Texas

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

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.

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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.

Travis Bubenik / Houston Public Media

If you want to cook up a battle over private property rights in Texas, here’s the recipe:

Take a handful of sprawling cities and growing populations that are expanding into once-rural areas, add a booming oil and gas industry with a desperate need for new pipelines to move record-high volumes of hydrocarbons, and sprinkle in the new electric lines needed to power both of those trends.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas health officials say they’re going to provide next month’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits early due to the federal government shutdown.

IBM

From Texas Standard:

In the 1950s and '60s, the U.S. battled the Soviet Union in the race to conquer space. American presidents told the nation that beating Russia was a both a scientific and a national security imperative. Today, there’s a new kind of technology race underway that most people have never even heard about. And the stakes are high.

Eddie Gaspar/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas Standard has been inviting new members of the Texas delegation on Capitol Hill for on-air meet-and-greet sessions. Recent news has made these conversations especially timely: earlier this week we spoke about the shutdown and the situation at the border with a newly minted Democratic representative, Colin Allred. Now it's Lance Gooden's turn; he's the Republican freshman elected in November to take the place of Jeb Hensarling representing District 5, which covers parts of Dallas and East Texas.

Gooden says he supports President Donald Trump's idea to declare a national emergency in order to secure funding for the border wall. He says Trump would need to do that "especially if he wants to get what he wants because I don't think he's gonna get it in Congress."

Eddie Gaspar for KUT

MCALLEN – Isidrio Leal knows what a combat zone looks like. And as he stood at the corner of 10th and Wichita streets Thursday holding a “Veterans for Peace” flag, the Iraq war veteran wanted one thing to be known: the border isn’t under siege.

Julia Reihs / KUT

A plaque honoring the Confederate States of America in the Texas Capitol will be taken down after a vote from the Texas State Preservation Board.

In a meeting that lasted all of three minutes, board members unanimously approved the measure to remove the plaque, which was installed in 1959, though it's unclear when exactly it will be taken down. 

Sarah Richter/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a contagious illness that affects animals, including deer and elk. It attacks an animal's nervous system; a deer with the disease may have difficulty moving, lose a significant amount of weight and then die. Research hasn't shown that it's a threat to humans, but it has decimated deer populations in places like Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Texas could help build President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall, the president suggested Thursday — an idea that apparently came from the state’s outspoken lieutenant governor, a vocal advocate for border security.

Image via Flickr/Texas Comptroller (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

When Texas lawmakers arrived in Austin Tuesday, they were probably at their most optimistic – the process of debating and passing legislation will be tough, but there's possibility that great things can happen. While many things are still unknown about the 86th legislative session, one thing is clear: lawmakers know the limits of the state's budget because Comptroller Glenn Hegar has already released those details. The legislature will have $119 billion to work with, Hegar says.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Since 2007, Houston Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman – and others – have tried in vain to get just five words into Texas' hate crimes law: "or gender identity or expression."

Pixabay

From Texas Standard:

Life on earth requires certain elements. Humans need oxygen, for example, among many other things. But as we increasingly explore other parts of our universe, researchers are trying to determine whether the signs of life we take for granted here on our planet might be different elsewhere.

U.S. House of Representatives/Public Domain

From Texas Standard

President Donald Trump addressed the nation Tuesday night. It was rumored that he would declare a national emergency as a means of moving ahead with construction of a border wall, despite Congress' unwillingness to provide the funding – that conflict is what led to the current partial government shutdown. But in his address, though he did argue for the importance of constructing a wall, he not declare an emergency.

Democratic U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar represents Texas' 28th District, which runs from South San Antonio into the Rio Grande Valley, and covers a large stretch of Texas' border with Mexico. Cuellar says the president's arguments about the need for a border wall are wrong.

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