may support or hinder institutions’ ability to innovate in educational delivery and access. Make recommendations to accelerate innovation in higher education, to better serve students through expanded access to high quality educational opportunities, improve quality in educational delivery, and achieve goals outlined in the 60x30TX higher education strategic plan.
  • Funding Models: Examine different models of student-focused funding for general academic institutions, including competency-based and performance funding models, and make recommendations on whether a new funding model would produce greater efficiencies and student performance.
  • Mandate Reduction: Examine all current state and federal regulations on public higher education institutions and consider whether reductions of regulations could reduce fees, produce efficiencies and greater student academic performance. Make recommendations to reduce certain regulations for increased flexibility to provide better student outcomes.
  • Dual Credit: Review dual credit opportunities throughout the state, examining the impact of HB 505 (84th Legislature) on students in particular. Look at the outcomes of statewide studies completed in Texas regarding dual credit, and examine the current rigor of dual credit courses, as well as how to improve advising for students in dual credit. (JOINT CHARGE with EDUCATION)
    • Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Higher Education Committee and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance and/or complete implementation. Specifically, receive updates on construction of facilities as a result of tuition revenue bonds authorized during the 84th Legislative Session, as well as the development and implementation of the Texas OnCourse program, authorized during the 84th Legislative Session and monitor the following:

–SB 2118 (85th) relating to authorization by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for certain public junior colleges to offer baccalaureate degree programs.

–HB 2205 (84th) relating to the State Board for Educator Certification, educator preparation programs, educator certification, issuance of certain teaching permits, and certain procedures for investigating educator misconduct.

–SB 887 (85th) relating to a requirement that certain participating institutions under the student loan program administered by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board provide loan debt information to certain students.

–SB 802 (85th) relating to a study and report regarding best practices in the transfer of course credit between public institutions of higher education.

–SB 810 (85th) relating to open educational resources.

–HB 2223 (85th) relating to developmental coursework offered by public institutions of higher education under the Texas Success Initiative.

State Affairs Committee
  • Pensions: Examine and assess public pension systems in Texas. Specifically, review and assess (1) the different types of retirement plans; (2) the actuarial assumptions used by retirement systems to value their liabilities and the consequences of amending those assumptions; (3) retirement systems’ investment practices and performance; and (4) the adequacy of financial disclosures including asset returns and fees. Make recommendations to ensure public pension system retirees’ benefits are preserved and protected.
  • Campus Free Speech: Ascertain any restrictions on Freedom of Speech rights that Texas students face in expressing their views on campus along with freedoms of the press, religion, and assembly.  Recommend policy changes that protect First Amendment rights and enhance the free speech environment on campus.
  • Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on State Affairs, 85th Legislature, Regular Session, and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation. Specifically, monitor the following:

–Implementation of Senate Bill 2190, relating to the public retirement systems of certain municipalities;

–Implementation of House Bill 3158, relating to the retirement systems for and the provision of other benefits to police and firefighters in certain municipalities;

–Benefits payable under the Texas Public School Retired Employees Group Benefits Act….