Spotlight Texas

Legislature OKs $563 Million Bill for Retired Teachers, Schools

The Texas House reluctantly agreed on Tuesday to a $1.5 billion cut to one of its bills that would now inject $351 million into the public education system over the next two years.

"To say I'm disappointed is an understatement," said Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, the author of House Bill 21. "The biggest disappointment that all of us have is that we were unable to find the middle ground that would make sense. But I know for a fact that the things that are in here have to be fixed."

House Bill 22 Overview and Expected Timeline for Implementation

This correspondence is to provide you with a brief overview of House Bill (HB) 22 (85th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 2017) and the expected timeline for implementation.

Medicaid Overpaid Texas $18.9 million for School-Based Health Services, Seeks Refund

Texas received $18.9 million from Medicaid for school-based health services that were billed improperly, and the federal government is seeking to get the money back.

The School Health and Related Services, or SHARS program, allows Texas school districts to request Medicaid reimbursement for providing medically necessary health services to qualified children, age 20 or younger, who have disabilities. Among other things, the services can include counseling, physical and speech therapy, transportation and nursing.

School Finance Deal Still Possible as Clock Ticks on Texas Legislature Special Session

The broad outlines of a possible deal on school finance, despite deep mistrust between the two chambers, surfaced Wednesday after the Legislature's two panels with jurisdiction over public schools showed a bit of respect for one another.

The clock is ticking, and many stumbling blocks lie ahead.

Senate Education Chair: House School Finance Plan "Not a Long-Term Solution"

The Texas Senate's education chairman said Tuesday that he would not accept a House proposal to put $1.8 billion into public schools.

During a Senate Republican Caucus news conference, Sen. Larry Taylor touted his plan to create a commission to study the school finance system over the House's plan to reform it by adding more funding. The House gave final approval to that proposal, House Bill 21, on Monday.

HISD Trustees To Meet With State Officials, Vow To Avoid School Closures

State officials are heading to HISD headquarters Thursday to discuss plans to improve the district’s chronically failing schools – or face a state take-over of the board.

As News 88.7 first reported this week, the Houston Independent School District is at risk of a state take-over as soon as next year.

With Retired Teachers' Health Care at Stake, Legislators Clash On Fixes

When David Hatcher got a blood test at his oncologist's office two summers ago, the doctor spelled out his results decisively: "The bad news is you've got leukemia. The good news: It's the kind we can treat with a pill."

A retired public school history teacher, Hatcher might soon be unable to afford the tablets that keep his chronic myeloid leukemia in check - his health care costs are set to rise, whether or not the Texas Legislature can agree in the next two weeks on a temporary fix for the retired teachers' health insurance plan.

Keller School Becomes First 'Storm Ready' Campus in Texas

A North Texas high school has been declared the first and so far only ‘storm ready’ school in the state.

But Keller's Timber Creek High School did not have to make any renovations to earn the title.

Texas Panhandle School Districts Decry School Choice Legislation

A bill that would authorize up to $60 million in grants for special needs students to attend private schools was officially referred on Wednesday to the House Committee on Public Education.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 2 late last month to create thousands of dollars’ worth of scholarships for disabled students, moving forward on a controversial school choice issue that could affect the Texas Panhandle’s educational structure.

Senate Approves Teacher Bonus, Retiree Health Bill

The Texas Senate has tentatively approved a bill on a 28-3 vote that would give many Texas teachers a bonus and reduce health care costs for retired teachers.

Sens. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston; José Rodríguez, D-El Paso; and Van Taylor, R-Plano, voted against Senate Bill 19.

She Saved Her Choking Student. The State Tried to Revoke Her License.

When Waco teacher Linda Hampton saw that one of her pre-school students had stuffed so much pizza into his mouth that he seemed to be choking, she moved quickly across the room and performed a finger-sweep, pulling the doughy gob out of his mouth.

Analysis: For Lawmakers, Like Kids, Education Can Be Very Difficult

One should avoid the word “never” when trying to describe what might happen in the Texas Legislature — even when talking about things that seem impossible.

Let’s say it is unlikely, then, that the same Texas lawmakers who couldn’t solve school finance during the regular session will work it out in the current 30-day special session, or that using public money for private education is suddenly more acceptable to them than it was a couple of months ago.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Unveils Plan for Teacher Raises

Six days before the start of the Special Session, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) held a news conference Thursday to discuss his priorities.

"I intend to pass 20 of 20 of the Governor's priorities," Patrick said. "Which are his priorities, my priorities, the people's priorities."

