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Texas PTA Legislative Update – Bills of Interest

Posted by Texas Education on March 11, 2009

Blogging from a remote location…computer too slow, driving me crazy. Just in from Texas PTA. Lots here, pay attention!! 🙂 HB3 and SB 3 filed, everyone’s abuzz on VOTER ID BILL COULD IMPACT LEGISLATION IN SENATE, I’m certainly interested in SHAPIRO SEEKS TO END TOP 10% RULE, another concern of mine VOCATIONAL TRAINING SEES SUPPORT,oh, not so good STIMULUS PACKAGE STALLS LEGISLATURE, LEGISLATION AIMS TO TAKE FINANCIAL TOLL ON GANGS, do we really want to know about?- POLITICS 2010, and our good buddy Rep. Scott Hochberg HB 1297 Relating to optional flexible school day program courses offered by school districts to enable students to earn course credit under certain circumstances. Oh, and LEGISLATIVE REPORTS See below:

Texas Legislature considers changes to school accountability system HB3 and SB 3 Filed
Public schools may get relief from the high stakes of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills in a proposed overhaul of the way Texas measures how well they are doing. The legislation would minimize the importance of the much-criticized standardized tests and instead encourage schools to prepare students for success after high school. Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said school districts would be able to decide some of their own criteria for assessment.

The new system, which was called a work in progress, would be made up of two parts. One level would grade schools based on student achievement, completion rates and the district’s financial performance. The second level would grant “distinctions for excellence” based on measures like growth in student achievement, fine arts, physical fitness, second language learning and work-force readiness.

The 128-page bill would grade schools on students’ progress over time rather than on a one-time passing rate on state tests. It would eliminate the school ratings of exemplary, recognized, acceptable and unacceptable. Here are other features of the bill.

Schools would receive “accreditation status.” Districts and schools would be designated as accredited, accredited-warned and accredited probation. Those labels would be based on a variety of factors, including improvement in student test scores, drop-out rates and the financial accountability rating of the school as determined by the state.

Schools could also be evaluated on how they serve special populations, such as special education or limited-English students, and the effectiveness of their career and technology programs.

Students would not necessarily be required to pass the TAKS to be promoted. Districts can determine who is eligible to move on to the next grade.

Schools could earn “distinctions for excellence” in various areas including academics, work-force readiness, second-language learning, fine arts and physical fitness.

Three tracks for graduation would be created. The Texas and advance diploma would require four years of math, English and science. A standard diploma would allow students to take only three years of math. Physical education would no longer be a high school requirement, and students could take eight electives.

The higher education commissioner could award a grant up to $1 million to a college or university to develop advanced math and science courses to prepare high school students for jobs in high-demand fields. Associated Press

VOTER ID BILL COULD IMPACT LEGISLATION IN SENATE
The Senate is poised to debate the contentious issue of voter ID on March 10th. In a surprise move early in the session, the Senate voted along party lines to make an exception to the way they determine what bills may be heard on the floor of the Senate, identifying the voter ID bill as the only bill for which a 2/3 vote of the members of the Senate would NOT be required in order to hear the bill on the floor. The likely outcome if the bill is passed is a decrease in the collegiality for which the Senate is known, and the possibility that the session may descend into partisan fighting over most if not all legislation for the remainder of the session. In short this issue could negatively impact much of the proposed legislation this session. According to the current schedule the full Senate will likely vote on the issue by St. Patrick’s Day. The lawmakers are expected to vote along party lines.

SHAPIRO SEEKS TO END TOP 10% RULE
The Top 10 percent rule actually hurts Texas universities according to Sen. Florence Shapiro. The current bill filed by Shapiro marks the third time she has filed legislation to revise the 10% rule. If passed the proposal would limit the number of students admitted under the Top 10 percent rule to half the admitted class. Last session, the Senate passed its own hybrid version, with 60 percent admitted under the Top 10 percent rule. The bill was rejected in the House.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING SEES SUPPORT
Lawmakers have filed two bills which would strengthen vocational training programs in the state. Sen. Chris Harris’ bill would set up a fund to reward technical and community colleges that offer high-quality vocational and technical courses with grants. A second bill would create high-quality courses for high school students through a “best practices” clearinghouse and also reward school districts that support the development of vocational courses.

STIMULUS PACKAGE STALLS LEGISLATURE
With the possible injection of $17 billion in federal stimulus to Texas the current session has shifted form. Over six weeks ago lawmakers were worried about tapping into the over $9 billion rainy day fund to balance the budget. With this reversal the question now seems to center on how the money will be spent and when. Speaker Straus said publicly this week that it “would be up to the budget-writing Appropriations Committee to act on the recommendations of a newly formed panel, led by Democratic Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco that is reviewing agencies’ plans for spending the stimulus dollars.” Adding to the confusion, Gov. Perry’s aides have said that they believe he can block some of the funds from the legislature, while lawmakers contend they have the authority to override any such decision. This could lead to a veto by Perry on any extra spending or programs he sees as unnecessary.

