Category Archives: Higher Education

Texas House Will Vote on Budget on April 4

The House Appropriations Committee approved a budget that gives an extra $2.5 billion to K-12 education, but is $1.7 billion smaller than the Senate’s budget. So, where does that leave everything else?

Like the Senate budget, the House budget includes increases in mental health funding and graduate medical education.

BUT, according to the Trib:

Full details of the budget the Appropriations Committee voted on were not available on Thursday afternoon. Pitts and House Appropriations staff could not say when they would be publicly released.

So, forgive me for not dancing for joy at the extra K-12 money. I worry more about higher education since colleges and universities are going to try to salvage those students who came out of K-12 underprepared for college with a billion dollars less in the last session.

Can’t wait for the details! For now…

Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said he hopes to bring the bill to the House floor on April 4 and expressed optimism that the bill will get strong support.

 

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Mayor Parker Launches Parental Involvement Campaign

“Is My Child Ready?” was launched this week by the Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives. The program’s work is to engage parents so that they may get more involved in their children’s education.

The campaign coincides with the release of students’ STAAR test results by area school districts scheduled for this spring.  The STAAR exams are part of the state’s new standardized academic accountability system.  The campaign will target “hard to reach” parents to encourage them to ask their schools key questions about their children’s performance on the STAAR test.

The commitment I liked most was this.

The campaign will promote parents’ long-term involvement in their children’s education with an emphasis on post-secondary readiness.  Currently, more than half of Texas freshmen in two-year colleges and nearly a fourth in four-year schools require remedial courses.  Deficient academic preparation also leads to low rates of college completion.

While Texas legislators are seeking ways of blaming college advising and student services offices as a means of cutting their budgets, it is good to see Mayor Parker promoting a solution, rather than some punitive measure, like I expect the Lege to do. It seems she knows one of the roots of the problem, so, hopefully, the Lege will follow suit and commit to these types of programs, too.

And it’s bilingual, too.

The multi-media campaign will deliver messages in various formats, including billboards, signage on METRO buses, electronic communications via SMS texts, emails and campaign websites and posters at libraries, multi-service centers and schools throughout the Houston region.  Public information sessions for parents will also be held.

TEXT “READY” or “LISTO” to 91011
The campaign invites parents to text “READY” to 91011 or visit www.ismychildready.org for key facts and specific questions to ask schools about their children’s STAAR test scores.  Spanish-speaking parents can text “LISTO” to 91011 or visit the campaign’s Spanish language website www.estalistomihijo.org.

“We want parents to talk with teachers and counselors and become informed on what they can do every day to help their children do well in the classroom,” said Mark Cueva, Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives division manager.  “Asking questions about a student’s performance on the STAAR test and what parents can do to help that child do better is a good starting point.”

For full information about the campaign, visit www.ismychildready.org.

Way to go, Mayor! Every bit counts in this effort! Perhaps partnering with local higher education institutions is a good next step?

HOPE Announces Lege Agenda

Hispanics Organized for Political Education (HOPE), the former “political arm” of Texas LULAC has re-organized and announced its legislative agenda for the 2013 Texas legislative session. It is quite comprehensive and divided into four parts.

Plan of Action
Latinos in Texas rank the following 7 issues in order of importance as the most relevant to our community’s agenda:
1. Education
2. Immigration/Racial Profiling
3. Political Access/Redistricting
4. Health Care
5. Business/Workforce
6. State Budgetary shortfall
7. Housing

Catching my eye because of its importance is their plank on education.

HOPE calls on the Texas 83rd Legislature to reinstatement school-funding using district property wealth for allocation to the 2009, level of funding that also took into account the annual increased enrollment of students.

Quality Education for English Language Learners (ELLs)
Reform and improve education by supporting reforms for effective secondary educational programs that serve English Language Learners including stronger accountability standards, curricular reforms at the secondary level, and addressing qualified teacher shortages through recruitment and retention programs. These reforms will result in closing the achievement gaps and reducing the drop-outs.

