Legislative Update - Friday, March 04, 2011
Rainy Day Fund
Opposition to using the Rainy Day Fund seems to be softening as
lawmakers have sat through weeks of testimony about the effects of
balancing the budget through an all-cuts approach. House Appropriations
Committee Chairman Jim Pitts is preparing to ask his committee early
next week to vote to take $4.3 billion out of the state’s rainy day fund
to close a shortfall in the current biennium. Governor Rick Perry is to
meet Monday with the House Republican Caucus to dissuade members from
voting to use that money to cover current biennium shortfalls. No
indication as to the use of the Rainy Day fund for the 2012-013 budget.
Comptroller Susan Combs and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve
Ogden appear willing to use the rainy day fund.
Stan Jones of “Complete College America” and former Indiana
Commissioner of Higher Education, testified before the House
Appropriations subcommittee on Higher Education on February 24. Citing a
very low percentage of developmental education students that go on to
complete a degree or certificate, he testified that there is little
evidence that developmental education makes any difference in completing
higher education. And even when students complete their developmental
education, students don’t take the gatekeeper courses for which they
have been preparing. He said the developmental education system is
broken and cannot be fixed. He proposed a “Stacking” system of
education that allows a student to take a developmental course while at
the same time taking the college credit course. He cited success with
this system in Tennessee and New York.
Commissioner Raymund Paredes also testified before the House
Appropriations subcommittee on Higher Education on February 24. He
proposed that reading and writing be combined in developmental
education. He noted that the Achieving the Dream program has shown
marginal improvement in remedial education. He advocated for 10 percent
of formula funding be based on Momentum Points and that this program be
implemented in the second year of the next biennium.
He said that Momentum Points will lead to increase success in
retention and graduation of students. Non-completion of a degree or
certificate leads to a loss of personal money, loss of financial aid
dollars, state investment, and property taxes. Commissioner Paredes
testified that the community colleges have a more complex mission than
Alamo Colleges Trustee Roberto Zarate, representing the Community
Colleges Association of Texas Trustees, testified before the House
Higher Education committee on March 2. He testified against HB 9 that
calls for withholding formula funding to community colleges and awarding
those funds based on the successful completion of: developmental
education in Math, successful completion of developmental education in
English, successfully passing with a grade of “C” or higher the first
college level Math course, the first college level English course,
completion of the first 30 semester hours, transfer to a 4 year college
or university after successful completion of at least 15 semester credit
hours and the total number of associate degrees and certificates
awarded. Mr. Zarate opposes HB 9 on the basis that Momentum Points
funding should be part of an incentive program and not a part of formula
funding. He cited the lack of reimbursement for increased enrollment
and cited Alamo Colleges initiatives that lead to student success such
as Achieving the Dream and College Connections programs. He welcomes
Momentum Points as accountability measures. Joining Mr. Zarate in
opposition to HB 9 were Dr. Richard Rhodes, President, El Paso Community
College, representing the Texas Association of Community Colleges, and
Luis Figueroa of MALDEF.
At the same hearing, Pat Molina Rabb, Texas American Federation of
Teachers, made the point that community college funding is not what its
suppose to be, transferring a portion of inadequate funds was an
inappropriate move and that funding on educational outcomes should be
from a separate incentive fund.
In opposing HB 9, Dr. Rhodes cited the fact that Momentum Points
are based on a model that originated in the State of Washington and uses
as incentive a one percent add on over and above based funding. Dr.
Rhodes emphasized that this is not the time to implement Momentum Points
based on the fact that community colleges are facing proposed cuts in
retirement and group health insurance benefits.
Concealed Handguns on Campus
Senator Jeff Wentworth and Senator Carlos Uresti appeared before
the Political Science Club of A&M University – San Antonio on March
3. Senator Wentworth noted that under his handgun bill, SB 350,
students and faculty would not need to advise campus police, faculty, or
administrators that they are carrying a concealed handgun. If passed,
the law will go into effect after Labor Day of this year. Students,
faculty and staff would be allowed to carry a concealed handgun on
campus. Senator Uresti noted that the mass killings at Ft. Hood occurred
in a military base among armed soldiers and military police. An
informal poll conducted by Senator Uresti among those in attendance
showed a 50/50 split for the bill. See related comments by Dr. Bruce
Leslie that appeared in today’s Inside Higher Education.
Wednesday, March 9, Higher Education Committee Hearings on:
HB 33 – relating to measures to increase the affordability of
textbooks used for courses at public institutions of higher education.
HB 136 – relating to restrictions on dropping courses at public institutions of higher education.
HB 650 - relating to property held by certain junior colleges and presumed abandoned.
HB 736 – relating to online institutions resumes for public institutions of higher education.
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