Spotlight Texas


House Leaders Push For Withdrawing $1 Billion More From State Savings Account

While Senate leaders have been wary of any calls to tap the state's savings account, known as the Rainy Day Fund, Texas House leaders on Thursday proposed withdrawing an additional $1 billion on top of their earlier proposal to pay for the needs of a growing state during a tight budget year.

The proposal from state Rep. John Zerwas, a Richmond Republican and the House's chief budget writer, would withdraw about $2.4 billion from the Rainy Day Fund as part of a supplemental budget to pay bills coming due for programs like Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor and disabled, and to pay for repairs to state-run institutions including mental hospitals and the School for the Deaf.


Bills Filed to Eliminate TRS Defined Benefit Plan!

As the 85th Legislative Session continues to move at breakneck speed, the Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) leaders are meeting with Senators and Representatives on a variety of urgent matters, including TRS-Care and now, the move to do away with the TRS defined benefit plan!

Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) has filed two bills that may convert the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) defined benefit plan—which offers a lifetime benefit for our dedicated Texas educators—to a defined contribution (401k-style) or hybrid plan for new and future education employees!


Student Discovers Prehistoric Shark Tooth Near Plano West High

When several Plano West High School students dug in a nearby creek bed with their biology class, they made a rare archaeological find.

Junior Lillia Blasius and senior Ashley Chanpong chose to search where none of the other students went, and it paid off, the school's student paper, BluePrints, reports.


Texas Teachers Head To Austin To Lobby Lawmakers

Teachers from across Texas will spend the first day of their Spring Break lobbying lawmakers in Austin. There is a group traveling from Dallas on Monday, boarding a bus and taking a field trip to the State Capitol, to join other teachers from all over the state.

The trip has become a biennial event where teachers voice their concerns to state legislators. Educators this year are worried about the privatization of schools through vouchers, something that is being pushed by the nation's new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.


Ted Cruz Sends School Choice Letter To Every Republican in Texas Legislature

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is wading deeper into the school choice battle at the Texas Capitol.

Cruz, who does not often weigh in on specific legislation in Austin, sent a letter to every fellow Republican in the Texas House and Senate on Thursday urging them to make Texas the next state that gives parents taxpayer dollars to send their children to private or religious schools, or educate them at home.


Lawmakers To Take Another Look At Cutting Back Free Tuition Program For Veterans' Kids

Two years after efforts failed in the Texas Legislature to pare back a program that gives free college tuition to the children of military veterans, state lawmakers are setting the stage to take another crack at the increasingly expensive benefit.

Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, the new House Higher Education Committee chairman, filed a bill Thursday that would significantly shrink the number of students who qualify for the Hazlewood program. The measure, House Bill 3766, appears to address universities' complaints that the costs of the program have spiraled out of control since it expanded in 2009 to include benefits for veterans' children.


Without A Fix, Teacher Healthcare Fund Is Empty Next Year

This session, the Texas House Committee on Pensions is trying to figure out how to dig out of a billion dollar hole. If major reforms are not made to teacher retirement benefits, the system will run out of money.

"Well first of all, when I started school it was because of a teacher. My first grade teacher Miss White," said Kim Henry, who worked as an art teacher for 20 years. "Generally you need a second job if you're going to be a teacher and you're single and especially living in Austin, Texas now."


After Huberty's Comments, School Choice Advocates Lobby State Republican Party

School choice activists are lobbying the Republican Party of Texas to "censure" a top House lawmaker's opposition to granting Texas families subsidies to fund private school tuition for their kids.

A draft resolution submitted to the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) on Thursday morning criticizes House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, for that position — and for remarks he made at a Texas Tribune event on Tuesday. In those remarks, Huberty said he thought school choice legislation being proposed in the Senate would go nowhere this legislative session, despite being a top priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.


State Lawmakers Begin The Work Of School Finance Reform

House public education leaders are digging into a legislative effort deemed a priority by House Speaker Joe Straus this session, public school finance reform.

Ahead of the start of the session, Speaker Straus, a San Antonio Republican made it clear, reforming how the state funds public schools is at the top of his legislative agenda.


Dallas County Schools Has $40 Million Less Than Anticipated

Dallas County Schools is not a traditional school district.

