“The Texas Constitution requires a separation of powers, and that separation leaves policy-making decisions with the Texas Legislature,” argues a lawsuit from five of the Legislature’s most conservative members.  Five of the Texas Legislature’s most conservative members are suing Gov. Greg Abbott and state health officials, claiming Texas leaders overstepped their bounds when they awarded a major contract for tracking Texas’ coronavirus outbreak to a little-known technology firm.  For months, lawmakers have criticized the $295 million deal with Frisco-based MTX Group, arguing it was inked too quickly, without an opportunity for the Legislature to properly vet it. Critics say the company, which beat out several better known competitors, doesn’t have the experience to handle the monumental task of tracking down those who have come into contact with people carrying the novel coronavirus — a process experts say is essential for mitigating the spread of the disease.  In a lawsuit filed Monday, Republican state Reps. Mike Lang, Kyle Biedermann, Bill Zedler, Steve Toth and state Sen. Bob Hall asked a Travis County judge to void the controversial contract, arguing that both the selection process and length of the contract were improper. view article arw

Clear plexiglass shields have been installed in some places in the Texas Capitol, like the big room where the House Appropriations Committee writes budgets. Lawmakers who write the state’s budget will have the same protection from their colleagues and staffers that up to now has been used mostly to shield buffet salads and deli meats. ---Sneeze screens.    (06) view article arw

NEDERLAND — The Nederland ISD and the Board of Trustees announced lone finalist for the position of Superintendent of Schools on Monday with the Board of Trustees unanimously voting to name Dr. Stuart Kieschnick the Superintendent of Schools.  Kieschnick currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction for the Nederland Independent School District that encompasses over 600 employees and 5,200 students.   (04) view article arw

Empower Texans, the deep-pocketed conservative advocacy group, is well-known for its heavy hand in steering the Texas GOP further to the right and for its shadowy setup that hides its funding sources from the public.  But a court case seeking to force the group’s leader to register as a lobbyist could reveal more about the inner workings of the organization — and others like it in Texas — than ever known before, after the Texas Supreme Court last month ruled that it must divulge communications and financial records to the state ethics commission.  Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan, through his dark money group — made up of a web of political action committees and of nonprofits that aren’t required to report donors — has made $9.5 million in political contributions since 2007, state records show.  view article arw

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Education Commissioner Mike Morath threw a wrench in school reopening plans Tuesday, issuing new guidance that left many education leaders and community members confused about when campuses can restart in-person classes.  Here, we explain what Tuesday’s guidance means, which laws and orders remain in place, and why somebody — such as Gov. Greg Abbott, local health authorities, school districts or parents — needs to take the first steps toward a definitive resolution. view article arw

Representatives James White and Joe Deshotel both plan to be part of the virtual town hall meeting to give Texans a chance to listen and ask questions  As the clock ticks down on the start of another school year, state representatives James White and Joe Deshotel are continuing to advocate for the needs of their constituents. In White's case, that would be internet access and clear guidance from the state. "We're dealing with a virus that's mutating, that's changing by the minute right so there might be some opportunities where we might have to make some changes," White said.  view article arw

When Christy Hotard Rosenfeld’s two boys, Corbin, 4, and Anders, 6, stayed with a babysitter the family shared with several others during the early days of the pandemic, the caregiver was never without a mask on his face.  “I think that helped normalize things for them,” said Hotard Rosenfeld, a leadership development trainer with H-E-B. “They saw him wearing a mask so they never really questioned why they had to wear one, too.” view article arw

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — State Representative James White is asking Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to weigh in on part of the Texas Administration Code.  In a letter, Rep. White asked for clarification of a section of TAC 97.62, which reads:  A child or student, who has not received the required immunizations for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs, may be excluded from school in times of emergency or epidemic declared by the commissioner of the department.

The coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices are driving down projected general revenue in the state's current budget by more than $11 billion. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar delivered bleak but unsurprising news Monday: Because of the economic fallout triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, the amount of general revenue available for the state’s current two-year budget is projected to be roughly $11.5 billion less than originally estimated. That puts the state on track to end the biennium, which runs through August 2021, with a deficit of nearly $4.6 billion, Hegar said.   (21) view article arw

President Donald Trump's choice to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, was in a too-close-to-call runoff Wednesday morning against a candidate endorsed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. The Trump-backed Tony Gonzales was ahead of Cruz's pick, Raul Reyes, by just seven votes out of 24,685 with all polling locations reporting, according to unofficial results. Gonzales declared victory Wednesday morning, but Reyes did not concede and said the race is "far from over." view article arw

Voter turnout under 6% may not seem like an achievement for democracy, but it made Texas Democrats optimistic Wednesday as they look to break Republicans' statewide dominance this fall.A total of 955,735 people — 5.8% of registered voters — cast ballots in Tuesday’s Democratic runoffs. That is more than double the amount of votes cast in the 2018 Democratic runoffs, when a race for governor was at the top of the ticket instead of a race for a U.S. Senate seat.  Party leaders said it was the highest raw number of votes cast in any Democratic primary runoff in Texas history.  view article arw

With Tuesday's midsummer primary runoffs complete, the ballots are set for the November general election — the third major event in a year already reshaped by pandemic and recession.  Tuesday’s primary runoff elections in Texas, held during an appalling rise in coronavirus cases and a relative low spot in the presidency of Donald Trump, didn’t look like much, in historic terms.  The races on the ballot were and are important to the participants and to the relative handful of voters who took part. And they set up some interesting and consequential competitions for the November general election, where a seat in the U.S. Senate, a half-dozen seats in the state’s congressional delegation and partisan control of the Texas House are tests of Republican and Democratic strength.   (15) view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott says schools in Texas will be reopened for the fall with students in classrooms. The Texas Education Agency says will be safe to head back to campus.  At Hidalgo Independent School District, Superintendent Xavier Salinas doesn’t agree with the decision to bring back in-person sessions just yet. He believes the state and TEA need to send a survey to parents to ask how they feel about schools opening up.  “Because I know several districts did surveys already. At least 40 to 50% of the parents are saying they’re not ready to come back, because they don’t feel safe enough at this time,” said Salinas. view article arw

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said on Thursday that he would seek federal permission to suspend mandated standardized testing for 2020-21, the second year in a row, because of disruptions to learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. And he said he would keep pushing to eliminate some tests outright because the “current high-stakes testing regime is excessive.”  The announcement is the first made by any U.S. governor to seek a 2020-21 testing waiver from the U.S. Education Department, but is probably not the last, given the potential for continued disruptions to learning as the pandemic continues. view article arw

Plano Representative Matt Shaheen is requesting the suspension of STAAR testing and accountability ratings for the 2020-2021 school year. School districts across Texas continue to face challenges from COVID-19, such as uneven student engagement and numerous impediments to remote learning.  "Those students lost a vast portion of learning during the final nine weeks of the school year and it is imperative that our schools be allowed to focus on improving instructional gaps resulting from school closures because of COVID-19," Shaheen said. view article arw

State Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) attended the meeting of the Ector County ISD board of trustees on Tuesday to discuss school finance, the local and statewide response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and answer questions about the upcoming 2021 legislative session. view article arw

Lewisville ISD has provided the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) a list of advocacy points as the organization prepares for the 87th Texas Legislature in 2021.Each session TASB solicits advocacy resolutions from school districts to help shape its responses to various issues before the Legislature begins.  Monday, LISD adopted two resolutions. One of those calls for the removal of high stakes in the STAAR test and the end-of-course exams. In the letter view article arw

Michelle Palmer was the leading candidate in the SBOE6 race, the only SBOE primary to go to a runoff, with 46.8% of the vote. Palmer has the backing of the Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ candidates around the country, and she was the candidate endorsed by the Houston Chronicle for the March primary. She has the co-endorsement of the Gulf Coast Area Labor view article arw

