Lack of diversity on state finance board prompts outcry from leaders of color
- For the first time in some three decades, the Legislative Budget Board will have no person of color serving on the board.
- Latino and black advocates—including lawmakers, organizers, and community leaders—spoke out against the all-white make-up of the committee given the stakes of financing in a state as large and demographically diverse as Texas.
- A permanent committee of the Texas Legislature, the board sets financial priorities for the state, offering budget requests and recommendations for appropriations and evaluating the performance of state and local operations.
“Black, Latino groups calling for diversity in Texas Legislature” (KXAN | January 2017)
Legislative Budget Board (Texas Legislature)
Tribpedia: Legislative Budget Board (The Texas Tribune)
New House report calls for increase in mental health resources across state
- The report by the Texas House Select Committee on Mental Health warned that current resource levels are inadequate to support mental health initiatives across areas like education, healthcare, and criminal justice.
- The cost of the effects of insufficient mental health resources—both financial and human—is expected to climb as the state continues to grow, and the state has begun to focus on behavioral healthcare reform to confront those costs.
- Recommendations include increasing the use of telemedicine, increasing resources to jail diversion programs, rural healthcare reform, increasing the rate of hospital construction, healthcare-practitioner education incentivization, and increasing access to substance abuse counseling and other resources.
Interim Report 2016: A Report to the House of Representatives 85th Texas Legislature
(Image Credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera/The Texas Tribune)
Investigation finds Houston ISD intentionally underserved students with disabilities
- Only 7.26% of HISD students are enrolled in special education programs—significantly lower than the national average of 13%—and students of color in particular suffer from under-identification for special education services.
- While HISD officials praise the statistic as an example of the effect of early intervention, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle finds that the low rate was achieved through deliberate discouragement, delay of student evaluation, position elimination, and budget cuts, effectively denying fair education to students in need.
- The decrease in service to students with disabilities came as a result of an arbitrary benchmark (8.5%) for special education enrollment that the Texas Education Agency set unscientifically, but HISD went further to set even lower standards after that goal was met.
“Denied: Houston schools systematically block disabled kids from special ed” (The Houston Chronicle)
“Angry parents in Houston and Dallas turn out at forums, demanding end to special education target” (The Houston Chronicle)
Source: KXAN YouTube
U.S. Feature | Students with Disabilities (Outlas)
Republican legislators look to do away with tuition set-aside programs in upcoming session
- Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick indicated as a priority for 2017 ending programs that set aside tuition dollars for financial aid for low-income students at higher education institutions, arguing that the law is a “hidden tax” on wealthy and middle-class families.
- Two such programs currently exist: one that began following the deregulation tuition in 2003 that required 15-20% of tuition increases to be set aside for aid, and another from 1975 requiring 15% of the first $50 charged per semester hour go to financial aid.
- Democrats and experts have argued that ending the programs without a simultaneous investment of state funding (an estimated $345 million) would make higher education inaccessible for lower-middle and low-income students, disproportionately impacting black and Latino students and institutions.
“Lt. Gov. Patrick favors scrapping key college financial aid program; many lawmakers unsure” (The Houston Chronicle)
“How Dan Patrick’s plan to slash tuition grants could keep some Texans from college” (The Dallas Morning News, August 2016)
“Lt. Gov. Patrick Slams Universities for Tuition Increases” (The Texas Tribune, April 2016)