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Texas Senator and retired Army Officer, Brian Birdwell introduced, and passed through the senate, SB 1735 which is scheduled to reform the Texas Veterans Hazlewood Act (Legacy provision) which allows veterans to pass on up to 120 credit hours to a dependent.
“The Hazlewood program is quickly becoming unviable, and soon, its benefits will be too costly to provide even to the veteran—not just his or her dependent,” said Birdwell. “I can think of few things that would be as tragically shortsighted as ignoring the simple facts that foretell the long-term unsustainability of this program, and that’s why the Legislature had to act.”
If it passes, a veteran would be required to have served in the military six years before being allowed to pass on the tuition benefit to a dependent. Currently, the requirement is to serve on active duty for 180 days.
Six years is simply way too long for a combat or disabled veteran with service connected injuries. These particular veterans are normally the “boots on the ground” who are enlisted men and women just trying to survive and provide for their families. It’s not like they are retired Army officers with a nice retirement check plus a VA pension like Senator Birdwell!
If you were looking for [LISD Board Candidate] Mary Smith, outside of her position at Presbyterian Flower Mound Hospital, more than likely you will find her in a place she finds to be her center point. That center point for her is at New Beginnings Church right in the center of Lewisville. Growing up, Smith was surrounded by a family that found comfort in not only attending church but inserting their spiritual gifts in and outside of the church. Today, Smith carries the same traditions with her family. Her foundation consists of strong morals and values such as being trustworthy, non-judgmental, standing firm for what is right, and being dependable- all derived from her relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Jesus Christ is the head of my life and everything I do is to honor him. I honor him through consistently loving others, having compassion for all, extending grace in all situations, and holding short accounts. I do this because every day Jesus does this for me.” -Mary Smith
During Smith’s second year of college, at 19 years of age, she found out that her first child would be arriving in September resulting in her Physical Education degree being placed on hold. At that point in time, Smith believed all of her education and career goals would become a distant memory since she would have to focus on becoming a mother. Ten years later, four more children, a divorce and a new marriage, Smith began to rethink the possibility of a degree again, and that thought reignited her passion for education. Smith decided to not be held in bondage anymore and to reignite her passion for education. In the spring of 2010 Smith completed her bachelors in Biblical Theology and is a third of the way from completing her Masters at Dallas Baptist University. Smith has no plans of stopping at her Masters.
“My education journey has fueled my passion to fight for quality education for all”- Mary Smith
Smith’s life journey has allowed her to develop into an individual who can bring people of different backgrounds together for a common cause. If elected, Smith plans to listen to the concerns of parents and teachers and seek out a solution. Smith believes that in order to see LISD at its full potential, all parties need to work together.
“In 2012 a teacher stepped out of her comfort zone for my husband by donating her kidney that saved his life. My appreciation for teachers runs deep.”
Therefore, Smith vow’s to go to work for all in preparing all of our children for success in a competitive world.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”- Nelson Mandela
Several legislative bills have been proposed that are designed to undermine local control and independence, and residents of municipalities across the state need to quickly rally to defeat these Orwellian bills.
SB 343 would prohibit a city from passing a regulation or ordinance that is “more strict” than “state statutes” (essentially eliminating home rule); it would terminate our local authority to ban texting while driving, protect our trees, regulate the gas industry, and regulate indoor smoking, etc.
HB 540 would require cities to get the attorney general’s approval before putting a citizens’ initiative on a local ballot; it seems designed to usurp the courts’ authority.
SB 720 would prohibit cities from banning hydraulic fracturing. If this legislation were to pass, Texas would no longer be a home rule state, which would not benefit the residents of the DFW metroplex. But powerful, special interest groups such as the oil, gas, and tobacco industries…would profit.
Therefore, I hope we will all work to defeat these Big Brother bills by letting Austin know that we do not want our right to local control and self-determination stripped from us.
I returned to Austin to present my petition that I have been working on. The petition would require elected and appointed officials be required to take the STAAR test. I was encouraged by the conversation and tone our senators were taking. Then the Commissioner of Education, Michael Williams, an attorney, gave his testimony. I found his statements disappointing, troubling and unproductive. Primarily, because of his complete lack of ownership in the test his department developed. His audacity to quickly lay the blame for the high failure rates solely at the feet of our educators and children was shocking.
This highlighted the adversarial role between our educators and the TEA and reinforced my conviction to see this unproductive relationship dismantled. Think how beneficial the STAAR test could be if we demanded its results were used to target the needs of students, teachers and schools. I was once one of those kids that would've had trouble with these tests. I was given a diagnostic test that determined I have dyslexia. That test did not punish me or my teacher for my disability; it got me the help I so desperately needed. I’m eternally grateful for the educational gift I was given.