It doesn’t operate schools, despite having an elected school board.

DCS is the largest provider for bus transportation for area school districts. With close to 3,000 employees, including bus drivers and crossing guards, DCS operates on a $180 million annual budget.


UT/TT Poll: Education Is Pretty Good, But Texans Have Some Suggestions

More Texans than not believe the quality of the state’s public education system is pretty good, but it’s not a majority point of view, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

While 47 percent said schools are either excellent or good, 42 percent said they are either not very good or terrible. Excellent and terrible rankings were even, with each at 8 percent. Texans who have kids in schools have a higher regard for the quality of public education in the state: 56 percent rated the schools excellent or good, while 40 percent said they were not very good or terrible.


UT/TT Poll: How Texas Voters Rank The State Legislature's Priorities

Before they cut programs or services, lawmakers should dip into the state’s savings account, according to a plurality of Texans in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.


Schools Look to Be a Haven for Immigrant Students Amid Fears of ICE Arrests

About 20 men and women sat in the cafeteria with their children at Rodriguez Elementary in South Austin after school Friday, listening to Yunuen Alvarado with the local teacher's union, Education Austin.

“If an immigration officer goes to your door what you have to remember is you don’t open that door," Alvarado said in English and Spanish. “ICE can only enter your home if they have a warrant signed from a judge from a criminal court.”


Feds to Probe Central Texas School Districts Over Special Ed Practices

The U.S. Department of Education will visit a dozen Texas school districts, including three in Central Texas, this month to examine practices for identifying and educating students with disabilities.

The list includes the Austin, Leander and Del Valle school districts.


House Budget Proposal Would Defund Gov. Abbott's Pre-K Program

Gov. Greg Abbott is facing strong resistance in the Legislature to his plan to increase funding this legislative session for high-quality pre-K.

The latest House budget proposal would cut all funding for a pre-K grant program that Abbott wants to see doubled in the next biennium. The House base budget publicly released in January had allocated $118 million for the program, but by the time that budget was officially filed last week, all funding for the program had been cut.


Here's What The Texas School Choice Bill Means in Plain English

For well over a decade, conservatives have been trying to install a school choice program in Texas. Last week, state Sen. Larry Taylor, a Friendswood Republican, filed Senate Bill 3, this legislative session's leading school choice bill.

The bill would create two new state programs aimed at subsidizing the costs associated with private school tuition and homeschooling for thousands of Texas schoolchildren. The first half of the bill proposes an education savings account program, which would allow parents to draw money from state-funded debit cards for tuition and other expenses. The second half of the bill creates a tax credit scholarship program, which would gives tax credits to certain businesses if they make donations toward students' private school tuition.


Southside ISD OKs $59.8 Million Bond Proposal, Meets New Conservator

The Southside Independent School District board of trustees approved a $59.8 million bond question for the May 6 ballot during the same Thursday night meeting that the Texas Education Agency introduced the district’s new conservator and produced a timeline for taking over the district.

The bond projects total $58.1 million, including contingency, but trustees rounded up to $59,750,000 for the ballot question. The additional $1.6 million is for unforeseen costs or an increase in market prices, but the district will not sell bonds beyond what is needed for the approved projects, spokeswoman Sylvia Rincon said.


About That Bill Abolishing The Department Of Education

Tuesday was a busy day for education policy.

Betsy DeVos, you may have heard, was confirmed as secretary of education with an unprecedented tiebreaker vote.


 

 

 

 

 

Classroom Tools


Applying For College Aid Just Got Harder

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is down.

If those words don't send a shiver up your spine, it means you're not a high school senior or college student rushing to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.


'Uber for Substitutes' Promises to Enrich Learning When the Teacher Is Away

Do students receive the same quality of learning when their teacher is out?

One veteran teacher, frustrated with the amount of movies and busy work she saw in classes with substitute teachers, has come up with a solution that Harvard Ed. magazine refers to as "Uber for substitute teachers." Her startup, Parachute Teachers, is a way to support high-quality substitutes to do more than pass out worksheets or struggle to implement a hastily prepared lesson plan.


TRTA Day at the Capitol On March 29

TRTA will host a full day of legislative grassroots advocacy on Wednesday, March 29! Our “Day at the Capitol” event is open to all Convention attendees as well as any member who wishes to travel to Austin for this purpose only.


