As Texas' school finance commission is set hold its next hearing, some members and policy experts are arguing the hearings seem set toward a predetermined outcome — making schools do more with the funding they have.  A state panel responsible for proposing improvements to Texas' embattled public school finance system is facing criticism from an unexpected source: some of its own members, who say the panel's hearings seem geared toward a predetermined outcome of making schools do more with their current funding. view article arw

Shining light on government to hold it accountable is hardly a new idea. In fact, Texas was a national leader in this realm for more than 40 years.  Sadly, the flow of public information in this huge state is slipping from the sunshine into the shadows.  Some state leaders have been dimming the lights, ensuring that even the most basic information about our government is getting more difficult to uncover: Who, really, is that candidate running for office? How are our hard-earned tax dollars being spent? Remember the Alamo, and how do we track its restoration money? view article arw

Republicans outnumber Democrats in Texas, if your measure is turnout for the two major party primaries. But in three of the state's largest counties — Bexar, Dallas and Harris — Democrats outran Republicans this year.  Not every political consultant will flash their list of government seats they believe are up for grabs this year. But some will, and here’s the thing: The Democratic and Republican consultants agree on a lot of the names. view article arw

A March 13 report from the Texas House Committee on Economic Competitiveness cites inadequate education funding as a key factor hurting the state’s economic prospects. Some of the report’s notable findings include these, addressing needs both in higher education and in elementary and secondary education: view article arw

According to the Interim Report to the 86th Texas Legislature from the House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness, some things need to change if the state wants to stay competitive. One recommendation is to avoid “legislation that distracts from critical priorities and is viewed by many as enabling discrimination against certain groups or classes of Texans,” according to the report, released March 13. A case in point is the so-called “bathroom bill,” which consumed much of the 85th Legislature after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and later Gov. Gregg Abbott made a priority of passing the legislation. view article arw

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ hand-picked committee released its delayed report on the future of the state’s economy Tuesday, and it’s a ringing condemnation of last session’s transgender bathroom bills as unneeded and dangerous to the state’s economy as well as to Austin’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. The report’s release also was accompanied by a political bombshell from the committee’s chairman, state Rep. Byron Cook, who blamed Gov. Greg Abbott for much of the turmoil surrounding the bathroom fight, saying Abbott’s top aides had emphasized that the governor wanted the legislation to fail during the 2017 regular session. view article arw

After the May elections in Wichita County, Wichita Falls I.S.D. schools won't be polling locations anymore. WFISD officials said the decision boils down to the safety of their students and staff. "Anything that keeps my kids safe I'm definitely for," WFISD parent, Aja Mills-Havins said. When she heard people won't be allowed to vote at any of the district's schools after the May election, she was happy. view article arw

Scott Milder says Mike Collier opposes incumbent's 'irrational, out-of-touch politics'  AUSTIN -- Scott Milder, who lost his Republican primary challenge to incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick two days ago, says he will vote for the Democrat running against Patrick in November to curb "irrational, out-of-touch politics."  In a Facebook post that he characterized not as a concession, "but rather an absolute victory speech,", Milder -- a longtime Republican and and well-known public education advocate -- said he plans to vote "for Republican candidates in every race with one exception. view article arw

Forty-two out of 55 Republican and Democratic candidates backed by Texas AFT in contested primary elections on March 6 either won their party’s nomination outright or made it into a runoff. Runoffs to be held on May 22 will decide the ultimate nominee in five of these races.  Our marquee winners in U.S. congressional contests were Veronica Escobar in El Paso and Sylvia Garcia in Houston. Both won by a landslide, with unstinting support from AFT at the local, state, and national levels. They are now odds-on favorites to serve as the first Latina members of Congress from Texas once they clear the final hurdle in the November 6 general election. view article arw

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance will be meeting on March 19 at 9am in Austin at the William B. Travis Building. This will be the only scheduled Commission meeting where both invited and public testimony will take place.  The Equity Center will be providing testimony to the Commission on policy proposals to improve the current system of funding our schools, and it is important that Commission members hear about how reforms would benefit your school districts.  read more arw

For those keeping score in the long-running struggle between centrist Republicans and anti-establishment conservative groups that has defined recent legislative elections in Texas, Tuesday’s Republican primaries produced mixed results.  Social conservative groups like Empower Texans that had been hoping to push the Texas House GOP majority further to the right ahead of next year’s House speaker race appear to have fallen short of that goal. But they won several contested races and might add a few members to their ranks of insurgents. view article arw

