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Archive for March, 2009

Children @ Risk update – 3/30/09

Posted by Texas Education on March 30, 2009

Seems when it rains, it pours. Lots of stuff going on right now. Especially now with the lege. This just in from Children@Risk.

Tomorrow on Tuesday, March 31st, the House Public Education Committee will hear a number of bills of interest to children in Houston and Texas.  CHILDREN AT RISK has summarized five of those bills which we are monitoring in the areas of child discipline and sex education.  Below are their summaries to better inform you of what’s happening.

If you have an opinion on one or more of these bills, we encourage you to contact the House Public Education Committee members! You can access their contact information by clicking here.

School Discipline: Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEPs) are designed to remove disruptive students from the regular classroom who repeatedly interfere with instruction or commit serious offenses.  The goal of sending students to DAEPs is also to enable them to acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to be successful in environments more suited to their needs.  However, DAEPs have been the source of much criticism in the past few years in large part due to the referral process through which students are placed at these campuses and the quality of the instruction and services provided to them.

HB 171, by Representative Dora Olivo
Considering Mitigating Factors When Deciding Disciplinary Action
This bill would require that each school district’s code of conduct specify that consideration of mitigating factors (such as self-defense, lack of intent, etc.) will be given when deciding whether a student is suspended, removed to a DAEP, or expelled. Currently, districts only need to specify whether consideration is given, but not require that consideration of mitigating factors.

HB 172, by Representative Dora Olivo
Parent Notification of Disciplinary Action
In the event that a child is placed in a disciplinary alternative education program, expelled, or placed in a juvenile justice alternative education program, this bill would require parental notification. As a result, school districts must provide written notification to the student on the day action is taken so that the student can deliver the message to the parent; inform the parent of the disciplinary action taken by phone or mail within a specific time frame; include information on both the parent’s and the student’s applicable procedural rights.

HB 901, by Representative Harold Dutton
Not involving Law Enforcement Officers in School Conduct

This bill amends Subchapter A, Chapter 37, Education Code by adding new language to prohibit a school administrator from referring a student to a law enforcement official on the basis of conduct by the student that violates the student conduct code but that the school administrator knows or has reason to know is not a criminal offense.

Sex Education: Texas receives more federal funding for abstinence-only programs than any other state in the country. In 2007, Texas received $18,213,472 in federal funding. This is 27 percent more than the next highest state. At the same time, Texas has one of the highest rate of births and repeat births to teenage girls in the nation. To learn more visit Education Works.

HB 741, by Joaquin Castro
Abstinence-Plus
This bill amends Section 28.004, Education Code to require Abstinence-Plus sex education in Texas schools. This would require that if Texas schools choose to teach sex education, they must present medically-accurate, age-appropriate information, including information about abstinence, contraception, effective communication, responsible decision-making, and what it really takes to be a parent.

HB 1567, by Representative Mike Villarreal
Scientifically Accurate Information
This bill relates to Abstinence Education programs in public schools.  HB 1567 does not require discussion of condoms or contraceptives, but it does require scientific accuracy if they are discussed—and it prohibits discouraging the use of condoms or contraceptives.

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Update – Texas PTA 3/30/09

Posted by Texas Education on March 30, 2009

Lots and lots of updates, this from Texas PTA:

Textbooks
The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) placed $895 million for textbooks in Article IX, also called the “wish list.”  In contrast, House Appropriations Committee (HAC) reduced the amount appropriated to $759 million, but guaranteed funding for this item in the budget bill.  Of the $895 million, approximately $547 million is in for Proclamation 2010, while the remainder is for continuing contracts.  The $137 million reduction found in the house is cut from the amount set aside for Proclamation 2010 materials and represents a 25 percent reduction.  The subcommittee believes that there was no incentive for textbook publishers to come in at a price under the maximum allowed for each text and hope that this reduction will incent them to do so or to deliver content through other more cost-effective methods.

Other Items in the Budget
In both versions of the budget bill is a rider allocating nearly $1.9 billion in additional funding to public education contingent on the passage of a bill that would increase equity and reduce recapture.  The HAC adopted its subcommittee’s recommendation that this rider be modified to include an educator salary increase as one of the goals of legislation that would trigger this funding.  Finally both the HAC and the SFC versions of the budget bill remove $6 million that was allocated for steroid testing.