Drop-Outs

1. Reform and improve education by identifying a menu of best practices that are research based to address dropouts;
2. Introduce legislation that will require institutions to include in their graduation degree plan developed courses that focus on addressing potential dropout students and dropouts as part of their teacher certification programs;
3. Support legislation that will require institutions that grant teacher certification and who are also identified as an HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) to develop leadership programs for minorities in the field of education;
4. Support legislation that will create a statewide Blue Ribbon Committee made up of those institutions of higher learning that are identified as HIS to create  a Thinktank to be centered at Texas State University in San Marcos to research, monitor, and propose solutions to student dropouts;
5. Close all loopholes in the state’s leaver code system so that districts and campuses cannot arbitrarily mask student dropout numbers;
6. Monitor the extent to which students are being taken off of the recommended high school program and placed in the Minimum track that leaves them ineligible for state financial aid (i.e., TEXAS Grant) and automatic admissions under the Top Ten Percent Policy.

Equitable School Finance System

Invest in the economic future of Texas by supporting a return to formula-based funding that maintains a school finance system that allows schools to access equal revenue at a similar tax effort and properly funds special needs students.

Universal Access to Schools

Oppose all efforts to deny access to education and ensure access to parents and children living in Texas to educational services regardless of immigration status.

High-stakes Testing

Put a stop to the over-reliance on a single test-based indicator when assessing students. Continuing to focus on student test performance does not lead to a deeper or critical understanding of the curriculum. Rather, it obstructs students’ access to quality learning time and diverts precious dollars and resources (such as teacher and staff time) to testing companies. The misuses of testing are both unethical and unsupported by research, and also disproportionately impact poor, minority, and English learning students, as well as those student receiving special education services.

Holistic Assessment

Support the use of multiple measures such as classroom work, homework, extracurricular involvement, teacher evaluation, parent evaluation, and test scores as a means for holistically assessing a student’s overall academic performance. Oppose policies that solely rely of a single test score to determine grade promotion or retention decisions, deny students a high school diploma, deny access to college or financial aid, or contaminate students’ course GPAs.

College Readiness Preparation

1. Support students’ access and successful completion of the 4×4, college readiness curriculum;
2. Oppose efforts to track students into nonrigorous, vocational or career and technology courses;
3. Support rigorous career and technology education courses that are taught by certified teachers, that supplement (rather than supplant) students’  completion of college ready curricula, and lead to workbased certification and college credit.4. Support supplemental programs and partnerships that provide students resources and access to institutions of higher education;

5. Require that all students have fully certified, quality teachers who have theacademic and social competencies to ensure that all students reach their optimal potential.

Affordable Tuition Rates in Higher Education

1. Oppose any measure that restricts or prohibits minority access to needed financial aid and Texas grants that should be fully restored;
2. Support affordable access to higher education by restoring the state regulation of tuition;
3. Oppose any measure that further restricts Texas’ high school graduates access to instate tuition.

Top 10%

Oppose any legislation that would reduce, eliminate or make exceptions to the top 10% rule.

DREAM Act

Oppose any legislation that would challenge students’ access to higher education by modifying or eliminating House Bill 1403.

Bullying

Support enhanced anti-bullying legislation that will mandate that the education administration code include a directive to identify a point of contact for bullying.

Special Education

Support legislation mandating that the parents of special education students who are also limited English proficiency (LEP), be provided all documentation in their native language during the ARD and the development of the student’s IEP.

State Board of Education Reform

Reform the State Board of Education (SBOE) to ensure that the adopted and future TEKS curriculum standards are accurate, comprehensive, in compliance with legislative intent and responsive to community input. Support efforts to include top university experts in the decision making process.

Click on the link to read the entire document; however, be warned–it is pretty progressive and will earn some right-wing opposition. With the Dewhurst-Patrick-Republican ideas of expanding charter schools and school privatization, the battle lines have definitely been drawn between Latinos and Republicans.

Thanks to my good friend, Joe Cardenas, III, for sending this to me and for chairing such an important group of leaders.

Endorsement: Vote FOR HCC Bond

I’ve always been a proponent of higher education, especially at the community college level. As Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature continue to short-change K-12, while pushing high-stakes testing on prospective college students, colleges and universities have been left to address college preparedness, rather than place students on their way to graduation and career from the get-go.

To this day, one-third of university students and one-half of community college students are deemed under-prepared for higher education studies, thus lowering college retention and graduation rates. That said, Houston Community College is on the front-lines of addressing these issues, and the bond they offer addresses the issues, as well.

