By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News
Local Parent Teacher Association representatives attended the annual Rally Day for the Texas PTA last week at the state capitol in Austin. Rally Day is an opportunity for Texas PTA members to meet with state representatives and senators in order to advance the PTA’s legislative goals.
“The more people who are willing to speak up and show up, the more change we can affect,” said Stephanie Haug. She attended the event on Feb. 25 as a parent — she has two students at Four Points area schools — but also as president of the LISD Council of PTAs, which has 34 members and is comprised of all the LISD schools that have either PTAs or PTSAs (Parent Teacher Student Associations).
This year the Texas PTA is focused on legislation that will impact education, specifically bills related to early education, student health and safety, juvenile justice, student assessments, and school accountability, choice and finance.
PTA representatives from Vandegrift High School, Canyon Ridge and Four Point middle schools, and Laura Bush, River Ridge and Grandview Hills elementaries also joined Haug at Rally Day.
All Four Points area PTAs are also part of the Vandegrift PTA Ladder, a group started in 2009 of all PTAs from schools that feed into VHS. The PTA Ladder allows for easy coordination and sharing of information between PTAs.
This year marks the 84th session of the Texas Legislature, which meets every two years. In 2011, the state legislature cut almost $6 billion from education spending.
As Haug explained, “In the 2013 session, they restored about half of that. And now (at Rally Day) they were talking about adding $2 billion dollars for student growth. But it still doesn’t restore all the previous cuts that they made.”
This despite the fact that Texas was the 3rd fastest growing state in the U.S. in 2014. Leander ISD has seen its growth slow, from 3.1 percent in 2013 to 1.8 percent in 2014, but the district still added 742 new students last year. And LISD expects to add nearly 40,000 new housing units in the next 10 years, concentrated primarily in the northern end of the district as the Four Points area is largely built out.
Haug explained the need for good schools in practical terms. “If you want to talk about the workforce of Texas, we need well-educated people to be good workers and citizens. That’s where it starts, is with education.”
“Texas PTA is the largest grassroots lobbying organization in the state.” said Haug, with over half a million members.The power of the Texas PTA could be seen with the passing of House Bill 5 in the last legislative session, which reduced the number of standardized tests required for high school graduation from 15 to five.
“It was parents, showing up in numbers, and (the legislature) listened,” she said and added that, “You feel like, my opinion doesn’t matter, I’m one little person. But if you say… ‘I’m one of your constituents, and you’re supposed to be representing me,’ then your voice does matter.”
The Rally was attended by PTAs from all over the state and the group was actually meant to rally on the capitol steps. But cold weather drove the event indoors, to the capitol auditorium.
From the stage of the auditorium, State Senator and Chairman of the Senate Public Education Committee Larry Taylor echoed the PTA’s message that education is vital to Texas.
“Texans are our best natural resource,” he said.
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