Trent Ashby

Trent Ashby

I want to start this column by encouraging you to join me in praying for our fellow Texans who were recently affected by Hurricane Hanna.

The first of the season, Hanna caused widespread flooding and power outages throughout South Texas, leaving thousands of residents and their communities to grapple with how to deal with the damage in the midst of our ongoing fight with COVID-19.

While I have no doubt that South Texans will rise to the occasion with the same grit and perseverance that lives inside all Texans, I hope you’ll join me in praying for safety and strength as they begin the recovery process.

With that, here’s this week’s Capitol update.

As I noted in my last column, I recently wrote a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott urging him to exempt Texas public schools from STAAR testing requirements for the 2020-21 school year.

I’m pleased to report that after hearing from scores of administrators, teachers, parents, and legislators, the governor has decided to waive the grade promotion requirements of the STAAR test in grades 5 and 8 for the 2020-21 school year.

While I maintain that Texas should waive the testing requirements altogether to prioritize quality instruction, growth and development, Abbott’s decision to waive the grade promotion requirements is a step in the right direction.

Rest assured that I will continue to advocate for a broader approach toward reducing the burden of high-stakes testing for both teachers and students, and I’m hopeful that further action will be taken as we approach the new school year.

Abbott recently extended the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election by nearly a week. In-person early voting will begin on Oct. 13 and continue through Oct. 30.

I applaud the governor on his decision to expand the early voting period to provide all Texans with greater flexibility to cast their ballots in a fair, safe and efficient manner.

Our state leaders recently announced that the state of Texas will allocate $200 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to the Texas Education Agency for the purchase of eLearning devices and home internet solutions to bolster remote learning efforts for students who lack connectivity.

TEA will purchase and distribute devices, hotspots, routers and other remote learning tools based on needs identified by local educations agencies.

This funding is desperately needed to begin addressing the digital divide that exists, but to be clear, our state and country have much more to do in this arena. Connecting rural Texas to reliable internet and broadband service is critical, and I’m working with interested parties on ideas for the next legislative session to help our region have access to more wireless and broadband capabilities.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office if we can help you in any way.

Our district office may be reached at 634-2762.

Trent Ashby is the state representative for District 57 that includes Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine and Trinity counties. His email address is trent.ashby@house.state.tx.us.