Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has released a list of interim charges that will occupy House committees in the months leading up to the next legislative session, which begins in January 2017. Like his counterpart in the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Straus has provided insight into the issues that are likely to be a priority next session in the chamber he leads. And while some issues, such as school choice and payroll deduction for public employees, will be examined by both the House and Senate, a large number of new topics made the House list.

See the full list of House charges here. Below are those of particular interest to educators.

Public Education

  • School finance issues, including potential changes to the Cost of Education Index (which makes adjustments to basic formulas to account for differing student populations and funding circumstances).
  • School facility needs and funding.
  • Access to broadband services, and ways to enhance digital learning.
  • Inappropriate teacher-student relationships, teacher criminal conduct and student safety.
  • Partnerships between higher education, school districts and the workforce to promote postsecondary readiness (joint charge with the Economic and Small Business Development Committee).
  • Middle school initiatives, with a focus on at-risk youth.
  • Programs addressing the needs of high-performing students.
  • School choice, including ways to ensure that any school receiving public support is held accountable for academic and financial performance.

Pensions

  • Issues relating to investments of public pensions, including the impact of fluctuations in global markets and assumed rates of return.
  • Structural reforms to increase pension plans’ ability to maintain actuarial soundness, and the feasibility/costs/benefits of one-time funding increases.

Appropriations

  • Use of the “Rainy Day Fund” and the constitutional limits on state spending, both of which can impact public education funding.
  • Issues and costs related to providing a cost-of-living adjustment or 13th check to state and school retirees.
  • Implementation of the short-term funding that was provided to TRS-Care last session, along with a more comprehensive study of the health care needs of retirees (including a specific mention of the option of allowing non-Medicare eligible retirees to remain on a school district’s health plan until they reach eligibility).
  • Public education programs funded outside of the Foundation School Program, including specific programs such as the Student Success Initiative and the new math and reading teacher training academies.

Ways & Means

  • The property tax and franchise tax systems, both of which are integrally related to public school funding.
  • Tax abatement agreements between school districts and businesses.

State Affairs

  • Payroll deduction of professional association dues (as well as charitable organization and nonprofit contributions) for public employees.

Insurance

  • Review of the impacts on school district and state health plans of a law passed in 2013 specifying coverage of care for brain injury.

Public Health

  • Chronic disease in Texas and the impact of such diseases on TRS and other state agencies that administer health care plans.