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April 3rd, 2014:

Abbott’s pre-K plan

It’s about what you’d expect from someone who isn’t particularly interested in improving public education.

Still not Greg Abbott

Announcing the first of his education policy proposals Monday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott called for reforming pre-kindergarten programs before expanding access, saying that additional funding should be tied to academic outcomes.

Abbott’s plan, which was unveiled in Weslaco, proposes providing an additional $1,500 per student on top of the funding the state already provides for half-day pre-K programs if the program meets performance requirements set by the state.

“Expanding the population of students served by existing state-funded programs without addressing the quality of existing prekindergarten instruction or how it is being delivered would be an act of negligence and waste,” Abbott’s policy proposal reads.

Abbott’s proposal comes with a $118 million price tag in the 2016-17 biennium and includes a focus on annual reviews for children beginning school in 2016.

His pre-K proposal flies in the face of state Sen. Wendy Davis’ proposal for increased access to full-day pre-kindergarten programs in February.

The Democratic gubernatorial contender’s plan, which proposes that school districts across the state offer full-day pre-K programs beyond the three hours a day the state already funds, pivots on her push for further restoration of $5.4 billion in spending cuts made by the Legislature in 2011, which included a cut of more than $200 million to the state’s Pre-K Early Start Grant program. The fund, which the Legislature created in 2000, had funded pre-K expansion in schools looking to extend their programs.

While the Legislature restored $30 million in funding for the program in 2013, Davis has called for the restoration of more funds and has called on Abbott to settle an ongoing school finance lawsuit, which was prompted by the cuts.

It’s hard to see how this plan would do anything but benefit the school districts and students that need it the least at the expense of the districts and students that need it the most. Part of the problem is that too many kids start out behind even before they reach pre-k age.

Educators say that many parents, especially among the poor and immigrants, do not know that talking, as well as reading, singing and playing with their young children, is important. “I’ve had young moms say, ‘I didn’t know I was supposed to talk to my baby until they could say words and talk to me,’ ” said Susan Landry, director of the Children’s Learning Institute at the University of Texas in Houston, which has developed a home visiting program similar to the one here in Providence.

And these are the children who are least likely to measure up under Abbott’s proposal, which would seem to necessitate more standardized testing. That’s just what we need.

From the Chron story, we see that among other things, Abbott’s proposal is based in part on faulty assumptions.

The revamped state program would require pre-K providers that receive state funds to set benchmarks and report data to the Texas Education Agency.

The plan also called for a strategy to steer parents of eligible 4-year-olds away from the federally funded Head Start program to state-funded pre-K programs because of research that has found gains by Head Start alumni were short-lived.

Many public school districts in Texas use both, administering Head Start and state-funded pre-K classes.

Abbott said the quality of state-funded pre-K programs is largely unknown because information regarding these programs is rarely gathered. He called for “greater transparency of pre-K programs” to better “assess the return on taxpayers’ investment.”

That’s a mischaracterization of the research about Head Start. But even if you buy into that idea, why is it better to prefer a system for which there’s no quality research about its outcomes? What if the state-funded pre-k classes aren’t as good? And if they are as good, why is Abbott still defending $200 million in cuts to state-funded pre-k while only proposing at most $118 million in additional funds? Citing an intellectually dishonest race hustler like Charles Murray as a source doesn’t add any confidence, either. This whole thing is a mess, and there’s still the rest of his education plan to come. Don’t expect much. BOR, PDiddie, Jason Stanford, and John Coby have more.

Another lawsuit against HB2 to be filed

If at first you don’t succeed

Less than a week after a federal court upheld two new Texas abortion requirements already in effect, abortion providers announced plans to file a second lawsuit targeting additional regulations that the Republican-led Legislature passed in July.

The suit that the group plans to file Wednesday in a federal court seeks a court order to block the regulations — which take effect in September — that require abortion facilities to meet the same structural standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

The new abortion regulations have been blamed for the closure of about a dozen abortion clinics in the state, which currently has 24 active abortion clinics. The upcoming lawsuit alleges that unless the remaining clinics rebuild from the ground up and become essentially mini-hospitals, most could shutter. That would leave fewer than 10 facilities.

“There is no question that the politicians who passed this law intended this as the final blow in their assault on women’s constitutional right and ability to safely and legally end a pregnancy in Texas,” said Nancy Northrup, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing several abortion providers in the suit.

Legislators who backed the regulations and abortion opponents said that the rules are intended to protect women’s health and that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest the rules create an undue burden on the majority of Texas women attempting to access abortion.

The upcoming lawsuit will also ask the court to exempt the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in McAllen, which recently closed because its physicians couldn’t obtain hospital-admitting privileges, and a Reproductive Services clinic in El Paso from a rule that took effect in November. That rule requires physicians to obtain hospital-admitting privileges within 30 miles of an abortion facility. The abortion providers claim that the facilities should be able to continue operating because the clinics are “among the last, if not the only, reproductive health care providers offering safe, legal abortion care in their communities,” according to the group’s press release on the suit.

