Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called on the state's senators Thursday to draft a new long-range plan to boost education performance in Texas schools and universities.
In remarks prepared for a United Negro College Fund benefit Thursday in Grapevine, Dewhurst called for a review of "Closing the Gaps 2015," a program developed in 2000 that has guided education policy in Texas. He said Texas has made great progress since 2000 and that lawmakers should review the successes and develop a new road map for the next 15 years.
"We must keep working to improve the way we equip young Texans to take their place in our state's uniquely robust economy," he said. "Texas is still the best place in the country to pursue the American Dream and a quality education only makes it more attainable."
As lieutenant governor, Dewhurst presides over the Texas Senate. And while lawmakers are not in session, he charges committees to investigate issues for future legislation. The committees are developing bills for the 2015 legislative session.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board adopted "Closing the Gaps 2015" after studies showed Texas children lagged behind other states in school attendance, graduation rates, test scores and university research. The program called on state officials to hire better school teachers, enforce tougher high school graduation standards, provide more affordable colleges and encourage top universities to engage in more research.
While the state has improved test scores, graduation rates and university research programs, Texas still lags behind other states. In recent years, lawmakers have cut per-student spending on public schools, lowered high school graduation requirements, cut university funding and allowed higher tuition at public universities.
The task for developing a new plan falls on the Senate Education Committee, which will hold hearings this year. Houston Republican Dan Patrick chairs the committee and is challenging Dewhurst in the 2014 Republican primary. Patrick has advocated for more charter schools and called for eliminating Algebra II as a requirement for high school graduation.
Dewhurst also called on the committee to explore how technology can boost university education, including the use of massively open online courses. The committee will also review STAAR written testing procedures and implementation of legislation passed in 2013.