Gov. Perry: Business Tax Credit Will Give Second Chance To Many Working Texans
Thank you Maria and congratulations on the success of this remarkable company.
We're here today to talk about education in Texas touching on the success we've enjoyed and discussing work that remains ahead of us.
Texas has a strong story to tell in terms of academic improvements thanks to a concerted effort that we have made in conjunction with legislators, the TEA, teachers groups, parents and local districts.
As a result, we've seen improved TAKS scores in every subject and every grade...for the 2008-2009 school year and recognition for Texas as one of only four states closing the achievement gap in math.
Another indicator of our continued success can be found in Advanced Placement testing where student participation is up 170% over the last nine years and the number of passing scores went up 140%. Texas has one of the highest percentages of students taking the SAT in the nation with more first-generation college students taking the exam than the national average and the number of Hispanic students taking the SAT growing by nearly 105% since 1999.
In math, Texas students are beating the national average on the ACT with scores across all demographics improving every year since ‘05.
However you measure success, Texas is pointed in the right direction.
However, we're still dealing with an issue that has challenged high schools across the country and Texas...dropouts.
It is truly tragic when a young person quits school.
Some are derailed by family obligations, illness or full-time jobs while others fall prey to youthful bravado buying the lie they don't need school to succeed.
Whatever the reason, the results are consistently the same a young life hobbled by a bad decision and a path to success blocked by a lack of education.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average annual salary of Americans who finish high school is 38% higher than those who don't.
Unfortunately, by the time they realize the enormity of their mistake these dropouts often feel it's too late because of the burdens they carry of jobs, families and even a sense of failure.
In an effort to lower those barriers to completion, I am here today to propose a $1,500 tax break for Texas business owners for each of their full-time employees who dropped out who either returns and graduates high school or earns their GED.
To be eligible, the business must be in good standing with the state and must provide the employee at least two hours of paid time off every week. Participants can use that time to attend classes, complete coursework or study for tests.
This incentive will take the form of a deduction from the employer's sales tax obligation to the state.
If 5,000 students per year take advantage of this program this deduction translates to around $7.5 million annually a very worthwhile investment in a second chance for these Texans, their families and our communities.
This is yet another tool needed to address yet another aspect of a stubborn, multi-faceted issue.
Companion efforts include our push for greater accountability among our educators and institution of the optional flexible school day that lets districts offer classes outside of traditional school day hours.
71 districts took advantage of this option during the past school year and I hope even more will see its benefit in the coming year.
We've also created a network of STEM academies that teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills to students in traditionally "at-risk" categories.
These programs have helped Texas earn national acclaim with our programs designated "best practices" last year by the bipartisan National Governor's Association.
To keep our progress moving, I've called on the Legislature to consider additional improvements to our approach including requiring school enrollment or progress to a GED for anyone trying to get or keep a Texas driver's license.
I also believe we should double the number of our STEM academies investing $40 million to double our academies from 46 to 92 to double the opportunity to prepare for high tech jobs or studies.
I've also proposed expanding the Texas Virtual School Network with the creation of a Texas Virtual High School District.
This district will build upon existing technology to enable students including dropouts to complete their education using accredited curriculum from any computer with an Internet connection.
The Virtual High School will let students work at their own pace without compromising our state's strict standards and accountability
With the help of the 82nd Legislature we can continue this collaborative approach to improving education and keep removing the barriers that stand in the way of dropouts completing their education and taking their rightful place in our workforce.
A single dropout is one dropout too many so we must continue pursuing the sensible, proven options and give every Texan a shot at a better life.
Now, I'd like Commissioner Robert Scott to say a few words, Robert?