Claycomb Associates, Architects

A committee charged with producing a “patriotic” telling of Texas history approved a 15-page pamphlet last month that will now be distributed to new Texas drivers. The advisory committee — named the 1836 Project after the year Texas gained its independence from Mexico — was created last year with the passing of House Bill 2497. The legislation required the committee to tell a story of “a legacy of economic prosperity” and the “abundant opportunities for businesses and families, among other requirements.” “We must never forget why Texas became so exceptional in the first place,” Gov. Greg Abbott said when he signed the bill. Abbott, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, later selected a nine-member, largely conservative group to head the 1836 Project.    (27) view article arw

With less than four months until the first day of the 2023 legislative session, Texas Republican and Democratic lawmakers and candidates on Friday laid out their vision for how to spend their 140 days together. More than a dozen legislative leaders spoke Friday during a series of panels at the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival. With likely total control of state government, Republicans will have the opportunity to further a conservative agenda. Among the issues that will dominate the session are immigration and the border, abortion and education. Meanwhile, House and Senate Democrats will have little legislative power to curtail the whim of their Republican peers but hope to compromise on some issues. Here are five takeaways from the policy panels ahead of the u view article arw

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said the state Legislature will not pass meaningful gun safety legislation during its next session but signaled an openness to creating limited exceptions to the state’s abortion ban. Families of the Uvalde school shooting victims, along with House and Senate Democrats, have repeatedly called for a special session to raise the minimum age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21. “We at the House obviously want to be respectful and do all we can to be certain this never happens again,” Phelan said at the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival on Friday. “I think there’s a reason why the governor has not called a special session, and quite frankly, it’s because the votes aren’t there. The votes aren’t there to change that particular section of the law.” Phelan, a Republican who represents Beaumont in Southeast Texas, said he would vote against increasing the minimum age. view article arw

Chairman Creighton announces the Texas Teacher Bill of Rights and Texas Parental Bill of Rights “To ensure that Texas continues to lead the nation, we must prioritize our students, our teachers and their families.” Austin, Texas–Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Chair of Senate Education has announced two top priorities for the 88th Legislative Session. "I have met with educators, administrators and parents from El Paso to Beaumont, and while our state is diverse, everyone agrees that the future begins in the classroom, said Creighton. “To ensure that Texas continues to lead the nation, we must prioritize our students, our teachers and their families. Today, I am announcing a Teacher Bill of Rights and Parental Bill of Rights that I will pursue during the 88th Legislative Session.” view article arw

LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - Early voting starts October 24 but before you can head out to the polls, you must register to vote. Tuesday, September 20 is National Voter Registration Day and many around the country took their first step. One by one, students made their way to the front of the gym at Martin High School. Ashley Flores is one of the hundreds of students taking that first time to register to vote. “I am voting this year to make my voice be heard this year. I have seen laws and I think there needs to be a change,” said Flores. She says some of the topics she is keeping an eye on are at the state level like the Texas Heartbeat Act and gun control. view article arw

KSAT will host an Insider watch party virtually in this article starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30 view article arw

Texas banned more books from school libraries this past year than any other state in the nation, targeting titles centering on race, racism, abortion and LGBTQ representation and issues, according to a new analysis by PEN America, a nonprofit organization advocating for free speech. The report released on Monday found that school administrators in Texas have banned 801 books across 22 school districts, and 174 titles were banned at least twice between July 2021 through June 2022. PEN America defines a ban as any action taken against a book based on its content after challenges from parents or lawmakers. view article arw

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed another petition seeking to reverse a Bexar County judge’s decision that rejected the state’s bid for a temporary injunction to block the San Antonio Independent School District’s staff vaccine mandate. Even though SAISD’S vaccine mandate remains on pause despite the court’s ruling in its favor, Paxton said he will “continue fighting for medical freedom.” “Nobody should be bullied, coerced, and certainly not fired because of their COVID-19 vaccination status,” said Paxon in his announcement, adding the decision is not only an affront to individual liberty, but “illegal under Texas law.” “The governor’s executive order specifically protects workers from the type of mass firings that San Antonio ISD is seeking, and I will continue to fight in court to defend GA-39 and Texans’ medical freedom,” he said. The petition was filed Sept. 7 with the Texas Supreme Court. An SAISD spokeswoman said in a statement that the vaccine mandate remains suspended and that no employee was ever disciplined for refusing to get the vaccine.    (20) view article arw

Redistricting is required for NISD after census data revealed 77.5% population differential among schools SAN ANTONIO – Northside Independent School District officials are asking the community for input after a population explosion in the area prompted redistricting of the school board districts. Redistricting is a process that redraws the geographic boundaries of a district in response to changes in population. Data from the 2020 U.S. Census revealed a 77.5% population differential between the district’s most and least populated single-member districts since the previous census was conducted in 2010. According to Texas Education Code, a school board is required to re-divide single-member districts if census data shows that “the population of the most populous district exceeds the population of the least populous district by more than 10 percent.” view article arw

