Texas

News, policy discussions, and major events happening in or related to Texas, told from an Austin perspective

In Texas, Rural Teachers Face A Big Pay Gap

Jan 29, 2019
Will Burney

From Texas Standard:

Texas ranks 28th in teacher salaries, according to the most recent data. Teachers here make about $7,000 less than the national average. But that could change, with some legislators and state leaders talking about an across-the-board raise.

Sounds great, right? Well, maybe not for rural teachers, who can lag significantly behind their urban and suburban counterparts, compensation-wise.

Netflix

From Texas Standard:

Most people know Bill Nye the Science Guy. Well, Texas has its own science booster of sorts, but she is what the Dallas Observer called "the hipper, more accessible Bill Nye for the digital generation."

Sahana Srinivasan is a University of Texas at Austin senior who was born in Houston, raised in Dallas and is the daughter of engineers. Her Netflix science show "Brainchild" has made her one of the fastest-rising young celebrities in streaming TV.

Pixabay

From Texas Standard:

Not since the heady days of the dot-com boom more than 20 years ago has Austin witnessed so much venture capital cash invested in a single year. $1.33 billion in venture funding was invested in companies in and around the Capital City in 2018. Similar investments are being made statewide. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Texas companies landed $2.2 billion in VC cash. Are happy days here again? The situation appears to be a bit more complicated than it was in the past.  

Pixabay

From Texas Standard:

The so-called silver tsunami – the idea that as America's Baby Boomer generation ages, the country will change dramatically as a result – will likely affect our economy as well as our health care system, and other things. So what's being done to prepare for it?

Montinique Monroe for KUT

The Texas Secretary of State says nearly 100,000 people on the state's voter rolls are not U.S. citizens.

In an advisory today, Secretary of State David Whitley told voter registrars that the Texas Department of Public Safety has identified as many as 95,000 non-U.S. citizens who have a registration record attached to their name. The agency estimates as many as 58,000 of those people have voted "in one or more Texas elections." 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

What started Friday as a public State Preservation Board hearing on where to place a controversial Confederate plaque that was recently removed from the Texas Capitol quickly turned into a heated debate over whether the marker should’ve been taken down in the first place.

Two weeks prior, the board voted unanimously to remove the “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque, which falsely states that the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery,” from its location near the Capitol rotunda.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUTX

From Texas Standard:

Colorado rancher Michael Martin Murphey was inducted into the Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame earlier this month. Why? Well, Murphey has a bit of a history with Texas music.

Lynda Gonzalez/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Ever since two important cases struck down gun restrictions in Washington, D.C. and Chicago – rulings that essentially protected gun ownership in the home – a question has remained as to whether it's legal to carry guns in public. But now, the Supreme Court is planning to review a case dealing with that very question; it's known by the shorthand "New York State Rifle."

Adam Winkler is a professor at UCLA School of Law who specializes in American constitutional law and the Supreme Court. Winkler says the case challenges a New York City ordinance that limits where people with permitted guns can bring them into public; they can bring them to specified gun ranges, for example.

A screenshot from Hays County's emergency preparedness video for young children.

From Texas Standard:

The possibility of an emergency at a school isn’t an idea most of us like to dwell on. But as schools continue to be targets for those intent on causing widespread harm, training teachers and kids on what to do “just in case” has become common practice.

But though it’s common, that training is hardly standardized across Texas – or even at different schools within the same county. That’s why one Texas county decided to take the lead on designing a program to get everyone on the same page – that includes even the very youngest students.

Flickr/HASA HQ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

We have talked about the influence Texas lost when senior members of the U.S. House retired or lost re-election bids. But what about the freshman members who replaced them? On what committees did they land, and does a freshman committee assignment have any influence on that lawmaker's trajectory in politics? And while we're at it, what will the elevation of two non-freshman Texans, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Will Hurd, mean for the state?

Paul Fabrizio, professor of political science at McMurry University in Abilene, says Colin Allred, a Democratic freshman from Dallas, scored seats on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee and Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Screenshot from Twitter/@JohnCornyn (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was in Dallas Tuesday for a roundtable discussion on a new federal law targeting human traffickers and supporting victims. "This is modern-day slavery,” he said during the meeting. “Young women primarily being held against their will being required to provide sex to people who purchase those services."

