As I See It…

By Gary Gillen

Higher Education

Katy area State Representative John Zerwas was appointed by the Speaker of the Texas House to lead the House Committee on Higher Education. One of the most important committees in the Legislature, it puts Dr. Zerwas, now in his fifth term representing the citizens of Fort Bend County, in one of the top leadership positions in the House of Representatives.

Katy is one of the fastest growing communities in the Houston area. Surveys consistently show that people are attracted to communities with great amenities such as parks, shopping and schools. When I was Republican Party Chairman in Fort Bend County I said many times that what we want, regardless of race, religion or origin is a safe place to raise our families, good schools for our children and a good job. Katy has all that but in the competitive environment in which cities and counties operate, any extra amenity helps in the competition for residents and businesses.

Being the Chair of the Higher Education Committee, places State Representative Zerwas in a great position to help steer higher education funds and facilities to our area. In fact he has sponsored several pieces of legislation to do just that. At the time of this writing the Legislature is still in session and they have not yet adopted the budget so the fate of these bills is not yet known. By the time this column is published, assuming the Legislature has adopted a budget during the regular session, we will know if they have passed. If the Legislature has not adopted the budget by June 1, the Governor will call a special session because the Legislature MUST adopt a budget.

House Bill 100
This bill provides the opportunity for institutions of Higher Education to issue bonds for the purpose of financing construction and renovation projects. These institutions desperately need this ability to meet the needs of their students and to build for the future. Specifically this will enable the University of Houston to acquire land and construct a new building in the Katy region and build a new academic building in Sugar Land. This will provide for more educational opportunities for our students and help address workforce needs in Fort Bend County and beyond. It will also provide for the construction of a new Texas State Technical College System campus in Fort Bend County.

House Bill 658
Dr. Zerwas sponsored this bill, which has passed the House and the Senate and has been sent to the Governor for his signature, to enable the Texas State Technical College System to create a campus in Fort Bend County. This will give our students additional educational opportunities and create a positive economic impact in the area.

House Bill 1992
This bill could save Texas Families $160 Million in tuition costs! Through Advanced Placement high school students can take college level courses while in high school and earn college credit before graduation from high school. At an average college class credit cost of $284 per hour, every hour earned in high school saves families a lot of money. In 2013 over 190,000 Texas students received scores of 3 or higher on AP exams, which represent 570,000 college credits. But not all universities accept a score of 3. This bill requires institutions of higher education to accept a 3 or higher unless they can show through evidence based research that these students are unprepared for secondary courses.

Katy is fortunate to have State Representative Zerwas, with his position in House leadership and foresight for our children’s future and the future of Katy.

Gary Gillen owns and operates Gillen Pest Control and Gillen Political Strategies in Richmond. He is the only person in history to have served on both the Richmond City Commission and the Rosenberg City Council. He was the Chairman of the Republican Party of Fort Bend County 2006-2007. He can be contacted at