school budget cuts

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The College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin will soon have a new name – the Moody College of Communication.

The Moody Foundation is donating $50 million to the college, the largest donation in the college’s history.

The donation will be paid out over 10 years and will fund various initiatives, including a $10 million innovation fund and $13 million for graduate student recruitment and retention.

Money will also be used to build a sky bridge across Dean Keeton Street to link the Belo Center for New Media and the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center. UT will provide an extra $5 million to improve classroom space and facilities, which includes the sky bridge.

Brandon Mulder

Today Texas A&M officials announced EmpowerU, a program aimed at monitoring the system’s efficiency at graduating its students.

Essentially, EmpowerU is A&M’s new public analytical website. It aggregates statistics of all student progress, and presents its data online. The idea is that individual institutions will set their own goals for improvement. EmpowerU’s website will publicly hold them accountable to quality of education and cost efficiency, benchmarking peer institutions against each other.

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The Texas Senate Committee on Education today talked about possible funding options to promote school choice.

Lawmakers want to know if having more school options will create competition and, in turn, make all schools in the state better. One option to encourage school choice is a so-called taxpayer savings grant program. The idea was proposed in the Texas Legislature last year as part of House Bill 33. It would pay up to 60 percent of the amount that the state spends per pupil each year on school maintenance and operations for private school tuition – that’d be about $5,200.

Joe Bast is the President and CEO of the Heartland Institute – a non-profit research center based in Chicago. He looked at the numbers and believes many Texas families would take advantage of the option and that it would save taxpayers a big chuck of money right away.

A ruling will be issued today on the school finance trial.
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Schools Finance Lawsuits Get Court Date

A tentative trial date is set for four Texas school finance lawsuits.  State District Judge John Dietz has set the trial for October 22.

Hundreds of school districts from across the state are unhappy with the way Texas distributes money. Attorney Mark Trachtenberg, who represents 86 of those districts, says state funding cuts have contributed to depriving districts of the resources they need to meet standards set by the state itself.

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Texas public school districts have an estimated 32,000 fewer employees than they may have had if the state hadn’t cut more than $5 billion in public education spending during the legislative session. That includes almost 12,000 fewer teachers.

The numbers are from this report released by an Austin-based school finance consulting firm. Moak, Casey & Associates recently surveyed school districts across the state. 60 participated.

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The Texas House has given final approval to a big education bill.  Supporters say Senate Bill 8 would give school districts more flexibility, as the state makes cuts to public education spending. 

“When you look at the things they put on there, the ability to cut teacher pay, using furlough days, attack on contract rights for teachers, attack on due process rights for teachers, can’t be seen by us as anything but an attack,” Texas American Federation of Teachers President Linda Bridges told KUT News.        

Texas Tribune

Nobody wanted to think about it in January. But as the middle of May approaches, with little more than two weeks left of the 82nd legislative session, a growing chorus of voices is asking: What happens if lawmakers can’t agree on school finance reform?

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The nine elected men and women who govern the Austin school district will meet for a work session tonight aimed at tackling some of the options on the table for closing a projected budget gap of $94 million. One of those options would see advertising sold on the sides of school buses.

The proposal being investigated by AISD Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Fryer would split advertising revenue equally with the district and the vendor. AISD would retain full control over the content and type of advertising.

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So what does cutting the state's public education budget by about $7.8 billion dollars look like?

Based on a bill by Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), it looks pretty ugly. But he says with the amount of money lawmakers in the House just voted to give to schools during the state budget debate, there's not a pretty way to get money to schools.

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House Democrats aren't the only ones not happy about the spending cuts made in that chamber's version of the state budget.  ADAPT of Texas, a grassroots disability rights group, has a full protest on the 2nd floor landing right outside the House chamber.  Their chants have been heard over the last couple of hours anytime the debate in chambers hits a lull.  The ADAPT website lists several reasons for their opposition to the things the group says the bill does:

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will be out in public again this evening with her financial chief, Nicole Conley-Abram, trying to explain the school district's budget situation and take input from the public.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Superintendents and school board members from across the state will try to increase pressure on the Legislature this afternoon to limit cuts to public education. The Make Education A Priority rally is scheduled for 2 pm on the south steps of the Capitol.

"I think generally, what we're looking for is for legislators to really look at addressing the school finance system that was reformed back in 2006," Texas Association of School Boards spokesperson Dax Gonzales told KUT News. "That's where a lot of the problems stem from."

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State Senators writing a spending plan for Texas approved a measure yesterday that would soften the blow to public education.  The initial budget bill called for a cut of almost $10 billion. Senator Florence Shapiro said school districts cannot absorb that punch.

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The sweeping state budget cuts that are prompting public school districts to lay off teachers in droves could discourage university graduates from entering the teaching field, according to a University of Texas educational researcher. 

"That's one of the things I really worry about," said Ed Fuller, a teacher retention researcher at the University of Texas at Austin's College of Education. "Because I think these cuts are going to send a message to people that education is not a profession to go into."

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Teachers, school officials, parents and students from across the state are once again flocking to the State Capitol today.  They’re jumping off the momentum from the thousands who showed up for an education rally on Saturday.  Monday's lobby day for the Texas American Federation of Teachers.  People will be handing out sardine cans to legislators. 

Image via Media Tools, courtesy Google, DigitalGlobe, GeoEye

 

Japan Death Toll Soars

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Round Rock ISD is looking to the public for some ideas on reducing its budget.

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Texas Schools Calling Out to State Lawmakers

School districts across the state are planning to lay off teachers and considering school closures.  Districts say they're left with few options as the state proposes to cut back billions of dollars in public education spending.  Today superintendents and school board members from across the state are meeting at Austin's Convention Center