The Big Conversation:
Educators and state lawmakers hope to thrust education cuts back into the state spotlight this weekend.
Save Texas Schools, an education coalition that advocates for school funding, plans to descend on the Capitol on Saturday in hopes of reviving its 2011 protests, which drew 13,000 demonstrators to Austin to protest impending public education cuts. Organizers called the event one of the biggest Capitol rallies in state history.
Concerned by the $5.4 billion in cuts that the Legislature eventually passed, state Reps. Joe Farias and Trey Martinez Fischer and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, all San Antonio Democrats, on Wednesday at a news conference urged constituents to attend the rally. The lawmakers, alongside members of the Texas State Teachers Association, also renewed their calls for a special legislative session to address education funding, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
“The second year of state budget cuts will hit in the next school year, and unless we stop the cuts now, more teachers and school workers will lose their jobs, and more classrooms will become even more crowded,” Rita Haecker, the president of the teachers association, said in a statement.
As the Austin American-Statesman recently reported, a backlash over school funding could lead to heavy turnover in the Legislature come November. But anti-government voters could keep groups like the Texas Parent Political Action Committee, which plans to support candidates it deems pro-education, from finding the type of success a similar education-based strategy achieved in 2006.
The renewed focus on education funding also comes as the state faces five lawsuits — from more than 500 school districts representing 3 million Texas students — over how it funds public schools. Though 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, state leaders last month announced the formation of an interim committee to study the funding.
As public education funding looks to figure anew, talk has also turned to what state Sen. Florence Shapiro's departure means for the Senate Education Committee, which she has chaired since 2003. As the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports, two very different senators are likely in the running, and whoever claims the spot will play a key role in shaping policy.
- Cedric Steele, the homeless man accused of firebombing state Sen. Wendy Davis' district office on Tuesday, worked as a middle school teacher before his mental health deteriorated in the mid-1990s, Steele's brother told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Star-Telegram also reports that a group of Democratic activists has started to fundraise for Davis' re-election effort following the attack on her office. "While her staff works to rebuild, let's help support her campaign," the website says. Davis also appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show on Wednesday night to discuss the attack and cuts to women's health programs.
- A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that stopped Farmers Branch, a Dallas suburb, from enforcing a ban that kept illegal immigrants from seeking housing, The Associated Press reports. "Because the sole purpose and effect of this ordinance is to target the presence of illegal aliens within the City of Farmers Branch and to cause their removal," the court said of the law, which required the city to check the immigration status of non-U.S. citizens looking to rent apartments, "it contravenes the federal government's exclusive authority over the regulation of immigration and the conditions of residence in this country."
- State Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, told the Tribune on Wednesday that he is considering running for comptroller in 2014, if Susan Combs leaves her current post to run for lieutenant governor. "I'm asking for people's counsel and advice and for their exploratory support," Hegar said, adding, "It's got a significant amount of responsibility, and frankly, it offers a large soapbox to talk about so many issues that are involved with the economy."
“Well, it’s a form of welfare. You know, you’re having the taxpayers pay to take care of somebody. I’m an ordinary citizen. I would think I should pay for my own protection.” — Ron Paul to Jay Leno on why he doens't have Secret Service protection
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