The Brief: Top Texas News for March 12, 2013

Austin High School
Austin High School

The Big Conversation

Protesters on Monday attempted to turn up the heat in the simmering legislative debate over public education in Texas.

The rally, organized by the Texas American Federation of Teachers, drew hundreds of teachers and education advocates to the Capitol, where they called on state lawmakers to restore the $5.4 billion in cuts made to public education in 2011.

"Public education is under assault in the state of Texas," state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, told the crowd. "Without our schoolchildren, we might as well give up on Texas' future."

Davis — who said she in part blamed the 2011 cuts on Comptroller Susan Combs' "colossally bad" revenue estimate — called on fellow lawmakers to prioritize public education over water and transportation infrastructure, which this year may compete with Democrats' efforts to use money from the Rainy Day Fund to restore the education cuts.

"Our schoolchildren are more important than any road or any water resource," Davis said, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

The rally also cast renewed attention on Republican-backed "school choice" legislation, which drew jeers from many of the protesters.

A high-profile bill filed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, the Houston Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, would create a business tax scholarship to help low-income students attend private school. But even at the rally, opposition the contentious bill may face — even from members of Patrick's own party — was on display.

"They say they want to give them choices, they even called them trapped," Thomas Ratliff, a GOP member of the State Board of Education, said at the rally, according to The Associated Press. "I have news for you, they're not trapped. … They do have choices and they choose to stay in their local public schools."

Culled

•    Applewhite only UT staffer reprimanded (San Antonio Express-News): "A review of Texas' athletic department records showed no disciplinary action taken against any current staffer except for Major Applewhite, the assistant football coach reprimanded four years ago for what the school called 'inappropriate, consensual behavior' with a student-trainer."

•    Rally at Texas Capitol seeks equality for gays (The Associated Press): "Hundreds of people rallied Monday on the steps of the Capitol to lobby Texas lawmakers to support equality for lesbians, gays and the transgendered, including the right to marry. Supporters of Equality Texas praised Democratic lawmakers who have introduced bills to have both gay parents listed on birth certificates. The group also supports bills to make discrimination by employers and insurers illegal."

•    New Family Structures Study Intended To Sway Supreme Court On Gay Marriage, Documents Show (The American Independent): "The conservative funders who bankrolled a flawed and widely cited academic study that's critical of gay marriage choreographed its release in time to influence 'major decisions of the Supreme Court,' documents show."

•    RNC Committeewoman Van Dormolen suffers fatal heart attack (The Dallas Morning News): "Republican activist Lt. Col. (ret.) Borah Van Dormolen, who headed the Texas Federation of Republican Women and was in her second term representing Texas before the Republican National Committee, died Monday following a massive heart attack. Van Dormolen, of Salado, was a fundraiser, campaign trainer, mentor and volunteer for Republican causes and candidates for many years."

Quote of the Day: "There are obvious examples of candidates that were, that I think frightened some women, but they were the exception rather than the norm in the party." — Former first lady Laura Bush to CNN on the Republican Party's fortunes in the 2012 election

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