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Featured, front row, from left: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Elsa Mayor Al Pérez; Edcouch-Elsa ISD School Board Trustee Víctor “Hugo” De la Cruz; Edcouch Mayor Pro Tem Eddy González; Edcouch Mayor Robert Schmalzried; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya. Middle row, from left: La Villa City Manager Arnie Amaro; Edcouch Alderwoman Verónica Solis; Edcouch City Manager Noé Cavazos; Edcouch Alderwoman Rina Castillo; La Villa Commissioner Rosie Pérez; and Edcouch Alderman Danny Guzmán. Back row, from left: Elsa City Manager Juan Zuniga; and La Villa Commissioner Mario López. The lawmakers and constituents posed for this portrait inside the Texas Capitol following House passage on Friday, May 8, of House Bill 382, which proposed creating a South Texas College branch campus in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County. Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

Featured, front row, from left: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Elsa Mayor Al Pérez; Edcouch-Elsa ISD School Board Trustee Víctor “Hugo” De la Cruz; Edcouch Mayor Pro Tem Eddy González; Edcouch Mayor Robert Schmalzried; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya. Middle row, from left: La Villa City Manager Arnie Amaro; Edcouch Alderwoman Verónica Solis; Edcouch City Manager Noé Cavazos; Edcouch Alderwoman Rina Castillo; La Villa Commissioner Rosie Pérez; and Edcouch Alderman Danny Guzmán. Back row, from left: Elsa City Manager Juan Zuniga; and La Villa Commissioner Mario López. The lawmakers and constituents posed for this portrait inside the Texas Capitol following House passage on Friday, May 8, of House Bill 382, which proposed creating a South Texas College branch campus in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County.
Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

House Bill 382, which requires the South Texas College leadership to create a plan to expand courses leading to associate degrees in Edcouch or Elsa by Fall 2019, is awaiting action by Gov. Greg Abbott after the Texas Legislature on Sunday, May 31, approved that measure, authored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville. Canales on Friday, June 19, called on Abbott to show his support for education in deep South Texas by publicly endorsing the measure with a gubernatorial signature. “The support for HB 382 is documented and widespread, and it sends a very clear message that South Texas College has a responsibility to spread its resources throughout Hidalgo County, just as other major community college systems in Texas, such as Austin Community College, which has 11 campuses in a geographic region much smaller than Hidalgo County,” said Canales. The state representative also warned STC bureaucrats to stop lobbying the governor to kill the measure, noting that state law prohibits such actions. “Chapter 556 of the Government Code clearly lays out that is a violation of the law for an institution of higher education to use tax funds to ‘influence the passage or defeat of a legislative measure’, yet in at least two instances, STC President Shirley Reed registered before a House committee in favor of a certain measure, and in the case of HB 382, she used STC resources to lobby against the STC Delta Region branch campus proposal,” said Canales. The Delta Region, which features Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, Monte Alto, and San Carlos, is connected by East Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco. HB 382 states that “the board of trustees of the South Texas Community College District shall adopt and implement a plan expanding opportunity for instructional programs consisting of postsecondary courses leading to an associate degree offered in a classroom setting within the corporate city limits of the municipality of Edcouch or Elsa.” As part of his strategies to increase higher education opportunities for Hidalgo County residents – without raising property taxes – Canales laid out the option for Texas State Technical College to expand into Hidalgo County. “Texas State Technical College is the only state-funded technical college system in Texas. TSTC offers new, emerging and customized curriculum at four colleges: TSTC Harlingen, TSTC Marshall, TSTC Waco and TSTC West Texas, which has campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater,” Canales said. “Both TSTC and STC are creations of the Texas Legislature, and it is the Texas Legislature, if it so chooses, that has the final say on their issues.” Canales said the governor already has signed into law House Bill 658, authored by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, that will established a much-needed Texas State Technical College campus in Fort Bend County, one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas. The House District 40 lawmaker reminded STC officials that South Texas College began as a branch campus of TSTC-Harlingen located in McAllen. Although Weslaco has the STC Mid-Valley Campus, located about a dozen miles away from Edcouch and Elsa, that site is land-locked with limited space to expand, Canales reflected. “The Pecan Campus, which is the northernmost campus of STC, leaves huge areas of Hidalgo County with long commutes to attend classes,” Canales said. “A greater STC presence in the Delta Region would serve not only the students from the Delta Region but also from Edinburg, and would prepare STC for the future. Northern Hidalgo County is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years.” Canales emphasized that he is a very strong supporter of STC, its faculty, staff and students, crediting them with lifting tens of thousands of Hidalgo and Starr county residents into the middle-class, while their respective campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City have brought civic pride, economic development, and job creation to those respective communities. “On every issue that counted for STC, I supported this outstanding institution of higher education, not only with HB 382, which extends its reach to areas that need it, but also on HB 1887, of which I was a joint author – and for which Dr. Reed was registered ‘for’ the bill – that creates the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in the great city of Pharr,” said the House District 40 lawmaker. Requiring STC to expand in the Delta Region comes as the two-county higher education system begins spending almost $160 million for new construction, narrowly approved by voters, at its existing campuses. That funding, which was supported in the bond election by the Delta Region, includes construction in only one new location – Pharr – while STC’s existing campuses and sites in Rio Grande City, McAllen, and Weslaco will receive most of that money.

