Improving Education for Texas Children
With Labor Day behind us, Texas children are back in school, sizing up their new teachers, putting away new school supplies and cracking their textbooks for the fall semester. As parents sign field-trip permission slips and synchronize new driving schedules, they are hopefully seeing signs of some positive changes brought about in the most recent legislative session.
A strong springtime effort by the Texas Legislature yielded new laws that will bolster our students’ education, health and safety this fall. This year, the state will reward more teachers with incentive bonuses, tighten graduation requirements, defend religious rights, monitor student fitness, and require defibrillators at sporting events. A few key philosophies underlie these improvements.
We will reward our teachers.
Incentives, including bonuses for high performance, are proven business practices in both the private and public sector. Teachers who help our students excel and who take on the most difficult challenges deserve a fiscal reward. This effort will represent the largest incentive program in the nation with $343 million for teacher incentive programs during the next two years.
We will teach our students.
New graduation requirements will arm our high school students with the fundamentals to conquer college curriculum. For the first time, this year’s high school freshmen must complete four years in the four core disciplines of math, science, English and history to earn their diploma. Mastery of these core disciplines will prepare our students to compete in the growing global marketplace.
We will protect religious rights.
In 1779, Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that all men should be free to profess their opinions in matters of religion. Following the direction of our forefathers, numerous federal and state court decisions have defined ways students may express their religious beliefs at school. With the passage of the School Children’s Religious Liberties Act this last session, Texas reiterated the courts’ decision by clarifying the rights of students to express their faith in designated forums and in class assignments. The government should protect, not restrict, students right to speak freely in the classroom, regardless of whether their thoughts are secular or spiritual.
We will promote exercise.
As children spend increasing amounts of after school time flipping channels or playing video games instead of pedaling bikes or playing ball, child obesity grows in our state. Beginning this year, schools will begin annual physical fitness evaluations for all students in grades 3-12. This new law helps schools and families partner in the fight against the health risks of obesity. Next year, physical education will reappear in middle school when the state will require students to take two years of physical education.
We will save lives.
Beginning this year, public schools must have a defibrillator at every campus, available at all University Interscholastic athletic practices and competitions. The American Heart Association estimates more than 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital. In places where defibrillation is provided within seven minutes, the survival rate from cardiac arrest jumps up to 30–45 percent. This sports season we are giving our students access to a device that is a proven lifesaver.
I want to commend our Texas Legislature for their vigor and resolve to provide for the educational needs of our children during the last session.
The new legislation passed in the spring will create a safer, healthier and more rigorous learning environment for the children of Texas this fall. So I say let the morning alarm clocks buzz and the school bells ring as our children accelerate toward academic success.
High School Graduation Requirements »