Posted files below contain 1) the statement from Lt. Governor Dewhurst and 2) a copy of the interim charges for the Senate. For education, the list of interim charges expands on what was reported earlier (pp. 6-7 of the document, and shown below for convenience). Charters are first on the list, followed by middle grades education, teacher compensation, efficiency and cost drivers in education, special programs, dual credit, and the state accountability system.
Senate Education Committee Charges
1. Review the performance and accountability of the state's charter schools. Specifically, study the following: Options for increasing the number of outstanding charter schools; Best practices employed by high performing charter schools and make recommendations for ways to implement these strategies in other charter and public schools; Feasibility of operating charter schools focused on providing high quality education for students with disabilities, such as autism; Charter school initiatives in other states, specifically including incentives for public education campuses to become charter schools; Options for development and funding of a charter schools facilities program.
2. Review the state's education policy and initiatives regarding middle grades. Make recommendations to ensure a comprehensive state strategy for preparing students at the middle grades for high school retention and success. This review should include an examination of school-based strategies and best practices that encourage at-risk youth to finish school and that deter delinquency, drug abuse and violence.
3. Review teacher compensation, evaluations, professional development, certification and training programs. Specifically, review the following: Teacher compensation including the Minimum Salary Schedule, incentive pay, merit pay, and stipends; How teacher evaluations can be effective mechanisms for increasing student achievement and improving instructional practices by including multiple measures, particularly student achievement data based on growth. Evaluate how teacher evaluations can direct district decisions on providing professional development, mentoring, intervention, and possible dismissal in response to underperforming teachers; State sponsored professional development initiatives including the alignment of professional development with curriculum and real work experiences and the value of professional development for bilingual, ESL and special education teachers in increasing student achievement; Need to adopt statewide standards for teacher certification and in-service training programs for regular and special education teachers at both the pre-service and inservice levels to ensure all teachers are highly qualified to teach students with disabilities.
4. Examine cost drivers in education including state requirements that impact school district budgets. Recommend opportunities for achieving cost efficiencies.
5. Study the efficacy of immersion versus dual-language instruction of English as a second language students. Make recommendations for improving programs and instituting best practices.
6. Study the effectiveness of Texas school districts' special education programs. Review the range of needs of special education students, districts' ability to provide an appropriate education for these students, and assess the effectiveness of programs currently funded for special education. Make recommendations for improvement.
7. Review dual credit courses including the cost of delivery, funding mechanisms, and possibility of a statewide dual credit system. This review should also include an examination of the rigor, quality and consistency of dual credit courses. (Joint charge with Senate Higher Education Committee)
8. Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education, 81st Legislature, Regular and Called Sessions, and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation. Review the implementation of legislation related to the state's accountability system including the revised dropout rate calculation, textbooks, and the virtual school network. Specifically, monitor the following: HB 3, relating to public school accountability; HB 2488, relating to open-source textbooks, and HB 4294, relating to textbooks and the use of technology; HB 3646, relating to public school finance and programs; and SB 174, relating to an accountability system for educator preparation programs.
Education-related Charges for Other Committees
Public education-related issues also crop up in charges assigned to other Senate committees, such as Finance and Health & Human Services (some more directly than others). Here is a high-level summary of charges that may touch public education in the downloadable file:
• Page 2, in the charges for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Item 5, second bullet: "Monitor the Texas Department of Agriculture's efforts to reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids in foods provided by Texas schools."
• Page 2, in the charges for Business and Commerce, Item 3: "Study and make recommendations relating to the development and implementation of wind energy."
• Page 3, also in charges for Business and Commerce, Item 6: "Study and make recommendations regarding career-focused education and workforce training programs in Texas to insure that such programs meet business and worker needs."
• Page 4, in the charges to the Criminal Justice Committee, Item 5: "Review the detention of juvenile offenders...by examining conditions of confinement, including quality of education..."
• Page 7, Finance, Item 1: "Review and make recommendations regarding existing and future public debt at all levels of government in Texas, including independent school districts..."
• Page 8, Finance, Item 4: "Identify and evaluate potential improvements to the property tax system." The last bullet under Item 4 charges the committee to consider "the constitutional constraints and fiscal implications of exempting real property, leased to a school, as defined by Section 11.21 of the Tax Code, from ad valorem taxation."
• Page 10, in the charges for Government Organization, Item 2: "Study the online services provided by the state and compare those services to the services provided by other states. In coordination with the Department of Information Resources, determine how online services provided by the state can be improved."
• Page 11, in the charges for Health and Human Services, Item 7: "Examine how the state could enact policies to improve the overall health of Texas."
• Page 12, also in Health and Human Services, Item 8: "Consider the benefit of providing the state's independent school districts and various health authorities with standardized protocols for issues including, but not limited to, vaccine administration, absenteeism and the cancellation of school and other school-related events."
• Page 14, in Higher Education, Item 8: "Review dual credit courses, including the cost of delivery, funding mechanisms, and possibility of a statewide dual credit system. This review should also include an examination of the rigor, quality and consistency of dual credit courses. (Joint charge with the Senate Education Committee)