Straus is­sues charges fo­cused on ed­u­ca­tion

Speaker asks com­mit­tees to tackle school aid in wake of storm

Houston Chronicle - - CITY | STATE - By An­drea Zelin­ski an­drea.zelin­ski@chron.com

AUSTIN — House Speaker Joe Straus is ask­ing three House com­mit­tees to wade into is­sues re­lated to Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, in­clud­ing how the state can max­i­mize fed­eral funds and whether to re­think how to grade schools af­fected by the storm this year.

Straus is­sued Thurs­day five in­terim charges fo­cused largely on ed­u­ca­tion is­sues, like the scope of dam­age to schools and fig­ur­ing out how to help districts ab­sorb­ing stu­dents dis­placed by Har­vey. He also wants law­mak­ers to look at stu­dent test­ing and ac­count­abil­ity to “pre­vent un­in­tended puni­tive con­se­quences to both stu­dents and districts.”

Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sioner Mike Mo­rath said Wed­nes­day he has no plans to de­lay the stan­dard­ized tests, taken in the spring, but added that no fi­nal de­ci­sions have been made.

More than 234,000 peo­ple have signed a Change. org pe­ti­tion launched by a Pear­land In­de­pen­dent School Dis­trict teacher ask­ing the state to can­cel this year’s State of Texas As­sess­ment of Aca­demic Readi­ness, oth­er­wise known as the STAAR tests.

Ten con­sis­tently low per­form­ing schools in HI SD have one more school year to im­prove scores be­fore the state must close schools or take over the dis­trict’s school board, a re­al­ity that al­ready had dis­trict of­fi­cials on edge.

Straus’ other charges in­clude ex­am­in­ing state in­fra­struc­ture, the use of state and fed­eral funds for re­cov­ery and the role of re­gional en­ti­ties to de­velop flood con­trol projects.

“Hur­ri­cane Har­vey has dev­as­tated our state and up­ended the lives of mil­lions of Tex­ans,” Straus said in a let­ter to House mem­bers ask­ing for sug­ges­tions of is­sues law­mak­ers should study lead­ing up to the next leg­isla­tive ses­sion that be­gins in Jan­uary 2019. “The im­por­tance of get­ting these is­sues right when we meet again de­mands that we start work­ing on them now.”

The com­mit­tees would meet over the next few months, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from the San An­to­nio Repub­li­can’s of­fice. Straus’ in­terim charges: Com­mit­tee on Ap­pro­pri­a­tions: Ex­am­ine the use of fed­eral funds by state agen­cies re­spond­ing to the ef­fects of Har­vey and iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties to max­i­mize the use of fed­eral funds to re­duce the im­pact of fu­ture nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. Also iden­tify the need for state re­sources to re­spond to Hur­ri­cane Har­vey re­lief and re­cov­ery ef­forts, as well as op­por­tu­ni­ties for state in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture projects that will re­duce the im­pact of fu­ture nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion: De­ter­mine, to the ex­tent pos­si­ble, the scope of fi­nan­cial losses, in­clud­ing fa­cil­i­ties, that re­sult­ed­from Har­vey. Rec­om­mend pos­si­ble state ac­tions, such as changes to stu­dent counts or prop­erty val­u­a­tion, to mit­i­gate any neg­a­tive im­pact on districts and en­sure gov­er­nance struc­tures and pa­ram­e­ters al­low for ef­fec­tive re­sponses.

Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion: Rec­om­mend any mea­sures needed at the state level to pre­vent un­in­tended puni­tive con­se­quences to both stu­dents and districts in the state ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem as a re­sult of Har­vey and its af­ter­math.

Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion: Ex­am­ine the ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered to stu­dents dis­placed by Har­vey through­out the state and the process by which districts en­roll and serve those stu­dents. Rec­om­mend any changes that could im­prove the process for stu­dents or help districts serv­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of dis­placed stu­dents.

Com­mit­tee on Nat­u­ral Re­sources: Ex­am­ine the fol­low­ing is­sues within the com­mit­tee’s ju­ris­dic­tion re­gard­ing Har­vey and flood­ing in gen­eral: the role of re­gional en­ti­ties in de­vel­op­ing projects to con­trol flood­ing, both through new in­fra­struc­ture and en­hanc­ing ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture; mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts that would re­duce the im­pact of fu­ture flood events and strate­gies to fund those ef­forts; and the re­sponse of pub­lic en­ti­ties that own or op­er­ate dams to large-scale rain events, in­clud­ing how such en­ti­ties make de­ci­sions re­gard­ing dam and reser­voir op­er­a­tions dur­ing such events, co­or­di­nate with state and lo­cal emer­gency man­age­ment of­fi­cials and com­mu­ni­cate with the pub­lic.

San An­to­nio Ex­press-News

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, shown greet­ing sup­port­ers Tues­day in San An­to­nio, has di­rected com­mit­tees to study sev­eral as­pects of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey’s ef­fects.

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