Education

Rune Mathisen/Texas Tribune

Texas high school students would have to take just five standardized tests to graduate instead of 15, under a bill filed today in the Texas House. State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock,  R-Killeen, says House Bill 5 would give students more flexibility to pursue vocational careers.

“Hoping that stimulates kids to find the areas that they find interesting and challenging in life, and that they begin to choose areas they want to go into, not necessarily areas the state’s trying to press them into,” Aycock said.

flickr.com/hocolibrary

In a report released today, Texas Care for Children is recommending lawmakers restore funding in public services to improve children’s well-being and save money.

The report says Texas is spending up to $20 billion annually because the state does less to respond to the well-being of its children. The report points to the state’s rates of children living in poverty and teen pregnancies. The rate of children are living in poverty, 27 percent, is seven percent higher than the national average. And there are 52.2 teen births per 1000 teenagers — 20 births more than the national average.

More than 600 school districts from across Texas are celebrating now that Judge John Dietz from the 250th District Court found the state’s school finance system was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, state attorneys are gearing up to appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.   

The lead attorney for the state in this case is Nichole Bunker-Henderson. She told the court, “It is true, as the plaintiffs have alleged, that we have all been asked to do more with less. State agencies cut nearly 10 percent of their budgets, and districts less than half of that. Our system did not collapse," she said. "It did not fall off the bridge. Perhaps the system became more efficient.”

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Today is the deadline to apply for priority school transfers in the Austin Independent School District for next school year.

Non-priority transfers to be considered during the first-round lottery selection are also due today. All applications need to be delivered in person to the Office of Student Services at the Carruth Administration Center by 5 p.m. or postmarked by today’s date.

Applications that aren't received by today will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis when space is available at the desired school. All transfer requests for the fall of 2014 must be received by Aug. 12.

Round Rock ISD

Round Rock ISD superintendent Jesus Chavez says he will retire in December. Chavez has been superintendent of the Round Rock school district since February 2006.

By the time he retires, Chavez will have spent almost eight years on the job. That's three years longer than the average tenure of a superintendent in towns with more than 100,000 people, according to a study from the National School Boards Association

Ben Philpott, KUT News

Texas Governor Rick Perry delivered his seventh state of the state address to the Texas Legislature Tuesday.

Looking back at Governor Perry’s past speeches, the state of our state has varied from strong, to vibrant, to good, back to strong…and now, "...It is my pleasure to report that the state of our state is stronger than ever," Perry said.

flickr.com/alamosbasement

The Austin Independent School District is inviting the public to weigh-in this evening on a potential bond package.

The nearly $900 million bond proposal could go before voters as soon as May. Among other things, it proposes adding four new elementary schools to address overcrowding.

Texas Lawmakers to Discuss School Safety Policy Changes

Jan 28, 2013
flickr.com/alamosbasement

Texas lawmakers are coming together to talk about school safety this afternoon.

The Senate Committee on Education is meeting with the Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security to review current student safety policies and to discuss the potential for any policy changes.

Senators will hearing from both the public and experts about how improvements can be made to school safety.

Lizzie Chen, KUT News

When the House and Senate filed base budgets last week, advocates for programs that were cut in 2011, including public education, were upset the budgets didn’t restore funding. Lawmakers countered that the budget was expected to grow.

KUT News

By the state’s own reckoning, Texas’ population increased four percent  increase from 2011 to 2013.  And Lawmakers cut education spending by more than $5 billion last session. But Gov. Rick Perry says education spending has outpaced statewide enrollment growth, and by a wide margin.

KUT News

The Austin Independent School Board will meet behind closed doors this evening. According to the executive session agenda, they may discuss possible lawsuits surrounding the district’s decision to cancel its contract with IDEA Public Schools.

In December, the board voted 5 to 4 to cancel the contract that hired IDEA to run an in-district charter at Allan Elementary.

National Center for Education Statistics

A new study shows Texas' four-year high school graduation rate rose to 78.9 percent in 2009-2010, putting the Lone Star State above the national average of 78.2 percent.

A federal study released by the National Center of Education Statistics shows that Texas' four-year graduation rate increased from its previous study, from 73.1 percent in the 2006-2007 school year to 78.9 percent in 2009-2010.

KUT News

A small school district in East Texas became the second in the state to allow some staff members to carry concealed handguns. The school board at Union Grove ISD – just outside Longview – voted this week to allow trained staff members access firearms in the event of an armed intruder.

“It is up to the discretion of the local board," said Texas Education Agency spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe. "There’s a provision in the Texas Penal Code that basically says schools are a gun free zone unless the school board adopts a policy that permits it.”

Ann Choi, KUT news

The political battle over Texas public schools is heating up as the legislative session shifts into gear. In addition to  arguments over whether to restore $5.4 billion cut from public education in 2011, two high profile Senate Republicans want a school voucher system that would give low income students a shot at attending a private school. But critics say all vouchers do is strip money from the public education system and hand it over to private schools.

“We’re going to allow businesses to deduct up to 25 percent of what they would pay in the franchise tax, and that money will go to a non-profit to be distributed to families based on need," State Senator Dan Patrick has explained. "By doing this, we are going to give them an opportunity to get a scholarship if they so choose to send their child to that private school.” So-called "tax credit scholarships" exist in about a dozen states. 

On Thursday, a nonprofit group, the Coalition for Public Schools, argued fiercely against the measure. In a news conference at the Capitol, the Coalition said the State needs to invest more in the existing public school system.

Tamir Kalifa, Texas Tribune

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, three conservative groups — the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the National Association of Scholars and the Texas Association of Scholars — will release a sure-to-be controversial report alleging that the University of Texas and Texas A&M University offer students "a less-than-comprehensive picture of history.”

The report’s rollout is part of a three-day policy orientation by the TPPF, an Austin-based think tank that has been tied to some of the state's most hotly-debated proposed higher education reforms. It signals a renewed push to reconsider the course offerings in the history departments of the state’s public universities, and particularly to boost the number of courses dedicated to the study Western Civilization.

Carlos Morales/KUT News

The Eanes school district will become one the first in the state to distribute iPads to every single one of its students, kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Texas Legislature paved the way for school districts to adopt tablets two years ago by allowing schools districts to spend textbook money on digital learning materials.

Of course, the school districts still have to buy their own iPads, and that’s what the Eanes school board voted to do last month: Spend $1.2 million to buy enough iPad 2s for every student in the district.

Ben Philpott/KUT News

The state’s top three political leaders met with reporters today as a sign of unity heading into the legislative session.

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus say strengthening the state’s economy by improving its infrastructure and its skilled workforce are the top priorities, all while controlling state spending - even as the state is flush with cash.

Callie Richmond for Texas Tribune

The School Land Board voted Tuesday to release $300 million into the Available School Fund for public schools.

The money will be released in two $150 million installments, one in February and the other on June. The funds had been caught in a standoff between the Legislature and the School Land Board, which operates out of the General Land Office and oversees the state’s public school land. 

KUT News

The Austin school board is set to resume discussion on a boys-only school. The move comes just one month after the topic was postponed indefinitely.

The AISD board is set to discuss a total of three single-sex schools in a special meeting tonight: a School for Young Men and turning Garcia and Pearce Middle Schools into single-sex schools – one for boys and the other for girls.

Holidays are typically a festive time, with breaks from the routine, meals with loved ones, maybe even some gifts. But for many families across the U.S., the season comes with intense stress: Roughly 1 in 5 families with children are not getting enough food.

For some, free or reduced-price school meals have become a major source of basic nutrition. When schools close for the holidays, many of those families struggle to fill the gap.

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