State representative. County judge. Judge for the court of criminal appeals. The ballot goes on and on. A voter in Harris County can expect as many as 90 contests in this November’s general election for federal, state and county offices. If there are any other local elections where a voter lives, they’ll have even more. “It’s just a lot to keep track of,” said Jace Whitaker, a 28-year-old voter in Harris County. “It’s pretty intimidating because you can research online, but there’s not really that much info about a lot of the candidates.” view article arw

Beto O'Rourke is inching closer to Gov. Greg Abbott in the marquee Texas matchup this fall, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas. The Democrat from El Paso trails Abbott, a Republican who is seeking a third term, by 5 percentage points among registered voters. Abbott held a 6-point edge in June in the last UT poll. Abbott had been 10-11 points ahead of O'Rourke earlier this year. Meanwhile, other recent polls indicate Abbott holding a 7% lead. The Texas Politics Project poll, with a margin of error of +/- 2.83%, surveyed 1,200 registered voters in late August and early September. Joshua Blank, research director at the Texas Politics Project, said the latest poll results show Texas is on a trajectory to becoming a more competitive state. view article arw

Today Texas Parent PAC kicks off a statewide campaign to urge Texans not to vote for Greg Abbott for governor in the November 8 general election. “Abbott is failing our kids and neighborhood public schools,” said Dinah Miller of Dallas, co-chair of the pro-public education political committee. “Texas Parent PAC calls on Texas citizens to cast a vote for another candidate or leave the governor’s race blank on their ballots.” view article arw

Allen ISD is looking to further connect its community members to the district as it launches the second year of its Silver Eagles club. Allen ISD’s Silver Eagles is an initiative to invite seniors aged 60 and older to learn about everything Allen ISD has to offer its students from athletics to fine arts, to science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) programs. view article arw

Texas schools are showing progress in making up learning lost during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. But it came at a high price with billions of dollars added to school budgets across the state. And that has Texas lawmakers wondering what will happen when that extra funding ends. The Texas House Committee on Appropriations got an update Friday on what the state is spending on emergency relief programs for elementary and secondary schools. Texas budgeted additional state and federal funds to local school districts to help students continue their education during the pandemic and to help those still struggling afterward. Donna Howard a state representative from Austin says, “The schools actually had increased need as a result of the learning loss, and difficulties with staffing, and these funds were needed to help supplement what was going on.” view article arw

FORT WORTH — The Austin-based Kaplan Law Firm delivered cease and desist notices to four North Texas school districts recently requesting that they remove all non-compliant “In God We Trust” signs from their schools. The firm represents a group of concerned parents from the Carroll, Mansfield, Keller and Grapevine-Colleyville school districts, who allege that a Texas law requiring schools to display “In God We Trust” signs that are donated pushes Christian theology and is a violation of their students’ First Amendment rights. view article arw

About two dozen new signs depicting “In God We Trust” in Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi and Spanish were delivered to Allen schools, but whether they’ll make it onto the walls of classrooms is unclear. Tracking through the U.S. Postal Service showed the signs were delivered Tuesday. They are among more than 200 signs sent to public schools across the state by Florida activist Chaz Stevens, who last month launched a crowdfunding campaign, “Messin’ w/ Texas.” Stevens insists school administrators are required to display the signs under a new Texas law. view article arw

Conservative Texas pastors and legislators have their eyes on school vouchers to combat student “malformations” ahead of November’s election and the upcoming legislative session. “After COVID and after [critical race theory] and after pornographic books in libraries, parents deserve choices,” said Lt. gov. Dan Patrick during a conversation with about 50 Texas pastors on Tuesday. He and the clergy, many members of the Texas Pastor Council, want parents to have the right to choose where their children go to school and how their tax dollars are spent on education. Patrick was joined by the Rev. Dave Welch, founder and executive director of the Texas Pastor Council; Allan Parker, President of the Justice Foundation and former US Secretary of Education Rod Paige, at the call, which lamented the “crisis” of K-12 education. view article arw

Conservative Texas pastors and legislators have their eyes on school vouchers to combat student “malformations” ahead of November’s election and the upcoming legislative session. “After COVID and after [critical race theory] and after pornographic books in libraries, parents deserve choices,” said Lt. gov. Dan Patrick during a conversation with about 50 Texas pastors on Tuesday. He and the clergy, many members of the Texas Pastor Council, want parents to have the right to choose where their children go to school and how their tax dollars are spent on education. Patrick was joined by the Rev. Dave Welch, founder and executive director of the Texas Pastor Council; Allan Parker, President of the Justice Foundation and former US Secretary of Education Rod Paige, at the call, which lamented the “crisis” of K-12 education. view article arw

