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Window on State Government

Education Task Force

February 2, 2000
Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander Hears Education Concerns in the Brazos Valley
The future of education hinges on the direction of high tech and how it is used from high school through college, according to testimony at Texas State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's recent e-Texas hearing.   More-->
Dr. Jim Scales, superintendent for College Station ISD, describes how his district has integrated technology into all of its schools.

Charles Miller
Task Force Commissioner

Education is a major priority and a continuing challenge for Texas state government. Public and higher education together constitute the largest single category of state spending, accounting for more than 44 percent of all state appropriations for the 2000-2001 biennium. Texas has the nation's second-largest K-12 student population, with 3.8 million students in its public schools. According to US Department of Education projections, the state's student enrollment will rise to more than 4.3 million by 2005. Texas also operates the nation's second-largest system of public higher education institutions, with 835,000 students currently enrolled in its public colleges and universities; by 2010,that number is expected to rise to about 965,000. Even more students will need to be accommodated if the state's efforts to encourage minority students to pursue higher education succeed. Yet Texas has limited resources to meet the rising demand for both public schools and higher education facilities.
Texas' economy is increasingly dependent on knowledge-based industries, which demand a well-educated workforce. Even typically blue-collar professions, such as auto mechanics and factory workers, now often require higher-level skills, such as the ability to use a computer. Texas' ability to retain these industries and maintain its economic growth will depend largely on its ability to provide a qualified workforce. Complicating this challenge is the fact that a large and growing share of Texas students come from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.
Since the early 1980s, a wave of school reform efforts has rolled across the country, seeking to address public school systems that are widely viewed as low performing. Many reform efforts have targeted the problems in urban school districts. The overhaul of the Chicago public school system is one example. In Milwaukee, Cleveland and Florida, voucher programs have been instituted, allowing students in low-performing schools to attend private schools with tax support.
A charter school movement has grown in many states, with some states enacting charter school legislation. Dade County Florida also has an innovative charter program allowing private companies to open worksite, or satellite, schools. In addition to the voucher and charter efforts, local public schools in Denver, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina are experimenting with performance pay for teachers. Accountability programs, as exemplified by the Texas system, are spreading across the nation and may become a major issue in the 2000 presidential campaign.
As policymakers recognize the need for higher levels of educational achievement, the boundaries between traditional K-12 and higher education are viewed as an impediment to education reform. Reformers point to the need to view education as a seamless system that encompasses K - 16, and beyond. Efforts to boost the number and quality of college graduates will prove meaningless without an improved system of elementary and secondary schools that can produce students who are able to gain entry to college and do college-level work. In turn, efforts to improve public schools require a better-trained teaching force, a major concern for colleges of education.
Some major educational issues facing state leaders include:

  1. providing facilities for a growing student population.
  2. increasing the percentage of students who graduate from high school and institutions of higher education.
  3. reducing the need for remedial education at the college level.
  4. educating students from diverse backgrounds, including many whose primary language is not English.
  5. eliminating disparities in educational attainment among racial and ethnic groups.
  6. attracting and retaining qualified educators.

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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