State Representative Gary VanDeaver will seek re-election to the Texas House for District 1, which includes Bowie, Cass, Lamar, Morris, and Red River counties this Tuesday, March 1st. Since taking office in 2015, VanDeaver has focused on issues important to the communities of northeast Texas, such as improvements to higher education institutions, job creation through local economic development, education and local workforce alignment by Career Technical Education, and understanding rural education issues.
“During elections the focus is often placed solely on the major bills that gained statewide attention for sweeping overhauls of existing law. However, some of the laws and government decisions that have the most impact are actually those that deal with economic development, small business regulations, public education, and higher education at the local level. My office is proud to be so productive and successful in taking in the ideas and problems of constituents and turning them into small bills that we work diligently to get into law.”
How VanDeaver Has Helped Local Higher Education Institutions
“Paris Junior College needed to reform its governance system to bring it up to the same level as Texarkana College in terms of cost savings and organization of its taxing district. I filed and passed HB 4276 (85R) to achieve this for PJC in 2015. I have also helped influence appropriations to grant additional funding to local higher education institutions, including $45 million each for Texas A&M Commerce to build a new Agriculture Center and Texas A&M Texarkana for a new Business, Engineering and Tech Center, in 2021.”
VanDeaver Encourages Local Economic Development and Job Growth
“The TexAmericas Center is one of the largest mixed-used industrial parks in the Americas and is dedicated to creating 12,000 jobs. In 2017, I filed HB 967 (85R) to allow the TexAmericas Center to promote economic development. The bill authorized the center to stimulate job creation inside its district boundaries, as well as in Bowie County and adjacent counties. I passed this bill successfully into law. I also passed HB 4166 (86R) to study the feasibility of increasing navigation on the Red River between Texarkana and Denison.”
Education and Local Workforce Alignment (Career Technical Education)
“It has become increasingly apparent in the last few years that we are creating a massive skills shortage across the US by not granting students the ability to pursue competencies, certifications, and skills while in secondary school. Northeast Texas has a diverse set of workforce needs that do not require four-year college degrees, and we are increasingly unable to find young people to take those opportunities.”
“To address this, I have passed bills to increase Career and Technical Education (CTE) funding for small and rural schools (HB 1525 – 87R), to incentivize schools to offer these programs of study by giving them credit in the statewide accountability system (HB 773 – 87R), and funding adult education programs to help high school dropouts get their degrees (HB 1051 – 86R). My hope is that local schools can partner with local businesses to ensure that by the time a student graduates, they can hold a certificate or skill that enables them to either immediately join the local workforce or work their way through a four-year degree without debt.”
VanDeaver’s Focus on Rural Education Issues
“Oftentimes, the legislation that comes through the state legislature is in response to something that happened in Dallas, Houston, or Austin, and it often is detrimental to small rural schools. Our schools in Northeast Texas face different challenges than urban schools, and so when they come to me for help with those challenges, I am always ready to pass legislation on their behalf.”
“To give just a few examples, one school district and family came to us because a high school student was traumatically injured and sent to a 24-7 rehab facility to learn how to walk, talk, and eat again. His school district was told by TEA to label him a dropout, which was a painful process for his parents and even docked the school a whole letter grade in accountability, due to their small class size. I wrote and passed HB 330 (86R) which created an exemption for situations such as his and reversed the damage caused by the law.”
“I’ve also passed bills to give schools more control over their funding when paying for instructional materials and technology (HB 396 – 86R), to reduce burdensome regulations and paperwork (HB 1706 – 84R), to move away from a standardized testing system and more towards a portfolio method of assessment (HB 1164 – 84R), and to allow teachers to use virtual observations in their certifications (SB 1590 – 87R). I’ve also successfully fought Big Tech companies like Google and Apple in order to pass legislation to protect student data from being used by third-party vendors (HB 2087 – 85R & HB 363 – 87R).”
Legislative Reference Library, Gary VanDeaver, Legislation, URL: https://lrl.texas.gov/legeLeaders/members/legislation.cfm?memberID=5767.
Texas Capitol Legislature Online (TLO), Legislation, URL: https://capitol.texas.gov/MnuLegislation.aspx.