LONGVIEW, Texas (KETK) - Texas State Representative Travis Clardy serves the people of Rusk, Cherokee and Nacogdoches counties and Thursday evening, he spent time visiting with supporters at the Cherokee Club in Longview.
Ahead of the 85th Legislative Session, Clardy, who is also a member of the Higher Education Committee, said he's ready to make sure Texas can prepare students to meet 21st Century workforce demands.
"I'm a committed supporter of our public schools," he said. "We will be looking at things that can provide for more accountability for the schools and for the teachers and students. Make sure we're getting the best bang for the dollar, but make sure the funds are spread around the state."
The House Education panel will also be looking into the hot topic of school choice, an issue Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick calls a "top policy priority."
"It makes some sense in suburban areas or urban areas, but in my opinion from the proposals I've seen so far, it really doesn't work for East Texas or rural counties," said Clardy.
An issue that came up at the tail end of last session is hefty budget cuts, which resulted in many East Texas families losing therapy services for their children.
"I can assure you that the legislature, no one there has any intentions of causing a difficult time for families who are already in a difficult circumstance," he said. "We're going to go back and look at that. I think that is going to be one of the priorities for us and I expect some justice to be made that will help alleviate that burden."
Another issue high on his radar this session is mental illness, which is a problem he said is dire in East Texas.
"We don't have the resources to deal with it and the resources we do have aren't properly applied," he added.
Clardy said he is working with Senator Robert Nichols from Jacksonville to develop a program with UT Health Northeast to help train clinical psychologists and nurses to work in the State Hospital in Rusk.
"Now that is for those more acute cases, but in the mean time we need to have a better social network or safety network for the mentally ill because right now, they are being served as best as these people can," he said. "But, we don't seem to have a good approach."
He's hoping this session they can come up with some innovative ideas to take the resources East Texas already has and apply them better. He said this will hopefully alleviate pressure from emergency rooms, law enforcement and legal resources.
Lastly, Clardy said right now, Texas is fiscally sound.
"We left about $4-billion in the state coffers that we didn't spend last session. Again, we have approaching $11-billion in the rainy day fund," he said. "We'll be looking at ways to make government more efficient, let's look for places where we don't have to spend money we don't need to. Let's do things we can to invigorate the economy, particularly in the energy sector."
The 85th Legislative Session is January 10, 2017.
For more information on Texas State Representative District 11 Travis Clardy, visit here.