The Brief: Next Chapter Begins in School Finance Challenge

After a trial that lasted more than three months, Judge John Dietz ruled in February that the state's school finance system is unconstitutional.
After a trial that lasted more than three months, Judge John Dietz ruled in February that the state's school finance system is unconstitutional.

The Big Conversation

The focus on Tuesday returns to District Judge John Dietz's courtroom, where the next chapter in the legal challenge to the state's school finance system commences. The arguments will be about the Legislature's restoration last year of a significant chunk of the funds cut in 2011 and whether that changes Dietz's initial determination in February that Texas' schools aren't sufficiently funded.

But it's an election year, and the renewed court battle takes place against the backdrop of increasingly hot contests for governor and lieutenant governor. Attorney General Greg Abbott, the presumptive GOP nominee for governor, won't be in court on Tuesday, wrote the Tribune's Morgan Smith, but that hasn't stopped his Democratic opponent Wendy Davis from criticizing him for his role in defending the state in the legal proceedings.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Monday brought the school finance debate into a candidate forum in Houston, arguing, according to a report from The Associated Press, that "at the end of the day, we're paying our school teachers — when you count in cost of living — a very fair salary." He added: "We need to have better results. We need to make sure that we're not just paying more money and we need to look at more choice for parents."

One of the other challengers for the Republican nomination for lite guv, Todd Staples, said he would look for ways to boost teacher pay. "We want good teachers in the classroom and we need a system that rewards them appropriately," he said.

Today in the Trib

Karin Johanson: The TT Interview: "The campaign manager for state Sen. Wendy Davis on criticism that Davis blurred key details of her past, whether Davis will campaign with President Obama and whether Davis is running away from the abortion issue."

Low Completion Rates for Online Courses Spark Debate: "The results of UT-Austin’s first foray into massive open online courses are in. But advocates for the classes recommend looking beyond the fall completion rates — which range between 1 and 13 percent — to measure success."

Death Row Exoneree Takes Action Against Prosecutor: "Former death row inmate Anthony Graves, who who spent 18 years behind bars before being exonerated, announced Monday that he was filing a grievance against the man who prosecuted him, alleging prosecutorial misconduct."

Must-Read

The Man In The Arena, Texas Monthly

Davis corrects bio and swings back at Abbott, Houston Chronicle

A Texas Newspaper Takes Aim at Wendy Davis's Cinderella Story—and Spins the Facts, Too, The New Republic

Texas Company, Alone in U.S., Cashes In on Nuclear Waste, The New York Times

Staples urges repeal of in-state tuition for undocumented students, Houston Chronicle

Couple arrested at border in connection with Target data breach, San Antonio Express-News

Quotes to Note

"It's disappointing that a candidate would so cavalierly deceive voters about the most basic aspects of their life, while providing inaccurate testimony in the process. If voters can't trust what Sen. Davis says, how can they trust her to lead? Texans deserve candidates who are open and honest with the truth."

Matt Hirsch, spokesman for GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, on why the discrepancies in Wendy Davis' life story matter

"Unless you've sat in your home with the lights turned off, it's hard to appreciate how demoralizing that can be. And the fact that Greg Abbott is trying to belittle my journey as somehow being insignificant and overblown demonstrates that that's not a challenge that he appreciates or understands. And that, therefore, means it's not a challenge that he appreciates or understands about what many Texans are facing today."

Wendy Davis, responding that her critics are missing the point

News From Home

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Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation on Our Nation's Future Featuring U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan in San Antonio, 1/23

•    Comptroller candidate Debra Medina at the Austin Club, 1/30 

•    Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, candidate for lieutenant governor, at the Austin Club, 2/6

•    Sen. Kel Seliger and Reps. John Smithee and Four Price at West Texas A&M in Canyon, 2/7

•    Reps. Joe Deshotel and Allan Ritter at Lamar University in Beaumont, 2/19

•    Texas Tribune Festival On the Road at The University of Texas El Paso for a daylong symposium on demographic change, 2/27

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21

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