AUSTIN — Texas will not apply for the second round of federal Race to the Top education funds that could total around $700 million, Gov. Rick Perry said June 1.
Race to the Top money comes through a competitive granting program that requires states to adopt national curriculum standards in order to compete for the funding.
“Abandoning state standards and adopting new nationalized standards would cost Texas taxpayers $3 billion, and would likely weaken the rigorous college- and career-ready standards and assessments already in place in our state,” Perry said.
Texas’ curriculum standards are set by the elected State Board of Education, as recently demonstrated, but the Legislature has the power to amend those standards.
Perry said if Texas accepted the funding “it would cost Texas taxpayers upwards of $3 billion to realign our education system to conform to the U.S. Department of Education’s uniform vision for public education.”
More budget cuts prescribed
Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus on May 28 told state agencies to whittle down their budget requests by 5 percent for fiscal year 2012 and another 5 percent for fiscal year 2013. Agencies must submit their plans between Aug. 2 and Aug. 30.
The 82nd Texas Legislature, scheduled to convene Jan. 11, must write a balanced budget in the face of a shortfall estimated between $10 billion and $18 billion.
“While we face challenges to our budget, Texans can rest assured we will preserve essential services as we identify further savings for taxpayers,” Dewhurst said.
Tax intake lower than expected
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on June 2 said business tax collections as of the May 16 reporting deadline were about $3.6 billion.
The amount is about $500 million short of Combs’ biennial revenue estimate for fiscal years 2010-2011, which projects $4.3 billion in business tax revenue by the end of fiscal 2010, Aug. 31. Those billions of dollars in business taxes make up a small portion of state revenue overall: the lion’s share (about 60 percent) comes from sales and use taxes paid by all consumers.
Speaking of which, the upcoming state sales tax holiday will give Texas shoppers a break from state and local sales taxes on Aug. 20, 21 and 22. The law exempts most clothing and footwear priced under $100 from sales and use taxes.
How much revenue does the state forgo as a results of a that kind of sales tax holiday? Usually more than $50 million.
Redistricting committee meets
Congressional redistricting, a job for the state Legislature next session, will be based on information gathered in the U.S. census.
On June 2, the House Committee on Redistricting met for invited testimony on recent legal, technological, and demographic developments relating to the upcoming redistricting process.
Dr. Jeffrey Jordan of the Texas State Data Center testified the state’s population increased 3.93 million (18.8 percent) from 2000 to 2008, of which 54 percent was natural increase and 45 percent was net migration.
Texas stands to pick up at least two congressional seats, based on its population increase.
Early vaccinations encouraged
The Texas Department of State Health Services on June 3 called for parents to get their children vaccinated now to avoid the back-to-school rush later this summer.
“We want parents to plan ahead,” said health commissioner Dr. David Lakey. “Schoolchildren should get vaccinated as soon as possible to avoid long wait times at clinics and ensure they are protected before the first day of school.”
Child booster seat law takes effect
On June 1, failure to secure a child in a booster seat became a misdemeanor offense, with violations resulting in a $25 fine for a first offense and up to $250 for subsequent violations.
A child younger than 8 must be secured in a child passenger safety seat, unless the child is taller than 4 feet, 9 inches, according to the law, authored in 2009 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.
Parties to hold annual conventions
The Republican Party of Texas’ 2010 state convention will be held at the Dallas Convention Center, June 11-12.
The Texas Democratic Party’s 2010 state convention will be held at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, June 24-26.
The Libertarian Party of Texas 2010 state convention will be held in Austin at the Radisson North Hotel, June 11-12.
Hurricane season: learn what to do
Hurricane season officially began June 1 and continues until Dec. 1. For information on road conditions and evacuation procedures, visit the Texas Department of Transportation Web site, http://www.txdot.gov/travel/hurricane.htm.