Here’s HCC’s case:

The $425 million bond program will provide each HCC college with new or renovated facilities and the technology to meet student needs, especially in high-demand areas such as health sciences, as well as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

Why now?
• The institution is at 92% capacity
• Demographic projections of students shows a significant growth in the near future
• HCC’s Coleman College for Health Sciences was originally built to accommodate 1,500 students, but now serves 3,500
• Requires 3 years to build necessary infrastructure to support needs
• Increasing cost of college and need of students for a high quality, economical option
• Adds $1 billion to local economy
• Current skilled labor deficits in Houston

Early college facilities are among the facilities included in the bond. And these will definitely address college preparedness in various parts of the HCC service area. A new facility in West Houston will address needs in that area. All-in-all, it is an overdue investment that will go a long way to preparing for the future.

I highly recommend a YES vote on the HCC Bond.

What Do We Get From HISD Bond?

A community forum was held Monday night at the SHAPE Community Center in which folks in attendance let Houston ISD, administrators and trustees have it regarding the HISD Bond. At least one of my sources called it a good exercise in community involvement, although that source didn’t get the vibe that there was anything organized against the HISD Bond.

On the other hand, the Pro-Bond folks held a press conference at Westbury High School featuring all the heads of Bond PAC. It was also announced who all is involved in the pro-bond group, with familiar names like Lupe Fraga and local pro-immigrant Republican Jacob Monty in the mix.

Although any talk against the bond has stressed a lack of community input, it seems at least Westbury has an advisory team that has come up with what improvements will be made.

The kickoff was held at Westbury High School, which will receive about $40 million under the proposal.  This proposed expenditure would be for partial replacement of facilities to complement work already completed at Westbury and general renovations to accommodate 2,300 to 2,500 students.  Westbury’s Project Advisory Team is made up of the campus principal, staff, parents and community members who will provide input on how their school is designed to meet their unique needs.

The majority of new facilities will be high schools to replace existing ones. At least one East End high school teacher has told me of the dire conditions of these facilities. In fact, the average age of a high school in Houston is 51 years–5 years above the national average. And the stories are plentiful.

Westbury Principal Andrew Wainwright can attest to problems when schools don’t keep up with growth.  On his 2,200 student campus, Wainwright has 22 temporary buildings, which include most of the 9th grade campus.  And some of those “temporary” buildings have been at Westbury for 15 years.

“We really believe our students deserve a top notch facility with great science labs and meeting halls,” said Wainwright.  “We need better labs with better equipment.  Right now, our students are seeing demonstrations rather than being able to do the lab work themselves.”

In a press release from the PAC, we find out exactly what the HISD Bond will get us.

Under the bond proposal, 20 high schools will receive new campuses:

Austin                                     Bellaire                                   Davis

DeBakey                                 Eastwood                                Furr

HSPVA                                    Jordan                                    Lamar

Lee                                          Madison                                 Milby

North Early College               Sam Houston                         Sharpstown

South Early College               Sterling                                   Washington

Worthing                                Yates

Four high schools will be partially replaced:

Waltrip                              Westbury

Young Men’s College Prep Academy           Young Women’s Prep Academy

Four high schools will be renovated:

Jones              Kashmere                   Scarborough               Sharpstown Internationa

Five elementary schools will be converted to K-8 campuses:

Garden Oaks Montessori

Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion School at Gordon

Pilgrim Academy       Wharton Dual Language School                  Wilson Montessori

Three new elementary campuses will be built:

Askew                         Parker                         Relief school on the west side

Two middle schools will replaced/completed:

Grady                                      Dowling

In addition, all HISD students will benefit from:

  • $100 million for district-wide technology improvements
  • $35 million to renovate middle school restrooms
  • $17.3 million for district-wide safety and security improvements
  • $42.7 million to replace regional field houses and improve athletic facilities

So, the debates have begun. The Pro-Bond folks hope to raise and spend over $1 million to convince voters to support the bond.

I’ll be seeking out more opinion on the HISD Bond. If you have one, and you actually live in Houston ISD, send it in!

Latinos Are Largest Minority Group in Schools, Colleges

This was predicted a long time ago, so, it shouldn’t be a surprise. There are “record numbers” of Latinos in schools and colleges today, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. I’m of the opinion that Republicans sure saw this coming, since they have sliced and diced state K-12 and higher education budgets as this phenomena while occurring.

Although we see the population shifting in K-12 schools to a point where Latinos are a majority in some school districts, it is at colleges and universities where we notice an important data point.

The number of 18- to 24-year-old Latinos in college topped 2 million in 2011, accounting for 16.5% of all enrollments, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center. The number means Latino representation in U.S. colleges and universities is on par with the percentage of Latinos among the U.S. population, also 16.5%.

