News Room

May 22, 2007

"Communities In Schools is the best program in Texas to keep kids in school and get them to graduation."

Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh,


AUSTIN –  Today, May 22, the Texas Senate approved H.B. 1609, sponsored by Senator Eliot Shapleigh.  The bill increases accountability and performance in the largest and most successful dropout prevention program in Texas, Communities In Schools (CIS).

"Communities In Schools is the best program in Texas to keep kids in school and get them to graduation," said Senator Shapleigh.

Today, more than two million Texas students are at-risk of dropping out. This is especially prevalent in the Hispanic and African-American populations, as these two populations account for over 75 percent of all students who drop out in the Texas.

Texas' 27 local CIS programs are non-profit organizations established to support schools by working with at-risk students in order to decrease the dropout rate.  CIS partners with families, schools and community leaders to create a support system for students.  It also utilizes a committed field staff to customize, develop and facilitate effective local programs, and successfully garners support from businesses, organizations and government, social service providers and volunteer groups.

During the 2005-06 school year, 75,974 students who might have otherwise dropped out successfully stayed in school because of the efforts of CIS. 

In El Paso, where a free and high-quality public education makes the difference between a life of struggle and a life of economic independence, programs like CIS are important to us.

Our founding fathers realized as much early in the Republic.  Thomas Jefferson, the first "education" President, said many times that the greatest safeguard to liberty is education.  In 1818, he wrote to a friend, "If the condition of man [humanity] is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it."

However, Texas is failing in its investment in education—"we're not only struggling, we're falling behind," the Governor's Business Council reported recently.  Their sober report, released in February, shows that Texas is becoming less and less educated over time, a trend in the wrong direction:

The portion of young adults attaining a college degree is well below the national average and even further below many competitor countries.  In fact, our State's 25 to 34 year olds are the least educated group of Texans in two decades, less educated than 35 to 44 year olds who are, in turn, less educated than 45 to 54 year olds.  In most other competitor countries, it's just the opposite with the younger population outperforming the older population in educational attainment. [emphasis in original]

In India, the world is learning another fast lesson in the economic value of education.  This month, The New Yorker profiled India's low investment in education as it relates to its emerging shortage of educated workers.  James Surowiecki reports, "There was a time when many economists believed that post-secondary education didn’t have much impact on economic growth. The really important educational gains, they thought, came from giving rudimentary skills to large numbers of people."

Surowiecki continues, "They believed that, in economic terms, society got a very low rate of return on its investment in higher education. But lately that assumption has been overturned, and the social rate of return on investment in university education in India has been calculated at an impressive nine or ten per cent. In other words, every dollar India puts into higher education creates value for the economy as a whole."

In Texas, state demographer, Steve Murdoch understands these economics.  If we don't change Texas' future through education, he says, we will have a Texas in 2040 that is poorer and less competitive in the future than it is today. Murdoch explains, "The average Texas household in 2040—if you didn't change anything—would be $6,500 poorer in 2000 constant dollars than the average household in 2000 was."

Quality teachers, strong early education, small class sizes, access to technology, and after-school programs are key to success in public education.

H.B.1609 clarifies that that CIS dropout prevention starts in the early years, as a student who is successful in elementary school is more likely to graduate from high school ready for work, college, and life. 

To address accountability concerns, the bill also gives the Commissioner of Education the ability to shut down consistently poor-performing CIS programs and redistribute their funding through a competitive process to other CIS programs; and aligns the CIS accountability metrics with those stated by the national CIS office to be the program's priorities, including improved attendance, behavior, academic achievement, promotion, and graduation, as well as a lower dropout rate.

"In today's knowledge-based world, what you earn depends on what you learn," said Senator Shapleigh.

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