The Brief: Top Texas News for April 17, 2013

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, at a Senate Education Committee hearing on March 12, 2013.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, at a Senate Education Committee hearing on March 12, 2013.

The Big Conversation

One of the session's most controversial education bills took a step forward on Tuesday.

After a day of testimony yesterday, the Senate Education Committee approved House Bill 5, major education legislation that would overhaul the state's testing system and graduation requirements. 

The bill, which the House overwhelmingly passed last month, would cut the number of standardized tests students must take — from 15 to five — and reduce the four years of math and science courses currently required. If passed, the legislation would represent a dramatic reversal for a state that in 2006 adopted some of the nation's most rigorous curriculum standards.

The provision cutting the number of tests has drawn more support than the proposed curriculum revision, which business leaders and education groups have said would dumb down the state's education standards, putting low-income and minority students at risk. The debate has recently caught the attention of The New York Times and the Washington Post editorial board, which warned that "retreating from a path the state blazed — particularly when other states are following with toughened graduation requirements — will hurt Texas and many of its children."

On Tuesday, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the chairman of the education committee, lashed out against the national attention.

"Since when does Texas worry about what The Washington Post and New York Times editorial board thinks about our legislation?" Patrick said. "Maybe the Legislature should just go home and let The New York Times represent the House and The Washington Post represent the Senate."

Of concerns that the curriculum change could hurt students, Patrick said, "We're not stepping back in rigor or accountability."

Democratic Sens. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio and Royce West of Dallas did not vote for the bill, which the full Senate will likely hear next week, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Culled

•    Immigration measure’s opponents hope delays will kill bipartisan bill (The Washington Post): "Leading Capitol Hill opponents of a Senate proposal to overhaul the nation’s immigration system are coalescing around a strategy to kill the bill by delaying the legislative process as long as possible, providing time to offer 'poison pill' amendments aimed at breaking apart the fragile bipartisan group that developed the plan, according to lawmakers and legislative aides."

•    Texas Senate panel OKs new rule for abortion doctors (The Dallas Morning News): "Citing patient safety, a Senate committee approved a bill Tuesday that would require doctors who perform abortions to maintain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Supporters said the bill, recommended to the full Senate on a 5-0 vote, would improve care for women and assure they could get help if they suffered complications."

•    Gambling chances 'slim' this session, senator says (Austin American-Statesman): "The odds of passing a casino gambling bill this session grew longer Tuesday when an influential senator decided not to move his measure out of committee. Gambling legislation’s chances are 'very slim,' state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, said Tuesday. 'As each week passes, the likelihood becomes less and less.' About six weeks remain in the 140-day legislative session."

•    Joe Thigpen, Texas first lady's father, dead at 92 (The Associated Press): "Joe Eltidge Thigpen, father of Texas first lady Anita Perry, has died at age 92. First lady spokeswoman Michelle Sneed said Thigpen died 'peacefully at home of natural causes' Tuesday morning. He was a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Baylor Medical School in Houston."

•    Texas SpaceX site gets preliminary OK by feds (San Antonio Express-News): "South Texas' hopes for becoming a hub for commercial space missions are alive. Federal regulators have released a preliminary report that says California-based SpaceX can launch rockets from a proposed site near Brownsville without devastating the sensitive environment around Boca Chica beach — so long as the company takes steps to protect several endangered species, the water supply and plant life."

Quote of the Day: "I always come down to Texas. I come down here because I feel that this is America’s last chance." — Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, speaking at the Dallas Petroleum Club on Tuesday

Must-Read

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