Tensions Between Texas Legislative Leaders Show No Signs of Cooling

Five days before the Texas Legislature is scheduled to open a special session, it is clear the relationship between the leaders of the House and Senate remains as strained as it was at the end of the regular session.

On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick used a press conference to blast fellow Republican and House Speaker Joe Straus, comparing his education funding proposals to a "Ponzi scheme," accusing him of laying the groundwork for a state income tax, and complaining that Straus won't even meet with him one-on-one to bridge their differences.

Dreamers Grateful Efforts to Repeal In-State Tuition Benefit Never Materialized

Houston is the only place Samuel Cervantes considers home. His parents brought him to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, at the age of five.

As an undocumented immigrant, Cervantes, a rising junior at the University of Texas at Austin, said he never thought college was in his future until he learned of the in-state tuition benefit afforded students like himself.

In a Year of Cuts, the Texas Legislature Boosted Financial Aid For College Students

Attempts to freeze tuition may have stalled out at the Texas Legislature this year, but lawmakers did take one quiet step toward addressing college affordability: They gave the state's biggest financial aid program a boost.

The austere state budget currently awaiting Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's signature includes a 10 percent funding hike for Texas' main method of helping needy students attend four-year colleges. That money will address the aid program's biggest shortfall - that there's not enough money to give grants to everyone who qualifies. Advocates say that's a much-needed boost as cost of college continues to rise.

Zach's Journey: Heading to High School, Blind Teen Sees Opportunities Instead of Obstacles

The students packed the auditorium, diplomas in hand, on a Thursday in late May: the newest eighth-grade graduates of Mary Immaculate Catholic School. Over cake, they and their families marked the transition from one life stage to another while reveling in memories of the past, played out on a screen high above the crowd.

As the slideshow began, Zach Thibodeaux, 14, relinquished a stack of papers to his stepfather so he could focus on holding a cup of punch and a white cane. The graduates howled and giggled as the photos traced their lives from infancy to childhood to adolescence, but Zach could see none of this.

Texas Education Commissioner Kicks Off Statewide Tour in Abilene

The Texas Education Commissioner kicked off a statewide tour in Abilene Tuesday afternoon to get the word out about a new report card designed to help parents help their kids.

Commissioner Mike Morath visited with students at AISD's Academy of Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Science, or ATEMS campus. It's his first stop on a tour across Texas to let people know about a new tool for parents.

Texas School Districts Cut Costs to Avoid Closure as State Funding Cuts Loom

Doug Rice will take over next school year as principal of a single-campus rural school district east of Amarillo, close to the Oklahoma border. There's just one problem: He's already the superintendent.

He's putting on a second hat to save money since Kelton ISD will likely lose almost half its operating budget next year. A stalemate between the Texas House and Senate crushed any hopes of lawmakers making school funding formulas more equitable and simple this legislative session. That leaves school superintendents preparing to either work with much less in their coffers or risk having to shut their doors and forcing students to transfer to other districts.





Classroom Tools

Five Years In, What's Next For DACA?

Demonstrators came from across the country to gather at the White House in support of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as toddlers and children.

Five years ago today, President Obama signed an executive order protecting them from deportation. It's known as DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Tools for Creating Stop Motion Movies

Kevin Hodgson recently updated his excellent Making Stop Motion Movies website on which he features examples of student projects and provides good information about the process of making stop motion movies. I particularly like the page about claymation movies. Looking at Kevin's site got me to revisit some of my own posts about tools for creating stop motion movies. Here are four that I have used at various times over the years.

6 Non-Teaching Books Every Teacher Should Read

A book promises the chance to escape the noise and busyness of our daily lives. In its pages we are never alone, yet we are also shut off, shut off from the thousand decisions and distractions that attack us at any moment. When we open ourselves up to a book we are embedded in the preciousness of ideas, growth, and mindful stimulation.

My Son Is In Special Education and I Want Him To Be Challenged

By the time my younger son is midway through third grade, I realize that his academic progress has stalled. He's stuck somewhere between kindergarten and first grade.

School is a struggle for him. He has a language-based learning disability, which affects how long it takes for him to process new information before he can respond.

10 Free Apps and Tools for Starting Out (and Staying) Organized

The start of a new school year is a great time to reflect on what’s really working for you and what isn’t quite cutting it. When it comes to staying organized, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s all about finding a system that works for you and picking apps or tools that you will actually use. There isn’t a tool that will work perfectly for everyone—you may love a particular feature of one tool but use another that colleagues prefer to connect and collaborate with them.

