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Miles shouldn’t solve HISD budget shortfall by cutting ‘wraparound’ lifeline for poor and homeless students | Editorial view article arw

A Katy Independent School District board of trustee member called for legislation to allow the tracking of a student’s immigration status during Monday’s meeting. The trustee, Morgan Calhoun, asked Katy ISD Chief Financial Officer Chris Smith if there was any way to measure or understand how many illegal immigrant children, they have in their district that are receiving education. Katy ISD Superintendent Ken Gregorski responded, stating there are certain rules to educating all children in Texas—regardless of a student’s immigration status. He said it would be unlawful to require a person’s immigration status for them to be enrolled. view article arw

Dade Phelan directs House leaders to revisit vouchers, property taxes in the next legislative session  House Speaker Dade Phelan directed his committee leaders to examine the use of school voucher-like programs in other states and consider new ways to further drive down property taxes for homeowners.  Released Wednesday, Phelan’s list of priorities includes a broad range of policy issues, from evaluating housing prices and the closures of rural pregnancy centers, to revisiting previous, contentious legislative debates over foreign ownership of Texas agriculture land and determining whether the state has “sufficient resources” at the U.S. Mexico border.  The Beaumont Republican issued his interim charges for the next Legislative session starting in January, even as it remains unclear whether he’ll still be a member of the body by then. view article arw

ATHENS, Texas (KETK) – Texas State Sen. Robert Nichols was honored by Raise Your Hand Texas on Monday for his defense of public education and opposition to school vouchers. The group is honoring 100 Texas state legislators as Public Education Champions for their “steadfast commitment to Texas public schools, teachers and students.” view article arw

With the primary runoff election mere weeks away, Texas Scorecard reached out to all runoff candidates for state representative to ask what they are looking for in a speaker candidate. The Speaker of the Texas House is elected by fellow House members and wields considerable power as the arbitrator of committee assignments and order on the floor. Current House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has faced considerable ire from citizens for appointing Democrats to chair key committees in the House and allowing Republican priorities to die without a vote. view article arw

As the primary runoff approaches, House Speaker Dade Phelan takes a sudden interest in an issue over 95 percent of Republican voters say they support.  With just over three weeks left until his runoff election, embattled House Speaker Dade Phelan has thrown together a legislative committee to study a potential ban on Chinese ownership of Texas land despite having killed proposals to do so last year.   “Today I created the House Select Committee on Securing Texas From Hostile Foreign Organizations to study the threat posed by these groups and their affiliates on the Texas economy, statewide security and fundamental American values,” stated Phelan.  During the regular legislative session last year, the Senate passed Senate Bill 147, which would have banned the ownership of Texas’ agricultural land, mineral interests, and timber by citizens, companies, or governmental entities of countries designated by the federal government as threats to U.S. national security. That would apply to China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. view article arw

Toth called the Texas Medical Board’s investigation and legal proceedings against Bowden illegal. State Rep. Steve Toth (R-Conroe) has urged Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton to intervene in the Texas Medical Board’s proceedings against Dr. Mary Talley Bowden. In an open letter posted on X earlier this week, Toth called TMB’s investigation and legal proceedings against Bowden illegal and intended to intimidate doctors going forward. State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) joined Toth in his call. Tinderholt said he hopes that Paxton and Abbott will investigate and hold the Texas Medical Board accountable for “their abuse of a medical professional who saved lives!” He added, “She [Bowden] isn’t the only one the TMB abused and threatened! What a disgraceful time for the TMB!” Dr. Bowden, an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist, has garnered national attention for successfully treating over 6,000 COVID-19 patients without a single death. She’s also become a key figure in the fight for medical freedom. view article arw

Before the indictment was unsealed on Friday, Cuellar denied any wrongdoing and said he would run for re-election. Democrat U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar has been indicted on bribery and money laundering charges. The Department of Justice’s announcement follows a January 2022 raid on his home and campaign office in Laredo. According to a statement from the Department of Justice: view article arw

A mailer, paid for by the Jeff Yass-bankrolled Club for Growth Action PAC, falsely depicted Phelan in a hug with former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  A recent “deepfaked” ad targeting House Speaker Dade Phelan could inspire further legislation to crack down on doctored imagery in political ads.  At the end of Monday’s hearing of the House Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies, political attorney Andrew Cates suggested the committee should recommend an update to Senate Bill 751 from 2019, which created a Class A misdemeanor offense for distributing a “deep fake video” created with the intent to deceive voters.  “Not to bring up sensitive stuff, but the speaker got hit a couple days ago with a fake image, or a deceptively altered image,” Cates said. “It’s not against the law here.” view article arw

