Tag Archives: education

Parker Outlines Education Accomplishments

Back in 2009, one issue that came up in the Mayoral election was the City’s involvement in our local schools. It seems folks immediately gravitate toward issues involving Houston ISD (we are the big district, no doubt), but there are a lot more school districts within the City of Houston limits, so, any talk of a candidate for Mayor wanting to take over a school district disturbs me, but up to a point–the point being that it cannot happen and voters in suburban areas wouldn’t stand for it.  But these candidates will tell you it can happen, anyway, but they aren’t being honest. Mayor Annise Parker seems to be schooling her opponents on that fact.

In 2009, I said I would make education a priority – and today, on the first day of school in 2013, I wanted to let you know I’ve kept my promise.

Let me be clear: City government is not a school district and should not be in the business of running our schools.

Yet, strong cities cannot exist without strong schools. And that’s why I’ve worked to make sure that our city resources are helping to strengthen schools and help schoolchildren wherever appropriate.

This was definitely the smart approach to take on public education, and the bottom line, the City still affects our local school districts, but it doesn’t necessarily need to run it. Opponents can talk all they want about how it is a priority for them, but actions speak louder. And Mayor Parker, along with members of Council who support these efforts, have every reason to boast about these accomplishments.

That hard work and sacrifice is paying off:

  • Today, we’re rebuilding libraries and funding $7 million in after-school programs.
  • We’ve funded a new summer youth jobs program and restored Saturday library hours that were cut during the recession.
  • Our Safe Sidewalks program is building new sidewalks around elementary and middle schools and helping parents organize “walking school buses” to keep kids safe as they walk to school.
  • HISD is rebuilding, upgrading and/or modernizing neighborhood schools in every corner of our city – I endorsed and supported that bond measure because it will help both schools and neighborhoods.
  • We’re working with labor unions incentivize apprenticeship programs on many city-funded projects, including projects funded by last year’s successful bond referendum.
  • And we’ve stepped up our efforts to incentivize the development of workforce housing that is affordable for teachers, police officers, firefighters and middle-class Houstonians.

I’ve appointed Marc Cueva as my chief education officer and he’s doing a great job overseeing the many innovative ways that our city is working to help kids succeed.

I had originally proposed a formal partnership between the city and school districts. But since I’ve become mayor, we’re actively partnering with school districts, nonprofits and the business community to strengthen schools, help schoolchildren and prepare our youth to enter the workforce – and we’re doing all this without the additional cost and layer of bureaucracy of a formal partnership.

Granted, I’m more in support of raising taxes so that we can put this commitment on steroids; but, that said, I’m also a reasonable voter who prefers specifics, rather than just words, . The Mayor’s website provides a whole bunch of actions taken by the City during her tenure in support of public education.

As far as it being a “promise kept” by the Mayor, I would have to agree.

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As The Lege Makes Your Stomach Turn

Another long episode comes to an end today and there are a couple of things to which I was giving my attention.

  • The Budget – The House and Senate came to an agreement. Some of the K-12 money cut a couple of years ago was replaced. We’re not sure what Rick Perry will do since he wants $2 Billion in cuts and the Lege could only come up with $700 million or so. Perry and other right wingers don’t want to cut into the Rainy Day Fund, which is estimated to arrive at $11 billion in a couple of years if it isn’t used. But when it comes to K-12 and higher education, it seems to be pouring! Let’s hope it gets signed.
  • Campus-Carry – I have all sorts of friends and colleagues in the higher education sector and all seem to be against allowing CHL holders to carry on college campuses. One would figure that if those who provide the services and teach the courses are against it, then the Lege would leave well enough alone. It almost got to that point, so, the Lege came up with an alternative–bring your guns, keep them in the trunk of your car. Houston’s Senator John Whitmire gave out a pretty stern warning that if the alternative wasn’t passed, the chances were pretty good that Perry would bring it back up in the Special Session and that the result would be bad. One thing is for sure; according to the comments, the gun nuts don’t want to keep their guns in the trunk. But this isn’t the freakin’ wild west, no matter how much these people want to pretend it is.
  • Special Session – Even the Chron is telling us that it’s imminent, and it will be for redistricting.