Can we just cut straight to the part where the Fifth Circuit overturns the district court and allows the law to be implemented as written? Not that I want this to happen, of course, but it’s what I expect at this point, and I can’t take the mood swing any more. Besides, we all know that Edith Jones already has an opinion written, she just needs to fill in a few blanks in her template. Why waste time? Trail Blazers, the Observer, and RH Reality Check have more.

How can we miss you if you won’t go away?

Denise Pratt is a gift that keeps on giving.

Judge Denise Pratt

Denise Pratt may not be gone just yet.

Two days after announcing her immediate resignation as presiding judge of the 311th family District Court – and the suspension of her re-election campaign – Pratt sent a text message to supporters on Sunday asking them to “call or txt” an influential endorser, Dr. Steven Hotze, and encourage him to wait a few weeks before announcing his support for her challenger in a May 27 runoff, Alicia Franklin.

“I am stil heavily favored by the party and attys as seen by wed fundraiser,” Pratt wrote. “And let him know he will b supported also.”

“It’s bizarre,” Franklin said on Tuesday, noting that Pratt had called her on Friday to concede, making her promise to “win in November.”

Despite Pratt’s resignation late Friday, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said her name still will appear on the ballot next month because she missed a March 12 withdrawal deadline. If she wins, Stanart said, her name would appear on the November general election ballot unless she becomes ineligible by moving out of the county, being deemed mentally incompetent by a court, being charged with a felony or dying.

That was followed this morning by a statement, which I also received, that reads, in full, “Despite published reports to the contrary, I have, in fact, suspended my reelection efforts and I am not conducting a campaign.” That, I suppose, clears that up, but there’s still the fact that she’s on the ballot. Like I said yesterday, if her name is on the ballot she can still win the runoff, and thus be the nominee in November. If she withdraws at that time, Democrat Sherri Cothrun wins by default. If she tries some kind of evasive maneuver by claiming to be a resident of another county, which would allow for a replacement candidate to be selected a la Tom DeLay’s “I’m a Virginian” scam in 2006, you can be certain it will wind up in court.

(By the way, remember when Greg Abbott filed an amicus brief on DeLay’s behalf in that fiasco? Good times, good times.)

“If your name is on the ballot, you can win, on a technical basis, yes, that is technically possible,” said Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill. “The question would be: Is she going to run a campaign?”

Nice try, Jared, but “technically” winning is the same as winning. Feel free to make that argument in court if it comes to that. As Mark Jones says, y’all better hope she loses in May, because it gets messy for you otherwise.

Texas blog roundup for the week of March 31

The Texas Progressive Alliance is glad that so many people will be getting health insurance even if that number should have been much higher as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff pushes back on some happy talk about the voter ID law.

Dos Centavos reviews the biopic of Cesar Chavez and reminds us that the radical fringe in Texas would like to keep his name and others like him out of our kids’ classrooms.

Horwitz at Texpatriate made the case for anyone but Hogan, including Kinky Friedman, in the Democratic primary for Agriculture Commissioner.

The Texas Central Railway, the latest effort to launch high speed rail from Houston to Dallas, made their initial plans public this week and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had the advance (before) and the post-press conference report (
after
).

Thanks to James Moore at Texas to the World, Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos learned Ted Cruz is a cheapskate who spends more time in Iowa than in the Rio Grande Valley. Libby also discovered Ted Cruz lied about The Biggest Lie in all Politics.

Texas has a woefully inadequate and unfair tax system, and that puts us in a bind when we need stuff. Because as WCNews at Eye on Williamson reminds us Stuff Costs Money.

Texas Leftist is glad Democrats have finally stumbled upon a winning strategy for 2014. The questions now… Can we keep the fire burning through November, and will Greg Abbott/ GOP weasel out of having general election debates??

Reading a book about the settlement routes of Black people in the United States, Neil at All People Have Value wrote about ideas of movement beyond physical migration. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Great God Pan Is Dead wants to know what Rice University has against art.

Cody Pogue asks and answers the question “What is Texas?”

Mark Bennett defines the ethics of decolletage.

Offcite photographs the Alps of Pasadena. No, really, it makes sense once you read it.

Nonsequiteuse has a suggestion for those who think the equal pay issue is no big thing.

The Texas Living Waters Project implores you to give your feedback on our state’s water future.

Jen Sorenson, a freelance artist now living in Texas, illustrates her experience with Obamacare.

Texas Vox asks “How many oil spills will it take?”

Texas Vox marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster.

And finally, in much happier anniversary news, Amy Valentine celebrates her fifth anniversary of being cancer-free.