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March 1, 2000     (512) 463-0300

Senate Education Committee Holds Public Hearing in Midland

MIDLAND - The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing today, March 1, 2000 at Midland College.

Education committee members include Senators Teel Bivins of Amarillo, serving as chair, Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, David Cain of Dallas, Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, Steve Ogden of Bryan, Bill Ratliff of Mt. Pleasant, David Sibley of Waco, Royce West of Dallas, and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo.

After opening remarks, Dr. David Daniel, the President of Midland College, told the committee that he wants continued funding for community colleges like Midland's, to compete with other higher education schools in Texas.

The meeting then focused on the future of education in Texas. Invited testimony began with Dr. Joseph Baressi, Superintendent, Midland Independent School District. He discussed teacher salary increases, shifting district control from the state to local communities, and the cost of the education index.

David Diaz, Executive Director, Midland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce testified about the educating of immigrant children. Diaz stated that immigrant children in Texas often drop out of school before obtaining their high school diploma. These individuals usually start working minimum wage jobs. Diaz wants to see the General Education Development (GED) program strengthened in Texas, for dropout students to obtain their GED and get better and higher paying jobs.

David Dunn of the Texas Association of School Boards discussed teacher pay. He said that state created pay scales based on teacher experience are "antiquated". No other profession he knows of operates a pay scale like the teaching profession in Texas. Dunn says school districts need control back from the state, in order for local districts to regulate teacher pay. Since no two school districts operate the same, Dunn says districts should determine their own pay scales for teachers, not the state.

Dr. Mike Moses, Deputy Chancellor for System Operations, Texas Tech University, also testified. Moses briefly discussed teacher shortages and distribution challenges in Texas. Moses applauded the committee for the 76th Legislature's approval of a teacher salary increase, which was the largest in the nation. Salary increase will not solve all the problems facing the profession he said; Moses believes that along with a teacher's regular salary, additional pay for certain teaching positions, teaching locations, and school sizes should be granted.

The committee heard testimony from Sandy Kress of Texans for Education, and William Webster, Deputy Superintendent, Dallas Independent School District. Kress said that the professionalization of teaching needs to be encouraged in Texas. Along with salary increases, increasing teacher performance monitoring and testing should be encouraged within school districts, he said.

Rebecca Bell of the Advanced Technology Center Advisory Committee (ATCAC) then testified about plans for a future computer and industrial technical training facility for Midland College students.

Dr. Charles Sorber, President, University of Texas of the Permian Basin; Dr. Vance Gibson, President Odessa College (OC); and Dr. Cheryl Sparks, President, Howard College, Big Spring, testified. Sorber encouraged the committee to continue supporting world wide web based distance learning programs conducted via the Internet. Gibson discussed the need for future state funding at OC. Due to inflation, shrinking tax bases, and the need to provide a quality education to rural college students, OC needs monetary assistance with its operational costs.

Bryan LaBeff, Jr., Executive Director for the Region XVIII Education Service Center in Midland, concluded invited testimony.

After hearing public testimony, the committee recessed subject to call of the chair.

The Senate Education Committee will continue to meet in a series of public hearings throughout the interim. The committee will submit its findings as a report to be used in developing legislation for consideration by the 77th Legislature, which will convene in January of 2001.

Click here to listen to the hearing in RealAudio format.

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