By BOB PALMER,
State Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, believes the greatest challenge to economic prosperity in Northeast Texas is the lack of an adequate workforce.
“A world-class education system that’s meeting market needs and making sure that we are producing students that have the skills to meet the needs of the market, in whatever industry is needed,” Paddie said. Paddie, in Jefferson to brief constituents on the upcoming legislative session, spoke to the Jefferson Jimplecute about priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
Asked what pieces of the education puzzle were currently missing in Texas, Paddie said it was time to “step back and completely rethink the way we do education in this state overall.” While the system served the student population “pretty well” 50 years ago, “I think it only serves maybe 25 percent of the student population now,” Paddie asserted.
That one-fourth of the student population are “those that are going to go off to college and do four year degrees and go off and be successful in whatever that is.” Paddie is concerned about how Texas schools serve the other students.
“The problem is we’re not meeting the needs for probably 75 percent of our student population today, because success for them is going to be something completely different than going off to a university.” Paddie spoke about an inadequate school finance system and said he would continue to maintain his focus on school finance reform as it relates to public education.
“The only thing you can possibly do to provide true relief to local property taxpayers is to fix a broken school finance system.” Other priority issues for him are achieving property tax relief for the citizens of Texas and caring for the needs of rural Texas in terms of water protection and funding for transportation.
He believes strongly that together with the issues of school finance, property tax relief is also a possibility. But, he says, he will need the support of the governor as well as the Senate. Paddie sees only one way to affect property tax relief. “You hear a lot of discussion about things like rollback rates, and revenue caps and things like that on local government entities,”
Paddie said, “but in my opinion, not that we can’t have that discussion, all that does is slow the growth of your property taxes, it doesn’t provide you true relief. As a Texas State Representative, he believes it is critically important to continue to allow local communities and local governments to do what is best for the citizens they serve.
He told the Jimplecute there have been ongoing discussions about local control as well as the “proper role” of the state. This includes how much the state should “be getting involved in local decisions that should be made by local entities, be it the city, the county, the school district” or whatever the case may be.
“I’m hopeful that we will continue to have the discussion that the House overwhelmingly supported last time trying to eliminate unfunded mandates and make sure we’re not pushing those costs down to local governments,” Paddie said. “I’m hopeful we can get further down the road this time, the house overwhelmingly supported it last time, the senate did not, but maybe we can have more of a discussion on that.”
Paddie noted the funding question applies to a wide range of topics that affect local governments, whether it’s defense, mental health, care issues, all sorts of things that fall into that category. “If we’re going to ask local governments to step up and take care of something, we have to make sure they have the resources to do that,” Paddie said.
“We have a real struggle with that going on right now because Texas is a very diverse state, and what is good for Jefferson, Marion County may not work in Dallas or vice versa. And we have a lot of systems in a lot of different areas that have more of a cookie cutter approach as if they are the same type of communities.”
As vice-chairman of the Sunset Commission, Paddie noted his legislative priorities will center on the 32 agencies up for review. Among the changes under consideration will be a shift of the driver’s license division from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Paddie praised Marion County residents for their support of Republicans in the recent midterm election.
“If you took just the votes in the 10 most populous counties in Texas, every single Republican in a statewide race, including Gov. Abbott, would have lost,” Paddie said. “It is rural Texas that saved the Republican Party.”
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