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Strong schools, strong communities

Guest Column
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Back to school — an exciting time for students from pre-K to college. August brings stores filled with school supplies, reunions of friends and the approach of Friday night football. Recently at San Marcos High, I saw an auditorium full of enthusiastic faculty, staff, administrators and community supporters gathered and ready to launch a new school year, and at Strahan Coliseum, 6,000 new Bobcats.

The SMISD theme this year: “make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow,” reflects the commitment to foster resiliency and confidence in our students. I believe that an investment in education is an investment in America’s future, and an important foundation for our future is being built right here.

Strengthening our San Marcos Community: Since its earliest days with a one-room school house and later with the opening of Old Main as Southwest Texas State Teachers College, San Marcos has been recognized as a center for educational excellence. Your investments across the district investments are making a difference, as San Marcos was named one of the “Best Communities of Music Education” by the NAMM Foundation for the third year in a row. Investment in student achievement means that the Lady Rattlers volleyball team are nationally recognized for their GPAs. With the recent record-setting approval of school bonds, pay raises for faculty and staff, and one of the largest graduating class of Rattlers ever seen, the progress continues, beginning with Bonham Pre-K. I am particularly pleased to see the expansion of our dual-language program to four of our elementary schools. Since that’s the type of valuable public education initiative in which my granddaughters continue to learn, I have seen the benefits firsthand of proficiency in two languages. 

Protecting our Public Schools & Reaching for Higher Education: When he signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act into law, Lyndon Johnson described education as the “only valid passport out of poverty.” More than 50 years later, I am working to ensure public education is protected, higher education is affordable, and all children have the opportunity to reach their God-given potential. Education is vital to our economic security and democracy.

Even after a diploma is received, too many students face financial obstacles to furthering their education. I have supported legislation to limit interest rates on federal loans and to provide more Pell Grants and other types of federal student assistance. I also wrote provisions in the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which authorized a tax cut of up to $10,000 on education expenses such as tuition, textbooks, and fees.

 Some students are discouraged from applying for student aid due by the complicated Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. To remove this barrier, I have introduced the Equitable Student Aid Access Act. This legislation would simplify the FAFSA, make it available earlier in the school year, make more students eligible for the full Pell Grant amount, and enable qualifying students to answer fewer questions to complete the already complicated form. 

Strong public education is not only about economic success. As Republic of Texas President Mirabeau Lamar declared: an educated mind “is the guardian genius of democracy.” This year, as our democracy can feel like it is under siege by those that would divide us through bigotry, hatred and ignorance, we have a special responsibility to use our educated minds well. 

Working for You: In the next few weeks, as school bells across Texas ring in the new school year and college mascots spread school spirit, know that I join with you. As students settle into their classrooms, I too will be working to ensure that your priorities are my priorities.

And I continue to encourage college and high school seniors to apply for an internship in my Austin, San Antonio, or Washington, D.C. offices. As always, I welcome your counsel on or questions about the challenges we face in education and other federal matters.

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Lloyd Doggett represents Congressional District 35, which inludes San Marcos