LEGISLATION AIMS TO TAKE FINANCIAL TOLL ON GANGS
A Texas lawmaker has proposed new legislation to crack down on crime stemming from Mexican drug cartels. Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, filed a bill Thursday that would allow civil lawsuits against gangs, stiffer penalties for online gang recruiting and mandatory rehabilitation programs for young gang offenders. Carona, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, said his legislation would allow businesses, communities and parents to seek civil judgments and penalties against gangs to “cripple them financially.” Gov. Rick Perry urged the Legislature to pass the bill and to spend $135 million to continue crime-fighting efforts along the Texas-Mexico border. (Statesman)

POLITICS 2010
Democrat Tom Schieffer launched a committee on Monday that allows him to raise money for a possible run for governor. A former owner of the Texas Rangers, his bid has already hit its first impediment. Schieffer is a former Bush appointee (Ambassador to Japan) and that does not sit well with the base of the Democratic Party. David Mauro, a party activist and son of former state official Gary Mauro, recently created a website to draft Sen. Leticia Van De Putte as a candidate for governor saying, “I am very hesitant to let a Bush appointee use our place on the ballot when there is so much at stake for our state and for our party”. In what is already the most anticipated race of 2010, Schieffer is seen as the first serious challenger from the Democrats.

LEGISLATIVE REPORTS:
For information on all the bills being tracked by Texas PTA please click on the following links:
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Posted in accountability, Ethics, financing, funding, Good Stuff, good stuff - not so much, leadership, learning, Texas PTA, Texas schools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

OMG – are you kidding me? Gov. Perry may reject aid from stimulus package?

Posted by Texas Education on February 9, 2009

Could it be? Gov. Rick Perry may “reject” any aid from the stimulus package the President is working on? Our poor schools. All I can say is, “OMG!” This is unbelievable, but, not surprising coming from Perry.

Several Democrats and even a few Republicans are nervous that Gov. Rick Perry might reject the federal aid.

“If there’s any risk Perry would reject that money, we want responsible lawmakers to take it, allocate it and use it for Texas,” said state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso.

Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle wouldn’t say if the governor will oppose taking any of the aid.

“The governor continues to oppose the bailout, but if Congress does allocate taxpayer money, a lot of which is from hard-working Texans, then Texans deserve their fair share,” she said.

Several state lawmakers have asked the stimulus package’s congressional authors to add wording to let a legislature bypass a governor and accept the federal help.

Though there is some sigh of relief,

Last week, state Reps. Joe Pickett and Marisa Marquez, both El Paso Democrats, and Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, filed a resolution saying the Legislature intends to take the federal money for Texas. In the Senate, Shapleigh filed an almost identical measure.

Straus played down any friction with Perry.

“The governor’s going to be involved,” he said.

One can only hope, one can only hope!!!

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$13 million from state for teacher incentive pay

Posted by Texas Education on August 29, 2008

In all, 211 school districts and charter schools statewide will receive $148 million in incentive pay grants. But, this is not without the districts contributing, thus the reason some districts turn down the Governor and his wonderful incentive bonuses. Will the state never quit in trying to undermine the state public school system? Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Then what will the state do with most of the general public running around “uneducated?”

“I know that Texans agree with education professionals and myself that the most important thing we can do for our citizens is to get them an education,” Perry said. “That’s exactly why the Legislature created the rewards for teaching excellence. They are meant to identify and reward the teachers who have gone the extra step.”

In all, 211 school districts and charter schools statewide will receive $148 million in incentive pay grants.

The grants require districts to contribute some money to their incentive pay programs. HISD will be required to kick in $1.3 million. Several other Texas school districts have opted out of the bonus pay program out of concern about the financial costs and the potentially negative impact on teacher morale.

The chron scratches on this, and the wacotrib chimes in also.

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Gun-free for good reason

Posted by Texas Education on August 29, 2008

Back to the gun toting teachers issue. (I just can’t seem to let this one go.) An opinion from the Waco Trib – I like the way they think. I just can’t believe people actually think this is a good idea, putting guns IN schools.

Legal or illegal? Harrold Independent School District teachers, if they have a conceal-carry permit and are cleared by the school board, can come to school armed.

The district says it’s legal. Others point to a law that says armed campus personnel must be commissioned peace officers.

