Tribpedia: 83rd Legislative Session

Law Designed to Drug Test Unemployed Texans Still Not in Place

Nov 13, 2012 - Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst hold a press conference on proposed legislation regarding drug testing for state benefit recipients at Austin Glass and Mirror in east Austin.
Nov 13, 2012 - Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst hold a press conference on proposed legislation regarding drug testing for state benefit recipients at Austin Glass and Mirror in east Austin.

Nearly three years after Texas enacted a law requiring some applicants for unemployment benefits to pass a drug test, the state has yet to test a single applicant, and it remains unclear when the program will get going. Texas and other states are stuck waiting on the federal government to implement rules needed to move forward.

District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin is shown in his courtroom on Feb. 4, 2013, before he ruled that the state's school finance system was unconstitutional.
District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin is shown in his courtroom on Feb. 4, 2013, before he ruled that the state's school finance system was unconstitutional.

AG to Appeal School Finance Ruling to Supreme Court

UPDATED: Attorney General Greg Abbott will appeal a ruling that the Texas school finance system is unconstitutional, according to a notice his office sent Friday to attorneys in the case. The appeal is set to go directly to the Texas Supreme Court.

Austin Police Officer Cory Ehrler monitors the entrance to Ridgetop Elementary School after classes start on the Monday following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. As the 83rd legislative session approaches, Texas lawmakers are considering making firearms more available to teachers and other school personnel.
Austin Police Officer Cory Ehrler monitors the entrance to Ridgetop Elementary School after classes start on the Monday following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. As the 83rd legislative session approaches, Texas lawmakers are considering making firearms more available to teachers and other school personnel.

Texas Schools Get Military Gear Through Federal Program

At least 10 Texas school districts have received armored plating, tactical vests, military vehicles, rifles, pistols and rounds of ammunition through a federal military surplus program.

Education Commissioner Michael Williams, a former railroad commissioner, is shown at a TribLive event on Jan. 27, 2011.
Education Commissioner Michael Williams, a former railroad commissioner, is shown at a TribLive event on Jan. 27, 2011.

Education Commissioner: "The System Needs to Catch Up"

UPDATED: Asked why the state had delayed a transition away from lower passing standards on state exams, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams told state lawmakers Tuesday that classroom instruction had failed to meet the rigor demanded by the new tests. 

A study released by Sam Houston State University in October 2013 that was commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association showed a marked increase in teachers reporting that they had taken second jobs during the school year to make ends meet.
A study released by Sam Houston State University in October 2013 that was commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association showed a marked increase in teachers reporting that they had taken second jobs during the school year to make ends meet.

As Teacher Pay Lags, Attrition and Class Size Grow

Stacked up against other states, Texas public schools could win the best-bang-for-your-buck competition. The state spends less than most others, and its students perform better than many. But the commitment to fiscal restraint has come with its own burdens for teachers.

Texas' improvement on national academic measures has begun to stall in recent years. In 2013, for the first time in 15 years, math and reading scores went down or stayed the same for black and Hispanic students in both fourth and eighth grades. The scores also went down for Anglo students in some areas.
Texas' improvement on national academic measures has begun to stall in recent years. In 2013, for the first time in 15 years, math and reading scores went down or stayed the same for black and Hispanic students in both fourth and eighth grades. The scores also went down for Anglo students in some areas.

Academic Gains Slowing; No Consensus on Why

Over the last decade, Texas students have made steady progress on a number of academic measures. But in recent years, that improvement has begun to stall.  

Timeline: Tension in the University of Texas System

We have updated our timeline on the conflict between the University of Texas System, the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Legislature to include the latest developments, including a new investigation into UT-Austin's admissions process.

A student works on math problems in Keith Marquez's summer school geometry class at McAllum High School in Austin, Texas, Jul. 31, 2013.
A student works on math problems in Keith Marquez's summer school geometry class at McAllum High School in Austin, Texas, Jul. 31, 2013.

New Law Limits Standardized Tests, but Not Prep Work

House Bill 5, which reduced standardized testing in public high schools, also included a provision aimed at easing the pressure of high-stakes exams for students in lower grades. But it may not be having the intended effect.

 

  

Texas Governor Rick Perry attends groundbreaking ceremony for Teletón USA CRIT children's rehabilitation center in San Antonio, Texas, on August 6th, 2013.
Texas Governor Rick Perry attends groundbreaking ceremony for Teletón USA CRIT children's rehabilitation center in San Antonio, Texas, on August 6th, 2013.

Prosecutor: Perry Veto of Integrity Funds "Concerning"

A special prosecutor, who is investigating whether Gov. Rick Perry abused his authority when he eliminated state funding of the Texas public integrity unit, told the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE that what he’s found so far is “concerning.”

 

Democrat Celia Israel, a candidate for Texas House District 50 in Austin, speaks to supporters at a Battleground Texas rally at a supporter's house on Saturday, Jan. 25. Israel won a special election runoff on Tuesday, Jan. 28, to serve the remainder of former Rep. Mark Strama's term, and she will seek a full term in November.
Democrat Celia Israel, a candidate for Texas House District 50 in Austin, speaks to supporters at a Battleground Texas rally at a supporter's house on Saturday, Jan. 25. Israel won a special election runoff on Tuesday, Jan. 28, to serve the remainder of former Rep. Mark Strama's term, and she will seek a full term in November.

Women Underrepresented in Texas Legislature

Texas ranks 33rd for its percentage of female legislators. The number of women in the upper chamber is unlikely to increase, even as two of the seven in the Senate — Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte — pursue statewide office.