By JAMIE STENGLE | ASSOCIATED PRESS
Nov. 24, 2009
PLANO — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said on Tuesday that if elected governor, her education plan would focus on bringing more technology to the classroom, recruiting and retaining teachers, lowering the high school dropout rate and helping school districts find ways to save money.
Hutchison, who is challenging Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary for governor in March, unveiled her plans in a biotechnology lab at the Collin County Community College District in the Dallas suburb of Plano.
“Now is the time for us to be really creative using technology,” said Hutchison, who said she has approached companies about developing an e-learning device, less than a laptop but more than an e-reader, that could replace conventional textbooks.
Former Education Secretary Rod Paige said at the news conference that Hutchison's plan “is simply the right next step for Texas.”
Hutchison said Paige and former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings were among those who helped her put together the plan.
She said she would like to see an expansion of loan reimbursement programs like Teach for Texas and Teach for America. She also would like every college and university in the state to offer a version of the University of Texas' UTeach program, which recruits and trains math, science and computer science majors to become high school teachers.
She also would like to offer teachers the option of a “cafeteria plan,” so if they choose not to enroll in the health coverage plan for teachers, they could instead enroll in something else, like a child care program or tuition savings plan.
To help lower the high school dropout rate, Hutchison proposed initiatives that include helping middle school students who are behind a grade level to catch up at an accelerated pace and offering online learning.
Hutchison also wants to focus on financial accountability in schools, including identifying the best-performing school districts by ranking them in categories such as student performance and cost-per-pupil and having those districts serve as models for other schools.
She said the money saved can be put into “innovations for the future.”
Perry: There's nothing new
Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said the education topics Hutchison talked about already have been addressed by Perry, including expanding technology in schools and financial accountability in districts.
“By announcing education proposals that already exist, Sen. Hutchison acknowledged today that the education policies adopted by Governor Perry are effective in preparing students,” Miner said.
“She's finished another day on the campaign trail with out anything new,” he said.
Perry, meanwhile, wrote a letter on Tuesday to Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, telling him not to commit Texas to the adoption of national standards and assessments in its application for stimulus funding from the federal government's $5 billion competitive grant fund dubbed “Race to the Top.”
“Texas is already ahead of most other states in setting college and career-ready standards in our schools,” he said. “The citizens of Texas, not the federal government, know what is best for our schools.”