AUSTIN - The Texas House and Senate on April 30 passed legislation to revise the accountability system for public schools.
The legislation, SB 3 by Senate Education Committee chair Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, and HB 3 by House Public Education Committee chair Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, have long lists of amendments that must be agreed upon or discarded as the process moves forward.
Under both bills, the education system would be changed to focus on students' readiness for post-secondary education that could be college or other forms of training.
Shapiro said Texas' current accountability system has created an illusion of progress. "The passing standards on the assessments lack any link to success after graduation. The world today requires sound preparation. All students must be prepared for post-secondary education."
SB 3 and HB 3 update curriculum requirements for high school students. They'll take four years of math, science, social studies and English, two years in the same foreign language, and eight electives that could include fine arts, or career-in-technology education that gives students who don't plan on going to college workforce training.
In addition, school districts would have new accountability standards. Accreditation and performance ratings would be based not only on passing standards, but also on how students score on college readiness standards. Schools could receive recognition in more areas, for success in 21st century workforce development, fine arts, secondary languages, PE, and academic excellence.
Speaker names budget conferees
The primary task of the Texas Legislature is to produce a budget for fiscal years 2010-2011.
The House and Senate versions of the $180 billion (give or take) budget don't match, so the two bodies are going to have to compromise.
House Speaker Joe Straus on April 27 announced the following appointees to the Conference Committee on SB 1, the state's biennial budget for 2010-2011:
House Appropriations Committee chair Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, and vice chair Richard Raymond, D-Laredo; Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio; John Otto, R-Dayton, and John Zerwas, R-Katy.
The five House members will work with five Senate members named earlier by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. They are:
Senate Finance Committee chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and vice chair Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Shapiro, Senate Intergovernmental Relations chair Royce West, D-Dallas, and Senate Administration Committee chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.
June 1 is the last day of the 81st regular session of the Texas Legislature, so the pressure is on to wrap up the budget and get it to the governor.
Bill may change agency's name
SB 341 by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, proposes to rename the Texas Railroad Commission as the Texas Energy Commission.
The bill was passed by the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration. If the bill becomes law, the name change will be phased in before Jan. 1, 2010.
The Texas Railroad Commission regulates the oil and natural gas industry, pipeline transporters, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline industry, natural gas utilities, the LP-gas industry, and coal and uranium surface mining operations. The Texas Department of Transportation regulates railroads.
Health chief addresses swine flu
David Lakey, Texas Health commissioner, on April 29 delivered a public statement on swine flu or H1N1.
Lakey said the Department of State Health Services is taking measures to prevent the spread of this disease.
"In communities where we have identified swine flu, we're asking the communities to do specific steps. We're asking them, at certain times when they have the disease in their schools, to close their schools. We're asking them to implement their Pandemic Influenza Plan so we are ready, and the community is ready, for whatever comes their way. We're working with health care providers throughout the state so they know what they need to do in order to protect your health."