Gov. Rick Perry gave the keynote address at the Texas Business Leadership Council Education Summit, reiterating his commitment to maintaining strong accountability measures in Texas public schools, and urging lawmakers to implement policies that increase options for Texas students and their families.
The governor announced support for efforts to evaluate testing methods, to help determine the best mix of STAAR testing for Texas students, as well as efforts to make school accountability ratings more transparent for parents and communities. He noted these steps will enhance the abilities of parents to evaluate the best schools for their children, part of an overall effort to expand opportunities for every child.
During his State of the State address, Gov. Perry called on lawmakers to provide parents with a tuition-free alternative to neighborhood schools through the creation of more public charter schools, introduce scholarship programs that give students a choice as to which school to attend, and provide more flexibility in choosing courses that will better prepare students for different post-secondary options while maintaining rigorous academic standards.
Full text of the governor's remarks is below. Please note that Gov. Perry frequently deviates from prepared text.
As always, it's a pleasure to see Gov. Dewhurst and Speaker Straus, who've been exceptional partners in our ongoing attempts to make a better Texas for everyone.
The future of education is directly tied to the future of our state, and the steps we take now will determine the quality of our state's workforce for generations to come.
You all know about the economic success we've maintained over the last decade, in fact, you've contributed greatly to it.
The quality of our workforce has played a major role in attracting employers, large and small, seeking to expand or relocate.
We can create the best economic climate in the nation by keeping our taxes low, our regulations predictable, and our courts fair.
But if we're unable to supply the workers necessary to fill the needs of cutting-edge employers, there's only so far we can go.
To that end, we've worked hard to improve our public education system over the past decade, and the results are encouraging.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, our graduation rates are at an all-time high, the third highest in the nation, which represents a significant turnaround from just a few short years ago.
A big part of that improvement has been our insistence on holding our public schools accountable, and we need to continue holding our schools to high standards.
However, without accepting anything less from our schools, we can certainly debate the best ways to measure their performance.
I support recent efforts to evaluate our testing methods, to help determine the best mix of STAAR testing for Texas students.
I also support efforts to make school accountability ratings more transparent for parents and communities, for example, the adoption of an A-to-F rating system, like the one initially adopted in Florida and now in place in 11 other states.
These steps all will enhance the abilities of parents to evaluate the best schools for their children, part of an overall effort to expand opportunities for every child.
Different children learn with different goals in mind, and leashing them to a "one size fits all" system does both them, and their communities, a disservice.
That's why I support expanding the number of public charter schools, which offer parents a tuition-free alternative to their neighborhood school.
These innovative public schools already serve more than 150,000 students across Texas, with more than 100,000 more on waiting lists.
I also support exploring scholarship programs that give students a true choice, especially those who are locked into low-performing schools.
As I've said before, though, all of this has to be done in a fashion that continues to encourage and equip teachers and administrators in traditional schools to produce excellent graduates.
It's also important to give students themselves more flexibility in the courses they take in high school, so they can meet their own goals, whether that's going to college or directly entering the workforce.
Of course, that flexibility must not sacrifice any of our rigorous academic standards.
We should also continue exploring the power of technology to expand online education for young people, especially when it's used to give students access to courses not taught at their own schools.
Whatever steps we take, it's vital we keep our efforts focused on providing the best education for the individual student, which in turn will develop the skilled and diverse workforce we'll need to compete for the industries of the future.
Many of those jobs will require college degrees, and we need to produce high school graduates who are ready for the college classroom.
We also need to ensure those classrooms are accessible, too.
That's why I've called for a number of measures to enhance affordability, instruction and graduation.
Among these measures is a four-year tuition freeze, so students can pay the same rate throughout college, provided they graduate in four years.
I've also called for greater transparency in the disclosure of how much a degree will cost, so students can compare cost and value, and also know how much they'll save by getting out of school quickly.
I've called on the legislature to tie a portion of a school's funding, at least 10 percent, to how many students it graduates, not just how many students it has attending.
Of course, I continue to encourage schools to explore $10,000 degree programs, and 13 schools have already announced plans to offer such degrees.
Of course, not every job in demand in Texas requires a college degree.
Some of the most in-demand jobs in Texas require a technical certification, and we need to make the process of earning those certifications more streamlined and accessible, as well.
Last fall, I announced an initiative that will bring industries and our technical and community colleges together to create a statewide model that will enable students to swiftly earn their technical certificates at an affordable cost.
Under this framework an individual will be able to attain certain certifications in high-demand industries, utilizing competency-based learning to allow students to gain credit for skills they have already mastered.
Texas workers today are no longer competing with workers across town or across the state.
They're competing against the very best from across our country, and from around the world.
We won't be able to maintain our current level of success by simply embracing the status quo, by continuing to do things the old-fashioned way.
We must be innovative, and we must be bold.
Luckily, those are traits Texans are already well-known for.
I'm confident we can work together to make the best decisions for our students today, and tomorrow.
I'm also confident that Texas will continue to be the best place in the country to live, work, raise a family and build a business.
And now, I'd like to ask Jodie [Jiles] to come up here while we take a moment and thank a very special individual for his hard work as past chairman of the TBLC, Woody Hunt.
Woody, please accept this certificate as a sincere appreciation from the people of Texas for a job well done.