What I said before the Texas Senate Education Committee:
An account has been set up for Mr. Freed, by some friends of the Freeds. The person heading this up is George Gober, long time resident of Lewisville. The money will be used strictly for Freed's court costs, attorney fees, defense investigators, and anything pertaining to his cost for defending himself. Those wanting to contribute can go to Ciera Bank in Flower Mound, 1801 Cross Timbers Rd. Make out checks to the Defense Fund for Brian Freed. any questions you can call Mr. Gober at 972-977-0618 and he will gladly answer any questions.
Most people know the power of words and yet still use them in devastating ways to destroy reputations, futures, and families. This has been done to Brian Freed by reports in this publication.
While this letter is not about me, I need to tell why I feel qualified to speak out. I have known Brian Freed since he was my student at Hedrick Middle School a number of years ago. I taught in the Lewisville Independent School District for over twenty years, spending time as department chairman at three middle schools and being recognized as Teacher of the Year for the district in 1991-92. I have been appointed to and served on four Denton County Grand Juries as well as serving on various civic boards and committees. I have taught adult Bible study on both Sundays and Tuesdays at First Baptist Church of Lewisville for many years also. I include this information only as evidence that most people consider me to be a reliable citizen.
I have recently been disturbed by words used as character assassination against my former student and friend, Brian Freed. I have known him from his years as a boy to those as a man to be a person of integrity. In his student years, he was admired by both students and teachers. On one occasion, the teachers were asked to choose a student to be a representative from Hedrick Middle School to an event for American Airlines; Brian was the unanimous choice.
I have continued to watch Brian Freed's growth as he has become a young man and now I am also acquainted with his wife and each of their three children. I have seen these parents involved in every aspect of their children's lives, seeking to rear them to also be kind, contributing young people.
Bond elections are one area of control LISD has over its finances. These monies help build and maintain our buildings and technology. The last bond election was in 2008 for $697 million dollars. I personally was against this bond, not that our kids don’t deserve the best, they certainly do, but this bond package promised more than it could give and now that the money is about to run out, many of us are left wondering why our classrooms were never built. The truth is, the wording on the bond never promised anything to anyone, it was essentially a blank check to the district. This bond election was the catalyst to move me from a parent of an elementary student to a frequent visitor and speaker at school board meetings.
Last year, LISD formed a facilities committee, a group of community members who volunteered their time to look at the buildings LISD owns and produce a budget to maintain those buildings. As committee members we were invited to walk the buildings and talk with their principals or managers about what their individual needs were. A special thanks to Representatives from PBK Architects for walking each and every building while keeping organized notes for us to refer back to. Every wish was documented in what ended up being many 3 inch binders worth of information. The committee sat down over several months and prioritized those wishes. By the time the final calculations were made, LISD’s wishes total approximately $500 million dollars to repair or replace our current buildings. I anticipate LISD calling another bond election within the next three years.
The Supreme Court is currently deciding the issue of same-sex marriage.
I am a terminally heterosexual Navy veteran and I support same-sex marriage.
I know several gay and lesbian veterans. We wore our country's uniform and took the same oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
In 2008 I watched Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva's testimony to the House Armed Services Committee regarding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military until it was repealed in 2011. Sergeant Alva was the first Marine wounded in Iraq and received a Purple Heart.
He is also openly gay.
If gays and lesbians can serve in our armed forces and if necessary make the ultimate sacrifice, then surely we can allow them to marry the person they love.
In addition, I have gay family members; one on my mother's side and one on my father's side. I strongly believe in their equal rights because they are people that I deeply care about.
I am standing on the right side of history, and I encourage my fellow Texans to join me.
The time of year is upon when local elected officials, read school board and city councils, are up for reelection. I had the privilege of serving in Highland Village from 2006-2012. No one person has all the answers about running for local office, but there are several things I would like to share from my experiences that may help the aspiring candidate.
First off is that if you have to do a sell job on the members of your family, you might want to reconsider a run for public office. It is essential for your family to be one hundred percent behind you. Reluctance will not do. Only full force enthusiasm should describe your close friends and family’s ideas about your candidacy. These folks support will be essential during a campaign and after you are elected.
Far too often, we hear that any attempt to design reasonable gun control, is an affront to our Second Amendment rights and a deprivation of our liberties.
What about the innocent victims of gun violence, and the shattered lives of their families and friends? Were their "Unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," of a lesser value than Second Amendment rights?
In an attempt to prevent future massacres of school children and teachers, some government officials now naively suggest having armed marshals and arming teachers in our schools rather than trying to find genuine, practical solutions. Maybe, someone will suggest that students should be required to wear flak jackets or bullet proof vests?
There has never been a better time than now, to have a serious and honest conversation about keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable, and reducing their use in crime. The concerns of gun owners should be part of that conversation and for once, so should the concerns of teachers, parents and all who are concerned about gun violence.