History is made at Texas Capitol with filing of legislation to create UT super system with medical school in the Valley, says Rep. Canales
History was made on Monday, February 4, when landmark legislation was filed at the Texas Capitol that calls for the creation of a new University of Texas super system, complete with a state-of-the-art medical school, that would forever improve life in the Rio Grande Valley, says Rep. Terry Canales, DEdinburg, an author of House Bill 1000.
Under the legislation, UT-Pan American, with an enrollment approaching 20,000, would remain the dominant academic component in the new system, which calls for it to merge with the University of Texas at Brownsville.
UT-Pan American is located in the heart of Canales’ House District 40, which includes Edinburg, Elsa, and North Pharr.
The UT System also will commission an independent study to determine where a long-sought medical education dream, the “South Texas School of Medicine”, as currently named by state lawmakers, would be located, Canales said. (The final name of the medical school and new university system would be determined at a later date by the UT System Board of Regents.)
“Education is the cornerstone of our society, and the creation of this new university signifies an unprecedented expansion of higher education in our region. The merger of these learning institutions, and the creation of a medical school, will forever change the educational, and economic landscape of the entire Rio Grande Valley” Canales added. “I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to represent my constituents and the people of South Texas as we turn a new page in the history of education, and equal opportunity.”
Rep. René Oliveria, Brownsville, will be carrying HB 1000 in the House of Representatives.
"This bill is the framework that will legally create the new university, and allows us, if passed by a two-thirds majority, to access the Permanent University Fund (PUF), and other state and federal research dollars,” said Oliveira, the Dean of the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation in the House of Representatives. “It will combine existing resources to create a new university maximizing efficiencies in facilities and administration."
• Valley would gain millions of dollars in new funding
Canales said he had met with UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., in Edinburg weeks prior to the UT System announcement in early December regarding its plans for the new university system and medical school.
During the executive session with Cigarroa, Canales said he immediately saw “immeasurable possibilities for the future of our people and our region as a whole.
“It was at this point in our meeting that I wiped a tear from my eye, as I began to fully realize what this meant for the people of my district, and all of South Texas,” Canales revealed. “I apologized to the chancellor for becoming emotional, but my deep-rooted belief that education is the greatest equalizer for the underserved and underprivileged made me swell with happiness.”
“From that moment forward, I immersed myself in understanding just what I and my fellow legislators needed to do to make the dream of a new university and medical school a reality,” Canales emphasized. “House Bill 1000 would mean, for the first time, millions of dollars in revenue from the Permanent University Fund for UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville as a result of this new university system,” Canales said.
• Sen. Hinojosa: “The transformation of the Rio Grande Valley”
"This legislation, creating a new university in South Texas by merging UT-Pan American and UT- Brownsville and establishing a free standing medical school, has the potential of providing endless educational and healthcare benefits for our families in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, McAllen. “I am proud that we stand united as a delegation embracing a regional mindset to draft the legislation we are filing today. The transformation of the Rio Grande Valley through education could soon be a reality and it is critical that we as a state invest in education and in the people of South Texas."
Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., Brownsville, agreed with Canales and Hinojosa regarding the significance of the legislation.
“This is a historic day for the Rio Grande Valley. Today’s filing is the first important step toward creating the Valley’s only Tier One research university, with state-of-the art facilities and the ability to attract top-notch faculty. The inclusion of the future South Texas School of Medicine as part of this new university is the culmination of a decade of work expanding medical education in the region,” Lucio said. “The Rio Grande Valley will soon become a center for multinational education, medicine, and, industry.”
In early December, the UT System Board of Regents also approved the allocation of $100 million over the next 10 years to accelerate the pace of transitioning the Regional Academic Health Center network, which has campuses in Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville, into a school of medicine.
If approved by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, the legislation would result in a single institution that spans the entire Rio Grande Valley, with a presence in each of the major metropolitan areas of Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen and McAllen, according to the UT System.
• Rep. Canales protected interests of UTPA, Hidalgo County
Canales said the legislation is the result of “countless meetings and conversations with the University of Texas, county officials, and fellow legislators. We all came together in the spirit of cooperation, and negotiated House Bill 1000, which we all felt was the best for the entire Rio Grande Valley.
“In the words of (early 20th century automobile manufacturer) Henry Ford: ‘Coming together is the beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success,” Canales added.
The first-term lawmaker said he advocated hard to promote and protect the best interests of his legislative district, while still helping his fellow lawmakers do good for their constituents.
“I began to see the politics of a region unfold before my very eyes, as each state representative and state senator from the Valley began to not only advocate for their district, but also their county, which is expected of all of us,” Canales reflected about the political negotiations that have taken place since the UT System Board of Regents in early December announced their vision for the new Valley wide university system and medical school.
“Having the honor of representing District 40, which is not only the Hidalgo County seat, but is home to the University of Texas Pan-American, the premier university of South Texas, I felt duty bound to ensure that not only was Hidalgo County treated equitably in this merger, but that UT Pan Am was seen for what it truly is: the shining star of South Texas,” Canales said.
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