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

An Austin man named Kyle Prall is currently in federal court, facing over a dozen charges that range from mail and wire fraud to money laundering. Officials allege he stole over $500,000 by soliciting campaign donations; he created web sites and literature supposedly promoting Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, among others, and then pocketed the proceeds. The allegation may sound outrageous, but the case is not the first of its kind, by any means.

Laura Skelding for The Texas Tribune

State Sen. Kel Seliger has been stripped of his post as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in an escalation of a feud with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the upper chamber.

Announced Tuesday afternoon, the demotion caps a weekend spat between Seliger, an Amarillo Republican first elected to the Senate in 2004, and Patrick, who have found themselves at odds with one another after Seliger voted against two of the lieutenant governor’s priorities in 2017.

Should Texas Eliminate The High-Stakes STAAR Test?

Jan 22, 2019
Flickr/biologycorner (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Stakes can be high for students and teachers in Texas when it comes to standardized testing – specifically, STAAR testing. Students usually need to pass to advance to the next grade, and eventually, to graduate. Families, teachers and teacher groups have been vocal in the past about how stressful the tests can be. They're concerned that spending the entire school year on preparing for the STAAR takes away from other learning opportunities.

Now, a Republican lawmaker has filed a bill in the House that would repeal STAAR testing.

Sam Howzit/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Between SpaceX moving its rocket manufacturing to Texas from California, and the so-called super blood wolf moon, you may have missed this bit of space news: Texas-based astronomer Robert Kennicutt will be leading the Astro2020 Decadal Survey. Every decade, the study mandated by Congress helps set set priorities for what scientists will study in the coming years in the realm of astronomy and astrophysics.

Charlie Llewellin/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker all insist this will be the legislative "session of the teacher," and that the three of them are on the same page. But a bit of a shuffling act in the Texas Senate is raising some eyebrows and some new questions.

Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick handed out committee assignments and Sen. Kel Seliger was not assigned to his usual role as chair of the Committee on Higher Education. Instead, Patrick assigned him to chair the agriculture committee.

@elonmusk/Twitter

From Texas Standard:

It's not often that the Los Angeles times covers news with a Texas slant, but this time, it was somewhat unavoidable.

Last week, the Times reported that Elon Musk's SpaceX was canceling plans to build its biggest rockets at the Port of Los Angeles, and shifting production to South Texas. The story got lots of play in Southern California where it was considered something of a blow to the region's dream of becoming the epicenter of the next wave of space exploration. And it was seen as a victory for Texas – one of California's economic rivals.

SpaceX already has a launch facility in Boca Chica, near Brownsville, and Steve Clark, a staff writer at the Brownsville Herald says the facility was initially expected to host 12 launches a year once completed. When Musk attended the site's groundbreaking in 2014, he hinted that Boca Chica could have an even higher-profile role in SpaceX plans.

Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Forest Service.

From Texas Standard:

Texas is home to three types of oaks: red, white and live; all are susceptible to a deadly fungus called oak wilt. It's one of the most destructive tree diseases in the United States, and it's quickly changing the landscape of Texas – especially Central Texas.

Jim Houser, regional forest health coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service, says oak wilt has been an issue for longer than most people probably realize.

What Do The Arizona Cardinals See In Kliff Kingsbury?

Jan 18, 2019
Bobak Ha'Eri/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 3.0 ]

From Texas Standard:

The mandate for every football coach is the same: win. The new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals is no different. He’s Kliff Kingsbury – that’s a name that’s familiar to many Texans, including The Standard’s own Michael Marks.

'Coerced Debt' Often Follows Domestic Violence Survivors

Jan 18, 2019
Photo via Flickr/smemon (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Once survivors of domestic abuse are in a safe place, and looking to start building their future, they can face another roadblock: debt. Abusers can use debt to hurt or trap a potential victim. And for many, credit cards and loans taken out under two names, but never paid back, can cripple a survivor financially. It's called "coerced debt." The person who coined the term is Angela Littwin, a law professor at the University of Texas specializing in bankruptcy and consumer protection.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

A somewhat old idea to address climate change is getting new life, now that it appears to have the backing of New York freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She and other progressives are pushing an idea called a "green new deal" – riffing on the title of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan to rescue the U.S. from the Great Depression.

Writing for The New York Times, Thomas Friedman used the phrase "green new deal" as early as 2007, to advocate transitioning to an economy based on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. Among the proposals from today's green new dealers is legislation calling for the country to transition to using 100 percent renewable sources of energy over the next 10 years.

