State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock is giving Killeen a good name.
The fourth-term Republican representative of District 54 earned many laurels after the 83rd session, including a listing in Texas Monthly’s Top 10 Legislators of 2013.
After his appointment as chairman of the House Education Committee, Aycock stepped into the spotlight for House Bill 5, arguably one of the more high profile bills of the session.
The bill, signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry on June 10, overhauled high school graduation requirements, expanded vocational education opportunities and reduced the number of the state’s high-stakes tests.
However, it was Aycock’s conduct, that led one Texas Monthly editor to describe him as “a statesman,” compared to Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, “who ran his committee like a demagogue.”
Patrick’s conduct earned him a place on the magazine’s list of worst legislators of 2013.
So what the secret? Listening.
“It’s called a hearing. It’s not called a lecturing, and so you ought to be listening to people,” Aycock said.
“I try to maintain some fairly rigid order.”
More than 400 bills were referred to the House Education Committee and, in order to keep them moving, Aycock had to adhere to the strict three-minute time limit for testimonies, he said.
“You’ve got to keep everybody on target and focused,” Aycock said.
More than 100 education bills were passed during the session.
But the committee’s crowning achievement, HB-5, most notably decreased the number of end-of-course tests students have to take to graduate from 15 to five.
Aycock said that the committee was writing the legislation on a time limit.
After the first round of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness last year, about 125,000 to 130,000 ninth-graders were not on track to graduate, he said.
“Starting back in the 1980s, Texas has been on this test-and-drill business and it ratcheted up and ratcheted up with each session so much that districts were teaching 30 days and in many cases up to 45 days just for the test,” Aycock said.
“We were about to approach the point that almost half of the ninth- and 10th-grade students were not going to graduate, even though most of them had passed those courses.”
Aycock said critics remain on all sides and portions of HB-5, but at the end of the day, it was a unanimous vote in the House and the Senate.
One highlight of HB-5 is that tests will occur early on in high school — during ninth and 10th grade — allowing teachers time to remediate students who fail with enough time to graduate on time, he said.
“Now it is up to the education people to implement it well,” Aycock said.
Ready to come home
Aycock, who served as committee chair for the first time, and his wife, Marie Aycock, who served as president of the Legislative Ladies Club of Texas for the first time, are looking forward to returning to a normal life in Killeen.
Early in the session Aycock, a retired veterinarian, was able come home on the weekends, “to feed the horses and the cows and go back in the morning,” he said.
But in the final weeks leading up to sine die — the final order in the session — they worked through the weekends, with the couple living out of their Austin apartment.
“We knew what we were in for but, sure, we are looking forward to coming home,” Aycock said.