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Window on State Government

Education Task Force

Corpus Christi, January 26, 2000

Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's First E-Texas Hearing a Success;
Education Focus Draws Crowds in Corpus Christi

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and Corpus Christi-area parents, educators and business leaders discussed how to transform Texas' educational system to take advantage of the new high tech era.

The comptroller Wednesday kicked off the first of several dozen e-Texas hearings planned throughout the state for the coming months. The hearings held by e-Texas, a citizen commission charged with developing recommendations to help Texas state government meet the challenges of the Internet age, will focus on a variety of subjects from transportation to healthcare. "High technology is one of the main engines of economic growth in Texas and will be more dominant in the next century," Comptroller Rylander said. "The Internet has changed business, and must transform education. The Internet is revolutionizing human interaction, and collapsing time and distance at a pace we have never before seen.

"Nothing is more important than education," she said. "We must have an educated workforce for the 21st Century. Our next generation must compete not only with those from New York and California but Europe and Asia as well."

Comptroller Rylander said schools face significant challenges in implementing and using information technology.

"Many school administrators tell us there is not enough funding to wire schools and maintain technology properly," she said. "Schools are spending little on IT training for administrators, teachers and even IT staff. But we know that technology is an essential element of schooling, so we will find solutions." E-Texas Education Commissioner Charles Miller moderated the hearing and challenged his colleagues.

"Our education task force has the challenge of addressing one of the most important issues of our time," Miller said. "We will respond to that challenge. We're not going to come up with magic answers, but we are going to come up with some hard issues to discuss openly and publicly. We will then come up with firm, strong recommendations for the policy makers of Texas."

The hearing, featuring education experts, focused on improving education through technology, transforming higher education through distance and online learning, and using technology to enhance parental involvement.

Concerns raised during the hearing centered on making the technological advances needed to meet the demands of the 21st century workforce, while keeping a human touch.

"We will have to train students differently as we move into more technology-based education," said Dr. Arturo Almendarez, Calallen Independent School District superintendent. "We will have to train teachers differently because our students are different."

Dr. Terry Dicianna, president of Corpus Christi's Del Mar College, said an analysis of the Texas workforce shows that completing an associate degree can double the earning power of every community college graduate in the state. A lot of the school's students work full-time and are often single mothers, he said. To help these students, the community college is expanding its delivery options to offer Internet courses and weekend classes.

"Our Internet courses make us a global educational competitor," Dicianna said. "And some 1,300 students take courses on the weekend."

Public school parents also face challenges in the Internet age. Texas Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Chairman Sylvia Ostos from Corpus Christi, said Texas PTA surveyed its members to determine how many of them used PTA's Internet materials. The group found that most did not have access nor did they know how to use the technology. Ultimately, however, PTA believes the Internet is a wonderful opportunity for schools and parents to be linked in order to provide the best education for our young people, she said.

"Technology will help keep the communication lines open between parents, teachers and students," Ostos said. "When parents know what their children are learning and have open communication with the teachers, the student has a better chance for success."

Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi remains concerned about the population underserved by the Internet. Dr. Paul Orser, associate president for planning and institutional effectiveness, said he has two concerns as education becomes more technology-based.

"First, contact with real people will remain very important," he said. "Second, socialization is very important - the human touch is essential in the educational process."

Comptroller Rylander said she was pleased with the dialogue from the first e-Texas hearing and welcomes more suggestions through upcoming events. Citizens also can stay involved by visiting e-Texas web site: www.e-texas.org.

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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