Possible topics to come up in 85th Texas Legislature

Fourteen months ahead of the next legislative session, House Speaker Joe Straus issued more than 150 interim charges Wednesday, directing committees to study a diverse list of topics such as the effectiveness of the state's role in border security and the effect of the plummeting cost of oil on the local economy.

"The next legislative session is more than a year away, but the work of that session starts now," Straus said. "While these assignments cover a wide variety of issues, they focus on three core priorities: supporting private-sector growth, creating opportunity through education and continuing to make government more transparent and accountable."

Two school finance-related charges are among those Straus assigned to the House Public Education Committee: examining the Cost of Education Index, a long-outdated system of weights the state uses to determine how much to fund schools per student, and evaluating school districts' local debt and demand for facilities.

The House education panel will also look at the hot-button topic of school choice, an issue that has pitted the lower chamber- where many lawmakers have opposed private school voucher programs - against the Senate in recent legislative sessions. The charges instruct the committee to review research on school choice programs from other states and "recommend whether an expansion of school choice in Texas is needed, and suggest ways to ensure that any school receiving public support is held accountable for its academic and financial performance."

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