Monday, July 25, 2016

More on the 85th session

Within hours of the recent ambush killings of five Dallas police officers — and again 10 days later, when three Baton Rouge officers were killed — messages of respect and support for law enforcement coursed through the nation's social media, filled the airwaves and prompted countless press releases.
As politicians nationwide rushed to reiterate their support for police, Texas elected officials figured prominently in the calls for a greater societal embrace of officers and more protections for first responders who perform some of the toughest jobs.
"As Texans and Americans mourn the loss of our men and women in uniform, we must continue to remember that police officers put their lives on the line every day to ensure our safety and our freedoms," Abbott said in a statement a day after the July 7 Dallas shooting.
But while grateful for the rhetoric, law enforcement groups have seen some disconnect between the professions of support and the track record of Texas elected officials in listening to their concerns.
Most notable was the 2015 legislative session, when lawmakers — including Patrick and Abbott — enthusiastically approved the open carry of handguns by licensed Texans despite opposition by many of the state's law enforcement officials.
As the 2017 legislative session approaches, law enforcement groups say they'll be asking lawmakers to consider revising the open carry law, as well as looking at restoring funding for programs that help police do their jobs. They say they'll focus on bread and butter issues like funding officer training and maintaining retirement and death benefits.

In School Choice Fight, a Fresh Force Emerges.

An ambitious new player has emerged in the controversial effort to use taxpayer dollars to help Texas parents send their kids to private or religious schools.
Texans for Education Opportunity, whichlaunched in May, supports all forms of “school choice,” including charters and traditional public schools, said Executive Director Randan Steinhauser, an Austin-based school choice activist and public relations consultant who co-founded the nonprofit advocacy organization.
But she said the group’s main goal is to get Texas lawmakers to create “education savings accounts” — a program under which the state would dole out taxpayer money directly to parents via debit card to cover approved education-related expenses, like private school tuition, tutors or homeschooling materials. About a half-dozen other Republican-dominated states, including Florida and Arizona, have already created such programs, although most of them target specific student populations, including disabled and low-income students. (Nevada is an exception, offering assistance to all students.)

Literature provided by Texans for Education Opportunity, which appears to be the first statewide organization focused solely on school choice, suggests the state offer up to $7,800 for any student pursuing an alternative schooling route. That is about 90 percent of what the state provides on average to traditional school districts per student for annual maintenance and operations, the pamphlet says.

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