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Tue May 1, 2012
Texas Education Chief Steps Down
The state’s top education official, Robert Scott, said he’s resigning his post as Texas Education Agency Commissioner, effective July 2.
He’ll leave five years to the day after Gov. Rick Perry appointed him as TEA leader. In a press release, Perry praised Scott’s performance.
Commissioner Scott's tenure overseeing nearly 5 million public school children statewide is the longest in the past 20 years.
Scott launched the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math initiative, or T-STEM, that other states adopted. He also had to downsize the agency twice, after critical state budget shortfalls.
TEA spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe said Scott met with Gov. Rick Perry Tuesday, Scott's 43rd birthday, and told him he was resigning.
He gave no official reason, but Ratcliffe noted, "It's just a grueling job."
Scott made headlines earlier this year when he criticized undue attention to student preparation for standardized tests. He said it was a perversion of public education’s intent, and sacrificed actual classroom learning.
Appeals Judge Stops Planned Parenthood Injunction
The Texas attorney general has convinced a federal appeals judge to examine whether the state has a right to deny funding to Planned Parenthood.
Judge Jerry Smith granted the state an emergency stay less than 24 hours after a federal judge in Austin ordered Texas not to enforce a law banning Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women's Health Program.
The order is the latest development in lawsuit over what criteria Texas can impose on a health care provider that participates in state programs for the poor.
Texas lawmakers don't want any state funding to go to clinics affiliated with abortion providers, even if they don't provide abortions and are legally separate from those that do.
Planned Parenthood has sued to stop the law, saying it violates the group's rights.
ERCOT: Summer Electric Outages Not Likely
Operators of the state electric grid say they don’t expect this summer to be as hot as last summer.
Warren Lasher of ERCOT says that’s generally good news for Texas customers.
Lasher: Consumers should expect to see calls for energy conservation on the hottest days of the summer but at this time we do not expect to have to resort to rotating outages.
Lasher says rain the first part of this year should keep summer temperatures from reaching last year’s highs.
ERCOT will also have additional generating capacity because some older, mothballed plants that were taken offline will be returned to service.
Most of those plants are less efficient natural gas plants which can afford to operate when fuel prices rise in the summer.
Dallas Mayor To Take Stand On Trinity Toll Road
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is to lay out where he stands on a Trinity Toll Road Wednesday.
Mayor Rawlings promised to reveal his position on-or-before a big hearing on the Trinity Parkway at the Dallas Convention Center next week.
Plans to build a 9 mile toll road within the river levees narrowly survived a 2007 referendum. The unsuccessful vote to kill it was led by Council member Angela Hunt, who now has two anti-toll road allies on the council: Sandy Greyson and Scott Griggs.
Expected to attend the Mayor’s announcement are several longtime toll road proponents, including UNT Chancellor Lee Jackson, and Dallas Citizens Council President Donna Halstead.
The Federal Highway Administration must still approve a toll road within the levees. That decision is expected later this year.
Fort Worth Twice-A-Week Watering: Mixed Reaction
Fort Worth water officials say mandatory twice-a-week watering cut consumption about 8 percent last year.
This afternoon, City Council members discussed plans to make twice-a-week sprinkler use permanent in Fort Worth, and across the North Texas region.
Mayor Betsy Price is among elected officials leading the effort.
Price: Conservation is something I’m very passionate about. You know we have to protect and preserve what we have for the long haul, not just the short term.
But Mayor Pro Tem Zim Zimmerman doesn’t like the mandated conservation measure. He says “educate, don’t legislate”.
Zimmerman: Is the next step to tell everybody where they can set their thermostats this summer because electricity is an expendable commodity that takes place? Where does it stop, and how do we enforce it?
The Fort Worth Council plans to hold a public hearing before taking a vote.
Dallas has approved permanent twice-a-week watering. Arlington rejected it.
Bank Robber Had Machete
Dallas police say 27-year-old Gregory Deshawn Shelby is under arrest for aggravated robbery. Detectives say he was armed with a machete when he robbed the Comerica bank on Garland Road Tuesday morning.
Police say he dropped that unusual weapon as he fled the bank on foot. Police caught up with him a short time later in a nearby Lake Highlands neighborhood.
BJ Austin, KERA News
American Airlines Management Shake Up
American Airlines has announced some top management changes. Senior Vice President of Human Resources Jeff Brundage is out.
Brundage, at the center of airline labor relations, is resigning.
American CEO Tom Horton announced today that five officer positions have now been eliminated. Horton says that’s the 20% cut in top management demanded by the airline’s bankruptcy plan.
Brundage will be replaced by Denise Lynn, most recently in charge of Employee Relations. She will do two jobs: Human Resources and a new Diversity and Leadership position.
BJ Austin, KERA News
Texas gets more than $61M for health centers
Texas has been awarded more than $61 million in federal grants to support community health centers.
The funding was announced Tuesday by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The Texas share is part of $728 million provided nationwide.
The list includes $5 million in grants for the Community Health Center of Lubbock, the Fourth Ward D.B.A Good Neighbor Healthcare Center in Houston, the Lone Star Circle of Care in Georgetown and the Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic in Dallas.
Wildfire threatens remote West Texas development
Firefighting crews continue to battle the first major Texas wildfire of the season as a 20,000-acre complex of wildfires threatened a rustic development in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.
The fires designated the Livermore Ranch Complex of fires is burning in an area struck exactly a year ago by the vast, devastating Rock House Complex of fires that swept through Fort Davis.
The Livermore fires on Monday burned to within 1 1/2 miles of the Davis Mountain Resort, about 175 miles southeast of El Paso. A wind shift allowed fire crews more time to erect fire lines around the complex of 400 cabins and other structures.
Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Saginor said the development's 150 permanent residents remained under an evacuation order, though.
Texas and Texas A&M systems considering rate hike
Regents for the Texas A&M and University of Texas systems are poised to raise tuition rates at most campuses starting next fall.
The University of Texas System is considering increasing rates at all nine of its campuses over the next two years.
The main Texas campus in Austin would see bumps up to 3.6 percent each year for undergraduate students, raising about $25.7 million. President Bill Powers has said the money will be used to improve academic advising and other programs to help students graduate in four years.
Rates at Texas A&M's main campus in College Station would not go up. But undergraduate rates at the system's other 10 campuses would increase about $10 per credit hour.
Texas regents meet Wednesday and Thursday. Texas A&M regents meet Thursday and Friday.
JetBlue launches DFW-to-Boston flights
JetBlue Airways begins its nonstop service between Boston and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Tuesday.
The New York-based airline will begin a regular schedule of three nonstop roundtrip flights between Boston and DFW each day on Tuesday. DFW is JetBlue's 71st destination.
JetBlue already serves Austin and Houston's Hobby Airport in Texas.
State launches 11th annual seatbelt campaign
It's become a Memorial Day holiday tradition. Law enforcement officers will join officials from the Texas Department of Transportation in Austin to open the 10th annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign to promote the use of seat belts.
They'll all appear at a news conference at Auditorium Shores on the left bank of Lady Bird Johnson Lake on Tuesday to promote seat-belt awareness as the Memorial Day holiday and summer driving season approach.
State law requires the use of safety belts by all occupants of a car or truck.