E-News from the Office of Senator Van de Putte
I hope this e-news finds you doing well. I am writing to update you on several education issues, which I believe will be of interest to you and your family, plus some helpful community information.
New Requirements for College Admissions
This past legislative session, HB 3826, authored by Rep. Morrison (R-Victoria) and sponsored by Sen. Zaffirini (D-Laredo), was passed to create a uniform admissions code for all institutions of higher education.
The bill requires student to have graduated under the recommended or advanced plan in order to be eligible for admission to a four year institution, if that program was in fact available to the student. The legislation also adds the requirement that students in the top ten percent of their high school graduating class are eligible for automatic admission to institutions of higher education only if they have completed the recommended or advanced program. The same restriction applies to students who may, due to a university policy, be eligible for automatic admission if they are in the top 25% of their graduating class.
According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board around 95% of all students who attend college already meet this standard, however, it is crucially important that students are aware of this change, so that they do not face irreversible problems when applying for college.
Students who opted for the minimum plan in the past were eligible to apply for admission to publicly funded general academic teaching institutions of higher education, but this new legislation goes into effect September 1, 2007, for high school students applying for college admission for the fall 2008 semester.
End of Course Exams
This year the legislature passed Senate Bill 1031 authored by Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), which ends the current high school assessment tests, including TAKS, and requires in their place the development of 12 end-of-course (EOC) assessments.
The commissioner of education will adopt a transition plan to move from the current assessments to the new EOC assessments. The EOC assessments will be implemented in the 2011-2012 school year. Students in grades 10 and up in 2011-2012 would be subject to the graduation requirements found in current law.
The bill also requires annual administrations of the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) to 10th grade students, and permits 11th and 12th grade students to select a nationally norm-referenced assessment used by colleges as part of the admissions process. The state will fund all costs associated with these assessments.
I am pleased with the decision to move from the high stakes TAKS to EOC exams. There is overwhelming evidence that the cumulative TAKS testing regime had created horrible unintended consequences. Students were provided only a single avenue to success and many did not achieve the level of college readiness of which they are capable; and teachers spent valuable time prepping students for tests rather than teaching course content.
Teachers were evaluated on content outside the course they teach and therefore were not able to focus on the richness of the curriculum for their individual subject. Due to the high stakes nature of the TAKS, allegations of testing irregularities had become widespread. It is my belief that the move to EOC exams for secondary students will remedy many, if not all, of these issues. But, remember this will not happen over night; the EOC will need to be developed and field tested.
Community College Funding
In June, Governor Perry overruled the legislature and vetoed $154 million in necessary funding for community colleges. This decision adversely impacts community colleges across our state and in particular the Alamo Community College District (ACCD). Community colleges serve as a gateway to higher education for San Antonio families, and denying ACCD funding will affect the entire community by diminishing access to higher education.
My colleagues and I conducted a district-by-district analysis of the financial implications of the veto and our fear is that cutting this funding will force colleges to either raise tuition, cut programs or local property taxes will have to be raised. It is unacceptable for community colleges to be facing a funding crisis, when the state continues to hold a surplus.
My colleagues and I have sent a letter to Governor Perry to express our grave concerns on his drastic action. Lt. Governor Dewhurst, who is a member of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), has taken a leadership role in the matter, asking that the LBB convene in the fall to restore these much needed funds.
I am proud of the many accomplishments of the legislature in representing the great people of Texas, but I know there is a constant challenge for adequate investment and I am prepared to continue my strident efforts to acquire state funding for our higher education needs.
Cleaning up San Antonio
A new graffiti ordinance went into effect on June 18, 2007, and it is applicable to vacant residential and commercial rental properties. It specifically exempts owner-occupied single family residences and commercial properties with an active business currently in place. Those properties that fall under the preview of the ordinance will receive a notice to remove their graffiti within 10 days. If they choose to ignore the notice or otherwise fail to remove the graffiti within the required time-frame (and if they do not fall under any of the outlined hardship exceptions), they will be subject to abatement by a City contractor and the cost of the cleaning plus a $150 administrative fee will be passed on to the owner. If they fail to pay the charges within 30 days, a lien may be placed on their property. For more information or questions, please call 311.
Please feel free to contact me regarding any questions or concerns you might have. As always, your input allows me to be an effective legislator.
HOW TO CONTACT SENATOR VAN DE PUTTE
700 N. St. Mary's St. #1725
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 733-6605 - fax