Education

Senate plan to direct lottery money to teacher pay gets cold reception

Senate plan to direct lottery money to teacher pay gets cold reception

Some public education advocates pressed lawmakers on Sunday to reconsider a plan to use existing lottery revenue earmarked for schools specifically on teacher pay raises and bonuses. “We’re saying take those dollars and move them over to teacher salaries and so you now have that void. And so districts are being asked to make those cuts,” said Jesús Chávez, former Round...
Bill targeting government employee union dues heads to Senate

Bill targeting government employee union dues heads to Senate

A Senate panel approved a bill 6-3 Sunday that would prohibit payroll deductions of labor organization dues. Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville was the only Republican to vote against the bill. Those speaking against the bill during the three-hour hearing of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee included teachers, health workers and correctional officers. Senate Bill 7 doesn’t apply to...
Bill targeting public employee union dues advances to full Senate

Bill targeting public employee union dues advances to full Senate

6 p.m. update: The Senate Business and Commerce Committee passed SB 7, which would ban public employee payroll deductions of labor organization dues. The vote was 6-3; Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville was the only Republican to vote against the bill. 4 p.m. update: Several government employees, attending a rare Sunday hearing of a Texas Senate committee, spoke against bills that would prohibit...
Teacher pay, retirement bill advances in Senate despite concerns

Teacher pay, retirement bill advances in Senate despite concerns

The Texas Senate Finance Committee approved a bill Saturday that would give Texas teachers raises and bonuses and pump millions into the Teacher Retirement System, despite a tepid reception from teacher groups. Senate Bill 19 passed 10-3, mostly along party lines. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen was present but didn’t vote. Sen. Royce West, D-Houston, was absent during the vote...
Senate panel passes teacher pay raise bill despite teacher objections

Senate panel passes teacher pay raise bill despite teacher objections

4:30 p.m. update: The Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that would give teachers raises and bonuses and pump money into the Teacher Retirement System, despite getting a tepid reception from teacher groups on Saturday. SB 19 passsed 10-3, mostly along party lines. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen was present but didn’t vote. Sen. Royce West, D-Houston, was absent. Sen....
Senate panel advances school finance, ‘private school choice’ bills

Senate panel advances school finance, ‘private school choice’ bills

The Senate Education Committee on Friday sent to the full chamber two bills that address many of the major education-related issues on the special session agenda, including school finance and “private school choice.” Senate Bill 2, filed by Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, drew eight hours of public testimony, much of which was in opposition because of a...
Senate panel OKs private school scholarship, funding commission bills

Senate panel OKs private school scholarship, funding commission bills

5 p.m. update: The Senate Education Committee passed two key bills on Friday, including one that would create a scholarship program for students looking to enroll in private school. The committee unanimously advanced Senate Bill 16 which would create a state commission to make recommendations on the beleaguered school finance system. They also passed SB 2 with an 8-2 vote; Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of...
Why Austin school board won’t hedge its bet on a $1 billion bond

Why Austin school board won’t hedge its bet on a $1 billion bond

The Austin school board in November will place before voters a single $1.1 billion bond proposition, a departure from previous bond elections when the district tried to hedge its bets. Instead of offering one big bond, past Austin school boards in the last 15 yearsbroke their funding requests into several distinct propositions, expecting voters would approve all of them, but figuring the district...
Why Austin school board won’t hedge its bet on a $1 billion school bond

Why Austin school board won’t hedge its bet on a $1 billion school bond

The Austin school board in November will place before voters a single $1.1 billion bond proposition, a departure from previous bond elections when the district tried to hedge its bets. Instead of offering one big bond, past Austin school boards in the last 15 years broke their funding requests into several distinct propositions, expecting voters would approve all of them, but figuring the district...
Boone Elementary parents who alleged daughter was assaulted drop suit against AISD

Boone Elementary parents who alleged daughter was assaulted drop suit against AISD

