Rep. Ken King calls for solutions, not mandates

BY GAIL M. WILLIAMS
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

District 88 Rep. Ken King (R) serves on the House Public Education Committee and is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Education Quality. This means that schools are as much on his mind as they are on the minds of the Muleshoe citizens that he addressed at a recent town hall meeting.School funding is a perennial problem with state and federal mandates coming down and no money set aside to carry them out.
At one time, the state of Texas capped special education funding at 8.5 percent of the student population. The Department of Education has since declared that cap illegal, and one educator at the town hall meeting estimated that the number of Muleshoe students that tested as special ed was more like 12 or 13 percent.
Property taxes may seem like a revenue source, but property taxes, at the wish of the Texas Senate, have been reduced from 4 percent to 2 ½ percent. King called the action a “bandaid to get you through to the next election.”
Someone mentioned that Muleshoe has raised its taxes, but King said that with caps on the amount that can be spent on school funding and exponential student growth, “You can’t even tax your way out of the fix you’re in.”
King says the government doesn’t do anything good for school boards.
“When I served on a school board, I used to dread sessions, wondering what are they going to do to us this time. We need solutions, not mandates.”
King mentioned that one source of revenue may be freed up by cutting back on the number of Texas Education Association employees.
Another issue discussed was school safety. King emphasized mental health as one solution for school safety. He said the ratio of students to mental health professionals is 1 in 700.
Lack of qualified mental health professionals also extends into the jail system. Ken said can take up to a year or more before a prisoner with mental health problems is transferred to North Texas State Hospital in Vernon.
“The only way to solve the facility problem is to have one of our own through a multi-county shared expense,” King said.
The question of school accountability and the new A-F grading system was also raised.
“Parents like to see ABCD,” King said, adding that the new system is not as bad as the previous one. Schools were primarily graded on attendance and standardized testing. Attendance, King said, is “on the parents,” and no one likes standardized testing.
An educator said that when it comes to ability to learn and grow, socio-economic status targets ethnicity rather than poverty. She said 87 percent of Muleshoe’s white students are low SE.
“One size doesn’t fit all,” she said. “It’s difficult to convince people that there are poor white people.”
Beyond education King discussed an effort to get firefighting gear for rural fire departments. Cancer, he said, is the number one killer of firefighters, due to carcinogens that leach into the skin. Extra gear and giant washing machines can help solve this problem. Legislation is pending.
King said he needed more citizens to come to Austin and state their opinions.
“I have an open door policy,” he said. “When you come to my office, you don’t get my staff, you get me. It’s difficult to try to explain things to Dallas, without having y’all come down and back me up. Contact my office. I’m always available.”
To contact Rep. Ken King, search Ken King Texas online. The Texas House of Representatives site has an email link. You may also phone 512-463-0736 at the Capitol or 806-323-8870 in Canadian, or mail letters to the following addresses:
Capitol address: Room E2.410, P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768
Canadian address: P.O. Box 507, Canadian, TX 79014

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