Last session’s $5.4 billion in cuts to the public schools left the state’s education community reeling. But that wasn’t the only source of anxiety heading into the Eighty-third Legislature. To begin with, the issue’s most experienced hands would not be back: gone was Florence Shapiro, the longtime chair of the Senate Education Committee; gone was Rob Eissler, the House public education chair; and gone was Scott Hochberg, the member with the best understanding of the complexities of education funding. To make matters worse, parents were in open rebellion against standardized testing and business groups were agitating for a greater emphasis on career training. Enter Jimmie Don Aycock, a veteran member who had served on his local school board in the eighties, back when Ross Perot was overhauling the public schools. As the new education chair, Aycock’s mission was to address the concerns of a diverse group of constituents, and with folksy good humor and aw-shucks charm, he navigated the shoals that threatened to sink the boat. His solution, HB 5, reduced the number of end-of-course exams from fifteen to five and rewrote the state’s graduation requirements. But its greatest accomplishment may be its provisions for a pathway to graduation along a career or technology track, which is intended to help keep kids who are not interested in pursuing a college degree from dropping out. No bill is perfect, of course, but when the time came to punch the buttons, Aycock’s colleagues rewarded him with 145 votes—a huge show of confidence in their new chairman.