The parents who sued the Austin school district and others, alleging school officials did not do enough to investigate a campus sexual assault allegation, have dropped the lawsuit.  Court documents filed last week noted the parents “do not desire, at this time, to prosecute the claims against” the school district, former Austin school district Police Chief Eric Mendez, and school...
Commentary: Amendment would make Texas shoulder more school funding

Commentary: Amendment would make Texas shoulder more school funding

Upon receiving their property tax notices, Texas homeowners seem ready to channel Peter Finch in the 1976 movie “Network” by throwing open their windows and yelling, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But at whom should that ire be directed? Some wolves in sheep’s clothing at the Texas Capitol are pointing their fingers at your locally...
Following low reading scores, Abbott launches new school initiative

Following low reading scores, Abbott launches new school initiative

Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency have launched an elementary school reading initiative in the wake of declining reading scores on state standardized tests this spring. Parts of the Texas Readers initiative build on efforts to improve literacy among public school students. However, included in the plan that Abbott outlined on Tuesday are a public service marketing campaign in partnership...
Amid declining reading scores, Gov. Abbott launches new initiative

Amid declining reading scores, Gov. Abbott launches new initiative

After almost all Texas students posted worse reading scores on state standardized tests this spring, Gov. Greg Abbott along with the Texas Education Agency have launched an elementary school reading initiative. Parts of the Texas Readers initiative builds on current programs to improve literacy among public school students. However, included in the plan that Abbott outlined on Tuesday are a public...
Hundreds of Texas teachers rally against special session issues

Hundreds of Texas teachers rally against special session issues

More than 1,000 teachers and retired public school teachers, members of all major statewide teacher groups, descended onto the Capitol on Monday to decry major parts of Gov. Greg Abbott’s education agenda that lawmakers are slated to tackle during the special legislative session that starts Tuesday. Traveling from across the state, the teachers wore red t-shirts as they rallied in the blistering...
Hundreds of Texas teachers rally against special session issues

Hundreds of Texas teachers rally against special session issues

All major statewide teacher groups and many of their members decended onto the Texas Capitol Monday to decry major parts of Gov. Greg Abbott’s education agenda that lawmakers are slated to tackle during the special legislative session. Traveling from across the state, hundreds of current and retired public school teachers wore apple-red t-shirts as they rallied in the blistering heat against...
Commentary: Public support for college is slipping. Why that’s trouble

Commentary: Public support for college is slipping. Why that’s trouble

The recent results of a Pew Research Center survey on the public’s views of colleges and universities are disheartening. Pew found that during the past year, Republicans perceiving higher education in a negative light has increased 13 percentage points. Among Republicans, 58 percent now perceive colleges and universities negatively, while 36 percent viewed them as positive. Among Democrats,...
Mumps outbreak hits UT; 7 diagnosed last week

Mumps outbreak hits UT; 7 diagnosed last week

University of Texas officials confirmed Friday the presence of mumps on campus after seven people were diagnosed the week of July 9. University Health Services sent an email informing members of the campus community of the outbreak, adding that resources and information are available to them through the department’s Healthyhorns website. University officials warned some individual students about...
Castillo: Teachers deserve applause — and a raise plan with real funding

Castillo: Teachers deserve applause — and a raise plan with real funding

At a spelling bee at Zavala Elementary School in McAllen long ago, I stood in front of our hushed fifth-grade classroom, all eyes on me. My stomach bounced around in my throat, but I was cocky, too. After all, I consistently scored in the top 1 percent nationally in spelling aptitude tests then. But a spelling bee was new territory for me and my barrio classmates — and after what seemed like...

Regents increase UT-Austin’s share of endowment payout

The governing board of the University of Texas System voted unanimously Thursday to boost UT-Austin’s share of the system’s annual endowment payout by 4 percentage points, or $24 million, to $338 million. The Austin campus had been scheduled to receive 49 percent, or $314 million, of the payout. Instead, it will get 53 percent, effective for the budget year that begins in September. In...

