Category Archives: Higher Education

EVENT on 4/24/17: Future of Public Ed in the Era of DeVos

amunited

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Greater Houston Chapter

invites you to our Annual Meeting and Panel Discussion 

The Future of Public Education in
the Era of Betsy DeVos

Featuring:  Richard Carranza, Supt., Houston ISD; Zeph Capo, President of HFT,  Dr. John Ogletree, Pastors for Texas Children

Moderated by Juliet Stipeche
Director of Education, Mayor’s Office, City of Houston
 
Monday, April 24, 2017
Reception and Annual Meeting – 6:30 pm
Panel Discussion – 7:15 pm
 
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Event Center
3303 Main Street, Houston, Texas 
 
Event is free and open to the public          Free parking available
         RSVP appreciated:  americansunited.houstonchapter@gmail.com

 

 

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HISD Board Appoints Flynn Vilaseca to Unexpired District VI Post

hollymariaI was happy and proud to hear that Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca was appointed by the Houston ISD Board of Trustees to the unexpired District VI post which I discussed this past weekend. Here’s the story from HISD:

Houston ISD Trustees on Monday unanimously agreed to appoint Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca to serve the unexpired trustee term representing District VI on the district’s west side.

Flynn Vilaseca, who is fluent in English and Spanish, worked as a bilingual teacher at HISD’s Windsor Village Elementary School as a Teach for America corps member from 2004 to 2006. Since then, Ms. Vilaseca has continued working in the education field with Battelle for Kids, K12 Inc., and thinkLaw.

“I am excited to serve the city and students of Houston,” Flynn Vilaseca said.

Flynn Vilaseca holds a master’s degree in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University, and bachelor’s degrees in Latin American and Caribbean studies and in sports management and communications from the University of Michigan.

Flynn Vilaseca, along with newly elected District VII Trustee Anne Sung, are scheduled to take the oath of office on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Both Flynn Vilaseca and Sung are filling unexpired trustee terms that run through the end of 2017.

I’ve known Holly Maria for about five years now and she’s been nothing short of impressive with her commitment to service and to public education. There is no doubt that she will be a good fit on the Board and for District VI. All one has to do is read her workplace bio:
Holly Maria is passionate about affording equitable access to education to all students and has been involved in the fight towards closing the achievement gap for the past twelve years. The daughter of an immigrant mother and blue-collar laborer growing up in a small town where opportunities were limited, she was the first in her family to go to college…
Congratulations to Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca!

The HISD Board Vacancy: A Few Thoughts

As Kuff reminded us back in December, there is a vacancy on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees after the resignation of Greg Meyers in District VI, and the Board will be appointing a replacement to complete Meyers’ term. A little bird tells me that the Board is getting closer to naming that appointee, so, it’s time the community have a conversation about this process.

District VI stretches from the Sharpstown area through the Westheimer/Gessner area and on to the far reaches of the west side to Highway 6. Given its meandering through these areas, little doubt is left as to its diversity, and this speaks volumes as to the need for added diversity on the school board. If anything, it also speaks to the need for a responsive, action-oriented individual to serve this trustee district.

That Houston ISD is diverse is nothing new. That 62% of its students are Latinos is also nothing new. Notwithstanding the trustee district’s westerly location, out of 15 elementary schools, eight are majority Latino schools, while two will soon reach majority Latino status. The future is not only diverse, but emergingly Latino at Houston ISD. As such, diversity in political representation is something that must be discussed.

Of course, ethnicity isn’t the only characteristic that is at issue. The recent election in which the vast majority of voters chose to not send local dollars to the State of Texas, instead choosing to call on the State Legislature to fix school finance shows that Houstonians are worried about the city’s educational foundation. The Board of Trustees needs someone who will advocate for Houston’s future–the kids–from Day 1 and beyond the rest of the term for which she/he will be appointed.

Some may argue “voter demographics” as a means of choosing a trustee who better matches up to past election results in the district, but there is such a thing as taxpayer demographics. Whether one is a homeowner or a renter, any ethnicity or color, and whether one lives closer to the west side or to Sharpstown, all are taxpayers and all deserve to be heard. Perhaps in the future the board can venture into a fairer redistricting process, but, until then, it is up to the Board in this instance.

