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The Brief: March 1, 2012

As legislative races across the state take shape, education funding has been thrust into the spotlight.

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The Big Conversation:

As legislative races across the state take shape, education funding has been thrust into the spotlight.

With Texas facing five lawsuits — from more than 500 school districts representing 3 million Texas students — over how it funds public schools, state leaders on Wednesday announced the formation of an interim committee to study school finance.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, will chair the committee, which was created as part of a fiscal matters bill passed last session. The committee will make recommendations to the 83rd Legislature.

"The future of Texas is being forged in our classrooms every day," Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a statement. "That is why the Texas Legislature remains dedicated to continuing our investment in public education, directing more resources to the classroom and improving the quality of learning for every student in every school and every district across our state."

As the Tribune's Morgan Smith notes, some observers have speculated whether lawmakers would touch school finance in the next session because of the looming litigation, which likely won't be resolved until after the session has adjourned.

The renewed focus on education funding comes as Save Texas Schools, an education coalition advocating for school funding, plans to descend on the Capitol on March 24 in a revival of its 2011 protests, which drew 13,000 protesters to Austin. Organizers called the event one of the biggest Capitol rallies in state history.

Culled:

  • The University of Texas at Austin claims highest four-year graduation rate — 53 percent — in the state. Though far from impressive, that's well above the state's low of 3 percent at Texas Southern University and the University of Houston-Downtown. But as the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton reports, not all higher education leaders think such metrics pose a problem. (Use our accompanying interactive feature to compare graduation rates by university.)
  • Texas rice farmers near the Gulf Coast are anxiously awaiting word today on whether they'll get water from the Lower Colorado River Authority for a rice crop this spring, as Kate Galbraith reports. If they're cut off, it will be the first time in the river authority's history — and right now, farmers' prospects don't look good.
  • Ron Paul's presidential campaign has threatened to fight the procedure by which Washington state selects delegates for the Republican National Convention, The Associated Press reports. Paul says the state's largest county, King, has violated party rules by not submitting the names of certain party officials who will take part in the caucuses, which will be held Saturday.

“I guess over the last 30 or 40 years I have criticized the Fed on occasion. But the Congress deserves some criticism, too. The Federal Reserve is a creature of the Congress.” Ron Paul, who returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to attend a hearing with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

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