Good news from the State Capitol

Dr. Howell Wright

I f you have been a regular reader of this article, the title of this article may seem unusual. There are several bills that have been passed this session that are favorable to public schools in Texas. Providing public schools is a legal charge to our legislature from the Texas Constitution.

Rep. Marsha Farney represents Milam County and is a member of the House Public Education committee. She has been very active as a Public Education committee member and has engaged area superintendents and educators in conversations about legislation that is specific to our public schools.

Over the past couple of weeks, our legislature has passed House Bill 5—a landmark bill that reduces the number of tests required for high school graduation from 15 to 5 and develops a flexible and meaningful graduation plan for students. Students will have the opportunity to choose from five different endorsements in addition to completing their foundation credits.

Each endorsement has a specific focus that prepares a student for their future. The plans are flexible enough that a student can complete an endorsement different from what they originally chose or complete more than one endorsement.

The House also passed a budget that restores some of the funding ($2.5 billion) that was lost in the 2011 session. They have also proposed to restore $500,000 back into the current state budget. This does not bring schools back to the level of funding we experienced over the last several years, but it is a start.

Last week, the House passed a bill by 103-43 that prohibits the use of state funds to support Tax-Credit Scholarships or money that is appropriated to the Texas Education Agency to pay for or support school vouchers or scholarships for private primary or secondary education. Basically, the House has stated that public tax dollars should not go to pay for private school education.

I appreciate Rep. Farney and the other 102 bipartisan representatives who voted to support this bill. T his bill prevents our public schools from being financially shortchangedbydivertingpublic tax dollars to private entities. Privately funded schools have an appropriate function in our society where they are free from the bureaucracy of state compliance requirements and a strong focus on one-time assessments.

This legislative session is a little over half way complete, but there is still a lot of work to be done, especially in late May between the House and the Senate. This session has been unusual for public education because, for once, there are things we can be for and not against. One of the reasons for this difference is a willingness of the Senate and the House to listen to public educators and write legislation that includes common sense approaches to educating our future.

Rep. Farney has been a huge supporter of public education and has served this community and the students of Texas well with her bills and her vote. Her decisions will (and have) ruffled the feathers of some groups in Texas that are not supportive of public education. Rockdale ISD certainly appreciates her support and I trust that when you look at her remarkable record at the end of this session, you will too.

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2013-04-11 digital edition

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