This week Chairman Dan Patrick conducted a hearing on removing the requirement that students’ EOC grades be averaged into their final course grades at 15%. His bill, SB 135, gives that option to local school boards.
The Speaker released committee appointments on Friday. The House will begin to meet in committees next week.
Governor Perry delivered his State of the State Address this week and called on the Legislature to provide at least $1.8 billion in tax relief, invest in the state’s water and transportation infrastructure and improve access and choice in both public and higher education, including providing South Texas access to the Permanent University Fund. The governor also noted that Texas’ strong economic growth and expanding population have increased demand on the fundamental building blocks of our communities. To address these needs, he urged lawmakers to use $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for a one-time investment in water and transportation infrastructure programs. Additionally, he called on the Legislature to end diversions from the State Highway Fund, freeing up an additional $1.3 billion of ongoing biennial funding available for transportation.
Texas leaders promised that healthy schools, universities, and students are at their top priority following Gov. Perry’s address. Speaker Straus commented, “Our public school enrollment now exceeds 5 million children. Our challenges in public education are particularly stark when you consider that more than 3 million of our students are considered economically disadvantaged, and almost 1 million of them speak only limited English. The Texas House has heard the concerns of parents and educators across the state who worry that standardized testing has consumed our education system, and we will address those concerns this session.”
Perry’s goal is to create tax credit scholarships that would expand school choice—a move that many worry will siphon money out of public schools. Perry also stated that it was in Texas’ best interest to increase charter schools.
The education finance lawsuit further underscores the budget crisis facing public schools. Closing arguments are expected next week. Latest predictions for a Special Session to address any requirements for changes to school funding are for a Special after the Primary Elections in the spring of 2014. In the meantime, legislators are expected to approve a Maintenance of Effort budget for schools, one that makes no substantial changes to funding, until the Courts rule.
Both the House and the Senate are meeting next week to consider a supplemental budget for the current year to cover the shortfall in the Medicaid program and to complete payments to schools.