Democrats said Republicans are worried about how the courts have interpreted the 2011 maps so far and efforts to make temporary maps permanent reflect those fears.

“Everything we’re seeing now is the product of the legal strategy of the attorney general,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat who is the chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, one of a number of minority groups that sued the state. “Now that it’s not going to his satisfaction you don’t just get a do over in the Legislature because you don’t like the pace this case is playing out in the court.”

More on the Lege later. These few things caught my eye as I enjoyed a Memorial Day cafecito. Enjoy your holiday, but always remember those who fought for our rights.

Kuff adds a funny take to Sine Die.

Texas Senate Passes Their Budget

With only two Democrats voting against the Texas Senate’s budget, the budget conversation continues, with the Texas House deciding on their budget in the near future. A conference committee will even out things between both budgets after all is said is done.

There’s been mixed reaction on the Dem side of things. Earlier in the day, I read a teacher’s union letter asking folks to call their respective senators to tell them to vote no. Although there is a slight increase in the budget for K-12 and higher education, it doesn’t come close to replacing what was cut two years ago. And, apparently, Annie’s List supports the Senators who voted no, Fort Worth’s Wendy Davis and Houston’s Sylvia R. Garcia.

Among other things, the proposed budget:

  • Under-funds public education by $3.9 billion

  • Funds public education at the lowest levels per student in two legislative sessions

  • Fails to include $310 million that would guarantee $7.7 billion in federal funds for Medicaid

  • Leaves money sitting untouched in Rick Perry’s pet project, the Rainy Day Fund

Other Democrats have released statements to back up their support of the SB 1, including one of my favorites, El Paso’s Jose Rodriguez:

Senate Bill 1 is an improvement from the last budget cycle. It contains items that are important for Senate District 29, such as tuition revenue bonds for UTEP and Texas Tech, as well as items that positively impact the state as a whole. This budget increases Medicaid reimbursement rates to pre-2011 levels, and overall spending on mental health services and graduate medical education. These funding increases will help increase access to care in a state with highest uninsured rate in the nation.

Nonetheless, this budget neither fully restores the cuts from 2011 nor adequately funds for population growth and inflation. For example, El Paso schools will only gain about a quarter back from what they lost in 2011. It also doesn’t expand Medicaid, which is fiscally irresponsible.

The good news is that we are still in the beginning stages of the budget process, and there will be several opportunities to fund these priorities as the session continues. I will continue to work to advance the ball on education and to find a solution to the Medicaid expansion stalemate.

Rodriguez pointed to alternative ways to fill those other voids, as did State Senator Leticia Van de Putte.

Senate Bill 1 is not a perfect budget, but I voted in favor of it because it at least moves our state in the right direction. As the legislative session progresses, I will be looking for other opportunities to restore funding that was cut in the previous session.

So, there you have it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m caught in between both sides of the “moving forward” and “just plain no” sides of this as I like that higher education has gotten a lot more than I would have expected after losing a billion dollars two years ago.

Let’s see where the less cooperative Texas House lands on this.

UPDATE:  ProgressTexas joins in on supporting 2 Senators who voted NO on budget.

Thankfully, two of our strongest Senators listened to your calls, stood up for what is right, and demanded we fight for the best possible future for Texas.

Help us thank Senators Wendy Davis and Sylvia Garcia for voting against this draft of the budget and showing they believe we should invest in the future of our state. We hope you will show your support for Senators Davis and Garcia today by calling them in their office or going to social media to show your support:

Wendy Davis – call her office to say thanks at (512) 463-0110

Sylvia Garcia – call her office to say thanks at (512) 463-0106

Kuff has a whole bunch more, including Senator Wendy Davis’ statement.

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?