Texas Democrats were hoping for a "blue wave" Tuesday night; instead, voters from both parties raced to the polls — and the minority party in the state fell short of the GOP in the vote tally once again. With 99 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday, Democrats had cast a little more than 1 million votes. Republicans, on the other hand, accounted for 1.5 million votes. Of those, nearly 700,000 came on Election Day.  view article arw

House District 9 State Rep. Chris Paddie retained his seat Tuesday, beating challenger Garrett Boersma 17,818 to 9,598 votes in the March 6 Republican Primary Election. “Honestly, we’re extremely pleased with the results tonight,” Paddie said while celebrating with family, friends and supporters at a watch party, held at the Ginnochio Restaurant in Marshall. “It’s a culmination of a lot of hard work — not only on my behalf, but (also from) lots of volunteers and lots of supporters who have put their hearts and souls into this,” he said of his win. view article arw

State Sen. Kel Seliger defeated Mike Canon and Victor Leal in the Republican primary Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. Seliger narrowly avoided a runoff, unofficial election results showed. He was ahead with 50.5 percent of the vote after 99 percent of precincts reported. Canon, a former mayor of Midland, had 31.3 percent of the total. Amarillo restaurateur Leal received about 18 percent. Results remain unofficial until canvassed. view article arw

With all precincts reporting, Jose “Chito” Vela and Sheryl Cole will face each other in a May 22 runoff election for the 2018 Democratic primary election for Texas State Rep. District 46 after receiving the top two vote totals in today’s race. Vela received 6,209 votes, or 40 percent of all votes, while Cole received 6,000 votes, or 38 percent of all votes. Incumbent Dawnna Dukes received 1,595 votes, which represents 10 percent of all votes. view article arw

Republican incumbents who dared to buck their party leaders or supposedly influential activist groups had a target on their backs in the 2018 primaries.  Nearly all of them won anyway.  view article arw

Despite contributing millions of her own dollars to her campaign, GOP fundraiser Kathaleen Wall failed to make it to a runoff in Texas' 2nd Congressional District, which was one of eight open congressional seats on Tuesday's primary ballot. Here's a look at all those races, five of which will head to runoffs on May 22. Two state representatives are among those heading to runoffs, and two state senators are all but certain to represent Texas in Congress. view article arw

Women running for Congress surged to big wins and Democrats smashed recent turnout levels in Texas’ first-in-the-nation 2018 primary elections, giving Republicans a potential glimpse of what’s ahead in the first midterms under President Donald Trump. Energized and angry Democrats in Texas, where the GOP has dominated for decades, came out in force to surpass 1 million voters Tuesday — the first time the party has eclipsed that benchmark in a midterm primary since 2002, just months after the Sept. 11 attacks. view article arw

AUSTIN (AP) — The 2018 midterm election cycle kicked off with a surge in voter enthusiasm for both parties in Texas, although the gains were bigger for Democrats. It boosted a slew of women candidate and helped Republicans who had drawn direct support from President Donald Trump. The primary set up Democrats to make inroads in November although they are unlikely to overturn two decades of Republican dominance. view article arw

For 30 years, a Geren has represented Fort Worth in either Congress or the Texas House. But this primary election seemed closer than the rest, and state Rep. Charlie Geren wasn't sure of winning till late Tuesday. Yet he was darn sure why he was pressed into a closer race with Freedom Caucus-aligned Republican Bo French, a younger movement conservative challenging one of Austin's fiercest old-guard defenders. view article arw

More than 100 Democrats gathered at Austin eatery Scholz Garten on Tuesday night to wait for the Texas Democratic primary results, huddling around large TV screens and cheering on the party’s contenders.  Incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott easily swept the Republican primary while nine Democrats battled for the gubernatorial nomination, with Lupe Valdez and Andrew White likely headed to a runoff in May.  view article arw

Wimberley school board member Ken Strange on Tuesday won the Republican primary in House District 45, which encompasses Hays and Blanco counties. view article arw

AUSTIN — Texas voters will answer a lot of questions lingering over Texas politics in the country's first primary election Tuesday. view article arw

In a Texas Independence Day, “I love Texas and I always will” column I wrote a year ago, published in the San Angelo Standard-Times, I admitted I wasn’t confident if in good faith I could write a glowing love-you-anyway piece about Texas. “We’ve elected some strange ones to be in charge,” I opined. “Guys who spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about whether people are going into the right bathroom stall, when the only way I think they can know another person is in the right stall is by looking under the stall door.” view article arw

