ACC regents criticize Texas Sen. Jackson’s actions on new bill
Alvin Community College regents criticized the actions of District 11 Texas Senator Mike Jackson for authoring a new bill requesting that the Pearland Independent School District be added to the San Jacinto College District’s service area during a regular meeting on March 12.
“Sen. Jackson sponsored the bill without any consultation with us or anyone else (from ACC) that I’m aware of,” ACC Regent Mike Pyburn said. “I’m extremely disappointed in Sen. Jackson for not contacting us on something that would have such a huge impact.”
“It’s a bad bill top to bottom,” he later added. “I would ask that he consider dropping the bill and talking to all sides involved – I think he made a big mistake.”
According to ACC President Dr. Rodney Allbright, the bill, Senate Bill 1857 which was introduced on March 11, acts against the intentions of service areas developed by the Texas Legislature in 1995.
“The TACC (Texas Association of Community Colleges) is opposed to this,” he stated, citing reasons that shared service areas duplicate efforts that lead to wasted tax dollars and situations that confuse service to students.
“This goes against the very idea of a (legislative designated) service area,” Pyburn said. “It’s an absolute bad policy.”
“To me, we’re going to get into a spitting contest and we’re both (ACC and San Jacinto) going to be investing in Pearland and Pearland isn’t putting up a penny,” ACC Regent Mac Barrow expressed. “I don’t think Pearland should get a free ride.”
To provide some background at the meeting, ACC Board Chairman L. H. “Pete” Nash and Pyburn discussed the Northern Brazoria County Education Alliance’s efforts to bring San Jacinto into Pearland.
In July, NBCEA Chairman Mike O’Day, then serving as a state representative, addressed the ACC Board of Regents requesting that ACC give up the Pearland service area to San Jacinto. Although no vote was taken, ACC board members expressed their desire to work with Pearland to provide services instead of relinquishing rights to San Jacinto.
A committee was formed, which consisted of three ACC board members, to meet with NBCEA to determine mutual goals.
After meeting twice, Pyburn said, “It was pretty obvious from the very beginning what they wanted.”
Pyburn added that when ACC announced its partnership with Texas State Technical College (TSTC) to provide training at the ACC Pearland Center, the NBCEA never scheduled another meeting.
“I’m not going to say the communication has always been great with Pearland, but when we’ve known there was a need we have always served them,” he stated. “There’s no reason they can’t have everything they want without the shared service area with San Jac.”
ACC Dean of Instruction and Provost Dr. John Bethscheider added that the industrial training lab that TSTC recently established at the Pearland Center resembles a photograph of a lab that representatives from San Jacinto College showed him as an example of what they wanted to do in the future.
“I thought it was funny that it looks exactly like the lab we already have,” he mentioned to the board. Bethscheider also stated that he asked San Jacinto representatives what their plans were for Pearland.
“They really don’t know what they want,” he said. “Their hearts are not in it.”
“It seems to me what TSTC is offering through ACC is exactly what they’re looking for,” Pyburn stated.
Allbright told the board that ACC had previously expressed to city and NBCEA representatives that they would be in favor of signing a local agreement with San Jacinto if they wanted to offer technical programs that ACC or TSTC could not provide.
During the meeting, regents also responded to a letter from Sen. Jackson that was hand-delivered by his assistant just before the meeting and read aloud.
In the correspondence, Sen. Jackson stated that he filed the bill due to resolutions of shared service area support from the City of Pearland, PISD, Pearland Economic Development Corporation and the Pearland Chamber of Commerce and in “order to open lines of communication between all interested parties.”
Nash responded by mentioning that the City of Pearland’s resolution was passed (4-0) in a special meeting called only for that item and PISD’s vote was 4-3.
Pyburn added that Sen. Jackson listened to only one side, didn’t take the time to check the information presented to him by the NBCEA, ignored ACC and has not returned any of his telephone calls.
“I consider this letter incredibly weak – and late,” he said.
Pyburn commended members of the PISD school board for initially tabling the resolution in efforts to find out more and District 29 Texas Rep. Randy Weber for not authoring a bill when approached by the NBCEA and investigating the matter more deeply.
Allbright reported that he discussed the matter with TSTC System Chancellor Dr. Bill Segura and was assured that “he is still encouraged by our partnership” and wishes to work with ACC as it services Alvin and Pearland.