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STC Delta Region legislation awaits action by Gov. Abbott; Rep. Canales lays out option for TSTC to expand into Hidalgo County

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

House Bill 382, which requires the South Texas College leadership to create a plan to expand courses leading to associate degrees in Edcouch or Elsa by Fall 2019, is awaiting action by Gov. Greg Abbott after the Texas Legislature on Sunday, May 31, approved that measure, authored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville

Canales on Friday, June 19, called on Abbott to show his support for education in deep South Texas by publicly endorsing the measure with a gubernatorial signature.

“The support for HB 382 is documented and widespread, and it sends a very clear message that South Texas College has a responsibility to spread its resources throughout Hidalgo County, just as other major community college systems in Texas, such as Austin Community College, which has 11 campuses in a geographic region much smaller than Hidalgo County,” said Canales.

The state representative also warned STC bureaucrats to stop lobbying the governor to kill the measure, noting that state law prohibits such actions.

“Chapter 556 of the Government Code clearly lays out that is a violation of the law for an institution of higher education to use tax funds to ‘influence the passage or defeat of a legislative measure’, yet in at least two instances, STC President Shirley Reed registered before a House committee in favor of a certain measure, and in the case of HB 382, she used STC resources to lobby against the STC Delta Region branch campus proposal,” said Canales.

The Delta Region, which features Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, Monte Alto, and San Carlos, is connected by East Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco.

HB 382 states that “the board of trustees of the South Texas Community College District shall adopt and implement a plan expanding opportunity for instructional programs consisting of postsecondary courses leading to an associate degree offered in a classroom setting within the corporate city limits of the municipality of Edcouch or Elsa.”

DOCTORS HOSPITAL AT RENAISSANCE ENDORSES HB 382

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, which is one of the state’s most influential business, medical and public service organizations, is also asking Abbott to sign HB 382 into law.

In a letter dated June 3, DHR’s chief executive officer, Israel Rocha, Jr. – himself a proud graduate of the Delta Region’s Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District – rallied support for expanding STC into that portion of the county.

“I know first-hand the incredible talent that can be found in these communities as well as well as the growing need that exists for investing in education and training programs for the benefit of residents that do not have the resources or the ability to obtain an education,” Rocha wrote Abbott. “The Delta Region (has) historically had few opportunities to grow talent locally. “Our hospital firmly believes that is important to expand and support our community colleges that serve as the gateway to better jobs and as a step toward further education opportunities.”

He noted that DHR currently employs more than 4,000 individuals from across South Texas, paying an average of $24 per hour plus benefits. But such a skilled professional workforce must have access to higher education.

“As we continue to grow our health system, we need more nurses, medical technicians and other allied health professionals who can help us deliver the best care here at home,” Rocha explained. That is why we strongly support any effort to increase educational opportunities in this region and across the Rio Grande Valley.”

THE TEXAS STATE TECHNICAL COLLEGE CAMPUS OPTION

As part of his strategies to increase higher education opportunities for Hidalgo County residents – without raising property taxes – Canales laid out the option for Texas State Technical College to expand into Hidalgo County.

“Texas State Technical College is the only state-funded technical college system in Texas. TSTC offers new, emerging and customized curriculum at four colleges: TSTC Harlingen, TSTC Marshall, TSTC Waco and TSTC West Texas, which has campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater,” Canales said. “Both TSTC and STC are creations of the Texas Legislature, and it is the Texas Legislature, if it so chooses, that has the final say on their issues.”

Canales said the governor already has signed into law House Bill 658, authored by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, that will established a much-needed Texas State Technical College campus in Fort Bend County, one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas.

The House District 40 lawmaker reminded STC officials that South Texas College began as a branch campus of TSTC-Harlingen located in McAllen.

Lucio, during the Monday, May 18 public hearing on the measure before the Senate Intergovernmental Affairs, also addressed the issue of the distances of the majority of Hidalgo County communities from the campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City.

“In 1993 I authored Senate Bill 251 establishing South Texas Community College (renamed STC in 2004). It opened its doors to just over 1,000 students,” Lucio recalled of that measure, which was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen – and which also made it the only community college in the state created by the Texas Legislature.

“Today, STC is a nationally recognized and award-winning comprehensive college serving over 30,000 students,” Lucio continued. “HB 382 passed overwhelmingly from the House of Representatives and was supported by every member of the Valley delegation. Furthermore, it is supported by a resolution from Hidalgo County and the cities of Edcouch and Elsa. The struggle for higher education in this area is real. The nearest STC campus is 30 minutes away (Weslaco) and given limited access to transportation, Edcouch-Elsa ISD spends over $20,000 a year to provide a limited opportunity for students seeking higher education.”

Although Weslaco has the STC Mid-Valley Campus, located about a dozen miles away from Edcouch and Elsa, that site is land-locked with limited space to expand, Canales reflected.