Allen ISD Superintendent Scott Niven said he's never seen anything like it in his more than 20 years in public education.  The Collin County school district is among several in Texas that have received open-records requests from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office asking for — among other things — emails from its superintendents and principals pertaining to voting and elections. Mesquite and Grapevine-Colleyville ISDs also confirmed receiving similar requests.  The request by the attorney general is peculiar because a division of that office serves as the arbitrator of any open-records inquiries, such as ones typically filed by news organizations.  view article arw

From the classroom to the polling booths, an area teacher said he thinks educators are extra motivated to vote this election season. Aaron Phillips is not only the president of Amarillo Education Association but he is also a 5th grader Writing and Social Studies teacher at Coronado Elementary. He told us he thinks teachers have always turned out to vote more than the average citizen, but he thinks this year education has become a primary issue for teachers. view article arw

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s move politically motivated or is he investigating wrongdoing by asking school districts for emails related to voting?  CBS 11 obtained a copy of the request Mesquite ISD received from the Texas Attorney General, asking for emails from all principals and the superintendent that have anything to do with voting.  “Is there was something that we did wrong,” said Mesquite ISD spokeswoman Laura Jobe. “It would be great if they would just point that out to us and let us know.” view article arw

When the Texas Legislature reduces appropriations to school districts, each dollar we pay in higher local school property taxes counts for less. The Texas Commission on Public School Finance should review how drastically reduced state funding for school districts creates pass-through property tax hikes whose value benefits the state budget rather than 5 million children in Texas school districts. view article arw

After hours of emotional and often bitter debate, the Florida Senate voted 20 -18 Monday to approve a school safety plan that allows some teachers and staff to carry guns in the classroom and increases the minimum age for gun purchases. The bill imposes a three-day waiting period for any gun purchase and raises the minimum legal age for buying all guns in Florida from 18 to 21. view article arw

Republicans, State Sen. Craig Estes, District 30, and his challenger Pat Fallon, were among the politicians who addressed a group of Texoma educators Thursday night at Grayson College. While the two men have varying ideas on a number of things, they agreed that school vouchers are not the way to fix what is broken in the Texas Education system. They also agreed that the state needs to do away with the STAAR test. They both also agreed that the state should better fund both the teacher retirement system and its health care system. view article arw

In 1979, the state created central appraisal districts, CADs. Legislators wrote a tax law and appraisal procedures. The comptroller was assigned as the state bureau to be the governing agency for the districts. As the governing body, the comptroller has major influence on every aspect of the districts’ operation. The districts must follow appraisal procedures and practices developed by the state. The comptroller’s responsibility includes training appraisers and other key district employees, training appraisal review board members and providing model hearing for the Appraisal Review Board to use. view article arw

Political shifts, like tectonic plates in the earth’s core, don’t move quickly. But they do move, and at some point over years, that movement causes earthquakes, either along major faultlines or at the ballot box. Do you hear the faint rumble? History may show the 2018 primary this Tuesday, the general election in November and the next session of the Texas Legislature in January as a tipping point, periods in time where the political landscape may very well shift. It may this time not so much shift as go ker-plunk. view article arw

Public Corruption

March 0508:38 AM

The FBI is using a recent high-profile public corruption case—one that involved a longtime board member of Houston Community College—to raise awareness about unscrupulous officials who violate the public trust for personal gain.  In January 2018, a federal judge sentenced 53-year-old Chris Oliver to 70 months in prison after his conviction on bribery charges. view article arw

If Sarah Davis goes, Texas may not be far behind.  A bit dramatic, perhaps. But the thought has crossed my mind a few times as I follow the shenanigans in a primary bid to challenge Davis, a moderate old-school Republican, one of the last of her kind in the Texas House.  Many Texas political observers were in despair when fellow moderate House Speaker Joe Straus announced his exit after doing the Lord’s work in blistering sessions of culture war politics, headlined by the bathroom bill. Many wondered: Who will stop the fringe now? Who will, at least some of the time, put the greatest good of the most Texans above the narrow considerations of partisan advantage? view article arw

We tracked how many Texans turned out to vote early in the 2018 primaries compared with primaries in 2010 and 2014, the last two midterm election years. Coming off of a highly contested presidential election and with various high-profile statewide and congressional elections on the ballot, over 650,000 Texans voted early in the state’s ten counties with the highest number of registered voters. view article arw