School finance was the big-ticket item this legislative session, said Emett Alvarez, Victoria Democrats Club president. "Education should be important to everyone," Alvarez said. "We are all taxpayers and are affected by it one way or the other." The Victoria County Democratic Party will host its club meeting Tuesday at VeraCruz Restaurant, 3110 N. Navarro St. Guest speakers will be Dwight Harris, former president of the Victoria chapter of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, and Ray Thomas, who is running for chief justice of the 13th Court of Appeals. view article arw

Will there ever come a day when our state leaders and lawmakers want to make Texas as good a place for children as it is for business? The 85th legislative session didn't seem often inclined in that direction, particularly in matters related to educating the state's schoolchildren. A massive funding failure for prekindergarten students. The state Senate's defeatist response to a solid House attempt at school finance reform. Out-of-proportion talk about vouchers for those attending private schools. But let's not overlook a couple of bright spots. Thanks to skillful work by three North Texas lawmakers, the state's youngest learners should eventually get the gift of better-prepared teachers. view article arw

Back in March, James Dickey, then the chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, showed up at the state Capitol to testify in support of House Bill 1911 — a proposal known as constitutional carry, or the ability to carry firearms without a license. It was a top legislative priority for the state GOP, and Dickey brought a message tailored for the Republicans on the House panel considering it: Don't forget the platform. "The plank which said we should have constitutional carry scored a 95 percent approval rate, outscoring over 80 percent of the other planks in the option," Dickey said, referring to the party platform — a 26-page document outlining the party's positions that is approved by delegates to its biennial conventions. Constitutional carry, Dickey added, "is something very clearly wanted by the most active members of the Republican Party in Texas." view article arw

Contention over where transgender people use the restroom has clouded much of the 2017 legislative session and has expanded to cover other issues such as property tax policy and school finance as lawmakers push to complete their work by Monday. After Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick served notice that the scaled-back version of the so-called bathroom bill recently approved by the Texas House was a non-starter in the Senate, the upper chamber in the predawn hours Wednesday made an end-run effort to save the stronger measure that fell victim to legislative deadlines. But by the time the sun rose over the Capitol, it was clear that the House would kill the measure again. view article arw

An effort to overhaul the state’s beleaguered school finance system has been declared dead after the Texas Senate Education Committee’s chairman said Wednesday that he would not appoint conferees to negotiate with the House. “That deal is dead,” Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said. Taylor’s remarks come after his counterpart in the House, Dan Huberty, R-Houston, gave a passionate speech in which he said he would not accept the Senate’s changes to House Bill 21 and would seek a conference committee with the Senate. view article arw

The Texas House has voted to allow concealed carry permit holders to have guns in their locked cars parked outside schools. Tentative approval came late Tuesday night as an amendment to an otherwise unrelated bill on school boards. Final House approval should come Wednesday. The state Senate already approved a full, bipartisan bill seeking to do virtually the same thing. A similar, full bill had died in the House without reaching a floor vote but now lives on as an amendment. view article arw

A standoff between the Texas House and Senate over vouchers killed a major school finance fix Wednesday. The House tried to pump $1.6 billion dollars more into public schools. The Senate didn't want that much and countered by tacking on their own priority. The author of the House Bill 21 rejected the changes made to it in the Senate, saying they don't go far enough. Last year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the system was barely constitutional. So the House approved pumping $1.6 billion additional dollars into it but that plan came out of the Senate reduced to $530 million. view article arw

Texas lawmakers have given final approval to a measure cracking down on inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. The bill requires principals and superintendents to report inappropriate teacher-student relationships or face jail time and fines up to $10,000. The teacher's family could also lose access to the teacher's pension. view article arw

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declared a key school funding bill dead Wednesday, saying he was "appalled" the House would refuse to go along with the Senate's plan to create a school voucher program for students with disabilities.  "Although Texas House leaders have been obstinate and closed-minded on this issue throughout this session, I was hopeful when we put this package together last week that we had found an opening that would break the logjam," Patrick said in a statement. "I simply did not believe they would vote against both disabled children and a substantial funding increase for public schools." view article arw

 A state lawmaker is looking for donations to pay off debt Texas students rack up in school cafeterias. Partnered with Feeding Texas, Representative Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, launched a statewide crowdfunding campaign Tuesday, in an effort to prevent what she calls “lunch shaming.” At some Texas schools, students with lunch debt or empty accounts are denied a hot lunch and given a cheese sandwich instead. “The cruelty and lack of compassion for children who suffer the humiliation, the labeling and not to mention the hunger pains of so-called lunch shaming, it is inconceivable,” Giddings said. view article arw

Texas lawmakers wrap up a very busy week at the Capitol today, and last night had a little bit of everything that you’ll find at the end of a legislative session. Bills as amendments With just over two weeks left in the legislative session, lawmakers are scrambling to get their bills to the governor’s desk. That scramble often has lawmakers looking for ways to add their bills to other legislation. That’s exactly what Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) did Thursday morning when he added a provision to create a school voucher system onto a school finance bill.  “It establishes the educational savings account program administered by the comptroller, which provides parents with funds to pay for education needs of their child,” Taylor said as he added the amendment to the House bill in the Senate Education committee. But even this addition isn’t everything the Senate Education chair wanted. The addition only provides money for private school tuition or tutoring for children with disabilities. view article arw

