Straus issues charges focused on education
Speaker asks committees to tackle school aid in wake of storm
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.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, shown greeting supporters Tuesday in San Antonio, has directed committees to study several aspects of Hurricane Harvey’s effects.