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Analysis: Texas Senate Interim Charges

April 5, 2022
Analysis: Texas Senate Interim Charges
April 5, 2022
 
Interim Charges: What they are and why they matter
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced interim charges for committees of the Texas Senate to study. Committees will host hearings with invited speakers and public testimony to learn about progress and challenges related to the interim charges. No bills will be filed or considered during this interim period; however, many ideas for future legislation will surface throughout this process.  

Committee chairs and their staff will coordinate these interim hearings on behalf of their committee. Most hearings will be public or viewable online as meetings are scheduled.

Traditionally, committees meet several times throughout the interim to study each interim charge, with hearings culminating in a report from the committee outlining findings and policy recommendations. Committee chairs have the discretion to choose which interim charges to study and to determine the order in which they prioritize interim charges.

Interim Charges: Our opportunity
Our mission is to empower Texas philanthropy to engage in effective public and higher education policy and advocacy. We fulfill our mission, in part, by informing our members about current interim charges and ensure awareness of how interim charges provide a preview of what to expect in the upcoming 2023 legislative session.

Together we will ensure Texas policymakers have access to reliable information from Texas funders that address many of the Senate interim charges outlined by Lieutenant Governor Patrick. Below, we provide an overview of key interim charges related to Philanthropy Advocates priorities. We will monitor interim hearings and provide ongoing updates to Philanthropy Advocates members with key takeaways and opportunities for funders to engage with policymakers and/or their peers on issues related to interim charges and the upcoming 2023 legislative session.

Contact us (bcalahan@cftexas.org) if you have questions about this information or want to work together to ensure Texas policymakers have relevant, reliable information as they study the 2022 Senate interim charges.
 
Overview of Interim Charges Related to Philanthropy Advocates Priorities
The information below is organized by Philanthropy Advocates priority focus areas. We include the committee that will take up each charge and the page number within the complete list of interim charges should you wish to view interim charges by committee. The full list of interim charges is available here.

We have also included interim charges that do not directly fall within the purview of Philanthropy Advocates priority areas, but that may impact our key focus areas or that we expect to be discussed often in the 2023 legislative session.
 
EARLY CHILDHOOD – K-12 EDUCATION
Senate Committee on Education (pg. 6-8)

- COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Educator Talent Pipeline:
Examine the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the public school educator talent pipeline, staffing patterns and practices, and declining student enrollment and attendance. Review any policies and regulatory actions that prevent students from receiving instruction from a highly effective teacher. Monitor the impact of both the Teacher Incentive Allotment and non-administrator compensation increases directed under House Bill 3 (86th Legislature), as well as the teacher pay raises implemented in 2019. Explore innovative models to improve recruitment and make recommendations to maintain a strong educator workforce pipeline, while adapting resilient school strategies to meet emergent demands in public education.
 
- Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 87th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
  • Senate Bill 15 (87th Legislature, Second Called Session), Relating to virtual and off-campus electronic instruction at a public school, the satisfaction of teacher certification requirements through an internship teaching certain virtual courses, and the allotment for certain special-purpose school districts under the Foundation School Program.
Philanthropy Advocates Context: Philanthropy Advocates members prioritize teachers and policies aimed at preparing and retaining high quality, effective teachers. We have commissioned research through our Effective Teaching Policy Work Group to examine trends in hiring educators who are not certified teachers. We aim to add further information to discussions around recruitment/retention of high-quality educators by understanding where school districts might be facing challenges in hiring or retaining certified teachers. 


HIGHER EDUCATION
Senate Committee on Higher Education (pg. 13)

- Workforce Education: Evaluate state efforts to support access to work-based learning and microcredential opportunities, including apprenticeships, industry based certificates and certifications, as well as competency-based education. Assess the potential benefits of expanding access to work-based learning, apprenticeships, microcredentials, and industry-based certifications that are aligned to workforce needs and provide in-demand workforce skills and competencies. Evaluate existing resources and programs at institutions, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Workforce Commission to support these opportunities and ultimately reach Tri-Agency goals. Consider recommendations to standardize these programs in order increase postsecondary degree completions.
 
