Gov. Rick Perry used his Feb. 6 State of the State address to call for increased funding for public education in Texas, health insurance for 2 million poor residents, and a program that would enlist the assistance of schools in promoting the fitness of children.
His proposed 2008-2009 biennial budget would add $80 million to the state’s pre-K program for “at risk,” or low-income, youngsters, as well as a $5 million grant to expand the mentoring of school-age children with incarcerated parents.
It would hike state aid for public K-12 education to nearly $50 billion in the next two-year budget cycle, an increase of $11.9 billion over the 2006-2007 biennial budget, or more than 31 percent. The increase would, in large part, make up for local property-tax cuts passed by the legislature last year.
In his speech, Gov. Perry, a Republican who won re-election in November, applauded lawmakers for their “groundbreaking work” in recent years—for example, implementing a college-prep curriculum in the state’s high schools—but added that the state could do more.
Citing rising obesity rates among the nation’s youths, he said he wants the Texas Education Agency to work with every school in the state to a perform a fitness evaluation of its students. Each student’s fitness level would be compared with other variables such as absenteeism, discipline problems, and academic achievement.
“The goal will be to use this data to develop a fitness regime in our schools and neighborhoods that will get more children in shape, improve academic performance, and set them on course to a lifetime of health and happiness,” the governor said.
Gov. Perry also is asking for $1.7 billion in new spending for higher education, including $360 million in financial aid and $40 million for postsecondary-level electrical-engineering, engineering-technology, and computer-science programs.
A version of this article appeared in the February 14, 2007 edition of Education Week