public education

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From Texas Standard:

Just in time for the start of school, The New York Times reports that there’s a shortage of teachers. Across the country, school districts have gone from refusing to renew contracts to scrambling to hire teachers. This shortage is seen particularly in math, science and special education, and it's a result of the layoffs from the recession years, as well as an improving economy in which fewer people are training to be teachers.

The issue is so critical that some systems are allowing new hires to train on the job and bringing in people who are still finishing their teaching credentials. According to the Times, the situation is most critical in Louisville, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Providence. However, Texas also fares low.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

In a somewhat surprising move, the state House Public Education committee Chair announced Wednesday that the house will try to tackle the state’s school finance system this legislative session.

The school finance system, which a district court judge ruled is unconstitutional, is currently tangled up in the appeals process at the Texas Supreme Court. Many people familiar with education politics in Texas believed the legislature wouldn’t make any decisions before the court ruled. But at a press conference this morning, House Education Committee chair Jimmie Don Aycock said the state must act now.

thetexaspromisemovie.org

KUT is a media sponsor of the Austin Film Festival.

“The Texas Promise” is screening at the 2014 Austin Film Festival. It tells the story of the $5.4 billion in cuts to education that the Texas Legislature made in 2011 and follows the ongoing legal challenge to that cut and efforts to restore some of that funding.

It’s an ongoing issue Texans ought to be very familiar with but producer/director Vanessa Roth came to this story from the outside.

Roth's documentary work has mainly focused on education and the foster care system. She says the story about how Texas is funding education is one the country needs to know about.

Flickr user: Catherine Tam, https://flic.kr/p/5MuD6o

‘The Art of Racing in the Rain" is one of the seven books flagged for review after Highland Park ISD parents objected to the book's content, which some viewed as explicit. Author Garth Stein argues the book contains life messages for young teenagers, adding that the book came under fire because of a scene involving  molestation. 

The Texas Standard's David Brown recently spoke with Stein about the temporary ban.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

State Sen. Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat running for Texas governor, talked education in Austin today. She offered few specifics on what she would do, but instead tried to highlight differences between her and her opponent.

Sen. Davis says she and Attorney General Greg Abbott couldn’t be any more different on how they view education in Texas.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera & Bob Daemmrich via Texas Tribune

The first time State Senator Wendy Davis made waves as a Texas lawmaker was during the 2011 legislative session when she filibustered a budget that cut four billion dollars in funding for public schools.

“It’s the first time that we’ve ever done this in state history and the funding of public education and it’s a cut that I simply cannot stand for," Davis said during that filibuster.

But stand she did, pushing the 2011 legislature into a special session, where the budget plan were eventually approved anyway with the cuts included.

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Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers passed a law (House Bill 5) reducing high school testing and changing graduation requirements. The changes don’t fully go into effect until next school year, but one portion was immediately implemented: new attendance requirements.

Right now, all high school students must attend at least 90 percent of classes to receive credit. If they attend less than 75 to 89 percent of class, then they must create a plan with their school principal to complete missed work and lessons. If students don’t take that step, they risk failing the class or grade, and must petition the district's school board to see whether or not they can advance to the next grade level.

But under HB 5’s new attendance requirement, all students – kindergarten through 12th grade – must meet that 90 percent attendance mark. 

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School starts in three weeks and, for many school districts across Texas, there’s still some confusion over whether teachers can use a system of lesson plans. The so-called CSCOPE lesson plans drew fire over allegations they promoted anti-American ideas. During the legislative session, Republican lawmakers announced Texas teachers would no longer use the plans and the non-profit, quasi-state agency that published them would cease to.

State Board of Education leaders say the controversy surrounding CSCOPE will most likely continue into the fall.

The author of the new state law overhauling many aspects of public education in Texas says he wants school districts to decide how to implement the new standards, not the State Board of Education.

State Rep. Jimmie Aycock (R-Killeen) told the Board Friday that HB 5 was crafted to give local school boards flexibility in establishing paths to graduation. But he’s concerned the SBOE will create too many requirements that will counteract the goal of the bill. He wants to leave it local school districts.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Speculation over a major overhaul of public education in Texas ended today when Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 5. 

The measure drops required standardized exams, known as the STAAR tests, from 15 to 5.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The future of high school graduation standards in Texas remains up in the air as Governor Perry considers whether to sign or veto House Bill 5. The legislation reduces the emphasis on standardized testing by lowering the number of end-of-course exams needed to graduate from 15 to 5. It also provides an alternative pathway to graduation that focuses on vocational education instead of college readiness.

83rd Lege's Regular Session: What Happened, What Didn't

May 28, 2013
Bob Daemmrich/Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

It's been a whirlwind of an end to the 83rd Legislature's regular session, and with Monday's announcement of a special session, lawmakers aren't done. Here's a look at the deals reached and the measures that fell short during the 140 days of the regular session. 

BUDGET

KUT News

When the Texas legislative session started in January, lawmakers came to Austin with money to spend and a specific set of priorities. House Speaker Joe Straus laid out those goals during an opening press conference with Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Tamir Kalifa/Texas Tribune

As Texas re-examines what students should learn in order to earn a high school diploma, no part of the state’s curriculum has attracted more attention than a single advanced math course.

In response to calls from educators and employers for graduation standards that allow more opportunities for career-training courses, the state Legislature is considering more flexible diploma requirements that do not include algebra II as a core credit for all students.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

UPDATE 5:59 The Senate Committee on Education heard SB 1575 this afternoon from educators and parents supporting the so-called voucher program that would give parents money to move their children from public to private schools. 

The bill’s author Senator Donna Campbell of New Braunfels said that parents and students should have a choice in schooling and claim that failing public schools set back children across the state.

Muliadi Soenaryo via Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers in the House and Senate will soon begin working out differences between their budgets. 

The longest and probably most heated debate over the budget happened last Thursday. That’s when the House passed its amended version of the state spending plan for the next two years.

Every session, House and Senate members disagree on how much to spend and which line item should get how much funding. Kate Alexander said this session will be no different.

flickr.com/alamosbasement

The Texas Legislature is debating bills intended to help more students graduate from high school, by reducing the emphasis on standardized tests and increasing the emphasis on the kinds of education they need to be productive members of the workforce.  

This week, the House passed House Bill 5, which would let high school students take a path to college or take a route intended to lead them more quickly to work. The bill also would drop the number of STAAR exams from 15 to 5.

Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News.

After roughly 9 hours of debate, Texas House lawmakers passed a bill that would change the requirements high students must meet in order to graduate. The House voted 145 to 2 in favor of the legislation authored by Republican State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock

Lawmakers debated amendments, and amendments to amendments, on the House floor Tuesday, as they decided the public education reform bill they’d send on to the Senate.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate approved a budget for the next two years today, one that would restore some of the cuts from two years ago.

A balanced budget is the one thing the Texas Constitution requires lawmakers to pass when they meet in Austin every two years.

Much of the attention this session is on funding for public education, which lost about $4 billion in the budget passed in 2011.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Update: The new elementary school being built in north Austin now has a name: Dr. Janis Guerrero Thompson Elementary. The Austin Independent School District Board voted last night to approve the name.

Dr. Guerrero Thompson was a native Austinite who taught high school in AISD and later worked as the district’s Executive Director for Planning and Community Relations.

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