1) With the 85th Texas Legislature hurtling toward another inexorable midnight deadline ahead of Monday's end to the 140-day session, the Texas House yesterday rightly rejected the messed-up version of HB 21, a school finance bill that turned into a voucher bill. 

  Instead, House members called for a House-Senate conference committee in an attempt to salvage a first step toward fixing a broken school funding system. The response was not unexpected but nevertheless a sad moment for Texas schoolchildren: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a key senator pronounced the entire bill dead for the session. 

From Texas Tribune

From Texas Tribune

  Earlier, Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, chair of the House Public Education Committee, took note of the House's strong opposition to private school vouchers that the Senate grafted onto the bill. He said the House's plan would have added $1.9 billion to the public school system, or $1.4 billion more than what was proposed by the Senate. Huberty was worked up and a bipartisan group of Education Committee members stood by him. 

  Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, made a successful motion to direct the conference committee not to include any legislation that would require the state to pay for any school voucher or voucher-like program.

  A bipartisan House majority despises vouchers. An effort by Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, to get the House to accept the Senate voucher bill went up in flames as the House sided with Huberty, 134-15. The Zerwas motion to instruct the conference committee passed 101-45. A separate motion to have the committee consider ""all methods" for educational choice, presumably including "Education Savings Accounts," failed 47-89. The House members of the conference committee were Reps. Huberty, chair; Ken King, R-Canadian; Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston; Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio; and Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin.

  Our Sisters and Brothers in Texas AFT had called the voucher proposal a "poison pill" within HB 21 and a "rotten deal," declaring, "The Senate is trying to force the House to accept a precedent-setting voucher scheme in exchange for a small remnant of the funding increase of up to $1.9 billion approved by the House."

  The union reports:

  "The "education savings account" vouchers (ESAs) for students with disabilities in the Senate version of HB 21 siphon taxpayer funds directly from public schools and divert the money to subsidize private, religious, and home schools. With Texas public schools already underfunded, Texas can't afford this voucher scheme."
  "Students with disabilities in special education receiving a voucher under this Senate scheme would give up their federal protections upon exiting the public school.  This includes their rights to due process under admissions, review, and dismissal  (ARD) committees and other federal protections."
  "No accountability exists under ESAs. Private and religious schools that would access taxpayer dollars through this voucher program are not accountable to the state. The Senate version of HB 21 would allow these schools to receive taxpayer money without meeting the same curriculum or fiscal requirements of a Texas public school.  Texans overwhelmingly believe that schools that receive tax dollars should be accountable for how they are spent, but the schools that receive vouchers would not be accountable to taxpayers."
  "ESAs also violate the separation of church and state and the First Amendment.  The Senate version of HB 21 provides monies that can be used in any private or religious school. ESAs provide no disallowance for religious content of services or educational products funded with taxpayer dollars."

  The upshot of yesterday's action is that any prayer of real school finance reform is not likely to be answered for another two years. That is a tragedy. Such matters as the "bathroom bill" and "sanctuary cities" - a short-term, virulently discriminatory pressing of political buttons in each case - took precedence over building a public school system for the next 50 years. The health of public schools is hostage to a long-running right-wing voucher plot.

  More from Texas AFT:

  As Rep. Huberty said on the House floor today, HB 21 as passed by the House included much more of benefit to special-education students than the Senate's voucher scheme could offer. Huberty's version of HB 21 includes grants for students with autism, a new funding weight adding resources for students with dyslexia, and an increase in per-pupil funding for all students, including more than 600,000 with disabilities. If the Senate were willing, Huberty said, it would still be possible to deliver a substantial school-funding increase and even more aid for students with disabilities, without any need to subsidize private schools, which are not required to provide the same protections for these vulnerable children that are demanded of public schools.

2) A bill that outlaws "lunch shaming" shouldn't be contentious, but it was. Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, got the measure, which was supported by the United Labor Legislative Committee, tacked onto another bill, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

  The failure of Giddings's stand-alone bill on the subject prompted her to deliver a rare and moving personal privilege speech:   

  After her measure to end so-called school lunch shaming died at the hands of tea party-aligned Republicans, state Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, successfully tacked it onto a separate bill on Wednesday.