STATE BUDGET READY FOR VOTE NEXT WEEK SAYS OGDEN
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden said that he plans to have a $177 billion budget ready for a vote late next week. He described the bill as “balanced” and said that the Rainy Day Fund won’t be needed to pay for it. This is due to the incoming federal stimulus funds that will create more spending for programs like Medicaid and job-training programs. If Ogden’s timeline holds, the bill should be on the Senate floor by next Thursday. The House is still working on its version of the 2010-2011 budget.

SB 300 APPROVED BY SENATE
Class Size Bill SB 300 was approved by the Senate this week, which amends provisions for a school district seeking exemption from the limit of a campus-wide average of 22 students per class. The latest version of the bill, which was sent to the House, allows school districts to apply for a waiver of the 22-1 class size rule for one year rather than the current law which requires a district to apply each semester. It also provides for districts to conduct emergency school bus evacuation training and mandates schools to create a “long-range energy plan” to reduce their energy consumption.

SBOE APPROVED SCIENCE STANDARDS
The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) today passed science curriculum standards that are considered a compromise between those critical of teaching evolutionary theories and those who feared attacks on evolution would lead to the teaching of creationism in public schools. The 13-2 vote removes current requirements that students be taught the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. Instead, teachers will be required to have students scrutinize “all sides” of scientific theories, a move criticized by evolution proponents. This week’s impassioned debate had scientists, teachers and textbook publishers from around the country focused on Texas, which, because of its size, influences much of what publishers put in textbooks. Today’s adoption comes after many months of back-and-forth over drafts for the standards, which were last revised in 1998.  The Discovery Institute, which encourages teaching that the universe is the result of “intelligent design,” called the vote “a huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution.”  By requiring students to critique the evidence for major evolutionary concepts such as common ancestry, natural selection and mutations, the institute said in a statement, “Texas today moved to the head of the class.” “Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned,” said John West, a senior fellow at the institute. The standards also call for students to specifically analyze and evaluate evolutionary theory’s explanation for both the complexity of cells and the sudden appearance and lack of change in species in the fossil record. Though evolution advocates were happy with initial votes to remove language that implied that certain principals of evolution were “insufficient” to explain certain natural phenomena in cells and fossils, board members who pushed to include weaknesses of evolution said they were happy with the compromise. Board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, who pushed for language challenging scientific explanations of cell complexity and fossil records, said the new wording still gets his point across. “The scientific community got its luster back,” McLeroy said. He and Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, one of the members behind several compromise proposals, both said the board ended up with a better document than it started with that morning. (Statesman)

FEDS REJECT PERRY’S ARGUMENT ON STIMULUS MONEY
Last week Governor Perry held a press conference to reject $555 million in federal unemployment insurance. The US Dept. of Labor has countered there is no penalty for states who reject an expansion of unemployment insurance rules in order to receive the stimulus money. The memo released by the Labor Dept. was written in mostly question and answer form, below is the excerpt where they refute Perry’s argument.

Question: UIPL No. 14-09 provides that applications for incentive payments should only be made under provisions of state laws that are currently in effect as permanent law and not subject to discontinuation. Does this mean that my state may never repeal any of the provisions that qualified it for a UC Modernization payment?

Answer: No. If a state eventually decides to repeal or modify any of these provisions, it may do so, and it will not be required to return any incentive payments. However, in providing the incentive payments, Congress clearly intended to support states that had already adopted certain eligibility provisions and to expand eligibility to additional beneficiaries by encouraging other states to adopt these provisions. By specifying that the provisions must be in effect as permanent law, Congress also made clear its intention that the benefit expansions not be transitory. While states are free to change or repeal the provisions on which modernization payments were based subsequent to receipt of incentive payments, Congress and the Department rely on states’ good faith in adopting the eligibility criteria, and the application must attest to this good faith as required by the following Q&A…”They’re saying, in essence, that states have the right to come back and change their standards later, but that legislation written to comply with the higher standards cannot include “sunset” provisions on those standards.

They can change back later, but can’t include that intention in their law at the outset.” This issue could certainly become contentious, as there are rumors swirling around the capitol about a special session due the disagreement between the legislature and Perry over the stimulus funds.
(Some info from Texas Weekly)

HOUSE PASSES FIRST BILL OF SESSION
HB 873 by Dawnna Dukes was passed out of the House on Wednesday. This marks the first piece of substantial legislation passed with more than half of the session over. Expect a flurry of bills to be passed and debated on the floor in the coming weeks.