Lewisville ISD students may be able to move on to the next grade level or graduate without meeting the standard for some state assessments following the board's June 8 approval of a new resolution.  The resolution would apply to the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness math and reading tests in fifth and eighth grades as well as to End of Course tests in Algebra, Biology, English I and II and U.S. History in high school grades. view article arw

Lewisville ISD has provided the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) a list of advocacy points as the organization prepares for the 87th Texas Legislature in 2021.Each session TASB solicits advocacy resolutions from school districts to help shape its responses to various issues before the Legislature begins.  Monday, LISD adopted two resolutions. One of those calls for the removal of high stakes in the STAAR test and the end-of-course exams. In the letter LISD states that high stakes for graduation and grade promotion are not required at the federal level but are in Texas. It states that only 11 states still include high stakes with state testing. view article arw

The Willis Independent School District Parmley Elementary School teachers’ collaborative effort over the past few years has earned national recognition for improved student achievement. About three years ago, Assistant Superintendent Brian Greeney arrived at Willis ISD and introduced Solution Tree’s Professional Learning Community.  For the past 20 years, the professional development company has provided various forms of support, including strategies and resources for educators to create schools where students can achieve at all grade levels. It includes three “big ideas” including a focus on learning, building a collaborative culture, and creating a results orientation. view article arw

Texas will hold its 2020 runoff elections July 14 to finalize which Democratic and Republican primary candidates will be on the ballot for the November general election. In more than 30 races in the March 3 primary, no candidate exceeded 50% of the vote, bringing about runoff races between the candidates who came in first and second. Here are all of the candidates who will be on the ballot in the primary runoffs for statewide, congressional and legislative offices. view article arw

AUSTIN (KXAN) — While presenting the fiscal year 2020-21 budget at Monday’s Austin Independent School District board meeting, the district’s chief financial officer said COVID-19 “rocked our financial world.”  Nicole Conley says it’s still too early to quantify exactly how the recession will impact schools, but she said the most obvious similarity is concerning.  “The gathering storm clouds bare an eerie resemblance to the ones we saw on the horizon before the Texas Legislature cut $5.4 billion from education funding in 2011,” she said. view article arw

Ahead of the first statewide election during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Greg Abbott has doubled the length of the early voting period for the upcoming July primary runoff elections. In a proclamation issued Monday, Abbott ordered early voting for the July 14 runoffs to begin June 29 instead of on July 6. He noted that sticking with the truncated early voting window that’s typical for runoff elections “would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the COVID-19 disaster.” view article arw

In a statement, Abbott said the declaration would allow him to designate federal agents to serve as peace officers in Texas.  Gov. Greg Abbott announced Sunday afternoon that the entire state of Texas will be placed under a disaster declaration in response to demonstrators in several Texas cities protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed Monday in Minneapolis police custody.  The declaration allowed Abbott to designate federal law enforcement officers to perform the duties of peace officers in Texas. view article arw

Abbott has already added more time to the early voting period for the July runoff election, citing the need to create a safe environment for in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday he will extend the early voting period for an unspecified amount of time during the November election as concerns continue to persist around in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.  Abbott has already doubled the time period for the primary runoff election July 14, calling it necessary so that "election officials can implement appropriate social distancing and safe hygiene practices."  In a TV interview Thursday afternoon, Abbott was asked if he believes Texas voters will be able to cast their ballots safely not only this summer but also in the fall. view article arw

The 24 Medina High School seniors in the class of 2020, along with seniors across the nation, faced a final disappoint of the year as the chance for a traditional graduation looked smaller and smaller.  Superintendent Kevin Newsom, the Medina Independent School District Board of Directors, teachers, staff and the Medina community set a goal to make a traditional MISD outdoor graduation happen if possible…and they succeeded. view article arw

