TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 2/18/13

Grissom begins a gripping series on mental health and criminal justice, Hamilton and White on the Senate’s defense of UT-Austin, Murphy’s interactive look at public school test scores, Ramshaw finds the governor digging in on the Medicaid expansion, Rocha and Dehn visit a weapons maker with Ted Cruz, M. Smith explores another angle on unpopular standardized testing, Batheja on a car that drives right past state laws, Aguilar reports on the other immigration problem, Aaronson on a break in the race for a cancer cure: The best of our best for the week of February 18-22, 2012.

Graphic by Todd Wiseman

The case of death row inmate Andre Thomas offers a lens through which to examine the effects of a long underfunded mental health system and raises important questions about how Texas punishes the mentally ill. Texas has a long and unhappy history when it comes to mental health care. From the days of state-run asylums to underfunded local mental health services, those who have mental illness have faced daunting challenges finding care. During his troubled adolescence, lawyers for Thomas say he never received the mental health care he needed. In Texas, there are few mechanisms to diagnose and treat youths who suffer from mental illness.

As he jousts with the University of Texas Board of Regents, University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers was honored in both chambers of the Texas Legislature. 

Last spring, Texas students in grades three through eight took the STAAR exams for the first time. Using results from Pearson Education, the state's testing contractor, this interactive provides the first look at how the school districts performed.

If the pressure to expand Medicaid is getting to Gov. Rick Perry — now seven Republican governors, including his friend Rick Scott in Florida, support accepting federal dollars to cover poor adults — he’s not letting on.

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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, kicked off a mini tour of the Lone Star State on Tuesday by bashing the Obama administration and its attempts "to restrict law-abiding citizens' right to bear arms."

Proposals to modify high school graduation requirements have won the support of educators and industry groups. But some worry momentum against high-stakes testing could sweep away progress in improving preparation for college and career.

A Google self-driving car drove itself around Austin and across Texas over the last week. State laws don't yet appear to address the futuristic technology.

The debate over what to do with the estimated 12 million people living in the country illegally has dominated the discussion on comprehensive immigration reform. But attorneys say key fixes are needed to the legal immigration system as well.

A moratorium on Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas' grants while leaders work to reform the agency has left the state's cancer community hanging in the balance.

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