Whatever the case, it’s ill-advised. For one thing, schools are among the safest places to be.

[…]

Gov. Rick Perry has said he’d like to have it so that people with concealed weapons permits can have guns in any of the above settings and more.

Not surprisingly, this idea is opposed by the Texas Association of Business. It says that proprietary matters should trump the concerns of people who want to have a loaded gun on their persons at all times.

no-gun-left-behind.pdf

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State in no hurry to fix big problemo

Posted by Texas Education on August 8, 2008

Well, why is it when I read this heading I knew, I just knew, it was about education? Um…I wonder!! Yes, Lisa Falkenberg, that little pot stirrer upper, once again. She talks about the 95-page landmark ruling issued recently by Judge William Wayne Justice on how Texas is failing limited-English schoolchildren is a deeply depressing read.

Among the U.S. district judge’s findings: Limited-English students lag in standardized test scores and soar in dropout rates. Texas’ system of educating these kids amounts to a hodgepodge of programs across districts and schools that vary widely in results.

This is the interesting part (at least for me):

It’s even convenient to play the victim. In an interview last month with CNBC, Gov. Rick Perry was asked about the discrepancy between the network’s rating of Texas business climate — No. 1 in the nation — compared with its ranking of Texas’ education system — No. 30.

Perry reached for a politically expendable scapegoat: “Texas is, you know, a very diverse state, when you look at the border with Mexico that we share. And obviously there’s a substantial number of children that we educate in the state of Texas from parents who don’t speak English as their first language.”

So, we have “some difficulties” there, Perry said.

Where is the leadership? While the challenges of educating limited-English students are real, they aren’t the only challenges we face. These students, who make up about 15 percent of the Texas public school population, can’t be blamed for every shortcoming.

She goes on to say:

Instead of grasping for excuses, our state leaders should focus on solutions. And even in Texas, they’re ripe for the finding. Texas actually has within its patchwork of bilingual education programs gems that have reported real successes in educating limited-English students.

He sounds a bit like Bush talking, to me.

Ok, so do ya think it’s about time we get some people in there (Lege) who know what they are doing, can fix these problems, can find solutions??? Uh? Do ya? I seriously could not have said it better Lisa. Here for the whole story.

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Leaders urge better student development

Posted by Texas Education on August 8, 2008

Another article on the front page of City & State in today’s Chron.

Business and education leaders — spurred by concern that Texas students aren’t ready for a global economy — made recommendations including more school accountability Wednesday to Gov. Rick Perry, who embraced the need to “develop the state’s talent better.”

“We haven’t got it right yet, OK?” Perry said at the Governor’s Competitiveness Council Summit as he accepted reports recommending paths the state should follow in business, education and energy. “As good as we are, as many gains as we’ve made … we’re not where we need to be yet.”

Umm… have I got some lulu’s for you Governor Perry!!!

This is a bit disturbing:

For example, he said, “We need to be sending a message to the world that we want to build nuclear plants here.”

No funding recommendations went with the report. Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams, who heads the council, said the idea was to identify issues important to stakeholders and when it came to funding, to “let those people over there (at the Capitol) make the decision.”

Yes, indeed, a bit disturbing.

Ok, where did I see something about this posted recently???:

Kip Thompson, Dell Inc.’s vice president for global facilities and strategic growth and a council member, said he’s concerned about the dropout rate and said of those who do graduate and go to college, half must take remedial-type courses.

“Compared to students in other countries, the numbers are downright frightening,” said Thompson.

This full story here.

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The trouble with abstinence in Texas Schools

Posted by Texas Education on July 26, 2008

From statesman.com a plethora of sex education articles of the abstinence vs. comprehensive sex – ed.

Austin High School student Candice Briggins, 17, teaches life skills to teens at the Rosewood Recreation Center as part of her summer internship with Planned Parenthood. Girls need to know ‘that we have stuff we can protect ourselves with,’ Briggins says. The following video is interesting, to say the least. Here is just a sampling of the article, that I found veeerrrryyyy interesting.

Twenty-two states have rejected money from Title V — one of three abstinence education programs funded by the federal government — opting instead for a more comprehensive approach to sex education.

Yet the money keeps coming from Washington. In December, Congress voted to continue funding Community-Based Abstinence Education, which has given more than $519.6 million to public and private abstinence providers since 2001. Last year alone, Texas received $6.2 million from the program.

Another $50 million in Title V funding was scheduled to end June 30 but was extended by Congress last week.

All told, the programs have cost the federal government more than $1.1 billion since 1982, when the first funding for abstinence began, according to federal officials. Texas has spent more than any other state: almost $117 million, including $32.4 million of its own money. New York, the second biggest recipient of Title V funds, directed $13.5 million to abstinence programs in 2007, compared with Texas’ $17 million.