Helping Immigrant Students Catch Up, Fast - It Takes A Whole School

Even in a bean bag chair, 15-year-old Michelle sits up straight. With her hands on her knees, she looks down at the ground, smiling as she talks about her dreams of being a writer and a military doctor.

As a high school freshman, Michelle is already accomplishing a lot: She's president of the student government association at the International High School at Langley Park. She also writes for the school newspaper and plays basketball. To protect her privacy, we're only using using her first name.


Young Adult Novels That Teach a Growth Mindset

Heroes in books and movies captivate kids, many of whom could teach a master class on these characters. The fresh perspective teachers can offer is how students themselves can and should be heroes.

As advocates of growth mindset, we can teach children that heroism does not require obsession with perfection or product. We should show students that we also value process and progress. Heroic stories can help: They teach students about mitigating mistakes, learning from loss, and overcoming adversity, all of which are key elements of growth mindset.


Parent Alert! Your Child Just Skipped Class

My bank sends me a text alert when my account balance is low. My wireless company sends me a text alert when I'm about to use up my monthly data. Somebody — I guess the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? —sends me a text alert when it's going to rain a whole lot.

A few clever researchers said: "Hey! What if we could send text alerts to parents when students miss class or don't turn in their homework?" And what do you know, it worked.


The Deadline For TRTF Classroom Grants Is March 16 At 5PM

Today’s classroom teachers use a variety of tools to educate children, but due to lack of sufficient funding, many find new technology items out of reach. The Classroom Assistance Grants program helps teachers improve the learning environment for students by giving $500 towards projects, learning platforms, software, and much more. Since 2008, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation has provided $56,000 in teacher grants to active educators all across Texas. Our nonprofit is dedicated to improving the lives of both children and teachers in public education.


The Deadline For Beginning Teacher Scholarships Is March 16 At 5PM

The Beginning Teacher Scholarship will reimburse applicants for certification tests and test results, and provide funds to help the applicant purchase materials for his or her classroom during his or her first year of teaching. TRTF will award ten $750 scholarships for the 2017-2018 school year to candidates who are relatives of an active member of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), who have earned or are earning an undergraduate or master’s degree in education at a Texas university or college, and have pursued or are pursuing their teaching certification exam.


English Language Learners: How Your State Is Doing

About 1 out of every 10 public school students in the United States right now is learning to speak English. They're called ELLs, for "English Language Learners."

There are nearly 5 million of them, and educating them — in English and all the other subjects and skills they'll need — is one of the biggest challenges in U.S. public education today.


Jaws And Literacy: Engaging Pupils With Film Scores

Think tension. Think Music. Think a knife and a shower curtain. Think a rocking boat and glinting teeth...

When teaching my pupils about tension in narrative, I turn to film scores. We’ve all been there: a darkened cinema, the heavy breathing of a potential victim, the slow building music, an increase in heart rate. The scene reaches its climax and the victim is caught by the ghost/vampire/serial killer/rabbit. Now play the scene without the music. Does it have the same impact? Does your heart beat in quite the same way? Why does a building “duh duh…duh duh” have us sprinting for the shore?


Nominations Open for 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year

The Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), facilitator of the Texas Teacher of the Year (TOY) program, has opened nominations for the 2018 Texas TOY program. All Texas public school districts and charters may submit nominations of eligible teachers to their respective Regional Education Service Centers by June 7, 2017.


5 Ways Teachers Are Fighting Fake News

As the national attention to fake news and the debate over what to do about it continue, one place many are looking for solutions is in the classroom.

Since a recent Stanford study showed that students at practically all grade levels can't determine fake news from the real stuff, the push to teach media literacy has gained new momentum. The study showed that while students absorb media constantly, they often lack the critical thinking skills needed to tell fake news from the real stuff.


Kindness: A Lesson Plan

National Random Acts of Kindness Day, February 17, is a day when acts of kindness are encouraged and celebrated by people and organizations throughout this country. February is also the month when many celebrate Valentine’s Day—a day devoted to love. Young students pass out small greeting cards bought in bulk to all their classmates, and older students have “Heartgrams” delivered to each other during the class period before lunch time.


