AUSTIN — U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, on Aug. 5 attached an amendment to House Resolution 1586 in hopes of preventing Texas’ $830 million share of a $10 billion pot of education stimulus dollars from being used for purposes other than education.
Doggett’s amendment, which applies to Texas and no other state, also would prevent the Texas Legislature from lowering the percentage of the state budget it uses to fund public education through fiscal year 2013.
The prospect of strings-attached federal money riled Gov. Rick Perry and other top Republican office holders. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Aug. 5 had this to say: “I’m very disappointed Congressional Democrats would hold Texas school children and teachers hostage for an unconstitutional promise. The only thing this flawed legislation guarantees is Texas public schools will miss out on nearly $1 billion in federal education funding.
“Not only is Texas constitutionally prohibited from meeting the severe restrictions placed on our state in order to receive these funds, but no other state in the nation is subject to the punitive requirements of the ‘Doggett language.’
“Today I am calling on all members of the Texas Congressional delegation to stop this Texas-bashing amendment from passing and punishing our public school children.”
The bill is scheduled for a vote on the House floor on Aug. 10.
Progress evaluations are released
The Texas Education Agency on Aug. 5 announced 78 percent of Texas school districts and 85 percent of schools met the Adequate Yearly Progress standards required by the annual federal evaluation system.
This year, 962 districts met the standards, compared to 1,000 districts or 81 percent last year.
A substantial increase in the standards caused the decline, the Texas Education Agency said. Districts may appeal their progress rating through Sept. 3.
The standards are based on:
• Participation and passing rates on state mathematics and reading/English language arts tests for grades 3 through 8, and 10;
• Graduation rates for high schools and districts; and
• Attendance rates for elementary and middle schools.
Health reform law is challenged
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is among 20 state attorneys general and governors challenging the new federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23.
The challengers’ legal brief, filed last week in a Florida U.S. district court, complains that the law unconstitutionally forces states to expand entitlement programs, such as Medicaid, and forces Americans to buy health insurance.
“By exerting such sweeping authority over Americans’ individual decisions, Congress is attempting to expand federal authority and seize powers that are restricted by the Tenth Amendment,” Abbott and the others say.
A hearing on a federal government motion to dismiss the challenge is scheduled for Sept. 14.
Bridge info sharing to improve
Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Department of Transportation are working more closely to ensure that bridges in Texas are safe, according to an Aug. 4 TxDOT news release.
Now, once bridge load posting signs have been installed or removed, an electronic notification is sent from TxDOT to DPS notifying them of the change.
The DPS enforces posted bridge weight restrictions through its commercial vehicle enforcement operations.
TxDOT oversees more than 50,000 bridges statewide and is responsible for maintaining over 80,000 miles of road.
Immunization time for students
The state health department on Aug. 6 reminded Texans that it’s time to get children vaccinated.
Students entering kindergarten and seventh grade are required to get five vaccines and they will need to be vaccinated before the first day of school.
If a student is not vaccinated, entry into school may be delayed by school administration.
To find an immunization clinic, dial 2-1-1, option #1.
Power usage hits new high
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc., the operator of most of the state’s power grid, said a new peak demand record of 63,594 megawatts was set on Aug. 4, between 4 and 5 p.m.
The previous record of 63,400 megawatts was recorded on July 13, 2009.