“We have been spending a significant amount of money for a number of years on abstinence-only programs,” said Sarah Wheat, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region. “I think you really have to question why our politicians continue to spend money on programs that are ineffective.”

A change in Texas’ policy does not appear likely. Along with Eissler, the chairman of the House committee, “the governor is comfortable with the current law and supports abstinence programs,” said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The conservatives just keep preaching and telling and the general public, students included, aren’t doing what they want them to do, so, you need to E-D-U-C-A-T-E. Bottom line. Kids are kids, adolescents are adolescents. Much better to educate, along with explaining “JUST DON’T DO IT.” And, you have done the best you can. Any kid who has the facts, has self-worth, has goals, hopefully will make the right decisions. Give them the tools they need to make informed decisions. Conservatives don’t give kids enough credit. Tell them not to, hey, I was told by a very good friend (helping me with class management,) he said, “tell a kid NOT to do something…and that’s exactly what they WILL do.” Good advice!!!

Some interesting quotes from my friend Garnet Coleman:

A number of health professional organizations, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American Medical Association, urge that abstinence-only programs be abandoned for comprehensive sex education. The American Public Health Association recommends that such instruction begin in kindergarten.

The Texas education code does not require public schools to offer sex education. But if they do, it must be abstinence-focused, and instruction about contraceptives is couched in terms of how often they fail, according to language added to the code in 1995.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he co-authored the legislation in 1995 with Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, at a time when he feared conservative state officials would abandon sex education completely. It was not meant to eliminate comprehensive sex education in Texas schools, he said.

“I think the interpretation has morphed into abstinence-only, which is not our policy,” Coleman said. “If I could fix anything, it’d be to make the law more instructive to say, ‘This is what you can teach’ ” about contraceptives.

Here are more articles from statesman.com:

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HIGHER COST OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Posted by Texas Education on July 10, 2008

Complaints rising right along with tuition, fees
Legislators feel the heat, wonder if deregulation needs new look
I’ve not mention higher ed here, yet. But, ladies and gentlemen, here it is in all it’s glory. This has been an ever increasing sore thumb, if you will, ever since the deregulation.
Gov. Rick Perry still supports public college tuition deregulation and thinks Texas universities are ‘still a bargain,’ according to a spokeswoman.

University of Houston leaders had barely finished voting on their latest tuition increase at a recent meeting when they heard from one unhappy Cougar.

Yes, I guess college tution is a “bargin” for those who make oggles of money. But, not for us poor (and I do mean poor) working stiffs. Oggles, where the heck did that come from? Beats me. Ok, ya gots to have a sense of humor to deal with this stuff on a daily basis. I think that’s what’s wrong with those in office now, no dad gum sense of humor!!

‘Insensitive,’ state Sen. John Whitmire fumed. ‘I am terribly disappointed in my alma mater.’

And so began the latest uproar over the increasing cost of a college education in Texas, a topic gaining traction as an issue for upcoming state political campaigns and the next legislative session.

Tuition at Texas universities rose 58 percent between 2003, when schools were first allowed to set their own rates, and 2007. Student fees have gone up, too.

Driving them away

Legislators agreed to let university regents — appointed by the governor — set tuition in 2003 when they faced a $10 billion budget shortfall. In exchange, general revenue appropriations for higher education were cut by 2 percent, or $181 million. The idea was that university regents could raise tuition to make up the difference.

They did. State spending on higher education also has grown in the past five years, although not enough to keep pace with inflation or enrollment, so per-student spending has dropped.

Legislators expect a surplus of $10 billion or more when they meet in January. How much, if any, will go to higher education remains to be seen.

‘It is a very timely subject, simply because so many persons are impacted,’ said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, chair of the Senate subcommittee on higher education. ‘We have more students than ever continuing their education.’

But that touches on a key issue. As Texas pushes students to attend college, rising tuition threatens to drive them away.

‘Be careful what you ask for’

University leaders say they need more state money and the continued ability to set tuition. Ellis, for one, said deregulation may have created a Catch-22.

‘I tell my friends in higher ed, be careful what you ask for,’ he said. ‘They get criticized for raising tuition, and it makes it more difficult to get state funding. (Legislators) say, you have the ability to raise tuition.’

Ellis, like Whitmire, also a Democrat from Houston, voted against deregulation in 2003 and still opposes it. Zaffirini said she reluctantly voted for it; she hasn’t taken a public stand this time.

No decision will be made in a vacuum.

‘There’s no question that the legislators feel burnt,’ blamed by voters for higher tuition but unable to do anything about it, said Bob Stein, a political scientist at Rice University.

