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The Brief: July 22, 2010

The State Board of Education wades into a little bit of controversy — yet again.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

The State Board of Education is no stranger to controversy — and it's found a little bit, once again. (Just don't expect anything in the way of a flashy textbook battle this time.)

Representatives for Texas charter schools on Wednesday asked the board to invest $100 million in renting classrooms and facilities to the schools — a new and controversial move for the board. The SBOE, per board member David Bradley's proposal, would draw the funds from the state's $23 billion Permanent School Fund.

The request comes from proponents of the state's 460 charter schools, which receive state funding but no aid for their facilities, leaving many to operate out of strip malls and abandoned warehouses.

But the controversy surrounds dipping into that Permanent School Fund, which law dictates must be invested for maximum return — and using the funds to save charter schools money couldn't possibly maximize returns, critics of the proposal say. The Tribune's Brian Thevenot reported on the matter in June.

With similar concerns in mind, lawyers instructed the board Wednesday to tread carefully and request an opinion from the state attorney general to avoid future litigation. The Tribune's Elizabeth Titus has a report today:

Other board members agree that charter schools need help, but expressed doubts about the profit they could expect on such investments if charters were given favorable lease terms, as some interpret the intent of Bradley's plan. Lawyers said Wednesday that, while the state Constitution doesn't prohibit investments that benefit charter schools, the board is still bound by its investment standards — namely, investing for maximum return — regardless of who else might benefit in the arrangement. And because charter school properties are relatively risky and their long-term returns and hard to predict, Bradley's plan could arguably violate those standards, they said.

With the possibility of a six-month wait for the attorney general's opinion, the proposal will stay in limbo as new board members take office next year.

CULLED:

  • Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White is distancing himself from Barack Obama as the president's trip to Texas in August nears. Asked if he'll be attending any events with Obama, who will be here to fundraise for Democrats, White has said he's just too busy. Oh, and, as he told The Dallas Morning News Thursday, "There are some people, including me, who believe that the president is spending a lot more money than we're taking in, is spending too much money in Washington." Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry, who's hitting White for his ties to Obama, says he's more than willing to sit in the same room as the president.
  • The Tea Party now has a little more institutional support, with a congressional caucus of its own — a quarter of its members from Texas — now established in the U.S. House.

"I was in the oil and gas business when he was a community organizer." — Bill White, distancing his background from Obama's

MUST-READ:

A gathering storm halts Gulf oil well work — The Associated Press

National Republicans say Canseco a contenderSan Antonio Express-News

Dallas to get $20 million more than estimated in property tax revenueThe Dallas Morning News

Texas Democrats Push to Increase Hispanic Turnout — The Texas Tribune

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