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Tuesday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding school vouchers makes it unconstitutional for states to exclude religious schools from programs that use tax dollars to pay private tuition. That’s a matter of constitutional concern for anyone worried the line between church and state is being blurred, especially in public schools. But regardless of those concerns, one thing the decision does not do is change the fact that vouchers are a bad idea for Texas. view article arw

The Texas Senate committee held numerous hearings this week on school security and gun safety following the tragedy in Uvalde. During the session a Jacksonville native testified for the Texas School District Police Chief Association. “In my 40 plus years in law enforcement I’d have to say it’s the most disappointing response I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Avera, the Jacksonville ISD Police Chief. He is also the 1st Vice President for the Texas School District Police Chief Association. view article arw

Jacksonville ISD Police Chief Bill Avera spoke with KLTV 7′s Blake Holland following his testimony before a Texas Senate committee in Austin on Tuesday. Avera will testify before a similar Texas House committee on Thursday morning. view article arw

Jacksonville ISD Police Chief Bill Avera testified before committees in Austin about school safety on Tuesday evening. Avera joined Humble ISD Police Chief Solomon Cook to share their insights and ideas for dealing with school threats, how to firm up schools, and other important issues. Listen to Avera speak in the video above. view article arw

The College Station school board will continue discussions about a voter-approved tax ratification election at its monthly board workshop and meeting Tuesday. The tax ratification election, also known as a TRE, was introduced in a special budget workshop on May 31. If ordered by the board and approved by voters, the revenue received through the TRE would go into the general fund with administrators recommending it be put toward compensation, Amy Drozd, chief financial officer for the district, said. While the district is asking for additional cents with the TRE, Drozd said taxpayers would still see an overall lower tax rate due to compression required by the state as a result of the property value growth.   (21) view article arw

JACKSONVILLE, Texas (KLTV) - Jacksonville ISD Police Chief Bill Avera will testify before committees in the Texas House and Texas Senate next week about school safety. Avera will testify not only as the leader of an East Texas school district’s police department, but as the first vice president of the Texas School District Police Chiefs Association. “It will not be in vain if schools become safer,” Avera said about the recent tragedy in Uvalde. Avera, who helped start Dallas ISD’s police department, plans to push for Texas schools to have more trained law enforcement officers. “I’ll be in favor of and pushing hard for additional boots on the ground,” Avera said. “It is essential that we get to the point that we have additional armed sworn peace officers, not security people, not volunteers. People that have powers of arrest that are trained to deal with active shooter events, and are trained to deal with children and students.” view article arw

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Moses and the Ten Commandments have reemerged in the debate over state school curriculum as education leaders weigh whether the biblical figure has a place in Texas classrooms.  The State Board of Education, or SBOE, is currently reassessing social studies teachings under the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, also known as TEKS. The board was slated to hear testimony on the topic at a meeting Wednesday.  Currently, the story of Moses is required learning as part of high school U.S. history, with Moses regarded by the state as an influence on the nation’s Founding Fathers. view article arw

Mayra Flores, a Republican, won a special election to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela. Another election will be held in November. With all precincts reporting Tuesday night, Flores had 50.98% of the vote and Sanchez had 43.33%. There were two other, lesser-known candidates — Democrat Rene Coronado and Republican Juana “Janie” Cantu-Cabrera — in the race.  Sanchez is a Harlingen lawyer and former Cameron County commissioner, while Flores, a respiratory therapist, is the Republican nominee for the seat in November.  Speaking a little after 9:30 p.m., Flores declared victory and said her campaign “took no one for granted.”  “For over 100 years, we have been taken for granted,” she said at her election night party in San Benito. “I will show you what real representation looks like. I will represent all people.”    (15) view article arw

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had asked House leaders to support his push for arming school police officers with bulletproof shields after the Uvalde shooting. House Speaker Dade Phelan is also asking for more money for mental health and school safety programs.  Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan pitched redirecting more than $100 million in state funding to quickly boost mental health and school safety programs before school starts again next fall.  His plan came in response to a $50 million request from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, to immediately purchase bulletproof shields for school police departments. Phelan said he also supported that purchase.  “I believe our respective chambers have the obligation to take immediate, concrete action with the goal of making our schools as safe as possible before the start of the upcoming school year,” Phelan said in a letter to Patrick on Monday. “Your recommendation to dedicate $50 million toward outfitting local school law enforcement with bulletproof shields is a worthwhile goal to that end, and you have my full support in that endeavor.”    (14) view article arw

