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Gov. Abbott signs parental rights, education bills into law | Texas

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Bethany Blankley | contributor – 2023-06-13 06:49:00

(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed four parental rights and education bills into law on Monday and separately expanded virtual learning programs statewide. He did so less than two weeks after signing a digital privacy bill into law expanding online protections for minors.

“The House and Senate did a great job to provide transformative changes for education in the state of Texas,” he said during a bill signing at the Capitol of bills that received bipartisan support.

The new laws expand parental access to their children's curriculum, give parents greater say over whether their child should repeat a grade, provide greater transparency over school materials and remove inappropriate books from school libraries. They also expand resources to more special needs students. The governor was joined by Sen. Brandon Creighton, Reps. Charles Cunningham, Lacey Hull, and Jared Patterson, Texas Public Policy Foundation CEO Greg Sindelar, parents and empowerment advocates.

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Abbott first signed HB 900 into law, which prohibits public school systems from possessing, acquiring and purchasing “harmful library material that is sexually explicit, pervasively vulgar, or educationally unsuitable.”

“Parents deserve to know what books are in school libraries,” Abbott said, adding that he signed the bill to get “inappropriate or vulgar materials out of our schools.”

He also signed HB 1605 into law, which expands parental access and review of instructional materials and requires school districts to provide teachers with a full sequence of instructional materials so they don't have to devote personal or planning time to develop them. The new law “transforms school curriculum, improving it for Texas parents, students, and teachers,” he said.

He also signed HB 1926 into law, which removes a $30 million cap on the total amount of funds appropriated to the Supplemental Special Education Services program every fiscal year, expanding access to more special needs students.

“We will empower parents of students with special needs with the tools and resources they need to provide their child with the best education,” Abbott said, following through with one part of his parental rights legislative priority he outlined before the regular legislative session. The signature feature of the legislative priority will be addressed in a special legislative session to be called later this year, the governor has said. It creates a Teacher Bill of Rights, a Parental Bill of Rights, and creates a school choice program including Education Savings Accounts.

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The SSES program was created in October 2020 to help parents with special needs students receive assistance they would have normally received through in-person instruction but couldn't during COVID-era school closures. Thousands of families have been on a wait list since the program began. By expanding it and removing the cap, more parents will have access to what many have described is an invaluable program.

Abbott also signed HB 3803 into law to give greater choice to parents when deciding if their child should repeat a grade level for 4th through 8th grades or a high school level course. He said he signed the bill so “parents – not school administrators – have the option to determine whether it's in the child's best interest to repeat a grade level.”

He signed these bills into law less than two weeks after signing HB 18 into law to expand data privacy protections and online safeguards for minors. Sindelar said this new law is “a crucial step in the right direction to protect our most precious population from the overwhelming harms and stop the commodification of children by Big Tech.”

“As children are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, self-harm, sex trafficking, and suicide online,” he said the new law “is a momentous victory in the bid to put the safety and well-being of children over the pecuniary interests of Big Tech.”

Abbott also directed Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath on Monday to waive specific requirements for school districts or open-enrollment charter schools so they can continue offering virtual instruction options for students in 3rd through 12th grade through the Texas Virtual School Network. His directive expands the initiative for another two years “until a more permanent solution is adopted during the next regular legislative session in 2025.”

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“Texas wants to see all of our children succeed and receive the best education possible,” Abbott said in a statement separate from the bill signing. “Many parents across our state have found that the best fit for their child's education is through virtual instruction.”

Texas schools currently offer virtual instruction through a patchwork of several state statutes including one that authorizes schools to receive full-time funding for students enrolled in local, virtual learning programs through TXVSN.

TEA's waiver authority allows school systems to offer full-time virtual instruction and receive full funding for every enrolled student in 3rd through 12th grade who successfully complete the school year.

TEA is expected to communicate this week to school districts currently offering virtual instruction through other statutes to provide guidance so they can continue offering such instruction.

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Texas News

The town that changed its name for free cable TV

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www.kxan.com – Russell Falcon – 2024-02-24 15:08:00

SUMMARY: In 2005, the small town of Clark in Texas changed its name to DISH in exchange for free cable TV service for ten years from Dish Network. However, the deal only provided basic service for free, with premium channels costing extra. The city hoped the offer would attract more residents and businesses, but the influx was not as expected. The deal expired in 2015, and discussions have been held about changing the name back to Clark or something else, but no action has been taken. Texas is known for its odd town names, including Bug Tussle, Cut and Shoot, Jot ‘Em Down, and Nameless.

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Big 12 men’s basketball matchup: No. 2 Houston Cougars beat No. 11 Baylor Bears in overtime at Foster Pavilion

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abc13.com – KTRK – 2024-02-24 14:58:44

SUMMARY: The University of Houston men’s basketball team defeated Baylor 82-76 in their first visit to Waco in 28 years. The Cougars shot 58% in the first half and led 41-25 at halftime. UH guard Emanuel Sharp scored 18 points, with teammate Jamal Shead adding a double-double. Houston forward J’Wan Roberts scored 17 points. Baylor guard Ja’Kobe Walter scored 23 points and RayJ Dennis added 21 points. Despite a close finish, Houston secured the win and improved to a 24-3 overall record. They are now at the top of the Big 12 conference standings and will face Cincinnati next before finishing out their schedule in March.

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Oscars red carpet: Top 10 most iconic fashion moments for women in recent years

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abc13.com – OTRC – 2024-02-24 13:00:25

SUMMARY: The Oscars red carpet inspires a fashion fantasy world, with supermodel Roshumba Williams listing her top 10 best-dressed women in recent years. Nicole Kidman stunned in Dior in 2018, Janelle Monae shined in 2020, Gemma Chan made an impact in hot pink Valentino in 2019, and Zendaya stood out in yellow in 2021. Gwyneth Paltrow impressed in a cape dress in 2012, Charlize Theron turned heads in classic black in 2020, and Jennifer Lopez was breathtaking in blush in 2015. Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, and Halle Berry also made the list with their timeless and memorable fashion choices. The 2024 Oscars will air on March 10.

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