The Brief: Top Texas News for May 7, 2013

The Big Conversation

A major overhaul of the state's public education system took another step forward on Monday.

The state Senate yesterday unanimously approved House Bill 5, which would cut the number of state exams required for graduation from 15 to five and restructure the state's high school graduation requirements.

While the House's version of the bill reduced the four years of math and science courses required in Texas, the Senate plan still calls for four years of math under some of the new specialized career pathways, or "endorsements" — like humanities and science and technology — that the bill would also establish.

In a twist this session, the fight over curriculum standards has united Republicans like Gov. Rick Perry and many Democrats over their opposition to efforts that would reduce accountability and academic rigor. On Monday, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, unsuccessfully offered several amendments that she said would ensure "we are not failing our kids because we are so afraid and concerned with failing ourselves."

 

But Republicans like state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, have pushed for new standards that they say would maintain rigor but offer students more flexibility to pursue vocational training. 

Patrick said HB 5 would offer "the most rigorous, most flexible" curriculum in the country.

The legislation now moves to a conference committee, where lawmakers from both chambers will meet to hash out the bills' differences. 

Culled

•    Perry to Obama: Give coastal states more access, dollars (Houston Chronicle): "Texas Gov. Rick Perry and five fellow Republicans from other coastal states on Monday implored the Obama administration to open new areas for offshore drilling, saying the change would give a jolt to the U.S. economy by spurring jobs and spending. 'We want to create jobs,' said North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. 'I urge the president to join us (and) make government a partner with us — not an adversary.'"

•    Ammonium nitrate was explosive in West plant blast (The Associated Press): "A store of ammonium nitrate is what exploded April 17 at a Central Texas plant, killing 14 people, injuring hundreds and devastating an adjoining town. The finding was expected, and officials had said they were focusing their investigation on the explosive chemical used in many fertilizers."

•    Senate bill would do away with vehicle inspection stickers (Austin American-Statesman): "Texas’ vehicle inspection stickers would become a thing of the past under legislation approved unanimously Monday by the state Senate. But there’s a catch: Vehicles still would have to be inspected before they could be registered with the state, and diesel vehicles would, for the first time, have to pass an emissions test."

•    Hotze to File Suit Over Federal Health Reform (The Texas Tribune): "Steve Hotze, a Houston-area physician and Republican campaign donor who has built his career around alternative medicine, is filing suit against the U.S. government to try to prevent the enforcement of federal health reform in Texas."

Quote of the Day: "My friend from Texas is like the schoolyard bully. He pushes everybody around and is losing, and instead of playing the game according to the rules, he not only takes the ball home with him but changes the rules." — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, referring to a dispute with Sen. Ted Cruz over budget resolutions

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