National School Breakfast Week March 6-10

Mark your calendar for National School Breakfast Week! This year’s theme, “Take the School Breakfast Challenge,” encourages parents, students and school officials to start their morning with a healthy breakfast.


The Number Of Hungry And Homeless Students Rises Along With College Costs

There's no way to avoid it. As the cost of college grows, research shows that so does the number of hungry and homeless students at colleges and universities across the country.

Still, many say the problem is invisible to the public.


How Betsy DeVos Could Reshape National Education Policy

The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as as education secretary Tuesday, but not without significant political division and an outpouring of public opposition. Audie Cornish talks with Lisa Desjardins about the confirmation battle that DeVos faced, then discusses what her confirmation means for policymakers and schools with Emma Brown of The Washington Post.


Deadline Alert! Short Story Contest With Scope Magazine And Lisa Yee

Help us spread the word! Scope, Scholastic’s award-winning print and digital Language Arts resource for middle school classrooms, has teamed up with beloved author Lisa Yee for an exciting new student fiction contest.

Here’s the scoop: Lisa Yee has written three first lines to stories that don’t exist. Students pick their favorite line and use it to write a short story of their own. The winning student will get $100 and his or her teacher will get a free year’s subscription to Scope PLUS a class set of Lisa Yee’s wonderful novel Warp Speed.


Not All Fun And Games: New Guidelines Urge Schools To Rethink Recess

What's the best time for students to have recess? Before lunch, or after? What happens if it rains? If students are misbehaving, is it a good idea to punish them by making them sit out recess?

Those are just a few of the issues addressed in new guidelines designed to help schools have good recess. The recommendations come from a group called SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) America and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


 

 

Breakroom


5 Food And Drink Habits That Legitimize Your Texan-ness

Yes, Texas has foods from around the world (most of which can be bought in a four block radius in Houston alone). Yes, we take Tex-Mex quite seriously. And yes, we sputter when someone says they don’t want sweet tea. These are just some of the food/drink quirks about us that we’ve come to accept as a norm, not to mention a blessing! But here are five food and drink habits that clearly prove your level of Texan-ness – because if you’ve said “Huh?” to any of these, you’re not even on the scale!


Do You Even Remember The Real Colors Of These Logos?

A quick test of your brand knowledge.


Nine Female Adventure Photographers Who Push the Limits

What does it take to be an adventure photographer? You need stamina, expert skills in a sport, and the ability to work under extreme conditions, often with a team. You’re the last to bed and the first to rise. Your free time is spent downloading and organizing thousands of photos and videos. The role can be both physically and creatively draining.


St. Patrick's Day Layered Rainbow Jello Recipe

Is there anything more magical than rainbow jello? I remember being so excited when my mom used to make this for us when we were kids. Of course, she didn’t really do whole rainbows, just 2 or three colors. I have fond memories of me trying to peel apart the layers perfectly.


When Only One Kid Showed Up To Her 6th Birthday, The Internet Came To The Rescue

Kinley Montgomery was all set to celebrate her sixth birthday with a princess-themed party at a bowling alley with her friends. Her mom and grandma had rented a room and filled it with balloons, cake, and goodie bags.

But when it came time for the party, only Kinley's friend Jayla showed up.


President Bush's Powerful Veteran Portraits

During his first in-studio appearance, President George W. Bush discussed his admiration for veterans, the meaning behind his collection of portraits, and his newest furry family member.


Seven Alien 'Earths' Found Orbiting Nearby Star

Seven rocky planets orbiting a nearby star may be roughly the size of Earth and could even be right for water—and maybe life—to adorn their surfaces, researchers announced Wednesday.


Cranberry Lemon Loaf Recipe

We’re back! Home, that is. We’ve been away for just under 3 months and it feels both odd and awesome to be home. Strangely, we’re still figuring out which light switches turn on which lights and we are both very, very jet-lagged. Me more so than Mike, but I actually love jet lag so maybe I’ll stick around on Japan time for a little while longer?


Shaquille O'Neal Comes In With A Heartwarming Assist During NBA All-Star Game Fundraiser

Basketball legends of the past and present teamed up to honor the late sportscaster Craig Sager during the NBA's All-Star Weekend on Saturday in New Orleans. After Eric Gordon claimed victory in the Three-Point Contest, TNT broadcaster Ernie Johnson announced that in honor of Sager, for the next minute, every three-point shot made would equal a $10,000 donation to the SagerStrong Foundation.


