Joe’s highest priority has always been providing a great education. Outstanding local schools inspire children and bring communities together. Our colleges and universities prepare students to have productive careers and to contribute to the world around them. Joe strongly supports education because he knows that great schools create opportunities for young people and invite investment from job creators.
Educators across Texas consider Joe to be a champion. He has received the Golden Apple Award from the Texas Association of Mid-Size Schools, the Pulling for Children Award from the Texas Association of Community Schools, and the Friend of Education Award from the Texas State Teachers Association.
The Texas House has prioritized education under Joe’s leadership by:
Reducing excessive testing: Responding to overwhelming calls from parents and educators, the Legislature in 2013 reduced the number of end-of-course exams required for high school graduation from 15 to 5. Before the Legislature acted, Texas required many more end-of-course tests than other states. The Legislature has also broadened the state's ratings system for schools to ensure that ratings are not solely based on test scores. The House has also passed other legislation to reduce standardized testing further, but these reforms have not been approved by the Texas Senate.
Strengthening career readiness: Joe and his House colleagues recognized that a one-size-fits-all approach to education does not work for many students. Under House Bill 5 in 2013, the House reformed the state’s high school graduation requirements in order to give students more opportunities to study subjects that interest them and receive real-world exposure to potential careers. The legislation prompted a new era of cooperation among high schools, community colleges and industry in order to assure that all students are prepared to succeed after high school – even if they do not plan to attend four-year universities.
Investing in pre-kindergarten: In 2015, the Texas House furthered and expanded the state’s investment in pre-kindergarten by creating and funding Governor Abbott’s pre-K initiative. This state program provides funding for school districts with high-quality, accountable pre-kindergarten program.
Ensuring access to special education: After reports surfaced that some students who needed special education had been denied those services by schools following Texas Education Agency guidelines, Joe pushed for an end to that policy. His call was followed up by legislation passed into law in 2017.
Fighting for school finance reform: Joe has consistently worked to improve the state's public school finance system. In 2017, Joe was able to work with his colleagues to provide additional funding to help school districts facing severe fiscal challenges. This legislation also designated extra dollars to help schools educate students with autism and dyslexia.
Keeping promises to retired teachers: In 2017, the Texas House led the successful effort to close a $1 billion shortfall in TRS-Care, the health care program for retired teachers. The House provided more than $400 million in additional state funding in order to mitigate the severe cost increases that retired teachers were facing.
Fostering Tier One Research Universities: A strong higher education system leads to economic growth and more opportunities for Texans. During Joe's time as Speaker, the House has emphasized building more Tier One universities by investing in emerging schools. Since the House passed legislation in 2009 to encourage more universities to achieve Tier One designation, six Texas campuses have been given Tier One status: The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Houston, The University of North Texas, Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Dallas, and Texas Tech University.
Supporting Higher Education Research: Under Joe’s leadership as Speaker, the House created the Texas Research Incentive Program. This innovative approach has matched hundreds of millions of state dollars with private donations to bring new research efforts and faculty to the state’s universities. The state furthered its efforts to recruit leading scholars to the state by creating and funding the Governor’s University Research Initiative in 2015.