Tribpedia: 83rd Legislative Session

Old Rivals Meet Again in Dallas House Race

Two old rivals, Coppell school board member Bennett Ratliff and state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, are facing off in a primary brawl for Texas House District 115.
Two old rivals, Coppell school board member Bennett Ratliff and state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, are facing off in a primary brawl for Texas House District 115.

Bennett Ratliff lost his Dallas-area Texas House seat to Tea Party-backed Matt Rinaldi in 2014, and is running to win it back in a March 1 GOP primary that parses the definition of conservative. Ratliff says he's a Republican who can accomplish things; Rinaldi says his opponent is a Democrat in disguise.

District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin is shown in his courtroom on Feb. 4, 2013, before he ruled that the state's school finance system was unconstitutional.
District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin is shown in his courtroom on Feb. 4, 2013, before he ruled that the state's school finance system was unconstitutional.

AG to Appeal School Finance Ruling to Supreme Court

UPDATED: Attorney General Greg Abbott will appeal a ruling that the Texas school finance system is unconstitutional, according to a notice his office sent Friday to attorneys in the case. The appeal is set to go directly to the Texas Supreme Court.

Pre-kindergarten students at the Dallas Independent School District's Cesar Chavez Learning Center.
Pre-kindergarten students at the Dallas Independent School District's Cesar Chavez Learning Center.

With Pre-K Grant, Texas Switches Gears on Federal Cash

In a shift for a state that has shunned other federal education initiatives like Common Core and Race to the Top, Texas will participate in a signature Obama administration program focused on early learning. The news has already become a political football.

Austin Police Officer Cory Ehrler monitors the entrance to Ridgetop Elementary School after classes start on the Monday following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. As the 83rd legislative session approaches, Texas lawmakers are considering making firearms more available to teachers and other school personnel.
Austin Police Officer Cory Ehrler monitors the entrance to Ridgetop Elementary School after classes start on the Monday following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. As the 83rd legislative session approaches, Texas lawmakers are considering making firearms more available to teachers and other school personnel.

Texas Schools Get Military Gear Through Federal Program

At least 10 Texas school districts have received armored plating, tactical vests, military vehicles, rifles, pistols and rounds of ammunition through a federal military surplus program, according to a letter sent by a coalition of civil rights and education advocacy groups to the U.S. Department of Defense on Monday.

Senator Wendy Davis addresses the Texas Democratic Women’s Convention in Austin, TX.
Senator Wendy Davis addresses the Texas Democratic Women’s Convention in Austin, TX.

Video: Davis Tells ABC News About Her Abortion

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts, Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis talks about her "difficult decision" to have an abortion in 1996, when doctors told her the baby had severe brain abnormalities and would be deaf, blind and in a permanent vegetative state.

Education Commissioner Michael Williams, a former railroad commissioner, is shown at a TribLive event on Jan. 27, 2011.
Education Commissioner Michael Williams, a former railroad commissioner, is shown at a TribLive event on Jan. 27, 2011.

Education Commissioner: "The System Needs to Catch Up"

UPDATED: Asked why the state had delayed a transition away from lower passing standards on state exams, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams told state lawmakers Tuesday that classroom instruction had failed to meet the rigor demanded by the new tests. 

A study released by Sam Houston State University in October 2013 that was commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association showed a marked increase in teachers reporting that they had taken second jobs during the school year to make ends meet.
A study released by Sam Houston State University in October 2013 that was commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association showed a marked increase in teachers reporting that they had taken second jobs during the school year to make ends meet.

As Teacher Pay Lags, Attrition and Class Size Grow

Stacked up against other states, Texas public schools could win the best-bang-for-your-buck competition. The state spends less than most others, and its students perform better than many. But the commitment to fiscal restraint has come with its own burdens for the teachers responsible for educating the state’s future workforce.

Texas' improvement on national academic measures has begun to stall in recent years. In 2013, for the first time in 15 years, math and reading scores went down or stayed the same for black and Hispanic students in both fourth and eighth grades. The scores also went down for Anglo students in some areas.
Texas' improvement on national academic measures has begun to stall in recent years. In 2013, for the first time in 15 years, math and reading scores went down or stayed the same for black and Hispanic students in both fourth and eighth grades. The scores also went down for Anglo students in some areas.

Academic Gains Slowing; No Consensus on Why

For years, Texas policymakers have pushed for increasingly advanced science and math course requirements, along with standardized test-driven accountability, to improve academic performance at public schools. And over the last decade, students have made steady progress on a number of academic measures. But that improvement has begun to stall.

Timeline: Tension in the University of Texas System

A recent announcement that the University of Texas System will commission an external investigation into the admissions process at the University of Texas at Austin is only the latest chapter in an ongoing, tension-filled sagaWe have updated our timeline to include the latest developments.

A student works on math problems in Keith Marquez's summer school geometry class at McAllum High School in Austin, Texas, Jul. 31, 2013.
A student works on math problems in Keith Marquez's summer school geometry class at McAllum High School in Austin, Texas, Jul. 31, 2013.

New Law Limits Standardized Tests, but Not Prep Work

House Bill 5, which reduced standardized testing in public high schools, also included a provision aimed at easing the pressure of high-stakes exams for students in lower grades. But a year later, the provision that was written to curb the time educators spent preparing students for standardized tests instead of teaching may not have had the intended effect.

 

 

 

Texas Governor Rick Perry attends groundbreaking ceremony for Teletón USA CRIT children's rehabilitation center in San Antonio, Texas, on August 6th, 2013.
Texas Governor Rick Perry attends groundbreaking ceremony for Teletón USA CRIT children's rehabilitation center in San Antonio, Texas, on August 6th, 2013.

Prosecutor: Perry Veto of Integrity Funds "Concerning"

A special prosecutor, who is investigating whether Gov. Rick Perry abused his authority when he eliminated state funding of the Texas public integrity unit, told the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE that what he’s found so far is “concerning.”

 

 

 

Parc Smith, CEO of American YouthWorks, a dropout recovery charter school facing closure by the state, looks in a student locker.
Parc Smith, CEO of American YouthWorks, a dropout recovery charter school facing closure by the state, looks in a student locker.

Charter Serving High School Dropouts Fights Closure

As six charter schools face automatic closure under a new Texas law, the state is facing questions over the guidelines used to decide which schools to close — and whether the process unfairly handicaps schools that serve hard-to-reach students.

Democrat Celia Israel, a candidate for Texas House District 50 in Austin, speaks to supporters at a Battleground Texas rally at a supporter's house on Saturday, Jan. 25. Israel won a special election runoff on Tuesday, Jan. 28, to serve the remainder of former Rep. Mark Strama's term, and she will seek a full term in November.
Democrat Celia Israel, a candidate for Texas House District 50 in Austin, speaks to supporters at a Battleground Texas rally at a supporter's house on Saturday, Jan. 25. Israel won a special election runoff on Tuesday, Jan. 28, to serve the remainder of former Rep. Mark Strama's term, and she will seek a full term in November.

Women Underrepresented in Texas Legislature

Texas ranks 33rd for its percentage of female legislators. The number of women in the upper chamber is unlikely to increase, even as two of the seven in the 31-member Senate — Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte — pursue statewide office. An increase of women is more likely in the House.

 

News App: Expanding the Ethics Explorer

We've expanded the elected officials in our Ethics Explorer to include the nine judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the 15 members of the State Board of Education. We've also updated our existing analysis on members of the Legislature to include bills authored and sponsored during the 83rd legislative session.