UT Harry Ransom Center Invites Applications for 2018-19 Research Fellowships

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin encourages discovery, inspires creativity, and advances understanding of the humanities for a broad and diverse audience through the preservation and sharing of its extraordinary collections. Its extensive collections provide unique insight into the creative process of writers and artists, deepening our understanding and appreciation of literature, photography, film, art, and the performing arts.

Why Kids Can't Write

On a bright July morning in a windowless conference room in a Manhattan bookstore, several dozen elementary school teachers were learning how to create worksheets that would help children learn to write.

Judith C. Hochman, founder of an organization called the Writing Revolution, displayed examples of student work. A first grader had produced the following phrase: “Plants need water it need sun to” — that is, plants need water and sun, too. If the student didn’t learn how to correct pronoun disagreement and missing conjunctions, by high school he could be writing phrases like this one: “Well Machines are good but they take people jobs like if they don’t know how to use it they get fired.” That was a real submission on the essay section of the ACT.

There's a National Teachers Hall of Fame? Who Knew?

If you've ever driven south into Kansas on Interstate 35, past rolling prairies and wheat fields, eventually you'll run into the town of Emporia, population 25,000 and home to the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

I took that drive recently, curious about what I would find but also wondering, why Emporia?

Students Can Gain Wisdom From a Senior

Across the country, youngsters in all grades are connecting with senior citizens on projects that transcend community outreach to provide students with true curricular value.

While doing research for National History Day, students in Tea McCaulla’s Florida high school stumbled upon Women’s Airforce Service Pilots and Letters from Home, a book by World War II veteran Bernice “Bee” Haydu, now 96.

A Case for Finger Counting

Teachers generally start telling children to stop counting on their fingers around the end of first grade—they’re learning to do math in their heads, and finger counting is sometimes seen as a crutch or even a sign of weak math ability.

A new British study published in Frontiers in Education suggests that this may be a mistake because finger counting seems to boost math learning when paired with number games.

Teachers With Student Debt: These Are Their Stories

Teachers have one of the lowest-paid professional jobs in the U.S. You need a bachelor's degree, which can be costly — an equation that often means a lot of student loans. We've reported on the factors that make this particular job even more vulnerable to a ton of debt, including chronically low teacher pay, the increasing pressure to get a master's degree and the many ways to repay loans or apply for loan forgiveness.

Sales Tax Holiday Upcoming

This year’s Sales Tax Holiday is Aug. 11 - 13. As in previous years, the law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced less than $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend.

Subject to the criteria explained below, all sales of qualifying items made during the holiday period qualify for the exemption, including items sold online, or by telephone or mail. Shoppers can use layaway plans to take advantage of the sales tax holiday.

Cell Towers At Schools: Godsend Or God-Awful?

School districts — hard up for cash — are turning to an unlikely source of revenue: cell towers. The multistory metal giants are cropping up on school grounds in Chicago, Milpitas, Calif., Collier County, Fla. and many other places across the country.

The big reason: money. As education budgets dwindle, districts are forming partnerships with telecom companies to allow use of their land in exchange for some of the profits.

What It’s Like To Be a Teacher With an Anxiety Disorder

We all feel anxious sometimes. Maybe it is going into a new situation such as starting a new job, or having to have a difficult conversation. The feeling of nervousness and anxiousness is completely normal, and an evolutionary necessity. However, for some people, like me, that feeling of anxiousness never goes away. You live with it day in, day out, and it can have quite a detrimental effect on your life and mental health.

National Day of the Cowboy

National Day of the Cowboy is observed annually on the fourth Saturday in July.

5 Neat Things You Can Do With Google Sheets

Once you get the hang of working with Google Sheets there are a lot of great ways to use spreadsheets as a teacher or as a student. Here's a run-down of some of my favorite things to do with Google Sheets in the classroom.

School Leaders: Top Tips For Keeping Your Morale High

Leading a school is a privilege, and a tremendous opportunity to have a positive influence – to lead in the way you think it should be done, to focus on the priorities you believe to be the right ones and to create an environment where it is possible for those you lead to be their best selves. You have the chance to make a difference to the lives of students, and of staff, on a scale unlike any other you have ever known. There’s huge reward and satisfaction in this, and, in my experience, joy.

Celebrating Best Friends, Both Real and Fictional

Today is National Best Friends Day, which has me thinking about what it means, exactly, to be a best friend. Among my closest friends, I know that I can count on them to be there for me no matter what. We laugh together until we cry, and we sometimes cry together until we're laughing again. No matter how far away from each other we live or how long it's been since we've talked, I know that we can pick back up like nothing's changed whenever we want to. And we all know each other's favorite ice cream.

