Five stories that have North Texas talking: Texas isn’t helping low-income households keep the lights on anymore; a single mother dressed up like a man to have doughnuts with her son; local arts and cultural groups rallied outside Dallas City Hall this weekend; and more.
Breggett Rideau first asked Keller school district for a camera to be installed in her son’s special education classroom as a safety measure in 2006, but she was told it was illegal. A few years later, her son, Terrance, was injured between 2008 and 2010 at a middle school in Keller, Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Rideau made at least 20 trips to Austin in 2013 and 2015 to lobby the Texas legislature to require school districts around the state to install and operate video cameras in some special education classrooms, if requested by a parent, trustee or staff member. In June 2015, Senate Bill 507 was passed, and 10 years later after Rideau's initial inquiry, the law takes effect this school year, according to NPR.
Keller school district is one of the first schools in Texas to outfit a classroom with cameras and recording equipment at the request of a parent. Some administrators have voiced concerns about the cost, which ranges from $3,500 to $5,500 per classroom. Also, school districts were told not to use federal or state special education money to pay for the equipment in updated rules issued by Texas Education Agency on Aug. 15. Keller schools have earmarked $100,000 for equipment in their 2016-2017 budget.
[Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Associated Press, NPR]
- A program that helped poor Texas families pay their electricity bill has been switched off. Lite-Up Texas offered discounts to hundreds of thousands of poor Texas families over the years, but the program ran out of money, and the discounts ended on Aug. 31, the Public Utility Commission confirmed. Money problems were anticipated when lawmakers chose not to extend the program’s funding source three years ago. The Texas Tribune reported: “About 700,000 households relied on the program in 2015, according to the Public Utility Commission, with state subsidies reducing their electric bills from 25 percent to 31 percent.” [The Texas Tribune]
- A single mom from North Texas put on a fake mustache to get her kid doughnuts. Yevette Vasquez noticed more cars than usual when dropping off her son, Elijah, at school Thursday. He told her it was for an event called “Donuts with Dad.” Vasquez didn’t want her son to miss out, so she ran back home to put on a plaid shirt, baseball cap and fake mustache and returned to school for the event, WFAA reported. “I know seeing other dads with their kids isn't easy for mine but it’s life,” she wrote in a Facebook post that’s been shared 15,000 times. “At least I can do whatever it takes to put a smile on that face.” [WFAA]
- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are making changes to help oysters. The state’s oyster reefs have taken a beating in the past several years, surviving hurricanes, droughts and now, floods. To help troubled reefs recover, the parks and wildlife department will be reducing the catch limit from 50 sacks of oysters per day to 40, and harvesting will be closed on Sundays this season (about 180 days), Texas Standard reported. The new regulations shouldn’t mean fewer oysters for sale or a dent in the commercial fishing industry. Harvesters usually taper off after just 100 days, and during the 2014-2015 season, boats pulled in an average of just 23 sacks of oysters per day. [Texas Standard]
- About 70 artists and arts supporters rallied outside Dallas City Hall on Saturday against a proposed bailout. The proposal would allot $1.5 million of the city’s budget each year to help AT&T Performing Arts Center pay down its debts for the next 10 years, Art&Seek reported. Many small arts organizations and cultural centers don’t think helping a major institution like the performing arts center with its debt is fair to artists and smaller groups based in other Dallas neighborhoods. The Dallas City Council must approve the budget by the beginning of the fiscal year on Oct. 1. [Art&Seek]