A bill originally asking for a South Texas College campus in the Rio Grande Valley’s Delta region now awaits Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature to become law after it was amended to no longer require a campus location.
But concerns about the precedent that such a law would set on local decision-making power remain.
Rather than specifically asking the college to open a new facility in the area, the latest version of House Bill 382 asks for college officials to develop a plan to offer courses leading to an associate degree within the city limits of Edcouch-Elsa by the 2019-2020 academic year.
“I was happy with the bill as I authored, however, in the legislative process compromises are made,” state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, said.
Canales introduced the bill in November and has openly advocated for an extension facility in the Edcouch-Elsa region since March 2014 when he and other politicians — including U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and state Rep. Oscar Longoria, D-La Joya — pitched the idea to use the empty Mercado Delta space as a campus.
The changes are far from asking for a new campus, but Canales said he’s comfortable with the new version and understands that not everyone was comfortable with the wording of the first bill.
STC President Shirley Reed has said the proposed campus would have been only a duplicate of the Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco and she worried about other cities nearby having similar needs.
She did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
STC trustee Paul Rodriguez said the college has been working on programs that could apply to the new version of the bill, like the partnership with Edcouch-Elsa school district to offer dual enrollment courses and the development of early college high schools here and in other school districts.
But even as this particular bill could be easily addressed, he said the board is concerned about where the decision-making power will lie if legislators begin to make decisions for colleges or school districts.
“The question becomes, ‘What about local control and the role of trustees in policy and direction for an education institution’s administration?’” Rodriguez said.
Abbott has until this Sunday to sign or veto the bill. If he fails to take action on it, the bill will automatically become law.