Philanthropy Advocates Context: We have commissioned research through our Pathways to College & Career Policy Work Group to examine current college readiness definitions across state law and state agency rulemaking, as well as trends in student postsecondary and workforce transitions by high school student endorsement pathway. Our work will inform discussions on student pathways, enrollment trends by endorsement and institutional alignment in postsecondary opportunities connected to workforce demands.
 
- Enrollment Trends: Study the postsecondary enrollment trends across all sectors and levels of higher education in Texas, with a review on specific challenges to enrollment. Consider the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on direct high school-to-college enrollment, first-time college enrollment, transferability, and retention rates, as well as the overall impact on community college enrollment. Make recommendations on specific methods to address disparities and pandemic impacts relating to enrollment trends in order to achieve Texas' higher education goals in building a Talent Strong Texas.

Philanthropy Advocates Context: See above analysis.
 
- Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Higher Education passed by the 87th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
  • Senate Bill 1102, relating to the establishment of the Texas Reskilling and Upskilling through Education (TRUE) Program to support workforce education;
  • Senate Bill 1230, relating to establishing the Texas Commission on Community College Finance; and
  • House Bill 3767, relating to measures to support the alignment of education and workforce development in the state with state workforce needs, including the establishment of the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative.
Philanthropy Advocates Context: Each bill that will be monitored by this committee relates to our Philanthropy Advocates focus on ensuring seamless transitions for students into and through higher education. These major state programs/initiatives will impact the state’s focus and discourse in higher education, which can be further informed by the research we have commissioned this biennium and in previous years.
 
WORKFORCE
Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Economic Development (pg. 16)
Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development passed by the 87th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
  • House Bill 1247, Relating to the development of and report on a triagency work-based learning strategic framework by the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Philanthropy Advocates Context: We have commissioned research through our Pathways to College & Career Policy Work Group to examine current college readiness definitions across state law and state agency rulemaking, as well as trends in student postsecondary and workforce transitions by high school student endorsement pathway. Our work will inform discussions on student pathways, enrollment trends by endorsement and institutional alignment in postsecondary opportunities connected to workforce demands.


EDUCATION FINANCE
Philanthropy Advocates Context: As Philanthropy Advocates members know, money matters in education. When the state funds education, philanthropy is able to target private dollars towards research, innovation and immediate needs. When the state cuts funding to education, philanthropy is asked to step in to fill the holes left by the state.

The following interim charges in the Senate Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Education address the use of state and federal dollars and associated policies directing the use of these dollars. As policymakers review implementation of the current state budget, we will monitor these conversations to understand potential priorities in the next legislative session and ensure Texas philanthropy is aware of the potential opportunities to make state dollars go further and/or impacts state cuts would have on private philanthropic grantmaking.

Likewise, we will monitor interim discussions about the use of federal funds to address challenges Texas education has grappled with since the onset of COVID-19. Philanthropy Advocates members have been addressing these same challenges through private dollars. We know the discussion will be important to understanding key leverage points and opportunities for state policy to further support Texas public and higher education.  
 
Finally, Texas public education largely relies on local and state property tax collection to fund schools. We will monitor conversations about property taxes and state revenue sources to be aware of implications on state education funding.

Senate Committee on Education (pgs. 6)
- Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 87th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
  • House Bill 1525 (87th Legislature), Relating to the public school finance system and public education;
  • House Bill 3 (86th Legislature), relating to public school finance and public education.
- Bond Efficiency: Conduct a comprehensive review of the school district bond issuance process. Specifically, review public notice and disclosure requirements, the bond election process, procurement requirements, and how unused bond proceeds may be utilized. Study the best practices implemented by school boards and make recommendations to improve bond issuance efficiencies.
 
- Homestead Exemption: Study the use and effect of the optional homestead exemption available to independent school districts. Examine and report on costs to the state if school districts receive incentives to increase the optional percentage exemption.
 
