"School choice," including controversial tax credit scholarships, tops a lengthy list of public education issues Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked state senators to study ahead of the 2017 legislative session.
Also on the agenda, released Monday: Charter school expansion, "the recent rise of inappropriate teacher-student relationships," school board governance and the "structure and performance" of the two remaining county-based school systems in the state, the Harris County Department of Education and Dallas County Schools.
The nine interim charges are among nearly two dozen Patrick issued Monday that also span higher education and intergovernmental relations. The tea party-backed Republican unveiled two other rounds of interim charges last week that included politically charged issues like religious liberty and police safety.
"These charges are critical to assure that good Texas schools are available to every Texas child and that our academic institutions can educate and train the workforce Texas needs to continue to compete in the global marketplace," Patrick said in a statement.
Patrick, a former state senator from Houston elected lieutenant governor last year, has unsuccessfully pushed for the creation of a taxpayer-funded program that would help public school students pay tuition at the private or parochial school to which they transfer. During this year's legislative session, he shepherded a tax credit scholarship bill through the Senate that would've awarded franchise or insurance tax credits to businesses that provide scholarship money to kids to attend private or religious schools. Senate Bill 4 subsequently died in the House.
Patrick's school choice interim charge asks senators to "study school choice programs enacted in states across the nation, examining education savings account and tax credit scholarship programs in particular" and "make recommendations on which choice plan could best serve Texas students."
Among his higher education interim charges are monitoring the ongoing implementation of a 2013 public education bill, House Bill 5, designed to better prepare high schools students for college or the workforce. Also included are studying college funding methods, tuition deregulation and student debt.