But he predicts that the state is unlikely to retake control of tuition.

This again, is like letting the genie out of the bottle, I keep hearing the phrase echoing time and time again, you can’t put it back.

Ellis said he may tackle the issue through an amendment to a bill with bipartisan support, rather than taking it on directly.

If that doesn’t work, he predicts ‘an attempt to do some cosmetic things that will quell some of the political heat that people are taking. I think we’re going to have a lot of angry students, as well as working-class parents.’

Get the full story from JEANNIE KEVER Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

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Stealth vouchers – in the news

Posted by Texas Education on July 2, 2008

An editorial in today’s Chron. (a must read) Boy, just when I thought it was slim pickin’s in the newsworthy category. This is where you “need to know” stuff. This truly is important. Like:

Voucher advocate Dr. James Leininger of San Antonio has contributed millions of dollars to the campaigns of many state officials, including Gov. Rick Perry, in order to win their support. He also bankrolled candidates to mount primary challenges to Republican legislators who refused to back vouchers. Despite Leininger’s lobbying, the Legislature refuses to create a voucher pilot program. Now it appears that Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott is trying to slip the program through the backdoor.

I was a bit leery of posting about TEA opening the “Texas High School Project.” I’ve been researching this, and have not found many who know much about it. So, if you do, please clue me in. I’m worried this is something that looks good on paper, but, once again, does does not bode well in real life application. With Perry behind this, it can’t be good. IMHO! What I don’t understand, is why this money, this initiative, can’t be put into the schools. Instead of more unfunded mandates (only those working in education know what a headache those are,) adding the 4×4, keeping schools at 20 year fixed levels of funding, etc., we should be concentrating on improving what we have. There are so many with opinions about how the schools are managing their money, but I still think, if it were done right…

More on the article:

Commissioner Scott pointed out that the money to fund the dropout program would not come from regular public school funding. State Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, rejected that rationale, correctly explaining that the grant dollars are coming from state general revenue.

She also detailed how voucher supporters could manipulate the dropout program by simply taking their children out of public school, having them classified as dropouts and then enrolling them at a private school that had applied for state funding.

How true this is. This is why vouchers are baaad for our schools.When all of the districts across the state are closing schools, cutting programs, etc., etc., then why can’t they see the problem(s)? And by they, I mean the general public, tax payers, parents, and especially our elected officials. I was told by someone recently, I’ve been trying to figure out the logic behind all this, that our elected officials, those who have voted down public education, they want to keep our population…well, stupid. Keeps wages low. How’s that for someone’s opinion? It’s starting to make sense to me.

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Paul Burka reports on the The Superintendents’ Conference

Posted by Texas Education on June 14, 2008

Great work Paul. He is saying what I’ve been hearing for the last 2-3 years. See Paul’s blog on Friday, June 13, 2008.

Paul says,”The leadership of the state cares more about tax cuts than public education. They have set up a financing system that is designed to strangle education: All of the new money is dedicated funds, like the high school initiative, and there is nothing to cover inflation in the cost of health insurance, utilities, and fuel. As a result, school districts are having to dip into their reserves. Education is no longer funded by formulas; instead it’s “hold-harmless.” The public is unaware of this because the media haven’t covered it.”

This is so so true. This is really the basis for my blog. This is ridiculous. I only hope people are listening and learning, and will educate themselves on the candidates, and vote with their hearts and souls. I’ve only gotten to teach for two years now. As difficult as it has been learning new procedures, politics, dealing with colleagues, parents, learning about ARD’s, special ed -lingo, paperwork, students – building lesson plans, putting those plans in the classroom, grading, the grading systems (a nightmare!!,) learning the school’s software, new software to teach, dealing with administrators, and the kids, those kids, as difficult as all that may have been (to the tune of about 100 hours a week, most weeks, just ask my family) I loved it, I still love it. It’s hard to imagine putting myself into anything else like I have my teaching. Ok, enough about me and my dilemmas, more on what Paul had to say:

“Perry and Craddick are no friends of pub ed; they will want to use the surplus for tax cuts rather than for schools.”

People are you hearing this??? I loved using quotes for my calendars for my classes. There are so many amazing, inspiring quotes, I started putting them on my calendars everyday. Trying to be as uplifing as I possibly could. The one that keeps coming to mind lately, by Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This could not be more true than right now, and there are even more inspiring quotes by Mahatma Gandhi. Back to Mr. Burka, he summarizes by saying,

“To wrap up: I hope that the state’s leadership realizes what is happening to the schools and responds accordingly. But I’m not optimistic that they will.”

And I agree.

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