Still, others may argue that District VI merely needs a placeholder to serve until the term is completed, while taxpayers wait for the November election to elect a full-term trustee. With the issues that Houston ISD faces, especially as a Legislative session looms, the Board needs a committed individual who is willing to serve beyond the year that is left in the term. It will not be a surprise if any placeholder decides to run for the full-term.

The Houston ISD Board of Trustees has a unique opportunity to be responsive to the needs of constituencies who often go ignored by government entities in this area of the city. Appointing an individual who has worked in and has an understanding of the current and future diversity of the district and who has an undying commitment to public education, K-12 and beyond, is the only path to achieving fair representation.

 

Donate to UH-CMAS Academic Achievers Program

Thanks to my friend, State Representative Armando Walle, for giving me the heads up on this fundraising video for the University of Houston Center for Mexican American Studies’ Academic Achievers Program. DONATE TODAY!

The Academic Achievers Program at Austin High School was established in 1985 as the Hispanic Family College Project in an effort to increase the high school graduation and college enrollment rates in the East End area of Houston. After a five year lapse, which ended in 1998, it was resumed as the SABE– Students Aspiring to a Better Education– Program. In the summer of 2005, the name was changed to Academic Achievers Program, but the mission and structure of the program remained the same.

Once they graduate from high school and enroll at UH, they become part of the college-level AAP program and become eligible to receive a $12,000 scholarship. And this scholarship is the reason they are raising funds.

Make your donation today here!

I was proud to have spoken to a retreat of AAP Austin students years ago thanks to my friend UH Professor Lorenzo Cano. It continues to be one of my favorite memories because it is such a great program that achieves results. Please give what you can.

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

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.”

 

 

In-State Tuition Opportunity Under Attack

Right-wing Republicans in the Texas Lege have already filed a couple of bills to virtually put an end to in-state tuition rates for 16,000 undocumented students (DREAMers) who meet certain residency requirements.

HB 360, by Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, would require individuals to show proof of citizenship or lawful residency to apply for in-state tuition, in addition to meeting requirements outlined in the DREAM Act.

[…]

HB 209, filed by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, eliminates certain provisions in the act under which individuals could qualify for in-state tuition, including the provision for people who graduated from high school in Texas.

Keough whines that in-state tuition is a “magnet” for immigrants.

I seriously doubt whole families are crossing treacherous territory for the express purpose of paying in-state tuition rather than international student rates. If anything, their first purpose is to establish themselves, get jobs, find housing, feed their families, etc. You know, what people do every day in Texas. Years later, after establishing residency, attending our public schools, and, yes, paying taxes, the least we can do is offer in-state tuition to these hard-working students. It’s a n0-brainer.

Obviously, there’s something else going on with these right-wingers than “saving tax dollars” and “protecting” the locals. The current rhetoric and the anti-immigrant amendment to the DHS budget passed on Wednesday to de-fund President Obama’s executive actions tell us a whole lot more.

They’re just bigots. Or else why would GOPers change their minds on a previously bipartisan measure signed by a GOPer governor?

Thankfully, President Obama has vowed to veto the federal measure if it gets to his desk. And hopefully, enough GOPers will vote against it to kill it in the Senate. (26 GOPers voted against it in the House.) Greg Abbott we’re not so sure about regarding killing the Texas DREAM Act.

Anyway, this is just one of the big fights on immigration and other issues that will surely show the world that Texas will dig itself into an even deeper hole, rather than lift itself based on its diversity and deep talent pool.

Eduardo Maldonado, a 21-year-old University of North Texas psychology major, was one of the dozens of dreamers at the rally.

“I’ve been here 17 years, and I consider myself American and Texan. I grew up here. This is who I am,” Maldonado told the Observer. “I deserve the chance to attend college.”

 

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.

 

 

HISD Up Close Features Rice Professor Richard Tapia

I’ve been away from my blogging duties for the last couple of weeks as my mom is working on getting over a nasty case of pneumonia. She’s recouperating slowly and I’d like to thank all my friends and family for their good thoughts and well-wishes during this time.

Still, I don’t want to make you all suffer from lack of DC content, so, here’s a video I’d like to share featuring my friend, HISD Board President Juliet Stipeche, interviewing National Medal of Science winner and Rice University Professor Dr. Richard Tapia. Enjoy!