Who Was the Hill Country's Legendary Hondo Crouch?

With a name like Hondo, he must have established the town of Hondo, Texas, right? Wrong. Hondo Crouch is the guy who made Luckenbach, Texas famous enough for a songwriter to write about the town. Hondo didn’t launch the tiny Luckenbach. A few Germans did that back in the 1800’s, but Hondo Crouch branded it.


Letting Loose In The Library

Socially struggling students have historically sought solace in the silence and solitude of their high school libraries. “It was definitely silent,” Chimacum (WA) High School Principal Whitney Meissner said of her high school's library during the mid-1980s.


Teacher Has Personalized Handshakes With Every One of His Students

Barry White, Jr., a fifth grade English teacher at Ashley Park PreK-8 School in Charlotte, North Carolina, has an elaborate, personalized handshake with every one of his students. Every. Single. One.


This Teacher's Clever Classroom Game Helps Kids Think About World Peace

Virginia public school teacher John Hunter has a unique tool that he uses to teach his students, but it's what he's teaching them with it that could change the world.

Hunter's invented what he calls "The World Peace Game:" a multilevel board game of sorts that he uses as an interactive, immersive way to teach kids about world problems in an effort to get them to think about ways to solve them.


Photos of a Dictator's Peaceful Downfall, 30 Years On

“Housewife.”

That's the occupation that Corazon Aquino listed 30 years ago when she registered to run for president of the Philippines in 1986. She was a political neophyte who stepped forward to challenge a strongman widely believed to have been involved in the assassination of her husband, opposition leader Senator Benigno S. “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos had hastily called snap elections in a bid to strengthen his hold on office after months of political turmoil that followed the killing in 1983.


'Donnie Darko' Director Hints At Sequel

Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly has responded to suggestions that there could be future activity in the franchise.


Malaria And The Silent Spring


Warm and Cozy Beef Bourguignon

There’s something extra cozy about coming in from the cold to a huge pot of something delicious bubbling away on the stove. It’s been extra cold here in Tokyo. The other day, we went to a pottery fair and froze our butts off looking at all the gorgeous pieces. I felt bad for the vendors – at least we were able to move into the sunny patches and warm up for a bit.


7 Practical Ways To Eat Healthier This Week

Swaps and snacks to power you through the week.


Rare Ruby Seadragon Caught on Video for First Time

In a gem of a find, scientists have filmed the ruby seadragon, a brilliantly colored fish related to seahorses, in the wild for the first time.


Nintendo Switch Off to Wobbly Start as Pricing, Timing Unveiled

Nintendo Co.’s new Switch gaming console is off to an underwhelming start.

The new machine, a tablet-sized device with wireless controllers that can be used anywhere but also connects to TVs, will go on sale March 3 at a price of $300, with a brand-new Zelda game as its launch title. None of that, however, was enough to convince investors that it will be a big moneymaker for the Kyoto-based company, whose shares fell 5.8 percent to 23,750 yen after Nintendo executives held a presentation in Tokyo on Friday.


Watch This Father And Son Start Their Day Together With A Positive Morning Affirmation Pledge

Many students recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning as soon as they get to school. One second-grader, Joshua Williams, begins his day with a pledge of allegiance to himself. "It just lays the foundation and the expectations for what he is to do and become," Joshua's father, Jenabu Williams, told A Plus.


Here's How You Defrost Your Windscreen In Super Fast Time

I watched by housemate defrosting his car windscreen using his hands for a good 10 minutes this morning out of my living room window, and boy did he not look to be having fun.

I mean I'm usually a fan of a bit of schadenfreude, but even I felt sorry for the guy. Why didn't he just get one of those scrapers out?


29 Times a Student's Test Answer Made Us LOL


Chris Pratt Pretended To Mess Up a Magic Trick And Left Jennifer Lawrence Dumbfounded

Chris Pratt appeared on BBC1’s Graham Norton Show with his Passengers co-star Jennifer Lawrence.

Norton handed Pratt a set of cards and asked him to do some magic.


 

 


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