State lawmakers launched an investigation into the Uvalde massacre Thursday, but the witnesses, testimony and specific goals of the investigation will remain secret for now. State Rep. Dustin Burrows, who chairs the committee leading the inquiry, said the goal is to provide “answers and solutions” that will prevent future mass shootings. Uvalde law enforcement has come under intense criticism from state officials and law enforcement experts for its response, in which police took more than an hour to enter the classroom where the gunman had opened fire and then holed up with his rifle. view article arw

House Speaker Dade Phelan on Monday proposed that Texas’ top lawmakers allocate more than $170 million for mental health services and school safety initiatives before the start of the next academic year. In a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who heads the Senate, Phelan suggested expanding telemedicine services, increasing hospital capacity for mental health treatment, bolstering active shooter training for law enforcement and allowing school districts to purchase silent panic buttons. He also endorsed Patrick’s previous request to spend $50 million on bulletproof shields for school police. view article arw

State Sen. Drew Springer made a brief stopover in Olney May 24 to discuss mental health concerns with Olney Police Chief Dan Birbeck and teacher recruitment and school funding issues with Olney Independent School District Superintendent Greg Roach. Chief Birbeck briefed Sen. Springer about failures in the county mental health care system that led to the May 17 death of Olney resident Larry Howe. Howe, 61, was found dead along railroad tracks in Wichita Falls a few days after his family sought help from the Helen Farabee Centers to find a bed at the Red River Hospital or North Texas State Hospital for him. view article arw

The Del Valle ISD school board is calling on elected officials to pass legislation to prevent gun violence in light of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. At a special board meeting June 7, the board approved a resolution to be sent to all elected officials representing the Del Valle ISD community. "As a School Board, we have a duty to protect the children of our community," said board president Rebecca A. Birch, "Gun violence has become the number one cause of death for children and we cannot stand by and watch. We must use our voices as school district leaders to call for change." view article arw

Protecting Texas lives is not partisan. But determining how to do it is. DALLAS — The May 24 mass murder at a Uvalde elementary school seems to be a call to action for Texans of all political persuasions. Elected leaders on both sides of the aisle say change is necessary and a sense of urgency is shared. But a clear divide is emerging over what kind of action to take. “Blaming doors for killing 19 kids is a ridiculous excuse to try to avoid the real problem,” said State Rep. Julie Johnson, a Democrat from Farmers Branch. view article arw

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Some Texans are calling for leaders to take action after mass shootings — rather than providing just thoughts and prayers.  In a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, Gov. Greg Abbott requested they begin special legislative committees to develop recommendations on “school safety, mental health, social media, police training, firearm safety, and more.”  The recommendations could lead to legislation to be considered in the 2023 session.  This is less action than some Texans have called for. Some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, have asked Abbott to call them back for an entire special legislative session. This would allow new legislation to pass more immediately in response to the mass shooting. Without a special session, any legislative action would have to wait until next year.   “Let us debate. Let us pass legislation,” said State Rep. Ann Johnson (D-Houston). “I don’t want the creation of another sham committee. Let us discuss common sense gun reform,” she added. view article arw

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the lead GOP negotiator in the Senate’s efforts to pass bipartisan gun safety legislation, is managing expectations over what kind of bills he’s willing to get behind. But the answer to that question isn’t going to satisfy many Democrats who are pushing for restrictions that include expanded background checks and raising the age to purchase a firearm in the wake of the devastating elementary school shooting in Uvalde. “Targeted reforms, I think, is the way to get to where we need to go,” Cornyn said in a Senate floor speech on Monday. view article arw

A special legislative committee called by Gov. Greg Abbott this week in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde does not include the state senator who represents the district. In a written statement, that state senator, Roland Gutierrez, called the special committee assignments a “slap in the face of the people of Uvalde.”  “It’s also a slap in the face to the people of Sante Fe and El Paso because they don’t have a voice on this committee either,” Gutierrez said. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick selected eight Republicans and three Democrats to lead the evaluation on school and firearm safety. The committee is similar to the one called by Abbott to shape the state’s response to a mass shooting at Sante Fe High School in 2018. Gutierrez called the committee a “stall tactic” from Abbott, who can evade a growing call from Democrats for a special legislative session, which would immediately bring state lawmakers back to Austin to discuss gun violence prevention measures.  view article arw