Giddings' amendment to Senate Bill 1566, which passed 138-4, would require school boards to adopt a policy allowing a two-week grace period for students with no money on their meal accounts to receive a hot lunch. Her original bill, House Bill 2159, had been moving swiftly through the Legislature but was killed this month through a procedural maneuver by five members of the Texas Freedom Caucus.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, who is a member of the caucus, said Wednesday that the state shouldn't be telling school districts what to do when it comes to student lunch and that federal law already prevents school districts from taking lunches away from poor children.

"I believe that this bill or amendment has been so politicized, (so) certain folks on the outside of this building can score political points," he said.

Giddings, whose bill also received bipartisan support in the Senate, said her measure is not just aimed at poor children who can't afford lunches but also parents who have temporarily lost a job or who forget to fill their child's meal card.

"Mr. Stickland, the children I am trying to help are not looking for heroes. They're looking for some compassion and food," Giddings said.

Read more: https://atxne.ws/2qY63KD

3) Richard Fiesta of the Alliance for Retired Americans isn't having a good week. I would submit that when Brother Fiesta is having a bad week, all of us are. Today, Fiesta posted a statement on the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the horrific "repeal and replace" health care legislation that passed the U.S. House.

  CBO suggests the bill would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance and provide less coverage. This bill is so bad, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt suggested earlier this week, that it leaves room for the Senate to consider an awful bill that would nevertheless be better by far than the House version. Giving in from an outrageous starting point may be a common negotiating tactic, but the health and lives of Americans should not be a victim of sharp legislative tactics.

  Fiesta's remarks:

  "Today's CBO score confirms older Americans' worst fears: the American Health Care Act passed by the House is a disaster for older Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare. President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan are taking health insurance coverage away from 23 million Americans.

  "The CBO's numbers are especially troubling for anyone with a pre-existing condition. Premium increases are going to be massive for this group, which includes millions of older Americans. That will destabilize the health care markets. Among people ages 55 to 64, 84 percent had at least one pre-existing condition in 2014.

  "The scenario isn't much better for those who qualify for Medicare, since the bill robs the Medicare Trust Fund to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. 

  "This bill decimates Medicaid, with more than $800 billion in cuts. Donald Trump's 2018 fiscal year budget attempts to add another $600 billion in Medicaid cuts to that figure, for a total of $1.4 trillion. 

  "We now know why the House leadership was in such a hurry to pass this dreadful legislation without a single hearing: this bill is both dangerous and unfair.

  "The CBO confirms some states will drop the coverage guarantee for people with pre-existing conditions, making health insurance a privilege for the wealthy, not a right.

  "Members of the Alliance for Retired Americans are mobilized and ready to fight tooth and nail against the AHCA in the Senate."

4) The Texas AFL-CIO posted this news release following reports of racist threats in social media against U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, over his support for the impeachment of President Trump:

5) A robust First Amendment is a far different thing from threats, and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, is using the full robustness of that great freedom to unload on U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the Austin American-Statesman's Jonathan Tilove reports.

  

  This article is worth a full read of the excerpts. Here's one sample from Franken's book, called Giant of the Senate:

 

  [B]eing a successful senator is as much about being a good coworker as it is about being smart or well versed in the issues or a talented orator. If you can be a pleasure to work with, you'll get more accomplished than if you're a pill whom nobody can stand.

 

  Which brings me to Ted Cruz...

 

  Okay, here's another. Franken discusses the unwritten rule that "you aren't supposed to repeat in public a conversation you've had with a colleague in private if that conversation makes your colleague look bad in any way."

 

  I've decided to observe that practice in this book, with one exception: Ted Cruz.

 

  Just one more: 

 

  It takes a special kind of jerk to get compared to Joe McCarthy just a month into your Senate career. Although it didn't help Ted that he bears more than a passing resemblance to McCarthy himself. (Franni [Franken's wife] thinks he's the love child of McCarthy and Dracula.)

 

  Okay, that one bears some investigation. Try this link, which shows a side-by-side photo of McCarthy and Cruz: https://binged.it/2qicHIs. As for Dracula, try Bela Lugosi: https://binged.it/2qdSE20.

 

 Read more of Tilove's piece: https://atxne.ws/2qYbjvX