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Posts Tagged ‘Sen. Rodney Ellis’

Humble ISD Legislative Committee, March 9, 2009 Meeting Summary

Posted by Texas Education on March 12, 2009

Members of the Humble ISD Board of Trustees including Charles Cunningham, Dan Huberty, Dr. Bonnie Longnion, and Robert Scarfo, as well as Superintendent Guy Sconzo, shared their observations from the Legislative Reception in Austin to start the meeting. About 15 PTA members and three Quest students attended the reception. Representatives Senfronia Thompson and Joe Crabb, as well as aides from the offices of Sen. Dan Patrick, Sen. John Whitmire, Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Debbie Riddle also attended.

Members of the Board and Guy noted that:

  • They were especially pleased that Rep. Joe Crabb attended.

  • The Texas Senate appears to understand and strongly support the need for additional funding and more equalized funding. House members’ efforts are not as cohesive.

  • Two bills – which are mirror images of each other – appear to be the ones we need to hang our hat on at this time. They are SB 982 (written by Sen. Van de Putte) and HB 1555 (written by Rep. Diane Patrick). There are no reliable simulations on how the money would flow at this time.

  • The last day to file bills is Friday, March 13th.

  • It appears that about $4.0 billion in new money will flow into the education system. $6.0 billion is needed to begin to make us whole. The $4.0 billion is a bridge until the funding system can be overhauled.
    • The good news is that legislators understand that there are huge disparities in WADA (it varies from around $3,000 to $12,000). This should be more equalized.
    • There will always be some weighting due to variations in property wealth in districts, but the disparity is way too large in the current funding system. Legislators understand the need to keep more equitable funding between school districts.
    • No more target revenue. This is a good thing.
    • No school districts will lose money in SB 982 and HB 1555. Those who have had high funding levels would get smaller increases than districts that have been short changed. That is, some will not gain ground as quickly as others because they have been funded at higher levels in recent years.

  • A possible special session is already under discussion. This is due in part to the Federal stimulus package. All that it encompasses – and the strings attached – are still being studied. Communication from Washington has been slow. Once there is more clarity and transparency from the Feds, then the information must be assimilated by those who must administrate it. Bottom Line: It will take time and unless it is done quickly, we may not know in July what our financial picture is going to be when school starts in August. Legislators know – as do we – that we can’t get school finance done right with the stimulus package on the table with more questions than answers at this point.

  • The governor has backed off the 65% rule (for instruction) largely thanks to Rep. Rob Eissler from the Woodlands who chairs the Public Education Committee in the House. This definition about what could be counted toward the 65% did not include some rather critical areas such as counselors, librarians and nurses, for example. These kinds of omissions were a sticking point to school districts.

Suggested next steps include:

  • Margaret Fraissinet will draft a Letter to the Editor for the local newspapers and for the Houston Chronicle and circulate a signature interest form for committee members who want to have their names included (At this writing, the letter is done and the signature interest process is underway. GO MARGARET!)

  • Hard copies of the Postcards will be available after Spring Break. Call 281-850-7693 if you need some.

Contact Legislators!

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Abstinence +

Posted by Texas Education on March 6, 2009

In today’s editorial section of the Chronicle, there is an article Life Lessons. (I like how it starts out, “What’s wrong with this picture?” I use that phrase often.)

What’s wrong with this picture? Texas receives far more federal funding for abstinence education than any other state, yet in the latest government survey, it ranks third highest in the nation in teen birth rates.

Several state legislators are pondering that question and are working to expand the current system that stresses abstinence-only instruction to one that also includes information on contraception and disease prevention.

Two of those lawmakers are Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, who announced Monday that they are proposing legislation to give Texas students access to “complete, medically accurate and age-appropriate education about sexual health.”

“The status quo is not working,” said Ellis. “Only through honest information will teens have the tools they need for responsible decision-making and disease prevention.”

The proposed measure will not require public schools to teach sex education. (It is not currently mandated.) But it will require those districts that do so to provide complete and medically accurate information.

Even Sarah Palin’s daughter cried out that abstinence doesn’t work. We certainly need to start with that, and educate teens as to why they should NOT have sex, duh! But, we all know, been there done that, teens will have sex. Like it or not. So…we need to educate them on the fundamentals of and the consequences of, having sex, especially before marriage, etc., etc.

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, an advocate of expanded sex education, told the Chronicle that comprehensive, accurate and age-appropriate sex education is “the first line of defense against unwanted pregnancy.”

