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House Interim Committee on Public Education

Charge

Monitor the implementation and effects of the recodification of the Education Code by the 74th Legislature.
Recommendations

4 Examine the tax structure for public school districts. In 1995-96, according to the unaudited actual tax rates reported by school districts to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), 404 Texas public school districts had tax rates exceeding $1.40 when measured using the formula for state funding; 217 of these districts had a tax effort at or above $1.50. The maintenance and operation (M&O) tax for each district is capped at $1.50. In 1995-96, 178 districts had adopted M&O tax rates exceeding $1.40, and 63 of those districts had reached $1.50.

  • Clearly define the power that the board of trustees of a school district have in determining admissions policies, especially those policies designed "to accommodate various circumstantial situations."

  • Identify needs and remedy problems that may arise as charter school programs start up.

  • Clarify Chapter 29G, S.B. 1, 74th Legislature, relating to the Public Education Grant Program and possibly provide financial incentives to school districts accepting students transferring under this program in order to meet the purposes of the program.

  • Review and amend principal performance incentive provisions (Section 21.357, S.B. 1, 74th Legislature) in order to alleviate the outside pressures and resentment principals receive when accepting a financial reward for a school's performance, particularly on the TAAS test.

  • Clarify safe schools provisions in Chapter 37, S.B. 1, 74th Legislature, to clarify expulsion, funding, service, and transportation issues of alternative education programs and juvenile justice alternative education programs.

  • Monitor the merits and abuses of the school district teaching permit program.

  • Clarify provisions relating to the power and responsibility of district-level and site-based decision teams, and clearly state whether the team meetings are subject to the Open Meetings Act.

  • Clarify language in Sections 28.021 and 29.082, S.B. 1, 74th Legislature, to close loopholes that may allow student advancement through social promotion, rather than by way of academic proficiency.

  • Clarify the State Board of Education's (SBOE) role in textbook adoption to determine whether it may reject prospective textbooks based on the appropriateness of the content.

  • Examine and possibly revise transportation provisions in S.B. 1, 74th Legislature, relating to school bus safety standards and driver qualifications as they pertain to passenger vehicles.

  • Determine whether a school district has the right to videotape activities not part of cocurricular activities, extracurricular activities, or activities related to classroom instruction, but are important to the district, such as filming the first day of class.

    Charge

    Study the possibility of providing incentive pay to teachers in inner-city and low-performing districts.
    Recommendation

  • The House Committee on Public Education identified a need for such an incentive to lure teachers to small and remote school districts, as well as inner-city and low-performing districts. However, the committee acknowledged the difficulty in determining the nature and type of incentive to provide because it is unclear what effect the new salary formula in Section 21.402, S.B. 1, 74th Legislature, will have this biennium. The committee did not make a recommendation, but did state that as projections for the new salary schedule are developed, it may be able to determine if funds are available to provide the incentive.

    Charge

    Review the accuracy of the key accountability and reporting systems used by state leaders to assess and assure school performance.
    Recommendation

  • The committee will continue to study this issue further due to the significant discrepancies between the State Auditor's Office (SAO) report on TEA's financial and performance accountability systems and TEA's response. The committee will monitor TEA's response to the SAO report and will look for cooperation between the two agencies in resolving future issues.

    Charge

    Assess the extent to which authority for key decisions is devolving to the local level and the extent to which policy-makers are exercising options to innovate.
    Recommendation

  • The committee profiled innovative programs around the state that were developed as a result of the increased local power granted to school districts through S.B. 1, 74th Legislature.

    Charge

    Conduct active oversight of agencies under the committee's jurisdiction.
    Recommendations

  • TEA reported to the committee that prior to the passage of S.B. 1, 74th Legislature, SBOE had formed 551 rules while the commissioner of education had 39 additional rules. This made a total of 590 rules overseeing public education in Texas that were administered by TEA. As a result of the passage of S.B. 1, the total number of SBOE rules has decreased by 55 percent from 551 to 250, and the rules of commissioner of education have increased from 39 to 124. In total, only 374 of the original 590 TEA rules exist today.

  • S.B. 1, 74th Legislature, created the State Board of Educator Certification to oversee the teaching profession, including establishing provisions for delivery systems for certification and specialization, educator certification requirements for each grade level and special education support and instructional personnel, and requirements for paraprofessional personnel.

  • The Legislative Budget Board has met with each of the chairmen of the education committees of the House and Senate to discuss its study of the Foundation School Program (FSP) for the legislature. The report, mandated in S.B. 1, 74th Legislature, will primarily focus on the basic allotment of FSP, the educational development index, and transportation issues.