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Battleground Texas Reboots With Help From Friends

Also, the State Board of Education starts looking for alternatives to the current GED exam and state Sen. Sylvia Garcia asks for an interim study on school bus safety.

Jeremy Bird speaking at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sep. 28, 2013

Battleground Texas, the Democratic voter mobilization effort launched in 2013, announced on Wednesday a wide-ranging reorganization.

When the effort is finished, the organization will have a new executive director serving alongside a handful of new staffers and a newly created advisory board.

That board is drawing most of the initial attention because of a couple of big names — former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio — who have agreed to serve.

Prominent Democratic fundraiser Amber Mostyn will also serve on the BGTX advisory board, joining Naomi Aberly, Eric Johnson, Austin Ligon, Jennifer Longoria, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, Eddy Morales, Carrin F. Patman, Carrin Mauritz Patman, Marvin Ragsdale, Kirk Rudy, and Lynda Tran.

BGTX founder Jeremy Bird will have a seat on the advisory board. Jenn Brown is stepping down as executive director and will serve as advisory board chairwoman.

Those new staff hires include Oscar Silva, political director; Luis Cázares, San Antonio coordinator; and Tyler Keen, Dallas coordinator. Priscila Martinez, currently the organization’s training director, will take over as field director.

The organization announced that it would begin a state and national search for a new executive director soon.

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Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, isn’t conservative enough for Brent Graves, who is challenging the two-term HD-59 state representative in next year’s party primary.

Graves sent a letter to Sheffield last Thursday requesting that he run as a Democrat in the HD-59 race. Graves said Sheffield does not side with the Republican Party on issues like the “2nd Amendment, life, immigration, healthcare, taxes and overall liberty.”

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The State Board of Education on Friday approved a request for proposal seeking alternatives to the state’s current computer-based General Educational Development (GED) exam.

The vote came about two months after the 15-member body heard hours of emotional testimony from test-takers, teachers and education advocates who said the only high school equivalency test the state recognizes is too expensive and too difficult.

The cost of the test jumped more than 40 percent in 2014 after the nonprofit that previously administered it partnered with the London-based for-profit testing company Pearson to revamp the exam. Since then, the number of Texans taking the test has fallen almost 45 percent. The new exam is available only in a more expensive, computer-based format critics say discriminates against low-income residents and inmates.

Friday’s vote was unanimous with one board member, Marisa Perez of San Antonio, recusing herself.

Proposals are due in six weeks, according to information provided by the Texas Education Agency. And the earliest possible adoption of a new exam would be January 2016.

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The Campus Carry Policy Working Group at UT-Austin — assembled to determine best practices for implementing the new campus carry law on campus — will hold two public forums in the coming weeks to gather feedback from UT students, faculty and staff. The forums will be held at the San Jacinto Residence Hall on Sept. 30 from 7-9 p.m. and Oct. 5 from 3-5 p.m.

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State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, formally requested on Thursday an interim study on school bus safety following a crash in Houston on Tuesday that killed two students and restarted a policy debate on whether seat belts should be required on school buses.

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The Latino Center for Leadership Development announced on Tuesday a strategic partnership with the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University.

According to a statement, the Latino CLD will provide $900,000 in funding over five years to support a think tank at the Tower Center with a focus on issues important to the Latino community, including economic opportunity, voting rights and immigration reform.

Disclosure: Naomi Aberly and Austin Ligon are major donors to The Texas Tribune. Carrin Patman is a donor to The Texas Tribune. The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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