MCALLEN STC CAMPUSES TOO FAR AWAY FROM EDINBURG, NORTH HIDALGO COUNTY

“The Pecan Campus, which is the northernmost campus of STC, leaves huge areas of Hidalgo County with long commutes to attend classes,” Canales said. “A greater STC presence in the Delta Region would serve not only the students from the Delta Region but also from Edinburg, and would prepare STC for the future. Northern Hidalgo County is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years.”

Canales emphasized that he is a very strong supporter of STC, its faculty, staff and students, crediting them with lifting tens of thousands of Hidalgo and Starr county residents into the middle-class, while their respective campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City have brought civic pride, economic development, and job creation to those respective communities.

“On every issue that counted for STC, I supported this outstanding institution of higher education, not only with HB 382, which extends its reach to areas that need it, but also on HB 1887, of which I was a joint author – and for which Dr. Reed was registered “for” the bill – that creates the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in the great city of Pharr,” said the House District 40 lawmaker.

$159 MILLION STC CONSTRUCTION BONDS FOCUSED ON EXISTING CAMPUSES

Requiring STC to expand in the Delta Region comes as the two-county higher education system begins spending almost $160 million for new construction, narrowly approved by voters, at its existing campuses.

That funding, which was supported in the bond election by the Delta Region, includes construction in only one new location – Pharr – while STC’s existing campuses and sites in Rio Grande City, McAllen, and Weslaco will receive most of that money.

South Texas College features the Pecan Campus in McAllen, Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco and Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City, which offer traditional college programs. The Nursing Allied Health Campus and the Technology Campus in McAllen provide specialized training for students entering the workforce. In addition, STC has Workforce Training Centers at the Technology Campus and the Mid-Valley and Starr County campuses.

According to STC, the November 5, 2013 bond election, which featured two propositions, will have the following impact:

Proposition 1 authorized the issuance of $159 million in bonds for construction and equipping of college buildings. It passed with a vote of 11,642 to 9,503.

The $159,028,940 million in bonds will be used to pay for the construction and equipping of 564,548 sq. ft. of new classrooms, science and health care teaching labs, and technical training facilities at all STC locations. Renovation of some existing space, parking lots, roadways and infrastructure are included.

The new funding from the bond election will be used for existing campuses, but also includes $4 million for a public safety facility in Pharr.

Proposition 2 authorized an additional 3 cents maximum increase in the tax rate for the maintenance and operation of STC to accommodate increased student enrollment and expanded facilities. It passed with a vote of 11,167 to 10,118.

The November 5, 2013 vote was the first for the college since September 2001, when voters approved $98.5 million to support continued growth and services through enlarged and improved facilities. Since then the college’s enrollment numbers have increased by more than 18,000 students to over 31,000 students in Fall 2014.

TSTC SYSTEM PROVIDES CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION AND SKILLS
Texas State Technical College (TSTC) was established in 1965 as the James Connally Technical Institute (JCTI) of Texas A&M University to meet the state’s evolving workforce needs. This college was located in Central Texas at the former James Connally Air Force Base in Waco. At the time, Governor John Connally predicted that it would be “the most sophisticated technical-vocational institute in the country.”

In 1967, JCTI expanded to include a South Texas campus in Harlingen.

In 1969, the colleges separated from Texas A&M University and became an independent state system, with the name Texas State Technical Institute (TSTI) and its own Board of Regents. Additional campuses were created in 1970 in Amarillo in the Panhandle of Texas and in Sweetwater in West Texas.

As the demand for quality technical education continued to grow, extension centers were established in McAllen (1983), Abilene (1985), Breckenridge (1989), Brownwood (1991), and Marshall (1991). In 1991, TSTI was renamed Texas State Technical College (TSTC).

In 1999, the extension center in Marshall became an independent college of the system.

Today, serving as the corporate college for Texas, TSTC offers new, emerging and customized curriculum at four colleges: TSTC Harlingen, TSTC Marshall, TSTC Waco, and TSTC West Texas, which has campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood, and Sweetwater. In addition, programs and customized training are offered at partnership centers throughout the state.

TSTC is the only state-supported technical college system in Texas. TSTC’s statewide role and mission is to efficiently and effectively help Texas meet the high-tech challenges of today’s global economy, in partnership with business and industry, government agencies, and other educational institutions. TSTC has high graduation rates, exceptional postgraduate success rates, and an outstanding record in graduating individuals from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Nearly 30,000 students are served each year through traditional degree programs, short-term continuing education and corporate training programs.

Among TSTC’s strengths are its emphasis on “learning by thinking and doing” and its strong relationships with business and industry, state-of-the-art laboratories, residential campuses, and student-centered philosophy:

“We believe in people. We believe people desire to be responsible and productive citizens. We believe technology is a force to be explored and channeled by people in a productive and responsible manner for the benefit of all humankind. Therefore, we believe all people should be provided with the educational opportunity to learn the skills necessary to perform meaningful work and, thereby, pursue their goals as responsible citizens contributing to the welfare and success of their families, communities, state, nation, and world.”

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Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. HD 4o includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

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