Those of us involved with public education advocacy need look no further than the office of Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) to thank him for his support for public schools during his years of service as a school board trustee, member of the Texas House of Representatives, and most recently the Chairman of the House Public Education Committee. The announcement by the Texas Schools Public Relations Association (TSPRA) that Chairman Aycock is the recipient of the TSPRA 2015 Key Communicator Award only underscores the value of the contributions he has made to public education in Texas. Sadly for all of us, Chairman Aycock has indicated that he will retire from the House and not seek reelection in 2016. His positive influence will be missed by all of us - especially by the 5 million plus students in Texas public schools.
Before lamenting his decision and applauding his contributions, I would like to acknowledge a former winner of the award and a dear friend of mine. Bobby J Rigues, Aledo ISD trustee and the father of the Make Education a Priority (MEaP) grassroots movement, was named the winner of the TSPRA award in 2011. Bobby J not only founded the movement but worked diligently to secure approval of a resolution supporting MEaP from a majority of school districts across the State of Texas.
As a former school board trustee in Carroll ISD (Southlake), it has been my honor for more than ten years to have served as an advocate not only for the students in my home district but across the entire state. It has been equally rewarding to have worked with Bobby J, and with insight from Chairman Aycock, to have developed and delivered presentations at various conferences surrounding the passage of House Bill 5 and the need for effective school board governance. Chairman Aycock was most gracious in answering questions we posed to him and readily provided his perspective on the challenges of public education.
One need only to watch the leadership he provided in the 84th Legislative Session to truly appreciate his contributions. He was a strong advocate of addressing funding challenges and not waiting for the Texas Supreme Court to act. At the same time, he continued to keep initiatives related to House Bill 5 at the forefront of discussion among his peers in the House. In recognizing his contributions, TSPRA made mention of Chairman Aycock’s efforts to not only improve the Texas public education system but to simultaneously defend it from the endless attacks by those who seek to undermine a system required under Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution. For those not familiar with this, it states that “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”
Chairman Aycock consistently did his level best to ensure compliance with this requirement and for that we are all grateful. As I reflected on his contributions, I read one quote that stood out among others. James B. Crow, Executive Director of the Texas Association of School Boards, acknowledged the Chairman’s efforts very succinctly when he said, “His bravery in attempting to address school accountability, school turnaround measures and school finance in one session will not soon be forgotten.”
We owe Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock a deep sense of gratitude for consistently keeping the discussion about public education policy as a priority. He, perhaps more than any other person, demonstrated leadership to keep the focus on the more than 5 million students in the Texas public education system. Thank you, sir, for your contributions and for making education a priority.