The Brief: Top Texas News for Sept. 7, 2012

Austin High School
Austin High School

The Big Conversation:

As Democrats wrapped up their festivities in Charlotte on Thursday, education news stole some of the spotlight in Texas.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams on Thursday announced that the state would ask for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. 

The announcement marked one of Williams' first moves at the Texas Education Agency, which Gov. Rick Perry on Aug. 27 appointed him to lead

More than 30 states have already asked for a reprieve from the federal education standards, which have faced criticism over the years for their rigidity. Under a waiver the federal government began offering last year, some conditions would still be imposed on states, like requiring them to adopt some college-readiness standards.

But Texas, wary of the federal government attaching strings to any release from the law, has instead requested a general exemption that would offer more freedom and local control, as the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports.

In a letter to school districts, Williams said No Child Left Behind had created an "obsolete system that does not adequately reflect the accomplishments of the state’s schools. This, combined with [schools] being required to meet and function within [both state and federal] assessment and accountability systems, takes valuable resources and time away from the intent and focus of improving student achievement and school accountability."

No Child Left Behind, signed into law in 2002, set the goal for public school passing rates on math and reading tests at 100 percent by 2014. But only 44 percent of Texas schools met federal goals for 2012 of 87 percent passing in reading and 83 percent passing in math.

The move pleased, and startled, some school officials.

"I think 'surprised' doesn't quite cover it, to be honest," Brian Woods, the superintendent of Northside Independent School District, told the San Antonio Express-News. "I was shocked."

Culled:

  • Two Texans spoke at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, an otherwise quiet day for the state in Charlotte after San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro's keynote speech on Tuesday cast the national spotlight on Texas. Actress Eva Longoria, who grew up in Corpus Christi, called out Mitt Romney for supporting tax cuts for the rich. "The Eva Longoria who flipped burgers at Wendy's, she needed a tax break. But the Eva Longoria who works on movie sets does not," she said. Laredo native Alejandra Salinas, the president of College Democrats, also addressed the convention Thursday in a speech aimed at young voters. "As a young, LGBT Latina, it seems to me that Mitt Romney only cares about an elite few," she said.
  • After two major losses in voting-rights cases last week, the state on Thursday won a stay of a judge's order blocking enforcement of a portion of the state's new voter registration laws. The plaintiffs in the case, including the nonpartisan Voting for America, have argued that the new laws — which the state has said were passed to prevent voter fraud — make registering people to vote more difficult. Attorney General Greg Abbott called the ruling "a victory for voter integrity."
  • Fresh off his widely praised keynote speech at the DNC, Julián Castro will appear on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.

"He’s a minute older, and I’m a minute better-looking than he is." — State Rep. Joaquin Castro on his brother

Must-Read:

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