Panel agrees on testing, diploma plans
House and Senate negotiators have hammered out an agreement to reduce high-stakes tests and overhaul diploma plans for Texas public school students.
Under the final deal for House Bill 5, the number of end-of-course exams required for graduation will fall from 15 to five: U.S. history, algebra, biology and ninth- and 10th-grade English. The English tests will cover both reading and writing.
School districts will also have the option of giving students end-of-course exams in advanced algebra and 11th-grade English.
The current graduation plan known as the 4x4 — four years each of math, science, social studies and English — will be replaced with more flexible options requiring only three years of math, science and social studies.
To qualify for automatic college admission under the state’s top 10 percent provision, students will be required to adhere to the “distinguished” diploma plan, which is akin to the current 4x4.
Both chambers must take a final up-or-down vote before the bill heads to Gov. Rick Perry.
Commissioner announces departure
Texas Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman told her staff Thursday that she will not continue as head of the state’s insurance regulatory agency.
She cannot serve beyond Monday, the final day of the legislative session, because her appointment has not been confirmed by the state Senate.
Kitzman, who has led the Texas Department of Insurance since the summer of 2011, was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry between legislative sessions and never received the necessary confirmation of two-thirds of the Senate.
Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, said his committee would not consider Kitzman unless he had received a formal letter of appointment from Perry.
The letter never came, and Kitzman’s confirmation was not put to a vote.
Perry’s office released a statement Friday acknowledging that Kitzman would be departing.
Kitzman struggled from the beginning of the session to gain traction for her confirmation.
Democrats criticized her as being too close to the industry.
Some Republicans — particularly the chamber’s physicians — also had issues with her.
“She has ignored a lot of rules” to the benefit of insurers, Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, said in February.
The commissioner had always defended herself against allegations of being pro-industry.
Lawmakers set up endangered panel
How the state responds to the listing of an endangered species will be coordinated by a special task force under a bill lawmakers sent to the governor Friday creating the Coordinated State Endangered Species Response Committee.
The committee would include the attorney general, the comptroller and officials from the Departments of Agriculture and Transportation, the Railroad Commission, the General Land Office and Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Republican leaders have long complained about federal endangered species laws, saying they hurt the Texas economy. More than 100 species could be added to the endangered list in Texas in the next decade.
The committee would make sure all state agencies respond in a coordinated manner, either by filing lawsuits or by drafting conservation plans.