Parents in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD urged district leaders at a Thursday workshop to stand up against the flat public school funding that is forcing the district to cut jobs, including roughly half of school librarians. Cy-Fair ISD leaders say they need to cut $64 million in costs and dip into their fund balance to cover a $138 million shortfall for the next school year. Cuts are planned to bus transportation, professional support staff, teaching positions and 40 of 92 librarians, who were recently informed of their position eliminations through email. view article arw

The poll shows Trump up by eight percentage points and Cruz up by 13 points. A new poll released Wednesday shows former President Donald Trump and current U.S. Senator Ted Cruz leading their respective Democrat opponents among Texas’ likely voters. The poll, conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Politics Project, shows in a five-way ballot Trump holds a nine-point lead—45 percent to 36 percent—over current President Joe Biden. Other candidates on the trial ballot included Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, and Jill Stein. In a head-to-head contest, Trump holds an eight-point lead over Biden. view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans, opened a double-barreled attack Monday on the Democratic Biden administration's recently adopted Title IX rules, which aim to protect survivors of abuse, LGBTQ+ students and student parents. The changes to Title IX — a 52-year-old education law that protects women and girls from gender-based discrimination in all education programs, including athletics — were approved April 19 by the U.S. Department of Education to forbid discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender in colleges and elementary and secondary schools that receive federal money. The rules, which will take effect Aug. 1, do not specifically state whether transgender and nonbinary students can participate in school-affiliated sports teams that align with their gender identity. view article arw

For Texans who want a look at the future of school vouchers pushed mightily by Gov. Greg Abbott, the states of Kentucky and North Carolina are providing insights into the Republican Party’s new education agenda. Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky and Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina wrote an opinion piece for USA Today that explained an onslaught of lobbyists, for-profit schools and mega donors who are seeking to cash in on voucher programs.  “That’s why we’re so alarmed that legislators want to loot our public schools to fund their private voucher scheme. These vouchers, instituted in the 1950s and 1960s by Southern governors to thwart mandatory school segregation, are rising again thanks to a coordinated plan by lobbyists, private schools and right-wing legislators,” they wrote. This is the strategy: Start the programs modestly, offering vouchers only to low-income families or children with disabilities. But then expand the giveaway by taking money from public schools and allow the wealthy who already have children in private schools to pick up a government check. view article arw

A county resident accuses José Garza of "indiscriminately" pressing charges against law enforcement and refusing to prosecute certain crimes.  A Travis County resident is seeking to remove progressive District Attorney José Garza from office using a 2023 Texas law aimed at limiting the discretion of locally elected prosecutors. A state district judge in Comal County on Friday appointed an attorney to represent Texas and pursue the case.  House Bill 17 took effect Sept. 1 and allows courts to remove district attorneys for "official misconduct." That could include refusing to prosecute certain criminal offenses under state law, such as low-level marijuana possession. view article arw

Teachers and students in Liberty Hill ISD have been exploring new ways to learn through the use of artificial intelligence, or AI, this school year. District teachers and staff said AI has enhanced students’ learning experience and prepared them for future careers as AI becomes increasingly prevalent in many industries. “We are trying to prepare students for jobs that don't even exist,” LHISD instructional coach Jennifer Norris said. “We don't want students to be thinking for today. We want students to be thinking for the future.” view article arw

Patrick listed 57 interim charges in his release with a potential second list of issues to come. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has released the Texas Senate’s 2024 Interim Legislative Charges. Interim charges are priorities that lawmakers will focus on in the lead-up to the regular session. “The 57 interim charges I released today reflect issues that Texans have asked us to study. Our 31 senators submitted hundreds of ideas, with many senators sharing similar proposals,” Patrick wrote in a press release. The charges include having the Border Security Committee review local and state agencies’ participation in border security, monitoring the implementation of a variety of border-related laws, and support for personnel at the border. Border security is an issue that remains on the minds of voters across political lines as problems continue to mount in relation to the large number of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the country. The Texas Energy Fund was front and center in Patrick’s conversation earlier this year with BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. It is addressed in the legislative charges as the Business and Commerce Committee is tasked with reviewing the impact of how grants and loans will be employed in the future construction and use of electric power plants in Texas. view article arw

The Houston event is part of a series of fundraisers Phelan has hosted after coming in second place to former Orange County GOP Chairman David Covey in the March primary. view article arw