Senate Committee on Finance (pg. 9)
- Federal Funds: Report on the state use of federal COVID-19 relief funds provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, the American Rescue Plan Act, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts, and similar federal legislation. Examine local use of federal relief funding, including funding provided to school districts through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Evaluate the overall fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on state agencies, including costs incurred due to federal mandates. Identify barriers to the effective utilization of funds and make recommendations on the expenditure of unappropriated funds. In addition, evaluate and report on the spending by state agencies that have been utilizing "one-time" federal funding (temporary enhancements, (e.g. FMAP and ESSER) sources, where federal funding will likely be significantly reduced in future biennia.
 
- Property Tax Relief: Examine and recommend ways to reduce Texans' property tax burden. Review and report on proposals to use or dedicate state revenues in excess of the state spending limit to eliminate the school district maintenance and operations property tax.
 

OTHER
The following interim charges address issues that Philanthropy Advocates does not directly focus on through our policy work group model. However, the issues outlined below are issues that traditionally or currently garner a lot of discussion and questions up to and through legislative sessions.
 
Senate Committee on Business and Commerce (pg. 3)
- Broadband and Telecommunications: Study broadband and other telecommunications related issues impacting Texans, including:
  • Monitoring the implementation of House Bill 5 and House Bill 1505, 87th Legislature; discuss anticipated federal infrastructure funding dedicated to broadband initiatives.
Philanthropy Advocates Context: Philanthropy Advocates prioritized broadband infrastructure in the 2021 legislative session. We will monitor these discussions to ensure our members are aware of opportunities to partner in implementation of these bills.

Senate Committee on Education (pgs. 6-8)
- Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 87th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
  • Senate Bill 3 (87th Legislature, Second Called Session), Relating to civics training programs for certain public school social studies teachers and principals, parental access to certain learning management systems, and certain curriculum in public schools, including certain instructional requirements and prohibitions;
  • Senate Bill 1365 (87th Legislature), Relating to public school organization, accountability, and fiscal management;
  • Senate Bill 1716 (87th Legislature), Relating to a supplemental special education services and instructional materials program for certain public school students receiving special education services;
  • House Bill 4545 (87th Legislature), Relating to the assessment of public school students, the establishment of a strong foundations grant program, and providing accelerated instruction for students who fail to achieve satisfactory performance on certain assessment instruments;
  • House Bill 3906 (86th Legislature), relating to the assessment of public school students, including the development and administration of assessment instruments, and technology permitted for use by students.
- School Library Advisory Council Review: Assess current standards adopted by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the State Board of Education, and public school policies and practices related to materials in campus libraries or servers. Assess current adoption, placement, and review structures for library materials and make recommendations to ensure: 1) materials are grade, age, and developmentally appropriate; 2) publicly searchable and accessible; and 3) parents and the public are given a prominent role in the process.
 
- Parent Empowerment: Review Texas’ existing parental rights and responsibilities in current law. Evaluate current public school practices toward parental and community engagement related to: curriculum and learning materials, campus and district management, governance, accessibility to school officials, and data usage and privacy. Make recommendations to enable parents to exert a greater influence on their child's learning environment, including enacting meaningful change at their public school campus or district, and affirm parents as primary decision-makers over their child's schooling options.

Additional Context: In January 2022, Governor Abbott released a parents “Bill of Rights.” This interim charge is likely related to the bill of rights announced by the Governor.
 
Senate Committee on Higher Education (pg. 12)
- Faculty Tenure: Review the history of and current statutes and policies of academic tenure in Texas public higher education institutions. Review tenure dismissal policies at higher education institutions in Texas and investigate state policies or proposals that have eliminated tenure. Examine the role of faculty senates in representing faculty interests to the institution administration. Make recommendations to revise current tenure policies, and provide boards of regents with additional authority to review and address issues with tenured faculty. In addition, make recommendations on establishing guidelines for the role and representation of faculty senates at higher education institutions in Texas.

- Strengthening United States History Requirements: Examine current
course requirements for students in United States History, and ensure elements of Critical Race Theory are not currently included in course curriculum. Consider and recommend methods to ensure students receive accurate historical information related to the founding and establishment of the United States. Examine the current role of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in the development and oversight of the core curriculum requirements and recommend any necessary changes. Examine current authority of boards of regents over teaching faculty and make recommendations on changes to law to ensure boards of regents have appropriate approval authority related to course content and instruction.

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