AUSTIN – The Texas House of Representatives today approved a landmark legislation sponsored by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, and authored by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, which would allow Texas to recover high school dropouts and to help thousands of young Texas adults finally earn their high school diploma and transition into college.
Senate Bill 975 was approved by the Senate on May 11 and will now advance to the desk of Governor Rick Perry for his approval and signature.
Although the measure initially aims to reduce the dropout rate in Hidalgo County - fewer than 60 percent of its adults over the age of 25 have completed high school - it will also help Texas, which is ranked 43rd in the nation in the number of students who receive a high school degree, increase educational attainment.
"This bill has many goals, including providing access, and equally important, the exposure to a college-level environment that will encourage deserving students to earn their high school diploma, and then continue their education in career and technology courses at the college that lead to industry or career certification," said Muñoz.
"One of the best features of this effort is the focus it places on making students feel valued and empowered - not only to finish high school but also to envision themselves as college students," Hinojosa observed. "This program will allow for partnerships, innovation and efficiency, and more importantly, it will allow us to work together, as a community, to pave a better future for our children."
Muñoz praised the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District, whose successful dropout recovery program served as the inspiration for the legislation, and South Texas College, which will set the statewide standard for such a partnership between public school districts and community colleges in the Texas' largest counties.
"Once again, South Texas is leading the rest of the state in coming up with proven ways to improve education at all levels," said Muñoz. "In just a few short years, the standard of excellence that will be set by South Texas College and our local school districts will have a profound social and economic impact for all Texas."
Also according to Hinojosa, SB 975 builds on the demonstrated success of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) ISD's College and Career Technology Academy, established by Dr. Danny King, in partnership with South Texas College. The Academy has already significantly increased graduation rates and college participation for the PSJA, Donna, and La Joya school Districts that have replicated the model. In the past three years, the schools have recovered and graduated 1,472 previous dropouts.
"It is important to see the value of the transformation that took place in PSJA - it's priceless. There is no reason why other school districts can't duplicate the same success," Hinojosa added. "At the end of the day, the best gift we can give our children is education, and this is what this programs sets-out to do."
David A. Diaz & Daniela Santoni contributed to this article.