Governmental Affairs > Legislative Update > May 1, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 11)

May 1, 2015 (Vol. 5, Number 11)

This Week...

Dr. Joe May spent time in Austin and Washington, D.C., this week to advocate on behalf of our district. With one month to go, bills in Austin are moving quickly between chambers while some top officials continue to face off over legislation and priorities. 

... in Washington, D.C.

Chancellor May testifies before Congress

"Today, everyone needs some education beyond high school. There are simply no jobs for those who do not have a credential that gives them the tools to earn a living wage." That's what Dr. May told members of the Congressional Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training when he testified yesterday in Washington, D.C.

He added, “Community colleges fill that role, and federal funding for TRIO programs and Title V help students succeed, complete a college credential and enter jobs in the workforce that provide a living wage and support both their families and communities.”

During the 9 a.m. hearing (CDT), May and three other witnesses discussed "Improving College Access and Completion for Low-Income and First Generation Students" before the subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Virginia Fox of North Carolina.

May discussed the impact of federal TRIO programs and Title V and how they provide resources that support the success of low-income and first-generation college students enrolled in DCCCD, particularly Hispanics. He also discussed support measures provided by DCCCD's early college high schools, STEM programs and dual credit courses.

Since all seven colleges in the DCCCD system are designated as Minority Serving Institutions, with diverse representation among African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos, continued funding is among our priorities.

Dr. May also offered four recommendations to the subcommittees' members. 

Other witnesses addressing the subcommittee were Dr. Laura Pena, James S. Riepe Professor and executive director for the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Charles J. Alexander, associate vice provost for student diversity and director of the Academic Advancement program at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, based in Washington, D.C.

... in Austin

Pre-K Education Moves Forward

Among DCCCD's special legislative priorities is a bill for a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education. Establishing such a program would enable the district, through its colleges, to offer a degree that would generate more pre-K teachers and fill a shortage which exists in that career path. Because such a shortage currently exists, approximately 39,000 youngsters in Dallas County don't have access to a pre-K classroom and qualified teachers.  DCCCD's bill (HB 3836) would change those circumstances.

Last week, Dr. May and members of the community who lead organizations that work on a daily basis with families in the area all testified about the need for HB 3836. Our bill was part of a public hearing in the house higher education committee on April 22, where it received broad support from committee members. Todd Williams of Commit! testified and explained the need for additional early childhood education teachers in Dallas County. Dr. May testified about DCCCD's ability to meet this challenge. Representatives from the Dallas independent School District, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Dallas Citizens Council and representatives from education advocacy groups also testified or added their support for the bill.

No one testified in opposition to the bill. On Wednesday, HB 3836 was reported favorably and without amendments by that committee and has now been sent to the local and consent calendar for consideration by the House. This is a significant achievement. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Helen Giddings of Dallas and has nine legislators who are co-authors. We appreciate their support.

SB 1810 is the Senate companion to HB 3836. It was heard by the Senate Higher Education Committee on Wednesday. The same set of supporters testified on behalf of the bill. It was left pending in committee. We hope it will move out of committee next week, but we need to make sure senators continue to hear about the importance of this legislation. 

Gov. Greg Abbot's pre-K bill, which has already passed the House, moved to the Senate this week, in spite of continuing opposition from Tea Party conservatives, according to the Texas Tribune. Read more here: Abbott's Pre-K Bill Headed to Full Senate

Workforce and Economic Development

One initiative that DCCCD’s advocacy team has been working on is HB 1155, which would create Texas Recruits. Texas Recruits would provide rapid response measures to community colleges in efforts to recruit new business to the state. This program is modeled after the Georgia Quick Start and Louisiana Fast Start programs. Each of them – and Louisiana specifically – have been successful in recruiting business out of Texas. Chancellor May helped design Louisiana Fast Start, and HB 1155 is an effort to do the same here in Texas. 

HB 1155 achieved initial passage in the House today. DCCCD is leading efforts to continue to move this bill forward. Rep. Carol Alvarado is the primary author, and Reps. Button and Johnson signed on as co-authors. This initiative could dramatically change the way Texas attracts business to our state. 

Higher Education, K-12 Updates....

Tuition Increases

The Senate took aim Thursday on the rapidly-rising cost of college tuition in Texas by passing SB 778 which would require universities to meet certain performance targets before they can increase tuition beyond the rate of inflation. Because the new restrictions would not be put in place until the 2018-2019 academic year, the legislation also limits tuition hikes until then to no more than the inflation rate plus one percent. When the requirements take effect, institutions that meet the targets would be allowed to increase tuition by inflation plus three percent. Read more by reporter Terrence Stutz in the Dallas Morning News: Senate moves to rein in rising college tuition rates 

High school graduation

Thousands of Texas high school seniors might get to walk the stage this May without passing all five of the state’s graduation exams under a bill that won final passage in the Legislature on Wednesday. SB 149, authored by state Sen. Kel Seliger from Amarillo, is on its way to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature or veto. The bill would allow some high school seniors to receive their diplomas even if they have not passed up to two of five end-of-course exams that currently are required for graduation. Changes in high school graduation rates could affect community colleges like DCCCD as well as the state's universities. A “graduation committee” of parents, principals and teachers would be required to vote approval unanimously for those students to graduate. Read more in the Austin American-Statesman here: Bill easing high school graduation requirements passes

Block scheduling

On Tuesday, the Texas House passed HB 1583 – which is related to block scheduling – and the bill now moves to the Texas Senate for review and possible approval by the Higher Education Committee. If this bill passes as it is currently written, community colleges would be required to “block schedule” required courses in each allied health or nursing degree/certificate program and at least 50 percent of all CTE degree/certificate programs.

Budget

Last week, both chambers named appointees to the Budget Conference Committee. This committee is charged with working out differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget. The conferees/members include:

Senate
Sens. Jane Nelson (chair), Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, Joan Huffman, Lois Kolkhorst and Charles Schwerter

House
Reps. John Otto (chair), Sylvester Turner, Trent Ashby, Sarah Davis and Larry Gonzales

The conference committee met on Tuesday to organize and lay out a timeline for its work.

Bills Passed Related to Higher Education...

Several bills passed this week in the House and Senate, or actions were taken, that affect higher education. Here's a quick list:

84(R) HB 870, related to the investment training requirement for certain school district financial officers, was passed in the House on Thursday.

84(R) SB 955, related to permissible locations of open-enrollment charter schools created by certain institutions of higher education, was received by the House from the Senate yesterday.

84(R) SB 1066, related to continuing eligibility requirements for institutions of higher education to participate in the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) Challenge Scholarship Program, was passed by the House on Thursday.

Throughout the 84th session of the Texas Legislature, we will continue to have information on the DCCCD website where you can track bills of interest to the district.

Our list will be updated regularly. Categories include:

  • budget measures
  • local taxes/appraisal reform/revenue caps
  • baccalaureate degrees
  • handguns
  • transfer
  • undocumented student tuition
  • college readiness
  • dual credit/early college
  • boards
  • tuition and tuition exemptions
  • financial aid

Please contact us if you see a bill of interest or if you have any questions.

As the 84th session evolves, we will call upon many people in the DCCCD family to support our advocacy efforts.

Newsletter published by the Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, Dallas County Community College District. Please contact Justin Lonon for more information about DCCCD's legislative initiatives.​​