Regents vote to increase UT-Austin’s share of endowment payout

The governing board of the University of Texas System voted unanimously Thursday to boost UT-Austin’s share of the system’s annual endowment payout by 4 percentage points, or $24 million, to $338 million. The flagship campus had been scheduled to receive 49 percent, or $314 million, of the payout. Instead, it will get 53 percent, effective for the budget year that begins in September....
‘Civil liberties’ at center of vaccination debate in Texas

‘Civil liberties’ at center of vaccination debate in Texas

The heart of the vaccine debate is not just about whether vaccines help or hurt children anymore. It’s about civil liberties, at least in Texas. An episode of “VICE News Tonight” that aired Wednesday on HBO focuses on what the program considers a uniquely Texan phenomenon that came to a head during the regular legislative session that ended in May. The news program noted that more...
UT regents discuss budget, defend new headquarters building

UT regents discuss budget, defend new headquarters building

University of Texas System regents decamped to a four-star hotel just west of Austin on Wednesday for a two-day retreat focused on the budget priorities, mission and leadership of the system administration overseeing 14 campuses. Among the highlights: The new, 19-story headquarters building for the administration’s Austin-based staff will wind up saving $81 million in current dollars during...
Austin-area educator named Texas PTA Elementary Teacher of the Year

Austin-area educator named Texas PTA Elementary Teacher of the Year

Natalie Mahany, a third grade teacher at Rooster Springs Elementary in Dripping Springs, has been named the 2017 Texas PTA Elementary Teacher of the Year. Mahany has been a teacher for 18 years. She will continue into her 19th this fall and has served in the district for nearly all of her teaching career. She previously was honored as the Region XIII elementary teacher of the year in 2012, as well...
Commentary: How Austin could shape the future of STEM careers

Commentary: How Austin could shape the future of STEM careers

STEM may seem like a buzzword, though the acronym has earned respect. After all, careers in science, technology, engineering and math — the fantastic four fields known as STEM — are growing at 17 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Compare that to other occupations growing at 9.8 percent and it’s clear to see the lifelong value of instilling a love of...
Commentary: Why Texas should worry about heavy-handed government

Commentary: Why Texas should worry about heavy-handed government

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Lower state taxes have never been a free lunch. I remember watching the 2006-07 legislative session as a school board member — granted, I was much more naive then — but I believed our legislators were supporting public education and wanting to do what was best for all taxpayers. It made a flawed attempt at property tax cuts — and anyone involved...
PETA protesters forcibly removed from UT Regents meeting

PETA protesters forcibly removed from UT Regents meeting

Two animal rights activists were forcibly removed from the University of Texas board of regents meeting Wednesday afternoon, after barging in and demanding the board deny funding Texas A&M University because of experiments on dogs there.  Protesters Emily Raap and Danielle Alexander were charged with hindering proceedings by disorderly conduct.  The mid-meeting outburst was...
TWO-DAY RETREAT: UT regents, McRaven hold meetings on mission, budget, personnel

TWO-DAY RETREAT: UT regents, McRaven hold meetings on mission, budget, personnel

University of Texas System regents have decamped to a four-star hotel on a hilltop just west of Austin for a two-day retreat focused on big-picture matters, including budget priorities, the mission and the leadership of the 14-campus system. The regents, meeting at the Hotel Granduca Austin in West Lake Hills, have blocked out time Wednesday and Thursday for closed-door sessions as well as sessions...
Commentary: What to expect from Legislature’s playbook on property tax

Commentary: What to expect from Legislature’s playbook on property tax

Texas lawmakers will soon convene in special session to tackle “property tax reform,” just as local taxing districts across the state begin their budget work to determine how much Texans will pay in taxes for next year. While the Legislature imposes a number of taxes, the property tax isn’t one of them. That falls to a multitude of local governments including school districts, cities...
Payroll deduction ban would silence teachers, not save taxpayers money

Payroll deduction ban would silence teachers, not save taxpayers money

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott describes the items he wants addressed by a special legislative session during a press conference at the State Capitol on June 6, 2017. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN) On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott officially invited Texas legislators to head back to the pink dome July 18 for a 30-day special session to pass legislation that will keep five state agencies...
Drops in Texas STAAR scores raise questions — and testing angst

