Category Archives: Education – K12

Register Today!: Mayor’s Back to School Festival

Click on the image to register for this mid-August event.

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A State Rep Working On Real Issues

With today’s news that Dan Patrick is more interested in potties and sending back billions in federal education dollars to DC, it’s time to remind folks that there are folks representing us in Austin that are actually serving their constituents.

Last weekend, I attended State Rep. Gene Wu’s (HD137) town hall. Having lived in the district for a few years, I had yet to attend one, but since this one would have much to do with moving toward a set of legislative priorities, I thought I’d better go.

Upon arrival, I found a pretty diverse crowd that looked just like Houston. “De todo un poco,” or, a little of everything. And Wu didn’t make the meeting all about him, though I wouldn’t blame him since he’s up for re-election. In fact, he showcased some local experts on issues, such as education, health care, and public safety.

H.D. Chambers, chief at Alief ISD, presented on the realities about public education in the area, and especially on the lawsuit filed by numerous Texas school districts regarding education finance. (The lawsuit was decided today by the Texas Supreme Court and, let’s just say, the kids, the people, and the schools lost). The lawsuit was mainly about having the courts decide how enough resources would be provided to meet expectations that we place on our schools. The Court decided that the state met minimum constitutional standards of funding.

Anyway, he reminded us that there are 5 million students in K-12, but that there are 3.5 million children age 0-3, who by 4 should be getting into Pre-K. Of course, Pre-K support from the state is non-existent. This poses a major threat to the future of Texas, which includes a startling statistic:  If a child cannot read by 3rd grade, there is a 35% chance that the child will dropout of school.

Freddy Warner from the Memorial Hermann system spoke regarding health care from a major system standpoint. He stated that health care and education are among the top funding priorities in the Texas legislature and that in the coming session, they may be crowding each other out. Considering Texas was just bailed out by the Obama administration regarding Medicaid, one would think that Medicaid expansion would be a priority. Warner stated that there is zero chance it would be addressed as health care doesn’t seem to be a priority for most in Austin. He did mention that Memorial Hermann does provide $1.4 billion in charity care.

A startling statistic he provided is that we shouldn’t be surprised if there is a budget shortfall in 2017. While the State Comptroller based a budget on $65 per barrel oil, we’re currently at $40 ($46 today) per barrel. It just doesn’t look good for our next budget.

Now, take Dan Patrick’s potty boycott of $10 billion of our federal money that we’ve paid into the system into consideration. Now, open a bottle of booze and start worrying.

Next up was Januari Leo of Legacy Health, which is a federally qualified health center. The majority of people seen by them are uninsured who cannot afford the emergency room or private clinics. They weren’t helped when Harris Health changed their qualification threshold, thus cutting 19,000 patients from their services.

With uncompensated care growing, and Obama bailing out Texas Medicaid, if a politician for state or local office (Republicans) promised you a cut in property taxes, it is not going to happen. Texas needs to pay its bills. How that is accomplished when we take losses in oil revenue, dismal tax collections and other budgetary nightmares into consideration, well, go ahead and open a second bottle of booze.

The public safety presentations by Assistant County Attorney Vinson and Lt. Conn from HPD centered on some of the things their agencies are working on. The County Attorney’s office is mostly working on ridding the district of nuisance businesses–massage parlors and after-hours clubs. They attract crime, drugs, etc. HPD’s Midwest division helps businesses develop surveys of the areas they serve as to type of crimes and how to protect themselves. They have programs to work at Lee HS with at-risk youth.

Overall, a very interesting meeting that has prepared me for the 2017 session. While State Rep. Wu will definitely have a list of priorities based on open communications with constituents, he’ll have to deal with some of the odd-ball and bigoted priorities being presented by Dan Patrick and his potty buddies.

Ultimately, elections matter. We have a run-off coming up and early voting begins on May 16. You best start practicing for November.

Thanks to Rep. Wu’s staff for putting on an informative meeting and for that open door.

