OP-ED from the Office of State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2011
CONTACT: (512) 463-0120

**** Please find specific provisions of this bill at the end of this email****

On May 11, 2011, the Texas Senate approved Senator Juan Hinojosa's Dropout Recovery bill. CSSB 975 will allow Texas to recover high school dropouts using the successful model of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) Independent School District.

Laying a Path to Success

by State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa

I want to tell you a story about hope and success, about a man with a vision. A vision for the future of Texas.

The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District was a school district plagued with a dropout rate double the Texas average before Dr. Daniel P. King made his way there. Today things are different.

Dr. King is a man who had already shown promise, turning Hidalgo ISD around in just a few years. He took a school district ranked in the bottom 5 percent in Texas into a school district that exceeds the state and national levels.

Once in PSJA, Dr. King set out to bring business, community leaders, students and teachers together to bring dropouts back to school. That was the first step: he re-engaged them. Now, he prevents students from dropping out at all.

Because of the strong efforts of Dr. King and the community, PSJA ISD reduced its dropout rate by 80 percent, increasing graduates by almost 90 percent in three years - a figure that exceeds state and regional averages. As Adriana Rodriguez, a student of PSJA explained, "Yesterday, college was a dream. Now it is a reality."

This man has changed the lives of hundreds of young people, making a real difference for our children. There is no magic here, no secret ingredient, and it certainly isn't rocket science. It took three mayors, three police chiefs, community volunteers, concerned parents, school board members, and a dedicated superintendent to convince students of just how important it is to go back to school - to convince them of their importance and that someone is paying attention.

For this to work on a larger level, everyone has to care. Teachers, students and parents hold the future in their hands. According to a Texas A&M study, dropouts cost the state $9.6 billion in lost revenue and expenses associated with lost wages, welfare, incarceration, and diminished tax revenue. That is a lot money lost. That is a lot of potential walking out of our classrooms.

Texas is 43rd in the nation when it comes to graduating students. The PSJA model gives us a blueprint that works; the Texas Education Agency and US Department of Education have recognized it as "Best Practice." Jobs for the Future has recommended that it be made available statewide. And that is what Senate Bill 975 sets out to do. This bill will allow Texas to recover high school dropouts using that same successful model.

It is important to see the value of the transformation that took place in PSJA - it's priceless. Other school district like Mission and La Joya are already duplicating this program successfully, but I want to make this program available across Texas.

At the end of the day, the best gift we can give our children is education, particularly in an increasingly globalized world where they are competing with people all over the world. Education is the best equalizer, this program, a path to success.


Specific Provisions of the bill:

I.   Authorize South Texas College to partner with school districts in Hidalgo County with a dropout rate higher than 15% to operate a dropout recovery program on its campus starting September 1, 2012. Allow for statewide implementation September 1, 2013.

II.   Allow students less than 26 years old to participate if they: lack 3 or fewer credits to graduate; or failed a school exit exam.

III.   Allows a community college that operates a dropout recovery program to receive from the partnering school district a negotiated amount out of the Foundation School Program for participating students. The colleges can also receive grants, donations and other funds such as dropout prevention and recovery program funds appropriated to TEA.

IV.   Require that students enrolled in the program receive a diploma from their school district.

V.   Require that the dropout recovery model include classes, academic support, transition counseling and information on support services that will ensure quality preparation and successful transition to college and to a career (to the extent that funds are available for student success in the first year of college).

VI.   Allow the school district to retain accountability for each student.

VII.   Allow the school district to retain control over the amount of funding that follows the student to a community college that decides to operate a dropout recovery program, (the amount would be "negotiated" in the articulation agreement that establishes the partnership).

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