A state-ordered study of Texas’ primary public education standardized tests, known as STAAR, has found that nearly all reading and writing passages used on the 2019 exams were appropriately difficult for children in elementary and middle school, rebutting claims by leading educators that some texts have been too challenging to accurately measure students’ knowledge. In a study released this week by The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, housed at the University of Texas at Austin, researchers determined that up to 97 percent of reading and writing passages used on STAAR met their criteria for classifying as a grade-level appropriate text. State lawmakers ordered the study earlier this year after some educators, including those affiliated with an organization representing 40 of Texas’ largest school districts, argued STAAR passages were not grade-level appropriate. view article arw

Were the reading and writing passages on standardized tests that Texas elementary and middle school students took this spring too challenging for their grade levels? Likely not, University of Texas at Austin researchers said in a report released Monday. But they struggled to determine whether the questions and answers for those tests and several others were too hard. A heated debate over the standardized tests sprung up during this year's legislative session, when a coalition of education advocates resurfaced years-old studies showing that test passages were written one to three grades above elementary and middle schoolers' grade levels. view article arw

The Sugar Land Republican faced fast and fierce backlash after he accused his opponents of running against him because they are Asian in a district with a sizable Asian population.  State Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, is no longer running for reelection after he sparked a firestorm for saying he was facing primary challengers because they are “Asian.”  “During a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle I made some statements that were insensitive and inexcusable,” Miller said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. “In trying to make a point about the campaign I used a poor choice of words that are not indicative of my character or heart.” view article arw

In one week, we’ll know who’s going to have a primary. Who is going to have a fight in November. Who’s quitting. Who isn’t quitting. The table will be set for a big 2020 election — and for a very interesting political science experiment in a state that has been unshakably reliable for Republicans since the mid-1990s. The 2018 elections didn’t follow historical patterns. Turnout was huge: 8.4 million Texans voted in a year when 5.5 million to 6 million — based on past results — would have been considered normal. view article arw

Federal officials have ordered the Texas Education Agency to pay a former special education director more than $200,000 in damages for illegally firing her. Laurie Kash filed a federal complaint Nov. 21, 2017, with the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the TEA had illegally awarded a no-bid contract to a company to analyze private records of students receiving special education services. A day later, the TEA fired her. But state officials said Kash was terminated because employees at a former job filed a civil lawsuit against her alleging she had covered up the sexual abuse of a 6-year-old. view article arw

Lawrence Allen, Jr., followed his mother’s footsteps when he became a teacher, a principal, and a member of the state’s highest education board. Now, he wants to follow her to Texas House of Representatives. view article arw

Parents, teachers and some Houston ISD school board members exchanged verbal fireworks over a looming state takeover of the district during a town hall at Chavez High School Thursday evening. Some community members chanted during the event. Members of the Houston Federation of Teachers did the same after it ended. Others passed out flyers to bring crowds to the next community town hall on the issue. view article arw

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath emphasized the importance of investing in high quality educators to spur student academic achievement during his keynote speech for the State of Public Education breakfast held by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. Morath spoke to a large crowd of business leaders, educators and students at the Baylor Club at McLane Stadium. Waco Independent School District Superintendent Susan Kincannon and Midway Independent School District Superintendent George Kazanas spoke after the commissioner about their districts’ respective career and technical education programs. view article arw

The Houston Federation of Teachers announced legal action against the state of Texas. The union said the Texas Education Agency's takeover of the Houston Independent School District is unconstitutional. Union officials made the argument in federal court on Tuesday.   view article arw

Not many people understand South Texas. It's one of the handful of blue pockets in the state, but unlike the others, it's not clustered in an urban center. The congressional districts that represent it encompass small border cities and ranch lands alike. Like other heavily Hispanic areas, the number of young voters grows each election, and what that means for the Democratic Party is uncertain. view article arw

Dennis Bonnen’s rise to speaker of the Texas House marked a change in the winds at the Texas Capitol. It’s not so much that his politics were different from his predecessor’s. His relationships with the governor and lieutenant governor were better, though. And the timing was in his favor: Texas voters wanted lawmakers to tackle big issues after a 2017 legislative session that will be remembered, above all else, for a fight over gender identity — presented as a debate over who gets to use which public restrooms. view article arw

A group representing more than three dozen state lawmakers is calling on Gov. Greg Abbott's administration to fix the paperwork logjam that has made life difficult for some Texas-born children in Mexico. Leaders of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in Texas called for change following an investigation by NBC 5 Investigates and Telemundo 39. view article arw

