Tom Pauken's Farewell as Texas Workforce Commissioner

For the past five years, I’ve had the honor of representing you as Commissioner Representing Employers at the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). As many of you know, I’m leaving the Workforce Commission this month, but I will still remain involved in public affairs and support policies to encourage employment opportunities and private sector job creation.

As I leave TWC, I am particularly proud of the rediscovery of the importance of vocational education in providing good job opportunities for young Texans and in meeting the demand for skilled workers in our state.

Somehow, over the last two decades, certain political elites pushed a “one size fits all” educational system. In an attempt to make every high school student “college ready,” our state came to rely on a so-called 4-by-4 curriculum and an expensive high stakes testing system. In many ways, “teaching to the test” has replaced real learning. Meanwhile, in this quest to push every student to go to a university, we have de-emphasized our Career and Technical Education programs at the high school level. Consequently, we face a shortage of skilled workers and a greying workforce.

Thanks to the efforts of concerned educators, parents, and business owners like you, that is beginning to change. Legislation that addresses these issues is making its way through the Texas Legislature this session.

I also am proud of our Texas Veterans Leadership Program, which is modeled after a similar program for Vietnam veterans we created in the Reagan administration. TVLP is run by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and designed to help our returning veterans make a successful transition to civilian life. TVLP leaders throughout the state work with our returning veterans in assisting them in getting good jobs upon their return home. Thanks to the leadership of Jason Doran, a former Marine who was awarded the Silver Star for bravery in Iraq, and his successor, Bob Gear, we’ve helped more than 10,000 returning veterans start careers and access educational and health benefits.

One thing I’ve learned from my time as a public servant is that inertia is one of the most powerful forces in government. Ronald Reagan dealt with that inertia by creating the Private Sector Survey on Cost Control (PSSCC), commonly known as the Grace Commission. Reagan tapped private sector business leaders to examine the public sector and propose ways to cut costs and improve efficiency.

According to a 1989 article in Fortune magazine, the Grace Commission proposed $424 billion in savings over a three-year period. But only $110 billion of its ideas were implemented. The Grace Commission estimated the impact of its proposals would have saved taxpayers $1.4 trillion per year by 2000 had they been fully implemented.

We need to create a Grace Commission for Texas, to continue our state’s role as the nation’s leader for pro-business, limited government policies.

And finally, I’d like to encourage you to make your voices heard in the current legislative session. We need your help on promoting vocational education and in helping support pro-business reforms to Texas workplace law.

Thanks for all you do for our Texas economy. It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve you on the Texas Workforce Commission. I wish Texas employers continued success and prosperity in the years to come.

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