The Texas Retired Teachers Association represents the 450,000-plus current Teacher Retirement System of Texas retirees, as well as the nearly 1.2 million active school personnel who rely on the pension system as their sole form of retirement security. Some critics believe that Texas teachers would be better off without a pension system, promoting alternative retirement plans such as a hybrid defined-contribution approach. These naysayers are wrong, and the association respectfully disagrees with replacing the current defined-benefit plan with an alternative plan for our dedicated public educators. TRTA believes the current plan, which provides a guaranteed lifetime annuity, is what’s best for retirees and pre-retirees. Given the facts about the Texas Retirement System, most Texans will agree our plan is a great value and represents good public policy. About 95% of public-school employees in Texas don’t participate in the federal Social Security program while teaching. It’s a startling statistic that should wake up Texans to the reality of retired educators. Retired educators’ annuity from TRS is often their sole form of retirement security. Most also do not qualify for any Social Security benefits due to two federal provisions that take away most or all of their earned Social Security income: the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision. view article arw

After protesters solicited donations to distribute posters to schools across the state in Arabic, state Sen. Bryan Hughes sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency clarifying his legislation requiring schools to display signs with the national motto.  When news broke two weeks ago that Texas had a new law on the books requiring public schools to display donated “In God We Trust” signs, protesters quickly schemed about how to subvert the law’s intent.  In Florida, longtime church and state separation advocate Chaz Stevens immediately began work on a plan. He wanted his protest to follow the letter of the law, but flip it in a way that might spark opposition from the law’s supporters, like having the nation’s motto written in Arabic. Stevens is well aware he’s relying on Islamophobia to provoke conservatives but he’s also hoping teachers can use his signs to discuss faiths other than the nation’s dominant religion in public schools.  “What better place for a teachable moment?” he said.  But in the wake of Stevens’ protest, a Texas lawmaker and conservative school district are now running interference on the subversive backlash from Stevens and other protesters.    (01) view article arw

FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) -- Governor Greg Abbott told CBS 11 that laws passed after the deadly Santa Fe High School shooting in 2018 didn't go far enough in making sure school districts follow state safety and security standards. "We can see from what happened in Uvalde that; in fact, those laws either did not have teeth or they were not fully complied with," Gov. Abbott said. The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) spotted problems with compliance in 2020 after going through the emergency operations plans for more than 1,000 school districts. It found only 67 districts had plans that were sufficient, and 626 districts didn't have an active shooter policy as required. The results surprised State Representative Nicole Collier of Fort Worth. "That's very disappointing," Collier said. "It's a failure of the system."    (29) view article arw

The Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees elected unanimously to make the upcoming November 2022 election a school holiday. No school will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022 as some of the district’s 25 campuses will be used as voting locations. Students and employees will make up the day on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. view article arw

A Texas law requires schools to display signs with "In God We Trust" on them in a public space if they are donated. view article arw

On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott signaled support for a yearslong call by women's health care advocates to remove taxes on menstrual products like tampons, sanitary pads and pantyliners. His statement comes after Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar and state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, voiced their support from eliminating the "tampon tax" on Thursday. Hegar and Huffman said they’d support efforts in next year’s legislative session to make such products nontaxable. Other health care necessities, such as medicine and bandages, are exempt from sales tax in Texas. Advocates have called for the repeal of the tax, arguing that menstrual products should be classified as “wound care dressings,” which prevent bacterial infections and “maintain a moist or dry wound environment.” Given that wound dressings like Band-Aids are exempt from sales tax, supporters of repealing the sales tax on menstrual products argue that taxing them discriminates on the basis of sex. Menstrual products are already tax-free in 24 states. Texas is among those states where consumers still pay tax on those products. view article arw

The law passed last year says schools must display the national motto in a “conspicuous place” but only if the poster is “donated” or “purchased by private donations.” A new law requiring Texas schools to display donated “In God We Trust” posters is the latest move by Republican lawmakers to bring Christianity into taxpayer-funded institutions.  Under the law, Senate Bill 797, which passed during last year’s legislative session, schools are required to display the posters if they are donated.  The law went into effect last year, but these posters weren’t popping up then as many school officials and parents were more concerned about new COVID-19 strains and whether their local public school would even open for in-person classes. view article arw

WASHINGTON — In 2010, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert warned the nation from the floor of the House of Representatives about a looming threat: terrorist babies. He described — without providing evidence — a diabolical and far-fetched scheme in which foreign enemies were sending pregnant women to the U.S. to birth babies that would emerge decades later as terrorists. He found out about it, he said, from a conversation with a retired FBI agent on a flight, even as the FBI said it had no information about any such plot. He would go on to fight with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper in an interview that went viral as he for nearly 10 minutes refused to answer questions or provide evidence of the claim, while yelling at Cooper for “attacking the messenger.” view article arw

