EDUCATION COMMITTEE TAKES A LOOK AT HB 1 COMPLIANCE; PERMANENT SCHOOL FUND
The Senate Education Committee heard testimony today regarding the state's public education system's progress on sweeping reform legislation passed last session in the form of House Bill 1. This bill made many changes to the education system in Texas, focusing on college readiness and success by requiring alignment between elementary, high school and college curricula. The committee also heard from members of the State Board of Education about the state of Texas' Permanent School Fund (PSF), which funds instructional resource costs and other expenses.
Dr. Shirley Neely, Commissioner of Education, reported that the state is making good progress with respect to curriculum alignment requirements set forth in HB 1. The bill mandated that the Texas Education Agency create "vertical teams" intended to evaluate alignment and make recommendations to the State Board of Education to improve college readiness. Neely said that the TEA will file legislation next week to create guidelines and standards for four vertical teams, one for each core subject: English, math, science and social studies.
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Commissioner Dr. Raymund Paredes said that the standards set forth in HB 1 create a new paradigm for educating Texas children. "What I like best about HB 1 is the great confidence it expresses in all of our children", he said. "The message it sends to us as educators is that you've got to work with these children to help them fulfill their potential."
THECB, said Paredes, will not set curriculum requirements for schools because that duty is the purview of the State Board of Education. What the Coordinating Board will focus on, he said, is improving the rigor with which the state-approved curriculum is taught. THECB will also look at a redesign of entry-level university courses, which Paredes calls the top indicator of future college success.
He added that in addition to high-school/college curriculum alignment, THECB will focus on alignment between 2-year and 4-year colleges, in order to increase transfer rates and success rates of students who move on to a 4-year institution after two years at a community college.
HB 1 also mandated a centralized "data clearinghouse" to store data relating to all aspects of the public education system, from facilities statistics, to school success rates. Paredes said THECB will begin the process of creating theses centralized storage areas, and hopes to have them up and running by next spring.
The committee also looked at the status of the state's Permanent School Fund (PSF), a fund created in 1852 to ensure adequate resources to purchase text books and other instructional materials. State Board of Education Chair Geraldine "Tincy" Miller testified that the fund is performing very well, with $22.9 billion currently in its coffers. The fund is also used to secure bonds passed by local elections, at a triple-A rating, which keeps interest rates low for school districts and removes the need for additional bond insurance.