 

Houston: Cesar Chavez Parade on 3/19/16

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This is always a great event.

CafeCollege: A Great Community Resource

I had the chance to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for CafeCollege Houston–a brand new resource for the community to assist school kids and adults with college-going services.

After San Antonio, under then-Mayor Julian Castro, developed something similar, Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez came up with the idea and brought it to Mayor Annise Parker this past summer. Within a few months, along with funding provided by Gonzalez’s budget, a partnership was created between The City, Houston Public Libraries, and ProjectGRAD. Soon after, a location was set-up at Near-Northside’s Carnegie Library.

The Mayor Pro-Tem gave me a quick pre-show tour and I must say it’s an impressive location that will get anyone excited about college.

Café College Houston is a “one-stop-shop” for teens and adults to receive help in finding the right college, SAT & ACT preparation, college admissions assistance, career guidance, and help applying for financial aid. Whether attending college to get a degree or work on a certificate for a professional trade, Café College Houston will have experts offering support through each step. No one is too young or too old to get started.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez believes that “Café College Houston will transform the way that our communities learn about educational and career opportunities. I’m proud to launch this initiative in District H and to bring this important resource to our children and families. Folks from across our great city will be able to apply to college, search for financial aid, get career guidance, and prepare for acceptance exams — all under one roof. Café College Houston will empower our citizens and allow every Houstonian to achieve their dreams.”

Café College Houston is an innovative public-private partnership between the City of Houston, Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez, the Houston Public Library, Project GRAD Houston, Houston Municipal Courts, and the City of San Antonio. Café College was first implemented in San Antonio and is one of two statewide pilot programs for the Texas College Access Network.

 

 

Cafe College Coming to Houston

When the notice from the City of Houston landed on my inbox, I must say that I was pretty excited. Something like CafeCollege, which helps prospective college students through the college-going process, has been needed for a long time. I recall then-Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio pushed this concept through, and I now send kudos to Mayor Annise Parker and all involved for bringing it to Houston.

Here’s the info on the grand opening of CafeCollege Houston:

Cafécollege Houston – Grand Opening at the Houston Public Library

Saturday, December 5, 2015 at 10 AM

Cafécollege Houston at the Houston Public Library (HPL) is a free resource and service center offering assistance to anyone with the desire to go to college and to also encourage those who are undecided about attending. Cafécollege Houston is located at Carnegie Neighborhood Library and Center for Learning at 1050 Quitman, 77009, 832-393-1720. The community is invited to the Grand Opening on Saturday, December 5, 2015 at 10 AM. This center will provide the opportunity to make college dreams become a reality.

Cafécollege Houston is a “one-stop-shop” for teens and adults to receive help in finding the right college; SAT and ACT preparation, college admission assistance, filling out college applications, workshops, deciding on a career, finding financial aid; as well as having free Wi-Fi available. Whether attending college to get a degree or work on a certificate for a professional trade, HPL will have experts offering guidance to every applicant to make sure they get help through each step.  No one is too young or too old to get started.

Kicking off the grand opening celebration will be:
Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Director, Houston Public Library
Mayor Annise D. Parker, City of Houston
Ed Gonzalez, Mayor Pro-Tem, District H, City of Houston
Ann B. Stiles, Ed.D., President & CEO, Project GRAD Houston
Dr. Adriana Contreras, Executive Director, San Antonio Education Partnership / cafécollege

Cafécollege Houston is an educational partnership between the City of Houston, Ed Gonzalez, Mayor Pro-Tem, District H, the Houston Public Library, Project Grad Houston, and the City of San Antonio.

Cafécollege was implemented in the City of San Antonio and is one of two statewide pilot programs for the Texas College Access Network (TxCAN).

