Greg Abbott Continues To Push Back Against Planned Cuts To His Pre-K Initiative

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMarch 24, 2017 11:24 am

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Governor Greg Abbott is not happy with members of the Texas House and Senate who plan to cut funding for high quality pre-kindergarten education. Pre-k funding is one of the governor’s top priorities.

Thursday, children’s advocates urged state lawmakers to fund the pre-k grant program.

Ami Cortes-Castillo who is principal of Austin ISD’s Lucy Read Pre-Kindergarten Demonstration School says she’s seen the impact of quality pre-k firsthand.

“When our students walk through the door in August many of them don’t know how to grip a pencil, or count to 10 or even say their ABCs,” she says. “Some don’t know how to socialize with peers or teachers and the only way they know how to interact is by crying, hitting, or grabbing from others. And many times our parents just don’t know what to do help them. We know our parents want the very best for their child sometimes they just don’t know what to do.”

Texas currently spends $118 million on Abbott’s pre-k grant program, but future funding is uncertain.

A new committee on special education is finally ramping up at the Houston Independent School District. The group will examine how the district evaluates students for special ed. Houston Public Media’s Laura Isensee has more:

That group officially formed in January. It got its full roster this month, with parents, educators and experts. Together, the fifteen members will study special ed in Houston schools. The chair, Trustee Anne Sung, says the first full meeting is private.

“This first meeting is not public because it’s a planning meeting,” she says. “It’s an opportunity for the committee members to get to know each other and to share even very personal stories about their and their children’s experiences in the special education department in HISD.”

Sung says she’ll let the committee decide if they want to continue their work in private, or open the meetings to the public. One job for the group is to pick a company to audit HISD’s special education program. The initiative in the wake of a Houston Chronicle investigation in September that revealed a state benchmark encouraged districts to limit how many disabled kids received expensive services.

For some parents, too much time has already passed. Sarah Becker is a mom and a licensed specialist in school psychology.

“My frustration is to me, this is such a big topic and such an urgent problem they should be devoting time on their agenda every month until it gets taken care of and they’re not doing that,” Becker says.

As HISD starts its work, federal officials are finishing their own statewide investigation. They expect to release that report by June.

Houston ISD’s Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Services Sowmya Kumar resigned Thursday, in the wake of the Houston Chronicle investigation.

A new report shows the number of people who are homeless in Tarrant and Parker counties has not changed much over the past year.

The Tarrant County Homeless Coalition released its annual homeless count, which found 1,924 people living on the streets or in their cars – a 14 fewer than last year.

Otis Thornton leads the coalition.

“The number may not be significantly significant, but I assure you, escaping homelessness was significant for those 14 people,” he says.

Thornton says the count found fewer homeless veterans and fewer women who say domestic violence is the reason they became homeless.