Capitol Update: Public Education in Texas
Ready or not, the start of a new school year is officially here! I want to thank all of our school faculty members and administrators who have been working feverishly to prepare for our students’ return. So, as the hallways, classrooms, school buses, and stadiums once again come to life, let me wish all of our students the very best and much success as they embark on a new school year and write a new chapter of their life. Continuing on this theme, I wanted to update you on the discussions surrounding public education at your State Capitol. . .
House Interim Charges: Public Education
The House Public Education Committee has been meeting since last fall and has been having discussions on how we might improve the quality of education in Texas. Chief among those discussions are how we can effectively and efficiently finance our schools, something I’ve mentioned in previous columns. As our state continues to thrive, and the population continues to grow, many of our school districts are growing faster than what their infrastructure and facilities can handle. In these cases, the Committee has taken a dive into the appropriate role for the state to play in making sure that facility needs are met, without districts having to call for large bond elections or increasing the property tax burden on the community.
As technology continues to play a greater role in our society, public schools must adapt to the new age. Many innovative schools around Texas are embracing technology and incorporating it into how they teach students. Others, however, have trouble providing broadband to all of their campuses and don’t have the resources to provide new technology to all students. In light of this, we have been studying how the state might provide scalable broadband to each district and what funding may be available to help with this.
One benefit of having so many people move to Texas is the growing workforce. As you know, not all graduates desire to continue their education after high school and we must ensure that those students possess the necessary skills to enter the workforce immediately. The Legislature will be examining partnerships between other institutions of education, as well as private businesses, to determine how to better provide students with meaningful internships, vocational training, and career technical skills. This initiative is needed, but is not possible without some assistance from our Texas Legislature. Currently, laws exist which limit employers from hiring students for these opportunities and we’ll need to address those issues next session, as well as how to better incentivize businesses to invest in our youth.
In addition to these exciting challenges that come with growth, there continues to be a strong push by some to allow the use of public dollars for students at non-public institutions of learning, commonly referred to as a voucher system. While traditionally not a popular idea in rural Texas, the Committee nonetheless is studying the issue and reviewing the outcomes of such programs in other states, what accountability, testing, and mandates should be included, and lastly, the costs, both direct and indirect, associated with this type of program.
The mobile office is back on the road for the month of August, and looks forward to seeing you around our district. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762, or you can call my Capitol office at (512) 463-0508.