April 27, 2007

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

Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh,

EL PASO – Tomorrow, Saturday, April 28, at 10:00 a.m., Senator Eliot Shapleigh will hold a press conference to discuss S.B. 127 on Communities In Schools (CIS).  This past week, the Senate Education Committee passed S.B. 127, a bill Senator Shapleigh filed with 18 Senate co-authors to increase funding for CIS, the largest and most successful dropout prevention program in Texas. 

Joining Senator Shapleigh will be Robert Shaw, CIS El Paso Executive Director and Pauline Dow, Canutillo ISD Associate Superintendent.  The press conference will be held at the District Office at 800 Wyoming, Suite A.

Initial funding at the program's inception in 1980 was provided by discretionary funding from the federal Job Training Partnership Act. Since 1989, the program has been financed with discretionary funding either from the governor or from the legislature through an appropriations rider passed each legislative session. Under current law, the Education Code does not specify that funds have to be set aside for the CIS program.

S.B. 127 increases funding and creates a mandatory set-aside for CIS. 

In El Paso, where so many of us work daily to emerge from the humblest means, a free and high-quality public education is the only difference between a life of struggle and a life of economic independence.  This is why programs like CIS are so 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, the Governor's Business Council recently stated that Texas is failing in its investment in education—"we're not only struggling, we're falling behind."  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.

In addition to S.B. 127, here are education initiatives Senator Shapleigh has filed this session:

  • Reward top teachers with more pay, incentives to encourage national certification in hard to teach subjects like math and science (S.B. 1220);
  • Increase technology in classrooms for a competitive 21st century education (S.B. 780);
  • Encourage learning with proven programs like two way dual language curriculum (S.B. 553);
  • Create a select commission on higher education and global competitiveness in Texas (S.C.R. 47); and
  • Increase Texas grants so more students can go to college (S.B. 375).

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

To watch the video of the March 7, 2007 CIS rally, please visit:

What: S.B. 127 funding Communities In Schools (CIS)

When: Saturday, April 28, 2007 at 10:00 a.m.

Where: 800 Wyoming, Suite A, El Paso, Texas, 79902

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