More than 60 Texas chambers of commerce participated in a webinar titled “Empowering to Engage: The Role of Chambers in Education and Workforce Issues in the 88th Legislative Session.” The conversation was co-hosted by TAB, Texas 2036, Greater Houston Partnership, and Commit Partnership. TAB Chairman Massey Villarreal gave opening remarks, sharing that just as businesses must deliver goods and services that customers pay for, institutions of education must be held to the same standard.
The first panel underlined the importance of data-informed education systems, featuring remarks by TEA Commissioner Mike Morath and Texas 2036 President & CEO Margaret Spellings. TAB CEO Glenn Hamer applauded Margaret Spellings for changing the culture of education. There is now a shared expectation that schools should help children achieve their full potential.
“Kids do better when we care enough to find out,” Margaret said. Texas 2036 is dedicated to tracking and leveraging data to improve outcomes. The data shows that only 52% of students are on grade level in reading, and only 40% of students are on grade level in math on the STAAR exam. A major contributor to these statistics may be that only 17% of classroom assignments are actually on grade level, calling into question the curriculum requirements currently in place. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath explained teachers need better materials to help kids achieve better outcomes. He has seen young kids read and comprehend Shakespeare, and while that scenario is an anomaly, it goes to show what is possible with the right resources. Building on House Bill 3 from the 87th Legislative Session, investments in technology, dual credit coursework, welding programs, and partnerships with businesses can all help improve outcomes and ensure students are career ready.
On legislative engagement, Longview Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, Kelly Hall, and Greater Houston Partnership Chief Policy Officer, Taylor Landin, said chambers have an important role to play this legislative session. Kelly Hall started by reassuring smaller chambers. She has been a part of one-person chambers, two-person chambers, chambers with very limited bandwidth… but that didn’t limit her impact. By partnering with organizations like TAB and Texas2036, chambers can tap into legislative relationships and the data needed to advocate for pro-business policies. Kelly emphasized the importance of getting to know key staff members, and being solution-oriented. Taylor Landin doubled-down on the impact of chamber advocacy: "We can be a force if we are organized and engaged." He advised every chamber around the state to be vocal in supporting community college finance reform. “We have to get that across the finish line.” The webinar concluded with a panel on community college finance reform, moderated by Texas 2036 Executive Vice President, A.J. Rodriguez. San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, Chairman Woody Hunt, and Commit Partnership CEO Todd Williams touted how the new model can improve outcomes and lead to a stronger workforce. The Texas Legislature's base budget dedicates $650 million to community college finance reform. TAB CEO Glenn Hamer thanked the 60+ chambers that participated in the webinar. Together with local chambers and partner organizations, TAB will work to deliver the best legislative session for workforce and education.