Texas Legislature Week in Review
Students would have more freedom to tailor their high school education under a bill considered by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. Under the current system, college readiness is the single goal, with students aiming to complete what is called the “recommended” curriculum. The system proposed under Senate Bill 3, by Houston Senator and Committee Chair Dan Patrick, would allow students to pursue college readiness, but also include some level of vocational or career technology training if they want to enter the workforce after high school.
The committee heard extensive testimony from business leaders, parents and students about the need for more career readiness training in high school. Not everyone wants to go to college, they said, and businesses are having more and more trouble finding skilled and educated workers to fill open job slots.
SB 3 would do away with the current three tiered system of high school graduation and replace it with a single diploma, called the foundation system. Students could earn what are called endorsements, earned by taking specific elective courses in addition to a core curriculum of science, English, math and social studies courses. Students preparing for college could take advanced courses and students preparing for the workforce could take career prep courses.
The bill remains pending before the committee.
The Chair of the Senate Transportation committee told members that the state must change the way it pays for road construction and maintenance at a hearing on Wednesday. Jacksonville Senator Robert Nichols said the Texas Department of Transportation is almost out of bonding authority, and current funding methods aren’t enough. “At a time when we need new capacity, our urban areas are choking down, we have no traditional funds for new capacity and at the same time, we don’t have the traditional funds to maintain our system,” said Nichols. “For the past ten or twelve years we’ve been riding on a bubble of debt… and now it’s time to pay the piper.”
Also this week, the Senate Finance Committee wrapped up its initial round of budget hearings. Over the past three weeks, the committee charged with writing the Senate’s version of the state budget has heard from agency officials and members of the public regarding state funding needs for the next biennium. Now the committee will divide itself up into workgroups, each charged with hammering out a budget proposal for a single budget article. After each group completes its work, the committee will come back together to consider workgroup recommendations and then roll them all into a single Senate budget which will be taken before the full Senate for a vote. Committee Chair Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands said at the beginning of the session he wants the bill out of committee and up for a vote by mid-March.