Studying technology's impact on higher education and evaluating public school students' writing scores on state assessments are among the tasks Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gave lawmakers in education-related interim charges Thursday.
Dewhurst announced the charges, which are expected to increase in the coming weeks, at a benefit for the United Negro College Fund in Dallas.
"Texas has made great strides on behalf of Texans pursuing education at all levels, and we must stay focused on meaningful outcomes," said Dewhurst in a statement describing the charges. "With our low taxes, limited government, careful spending and sensible regulations, Texas is still the best place in the country to pursue the American Dream, and a quality education only makes it more attainable. "
On the higher education front, Dewhurst asked lawmakers to review the success of a state plan for higher education adopted in 2000 known as "Closing the Gaps by 2015," instructing them to work with the Higher Education Coordinating Board on a new set of long-term state goals for higher education. He also tasked senators with evaluating how massive open online courses, or "MOOCs," have affected the funding and quality of higher education in the state.
While he charged lawmakers with following the implementation of all education legislation, Dewhurst emphasized four bills in particular in the K-12 realm — House Bill 5, which changed accountability, testing and curriculum requirements; House Bill 1926, which updated the state's virtual school network; Senate Bill 376, which expanded the state's free breakfast program; and House Bill 617, which relates to transition services for special education students.
The lieutenant governor faces three challengers in the March Republican primary — and interim charges, which set the priorities of Senate committees before the 2015 session, recently became a subject of attack in that race. State Sen. Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican who is among Dewhurst's opponents, criticized the lieutenant governor for having not yet assigned charges to the education committee. Patrick said the delay in issuing the charges had kept the committee, which he chairs, from tackling important work on education-related issues.