Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Jan. 10 lauded adoption of rules to conduct mandatory, random steroid testing for Texas high school athletes.
"I'm pleased the University Interscholastic League has taken a giant step forward to save lives by adopting fair and balanced testing rules ...," he said.
Students who wish to participate in UIL athletics must sign a statement saying they are aware of the health dangers of taking anabolic steroids and promise not to take them.
Parents and guardians will have to sign a statement that reads as follows:
"I have read the above information and acknowledge that a prerequisite of my student's participation in UIL athletic activities is that they refrain from illegal steroid use and agree that, if selected, they will submit to testing for the presence of illegal anabolic steroids in their body. I understand that failure to provide accurate and truthful information could subject the participant in question to penalties as determined by UIL."
Fingerprinting program begins
Texas public school employees now must be finger-printed in accordance with a law passed by the 80th Texas Legislature last spring.
Teachers, substitute teachers and administrators are required to submit to national criminal background checks, and fingerprinting is part of that.
The FBI will analyze data gathered in the background checks and the information will be kept on file.
Dewhurst said background checks and fingerprinting have helped in identifying sex offenders and felons working in Texas schools.
Teacher pay study is released
An annual report on Texas public schoolteacher salaries and benefits indicates that teachers' pay is "up slightly" in 2007-2008.
The report, compiled by the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators, includes data collected from 747 of the state's 1,031 school districts.
The weighted average teacher salary in responding districts is $46,336 for 2007-08, up 3.2 percent from the 2006-07 average salary of $44,897.
Among its many findings, the study shows:
• 465 districts pay stipends to teachers with master's degrees.
• 102 districts reported that teachers can qualify for longevity pay.
• 100 districts paid a bonus to new hires for 2007-2008.
Appellate court rules on NCLB
The issue of unfunded federal mandates strains many Texas school districts, so this may indicate change on the horizon:
The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Jan. 7 ruled that the federal government may not force states and school districts to spend their own funds to meet the mandates of "No Child Left Behind."
The Washington, D.C.-based National Education Association and nine school districts filed suit in a Michigan district court against the Secretary of Education, seeking among other relief, a judgment declaring that they need not comply with the act's requirements where federal funds do not cover the increased costs of compliance.
School safety audits are coming
Beginning in September 2008, Texas school districts must report the results of their first campus security audits to the Texas School Safety Center.
Texas law requires schools to conduct these safety audits every three years and practice their campus emergency management plans.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott encouraged all school districts to team up with law enforcement to annually practice campus safety procedures:
"Having a plan is important, but executing that plan under stress - when seconds count - is critical to saving lives," Abbott said.
States join in death penalty brief
The attorneys general of 19 states joined Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz in a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in a Kentucky case, Baze v. Rees.
Texas argues that the four-step lethal injection protocol used as the primary means to carry out capital punishment in Texas and 36 other states does not violate the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because when properly administered, it is not "cruel and unusual."
A decision in the case may be announced from the bench any time between now and the end of June.