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Teachers Protest Cuts To Education & Midday Roundup

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – More than a thousand teachers are protesting at the state Capitol against more than $10 billion in proposed cuts to public education.

A high school marching band started the rally and protesters carried blue umbrellas to signify the need to spend the state's Rainy Day Fund. Lawmakers must find a way to close a $27 billion budget shortfall and a draft budget could lay-off 100,000 teachers.

That's about a third of the state's public school teachers.

Monday's rally led by the American Federation of Teachers follows a similar march on the Capitol on Saturday. More than 5,000 parents, students and teachers called on lawmakers to tap the $9.4 billion Rainy Day fund and end a dispute over $883 million in federal stimulus funds.

Comptroller raises revenue estimate $300 million

Comptroller Susan Combs says the state will have an additional $300 million to spend in the next budget.

In a letter to lawmakers, Combs said that because of improved sales taxes returns, 2011 collections "will exceed my current estimate."

The new estimate might help alleviate some of the pain from budget cuts, but not by much.

The total revenue estimate for the next two years, now $72.5 billion, is still more than $14 billion short of the amount needed to maintain state services at their current level without accounting for population growth and cost increases.

The announcement comes as lawmakers are debating whether to tap the Rainy Day Fund to help fill a projected $4.3 billion deficit in the current budget.

Man charged in deadly Dallas drive-by purse theft

A capital murder charge has been filed against a man over a deadly drive-by purse snatching in a Dallas store parking lot.

Dallas County Jail records show 28-year-old Rogelio Belmonte of Denton was held Monday on $500,000 bond. Electronic jail records did not list an attorney for Belmonte, who was booked Saturday night.

Police say the 76-year-old victim, Sabra Leavy, died Saturday afternoon, three days after she was dragged about 40 yards and then run over by a truck as her purse was being stolen. Police later located the vehicle, which was parked, and arrested Belmonte when he returned to the truck.

Police initially identified the victim as Fabra Leavy, but on Monday corrected the spelling of her first name to Sabra.

Texas spring break drivers watching gas prices

AAA Texas says drivers have been monitoring gasoline prices to decide whether to hit the road for spring break.

The association on Monday reported on its AAA Texas spring break poll.

The online survey, done Feb. 14 to Feb. 22 by nearly 300 AAA Texas members, found about half indicated that gas prices have already affected their budgets. The average retail gasoline rice in Texas on Monday was $3.42 a gallon.

The survey asked what gasoline price point would cause them to drastically cut back on driving. About 22 percent said $3 a gallon was the critical price point, while 25 percent said $3.50 and 24 percent said $4 a gallon was the limit.

About 20 percent of those surveyed are not taking a spring vacation.