There is some good and bad news in education according to U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, who spoke before Region One Education Service Center officials and area school representatives Friday Feb. 28 at The University of Texas - Pan American during his State of Education address.
Hinojosa highlighted recent educational funding achievements as well as current federal funding that would impact students of all ages in the South Texas.
The good news came first. Hinojosa pointed out that he had been recently elected to the House Education and Workforce Committee, and would serve as the Ranking Member for the Select Education Subcommittee.
"I am now the highest Democrat serving on a committee that sets the national policy for our country, " Hinojosa said to great applause. As ranking member, Hinojosa will have oversight and/or legislative jurisdiction over 16 different education areas, including Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), Programs for At-Risk Youth and Select Higher Education Programs.
Since his election in 1996, the funding levels for education and job training programs and grants have increased significantly for the District, providing benefits for South Texas students in many ways especially in educational readiness, access and retention.
However, Hinojosa said that "despite the growth in the past six years, we should not let it stop simply because we don't fight for what is ours.
"Elected officials and citizens need to stay aggressive and informed in competing for federal monies to maintain sustainable growth of this area," he said.
On the down side, Hinojosa said that the 2004 national proposed budget includes slashes or flat funding in key areas of the Hispanic Education Action Plan (HEAP) - bilingual education, adult education, after school programs and low-income and disabled students programs such as TRIO and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).
Hinojosa pointed out that the state has decreased its percentage of funding for local educational agencies.
"If we are going to be the most powerful and most prosperous country on earth we've got to continue to increase and improve our educational programs," Hinojosa said.
UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez, said that although he his pleased to see increased funding proposed for the HIS, he is dissatisfied with cuts in student programs.
"I am disappointed to see the funding of many of the bread and butter programs that benefited the students, such as the Migrant Education Program, remaining flat or going down," Nevárez said.
Nevárez said he appreciates Hinojosa's challenge to be more aggressive in maintaining and increasing funds for the South Texas area. Nevárez reported that he and other officials would be discussing current funding concerns with U.S. Senator Kaye Bailey Hutchinson when she visits the UTPA Campus this week.
The event, held in the UTPA Ballroom, was co-hosted by UT Pan American and Region One.