Governor Abbott requested that the committee discuss solutions related to school safety, mental health, social media, police training and firearm safety.  Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Wednesday evening announced the state lawmakers who will make up a special legislative committee requested by Gov. Greg Abbott in the wake of last week's mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde.  “In response to Gov. Abbott’s request today, as President of the Texas Senate, I am naming the following members to the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans: view article arw

WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina on Wednesday blasted Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s request for legislative committees to “protect all Texans” in the wake of the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas. “We don’t need more committees on school safety. The Uvalde victims’ families and all Texans need more gun reform,” the union president said. “Nineteen children and two teachers were killed by an assailant with an assault rifle at an elementary school in Uvalde, and Gov. Abbott’s response is to appoint more committees to study school safety. That’s very weak.” Molina said the victims’ families and all Texans “deserve better than that.” view article arw

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A teachers union marched Tuesday in an effort to get U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s attention. The Texas American Federation of Teachers called the Republican senator’s response to the Uvalde school shooting “abominable.” Exactly one week ago on May 24, 19 students and two teachers were shot and killed by an 18 year old with a rifle at Robb Elementary School. Cruz went on Fox News after the shooting, saying he supports billions in funding to heighten school security. He blamed Democrats for stopping those efforts. view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott paved the way for a legislative fight over public education in Texas when he pledged earlier this month to push for taxpayer funds to follow students to private schools. The state House has historically been the main barrier to Texas enacting school voucher programs, and advocates on both sides of the issue will be watching that chamber carefully. view article arw

AUSTIN — With polling places closing at 7:00 p.m. local time this evening, county election officials are now beginning to report results from the May 24th Democratic and Republican Primary Runoff Elections through the Texas Secretary of State's Election Night Returns portal.    (25) view article arw

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — U.S. COVID-19 cases are up, leading a smattering of school districts, particularly in the Northeast, to bring back mask mandates and recommendations for the first time since the omicron winter surge ended and as the country approaches 1 million deaths in the pandemic. The return of masking in schools is not nearly as widespread as earlier in the pandemic, particularly as the public’s worries over the virus have ebbed. But districts in Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have brought masks back, with a few in Massachusetts also recommending them even as the school year enters its final weeks. Maine’s largest school district, in Portland, said this week masks would return, with Superintendent Xavier Botana saying that was the “safest course at this time” amid rising cases. Bangor, Maine, schools also brought back a universal mask requirement. view article arw

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s renewed push for school vouchers is a piece of his “parental rights” platform, which itself could be a signal of future political aspirations, according to a political science and communication professor. “Make no mistake, the governor is laying out not only a strategy to embolden his campaign for re-election, I think everything he’s been doing since the end of the special session has been a test to see how these themes would work at a national level,” said Dr. Richard Pineda with the University of Texas at El Paso. “I think a lot of what you’re seeing is the governor teeing up what his approach is going to be if and when he decides to run for the White House,” Pineda added. view article arw

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s renewed push for school vouchers is a piece of his “parental rights” platform, which itself could be a signal of future political aspirations, according to a political science and communication professor. “Make no mistake, the governor is laying out not only a strategy to embolden his campaign for re-election, I think everything he’s been doing since the end of the special session has been a test to see how these themes would work at a national level,” said Dr. Richard Pineda with the University of Texas at El Paso. “I think a lot of what you’re seeing is the governor teeing up what his approach is going to be if and when he decides to run for the White House,” Pineda added. At a campaign event Monday, Abbott pledged his support for school choice. view article arw

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s renewed push for school vouchers is a piece of his “parental rights” platform, which itself could be a signal of future political aspirations, according to a political science and communication professor. “Make no mistake, the governor is laying out not only a strategy to embolden his campaign for re-election, I think everything he’s been doing since the end of the special session has been a test to see how these themes would work at a national level,” said Dr. Richard Pineda with the University of Texas at El Paso. “I think a lot of what you’re seeing is the governor teeing up what his approach is going to be if and when he decides to run for the White House,” Pineda added. At a campaign event Monday, Abbott pledged his support for school choice. view article arw

Last fall, Texas Republicans drew a new congressional district in western Harris County. This red-red-red seat was designed to specifically advantage Wesley Hunt, an Iraq war veteran who came within four points of beating U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in another district in 2020. The new district — the 38th — encompasses affluent parts of Houston such as River Oaks and stretches into conservative areas such as Tomball and Cypress. Hunt, who won the Republican primary, will be tough to beat. He’s been endorsed by both Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and has a formidable campaign war chest, with $1.8 million on hand as of March 31. view article arw

