The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Education main focus, representative says

By Jessica Whitman/reporter

Legislators need to stay focused on the future, and their No. 1 priority should be public and higher education, said State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington.

Turner was sworn into his first term of office in January 2009.

“It has been a whirlwind experience, and we have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.

Turner spoke last month to a South Campus history class. He talked about what life was like on the campaign trail and the issues the state legislature will face next session.

“Government interacts with constituents,” he said. “Government can help people, and it can cause problems.”

Turner said he ran for office because he believes in the system.

“You take a serious cut in income when you decide to become a representative,” he said.

State representatives make $7,200 a year, so most of them have their own side business or flexible job, said Turner, who owns a communications consulting company.

Before launching his consulting company, Turner worked for U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards for eight years.

As part of Edwards’ team, Turner worked on the congressman’s campaign.

As a result, Turner said, he had to adjust to being the center of a campaign as opposed to being one of its managers.

“Campaigning is a feast-or-famine thing. You either like it or you don’t,” Turner said. “It is a big transition. I went from doing it many years for other people to the spotlight being on myself.”

Turner also talked about his first year in session.

“It’s like being a freshman in college again,” he said. “To pass your first bill, senior colleagues harass and embarrass you.”

Turner’s bill was the first to be discussed in the legislative session, and since others in office had not been in session for two years, they were extra feisty, he said.

“The first bill was about the shared work program, and I maybe changed 10 words from its previous form,” he said. “The senior colleagues were joking with me, saying they had to read 200 words for the 10-word change.”

Turner also discussed the coming session in Austin next January and how busy the legislators are going to be.

“The biennial budget is up for renewal, and the comptroller says the budget is going to be between $10 billion and $20 billion short,” he said.

“It is going to be difficult to find where to cut back in the budget when education and health and human services take over 70 percent of the budget.”

No one wants to cut back in those two areas, so it is going to take much time and discussion, Turner said.

“Education should stay our number one focus,” he said.

Texas is lagging behind the national average in associate and bachelor’s degrees, Turner added.

“We need to attack the dropout rate because it is at 30 percent, and that is high,” he said.

“This means 30 percent of the freshmen going to college will not graduate.”

Student Justin Ingran said he enjoyed listening to Turner. He had a particular interest in what Turner had to say about the state budget.

“This looks like a serious issue that needs to be attacked head-on,” he said.

His classmate Garrett Misak agreed.

“Texas has a big problem to fix in 2011 with the budget and where the money will come from,” he said.

“I am interested to see what they come up with.”

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