With voting in the primary runoff election starting next month in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the Texas secretary of state on Tuesday issued “minimum recommended health protocols” for elections, including a suggestion that voters bring their own hand sanitizer to the polls and that they "may want to consider" voting curbside if they have symptoms of COVID-19.  In an eight-page document, Secretary of State Ruth Hughs laid out checklists for voters and election workers that range from self-screening for symptoms to increased sanitation of voting equipment — none of which are binding and many of which were already being considered by local election officials planning for the first statewide election during the coronavirus pandemic.   (27) view article arw

Republicans have fought the allowance of proxy voting tooth and nail. They argue that such a move upends the Constitution, and they promise a protracted legal fight. — In the grand scheme of worldwide upheaval, what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday could be just another indicator of how much the COVID-19 pandemic has upset normal life. But for a city and institution that thrives on formality and following precedent, it was a stunning moment in congressional history when members of the U.S. House voted on behalf of colleagues in order to mitigate the spread of the virus. Six dozen or so Democrats — including Texas representatives — opted to designate colleagues to vote on their behalf on a surveillance bill Wednesday, with some wondering why such a system did not already exist.   (28) view article arw

Three days after announcing it will allow teams to resume summer programs June 8, the UIL released guidelines and restrictions for schools, coaches and players to follow amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  In its traditional allowance, the UIL will permit a maximum of two hours per day, Monday through Friday, for summer strength and conditioning sessions.  The organization will also allow an additional 90 minutes per day, Monday through Friday of sport-specific skill instruction — with no more than 60 minutes per day in a given sport. That’s an increase from the two hours per week of non-contact, sport-specific instruction the UIL instituted for the first time last summer. view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott justified his expanded re-opening of the Texas economy during a national television interview on Monday by pointing to COVID-19 data heading in the right direction and saying it’s time to end “government forced poverty.”  Texas reported 11 coronavirus deaths on Monday, its lowest daily death total in more than a month.   view article arw

Despite an early heads-up from Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, who raised concerns in late March and early April that the current state budget will be billions of dollars out of balance, state agencies haven’t received any official requests to slow their spending.  Hegar’s warning that he would lower the official forecast of state revenue was ominous, unambiguous and a little blurry: “It’s probably going to be a revised downward adjustment of several billion dollars,” he said then. He has promised to put out exact numbers in mid-July, after the economic hits to retail sales, corporate franchise, and oil and gas tax revenues have come into focus.  view article arw

Texas schools got the green light Monday to open classrooms for in-person summer classes starting June 1, but San Antonio’s larger school districts said they were still planning to do so in July.  Gov. Greg Abbott said school district leaders could invite students to schools “so long as they follow safe distancing practices as well as all other health protocols” to slow the spread of COVID-19. view article arw

State and local governments are at odds over what should and should not be allowed during a pandemic — a debate over health, economics and civil liberties. The old sparring partners have increasingly appealed to a referee: the courts. Texas courts are being pulled into the war between the state of Texas and its local governments as what has been primarily a legislative and political fight grows into a legal one.  The pandemic is testing the authority of the governor, city and county government officials, state district judges, businesses and individuals on issues from masks to haircuts to voting — even to whether a state attorney general can make a rhetorical and political appeal to try to get a trial judge to change a ruling. view article arw

The state House Public Education Committee on Tuesday considered more than 30 bills aimed at making Texas public schools safer, including measures that would put more armed personnel on campuses and give districts money for sweeping security changes. The Legislature has made improving school safety a priority this session after 10 people, mostly students, were shot and killed at Santa Fe High School 10 months ago. The shooting spurred roundtable discussions and studies among policymakers, lawmakers and Gov. Greg Abbott in the immediate aftermath. “Out of that loss, we have an opportunity to devote ourselves and commit ourselves to seeing that their loss was not in vain and that future students, future teachers, future families in this state will, if at all possible, not have to experience what these individuals experienced,” said Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, during Tuesday’s hearing. view article arw