My friend and colleague, Dr. Diane Trautman, is currently working with One Voice on their legislative agenda for this session. They are supporting three resolutions:

1. Continue funding after pregnant students deliver their babies. Currently, funds stop after delivery and of course that’s when the moms drop out.

2. Begin “Abstinence Plus” programs in middle and high school. Talk about abstinence but also include information on other types of birth control.

3. Make sure teacher preparation programs include Positive Behavioral Management strategies that teach teachers how to address problems in their classrooms rather than escalate situations and send kids to alternative placement, where again they just drop out rather than attend.

They feel these issues would address the drop out rate, which certainly is one of the key factors as to why teens tend to dropout – pregnancies.

I was also having a conversation with another colleague, Mike Beck, a social worker for Humble ISD, yesterday. We were discussing what happens when teens get pregnant. Then, within 5 years their kids start into the public school system. He made me aware of how these kids will be no more involved in their child’s school than their parents were. And we all know parental involvement is the key, a major key to success. A vicious cycle, if you ask me.

I’m beginning to see a glimmer of hope, each day. When we address issues and use common sense instead of old school – that don’t work syndrome – we may just see some success come our way…sooner better than later, I only hope.

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Texas PTA Legislative Update – Bills of Interest

Posted by Texas Education on February 16, 2009

I read about most of the new assignments in the Chron last week. Sorry for not updating sooner. I am certainly pleased and have been hearing of more and more “interesting” appointments that we can be proud of and happy about:

HOUSE COMMITTEES:
By the numbers – There are 76 Republicans in the Texas House and 74 Democrats. There are 34 committees. Eighteen (18 ) are chaired by Republicans; 16 are Democrats. Fifteen chairmen are in that position for the first time in their legislative careers. There are more Democrat chairs this session, more African-American chairs (5) and Hispanic chairs (4) than two years ago, and the same number of women chairs (7). The number of urban chairs fell by two, while the number of rural chairs fell by four; that balance is now 23 urban, 11 rural. (Texas Weekly)

Rep. Rob Eissler, (R) The Woodlands, returns to the chairmanship of Public Education.
Rep. Jim Pitts, (R) Waxahachie, returns to the chairmanship of Appropriations after losing the chairmanship last session due to his failed attempt to unseat Tom Craddick.

Over the next few days we will identify legislators to carry Texas PTA legislation in the House. We have been awaiting committee announcements before identifying authors for several bills.

For a complete list of committee assignments, visit
http://txpta.org/Legislative%20Articles/2009/February/House%20Committees%202.pdf

TEXAS PTA DAY AT THE CAPITOL:
February 26 is fast approaching and Texas PTA is excited to welcome several key legislators and statewide officeholders to the Centennial Rally at the Capitol. Chairman Jim Pitts, House Appropriations, Chairman Rob Eissler, House Public Education, Chairwoman Jane Nelson, Senate Health and Human Services, Commissioner Todd Staples, Agriculture Commission, Commissioner Larry Soward, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

PRIORITY LEGISLATION:
SB 61, Booster seat bill, has been referred to Senate Transportation. We expect a hearing in the next 2-3 weeks. We have met with key staff for each member of the committee and anticipate smooth sailing in committee.

HB 5, statewide smoke-free bill, was referred to House State Affairs. Unfortunately the makeup of this committee is problematic for our issue. Over the next few days we will be working to develop a strategy to deal with this. In the meantime, we hope to move the Senate version of the bill, SB 544, first. It has been referred to Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

SB 144, sales tax expansion bill, has been referred to the Finance Committee in the Senate. This bill is not Texas PTA’s version of the bill. We are working with the author, Sen. Ellis (D) Houston, requesting a substitution of our bill language. In the meantime, we are beginning meetings next week to identify a House sponsor.

HB 339, driver training program revision legislation that includes Texas PTA’s cell phone prohibition by driving teens, has not yet been referred to committee. This bill is carried by Rep. Larry Phillips (R) Sherman. Other bills that deal only with the cell phone use prohibition by driving teens, are expected to be filed in both the House and Senate in the next week to 10 days. Both the House and Senate drafts had to be resubmitted for corrections as they contained exemptions that were unacceptable. Rep. Jose Menendez (D) San Antonio, Sherman, and Sen. Tommy Williams (R) The Woodlands.

LEGISLATIVE REPORTS:
For information on all the bills being tracked by Texas PTA please click on the following links:

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