BILL IS OK’D FOR GUNS IN WORKER’S CARS
The Texas Senate unanimously approved a SB 730 Wednesday that would allow Texans to bring guns and ammunition to work, even if their bosses said no.

Guns and shells would have to be kept out of sight in a locked car. Under the measure, employers could still bar employees from possessing guns in offices or company vehicles and in fenced parking lots to which access is restricted. (Statesman)

HOUSE TO TAKE UP VOTER ID OVER TWO DAYS
Representative Todd Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Elections, announced that he wants invited testimony before the committee to take place on April 6 and public testimony to be heard April 7. The reason for this is to avoid the wait time for some members of the public who waited for over 13 hours to testify when the Senate took up Voter ID. “I didn’t like the fact that the public didn’t have a chance to testify until the wee hours,” Smith said.

LEGISLATIVE REPORTS:
For information on all the bills being tracked by Texas PTA please click on the following links:

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Take a thorough look

Posted by Texas Education on March 28, 2009

strausThat’s what our lege leader, Joe Straus, said about the SBOE. Wow, likin’ this guy more and more.

The Texas Legislature should “take a thorough look” at changing the structure of the embattled Texas State Board of Education, maybe changing it to a nonpartisan or appointed board, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board Friday.

Straus said: “I think it’s unfair that the State Board of Education makes so much news in the manner that they make it.” Besides the board’s handling of science standards, Straus said, “I have some other concerns about that elected body having so much management authority over significant dollars,” referring to investments of the Permanent School Fund.

He said it would be “interesting” to look at nonpartisan board elections. Straus also brought up changing back to an appointed board.

“I’ve spoken to some people who were leaders in the effort to make it an elected board, and they’re very sorry,” he said.

Wow, I’d like to see that happen. And we get some not so wackos on it this time ’round, maybe say….Laura Ewing?

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Texas State Board of Education Adopts Flawed Science Standards

Posted by Texas Education on March 27, 2009

Email from TFN (Texas Freedom Network) on the SBOE. A victory, no doubt, but we must stay cautious, at best. The update:

Just a short while ago, the Texas State Board of Education voted on new public school science standards that publishers will soon use to craft new science textbooks. This long-awaited decision is the culmination of TFN’s two-year Stand Up for Science campaign.

The good news is that the word “weaknesses” no longer appears in the science standards — this is a huge victory for those of us who support teaching 21st-century science that is free of creationist ideology.

The bad news is the final document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms.

Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will almost certainly use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks. As TFN Communications Director Dan Quinn told the New York Times: “The State Board of Education pretty much slammed the door on ‘strengths and weaknesses,’ but then went around and opened all the windows in the house.”

What’s truly unfortunate is that we will have to revisit this entire debate in two years when new science textbooks are adopted in Texas.

While we did not succeed in ending this debate once and for all, I am extremely proud of the work we did together on this Stand Up for Science Campaign. Your testimony, calls and e-mails over these past months really made a difference in the outcome of this science debate — and the students of Texas are better off for it.

I sincerely hope you will consider participating in the last day of our Stand Up for Science matching gift challenge. Double your gift’s impact to TFN Education Fund by contributing today!

As you know, hostility toward science persists in our state. From stem cell research to responsible sex education, crucial public policies hang in the balance. As always, TFN will carry your support for mainstream values and sound science to our elected leaders.

Sincerely,

Kathy's Signature

Kathy Miller
President

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Media release from Texas Charter Schools

Posted by Texas Education on March 27, 2009

chrtschls1MEDIA ADVISORY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Josie Duckett (512) 584-8272

jduckett@txcharterschools.org

WHEN: Monday, March 30, 2009

1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: Toll Free Teleconference

Dial-in: (218) 339-2500

Passcode: 773927#

WHO: Senator Dan Patrick, Author of Senate Bill 1830

David Dunn, Executive Director of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA)

WHAT: There will be a press conference call on Monday, March 30th, in anticipation of the Senate Education Committee hearing for SB 1830 (Relating to the establishment, operation, and funding of open-enrollment charter schools) which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 31st at 8:30 a.m.

WHY: TCSA is supporting significant reforms to Texas charter school law including: increased facility funding for charter schools; lifting the cap on charter schools and allowing effective charters to replicate; sharing facilities with traditional public schools; and including a growth measure in the state accountability system.

