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The Brief: Dec. 11, 2014

A couple of popular government programs for children — one helping with early education and the other providing health care — are facing funding questions.

A pre-kindergarten student learned syllables and word identification during a summer bilingual academy at Wilson Elementar...

The Big Conversation

A couple of popular government programs for children — one helping with early education and the other providing health care — are facing funding questions. Depending on how things play out, these developments could lead to some headaches for budget writers next year.

The Tribune's Morgan Smith reported that Texas had lost out on up to $120 million in federal aid for preschool programs over four years. Smith wrote, "Texas' high class-size ratio — twice the recommended 10-to-1 child to instructional staff ratio — was among the areas federal reviewers dinged when examining the state's application, according to documents from the U.S. Department of Education. About half of the states that applied for the grants received funds."

And the Tribune's Alexa Ura writes on the delay in Congress in extending funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, a popular program with bipartisan backing. The program has been authorized through 2019, but funding runs out at the end of the federal budget year next fall. That means Congress must act to continue the flow of federal aid to states.

Though both Republicans and Democrats in Washington have said they support extending funding for CHIP, Congress will likely not reauthorize funding before the start of legislative session in January, creating questions for the new slate of state leaders and lawmakers responsible for the state's budget.

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If Congress does not reauthorize CHIP funding before lawmakers finalize the state budget, the Legislature could construct one based on estimates for the federal dollars it expects to receive and the state’s matching funds, said R.J. DeSilva, spokesman for the state’s Legislative Budget Board.

State lawmakers are not sounding the alarm on CHIP funding just yet. State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, said he expects the money will come through because of the bipartisan support to properly fund the program.

The Day Ahead

•    The joint select committee tasked with studying the balance on the state's Rainy Day Fund meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Extension. The panel is expected to adopt a minimum balance for the fund. (agenda)

•    A Tribune-hosted breakfast conversation with newly minted state Sens. Van Taylor, R-Plano; Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe; and Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, at the Austin Club. We will livestream the 8 a.m. event for those unable the attend in person.

Trib Must-Reads

At UT-Austin, Brains Aren't All That's Scattered, by Bobby Blanchard and Christine Ayala

CCA Offers Guidance to Courts Trying Teens as Adults, by Terri Langford

State Sued for "Stifling the Texas Craft Beer Renaissance", by Reeve Hamilton

Bid to Consolidate Texas Health Agencies Moves Forward, by Alexa Ura

Elsewhere

Cruz says Obama emboldens foreign aggressors, blasts CIA torture report, The Dallas Morning News

Torture Report Puts Presidential Hopefuls in Quiet Mode, The New York Times

US shale industry faces endurance test after Opec rejects cuts, Financial Times

Crude's slide prompts concern of sector slowdown, Houston Chronicle

Texas sales tax hits record thanks to retail, oil production, The Dallas Morning News

Sunset panel recommends combining health agencies, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Texas panel recommends shutting down board for teacher standards, Austin American-Statesman

Most insurance companies not complying with billing transparency law, Houston Chronicle

Quote to Note

"It's kind of shocking to our cowboy image that it's been that long."

— Alice Tripp of the Texas State Rifle Association, on Texans losing the right to carry firearms openly after the Civil War and not regaining that right since

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep.-elect Will Hurd on Dec. 18 in Austin

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