Senator Carona's Email Update
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June 21, 2004

What's new . . .

Another school finance special session in mid-July is still the talk at the State Capitol. The Senate and House Joint Working Groups on School Finance Reform have both met and begun to outline general areas of agreement. Consensus has not been reached on specific legislation to date, but House and Senate members are working in the joint committees, through small group meetings of legislators, and through conference calls to develop a compromise plan that addresses both educational excellence and school finance issues. You can follow the progress of the Working Groups online at: The school finance lawsuit, brought by about 200 independent school districts, is scheduled to go to court on August 9th. I continue to believe it is the Legislature's responsibility to act now, although the authority to call the Legislature into session rests exclusively with the Governor.

While legislators are working on school funding, they are also meeting in committees to study issues which will shape much of the legislation of the next session. The committees are holding public hearings, conducting research on their assigned topics, and will be making recommendations by December 1, 2004, with draft legislation. Following are summaries of some of the interim committee meetings. Committee websites are also provided should you want more information.

In other news, I am pleased that the Texas quarter is now available. In 1999, I authored the legislation that designated the committee to design the Texas quarter, and I was honored to serve on the design committee.

Focus . . .

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and "Closing the Gaps" Initiative

The 2000 census revealed that Texas' population grew faster and its population diversified further than previously projected. New projections from the office of State Demographer Steve Murdock indicate that by 2026 the Hispanic population in Texas will be the largest population group in the state and Texas will be a minority-majority state. To address the impact on enrollment in institutions of higher education by these projected population changes, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (Coordinating Board) adopted the "Closing the Gaps" initiative.

The four goals of the Closing the Gaps plan to be accomplished by 2015 are:

In the past, Texas has concentrated on access to college. The top 10% law is an example of this effort. Under the Closing the Gaps initiative, Texas is also focusing on improving retention, graduation, and overall education quality. When you take the difference in income for a high school graduate and a college graduate over a 40-year working life, there is a lifetime earning difference of over $1.2 million. Taking steps to encourage enrollment in higher education is vital to the economic development of the future of Texas . As we work on the quality and financing of public education in Texas , we must also focus on our commitment to higher education in Texas .

Did you know . . .?

Summertime is here and the traveling season has begun. For those of you who are in the midst of planning summer vacations within Texas, the following link provides a great deal of helpful information such as popular events and activities going on across the state, lodging options, and trip saver coupons.

The Texas State Railroad State Park in Rusk, Texas , has launched its "Kids Ride Free" summer promotion and lasts through Labor Day Weekend. The train ride is very enjoyable for kids and adults of all ages. The following site provides additional information for the Texas State Railroad State Park ,

Are you looking for ideas to keep your children busy on these hot summer days? The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has a website designed for kids that is fun and educational. The website contains many explorative ideas for children along with facts and pictures of different native species. Please visit

TPWD offers an assortment of outdoor programs and educational resources throughout the year that may interest you. To find out detailed information regarding what is offered visit

In closing . . .

Congratulations to our Senate District 16 school districts - Dallas , Garland , Highland Park , Mesquite , and Richardson - for exceeding the overall statewide percentage of students who passed all of the TAKS tests. The statewide average passing rates range from 49-75 percent passing, compared to District 16 with a range of 54-95 percent passing. Good job students, parents, teachers, and administrators!

As always, if I or my staff can be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact us.


John Carona
State Senator - District 16