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday night advocated for a voucher program that would allow students and parents to use government funds to attend private or charter schools instead of their assigned public schools. Abbott said his support for school choice was to help uphold a tradition of “empowering parents” that includes his policies of banning mask mandates on campus and banning “critical race theory” in Texas schools, the San Antonio Express-News reported. He also said public schools would remain fully funded throughout the voucher program. “Nothing is more critical to the development and success of our children than parents,” the governor said at a rally in San Antonio. “If you like the public school your child is attending, it will be fully funded.”    (11) view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott voiced his support for a school voucher program Monday in San Antonio, opening the option for taxpayer money to be used to send some children to non-public school. "Empowering parents means giving them the choice to send their children to any public school, charter school or private school, with state funding following the student," Abbott told the crowd Monday night.  The effort is aimed at empowering parents, but some say these choices already exist. view article arw

AUSTIN – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued the following statement today: “I am in full support of Gov. Abbott’s statement that he will support school choice in the upcoming legislative session. I have long advocated for parents’ right to exercise choice in the education of their children. Since I was elected Lt. Governor, the Texas Senate has twice passed education choice legislation. “Texas has over 5 million students in our public school system. That’s more students than some states have people. We can support school choice and, at the same time, create the best public education system in America. These issues are not in conflict with each other.    (13) view article arw

PARIS, Texas — Deep in Northeast Texas, near the replica Eiffel Tower topped with a red cowboy hat, Cynthia Rice-Tims decorated tables inside the Celebrate It event hall with household products made from petroleum. The dental floss, Vaseline and variety of plastic-wrapped goods were intended to underscore to the dozens of attendees the importance of oil and gas to everyday life. Rice-Tims is president of the Republican Women of Red River Valley, which co-hosted the late April forum for the two GOP candidates facing each other in a runoff election for Railroad Commission of Texas, and she also wanted to emphasize that the state agency overseeing the state’s oil and gas industry has nothing to do with railroads. “It’s amazing how many people have no clue what a railroad commissioner does,” Scott Hommel, chair of the Republican Party of Lamar County, told the audience. Then he pledged to push the state GOP to change the agency’s name: “My voice will not be silenced in changing the name of the Railroad Commission, because people need to know what that is.”    (11) view article arw

WACO, TEXAS — "When students walk through our doors, we’re interested in how best to help them learn and grow, not their immigration status," said Dr. Susan Kincannon, Waco ISD superintendent. Gov. Greg Abbott made a comment about wanting to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states must provide free education to all children including undocumented immigrants. view article arw

Abbott said he supports giving parents the option to attend private school “with state funding following the student.” Such measures have failed in the Legislature in the past.  Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday voiced support for a school voucher plan, offering his clearest embrace in recent memory of letting parents use taxpayers dollars to send their kids to nonpublic schools.  “We can fully fund public schools while also giving parents a choice about which school is right for their child,” Abbott said during a campaign event in San Antonio. “Empowering parents means giving them the choice to send their children to any public school, charter school or private school with state funding following the student.”  Abbott has long been a supporter of the broad concept of “school choice,” but his focus on it has ebbed and flowed throughout his governorship. His commitment to the cause was thrown into question by a recent string of endorsements in Texas House primary runoffs in which he backed Republicans opposed by school-choice proponents, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.  Critics of vouchers say they hurt public schools, an argument that Abbott’s Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, quickly made after the governor’s remarks.    (11) view article arw

Democrat Jolanda Jones edged out her opponent Danielle Keys Bess in a special election on Saturday to finish the term of former state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston. According to unofficial returns, Jones got 52% of the vote, with 48% going to Keys Bess. They were separated by a difference of 202 votes, which means the election is eligible for a recount if Keys Bess petitions for one. Keys Bess did not respond to a request for comment. view article arw

WASHINGTON – Former U.S. Sen. Bob Krueger, human rights advocate and the last Texas Democrat to serve in the U.S. Senate, passed away of congestive heart failure in his hometown of New Braunfels on April 30, according to local reports. Krueger was among the last of the once-dominant conservative Texas Democrats, with a political career that spanned the party’s slow collapse across the state. He briefly achieved his highest aspiration in 1993, when Gov. Ann Richards appointed him to serve in the U.S. Senate. He served only five months, losing a bruising special election to future Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who would serve out the remainder of that term and win reelection three more times. view article arw