Houston Public Library’s cafécollege Houston hours of operation will be:
Tuesday – Thursday, 9 AM – 7 PM
Friday, 1 PM – 5 PM
Saturday, 10 AM – 3 PM

Hispanic Professionals Honor Juliet Stipeche

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Hispanic Professionals Host Committee

A group of Hispanic professionals got together Wednesday night at El Tiempo on Navigation to honor and fundraise for Houston ISD District 8 Trustee Juliet Stipeche.

Vying for her second full-term on the Board of Trustees, Stipeche has not taken any voter for granted, running a full-fledged campaign to earn what she calls “the people’s seat.” And earn she has tried to do by being an accessible school trustee from Day 1; attending countless community meetings to listen to voters and leading on various issues.

julietfr2The event included speakers with experience in dealing with board trustees. One, a school principal stated that trustees must be open to discuss the issues that those who serve the students directly deal with on a daily basis. Another speaker, a parent of HISD alumni and current students spoke to the ease in which she has worked with Stipeche. Whether it was PTO issues, or her own challenges with ensuring her daughter went through a successful college-going process, she credited Juliet Stipeche with being accessible, caring, and most of all, proactive in addressing the needs of families, students, and teachers.

julietfr3Stipeche reminded voters that being an effective trustee means sacrificing one’s livelyhood at times, but that the work is fulfilling and the time spent on fighting for a better school district is worth it. Indeed, Stipeche was recognized for leading on literacy programs, ethics and campaign finance reform, budget and contract transparency, non-discrimination policy, and on placing the needs of students first. Also looming in the near future for HISD is the search and hiring of a new Superintendent, for which Stipeche intends to promote a thorough, community-based process.

julietfr5To volunteer for the Juliet Stipeche campaign, contact Vilma Morera at 832-883-8134. Make a contribution at http://www.julietforhisd.com

Senator Garcia Votes Against State Budget Proposal; It Fails to Address Needs

This just in to the inbox:

AUSTIN – Today, Senator Sylvia Garcia voted against the Senate’s State Budget proposal. The Senate Budget failed to address billions of dollars in identified needs such as:  education,  facilities, healthcare, pre-k, and transportation.

“Texas should not be conducting corporate tax giveaways at the expense of kids and families – it should be providing the services that taxpayers have paid for, such as schools and highways. We made a promise to invest in Texas schools after the 2011 cuts, but instead we face a looming school finance lawsuit,” Senator Garcia stated.

“We were elected to wisely invest Texans’ hard-earned money and grow the Texas dream, but this budget does neither. When the state underfunds schools and roads, it penalizes the hardworking taxpayers that rely on the state to meet these fundamental needs. The budget fails to adequately fund healthcare, pre-k, and other priorities of working families in Texas.”

“In an unprecedented move, Department of Public Safety’s budget is nearly tripled to $811 million in an alleged response to border security threats in South Texas. Meanwhile, crime rates are increasing across Houston and other areas of the state. I cannot honestly tell my constituents that we’re representing their best interests by putting $811 million into policing the border, when they feel unsafe in their own communities hundreds of miles away.”

UT Chancellor Supports Texas Dream Act

While Republicans in Texas have run and won on anti-immigrant attacks, in-state tuition rates for undocumented students who meet residency and graduation requirements has been the hot anti-immigrant issue in Republican primaries.

The original HB1403, signed by Rick Perry, caused Perry problems when he ran for President in 2012. University and college leaders have always supported the policy, which has helped thousands of Texas students who have established roots in Texas, whose parents paid local property Texas, and have earned a high school diploma. While immigration reform is still in limbo, President Obama’s executive action ensures that this first step for students who utilize this opportunity will be employable in the jobs for which they studied.

Now, UT’s new Chancellor has given his voice to the issue in support of in-state tuition calling it a “morally right thing to do.” As reported by the Trib,

“My job is to help educate the young men and women of Texas,” McRaven said in an interview with Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith. “If we have been doing that for these undocumented students for, at a minimum, the past three years as they’ve made it through high school, and in many cases since they were in elementary school, I think it’s appropriate to continue to educate them.”

“If not, where will those undocumented students end up?” he said.

