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Roundup: House Approves Lower Pay, Furloughs For Teachers

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – School districts will be able to pay public school teachers less and furlough them without pay under a bill passed by the House.

The measure also allows the education commissioner to consider budget cuts in allowing larger class sizes in some schools. The bill now goes back to the Senate to consider amendments added by House Thursday.

Lawmakers have slashed public school spending in order to balance the state budget without raising taxes or spending the Rainy Day Fund. The proposed law is designed to help school districts adjust to lower per student funding.

Opponents claim that it allows school districts to mistreat teachers. Supporters say the measure is necessary under the current economic situation and will expire when school funding returns to 2010-2011 levels.

House approves new system for school materials

The Texas House gave preliminary approval to a new system to pay for school materials, including textbooks. The bill would combine the textbook and technology allotments to public schools.

In the past lawmakers approved two different payments to schools based on the number of students in attendance. One was for textbooks, another for technology. If this measure passes, they will get one lump sum to buy instructional materials. The amount spent per students will depend on how much money is available in state accounts.

The proposed law requires the State Board of Education to set aside 50 percent of available funds for instructional materials. The board would no longer have to approve all materials.

Opponents say the new system does not include a mechanism to adjust for inflation.

Perry flirts with White House run as bills pile up

Gov. Rick Perry has 1,170 pieces of legislation awaiting his signature or a veto stamp and just three days left to get it done.

Perry, who says he's considering a run for the White House, has until Sunday to sign the bills into law or veto them. He also could allow the legislation to become law without his signature.

The deadline caps a week of national appearances and will-he-or-won't-he press coverage for Perry, who will speak Thursday in Austin at an investment firm's dinner.

Despite trips to New York City, North Carolina and New Orleans, Perry has said his focus remains on the Texas Legislature.

The legislation before him includes most of the state budget for 2012-2013. Spending for public schools is still being considered in a special legislative session.

Texas executes inmate who killed fellow prisoner

Convicted killer Lee Andrew Taylor has been executed for stabbing a fellow Texas prison inmate to death 12 years ago.

The 32-year-old Taylor received lethal injection Thursday evening in Huntsville after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal. His attorneys argued that Taylor had shoddy legal help during his trial and early stages of his appeals. That same argument had spared the life of another death row inmate, John Balentine, on Wednesday.

Taylor already was serving a life sentence for murdering a Houston-area man during a home break-in when he attacked inmate Donta Green at a prison near Texarkana. He insisted that he acted in self-defense.

Taylor was among only a handful of white offenders on Texas death row for killing a black person and only the second to be executed.