Lots and lots of updates, this from Texas PTA:
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.
For information on all the bills being tracked by Texas PTA please click on the following links: