The Senate Education committee held its first hearing of the 79th Session today, taking testimony from state officials regarding federal education mandates, specifically the No Child Left Behind Act. The committee is in the spotlight this session, as it will handle Senate Bill 2, the Senate's plan to fix the state's public school finance system. One-point-eight billion dollars of the state's annual education funding comes through the No Child Left Behind. In order for the state to receive this money, it must meet certain federal standards. Chief among these is an accountability system, judged by yearly improvement in educational performance and graduation rates. Under the No Child Left Behind act, parents are allowed to transfer students to a different school if their school has academic problems or a history of violence. Their state is responsible for notifying parents which schools have these problems by the third week in August of each year, or will face penalties in the form of reduced funds. This year, Texas did not file this notification until October 1st, causing the federal government to levy a penalty of $442,000. State officials are appealing this decision, and hope to recoup these funds.
The President of Madagascar, Mark Ravalomanana, and his wife, Lalao, paid a visit to the Senate today as part of a goodwill tour of the United States. Mr. Ravalomanana has already visited Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles in order to improve relations between his country and the U.S. His visit to Texas has included a meeting with the Mayor of Houston, a visit to Abilene Christian University, and a reception with Governor Rick Perry. Mr. Ravalomanana was honored by the Senate for being a self-made man, parlaying a loan from the World Bank into the largest non-foreign company on his island nation. He was elected as President in 2002 and has highlighted education, infrastructure and HIV/AIDS treatment as the cornerstones of his administration.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, February 9th, at 11:00 A.M.