AGENDA: I.             Highlight key issues in SB 1830

II.            Discuss new data on Texas charter school policy, in particular the recent UT Institute for Public School Initiatives Report, “An Analysis of Gaps in Funding for Charter Schools and Traditional Districts

III.           Q&A with Senator Patrick and David Dunn

###

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Texas PTA update – 3/20/09

Posted by Texas Education on March 20, 2009

Just in from the Texas PTA:

BILL UPDATES

ACCOUNTABILITY
There was a hearing this week on SB 3 and HB 3, the filed bills on school accountability. We will have more information for you over the next few days and weeks, but here are a few pieces:
  • The bill creates a distinction tier for excellence in a variety of areas – growth in achievement, closing the gaps, workforce readiness, fine arts, physical fitness, second language learning. Texas PTA requested that this be included so that school districts would be encouraged to provide robust, challenging programs in fine arts and physical activity/fitness.  Schools can earn distinctions in multiple areas.
  • To earn a Post-secondary Readiness endorsement, the goal for all Texas high school graduates, where students complete 4 years of English, Math, Science and Social Studies, 2 foreign language credits and 8 credits or electives of their own choosing. Career and Technology courses, approximately 30 of them, would be allowed to count for 4th year of math and science. The bill also recommends the creation of new applied math and science courses.
  • The bill defines college readiness standards and skilled workforce readiness standards.
  • To maintain accreditation, student achievement or growth in individual student achievement toward post-secondary readiness would be assessed each year, but a 3 year rolling average for each student subpopulation would be allowed.
  • The bill aligns exit standards with skilled workforce and college readiness standards.

ENVIRONMENTAL
Rep. Diane Patrick, Arlington, has filed HB 4208 relating to school bus idling.

STATEWIDE SMOKE-FREE WORKPLACES LAW
Late last week, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Houston, filed HB 3415, an alternative to HB 5 and SB 544, the comprehensive statewide smoke-free workplaces law that Texas PTA has endorsed.

OTHER SMOKING RELATED LEGISLATION
Sen. Hegar, Katy, has filed SB 2327, relating to a prohibition on smoking in a car in which a person under age 16 is riding.

SAFETY
We’ll put in a card of support for HB 149, regarding penalties for illegally passing a school bus.  We’ll put in a card of support for HB 1622, relating to a grant program to provide children at risk of hunger or obesity with increased access to nutritious foods.

FUNDING
Senator Shapiro, Plano, has filed SB 2392 relating to school finance.  This bill adjusts formulas that determine funding for school districts.

VOUCHERS
Sen. Shapiro, Plano, has again filed a voucher bill – SB 2204 relating to vouchers for students with autism.

Vondebar (wonderful!) some awesome bills filed on behaf of our kiddos!

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Humble ISD school board elections

Posted by Texas Education on March 19, 2009

School board elections will be coming up on us shortly, May 9th.  Last year I became involved in it more than I ever had before. We had quite a few vying for Jim Eggers position last year. This year will be totally different. We have 3 incumbents, Dan Huberty Position 1, Email Mr. Huberty’s profile, Keith Lapeze Position 2, Email Mr. Lapeze’s profile and Bonnie Longnion Position 3, Email Dr. Longnion’s profile.  Mr. Lapeze has a challenger, Aquarius Terry Johnson and Dr. Longnion is being challenged by Vernon Reed, 45, a business manager of a paralegal firm who previously ran in the 2008 special election for the vacant Position 5 seat, losing to Brent Engelage. At this time, I feel running against an incumbent would be an up hill battle. Unless the trustee is totally incompetent, and in this case I don’t feel that is true, it would be a huge waste of time, money and resources.

A candidate forum will be held Tuesday, March 31, at 7p.m. at the Administration Building, 20200 Eastway Village. It is being hosted by the Humble ISD Council of PTA’s and the Humble Association of Texas Professional Educators.

Questions you may want to ask school board candidates.

  1. In what areas are our schools doing well? Not doing so well? And what are your plans to improve those areas?
  2. What are the biggest challenges facing our schools and what are your plans to address them.?
  3. How will you ensure our students graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed?
  4. How will you meet the needs or diverse students regardless of culture, language or abilities?
  5. What will you do to help keep children in school and engaged in the learning process?
  6. What are you doing to address the drop out issue in our district?
  7. How will you attract recruit and retain good teachers in the classrooms?
  8. How will you ensure that all children get a good start in school?
  9. How will you help children transition from elementary to middle school and then from middle school into high school and from high school into higher education or the workforce?
  10. What will you do to advocate and ensure support for public education in our community?
  11. What are you doing to address our fast growth district?

