News Roundup: Legislators Say There’s Bipartisan Interest In School Finance Reform Next Session

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Texas StandardNovember 15, 2018 12:56 pm

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

School finance is expected to be a top priority for the Texas Legislature when its 86th session gets underway in 2019. State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, said as much when he announced earlier this week he has enough support to be the next Texas House Speaker. Andrew Schneider, with Houston Public Media, caught up with some other elected officials to get their take on the issue.

Lawmakers tried, and failed, to overhaul school finance last year, following a decision by the state Supreme Court that found the system constitutional but effectively broken. Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt says the odds of success are better with new leadership in the House.

“Comprehensive school finance reform can take a couple sessions, but I think there’s going to be a lot of pieces that will come out and be passed in this session,” Bettencourt says.

Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat, says support for the effort cuts across both party lines and the urban-rural divide.

“What I always tell people is poor is poor. When you have poor rural [school] districts. It’s not really any different than poor inner city districts,” Wu says.

The 86th Texas Legislature opens January 8.

New data shows that Texas led the nation in economic growth earlier this year.

Sangita Menon, with KUT News in Austin, has a look at the numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Every state and the District of Columbia saw economic growth in the second quarter of this year.  That varied widely across the country with Delaware having the smallest uptick at two-and-a-half percent and Texas leading the country with six percent.  For Texas, that’s more than twice the growth rate compared with the first quarter of the year. And it’s not far from twice the rate of the second quarter of last year.  The largest contributors to the Texas economy came from mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction.

Texas public school students would still need to question whether the separation of church and state is a key constitutional principle, based on a preliminary vote taken Wednesday by the State Board of Education.

This week the partisan, 15-member elected board is reviewing and approving new social studies curriculum standards.

San Antonio Republican Ken Mercer argued the phrase “separation of Church and state” does not appear in the Constitution.

“We want kids to read the Constitution,” Mercer said. “They’re not doing that. We’ve heard it over and over through the years, people telling us that that is a constitutional phrase in there, ‘separation of church and state.”

Democratic Commissioner Marisa Perez-Diaz responded.

“I did not say that this was a constitutional phrase. I mentioned that it was a constitutional principle that Thomas Jefferson proposed and that was used to express the intent of the Establishment Clause and free exercise.”

The board voted along to party lines keep the requirement in the social studies standards. The Republican majority also voted to retain language that describes Moses as a person whose principles of law influenced America’s founding documents, despite no scholarly evidence to back that claim. A final vote is scheduled for Friday.