Drops in Texas STAAR scores raise questions — and testing angst

Texas students did worse on state standardized tests this year on all subjects except for math. The percentages of students who passed the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness in the spring were lower in most subjects compared with last year’s results. Students struggled the most on reading and English tests, with the statewide passing rate for fourth-graders dropping 7 percentage...
Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation gives $50 million to future teachers

Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation gives $50 million to future teachers

The Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation will invest $50 million over the next decade to provide scholarships for future teachers. The new Raising Texas Teachers initiative, announced at the University of Texas on Monday, will award $8,000 annual scholarships to college students pursuing a teaching career through the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers. Raising Texas Teachers also will provide...
Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation gives $50 million for future teachers

Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation gives $50 million for future teachers

The Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation is pumping $50 million over the next decade into scholarships for future teachers. Through the new Raising Texas Teachers initiative, college students pursuing a teaching career can get $8,000 annually in scholarship funding through the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers. Raising Texas Teachers, which was announced Monday morning, also will give technical...
Retired UT professor, Democratic activist Forest Hill dies at 97

Retired UT professor, Democratic activist Forest Hill dies at 97

Forest G. Hill, a University of Texas economics professor emeritus whose take on that discipline shaped his mostly behind-the-scenes activism in local Democratic politics, died Friday at the age of 97 at the Westminster retirement center in Austin. He had suffered from heart and kidney disease, according to his daughter, Barbara. Hill parlayed his expertise in economics into activism in behalf of...
McRaven’s job, budget priorities at issue in UT regents’ retreat

McRaven’s job, budget priorities at issue in UT regents’ retreat

The relationship between Bill McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System, and the system’s Board of Regents is at a pivot point. His continued employment, as well as overarching questions of mission, priorities and budget, are up for grabs, and the board’s two-day retreat this week could reshape the trajectory of the 14-campus system and its chief executive. With no...
TOPS IN TEXAS: AISD expands its services for dyslexic students

TOPS IN TEXAS: AISD expands its services for dyslexic students

A multiyear effort to identify dyslexic students and better provide them with tools to learn has led to nearly five times as many students receiving dyslexia intervention services in Austin schools, and 80 evaluators with specialized training to help them. In the fall, the school district will go a step further as it launches its first specialty project to serve dyslexic students at Covington Middle...
Retired teachers: Texas lawmakers broke their promise on health care

Retired teachers: Texas lawmakers broke their promise on health care

Sue Schnars retired from the Pflugerville school district as a special education administrator in December with the understanding that she and her 41-year-old daughter with disabilities could live on her state retirement and health benefits. Six months later, Texas lawmakers cut health benefits in a way that will hit retirees such as the 59-year-old Schnars the hardest. Come January, her deductible...
Neighbors hope Montessori program draws kids back to Winn Elementary

Neighbors hope Montessori program draws kids back to Winn Elementary

The campus halls and playground for years bustled with students at Winn Elementary in East Austin, but its enrollment has plummeted by nearly 60 percent over the past decade, to 241 students. Neighborhood parents seeking to reverse that trend pushed to convert Winn into the Austin school district’s first Montessori school, hoping the hands-on, child-directed method of learning is in high enough...
Deviating from script, UT regents abruptly end meeting — albeit upbeat

Deviating from script, UT regents abruptly end meeting — albeit upbeat

Meetings of the University of Texas System Board of Regents tend to follow the scheduled script closely. Not so on Wednesday. What had been billed as a two-hour discussion regarding endowment spending, budgets, funding and an upcoming retreat on the mission of the 14-campus system took less than five minutes. Officials offered no explanation for the shortened timeline as regents’ Chairman Paul...
Phillips: How Austin ISD could restore trust by forming unbiased panel

Phillips: How Austin ISD could restore trust by forming unbiased panel

Austin school trustees and Superintendent Paul Cruz repeatedly touted a bond package that would include only projects that were critical. Yet the $1 billion-plus package trustees approved Monday includes projects that weren’t deemed critical enough for a November ballot — even by the trustee’s hand-picked advisory board members. Several items — including the expansion and relocation...
How do you make any student ready for a career in tech?

