Lawsuit filed for teacher funds

By Ed Sterling | Published Sunday, October 3, 2010

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State Attorney General Greg Abbott on Sept. 23 filed a legal challenge against the U.S. Department of Education to secure $830 million in federal education funds for Texas schools, teachers and students.

The state’s legal move comes in response to the Department of Education’s Sept. 9 decision to deny Texas’ application for the education jobs funds through H.R. 1586, U.S. House legislation signed into law in August.

According to a Dallas Morning News story carrying a Sept. 23 Washington, D.C., dateline, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Texas will eventually get the money.

Abbott said the state’s Petition for Review, filed in the Fifth U.S. District Court of Appeals in New Orleans, claims the Department of Education misapplied federal law when it construed an amendment by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, in a manner that unconstitutionally discriminates against the State of Texas.

Doggett’s amendment, Abbott said, singles out Texas by subjecting the State to onerous standards that were different from the standards Congress placed on the other 49 states. Every state application for funding under the normal standards has been granted, while Texas’ application under the heightened Texas-only standard was denied.

Doggett called the state’s lawsuit “political theater” and said that all Gov. Rick Perry had to do to get the money was sign the funding application as written. Texas’ application required the governor to assure that the federal money could only be spent to employ and pay teachers.

In addition to Abbott, Texas’ legal challenge also names Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus, Education Commissioner Robert Scott and the State of Texas as petitioners.

Meanwhile, Perry is supporting legislation filed by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, that would repeal Doggett’s amendment. If Congress passes the legislation, it may be unnecessary for the state to proceed with the legal challenge.

Record lease sale helps education

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, chairman of the Permanent University Fund’s Board for Lease of University Lands, on Sept. 22 announced the results of a record oil and gas lease sale in Midland.

The sale brought in $207 million, nearly four times more than the previous record of $52 million, set in 1980, Patterson said. Some 260,000 acres were sold and went for more than $1,000 per acre.

The Permanent University Fund is a constitutionally created endowment that benefits institutions in the University of Texas and Texas A&M university systems.

SBOE passes religion resolution

The State Board of Education on Sept. 24 approved a resolution that encourages future state boards to reject social studies books that don’t provide fair coverage to the world’s major religious groups.

The non-binding resolution says the board “will look to reject future prejudicial social studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world’s major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage spacewise and/or by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others.”

Infectious disease center opens

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Sept. 22 unveiled the new Texas Center for Infectious Disease facility in San Antonio.

The $36 million, 65,000-square-foot, 75-bed freestanding hospital replaces existing 57-year-old facilities in San Antonio and will provide treatment for patients diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Patients will be transferred from the old building to the new one in mid-October. The new facility’s air system is designed to prevent contaminants and pathogens in patient rooms from reaching surrounding areas.

First drug take-back day was held

The Texas Department of Public Safety on Sept. 22 reminded Texans of a nationwide prescription drug “take-back” initiative to prevent pill abuse and theft.

On Sept. 25, the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration and local partners collected expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs for destruction at drop-off sites in Texas nationwide.

The service was free and anonymous, no questions asked.

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