Lt. Gov. Announces Interim Charges to Study for 2025 Session 

This Thursday, April 11, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick dropped a list of 57 charges for senate committees to study in preparation for the 89th legislative session next spring. Nearly a third of the charges he included were either directly or indirectly related to education in Texas, but none of the charges directed lawmakers to study the need for increased school funding after half a decade of stagnation. 

In between legislative sessions, a period known by lawmakers as the “interim,” the Lt. Governor, who presides over the Texas Senate, and the Speaker of the Texas House each develop a list of charges that they wish for each chamber to study in preparation for the next legislative session. These charges are broken down by subject matter according to each committee’s jurisdiction. After soliciting advice from invited experts and public testifiers during interim public hearings, the committee will compile a report that includes their findings and their own recommendations. 

Interim charges and the subsequent hearings are critical for shaping legislation and setting the tone for the next legislative session. The leaders of each chamber typically formulate the charges to reflect their intended legislative agenda for the upcoming session, but interim charges also include the review of significant legislation passed during previous legislative sessions.  

Over the years since he first took office, Patrick’s interim charges for the Senate have become increasingly politicized. Notably, however, none of Patrick’s charges this interim session mention vouchers, education savings accounts, or so-called “school choice,” despite the issue being at the forefront of the legislature across the 88th session and handful of special sessions. Another consideration is that any voucher scheme would be a dramatic policy shift for Texas. 

Interestingly, Patrick only lists four charges for the Senate Education Committee to consider, in contrast with the nine from the last interim. Patrick charges the committee with considering testing reform, which was a key focus during last year’s session. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have signaled support for reforming Texas’ oppressive STAAR testing regime, but the issue was co-opted by voucher pushers to be used as a bargaining chip in their ultimately unsuccessful negotiations.  

Another of the education charges relating to reading and math readiness is similarly uncontroversial on its surface. This charge includes a special mention of “early readiness” in grades pre-kindergarten through 5, a reflection of the mounting evidence that this period is the most critical for childhood development and educational attainment. Last session, lawmakers pushed a bill which would have overhauled how educators teach literacy to first-time readers. Though this bill did address shortcomings in the current literacy curriculum, critics worried that the framework was overly prescriptive.   

The Education Committee is also tasked with studying how public schools spent federal dollars that they were sent via the American Rescue Plan Act. Texas Schools were sent a total of $12.4 billion as result of the passage of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was designed to help schools recover in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though there have been many fair criticisms about how some district administrators choose to allocate these funds, it is undeniable that these funds were critical to combatting learning loss in the aftermath of the pandemic. The committee is only charged with targeting the usage of funds sent by the Biden administration, not the billions in relief funds authorized by the Trump administration through ESSER I and ESSER II. 

Lastly, the education committee is charged with monitoring legislation passed during the previous legislative session. This charge includes reference to three pieces of legislation: 

  • House Bill 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows, which was intended to address school security concerns and required the placement of an armed guard on each and every campus in Texas.  
  • House Bill 900 by Rep. Jared Patterson,  the book censorship bill which requires book sellers to label books that contain “sexually explicit material.”  
  • House Bill 1605 by Rep. Brad Buckely, which was the omnibus curriculum bill advertised as providing support to educators. In reality, the bill would incentivize foundation-area teachers to use overly prescriptive TEA-developed curriculum material. 

Patrick charges the committee with recommending “legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete the implementation” of these bills. None of Patrick’s education committee charges mentioned school funding, working conditions, or educator compensation. 

Outside of these charges directed at the Education Committee, which covers K-12 public education, Patrick directed the Higher Education subcommittee of the education committee to study an additional seven charges related to higher education. We will be covering these Higher Education charges in the hotline next week. 

Charges related to education also popped up in the list for the 11 other Senate committees. Patrick continues to target sustainable investment practices in his interim charges for the Senate Committee on State Affairs in which he references environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. He used this charge to take particular aim at proxy voting, a necessary service for the state to manage its millions of dollars of investments. Last session, Patrick pushed SB 1446, which would have created cumbersome requirements for proxy voting that would have harmed state pension funds, but the bill did not ultimately pass. The charge also encouraged the state to study the implementation of existing laws designed to target ESG. Numerous sources have found that these laws negatively impact Texas schools, pensioners, and retirees.   

Patrick also charges the Committee on State Affairs  to continue to target so-called “election integrity.” He instructs the committee to “evaluate the countywide polling place Program,” which allows voters in approved counties to cast their ballot at any polling station across their county on election day. This program has been successful and popular, allowing millions of Texans more flexibility in casting their ballot. Patrick has increasingly targeted the program as he continues to exercise control over the electoral process in Texas by continuously overhauling the Texas election code, most significantly with the voter suppression bill SB 1, which was passed in 2021 in the wake of Trump’s big lie and attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election. 

Additionally on the subject of elections, Patrick referenced Attorney General Ken Paxton’s ongoing crusade to sue several school districts for supposed “electioneering.” This addition to the interim charges is undoubtedly an attempt to kowtow to Paxton as he continues to gain popularity with the far-right extremists in Texas. 

Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, who is in a primary runoff fending off a challenge by a fellow Republican, has not yet published a list of interim charges for the Texas House.