The editorial board of the Houston Chronicle argues this isn't a radical plan, and would be a natural one for Texas. Harold Jackson is a member of the board. He says that in addition to abundant oil and gas, Texas also has a lot of capacity to produce solar and wind energy.

anne1g2i3/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

There have been sightings and interactions recently with "aggressive" coyotes in Texas cities – something wildlife experts say is rare.

Something even rarer is research on how these wild dogs are adapting to urban growth. With human-coyote interactions on the upswing in Austin, a group of researchers at Huston-Tillotson University are looking for, among other things, clues as to how humans and coyotes might better coexist.

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

With the president demanding $5 billion for his border wall and House Democrats refusing to budge, there's no end in sight to the political impasse that has led to the partial government shutdown.

Travelers may be noticing long waits in security lines at airports in Dallas, Houston and other parts of the U.S. as large numbers TSA screeners call in sick with the so-called blue flu, as they're forced to work without pay.

But this might be a moment of opportunity for those TSA workers, so says Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickel and Dimed – On (Not) Getting By in America." She lays out the case in a New York Times opinion piece she co-wrote with Gary Stevenson.

Suburban Tourist/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

On March 29, the United Kingdom is set to pull out of the European Union – a decision made by the British people in a 2016 referendum. The end of March is coming up fast, and what's the plan for the pullout? There isn't one. Lawmakers bickering in the shadow of Big Ben have, for a second time, rejected a so-called "Brexit" strategy, and leaving the EU with no plan could cause major economic and other problems for Britain and its trading partners and allies.

Harold Clarke, professor in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, at the University of Texas at Dallas, and adjunct professor in the Department of Government, at the University of Essex in England, says a messy Brexit could also be destabilizing for the U.S. and Texas.

Jorge Salgado for The Texas Tribune

EL PASO — As the government shutdown approached its fifth week and Washington Democrats and President Donald Trump showed no signs of coming to an agreement on how to end the stalemate Tuesday, U.S. Border Patrol vehicles could be seen patrolling just north of the Rio Grande near El Paso’s Paso del Norte bridge.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Attorney General Ken Paxton doubled-down on a Texas law that bans state contractors from boycotting Israel in a court filing yesterday.

U.S. House of Representatives/Public Domain.

From Texas Standard:

Other than, perhaps, Beto O'Rourke, few politicians have generated quite as much interest or excitement lately among Democrats as freshman House member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She already generated political buzz after her stunning upset over 10-term incumbent Joseph Crowley. Now, a group that backed the unabashedly progressive Ocasio-Cortez hopes to pull off a similar upset in the Lone Star State. The political committee, which calls itself Justice Democrats, now has its sights set on toppling Democrat and veteran South Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar.

Dave Weigel, national political correspondent for The Washington Post, says Justice Democrats is very closely aligned with Ocasio-Cortez. The group began as a post-2016 supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. They worked to elect first-time Democrats on platforms that resembled those of Sanders – Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / Texas Tribune

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who both won re-election in November, will kick off their second, four-year terms on Tuesday after being sworn into office on the steps of the Texas Capitol.

The inaugural ceremony will begin in the morning, with speeches from both Republicans — Patrick first, Abbott second — set to begin at 11 a.m. Check back on this page for a livestream of the event.

Bruno Cordioli/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Fiber: it's not just what's for breakfast anymore. Now, it also means a super-fast connection to the internet. In fact, a lack of fiber can be fatal when it comes to a particular city or town competing for business. Author Susan Crawford argues in her new book, “Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution – and Why America Might Miss It,” that not upgrading internet technology and speed on a local level is doing real harm to the nation.

Crawford says fiber-based connectivity will change everything, from how fast we can access the internet to the way health care is delivered and where we’re able to work and live. But cable companies and other private providers of internet access have not invested in fiber.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Monday, about 34,000 teachers will walk off the job in Los Angeles – a move described as "historic." It echoes what happened almost a year ago when a West Virginia teacher walkout triggered similar strikes elsewhere in the US. Teachers all over the country are lobbying for higher pay.

Here in Texas, 10 percent of all first-year teachers leave their jobs before their second year. Better pay may be key to keeping more of them in the classroom, and last week, top state lawmakers pledged that 2019 will be the "Year of the Teacher" in the Texas Legislature, promising to boost salaries. But there's still many details yet to be decided.

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