The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.
The Texas Commission on Public School Finance met for the first time, Tuesday, in Austin. The panel was created during the 2017 special legislative session last summer, after lawmakers in the Texas House and Senate failed to agree on a plan to update the way public schools in the state are funded.
Before last year’s 85th legislative session began, the Texas Supreme Court found that while the state’s current public school funding system is constitutional, it was “Byzantine” and “undeniably imperfect” with “immense room for improvement.”
As Chandra Villanueva, a policy analyst with the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities, points out, the current system for determining how much state funding schools receive has not been updated for decades.
“A lot of the main primary funding elements in the system are about 30 years old and are actually the result of one of the last major commissions we had in the early ‘80s,” says Villanueva. She adds, “[that commission was] known as the Perot Commission, because Ross Perot was the one who led that work and they’re the ones who really built our modern school finance system.”
The new 13-member panel is supposed to come up with legislative recommendations for how to reform the system by December 31. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus each picked four members of the commission. The State Board of Education also selected one of its own members to serve.
Villanueva says she hopes the commission establishes what it costs to provide Texas school children with a high-quality education
“We all know that money in education matters. A well-funded school is able to offer small class sizes and also provide the sort of math and science, art, music, those really creative, innovative classes that keep students engaged and wanting to come to school,” says Villanueva.
The Texas Education Agency livestreamed Tuesday’s meeting.
Craft breweries are taking the plunge into Texas politics. The Texas Craft Brewers Guild announced Monday that it’s launching a political action committee named CraftPAC. The trade organization represents more than 200 Texas craft breweries. There are about 250 total in the state.
Adam DeBower, cofounder of the brewery, Austin Beerworks, and chair of CraftPAC, says the state’s outdated and restrictive beer regulations have prevented the industry from growing the way it has in other states, like California, which has more progressive laws.
He says while it pains him to compare the great state of Texas to California – in this case it’s apt. Texas is home to roughly 28 million people compared to 38 million in California, but they have more than 600 craft breweries in the state.
“So [California has] only 30 percent more population but nearly three times the number of breweries.” DeBower adds many of the state beer laws have not had major updates since the 1930s or 1970s. He points out that one of the state’s most challenging laws for his industry is one that prohibits to-go sales at breweries.
“You can come in, you can buy my beer here at the brewery and have a pint. You can go out on the market and you can buy my beer, but you cannot take any beer to go. And this is actually a very unique, purely Texas distinction. 49 states allow the right to buy beer from a brewery, so 93 percent of Americans get to enjoy rights but Texans do not,” says DeBower.
He says that as the 2019 Texas legislative session approaches, CraftPAC plans to support candidates and bills that support growth of the state’s craft beer industry.
A rare sound recently rang out at the Abilene Zoo: it was their newest giraffe calf vocalizing.
In a mid-January Facebook post, the Abilene Zoo said their staff has 60 years of combined experience working with giraffes – and don’t usually get to hear these kinds of vocalizations. The post says this giraffe is the newest to the zoo’s herd which has tripled over the last two years. That means the zoo now has a “tower of giraffes” which is a group of at least 10.