Leading on education reform

May 1607:45 AM
 

Over the last two years, I’ve been working with students, teachers, parents and taxpayers to improve the way that we’re providing education to Texas students. During the current legislative session, some of those efforts are beginning to show results. The Texas House of Representatives where I serve, has passed three bills to improve the “Robin Hood” program, A-F rating system, and standardized testing. In overhauling the entire funding of our public education system, House Bill 21 will address a problem that has long plagued our West Texas districts. The “Robin Hood” scheme has been a detriment to school districts in our region, and under this bill we will be reducing the burden on our local school districts bear by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money.  view article arw

The state Senate Education Committee tweaked the House's school finance bill -- HB 21 -- to add funding for educational savings accounts for students with disabilities. Lubbock Sen. Charles Perry said he will approve it because small, rural schools in his district need other funding the House measure offers. "You could say it's brilliant strategy -- and it is," Perry said. "It's politics at its best or its worst, depending on what side of the equation [you're on]." Perry said the ESAs would open up school choice opportunity for a limited number of families, but that's not the main appeal for the House measure to him; Perry says the $1.6 billion the measure would provide to schools would protect districts affected by the end of the 2006 Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction program in September. view article arw

The Texas House thought it had killed school vouchers. The Senate is resurrecting them.A Senate committee last week attached a plan offering vouchers to special education children while approving a $1.6 billion House proposal to begin overhauling Texas' troubled school finance system. House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty, a Houston Republican, has championed the school finance fix. Now, his counterpart in the Senate, Republican Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood, may make Huberty choose between accepting vouchers or sacrificing his legislative baby.Taylor spent months carefully shepherding a separate, sweeping voucher bill through the Senate that the House refused to even consider, instead overwhelmingly passing an amendment saying public funds should stay in public schools. He, and school vouchers' biggest supporter in Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, could now have their revenge. view article arw

Texas makes mess of taxes

May 1607:45 AM
 

Count on the Texas Legislature to come up with a painfully complicated and inefficient way to repeal a painfully complicated and inefficient tax. Lawmakers deserve praise for targeting the Texas Franchise Tax, but their methods are unsound. The franchise tax, also called the margins or business tax, ranks consistently as one of the worst taxes anywhere in the country. It was the convoluted response to the Texas Supreme Court declaring the public school finance system unconstitutional. Lawmakers had to lower property taxes to comply with the court order, so to find replacement funds they rewrote the franchise tax, what businesses pay for the privilege to operate in our great state. view article arw

When Gov. Greg Abbott signed one of his top legislative priorities into law, the key players who shepherded perhaps the most controversial bills through Capitol’s sausage-grinding process were not at his side to receive a commemorative pen or to take part in a photo-opportunity handshake. Neither were the constituency groups and activists who clamored for the clamp-down on so-called sanctuary cities. As for the reporters who had filed the daily dispatches about the protests and side deals that go along with passing divisive legislation, they were at home about to sit down to Sunday dinner. About 20 minutes earlier, they received a cryptic message urging them to log onto the governor’s Facebook page, where the first-term Republican would announce to a video camera that showed a near-empty office that his signature was on Senate Bill 4. view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott has rightly pointed out that if Texas were a country, its economy would rank 10th in the world. Our businesses here in Houston, and across the state, regularly invest in science, technology, engineering and math industries, making us a significant producer of the most sought-after goods and services in the global marketplace. To maintain our position of strength, we must align our education system to our state's employment needs. Maintaining a pre-eminent economy and workforce begins with giving students the skills needed to adapt across multiple jobs and even careers within a lifetime. view article arw

It was unanimous. The Texas Senate voted 31-0 to approve SB 179, legislation that will crack down on online bullying in state schools. SB 179 is, also known as David's Law named for David Molak, a local student who took his own life at just 16 years old. His family says he was tortured by cyberbullies from Alamo Heights High School. view article arw

As the Texas House and Senate prepare to hash out a compromise on the state budget in the coming weeks, their members will have plenty of issues to resolve. The House passed a $209.8 billion budget two weeks ago after nearly 18 hours of debate. This week, the Senate is expected to pass its own version of the budget, which totals $211.4 billion. view article arw

More school finance today as Chairman Aycock starts the House Education Meeting at 8:00 AM.  HB 1759 (notice w/bills)  made public last week is on the agenda today for public testimony.   View meeting read more arw

Dealing with school vouchers

April 0708:35 AM
 

There is a lot to appreciate when certain state legislators advocate giving us a voucher worth thousands of dollars with the freedom to educate our children as we choose. Come to think about it, those are my tax dollars. And, as a parent, I am responsible for my child’s education. Besides, reformers keep telling me public schools are failing and I have the right to enroll my child in a school of my choice.  view article arw