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April 8, 2011 - Session Watch

Recognition of Brackettville students should strengthen our resolve for those to come

By Sen. Carlos Uresti

The first order of business on the Senate floor each day — before we get around to the work of passing bills — is to recognize visiting constituents, honor people who have sacrificed and acknowledge those who have made significant accomplishments.

By this point in the session, many on the floor and in the gallery pay scant attention to the passage of honorary and congratulatory resolutions, while anxiously waiting for theirs to come up!

Over the years I have sponsored a number of these resolutions and introduced my share of guests. It is a privilege that goes with the job. And though the process may become somewhat routine, I never forget how important it is to the people we pause to honor.

And I never forget how important they are to us. That was particularly true this week when the Senate honored five students from Brackettville who exemplify what we want our kids to be. Acknowledging their deeds seemed especially relevant at this crucial time in the session, with lawmakers trying to close an unprecedented budget shortfall.

For the last 50 years, Brackettville's claim to fame has been John Wayne's movie, "The Alamo," which was filmed on a set just outside of town. But I think we should remember Brackettville for what these students represent — nothing less than the future of Texas.

Kelsey Mae Bruce, a senior in the 2011 graduating class, won more than 20 invitational events during her high school career. She was the first ever Cross Country State Champion from Brackettville and the first female athlete in school history to achieve a state championship.

Kelsey and her teammate, Haley Hale, also achieved academic success and were named to the 2010 Academic All-State Cross Country Team by the Texas Girls Coaches Association. Three of their classmates — Brandon Allen, Ayland Letsinger and Josh Smith — excelled on the gridiron and the classroom and were named to the 2010 Academic All-State Football Team by the Texas High School Coaches Association.

These students are great role models for their peers, not just at Brackettville, but in schools across Texas. Their accomplishments show that when they graduate and continue their lives into adulthood, they can be successful in any endeavor.

But what about the students behind them? Will they have the same opportunity to excel? Under the spending bill adopted by the House this week, the answer is no.

House Bill 1 falls short of current public school funding formulas by almost $8 billion. It is said to be the first cut in the Foundation School Program since its enactment in 1949. The result: thousands of teacher layoffs, school closings and larger class sizes. That translates into fewer resources and opportunities for all the students who will follow Kelsey, Haley, Brandon, Ayland and Josh.

And the damage wouldn't stop there. In small towns across Senate District 19, the school district is a vital component of the local economy, producing jobs and economic activity that ripples through the community. The Legislative Budget Board, a joint committee of the Legislature that develops budget and policy recommendations for all state government appropriations, estimates that House Bill 1 overall will cost 335,000 Texas jobs over the next two years.

The House plan is not the final word on the budget; even House leaders acknowledge that. Committees in the House and Senate are looking for extra sources of revenue, but the restrictions imposed by the governor make it tough.

I believe we must use the Rainy Day Fund and consider reforming the sales tax to offset some of these cuts. We must ensure that our schools are adequately funded. Next year's crop of students — from the kindergarten class to the seniors of 2012 — deserves no less.

Visit Senator Uresti's News page and Calendar
to keep up to date with Senate District 19.

©2011 Carlos Uresti Campaign  •  A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer  •  P.O. Box 240431  •  San Antonio, Texas  •  78224