Jan 23rd - 11:17 am
The state’s highest court will rule on whether the way Texas pays for public schools is unconstitutional. The Texas Supreme Court announced Friday it will hear the state’s sweeping school finance case.
More than 600 school districts sued the state back in 2011 after the legislature cut more than $5 billion in education funding. They argued budget cuts left them without the resources to meet academic standards, and said the gap between property-rich and property-poor school districts was too great. An Austin-based district judge ruled the cuts unconstitutional, but that ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court last year by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Friday’s court advisory also set up the timeline for the next step in the case. In all, there will be about six months for both sides to file briefs and replies before a date for an oral argument is set. That means the decision won’t come until after the end of the legislative session. If the Texas Supreme Court upholds the unconstitutional ruling, the Legislature will have to come up with a new funding formula. That would require Governor Greg Abbott to call a special session.
Aug 28th - 4:26 pm
Any possible changes the Texas Legislature makes to the school finance system will happen under the watch of the next governor.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is the current attorney general. His office represents the state in school finance litigation. Officially, his office said he would defend this law in court, just as he would any other law passed by the Legislature.
Later Thursday, his campaign released this statement:
“Our obligation is to improve education for our children rather than just doubling down on an outdated education system constructed decades ago. In my campaign for governor, I have proposed substantial improvements for our schools that will do a better job of educating Texans while spending tax dollars wisely. My plan will make Texas top-ranked in the nation for education by returning genuine local control to school districts, ensuring all children are reading and doing math at grade level by third grade, and graduating more students from high school than ever before.”
Sen. Wendy Davis is also weighing in on today’s ruling. She has long criticized the Legislature’s decision to slash $5.4 billion in school spending in 2011. In a statement Thursday, she said:
“Today is a victory for our schools, for the future of our state and for the promise of opportunity that’s at the core of who we are as Texans. The reality is clear and indefensible: insiders like Greg Abbott haven’t been working for our schools; they’ve been actively working against them. Abbott has been in court for years, defending overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and public-school closings, and today, Judge John Dietz ruled against him. This ruling underscores the crucial need to invest in education and reminds us of just how much our schools, teachers and students have had to sacrifice over the past three years just to get by.”
Jul 11th - 7:05 pm
After a rough week for the University of Texas’ leadership, we sat down with Reeve Hamilton of the Texas Tribune, Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News, and Mike Ward of the Houston Chronicle to decode how regents, lawmakers and student leaders really feel about President Bill Powers.
Powers was the center of several controversies, and his recent timeline for resignation has people talking in both the Texas government and the University of Texas school system.
Obama was the talk of the town this week when he stopped by Austin. Although the visit to Texas was originally just for fundraising, a large portion was shared with Gov. Rick Perry, who managed to get a meeting with the president over the recent crisis along the border. Our Reporter Roundtable looked at the politics behind the visit.
While efforts to increase funding are stalled, nonprofit organizations are picking up the slack when it comes to caring for the thousands of immigrant children detained at Texas’ southern border. The organizations, including Roy Maas Youth Alternatives and RAICES, offer shelter and basic needs to the children affected.
Plus, we checked in on the grand jury hearing looking into whether Gov. Perry abused his powers last session, when he threatened to defund the state’s Public Integrity Unit.
Apr 22nd - 12:24 pm
The University of Texas is reviewing Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold a Michigan ban to use race as a factor in college admissions.
In a 6-2 ruling, the justices said voters had the right to change their state constitution to prohibit public colleges and universities from considering race as part of the admissions process. The decision reverses a lower court ruling.
Meantime, the University of Texas at Austin is awaiting a ruling from a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel over its own admissions policy. The Supreme Court ruled on the Fisher v. University of Texas case last summer and sent it back down to the appeals court to enable a look at UT’s admissions policy under a more narrow set of standards.
Prospective student Abigail Fisher sued the university after being denied admission. Fisher, who is white, claimed she was the victim of racial discrimination because other, non-white students with lower test scores were admitted.
Reacting to Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the Michigan case, UT President Bill Powers said that based on its preliminary review, the university does not believe it has any effect on UT’s admissions policy or decisions.
“In today’s ruling, the court recognized that the Schuette case from Michigan was not ‘about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education.’ The court also reaffirmed that in the case of Fisher versus the University of Texas, the court ‘did not disturb the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible, provided that certain conditions are met.’ UT Austin’s admissions policy meets those conditions and we are awaiting a ruling from a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel. UT Austin uses race as one of many factors in our holistic review of applicants. Assembling a diverse student body is vital to the education of all students on campus and helps train the future leaders of our state and nation who will increasingly work in a diverse and global society.”
Mar 26th - 8:02 pm
In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard the concerns some lawmakers have about whether the pathways to graduation are too complicated for students and parents to navigate. Plus, we talked to the Public Education Committee Chair, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, about how counselors and increased funding will play a role in making the new law go more smoothly in the future.
Voters across Central Texas will have bond propositions to consider on the May ballot. But figuring out where exactly the money goes and how it affects local debt can by a tricky task. State Comptroller Susan Combs joined us in-studio next to talk about her office’s efforts to increase transparency with a helpful new website.
