State Rep. Dennis Bonnen took the gavel as Speaker of the House yesterday, and asked for cooperation across the aisles (Photo courtesy Rep. Bonnen’s Facebook page).

Bathrooms? That’s so 2017. The new hot legislative priorities lighting up Austin this legislative session are school finance and property taxes.

Think I’m kidding? New House Speaker Dennis Bonnen put it on a cup — actually, every cup in the Senate lounge is now emblazoned with “School Finance Reform, The Time Is Now.”

The session gaveled in knowing already that state Comptroller Glenn Hegar had told them that they would have about 8.1 percent more in funding available for public programs like schools and healthcare in the next two years, for about a $119.1 billion state budget. But he also cautioned legislators that they wouldn’t be able to make it rain — oil prices are falling and the U.S. economy is uncertain, leaving any prognostication as to how revenue will look a bit muddled.

But one couldn’t help but notice a sense of cooperation in both houses of the state legislature, one not generally felt in the last session, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick embarked on a much-lamented quest for passage of a bathroom bill and school vouchers, both of which failed.

Bonnen, in his address Tuesday, made a plea for more bipartisanship.

“In a state as big and diverse as Texas, there are plenty of ideas about what we should do on any one issue and these ideas often point in different directions,” Bonnen said. “It’s our job to reconcile the differences.”

The makeup of the two bodies is also different this time around. Democrats gained 12 seats in the house last November, with Republicans holding the Texas House with 83 seats to Democrats’ 67. In the Senate, there are 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Thanks to the three-fifths rule, a kill on an unpopular GOP bill like a bathroom bill would be just one Republican renegade away, unlike the last session, when the Democrats were outnumbered 20 to 10.

This pivot away from the unpopular bathroom bill, especially (Patrick even called it “settled” when asked about it Wednesday), bodes well for proponents of retooling public education finance, as well as property owners looking for relief from rising property taxes. (more…)

Photo: Brendan DeBrincat/Flickr

Photo: Brendan DeBrincat/Flickr

In December, Congress approved a bill (and President Obama signed it into law) that would send the much-maligned No Child Left Behind to the glue factory once and for all.

With No Child Left Behind, the involvement in education on the federal level was intense. High-stakes testing and uniform, rigorous goals that didn’t take into account how wildly student populations and backgrounds vary made it unpopular with many.

In its place is the Every Student Succeeds Act (formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), which scales back federal involvement and emphasis on testing, and allows states to set up their own guidelines, albeit with federal oversight and parameters. The re-tooled ESSA also requires states to track student performance and intervene when necessary. It also prevents current and future Education secretaries from requiring things like Common Core be taught universally, and also limits what the department can specifically regulate.

It also offers more money for pre-school development grants, helping states expand and enhance early childhood education programs.

(more…)

readingWhen I last wrote, we were waiting word from Harry Stone Montessori as to whether Tiny made the cut. And, well, while he passed the assessments, with hundreds of kids vying for 45 spots, we weren’t horribly shocked when the letter said he did not get in.

I mean, it would’ve been nice, yes. But realistically, we knew the odds were a longshot. Lots of kids apply for very few spots, first and foremost, and secondly, assessing three and a half year olds who are in a completely new environment with a bunch of new friends to make sounds something akin to herding greased, caffeinated kittens through a shopping mall built of catnip.

So what now? (more…)

 

Photo: Bethany Erickson

Photo: Bethany Erickson

If you are considering a magnet program or are just interested in your neighborhood Dallas public school, these are some dates you need to mark on your calendars.

To get the lay of the land, Dallas ISD will be hosting a Magnet Fair Saturday, Dec. 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ellis Davis Field House, 9191 South Polk, Dallas. If you wish to fill out the application for a magnet school or montessori, paper forms will be available on Dec. 8,  or you can begin filling out the online application on January 12, 2015.

To tour a specific school, check here for its open house date. More information, including projected open slots at each school and application requirements can be found at the DISD magnet page.

To find your Dallas public school and its feeder pattern, visit the parent and student section of the DISD webpage. Once you find your school’s homepage, look for its calendar for dates like kindergarten roundup and other open houses. You can also always email the principal and ask for a meeting and tour! I also recommend looking up the school’s PTA webpage, and getting in touch with those folks.