The population shift will surely affect future enrollment at colleges and universities; however, to what degree?

Governor Rick Perry and the Republicans are forcing schools and universities to make more drastic budget cuts. These cuts will affect college-going and school-to-workforce type of programs. One-third of Texas university students are already in developmental (remedial) courses to play catch-up, while half of community college students are in similar courses. The challenges of college readiness will more than likely affect future enrollment and degree completion numbers. And college readiness does not only affect Latinos, but all students.

The “record numbers” reported by Pew show the potential for America’s future workforce, if only they would be taken seriously by Republican legislators when it comes to budget allocations. The 2013 Texas legislative session will have those of us who support public education fighting harder for what is right.

One thing is for sure:  If the politicians aren’t even discussing college readiness (and workforce prep), then they are missing most of the point of effectively funding K-12 and higher education.

HCC Set to Add $425 Million Bond to Ballot

There’s no doubt that our community college systems are bursting at the seams and Rick Perry and the Republicans at the State Capitol have cut deeply into investment in higher education. And the results are quite noticeable as those of us served by Houston Community College System may get to vote on a $425 million bond package in November.

HCC officials say the bonds are needed to cope with exploding enrollment, rapidly-changing technology and shrinking state funding. In the last five years, enrollment has increased from 50,000 to 75,000, straining classrooms and campuses to their capacity, said HCC spokesman Dan Arguijo.

Anyone who feels investment in higher education should be a priority has some very good reasons to vote yes on this bond, if approved for the ballot by the HCCS Board.

As an example of the need for more space, HCC board chairman Mary Ann Perez pointed to HCC’s Coleman College for Health Sciences in the Texas Medical Center.

Built for 1,500 students, the facility now holds 3,500, leading to parking shortages, crowded classrooms and the turning away of 9 out of every 10 nursing applicants, Perez said. The bond proposal allots $120 million for a new health care education and early college building.

The plan also emphasizes workforce development in energy and the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math, Perez said.

“Houston is the energy capital of the world. The only way to maintain our leadership is to have a well-qualified and trained workforce,” Perez said. “Right now, we are simply unable to support student demand.”

Money would be designated for renovations or new construction at all six HCC colleges, including $27 million for a new workforce building in Stafford, $40 million in North Forest for workforce and early college buildings, and $53 million for a new westside campus at Westheimer and Eldridge Parkway.

There’s some opposition coming out of those served in Alief because they feel some of the promises made by HCC when they took them into the district have not been met. But the cash seems to be in the pipeline. Alief must be made a priority before some of this new bond money is expended on newer facilities. Still, there must be some strong demand for a westside campus.

It seems to me that this would be a worthy investment with a small increase in the property tax. Now that I actually live in the big city, I get to vote on this. Let’s see what the Board decides on Thursday.

 

Some Good Videos on Higher Ed and Immigration

The first is from candidate for Congress, Joaquin Castro on higher education accessibility.

The next is DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Immigration and Mitt Romney.

Study Slams Texas Higher Education

The Chron’s got a report on a study by UPenn which basically slams Texas Higher Education.

The report notes that college enrollment is up, more degrees are being awarded and educational leaders are pushing to boost the national ranking of the state’s colleges and universities.

The study by the University of Pennsylvania‘s Institute for Higher Education Research, however, offers a cautionary note.

“If Texas spreads its finite financial resources among too many priorities, however worthy, it is unlikely to get a handle on the soaring tuition that is threatening to price more and more Texans out of a college education, thus perpetuating racial and economic disparities,” the report says.

The report touches specifically on a few things that I worried about when the whole “Tier 1″ election was happening, and the reason I voted against it.

• The state’s emphasis on expanding seven emerging research universities could divert funding from efforts to boost college enrollment and produce more job-ready college graduates, a trade-off that “state leaders have not recognized.”

• The state falls far short of national averages in most measures of college readiness, enrollment, and graduation rates. For example, only 32 percent of Texans 25 or older have earned at least an associate’s degree, putting Texas 39th among states in that measure.

• Long known for low tuition rates and low financial aid rates, Texas has now become a state where tuition is increasing substantially but financial aid has not kept pace. In 2009, students at public universities were paying 72 percent more than they had been six years earlier, forcing many families to borrow more money or forgo college.

• There are “huge inequities” among racial and socioeconomic groups, with blacks and Latinos making up half the state’s population, yet lagging in college attainment and readiness. Among 25-to-34-year-olds, 43 percent of whites have at least an associate degree, compared to 28 percent of blacks and only 15 percent of Latinos.

