Michael Williams

Capital Tonight: Education commissioner opens up about legislative changes

Some lawmakers returned to the State Capitol Monday to hear more testimony on the deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer plant. The exact cause of the blast is still unknown, but state leaders are working to prevent a similar disaster.

In Monday’s show, we look at what they’ve learned so far and where prevention efforts could be headed.

LESSON PLANS

Monday was the first day of school for many Texas students, and it was day-one for some long-debated changes made by the legislature to go into effect. We spoke one-on-one with Education Commissioner Michael Williams about what parents and teachers need to know.

ON THE AGENDA

And it was a busy weekend for Texas politicians, including a debate over a controversial teaching tool. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about that debate and more.

Capital Tonight: Watson calls for tougher hit-and-run penalties

A high-profile hit-and-run trial is coming to a close in Austin, but its impact on the community will likely be talked about much more this legislative session.

Democratic State Sen. Kirk Watson has just filed a bill that would attach stricter penalties to drivers who fail to stop and render aid after hitting a pedestrian. We spoke to Sen. Watson Thursday about what he hopes the bill will achieve.

Although House lawmakers voted to pay off nearly $4.5 billion in Medicaid debts Thursday, the question of future spending is still up in the air. Capital Tonight’s Karina Kling spoke to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who’s making headlines by urging state lawmakers to say yes to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The man who could ultimately determine the fate of Eastside Memorial High School took the time to visit the at-risk campus Thursday, after the school’s class president sent him a personal invitation.

Click the image below to see more from Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams’ visit.

Williams named Education Commissioner

Even though seemingly every Texas Republican has fled to Tampa for the Republican National Convention this week, Governor Perry made the surprise announcement Monday that Michael Williams has been named the state’s newest Education Commissioner. Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds will be the chief deputy commissioner.

"High standards and accountable public schools are essential to our state’s future success, and no two people understand that better than Michael and Lizzette. Together, they will build on the improvements achieved during the tenure of Robert Scott and Todd Webster, and will ensure our children are prepared for the challenges of college and the workplace,” Gov. Perry said in a press statement. "Michael’s pioneering leadership in both public and private sectors, combined with Lizzette’s nearly two decades of public education experience guiding and implementing statewide reforms create a powerful and dynamic team that will fortify our state’s public education system."

The governor’s office writes that Williams is the former Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. He will replace Robert Scott, who resigned from the post in July. A statement from the Texas Education Agency says staff members "stand ready" to help Williams as he begins his new job on September 1.