I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and were able to spend time with family and loved ones. The Christmas season is now upon us, and on its heels is the 84th Legislative Session. The legislative world is buzzing with anticipation of what I believe will be a productive session for our great state. Until then, here’s what else is happening at your State Capitol…
Water Plans Get Underway
The Texas Water Development Board voted in November to approve rules for the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), opening the gates for communities that want to apply for funding. Now entities such as cities, counties and water districts can apply through the TWDB to fund water infrastructure projects with the help of low-interest loans that will be subsidized by the $2 billion voters approved last November. That money is the amount officials believe is needed to fund the State Water Plan for the next 50 years. More than 560 unique water supply projects (including pipelines, desalination plants, etc.) will be ranked at the local and regional levels, and then eventually ranked by the TWDB according to each project’s priority status. The deadline for applications is next February, and the board will spend this Spring prioritizing the projects based on certain criteria. The board will use a point system that allows projects to earn points based on the size of the population it would serve, the amount of help it would provide to rural and urban populations, the level of need (including emergency projects), and the amount of local contribution. The carve out for rural Texas was especially important. Voters made the right decision when they chose to invest in our state’s water future; but now is the time for myself and my colleagues to ensure that the implementation of this plan is fair, transparent and makes the best use of state dollars.
House Interim Charges: Committee on Public Education
As we continue our look at House interim charges, we focus this week of the House Committee on Public Education. Committee members have been tasked with exploring research-based options for improving student achievement beyond standardized test scores. The committee will also evaluate standards for effective campus management, and will review the current teacher evaluation tools and instructional methods. In an effort to help students in low performing schools, members will review successful strategies and methods on how to turn these schools around, while identifying alternatives that could be offered to current students who are attending these schools. And finally, the committee will also review the broad scope and breadth of the current standardize testing, including the format, testing calendar, and the limitation on instructional days available. From that review, members will recommend options to streamline these assessments and focus on core concepts. This includes review current federal testing requirements in grades 3-8 to determine if testing relief is possible.
Rep. Trent Ashby