The border officials want lawmakers to establish a new statewide agency to protect the public from transnational criminal organizations. As illegal aliens continue to pour across the southern border into Texas, three border county officials are calling for an immediate special session to establish a statewide law enforcement agency tasked with fighting border-related crimes. In a letter sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, Kinney County Judge John Paul Schuster, County Attorney Brent Smith, and Sheriff Brad Coe asked that Abbott call a legislative session “to allow for the passage of Rep. Ryan Guillen’s bill, which establishes a new Texas Homeland Security Division…” view article arw

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office has released the 2024 Legislative Interim Charges for the Texas Senate. No hearings on the charges are posted at this time, but we anticipate they will begin in a few weeks. See some of the charges related to public schools.

State Rep. Gary VanDeaver is currently facing a primary runoff election against Chris Spencer.  A new report reveals Republican State Rep. Gary VanDeaver of New Boston was a paid consultant for a lobbying firm. A 2022 personal financial statement, first reported by the Dallas Express, shows that VanDeaver was employed by Powell Law Group from 2020-2022.   According to the firm’s website, the group offers “turnkey public policy and governmental affairs programs for school district leaders and businesses in the education space who want to influence local and state legislative and regulatory matters.”  While VanDeaver claimed the Powell Group “is not a lobby firm,” the group’s own website states that their government relations services include lobbying.  view article arw

As we approach the end of the school year, we’ll review how public schools were impacted by new legislation, how they’ve reacted and what challenges remain. view article arw

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says “continued property tax relief” would be a top conservative priority when the Legislature reconvenes.  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says “continued property tax relief” would be a top conservative priority when the Legislature reconvenes. view article arw

A group of lawmakers requested a public hearing last week to discuss reports of “concerning developments” at Houston ISD roughly a year after the state took the troubled district over. Reps. Christina Morales (D-Houston), Ann Johnson (D-Houston), Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston), Penny Morales Shaw (D-Houston), Mary Ann Perez (D-Houston), Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston), Shawn Thierry (D-Houston), Hubert Vo (D-Houston), and Gene Wu (D-Houston) signed a letter addressed to House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) in which they claimed to have received several complaints about the State Board of Managers running Houston ISD. view article arw

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office has released the 2024 Legislative Interim Charges for the Texas Senate. Some of the charges related to public schools are below. No hearings on the charges are posted at this time, but we anticipate they will begin in a few weeks. view article arw

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has announced his interim charges for the Senate, a set of 57 issues he is calling on Senate Committees to investigate and research ahead of the legislative session next year. The list of charges runs the gamut of issues conservatives have called on the legislature to address, including property tax relief, protecting Texas land from hostile foreign ownership, and strengthening laws preventing electioneering by school districts and other political subdivisions.  “The Senate’s work to study the list of charges will begin in the coming weeks and months. Following completion of hearings, committees will submit reports with their specific findings and policy recommendations before December 1, 2024,” said Patrick. view article arw

Examining charitable bail organizations and banning Delta 9 were also among Patrick’s priorities in the next legislative session.  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick put improving housing affordability, fighting antisemitism on college campuses and examining charitable bail organizations among 57 items on a to-do list for senators before the next legislative session begins in January.  Patrick, who oversees the Senate and wields tremendous power over bills passed into law, said the list was whittled from hundreds of ideas submitted from the state’s 31 senators, which the lieutenant governor reviewed with his staff.  “Come January 2025, the Senate will hit the ground running at the start of the 89th Legislative Session,” Patrick said in a statement. “The priorities of the conservative majority of Texans will be accomplished, including school choice, continued property tax relief, and strengthening the power grid.” view article arw

The requested hearing is intended to address potential violations of state law, what evidence points to the new superintendent’s education model being effective, and students with disabilities not receiving state-mandated accommodations.  Nearly a year into the state’s takeover of Houston Independent School District, nine Houston-area state representatives have sent a letter to Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan requesting a public hearing on the state of the district.  The Texas Education Agency began a temporary takeover of Houston ISD last year due to persistent academic failures at some campuses, corrupt school officials, and the presence of a state conservator for years.  Now, in a letter, State Rep. Christina Morales and eight other representatives wrote: view article arw

