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The Brief: Top Texas News for April 13, 2011

Texas may have just secured $832 million in education funding. So why isn't everyone happy?

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The Big Conversation:

Texas may have just secured $832 million in education funding. So why isn't everyone happy?

News surfaced Tuesday that the federal budget deal struck Friday night to avoid a government shutdown included a repeal of the so-called Doggett Amendment, a provision that U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, tacked on to an education jobs bill last year to ensure that Texas would maintain education spending levels. Gov. Rick Perry said state budget processes prohibited him from guaranteeing such funding.

The funding has remained stuck for nearly nine months, but the repeal effort, led by U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville — and widely applauded by fellow Republicans on Tuesday — could send those millions to cash-strapped school districts in Texas.

"You couldn't have gotten $832 million at a better time," said state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, according to the Houston Chronicle. "The timing is perfect."

The state Senate has been looking to add about $5 billion back into an early budget proposal for public education funding.

But as Democrats, including state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, noted, the money might not help districts as much as some think. "The budget proposal currently being discussed in the Senate already assumed we would receive the $830 million in federal funds, and yet school districts are still slated to receive $4 billion less in state funds," Davis said.

In a statement, Doggett called the repeal an "unwise" concession to Republicans. "Our sole objective has remained to ensure that federal aid to education actually aids local Texas schools with additional help rather than being diverted by the state as occurred in 2009 with $3.25 billion of federal aid," he said. "The Governor and the Legislature still have the power to do right by our Texas children."

Culled:

  • State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, the Senate sponsor of campus-carry legislation, says his bill — which earlier this week, for the second time, couldn't muster the 21 votes needed to bring legislation to the floor — is "not dead," according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. But Wentworth, who came up one vote short, wouldn't divulge his strategy for flipping one of the two Democrats who have recently withdrawn their support. "My plan is not to tell you all what I'm planning to do," he said.
  • Meanwhile, as the Austin American-Statesman reports, a Senate committee could vote today on a bill that would allow lawmakers to pack heat just about everywhere, including in bars, churches and other places in which guns are banned. "I guess everybody's going to have guns before we're through up here," said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who opposes this legislation and the campus-carry bill.
  • According to the Houston Chronicle, officials at the University of Texas interviewed Rick O'Donnell, a controversial higher education reform advocate, before posting a job description and failed to consult with UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa about the posting. "It is mind-boggling," said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. "I'm not sure if it is just a breach of protocol or if it is illegal. At a minimum, it wasn't fair."

"Now, I don't think there are 21 votes to move to a third reading, and that's why the bill's been stopped." — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who "just didn't seem all that comfortable" discussing campus-carry legislation, says the Chronicle

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