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As I have said many times, nothing is more important than education! The reason I am Texas Comptroller today is that I was laminating chairman of Casis Elementary PTA several decades ago. And the school board cut off our laminating funds.
So, I gathered up my very young sons and went to a meeting of the Austin School Board to make a plea for the visual aids that were much needed for the kiddos and the teachers. I sat through hours of the meeting and at the very end (when citizens were finally allowed to speak) a heated discussion between the board and my soon-to-be-friends, East Austin activists Velma Roberts and Larry Jackson.
They wanted to start a school breakfast program. Certain members of the board were more concerned about charging the school breakfast program for the depreciation on the pots and pans that would be used from the school lunch program than about the children who had to learn on an empty tummy.
I decided then and there that I was going to run for the school board and make the decisions myself on the well being of our most precious resource -- our children.
More importantly, the experience opened my eyes to the impact of volunteerism. I learned how important a few volunteer hours can be to a child, and I learned that one person can make a difference.
I encourage every one of you to volunteer time at your local schools. Through my e-Texas initiative to help Texas state government meet the challenges of the Internet Age, I am a big proponent of using technology. But no computer will ever replace the need for volunteers in our schools.
You have a lot to offer. You can read to students and mentor them. You can help their teachers inside and outside the classroom. You can even serve on the school board!
And if helping prepare children for the future isn't incentive enough, in 1999, the Texas Legislature added an alternative property tax payment option to school districts by allowing property owners to "work off" their property taxes.
The new law allows school districts to offer homeowners or businesses the option to work off their property taxes by teaching in a junior or senior high school in lieu of paying their homestead taxes for a maximum tax credit of $1,000 per school year.
Homeowners 65 years of age or older also may pay their homestead property taxes by working for the school district in non-teaching positions, with credit at the federal minimum wage.
Though no Texas school districts participated this first year, several are considering the option.
Thus, there are many incentives to get involved at your local school.
For each of you who are already active volunteers in your schools, I thank you. And I encourage those of you who have not yet had the pleasure to get involved. From my own experience, I can assure you that you will get back much more than you will ever be able to give. Sincerely,
CAROLE KEETON RYLANDER
Comptroller of Public Accounts