Gov. Rick Perry today highlighted Texas' efforts to ensure all Texans have access to a quality, affordable education in order to ensure their future success and strengthen the state's economy. The governor spoke at the 74th Annual Texas State NAACP Convention.
"As we look at the immense challenges facing our communities, state and nation, it has never been more vital that we work together as a diverse community to meet and overcome these challenges," Gov. Perry said. "Texas is a place where people can make a difference no matter the color of their skin or how they spell their last name. The first step to that goal is making sure all of our citizens are educated and prepared for good jobs and a rapidly-changing future."
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. The Texas Chapter of the NAACP celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2009.
African-American students are showing great gains in Texas, with eighth graders tying Massachusetts for the best score in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), with Texas fourth graders also placing third in the nation in math on the NAEP. However, much more needs to be done, and ensuring that Texas remains a leader in job creation depends on the continued development of our workforce. Gov. Perry has previously outlined several education initiatives for the 2011 legislative session, including:
* A $160 million expansion of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program, increasing the number and scope of T-STEM Academies and funding STEM scholarships to help ensure students receive a competitive education in these subjects.
* Expansion of the Virtual School Network (VSN) to create the Texas Virtual High School that will provide students who have dropped out of school an opportunity to earn a high school diploma through virtual courses, while improving access to high-quality courses for all students. The VSN was created during the 2007 Legislative Session to establish a statewide network of online courses available to students across the state. These virtual courses give students access to classes their schools may not offer, additional access to dual credit opportunities, and additional flexibility to help keep students in school.
* Generation Adelante/Generación Forward, which encourages Texas high school graduates to pursue higher education by providing them with information about college applications, financial aid and college visits. These college fairs also give students the opportunity to speak with representatives from more than 30 colleges, universities and technical colleges from across the state.
* Requiring high school students to be enrolled in school or working toward a GED to be eligible to keep a Texas driver license.
* Providing a tax incentive to employers who grant their employees two hours a week of paid time off to return to school or study for their GED. Once the employees have received their diploma or GED, the employer is eligible to receive $1,500 per student in credit toward sales tax liability.
* Texas Education on iTunes U, which offers a modern approach to keeping teachers and students engaged and informed by providing free, supplementary educational content that can be accessed anywhere.
Additionally, because a college education is so important, the governor worked with lawmakers last session to secure $22.6 billion for higher education for the current biennium, including $1.1 billion in state financial aid. To help further keep the cost of attending college low, Gov. Perry signed an executive order in September 2009 calling for a comprehensive review of higher education cost efficiencies.
To improve the quality of higher education in the state, Gov. Perry signed House Bill 51 and voters passed Proposition 4, which will create more tier one universities in the state, giving Texas students the opportunity to study in the most premier research facilities available. HB 51 also provides a performance incentive funding mechanism for all of the state's general academic institutions based on the average number of degrees awarded annually and an increase in the average number of degrees awarded annually, with weighted consideration for at-risk students and critical fields.
For more information about the governor's education priorities, please visit http://governor.state.tx.us/initiatives/education/.