Increasing Salaries So Teachers Don't Have To Become Principals

Spencer Campbell spends much of his days walking the halls of Elk Ridge Middle School, checking breezeways for kids playing hooky, redirecting foot traffic between classes and checking on substitute teachers.

Campbell is one of two assistant principals at Elk Ridge, a school just south of Salt Lake City, Utah. It's his first year in the role and he looks the part. He's in his late 30s, sharply dressed, walks briskly and carries a walkie-talkie on his belt.

Where the Teacher's Pet Sleeps in a Dog Bed

Room 125A at Public School 75 in Manhattan has all the usual trappings of an elementary school classroom. There are low tables and little chairs. There is student work on the wall, covered in crooked, wobbly letters and the occasional rainbow. There is a computer for the teacher and a colorful carpet.

And then there is the dog bed, puffy and yellow with toys burrowed in its crevices. That belongs to Maisy, a friendly beagle-Jack Russell terrier mix, who works at this public school on the Upper West Side. She commutes to school each day by subway with her human, a kindergarten teacher who carries Maisy in a large black bag.

9 TED Talks recommended by students, for students

Which TED Talks do students love? We asked TED-Ed Club Members around the world to share their favorites.







Mom Studying To Be A Dentist Celebrates First Day Of '22nd Grade' With Her Son Starting Pre-K

Parents love to photograph their kids going off to their first day of school and all of the emotions that go along with it — whether their feeling, happy, sad, nostalgic, all of the above, or anything in between.

Drive-Thru Barbecue Available at New San Antonio HEB

True Texas BBQ is located within HEB stores in eight different locations across the state. (See the list here.) Normally, Texans need to come inside of the grocery store to pick up their dinner or “party pack,” but KSAT reports that newest True Texas BBQ at “Bulverde Marketplace on the corner of Loop 1604 and Bulverde Road” will break the mold and offer a drive-thru. It’s a first for HEB.

Bird Filmed Feeding Goldfish-Here's Why

First it was the hawklet adopted by bald eagles. Then it was the lioness nursing the leopard cub. And now in the latest example of interspecies care, there’s video of a cardinal feeding goldfish.

Mom's Letter To Her Son On His First Day Of Preschool Reveals How Hard The First Drop-Off Is For Parents, Too

Saying goodbye to kids on their first day of preschool can be as hard for parents as it is for kids. But parents have to try and keep it together for their kid's sake and explain why it's a good thing they're leaving them at school — even if they're too young to fully understand it.

It's Official: Stunning Fossil Is a New Dinosaur Species

About 110 million years ago in what’s now Alberta, Canada, a dinosaur resembling a 2,800-pound pineapple ended up dead in a river.

Austin Barber Sets Up Downtown to Offer Free Haircuts to the Homeless

On the last Sunday of each month from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Roger Lopez sets up shop downtown to lend a helping hand to Austin’s homeless population. As a barber, Lopez knows the importance of a clean shave and a trim, so he offers haircuts free of charge under the underpass at 7th Street and I-35 downtown.

A+ For Teachers Anthropologie Sale

Frico Eggs: Crispy Fried Cheesy Eggs

How do you guys like your eggs? When I was little I was a straight-up scrambled egg girl. And no soft slow scramble either – nope, I LOVED those rubbery scrambled eggs that they used to serve up in those styrofoam containers at McDonalds. That was a long time ago. Now, I’m all about sunny eggs, runny yolks please. It’s funny how food tastes change. I’m pretty much a lover of all kinds of eggs now, but I still get really egg-cited (heehee sorry, not sorry!) when I see a new way to make eggs.

After Doctors Told Her She's At Risk For Alzheimer's, This 70-Year-Old Started A YouTube Channel To Document Her Life

If you think YouTube is just for millennials, my oh my are you wrong. While it is true the platform attracts lots of young creators, people of all ages and backgrounds have taken to YouTube to express their opinions, creativity, and more.

'Mountain of God' Volcano Preparing to Erupt

An active volcano in northeastern Tanzania known to the Maasai as the “Mountain of God” has been quietly rumbling—and it is showing signs that an eruption is imminent.

Meet the Coach Who Devotes His Life to a Deadly Motor Race

A deadly road race around an island in the Irish Sea draws motorcycle riders seeking a buzz they can’t get anywhere else. With the help of a former winner, two local rivals prepare to compete for the first time.

