Spotlight Texas

Texas Education Board Tentatively Votes to Change High School Biology Standards
Texas Education Board Tentatively Votes to Change High School Biology Standards

The Texas State Board of Education tentatively voted to remove language in high school biology standards that would have required students to challenge evolutionary science.

Currently, the curriculum requires students to "evaluate" scientific explanations for the origins of DNA and the complexity of certain cells, which some have argued could open the door to teaching creationism. Wednesday's vote, which had been preceded by a lengthy and contentious debate in recent months, would change how science teachers approach such topics in the classroom. (Update, April 21: The State Board of Education took a final vote Friday to approve the edited biology standards, agreeing to exclude the word "evaluate.")
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Texas Parents Fear Being Outed For Seeking Vaccine Exemptions
Texas Parents Fear Being Outed For Seeking Vaccine Exemptions

If schools were required to reveal more detailed information about how many students have vaccine exemptions, some fear families that choose not to vaccinate their kids might be subject to bullying, harassment, violence and death threats.

House Public Health Committee members heard multiple stories over three hours on Tuesday evening from parents and children echoing fears of increased discrimination if House Bill 2249 were to pass. The bill would require the Texas Department of State Health Services to report every other year on vaccine-preventable outbreaks and how many students at public schools have vaccine exemptions.
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Texas Education Agency Launches Portal Showcasing Outstanding Educators
Texas Education Agency Launches Portal Showcasing Outstanding Educators

The state's commissioner of education on Wednesday announced the Texas Education Agency has established a website showcasing educator profiles.

The site at www.tea.texas.gov/iamtxed features all educator profiles published in the agency’s #IAmTXEd social media campaign. Launched in December 2016, the campaign collects and shares ongoing success stories of Texas educators whose work is leading to greater student outcomes and achievements, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath said. The social media posts are shared statewide each Thursday via the TEA’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

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Texas Mumps Cases Hit 20-Year High
Texas Mumps Cases Hit 20-Year High

Mumps cases have hit a 20-year high in Texas and the highly contagious virus is infecting spring break travelers to popular beaches, state health officials said Wednesday.

The virus is rarely deadly but it can cause discomfort as salivary glands swell up. It can also cause deafness and, very rarely, dangerous encephalitis, or swelling of the brain.
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Slap to Teachers
Slap to Teachers

Imagine a life of service with barely adequate pay and thin retirement benefits - it's not one many of us would embrace. But lucky for most across our state who have been educated in a public school classroom, thousands upon thousands chose such a life when they made the decision to teach.

With the state's health care plan for retired teachers in precarious financial condition, and a Legislature that has yet to fully address the problem, that decision now likely seems like so much folly. The failure also is a disgraceful statement about lawmakers' priorities.
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Waco ISD Sees Positive Signs in Preventing Teacher Turnover
Waco ISD Sees Positive Signs in Preventing Teacher Turnover

Waco Independent School District officials say they are seeing signs of success in their work to tackle high teacher turnover rates.

Waco ISD's teacher turnover rate is the best it has been in four years, according to recently released Texas Academic Performance Report data from the Texas Education Agency.
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Dan Patrick Asked For A House Vote On School Choice. He Got It.
Dan Patrick Asked For A House Vote On School Choice. He Got It.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has challenged the House to at least take a vote on the Senate's "private school choice" bill, one of his priorities for the Texas legislative session.

Early on during Thursday's marathon budget discussion, House representatives showed him that vote would probably emerge as an overwhelming "no."
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Five Ways You Can Influence Texas Lawmakers
Five Ways You Can Influence Texas Lawmakers

Voters don't like Congress. Only about 40 percent of the country approves of the job the president is doing. And, because of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on elections, people feel like their voices don't count as much as a large campaign donation.

That sentiment may explain the question we got from Molly Vladyka of Kyle for our TXDecides project, which asks folks across Texas what questions they have about state government:

I know lawmakers are voted in by us, the voters, but is there any REAL way to influence their decision and make my voice heard?
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Texas Senate Passes Private School Choice Bill
Texas Senate Passes Private School Choice Bill

Texas senators spent hours on Thursday questioning how a "private school choice" bill would hold private schools accountable or help students with disabilities before voting to give it final passage, 18-13.

They voted out a floor substitute of Senate Bill 3 that limits the scope of the two public programs proposed to subsidize private school tuition. The version passed by the upper chamber would limit eligibility for the programs to students who have attended a public school for at least a year, prevent incoming kindergarteners from participating and would exclude counties with populations under 285,000 from participating unless 5 percent of registered voters petition the county for access.
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Abbott: 'Texas Will Fix' Its Embattled Special Education System
Abbott: 'Texas Will Fix' Its Embattled Special Education System

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suggested over the weekend that he supports an effort to increase funding, training and transparency in special education, including by permanently ending the state's de facto cap on the percentage of students who can receive services.

"Texas will fix flaws in special education beginning this week," Abbott wrote Saturday on Twitter along with a link to a story about the effort and a hearing on the legislation scheduled for Tuesday. "We'll get this done this session."

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