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The Brief: November 25, 2009

When students get back from Thanksgiving break, the problems with their education system may not be fixed yet — but there’s no need to worry because the gubernatorial candidates are on the case.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

When students get back from Thanksgiving break, the problems with their education system may not be fixed yet — but there’s no need to worry because the gubernatorial candidates are on the case.

Yesterday, unveiling an education agenda assembled with the help of former U.S. Education Secretaries Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings, gubernatorial hopeful Kay Bailey Hutchison placed technology at the top of the wish list. She said she has approached companies regarding the development of an e-curriculum and the use of e-learning devices.

As far as teachers are concerned, Hutchison is planning an expansion of loan reimbursement programs like Teach for America and Teach for Texas.  She would also like to see more avenues to teaching developed for college students with training in science, math, and engineering.

Also in the plan: cafeteria-style selection for teacher benefit plans, curbing the dropout rate with early detection and intervention of at-risk students, and improving cost efficiency by applying best practices of school districts across the state.

Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign said the list mirrors Perry’s already proposed plan. “Sen. Hutchison acknowledged today that the education policies put forward by Gov. Perry are effective in preparing the children of Texas for the future,” said Perry spokesman Mark Miner in a statement. 

Hutchison spokesman Joe Pounder rebutted, “Beneath words like 'proposed' and 'focused is a reality that what Rick Perry has is a list of programs but not results.”

Perry also sent a letter to Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott maintaining his stance against adopting federal education standards, even though it makes it unlikely Texas will be eligible for any of the $4.35 billion federal “Race to the Top” funds.  Perry said it was “a price worth paying” for state-controlled education.

Elsewhere, rancher and Democratic candidate Hank Gilbert proposed funding education with an expansion of casino gambling. Also — a tax on retailers with more than $20 million in sales and a sales tax on in-state Internet retailers.

CULLED:

• There are close calls, and then there is the state budget.  Comptroller Susan Combs says the state will have $77.7 billion in general revenue — just enough to cover the $77.6 billion of general revenue called for in the current budget.  Sales taxes have taken double-digit dips for the last five months, but in the Certification Revenue Estimate document, Combs says the state has it covered.

• Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign is taking steps to address that menacing attack from the left — Farouk Shami.  The Austin American-Statesman’s Jason Embry reports on a memo from Perry consultant Dave Carney urging Perry supporters to participate in “Operation Intervention” by giving “a little positive outreach” to supporters of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to “get them to join our team.” What’s the rush?  According to the letter, “We have a multi-millionaire running on the Democrat side and we need to unite our side sooner rather than later.”  Clearly, this was written before signs arose of Houston Mayor Bill White’s entry into the race, so — as Embry writes — “perhaps we should look for Operation Intervention II?”

• As promised, with the onset of Thanksgiving has come a decision from state Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso.  To use her seniority to “its full capacity,” she will be seeking re-election in the Texas House instead of going after the seat being vacated state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso.  As of now, there is only one contender — El Paso County Attorney Jose Rodriguez  — for the rare incumbent-less Senate seat.  Meanwhile, Chavez will face at least two opponents— El Paso Community College Board member Antonio “Tony” San Roman and Assistant El Paso County attorney Naomi Gonzalez — in her primary.

"Sometimes I'll dunk, I get pumped up. Sometimes I really don't feel the dunk. I'm real particular on my dunks," — Baylor freshman Brittney Griner, who became the 7th woman to dunk in a college basketball game in an easy win over Jacksonville State.

MUST READ:

• School districts still feeling the squeezeHouston Chronicle

• Houston mayor will enter governor's race, analysts sayFort Worth Star-Telegram

• Hidden Force — The Texas Tribune

• New leader tapped for aging, disability services agencyPostcards

• Religion, minority figures set to spark debate at textbook hearingSan Antonio Express—News

Note: The Brief will take a break for the holidays and return on November 30. Happy Thanksgiving!

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