How Filmmakers Captured a Daring Escape From ISIS Territory

This week, U.S.-backed forces launched an attack to retake an ISIS stronghold in Syria, beginning what is expected to be a long and difficult fight in the midst of international terror attacks and diplomatic discord. In a new documentary, Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS, filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested examine the horrific conditions created by ongoing violence in the region, and how its effects reverberate around the world.

Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Recipe

Something magical happens when you bake spaghetti - it turns into a whole other dish with flavors that are completely different. If you have leftover bolognese or meat sauce on hand, try this. You really can't go wrong with cheese, noodles, and sauce baked to perfection.

Beached Baby Dolphin is Saved on Texas Gulf Coast

A stranded baby dolphin was given a second chance at life thanks to a good Samaritan in Texas. Spotting the baby floundering in the surf, the gentleman, whose video of the incident was aired on the Weather Channel, gently assisted the dolphin back out into the ocean without causing additional strain to the animal. Posted to the channel’s Facebook account on June 3, it was clear that the animal was in need of some help.

Fort Worth's Weston Gardens Features English Styling with a Texas Twist

Amongst 17 acres of peaceful sanctuary, amidst evergreens, ferns, birds, and creatures, framed by an assortment of blooms and supple grasses, sits Weston Gardens in Bloom in Fort Worth. A year-round natural space to visit and “get away from it all,” these gardens offer up a remarkable beauty in springtime in particular. Dedicated to plant species that are native to Texas and acclimated to their environs, their lush landscape has been developed in the historic English style of demonstration gardens, with a Texas twist.

This Dad Raised Enough Money To Pay Off An Entire School District's Lunch Debt

When Seattle father of three Jeffery Lew heard about the "lunch shaming" that was occurring in schools around the country, he decided to take action.

The World's Softest Wool Comes From This Remote Isle

At one-and-a-half miles in diameter and home to just 55 people, Fair Isle is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. Mati Vetrillon lives in a small, weather-worn stone house on the island where she knits and sells Fair Isle sweaters, continuing a tradition passed on by generations.

Chris Cornell: 15 Essential Songs

The singer's most memorable moments: Soundgarden's grunge classics, Audioslave's hits and his poetic solo material.

Philly Cheesesteak Recipe

I feel like every city wants a food item to claim as their own. Chicago has pizza —but then again, so does New York— Boston has clam chowder, and Philadelphia has cheesesteaks. I don’t know how a city gets to lay claim to a specific food item, but I do know that people will defend said food items with a fierceness that is usually reserved for first born children.

The Amazing Dinosaur Found (Accidentally) by Miners in Canada

On the afternoon of March 21, 2011, a heavy-equipment operator named Shawn Funk was carving his way through the earth, unaware that he would soon meet a dragon.

That Monday had started like any other at the Millennium Mine, a vast pit some 17 miles north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, operated by energy company Suncor. Hour after hour Funk’s towering excavator gobbled its way down to sands laced with bitumen—the transmogrified remains of marine plants and creatures that lived and died more than 110 million years ago. It was the only ancient life he regularly saw. In 12 years of digging he had stumbled across fossilized wood and the occasional petrified tree stump, but never the remains of an animal—and certainly no dinosaurs.

Newly Discovered Species Resembles Yoda, Just In Time For 'Star Wars Day

May 4 is the unofficial "May the fourth be with you" Star Wars holiday, While many celebrate by dressing up as their favorite characters, re-watching the films, and paying tribute to the films on social media, conservation groups are using the day to announce a newly discovered species of tarsiers, a nocturnal primate.

Center Point: Discover a Secret Treasure in the Center of the Hill Country

Located in the heart of the Hill Country lies Center Point, Texas, one of the largest unincorporated communities in the state of Texas with all the charm expected of the picturesque towns you come across.

Mom And Her Six Sons Donate 17 Feet Of Hair In Amazing Act Of Solidarity

When the Kannisto family from Buffalo, New York decided to grow out their hair, it wasn't for style. The family decided to donate their locks to Children with Hair Loss, an organization providing hair replacements for kids with medically related hair loss.

Sinfully Sweet Viral Video on Texas Sheet Cake Cookies 'Stirs Up' Recipe Debate

A recipe video regarding the tasty treat that is the Texas Sheet Cake – made into a cookie – was posted on the 12 Tomatoes Facebook account and caused quite a stir (in more ways than one)! The video entails the seemingly innocent process of making the cookies, complete with all of the recipe details. And that’s when the great debate began.





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