Ed Sterling

Capital Highlights

AUSTIN — Changes to the social studies curriculum for public schools are in the hopper.

The State Board of Education on March 12 voted 10-5 in favor of a set of proposed revisions. The next step is for the proposed revisions to be posted in the Texas Register in mid-April, and then a 30-day public comment period will begin. ??One of several points of contention arose over whether to require that students be taught the names of Tejanos, the Texans of Hispanic ancestry, who were among the 189 that fought for independence and died at the Alamo, but are not named in textbooks. The effort to include those names failed.??Comments with suggested changes to the proposed revisions may be sent to rules@tea.state.tx.us . The final steps in the process are for the board to consider additional updates and final adoption at its May meeting. ??Also on March 12, the board adopted educator certification requirements and voted to enter into agreements with Mesa West Real Estate Income Fund II L.P. and Invesco Mortgage Recovery Fund.  Each entity will be allowed to invest $40 million of the multi-billion dollar Permanent School Fund in real estate. The Texas Education Agency said never before has the board entered into a real estate purchase agreement.

Projects to receive federal funds

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples on March 12 congratulated the recipients of tens of millions of federal dollars in broadband funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help bring high-speed Internet service to rural areas.??Projects in Texas to receive funding will improve broadband service in the Texas South Plains region, the Dalhart and Stratford communities in the upper Texas Panhandle and in the Burkburnett and Iowa Park community areas in north central Texas.??The money is part of a $7.2 billion appropriation through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act directing the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the U.S., increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure and provide long-term economic benefits.

School fund increases in 2009

The fund that guarantees school district bonds and supports the purchase of student textbooks realized a 25 percent return in 2009, the Texas Education Agency reported March 12. ??The Texas Permanent School Fund, the largest public endowment for public schools in the nation, was valued at $22.2 billion on Dec. 31, 2009, up from $18.1 on Dec. 31, 2008. ??The fund’s guarantee of school bonds allows Texas school districts to gain AAA ratings for their bonds, saving them millions in interest and insurance costs. The fund also provides textbooks free of charge to the state’s 4.7 million schoolchildren and provides general financial support to the more than 8,000 Texas public schools, the Texas Education Agency said.

Firm must provide restitution

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, attorneys general from 34 other states and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on March 9 resolved their investigation of Arizona-based LifeLock Inc. and reached an agreement with the private identity theft protection service.??Under the agreement, LifeLock Inc. must provide $11 million in restitution to eligible customers and must not misrepresent that it: (1) protects against all forms of ID theft; (2) eliminates the risk of ID theft; (3) constantly monitors activity on each of its customers’ consumer reports; and (4) always prompts a call from a potential creditor before a new credit account is opened in the customer’s name.

Grief named lottery agency chief

The three-member Texas Lottery Commission on March 9 announced the appointment of Gary Grief as executive director of the agency.??Grief, who had been leading the agency as deputy executive director since October 2008, was appointed on a unanimous vote. ??An original member of the task force assigned to research and launch the Texas Lottery, Grief has been with the agency since 1992.

Census ‘ambassador’ is named

Gov. Rick Perry on March 9 named Secretary of State Hope Andrade the “Texas Census Ambassador” to promote participation by Texans in the 2010 Census. Forms for the 2010 Census will be delivered to residents this month.??Andrade, U.S. Census officials and others joined in Austin on March 12 to encourage all who live in Texas to participate in the census. She will promote the Census statewide until the April 1 deadline.