While Gov. Greg Abbott is sharing news that Texas will kick off the 89th Legislative Session in January 2025 with an estimated $20 billion budget surplus, school districts across the state are running out of funds and preparing to file deficit budgets for the 2024-2025 school year. Bob Popinski, Senior Director of Policy at Raise Your Hand Texas said districts are strapped for funding for a number of reasons, including double-digit inflation since 2019, the COVID-19 funding cliff, enrollment declines in some school districts, an increase in unfunded mandates coming out of the Capitol and inaction by the 88th Legislature. “In a time of inflation, which every family is going through, our teachers in Texas are currently underpaid by about $7,500 compared to the national average,” Popinski said. “Texas will continue to fall behind that, so if you want to be competitive and try to attract and retain the best teachers in the state, school districts are losing the ability to do so.” view article arw

During a private meeting at Ed Young's Second Baptist Church in Houston, dozens of right-wing Christians strategized how to win seats in the 2024 elections.  As millions of Texans prepared to stare at the sky Monday to glimpse the total solar eclipse, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick joined his pastor Ed Young in a prayer circle at Houston's Second Baptist Church, where they embraced conservative kingmakers and called for pastors and believers to run for office. view article arw

State Reps. Christina Morales and Penny Morales Shaw, two Democrats who represent parts of Houston, made a long-planned visit Tuesday to the public school district that serves their city. They toured Wainwright Elementary in the northwest part of town, Morales said, and among other observations noticed that timers were being used as part of lesson plans, a feature of the New Education System (NES) under state-appointed Houston ISD superintendent Mike Miles. Morales said they also were told a learning coach for students who speak Spanish, and complete assignments in Spanish, did not speak the language and therefore could not provide assistance. view article arw

Many independent school districts, including the largest ones, do not allow chaplains to serve as counselors, which is now allowed under a new Texas law.  Last year, Texas passed a law allowing school districts to recruit chaplains using school safety funds. So far, only one school has employed a full-time religious mentor to counsel students, according to staffing data from the Texas Education Agency.  The largest 25 school districts in the state already rejected the legislation, which encompasses almost two million students and about a third of Texas public school students, according to tracking done by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.  While Arlington ISD is on the list of districts that rejected the measure, the city’s public charter network Newman International Academy was the lone school district to hire a chaplain during the 2023-24 school year. view article arw

Texas will hold its 2024 runoff elections May 28 to finalize which Democratic and Republican primary candidates will be on the ballot in the November general election. During the March 5 primaries, no candidate exceeded 50% of the vote in 32 races, bringing about runoff races between the candidates who came in first and second. The winner will face the other major party’s nominee in that race, as well as possible Libertarian and Green party candidates. Independent and write-in candidates have until the summer to file their candidacies. Listed below are all of the candidates who will be on the ballot in the primary runoffs for congressional, legislative and state board of education races. This year, there are no runoffs for any statewide races. view article arw

There are eight candidates on the ballot in Killeen who are vying for two seats on the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees.  The election, on May 4, will decide which candidates will fill the seats being vacated by Cullen Mills in Place 6, who has decided not to run for reelection, and a Place 7 seat vacated by JoAnn Purser, who relocated out of the district earlier this year.  Three candidates are running for the Place 6 seat. In alphabetical order, they are Tina Capito, Lan Carter and John Doranski. view article arw

Straus, who is Jewish, publicly confirmed the conversation for the first time Thursday. It had previously been reported by Texas Monthly.  Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said on Thursday that Midland oil magnate Tim Dunn, one of the state’s most powerful and influential GOP megadonors, once told him that only Christians should hold leadership positions in the lower chamber.  Straus, a Republican who is Jewish, relayed the encounter in an interview with former Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. It appeared to be the first time Straus publicly confirmed the anecdote, which was first reported by Texas Monthly in a 2018 story that cited “Straus insiders.” The alleged remarks came at a November 2010 meeting, shortly after Dunn’s political network had targeted many of the Democrats and moderate Republicans who had helped Straus ascend to the speakership the year before. With Straus poised to seek a second term as speaker the following January, he said he asked Dunn to meet in the hopes of finding common ground on “fiscal tax issues.” view article arw

In an interview with the Luke Macias Show, Republican State Rep. Tom Oliverson of Cypress explained how he would use the speakership to change the structure and culture of the House. Oliverson, who announced his candidacy for House Speaker last month, said he will “give the voters what they voted for, which is actual representation.” He described the results of the March GOP Primary as Texans “calling for a change.” Oliverson also explained there is a “pattern of behavior” in House leadership that he doesn’t support—namely, lording power over members, pushing them around, and telling them how they have to vote. The impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton last May came as a surprise to many House members, who did not expect it. While Oliverson was absent for the vote due to his son’s graduation that day, he said the entire affair was “so cloak and