The Obama administration is giving people more time to sign up for health insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act. The deadline to sign up was slated for March 31st, but The White House had hinted last week an extension was in the works. We spoke to enrollment experts in Austin to see how they’re dealing with the change.
Feb 10th - 12:19 pm
In a press conference Monday, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said he had accomplished everything he’d set out to do as chancellor, and that it always had been his intention to return to medicine full-time. Cigarroa has accepted a job as head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Cigarroa touted his accomplishments as chancellor, including the establishment of two new medical schools: the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Dell School of Medicine at UT Austin. He also cited his Framework for Advancing Excellence, which the UT Board of Regents adopted in 2011. The plan called for increased engineering education, expanded online learning and the Horizon Fund, which provides seed money for the commercialization of UT research.
The chancellor’s departure comes during a tumultuous time for the Board of Regents, UT Austin President Bill Powers and the Texas Legislature. In December, Cigarroa announced Powers would stay on as president, but cited strained tensions with the board. Meanwhile, a joint committee of lawmakers is investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall, who has been accused of a “witch hunt” against Powers. Cigarroa said the controversy surrounding the UT Austin president had nothing to do with his decision.
“I evaluate all presidents as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance,” Cigarroa said. “I support President Powers, and I will continue to evaluate presidents every day — not only President Powers but all 15.”
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who has been supportive of Powers, says she believes the decision has more to do with the fight over leadership than Cigarroa would admit.
“Although I am confident that he will deny any disharmony, I am equally confident that his decision was influenced by the continued negative circumstances at hand. His action personifies the harmful repercussions of the current attack on those who pursue excellence, protect the privacy of students and strive for true transparency for all,” Zaffirini said in a statement.
Cigarroa said he will remain as chancellor until his replacement is found, a process UT Board of Regents Chair Paul Foster says will likely to take 4-6 months. He will also continue to serve the board as an adviser for the UT Rio Grande Valley medical school.
Jan 30th - 6:47 pm
A four-member panel created to re-evaluate a set of controversial lesson plans has posted its work online.
State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill created the panel, known as the CSCOPE Ad Hoc Committee, after growing concern from parents, educators and conservative bloggers that the CSCOPE lesson plans presented an anti-American and anti-Christian bias. The panel is made up of four SBOE members, along with 140 parents, teachers and other stakeholders chosen by all SBOE members, according to the review committee’s website.
CSCOPE was an online tool created by regional education service centers to help smaller school districts adhere to the state’s education guidelines. An effort in the legislature to kill the system actually moved it into the public domain, where any district can use it., but only after a thorough public review process. It’s now known as the TEKS Resource System.
Jun 19th - 8:33 pm
Back to School
The state’s school finance problems were back before a court Wednesday, this time over changes both sides agree need to be included as evidence.
That evidence includes the $3.4 billion in funding restored this session, on top of numerous changes to testing and graduation requirements. District Judge John Dietz has set a new date to take state lawmakers’ changes into account. In Wednesday’s episode, we looked at what to expect from the trial.
Abortion law in Texas could be changed drastically if a new Senate bill makes it to the governor’s desk. We spoke to Whole Woman’s Health, a licensed abortion clinic in Austin, to find out what the changes mean.
Plus, a key player on immigration reform in Washington says he’s thinking of backing out.
Click the image below to see why Congressman John Carter says he has serious concerns with an immigration reform bill he helped draft.
Jun 19th - 11:39 am
The judge in the state’s school finance case has set a date to hear new evidence, based on changes the lawmakers made to education funding this legislative session.
In February, State District Judge John Dietz ruled that the way the state finances schools was unconstitutional. It was based on massive education funding cuts and stricter graduation requirements passed in 2011. Dietz also found disparities between property rich school districts and property poor districts.
The state asked the court to reopen the case based on laws passed during the current legislative session. Lawmakers elected to restore $3.4 billion in education funding and also reduced the number of standardized tests necessary for students to graduate. Lawmakers also passed a bill that creates a vocational path to graduation.
The more than 600 districts that sued in 2011 maintain the entire school funding formula is flawed and that the additional funding won’t fix the basic problem.
Dietz said Wednesday the case will go back to trial on Jan. 6th. He has scheduled six weeks of testimony to hear what the new funding means.
Jun 10th - 12:33 pm
Gov. Rick Perry put pen to paper, officially signing a stack of education bills into law today. He was joined by Sen. Dan Patrick and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock as he formally adopted six bills, including House Bill 5.
Many were closely monitoring the fate of the House education bill. Perry’s actions today put to rest speculation that he might veto the legislation. HB 5 changes high school graduation requirements and lowers the number of standardized tests from 15 to 5. It also creates a pathway to graduation that includes a focus on vocational training as opposed to college readiness.
Rumors had been swirling at the Capitol that Gov. Perry would veto the measure due to concerns that the new standards might not be rigorous enough. While the legislation garnered widespread support from parents and teachers’ organizations, others, like the Texas Association of Business, had been staunchly opposed.
Update: Education Commissioner Michael Williams says his agency will begin work immediately to begin the transition to the new testing requirements. In an email statement, Williams said in the long term, the “revisions will have a great impact on the state accountability system for schools, charters and districts.” He hopes implementation details will be announced “sometime in the near future.”