Senator West hopes the ‘third time is the charm’ for downtown law school
AUSTIN — Senate Bill 956, by State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), will be heard on Tuesday, March 3 during the Senate Education Committee. The bill will create the first-ever publicly supported law school in Dallas. The law school would be located in Downtown Dallas at the Old Municipal Building at 106 S. Harwood St. through an agreement with the City of Dallas.
Legislation creating the law school passed the Senate in both the 79th (2005) and 80th (2007) Legislatures but did not pass the Texas House.
"I am encouraged by the level of support received from the North Central Texas region for this project," said Senator West. "We will have mayors, leaders from the business and legal communities from the Metro area in Austin tomorrow as well as a packet of resolutions and letters of support from cities and organizations that couldn't travel to Austin. This is indeed yet another step in developing a greater presence for institutions of higher education for Dallas and the surrounding cities."
In December 2004, the University of North Texas and the City of Dallas announced their joint plan to bring a law school to Dallas. Planned renovations to the historic Municipal Building site is part of a larger effort to revitalize downtown Dallas.
"This classic structure is the perfect fit for the UNT Law School," said Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. "The school will draw hundreds of students and faculty back into our city's core, continue our Downtown transformation and help us restore a building that has played a key part in our city's past."
In 1999, Senator West successfully passed legislation that created what is now the University of North Texas - Dallas Campus. Prior to its creation, there was no state-supported college or university in Dallas. The University of North Texas - Dallas Campus now offers junior, senior and graduate-level courses to more than 2,300 part- and fulltime students (1,032 FTEs).
"It is vital for this state's progress that an accessible, affordable means of obtaining a college degree is available to our young people," said Senator West. "In the very near future, there will be a four-year, public university within Dallas' city limits that will serve all of North Texas. But in its findings, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board determined that the Dallas-Fort Worth area is one of two areas in Texas that is underserved in terms of the availability of venues for students to earn a law degree. This bill, if passed, will rectify that problem."
SB 956 authorizes the law school to be operated by the University of North Texas System until the permanent four-year Dallas campus is established and has existed for five years. At that time, it will become part of UNT - Dallas. Currently, there are two private law schools serving the Dallas/Fort Worth, northern Texas region. The two closest existing public law schools are in Austin and Houston.
Senator West will be available for comment following the Senate Education hearing that begins at 8:30a.m. For more information, please call LaJuana Barton or Kelvin Bass at 214-463-0123.