A witness in the Trump impeachment hearings is no stranger to teachers in Houston. On Tuesday, Jennifer Williams testified in front of Congress. She says she overheard a phone call between President Donald Trump and the Ukrainian leader which she called "unusual." view article arw

If you look at his campaign missives, it’s clear that the state’s lieutenant governor — or maybe it’s his staff — can’t reconcile his math with his politics.  Dan Patrick complains that spending in “many” cities and counties has been growing at 7% or more per year. And later on, he tries to debunk reports that the state budget went up by more than twice that amount:  “There has been a great deal of misinformation about the growth in the Texas state budget this session bolstered by early reports from the Legislative Budget Board and TPPF [the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank] suggesting the budget increased three or four times more than it actually did. You may have seen e-mails or articles on conservative blogs and news sites this summer that we increased spending this year 12-14%. That was just incorrect,” he wrote. view article arw

The race for Texas’ 13th Congressional District could soon grow larger as a former WFISD school board president has launched an exploratory committee for a potential run. Trey Sralla confirmed the committee to our newsroom this morning. view article arw

Rep. Gary VanDeaver has announced he will seek re-election to the Texas House, and he has received endorsement from Gov. Greg Abbott. “I am proud to endorse Rep. Gary VanDeaver for re-election,” Abbott said in a press release. “Gary is a strong conservative leader who worked to rein in your property taxes and improve education for Texas students.” VanDeaver said he is proud to have Abbott’s support. view article arw

Pilgrim Academy eighth-grader Printis Stevens has big dreams of becoming a forensic anthropologist, turning her fascination with science into a job that helps law enforcement investigators solve crimes and bring closure to families. Her love of science gets cultivated each day in the bright, high-ceilinged classroom of Christopher Hua, an energetic, Johns Hopkins-educated teacher now in his fourth year at the Houston ISD campus. Students and the school’s principal, Diana Castillo, lavish praise on Hua for his ability to relate with students and willingness to spend after-hours time with kids. view article arw

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is heading to a runoff against high-profile attorney Tony Buzbee in his rowdy reelection race.  With all vote centers reporting Wednesday morning, Turner had 47% of the vote in unofficial returns to 28% for Buzbee. Turner was around 7,800 votes short of winning enough of the vote — over 50% — to avert an overtime round.  The runoff is set for Dec. 14. view article arw

Turnout in odd-numbered years has always been historically low. While this year’s turnout is higher than in 2017, it's still overwhelmingly low.  Texas voters approved nine amendments to the state’s Constitution on Tuesday. Only 12% of registered voters actually cast ballots — a higher percentage from the 2017 election, but still overwhelmingly low overall.  A majority of Texas voters must approve any changes to the Texas Constitution. Getting a proposed amendment on the ballot requires support from more than two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature. view article arw

A last-minute change in how votes were counted threw Harris County into an electoral muddle Tuesday, causing nearly 12-hour delays in results for the closely watched mayor's race and a raft of state constitutional amendments.  While exasperating election night vigils are not unusual in the state's largest county, this election's prolonged delay raised questions about what went wrong and why it took hours to make even a fraction of tallies public. view article arw

The Texas legislative session is over, but several lawmakers were back in Austin this week working during the interim. view article arw

As voters go to the polls Tuesday for a constitutional amendment election, the transition from Bexar County’s old voting machines to its new ones with paper cards has gone smoothly, Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said.  Related: Constitutional Amendments on the Ballot in Texas  In the summer, Bexar County commissioners approved a $12.5 million purchase of new voting machines to replace the 17-year-old system that the county had been using. More than 42,000 people turned out to use Bexar County’s new voting machines during the early voting period, which ended Friday.  view article arw

Dan Patrick’s budget destruction

November 0408:42 AM
 

It’s not what you think it is, but it’s still bad. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Texas state government, an arcane team of 100 or so budget nerds has led a private, if stressful, life — running financial models, ensuring state government and its private contractors aren’t spending beyond their means, and keeping lawmakers informed about each line item in the state’s 1,000-page, $250 billion two-year budget. view article arw

Last session lawmakers passed House Bill 1888 that bans mobile polling locations. Supporters of the bill said it will make it easier for some people to vote, while Democrats are saying the bill is unconstitutional. Now, Democrats are suing the state over the new law, but what exactly are mobile polling locations, and what did Texas voters lose? view article arw

