The situation faced in our classrooms is no less dire now that it was when we started this session, or when we were on the campaign trail. State legislators made a commitment to their constituents to get this right.
To date, the House has passed proposals that only restore 55 cents on the dollar from what was cut in 2011. Specifically, the House-passed budget restores $2.5 billion for public schools over the next biennium. As you may know, I could not support this version of the budget because it did not fully fund public schools. An additional $500 million was appropriated just last week, but even still, this leaves funding $2.4 billion short. That is just not good enough — not for our kids, their parents or our teachers.
I have not and will not waver in my belief that our top priority must be to restore funding for public education. There is no reason at all why we can’t make smart investments in our children, who are vital to our state’s future. With four weeks left, there is still time to get this right.
I was proud to co-author and support HB 5, which passed in the Texas House of Representatives with nearly unanimous support. This piece of legislation offers meaningful solutions to key issues facing our state’s public high schools and students.
HB 5 reduces the number of end of course assessments from 15 to five, creates one standard diploma that allows every student the opportunity to apply to a four-year university in Texas, encourages students to pursue diploma endorsements in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and business, as well as arts and humanities. It also broadens school ratings so that factors other than standardized tests will contribute to measuring a school’s performance.
I am pleased that three amendments I proposed were added to HB 5. One will give special education teachers more one-on-one time to spend with their students, rather than prepping for tests. Another amendment promotes dual credit for career and technical education students to put towards an associate’s degree or a licensing certification. Finally, I offered an amendment that prohibits individuals connected with or paid by test vendors from serving on Texas Education Agency assessment committees.
AUSTIN − State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101 – Grand Prairie) and state Senator Leticia Van de Putte (SD 26 – San Antonio) have filed identical measures aimed at addressing concerns raised by some Texas universities regarding the expense of Hazlewood, the state’s veteran higher education financial aid program. The legislation would allow schools to use “B-On-Time” funds that are not utilized at the institution at which they are collected to offset that school’s Hazlewood and Hazlewood Legacy tuition exemption programs.
“Hazlewood represents a solemn promise from the state of Texas to our veterans and their families and our legislation is aimed at keeping that promise,” Turner said. “By allowing our state’s colleges and universities to utilize unused B-On-Time funds that are currently being transferred back to the state to instead offset Hazlewood costs, we will strengthen our veterans benefits and help our colleges and universities.”
“The first and foremost consideration is that we help the 1% who defend our freedoms and have earned their Hazlewood benefits,” Senator Van de Putte said. “It makes sense to give schools the flexibility to utilize monies already appropriated for their campuses before looking at additional state dollars. This bill will help our universities do the right thing for our veterans and their families.”
It’s no secret that our public schools face a lot of challenges right now.
The Legislature cut $5.4 billion in education funding last session, and even though a state judge has recently ruled our school finance system unconstitutional, the Republican leadership isn’t exactly rushing to put more money into education.
So that’s why I introduced two bills last week that would allocate a small portion of the Rainy Day Fund for one-time grants for school security upgrades and career and technology education equipment, for a total of $500 million. This is just over four percent of the $12 billion that is projected to be in the Rainy Day Fund at the end of the next biennium.
These bills would give schools some of the resources they so badly need to protect their students and better train and educate our future workforce.
AUSTIN — Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie is proposing a half-billion-dollar drawdown from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help school districts beef up security and bolster technical training.
The Tarrant County Democrat introduced HB 1770 that would authorize spending $250 million from the Rainy Day Fund to establish a grant program that school districts would use to improve security. HB1771 proposes an identical amount from the fund to help schools buy equipment for career and technology education courses.
School security has emerged as a high priority in the 2013 Legislature after the slaying of 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn., in mid-December.
While some lawmakers have advocated placing armed guards in schools, Turner said his measure would be aimed at “equipment and infrastructure,” such as installing security cameras or strengthening door locks. In school districts that have campus police departments, it could also be used for purchases such as additional vehicles or two-way radios, Turner said.
Turner said both of his measures fully comply with Gov. Rick Perry’s admonition that drawdowns from the Rainy Day Fund should be used only for one-time expenditures, rather than recurring expenses.
“What better one-time expenses would there be than to help our school districts upgrade their security and make our schools safer,” said Turner, who represents House District 101 in eastern Tarrant County.
Turner said his second bill is designed to expand technical training at a time when businesses are calling for more emphasis on educational programs to help fill what they say is a critical shortage of skilled workers.
Chris Turner will fight to reverse the Republican education cuts that have resulted in teacher layoffs and larger class sizes across Texas. Chris believes education funding was already inadequate and that Perry and the Legislature should have used the billions of dollars in the state’s Rainy Day Fund and closed tax loopholes in order to save schools from devastating cuts. Chris will fight for a more fair and better financed public education system for all Texas children. Chris also believes we must reform the school accountability system that has become entirely too dependent on standardized tests.
Making college more affordable and accessible to every Texan is one of Chris’s top priorities. Rising tuition costs and reduced financial aid opportunities have closed the door of opportunity to too many Texans. Chris supported increasing the Texas Grant program, which made college financial aid available for an additional 24,000 middle-class Texas families in 2010-2011. Chris co-authored legislation that opens the door for “emerging research universities,” such as the University of Texas at Arlington, to become a “Top Tier” research university. Chris wrote and passed the law requiring all Texas colleges and universities to have a financial aid specialist trained on the GI Bill and the Hazelwood Act.
After the Legislature slashed $5.4 billion from public schools last year, a reasonable person might have thought, “Well, at least it can’t get any worse.”
Guess what? Apparently, it can.