AUSTIN — The state Senate Education and Higher Education committees met in joint session May 24 to get input on the effectiveness and scope of the state’s dual-course credit program that enables students to take high school courses that earn college credit.

Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund A. Paredes said increasing numbers of economically disadvantaged students are enrolling. Those students, who now make up about a third of students in dual-credit programs, are underrepresented, however, when compared to the total proportion of economically disadvantaged students, Paredes said.

The program lacks consistency statewide, as some areas of the state offer more in terms of structural and financial support for students looking to take college courses than others, Paredes testified.

“We know there are differences in support services across the state that yield different results,” said Paredes. “We have to make sure every child has an opportunity to do as well in dual-credit courses as possible.”

Education Committee Chair Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said the state needs to find ways to make it easier for students to get into dual-credit courses. “We are putting in place too many hurdles for those students to get there,” she said.

Air quality

hearings scheduled

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced plans to host a series of meetings around the state in June and July to inform the public about, and receive comment on, potential non-attainment boundaries and designations for new ozone standards.

These standards were proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January and are expected to be finalized in August.

In other news, Gov. Rick Perry on May 26 said the EPA’s move to enforce the federal Clean Air Act in Texas threatens to kill thousands of jobs.

“I am calling upon President Obama to rein in the EPA and instruct them to study our successful approach for recommended use elsewhere,” Perry said.

Buckle up,

backseat passengers

The state law requiring everyone in a vehicle to be secured by an approved safety belt took effect on Sept. 1, 2009, and until June 6, the Texas Highway Patrol and law enforcement officers across the state will be on the lookout for violators during the ninth “Click It or Ticket” enforcement mobilization.

“This year’s Click It or Ticket campaign reminds drivers and passengers that no matter how old you are or where in the vehicle you are sitting, you must buckle up,” said Texas Highway Patrol Assistant Director David Baker.

“Backseat passengers no longer have an excuse for not wearing a safety belt, and we will be issuing tickets to those who are not complying with the law.”

Baker said that during the Memorial Day holiday last year, DPS troopers arrested 622 drunken drivers, wrote nearly 8,511 speeding tickets and issued 1,937 seat belt and 521 child restraint citations.

DOJ OKs

consolidation of ISDs

The U.S. Department of Justice on May 25 cleared the way for the Texas commissioner of education to consolidate the Kendleton Independent School District with neighboring Lamar Consolidated ISD, effective July 1.

Commissioner of Education Robert Scott in March announced his intention to close Kendleton, a small, one-campus district in Fort Bend County, because of chronic academic problems.

Because the consolidation eliminates the Kendleton school board, it was necessary for Texas Education Agency to seek preclearance from the Justice Department as Texas remains under restrictions imposed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Closing a school district is a somber moment,” Scott said. “It is an action I take only when all other efforts to revive a district have failed.”

Hurricane preparations: it’s time

Hurricane season officially starts on June 1. The Texas Department of Insurance on May 25 encouraged Texans to read and understand their insurance policies and to pose questions to their agent or company.

For starters, the department suggested a home inventory and to  store the inventory in a safe location away from home.

For a list of other suggested preparations, visit the Consumer Help Line: 1-800-252-3439 or visit http://www.tdi.state.tx.us.

Street dubbed

Willie Nelson Blvd.

Austin City Council on May 27 voted to honor singer Willie Nelson by giving 2nd Street between Trinity and San Antonio streets the honorary name of Willie Nelson Boulevard.