The Lead: Texas Medicaid Expansion Debated, Ed Funding Takes Center Stage
Good morning! With highs in the upper-70s, Austin’s in for another day of well-above average temperatures, according to the National Weather Service. This weekend should see similar weather, albeit with a little more cloud cover.
Speaking of the weather: Yesterday’s near record-high temperatures could mean many area plants are at risk of blooming too soon – which could mean a poor year for wildflowers, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Lead story: The chair of the Texas Senate's Health and Human Services Committee says she hopes Washington will allow Texas to receive $27 billion to expand Medicaid to people who can't afford private insurance.
State Sen. Jane Nelson says the key is to allow lawmakers to develop a Texas-specific program that won't bust the state's budget. The Affordable Care Act provides billions in new funding for states that expand their Medicaid programs. State leadership, including Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have so far refused to accept Medicaid expansion in Texas.
Public & Private Ed Advocates Pushing: Both sides of the debate over public school funding converged on the state capitol yesterday. State Sen. Dan Patrick appeared with a new organization of civic leaders and foundations called Texans Deserve Great Schools. Spokesperson Caprice Young called for measures that include expanding charter schools and reducing the time before closing a school that doesn’t meet state academic benchmarks. “We think that needs to happen much faster,” Young said. “Failing schools need to be fixed in no more than two years of failing. And then we’re going to see some real change for kids.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of public school teachers converged on the State Capitol yesterday urging lawmakers to roll back $5.4 billion in education cuts imposed two years ago. Members of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association met with state senators and representatives from their home districts.
Unions on the Rise in Texas: While union membership is ebbing nationwide – currently at its lowest level since the 1930s – it’s actually up in the “right to work” state of Texas.
As the number of unionized workers dropped throughout the country, Texas bucked the trend, by adding 65,000 members last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Union members now make up almost six percent of the state’s workforce.