Lt. Governor David Dewhurst announced new chairmanships of Senate Committees this week, choosing Sen. Dan Patrick, Republican from Houston, to head the Senate Education Committee. Patrick’s appointment aligns Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Commissioner Michael L Williams and the chair of the Senate Education Committee in the “yes” column on vouchers.
Charles T. Evans, director of the Texas Association of Non-Public Schools, said their school choice agenda, encompasses three goals: support creative and innovative private schools that can meet the needs of families; create a school choice program that will save the state money; and provide an option that would preserve public school funding
Gov. Rick Perry this week proposed requiring the state’s public universities to inform incoming students upfront about how much their degree will cost them if it takes them four years to graduate — and how much more they will spend if it takes five or six years to graduate.to make college tuition more predictable for students and to encourage them to graduate on time. He also encouraged the Legislature to tie some state funding for universities, which is currently based on enrollment, to outputs such as graduation numbers in order to help incentivize institutional productivity.
TEA Commissioner Williams said in a recent panel discussion hosted by the Texas Tribune that he believe the issues are more related to the accountability system than the assessment system. He asked his staff, “How can we make adjustments in the way we evaluate schools and districts so that we can more fairly evaluate schools?” He further indicated that he has asked his staff to offer recommendations that will likely include growth measurement in the new accountability system, and authorization of IB and AP exam scores to take the place of EOC tests.
At last month’s Texas Tribune Festival various panels spoke about the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature. The good news is that the state is collecting higher-than-expected revenues during the current fiscal biennium, and anticipates continued growth during the next biennium. The upside to these two projections is that the revenue surplus for the current fiscal year will allow the legislature to cover the shortfalls that were built into the current budget in 2011, while the growth projections should allow the legislature to avoid the painful cuts that dominated the debate over the 2011-13 budget when they are crafting the 2013-15 budget this spring. At the same time however, there was near-unanimous consensus that there would be no net tax increases nor a notable expansion of fees during the upcoming session. Furthermore, there was considerable agreement that the state’s rainy day fund would be tapped only sparingly, and even then only for projects that were without question one-time expenditures rather than recurring expenses. Thus, anyone who was hoping that the $4 to $5 billion that was effectively cut from K-12 public education last session would be restored during the upcoming session is likely to be disappointed.
As of October 3, 819 school districts representing more than 4.2 million students have adopted the testing resolution opposing the over-reliance on high-stakes testing. That’s 80 percent of Texas school districts and 88 percent of all Texas public school students.
Nearly three-quarters of state registered voters would be willing to pay more in taxes to raise teacher pay, according to a poll released Tuesday by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Texas Lyceum leadership group. Majorities said that in addition to raising teacher salaries, they’d be willing to pay more in taxes for school staff, construction of new schools, additional instruction in art and music and investment in computers and high-tech equipment.
TEA launched a new free online college and career planning website for Texas students, parents and educators. The Texas College & Career resource site provides information about college options, academic and financial preparation for college, higher education admissions and career research.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
The Senate Education Committee will meet at 9 a.m. on Monday, October 8, to study the growing demand for virtual schools in Texas.
The House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Fiscal Situation will meet October 17th at 9:00 AM to examine ways to minimize the timing imbalance of the state’s revenues and expenditures, and recommend policies that will minimize the annual short-term borrowing need.
The Senate Committee on Education will meet at Noon or upon adjournment of Joint hearing of Senate Education and Senate Criminal Justice, on October 30th to monitor the implementation of legislation adopted by 82nd Legislature, specifically: SB 6, relating to the establishment of the instructional materials allotment; SB 8, relating to the flexibility of the board of trustees of a school district in the management and operation of public schools; HB 1942, relating to bullying in public schools; the implementation of legislation related to the state’s accountability system.
Early voting begins October 22nd and ends November 2nd.
Election day is November 6th.