One week after Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said that he would not run for reelection, conservative activists on Wednesday urged Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session to elect a new speaker. Michael Quinn Sullivan, chief executive of Empower Texans, and leaders of other conservative groups including Texas Right to Life and Texas Homeschool Coalition held a news conference outside Dallas, requesting that lawmakers immediately remove Bonnen as speaker and address issues they say Republican leaders ignored during the regular session. view article arw

A recorded and reckless conversation between a top state official and a political activist rocked the state Capitol this summer and upended the career of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen last month. But it hardly registered with most voters, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.  More than two-thirds of registered voters said they have heard “nothing at all” (50%) or “a little” (18%) “about the controversy over a June 2019 meeting between the speaker of the Texas House and the head of a political action committee.” Only 12% said they have heard “a lot,” and 19% said they have heard “some” about the incident. view article arw

For the second time in two years, the members of the Texas House have the chance — if they so desire — to elect the first woman to serve as speaker. Two women — Miriam “Ma” Ferguson and Ann Richards — have served as governors of Texas. But no woman has served as speaker of the Texas House, nor as the state’s lieutenant governor. Texas has had 43 lieutenant governors, from Albert Clinton Horton to Dan Patrick. And from William Crump to Dennis Bonnen, there have been 70 speakers. view article arw

Worried about the suppression of young voters in 2020, national and Texas Democrats are suing the state over a newly implemented election measure that’s triggered the shuttering of early voting places, including on college campuses, in various parts of the state. In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Austin, the Texas Democratic Party — joined by the Democratic campaign arms for the U.S. House and Senate — alleges that the state’s move to effectively end the use of what were known as temporary or mobile early voting sites is unconstitutional because it discriminates against young voters by shrinking their access to the ballot box. view article arw

The Texas House of Representatives Committee on Education met in Austin Monday to get an update on how districts are implementing the new school finance law. Texas school districts received more money from the state this school year thanks to House Bill 3 (HB3). HB3 infused more than $11 billion into the public school system, including increasing the basic allotment for each student, teacher raises and funding full-day Pre-K for all eligible students.     view article arw

Must Read - js - The Texas Legislative Budget Board is hemorrhaging staff and has been without an executive director for a year.  Tucked away in a quiet corner of Texas state government, an arcane team of 100 or so budget nerds has led a private, if stressful, life — running financial models, ensuring state government and its private contractors aren’t spending beyond their means, and keeping lawmakers informed about each line item in the state’s 1,000-page, $250 billion two-year budget. view article arw

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff made San Antonio environmentalists swallow their coffee hard last week when he told a business group he would like to transfer sales tax money that currently goes to protect the Edwards Aquifer and build creekside trails to VIA for expanded rapid transit service.  The decision would be made by voters, who get to renew the one-eighth-cent sales tax for aquifer protection and linear parks every five years. The issue is likely to be on the ballot in November 2020.  Memo to Wolff and San Antonio taxpayers: You’re not the only one eyeing that money.  view article arw

Several months after a major school finance law rewired how billions of dollars get funneled into hundreds of school districts across the state, educators and state officials are still trying to untangle the threads.  House Bill 3, an $11.6 billion measure, gave school districts more money for employee salaries and programs like full-day pre-K and dual language. But at a House Public Education hearing Monday, educators and advocates pointed to problems with the way the law was written that have resulted in unexpected increases or decreases in funding for individual school districts. view article arw

We are proud to announce that, as of last week, TEA staff have created twenty (20) HB 3 in 30 videos and associated support documents.  We have five (5) more to go. The intent behind this communication is two-fold. view article arw

School finance is an incredibly complex topic and this November you’ll get to vote on it again. Proposition 7 is the latest amendment to appear on ballots, and how you vote will help determine who is distributing billions of dollars for the next few years. view article arw

Senator Elizabeth Warren is famous for hurling at least one major plan against every policy issue and societal problem you ever heard of—or hadn’t. It’s true that a lot of them make my head ache, some of them turn my stomach, and practically none seem likely to get enacted during her lifetime, even were she to win the Oval Office. Still, her plans often contain provocative ideas, not all of them bad. At least she’s thinking about big, substantive matters and going after them with big, substantive proposals. That’s a nontrivial part of what a presidential candidate—or president—should do. The spendthrift K–12 education plan that her campaign team unveiled on Monday is certainly big and substantive. It’s also pretty awful, as it would reverse most of the major education reforms of recent decades, drive a stake through the heart of what’s left of bipartisan federal and state policy, and re-enshrine adult interests, especially those of the teachers unions, in place of children’s, while wasting immense sums of taxpayer dollars. (The total price tag is estimated at $800 billion.) view article arw