How do you make any student ready for a career in tech?

Matt Stephenson saw the handwriting on the wall. Working for the giant financial firm Goldman Sachs Group, in credit derivatives and mortgage-backed securities, he sensed that the market was going to experience an upset. So in 2007, a year before the financial collapse on Wall Street, he got out. “I cut it a little close,” recalls Stephenson, 35, who later founded the Austin nonprofit...
Voters to weigh Austin district’s $1.05 billion single-proposition bond

Voters to weigh Austin district’s $1.05 billion single-proposition bond

Austin voters in November will weigh a $1.05 billion, single-proposition Austin school bond package. Funds from the bond package would rebuild several campuses, construct new schools and target overcrowding in pockets of the 83,000-student district. Among the most contentious projects in the package is the relocation of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy out of LBJ High School and into the former...
UT faces new lawsuit over role of race in admissions policy

UT faces new lawsuit over role of race in admissions policy

The use of racial and ethnic preferences in admissions at the University of Texas violates state law and the Texas Constitution, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by a group whose leader who took a similar case to the U.S. Supreme Court twice and lost. This time, Edward Blum has set his sights on the state courts of Texas rather than making another run at the federal courts. The Supreme Court upheld...
Austin school board calls for $1.05 billion November bond package

Austin school board calls for $1.05 billion November bond package

The Austin school board Monday night called for a $1.05 billion bond package to be placed before voters in November. The bond projects, rolled into one proposition, total $1.13 billion, but trustees plan to apply $83.8 million in projected leftover bond funds and possible land sales of East Austin schools to reduce the total package amount. Despite exceeding the $1 billion cap that several trustees...
Austin ISD could shutter East Austin schools to keep bond under $1B

Austin ISD could shutter East Austin schools to keep bond under $1B

The Austin school district could shutter a handful of East Austin schools to bring down the costs of the proposed bond package that trustees are expected to approve tonight. Multiple school properties could be sold in the next five years to lower the bond project costs to under $1 billion, according to district documents obtained by the American-Statesman. A line item in other bond package documents...
Minority groups threaten to oppose $990 million Austin ISD bond plan

Minority groups threaten to oppose $990 million Austin ISD bond plan

The Austin school board tonight is slated to call for a November bond election, putting before voters more than $990 million worth of bond projects packaged into one proposition. As it was last week, this meeting could become heated as some community members plan to rally against the package in its current form. Latino and black community leaders have said the bond in its current form is inequitable...
Emails chart how ‘Mad Men’ archive landed at UT’s Ransom Center

Emails chart how ‘Mad Men’ archive landed at UT’s Ransom Center

An archive of props, clothing, scripts and abandoned story lines from a TV series might not seem at first blush to embody the literary, cultural or artistic significance of the Gutenberg Bible, Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” or any number of other holdings at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center. But the “Mad Men&rdquo...
Commentary: On school bonds, it’s time to go in for all of Austin

Commentary: On school bonds, it’s time to go in for all of Austin

When your school district includes 130 buildings with an average age of 46 years, major renovations will be in order. It is time for Austin to go all in for a school bond that declares our commitment to education across the whole city. The current proposed bond package serves some areas well, neglects others, and doesn’t do enough to address the loss of students to charter schools and Austin...
Viewpoints: Legislature should end illusion and provide real tax cuts

Viewpoints: Legislature should end illusion and provide real tax cuts

To successfully pull off their stunts and tricks before audiences, great magicians employ the art of misdirection. The same is true for some politicians, such as Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has crafted a clever misdirection in the form of Senate Bill 2. Patrick, a Houston Republican, claims the measure “would bring about the largest property tax reform in history,” and in so doing...
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