• State funding for community and technical colleges hasn’t kept pace with rising enrollment at those schools, which enroll more than half of all students seeking a postsecondary education and serve a disproportionate number of poor and minority students.

The fact that many of these “emerging” institutions have less than stellar graduation and retention rates set off an alarm for me back in 2009. Yes, research money is needed; however, my fear has been that a lack of commitment to increase grad and retention rates would put Texas higher education into a tailspin, and the Republicans ensured that with their last budget.

And this line from one of the authors, Jodi Finney, is quite telling:

“Texas is very anxious to become California, to create more research-intensive universities. But California made a huge trade-off. Access and opportunity for research comes at the expenses of funding other areas,” said Finney. “If Texas siphons off resources to expand research universities, students – especially Latinos – will be harder hit.”

And with Rick Perry’s recent promise to cut into funding for the type of programs which are needed, what exactly is going to happen in 2013? The study is spot-on when it says some tough choices need to be made.

Do we want to graduate more students? Or is the priority some artificial status that does little to bring up grad and retention rates?

Perry To Promote More Irresponsibility for 2013

After his 2011 budget nonsense which became reality, Rick Perry is back to his old games as he preps for 2013; but now, he doesn’t want to be all alone in taking the hit for cutting education and services. Now, he expects his Republican buddies to sign some sort of pledge to cut education and services.

The compact will call for “truth in budgeting,” another way of saying Perry wants to end the common practice of using accounting tricks — like delayed payments and sped-up tax collections — to balance the state budget.

He also wants legislators and would-be legislators to “oppose any and all new taxes or tax increases, preserve the Rainy Day Fund, and cut wasteful and redundant government programs and agencies.”

I’m not surprised at Perry. This pledge is all about his 2014 campaign for re-election, and he wants all the GOPers on his side early-on–before the decisions are actually made. Before legislators get a chance to even discuss the needs of Texas children, the elderly, the indigent, and others.

House Democratic leader  and Houston’s own State Rep. Jessica Farrar said it best:

“His proposal promotes more fiscal irresponsibility in asking lawmakers to blindly sign a blood oath that will result in a doubling down of the devastating cuts already made to public schools, colleges and universities,” Farrar said. “Instead of planning for a better future, this plan ensures higher public costs through an uneducated workforce and treatment of chronic illnesses that could’ve been stemmed through preventative health care.”

This amounts to nothing more than a re-election endorsement pledge card for Rick Perry, and I hope the Republicans who sign on realize this. Unfortunately, the effects don’t make for a stronger Texas, unless you’re one of Rick Perry’s wealthy state contractor buddies.

The Chron has more from Rep. Farrar:

According to the speech excerpts, Perry will say that “the cost of Medicaid is a ticking time bomb and is primed to do massive damage to our budget in the short and long terms.” He will tout a push to allow Medicaid to be distributed to states in block grants to give them flexibility.

Farrar said in Texas, “We have the highest rate of uninsured people” and that providing health care early is a money-saver.

Farrar also said she doesn’t think a block grant giving Texas more flexibility would be in the public interest: “The legislative majority will do naughty little things to be stingy with people who are in real need.”

Perry is definitely sounding the drum beat for a war on students, the poor, the elderly, and more Texans.

State Rep. Mike Villareal of San Antonio responded on his Facebook page:

Today Governor Perry announced his “Budget Compact.” He loves to talk about his principles in the abstract, but he doesn’t want to discuss the disabled kids who lose health services when he won’t close corporate tax loopholes, or the students crowded into full classrooms when he won’t touch the Rainy Day Fund. After the deep and unnecessary education cuts that he championed, it’s no surprise that his Compact doesn’t say a word about educating schoolchildren.

Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso

“Although there are many things to be proud of in Texas, the state needs improvement. After decade under Perry’s leadership, Texas still has the fewest number of citizens with a high school degree, the highest number of citizens without health insurance, and the worst environment of any state with the highest rates of carcinogens released into the air and toxic chemicals released into the water.

“There are millions of Texans fighting day-to-day to make ends meet. Nationwide, Texas has the 4th highest percentage of kids living in poverty. In my own community, over a quarter of El Pasoans live in poverty.

“Perry and other state leaders need to stop focusing solely on how to lower taxes for multi-million dollar businesses and find ways to help average Texas families put food on their tables, pay for health insurance, and send their kids to college.