Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams announced last week that he is deferring implementation of the 15 percent grading requirement for the 2012-2013 school year. Under the rule connected to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course examinations, a student’s score on the STAAR end-of-course exams would count 15 percent of the student’s final grade in each tested subject area.
Much higher than anticipated revenue is helping take the Rainy Day Fund off the table as funding source for the $5 billion bill to fill gaps in the current budget. Expectations are rising among state budget writers that greater than anticipated increases in revenue during the interim will allow them to pay off a $5 billion supplemental budget bill next session without having to tap the Rainy Day Fund.
Persistently high energy prices since then have sustained double digit growth in sales tax revenue, a key source of dollars for the state. While it won’t be known for sure until the Comptroller releases her revenue estimate before session, House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts(R-Waxahachie) says it is likely that there will be enough available revenue to pay for the supplemental, and the decision on which method to use to pay for it will be up to the Legislature.
In other news, Commissioner Williams made several staff announcements beyond his appointment of Lizette Gonzalez Reynolds, as his chief deputy commissioner. Williams named as senior policy director William Fullerton. Julie Kopycinski is the new director of governmental relations, Gene Acuna is director of communications and Ryan Franklin is new senior policy advisor. Michael Berry, former education policy advisor to the governor and former staff member at TEA, is in the position of Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Programs. Michele Moore, policy advisor to Reynolds, was promoted to Associate Commissioner for Educator Leadership and Quality and Lisa Dawn-Fisher, a TEA school finance expert, was promoted to Chief School Finance Officer to oversee two new divisions at the agency – State Funding and State Financial Reviews. Debbie Ratcliff, former director of communications, now serves as Director of Media Relations. Alice McAfee is the new director of Enforcement Coordination and Governance and Ron Rowell has joined McAfee in that new unit.
Austin Time Warner Cable subscribers will soon have access to gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Texas Legislature when Austin’s largest cable provider will roll out channels dedicated to the Texas House and Senate starting Dec. 14. The House will be featured on Channel 383; the Senate on Channel 384.