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Texas House to Build on Education Reforms

A key political leader in Texas is set to propose a plan to build on sweeping education reforms passed in the state two years ago. House Speaker Joe Straus this week announced he will propose additional resources for counseling of students. This comes after some lawmakers questioned whether the state is doing enough to make sure students and their parents are equipped to take full advantage of changes made under House Bill 5, which created multiple pathways to a high school diploma.

Specifically, Speaker Straus will ask lawmakers to approve stipends for counselors designed to entice those educators to pursue additional training in their field. Doing so would enable them to better serve students who now have to navigate the more complicated system of multiple pathways to graduation.

As Construction Citizen has reported, there is a 400 to 1 ratio of students to counselors in Texas.

“I'm a little concerned that some students may be left out,” said Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, during a hearing of the Texas House Public Education Committee last year. Dutton pointed out that there is nothing in state law to require that every single campus in Texas offer all of the various graduation plans, called “endorsements.” Instead, it was noted that the law requires every school district to offer the graduation plans including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Business and Industry, Public Services, Arts and Humanities, and Multidisciplinary Studies.

Dutton and another Democrat from Houston, Alma Allen, questioned whether enough is being done to ensure that parents and students understand their options when choosing a graduation plan. “Have we built a trap for our kids to fall into?” Allen asked.

Neither Allen nor Dutton is opposed to the reforms designed to give students a menu of options for their education and career paths. They just want to ensure students and their parents are well-equipped to understand exactly what’s required of them when making a choice that’s so critical to their future.

“The House has spent many months preparing for this session and is ready to get to work,” Speaker Straus said on Monday. “We have a responsibility to address the issues that matter most to the continued success of our private sector. Education is at the top of that list and will be a focal point for the House in 2015,” he said.

“This effort will help educators provide effective guidance to students as they prepare for college and the workforce,” Straus said. “That guidance is critical because the economy is consistently and rapidly changing and because many students will be the first in their families to attend college.”

“Across the state, counselors indicate they want more information to better prepare their students for success after high school, particularly in the workforce area,” said House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen. “Giving students effective, relevant guidance is a key component of helping them make the most of the opportunities that today’s economy presents.”

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