He’s talking sense in a world where the Texas Lege has become a tool for destructive practices:  de-funding K-12 and higher education, unlawful and racially targeted voter ID laws, and the decimation of women’s access to health care. What’s next in 2015? Who knows, but Republicans have made it clear that they are not on the right side of history on in-state tuition. Perhaps respected leaders like McRaven will provide the guidance they need to make the right decision.

For more information on the defense of HB1403, visit the website here and enlist in spreading the word.

Update:  New Aggieland Leader Also Supports HB1403

As reported in the Chron, the sole finalist for the A&M presidency, Michael Young stated:

“When I think about the issue of tuition and financial aid and so forth, for me, undocumented is part of it. I realize it’s a politically charged issue to talk about and etcetera and etcetera, but I think we ought to step back and ask that broader question, which is what do we do to make sure that all kids who are prepared and qualified have this opportunity.”

 

 

Save the Date: 02/09/2015 – Americans United ~ The Bible in Texas Schools? Why Not?

Americans United:  The Bible in Texas Schools? Why Not?

President Obama Proposes Free Community College

The key phrase here is, “…for those who work for it.” And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Today, the President unveiled a new proposal: Make two years of community college free for responsible students across America.

In our growing global economy, Americans need to have more knowledge and more skills to compete — by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. Students should be able to get the knowledge and the skills they need without taking on decades’ worth of student debt.

Currently, in Texas, 1/3 of university students and 1/2 of community college students are deemed unprepared for college once they graduate from high school. If community college students work hard, earn a 2.5 GPA, attend at least half-time, students could save a whole bunch, while preparing themselves for university-level courses.

Is there a catch? According to the White House:

The requirements:

  • What students have to do: Students must attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program.
  • What community colleges have to do: Community colleges will be expected to offer programs that are either 1) academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities, or 2) occupational training programs with high graduation rates and lead to in-demand degrees and certificates. Community colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes.
  • What the federal government has to do: Federal funding will cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college. Participating states will be expected to contribute the remaining funds necessary to eliminate the tuition for eligible students.

So, there are a couple of catches. The first one is that the participating colleges need to adopt institutional reforms to improve student outcomes. That said, and in a state like Texas, the colleges would need to put in some effort to help prepare students before they get into their transferable courses–tutoring programs, convenient course time availability for working students, proactive academic advising, etc. At least, that’s my thinking. It seems politicians of either party are so far off the mark when putting the onus on colleges to get students college-ready, and do little to fund K-12, which is where these students should be getting college-ready. There are some screwed-up priorities when it comes to education in Texas.

The second catch is that the Feds pay for 3/4 and the states pay the remaining funds to eliminate tuition. How that works in Texas, whose community colleges are locally controlled by elected boards, is still to be seen. Perhaps it’s through state financial aid. Still, states much choose to participate and with Texas ever-slipping backwards, and as some of my college professor friends have said, “I won’t hold my breath.”

Tech and Workforce Programs

Obviously, a good chunk of this would go to folks wanting to earn career certificates in tech and workforce programs. Many of these programs exist according to community needs, so, there will be a substantial benefit and return on the investment if students immediately fill jobs and become contributing members of the economy. Still, the state must choose to participate.

Something to consider is that many of these programs are too small–not enough seats and plenty of competition to enter the programs. Here in Texas, there is a huge nursing shortage. Back in 2005, my friend and former Express-News columnist Carlos Guerra wrote about the nursing shortage.

“Texas needs 34,000 more registered nurses to catch up to the national average…”

And that was in 2005. Some progress has been made, but if there is lack of support to grow these programs, by 2020 the shortage could number 70,000.

Obviously, there is much to think about. Certainly demand for all kinds of programs would increase with this kind of opportunity, but without available seats and investment from community college districts and other state funding beyond the tuition break, meeting employment needs would continue to be a challenge.

All of this said, anything that gives the next generation a break from tuition costs and student loans would be welcome.