You can read more about the races here. Early voting begins April 27.

Dan Huberty

Dan Huberty

Keith Lapeze

Keith Lapeze

Dr. Bonnie Longnion

Dr. Bonnie Longnion

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Sound familiar?

Posted by Texas Education on March 19, 2009

‘Rally in Tally’ to support education

DAYTONA BEACH — Dozens of Volusians will travel to Tallahassee on Wednesday in an attempt to persuade Florida lawmakers the state’s public schools need better funding.

The rest sounds about like our mess. I figure President Obama will hopefully change a lot of this going on. We may not rebound as soon as everyone would like, but if we educate our young better, maybe we won’t get into these messes. Ya think?

While the PTA took the lead in organizing this week’s rally, representatives of other education-related groups also are joining the effort, including presidents of unions that represent Volusia teachers and school office workers.

Those groups spearheaded a local campaign that collected more than 100,000 pennies to highlight a proposal from the Florida Education Association, their state affiliate, to increase the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent for three years to raise more money for education.

Are we up to the task?

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Udate from Children @ Risk

Posted by Texas Education on March 18, 2009

Uninsured Children Urgently Need Your Help!

Tomorrow, March 19, several critical child health bills will be heard in the House Human Services Committee and we need your support now!. The bills include proposals to provide 12-month eligibility for Medicaid and a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) buy-in option for families earning above 200 percent of the federal poverty level. These bills could help insure hundreds of thousands of children in Texas!

Contact the Human Services Committee today and urge them to pass these bills favorably on to the House Floor.

More about CHIP

Uninsured children are more likely than their insured counterparts to forego or delay treatment for acute illnesses or injuries, to go without needed treatment for chronic conditions or illnesses.  Uninsured patients create higher health care costs for all. A study by Families USA in 2005 found that employer-sponsored family coverage in Texas costs $1,551 more annually as a result of the uninsured.

When children do not have health insurance, their families are more likely to rely on publicly-supported emergency rooms (ERs) for non-urgent health care. Without the benefit of the federal CHIP or Medicaid matching dollars, local taxpayers end up paying the full costs of caring for uninsured children.

Making sure children have twelve months of continuous coverage saves money. A study by Texas Children’s Health Plan found that the longer a child is enrolled in CHIP, the lower the cost of care per child, since children with chronic conditions are better managed and do not rely on the ER.

Small employers, which are struggling to offer affordable health insurance to their employees, often are unable to offer dependent coverage. CHIP gives parents an affordable option for insuring their children. Keeping kids healthy contributes to higher work productivity because parents do not have to leave work to stay home with a sick child.

CHIP also benefits large employers by reducing cost-shifting resulting from high rates of uncompensated care by hospitals and physicians. All employers, large and small, benefit from promoting a healthy future workforce.

Nearly every state in the country is taking bold steps to reduce the uninsured, starting with children. If Texas is to remain a competitive place to do business, it too must be a leader in increasing affordable health insurance for children. CHIP and children’s Medicaid are a good buy for the state.

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Texas PTA needs your help

Posted by Texas Education on March 18, 2009

We need your help to pass a sales tax holiday expansion to include basic school supplies.
Representative Dwayne Bohac, (R) Houston, has filed HB 1806 to expand the sales tax holiday to include basic school supplies.
Please call your legislator and ask him/her to sign on to the bill!

What you need to know:
Currently Texas shoppers get a break from state and local sales taxes the last weekend before the first day of school for items including clothing, backpacks, and shoes.  The law exempts most clothing and footwear priced under $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save Texas shoppers roughly $8 per $100 spent.
The current law does not exempt school supplies.  The proposed legislation, HB 1801, would add school supplies such as crayons, pens, paper, calculators, and notebooks to the exemption.    Many policy makers are not aware that basic school supplies are NOT exempted from sales tax during the back to school sales tax holiday weekend.
The $100 per item cap that is used for other sales tax exempt items will be utilized for school supplies as well.

What you can do:
Call your state representative and ask him/her to sign on to co-author HB 1801, by Bohac, to expand the sales tax holiday weekend to include basic school supplies.

To find your state representative:

http://www.house.state.tx.us/members/welcome.php

ASK YOUR STATE REPRESENTATAIVE TO SIGN ON TO HB 1801!

SUPPORT A SALES TAX EXEMPTION FOR BASIC SCHOOL SUPPLIES!

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