CYPRESS, Texas — It’s on our coins and in some public buildings. Now there’s debate over “In God We Trust” signs on display in Texas public schools. “We just felt like it was a great opportunity to display our national motto in our public schools,” said TX Rep. Tom Oliverson of the Houston area. Oliverson co-authored a bill that recently became law making it mandatory for a public school to display “In God We Trust” signs if they’re privately donated like a batch given to Carroll ISD near Dallas-Fort Worth just this week. view article arw

Opponents argue that voucher programs pull away from already underfunded public schools and private and charter schools are held to less accountability. view article arw

DECATUR, Texas — The packed room of roughly 300 people where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke spoke on Thursday wasn’t in Houston, Austin or Dallas. It was in Decatur, the seat of Wise County, where former President Donald Trump won nearly 85% of the vote in 2020. “These are the cities that Greg Abbott is sleeping on,” O'Rourke said after his town hall. “He’s not showing up, he’s not fighting for these folks. He’s not earning the vote.” view article arw

The main entrances to all 54 Brownsville Independent School District campuses will be locked during school hours and will require admission from school staff under state-ordered guidelines that go into effect when the 2022-2023 school year begins on Tuesday. All classroom doors also will remain locked during the school day, with door viewers to assist in seeing persons who are knocking at the door to be provided. All doors leading to outside the campus must be locked. In addition, all students, staff and visitors will be required to wear photo identification badges. BISD is in the process of bringing the new rules into force, district officials said at a Safety and Mental Health Committee meeting on Aug. 9. The meeting lasted more that two hours and came a week before school starts. view article arw

Heading into next year’s legislative session, the talk in Austin is focusing mainly on school choice, but many rural conservatives don’t like the direction Texas Republicans are heading. School choice is a broad term that has been thrown around by Texas Republicans, who wish to apply a host of tax-payer-funded alternatives to sending a child to the local public school. While the Texas Legislature doesn’t meet for another five months, Gov. Greg Abbott has already been very vocal about his support for public school alternatives. Abbott has said he supports parents’ “choice to send their children to any public school, charter school or private school with state funding following the student.” But, out in Texas’ rural districts, many lawmakers don’t see eye to eye with the Lone Star State’s Governor. view article arw

Lawmakers let the program, known as Chapter 313, expire at the end of this year after the Senate declined to consider a bill extending it. It was the first time in its 20-year history that legislators decided not to renew the program.  Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said Thursday he is confident the Legislature can find a way to revive a multibillion-dollar corporate tax break program intended to attract large companies to Texas.  Lawmakers let the program, known as Chapter 313, expire at the end of this year after the Senate declined to consider a bill extending it. It was the first time in its 20-year history that legislators decided not to renew the program.    (12) view article arw

When Brad Jones was tapped as interim CEO of the nonprofit that runs the state’s power grid following the deadly February 2021 winter storm that left most of Texas without power for days, he said he would help stabilize the grid and get it through the summer. Jones was clear that he wasn’t interested in keeping the job long term. Now, 15 months after Jones became interim CEO — and more than a month after the June target date when Jones had told colleagues and conference crowds that he wanted to step down — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ new board of directors still has not selected his successor. Eight sources from across the power industry who spoke to The Texas Tribune say Gov. Greg Abbott — who has no formal role in the process — has put a stranglehold on the CEO search. view article arw

O’Rourke is hammering Abbott over vouchers on the campaign trail in rural Texas, where Democrats know they need to do better and where vouchers are a political hot potato for Republicans.  A battle over school vouchers is mounting in the race to be Texas governor, set into motion after Republican incumbent Greg Abbott offered his clearest support yet for the idea in May.  His Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, is hammering Abbott over the issue on the campaign trail, especially seeking an advantage in rural Texas, where Democrats badly know they need to do better and where vouchers split Republicans. O’Rourke’s campaign is also running newspaper ads in at least 17 markets, mostly rural, that urge voters to “reject Greg Abbott’s radical plan to defund” public schools. view article arw

There is no presidential election this year, but the midterm elections this fall will define the future of Texas. Texans will cast their ballots for the governor, the attorney general, and many other state and federal offices. Some Texas communities will also hold local elections for school board, city or county seats, and initiatives. Many candidates have rolled out political platforms. But what do Texans, especially those not entrenched in politics, want? That’s what we want to know. We want to dive deeper into the issues that keep Texans up at night and the election questions that puzzle them — even if they’re not the ones making headlines. view article arw