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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Graduation rate holds high spot on list of state concerns
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 • Posted July 20, 2010

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry is proposing an initiative to provide a business tax credit while helping working Texans earn a diploma or GED.

While in El Paso on July 13, Perry said the initiative, if passed by the Legislature, will provide a tax incentive to employers who grant their employees two hours a week of paid time off to return to school or study for their GED with extra incentives to follow upon completion.

Over the next two-year budget cycle, the proposal would grant an estimated $15 million in sales tax credits, Perry said, adding, “A single dropout is one dropout too many, so we must continue pursuing sensible education options that give every Texan a shot at a better life.”

On the topic of high school dropouts, the Texas Education Agency in a July 12 news release, quoted a private study that says, “Texas stands out for its coherent and far-reaching strategy to put dropouts and struggling students at the center of high school reform.”

The study, Six Pillars of Effective Dropout Prevention and Recovery, will be released later this summer by the Boston, Mass.-based non-profit, Jobs for the Future.

In other education news, Bill White, Democratic gubernatorial nominee, spoke at the National Council of La Raza’s annual conference on July 12 in San Antonio. White said, “Texas is the battleground for a great fight for our nation’s future.”

Noting that the majority of young children in Texas are Hispanic and one in 10 public school children in the nation live in Texas, White said the future of Texas and of the nation “depends on our ability to equip those young people with the skills and training to compete for good jobs, jobs with a future, in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

Scott: 80% graduate on time

The class of 2009 posted an 80.6 percent four-year, on-time graduation rate, Education Commissioner Robert Scott said on July 16.

“Texas is aggressively working to increase the graduation rate. Our efforts are paying off and we are receiving national attention for this effort,” Scott said.

Texas Education Agency statistics also show the four-year dropout rate fell from 11.4 percent for the Class of 2007 to 10.5 percent for the Class of 2008.

Agency in contract dispute

The Texas Department of Information Resources on July 16 issued a Notice to Cure asserting that IBM is in breach of its seven-year data service contract signed with the state in 2006 for $863 million.

A statement issued by the agency says the Notice to Cure is its response to repeated performance failures over an extended period of time, and follows months of unsuccessful attempts to find a collaborative solution with IBM.

The notice gives IBM 30 days to remedy identified deficiencies.

Gov. supports Arizona brief

Gov. Perry on July 14 issued a statement in support of Attorney General Greg Abbott’s federal court brief in which nine states participated.

Abbott and attorneys general of those states cosigned the brief in favor of a new Arizona state law allowing law enforcement to stop and detain a person who fails to present official citizenship documents on demand. The law is to take effect July 29 but the Obama administration has filed an injunction to invalidate it.

“The federal government has failed to secure our borders as drug activity and murder rates soar in many border communities, Perry said. “States are left with no choice. Until the federal government secures the border, I expect more states to legislate in an effort to protect their citizens.”

Panel scolds high-level judge

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct on July 16 reprimanded Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Sharon Keller but did not say she should be removed from her position as presiding judge.

Charges were brought against Keller because the courthouse closed at 5 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2007, as defense attorneys were attempting to file a last-minute a death row appeal for state prison inmate Michael Wayne Richard.

A few hours after Keller’s office closed, Richard was executed by lethal injection in 2007 for the 1986 rape and slaying of a Houston-area nurse.

Pursuant to the commission's ruling, Keller faces no further punishment.

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