AUSTIN — The State Board of Education on May 21 approved new curriculum standards on a series of 9-5 votes after two days of public debate.

Standing-room-only crowds paid close attention as the ideologically divided board jousted over proposed changes to social studies and history standards. The board considered 213 amendments to standards for kindergarten through 12th grade. New standards for the high school economics course passed on a unanimous vote.

The newly adopted standards, or Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, will be used in classrooms beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, the Texas Education Agency said. Examples of changes:

• Analyze Abraham Lincoln’s ideas about liberty, equality, union and government as contained in his first and second inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address and contrast them with the ideas contained in Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address.

• Examine the reasons the Founders protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase “separation of church and state.”

• Explain instances of institutional racism in American society.

• Discuss the solvency of long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.

Order for budget

cuts is made

State agencies are tightening their belts enough to save taxpayers an estimated $1.2 billion in the current two-year budget cycle, the governor’s office said.

In January, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, asked that each state agency make plans to cut general revenue budgets by 5 percent to head off a projected state budget shortfall then estimated at $10 billion.

Straus said, “We cannot afford business as usual, but must make tough choices and put every cost savings idea on the table.”

On May 18, Perry, Dewhurst and Straus directed the Legislative Budget Board to tell the agencies to implement their budget-savings proposals immediately.

Budget cuts would have totaled close to $1.7 billion, but some $483 million in exemptions was granted to the Texas Department of Public Safety Homeland and Border Security; the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Capitol metal

detectors in use

Screening stations with airport-style metal detectors began functioning at first-floor state Capitol entrances on May 21.

All visitors, including scheduled tours and schoolchildren, must go through the detectors, but legislators and staff will have official access points and don’t have to go through if they show their building access badge.

Capitol visitors are asked to remove metal objects before walking through the detectors. Troopers employ handheld wands to check wheelchair-using visitors.

Concealed handgun license holders and law enforcement officers not in uniform must show their license or agency credentials to avoid going through the metal detectors.

Unemployment

rate creeps higher

The Texas civilian labor force grew by 51,000 workers in April, but the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent in April, up from 8.2 percent in March.

In its May 21 report, the Texas Workforce Commission said, however, that the state’s unemployment rate continues to trend below the U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April of 9.9 percent.

Chief exec turns

down trailer offer

The Texas chapter of the AFL-CIO on May 19 offered Gov. Perry the use of a new, fully equipped mobile home for $1 a year.

The labor union said if Perry  were to take up residence in the home placed in its parking lot, the savings to taxpayers would total nearly $120,000 a year on rent the state is paying for Perry’s temporary quarters while the arson-damaged

Governor’s Mansion is being renovated.

Perry’s staff quickly rejected the offer on his behalf.

Texas Tribune posts

state salaries

The Texas Tribune, a government watchdog Web-based publication, has posted a state payroll database listing employees by name, agency, job title and annual base salary.

The searchable database is at: http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/government-employee-salaries/.