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The Brief: Top Texas News for March 18, 2011

School districts and employees fearing worst-case estimates of 100,000 teacher layoffs throughout the state can breathe a little easier today.

Sen. Florence Shaipro talks with a colleague as the Texas Senate discusses the Voter ID for most of the day Tuesday.

The Big Conversation:

School districts and employees fearing worst-case estimates of 100,000 teacher layoffs can breathe a little easier today.

The Senate Subcommittee on Education Funding voted 5-2 on Thursday to reduce sharp cuts outlined in initial Senate budget proposals from $10 billion to $4 billion — enough to calm some of those layoff concerns, said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, the subcommittee's chairwoman, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

But the subcommittee's recommendation, which the full Senate Finance Committee will consider next week, won't avert all of those layoffs.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, laid out some of lawmakers' lingering concerns. "My vote is to move the process forward, but I am really concerned about taking $4 billion out of our public school system," he said, as reported by The Dallas Morning News. "We have high-stakes testing, school districts being held accountable and some schools teetering on being rated unacceptable, and they will all be without the resources they need to address their problems."

The subcommittee's plan would also still have to be squared with a House budget proposal, to be considered next week, that reduces funding for public education by $7.8 billion.

Shapiro called the subcommittee's proposal a "positive work in progress," adding, "This recognizes that we are all in this together, and that everybody is going to feel a little bit of pain during this recession," she said.

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, voted against the plan. "Our poorest school districts have been underfunded for years and are already struggling as they educate some of the state's neediest kids," he said in a statement. "They did not create the budget hole. They should not be thrown in to plug it."

Culled:

  • Drama at the State Board of Education has turned back to textbooks, but this time, it's about money, with board members worried that lawmakers might not provide funding for instructional materials. "Right now it doesn't make a lot of sense to spend money on textbooks and then fire the teachers who would be using the textbooks," Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, tells the Houston Chronicle.
  • At a House Select Committee on State Sovereignty on Thursday, Republicans, with abandon, took aim at Washington, laying out several bills seeking to block implementation of federal health care reform and to allow the state to operate Medicaid how it sees fit. And if you were wondering what's up with a committee devoted to state sovereignty anyway, the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw has an answer.

"How nice it would be if we were an independent republic again." — Dr. Steve Hotze, president of Conservative Republicans of Texas, during hearings on federal health care reform on Thursday

Must-Read:

Programming Round-Up:

  • Texas Week (KLRN, San Antonio, Friday, 8:30 p.m.): Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio
  • Session '11 (Austin, KXAN, Sunday, 9:30 a.m.): State Reps. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio
  • Inside Texas Politics (Dallas-Fort Worth, WFAA-TV, Sunday, 9 a.m.): State Reps. Kelly Hancock, R-Fort Worth, and Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth

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