The State of Texas: November 2, 2015
Texas homeschooling getting tested in court, the unclear future of campus gun laws, and the nuttiest on-air interview you’ll hear this year.
Texans do a pretty great job of representin’ on Halloween. Remember those Lone Star and Shiner knights from last year? But all previous efforts pale in comparison to the costume posted on the RGV’s Area956 Facebook page. It’s probably the sweetest treat from this year’s Halloween:
Homeschooled? — Texas could get a pretty tough lesson in homeschool education beginning Monday, when the Texas Supreme Court will take up McIntyres v. the El Paso school district. The cheatsheet version goes like this: Michael and Laura McIntyres, who had been homeschooling their nine children for a decade, were accused by relatives of “failing to teach their children educational basics because they were waiting to be transported to heaven with the second coming of Jesus Christ,” according to the Associated Press. The El Paso school district filed truancy charges, later dropped, after the McIntyres refused to submit paperwork showing that the kids were being educated properly. The family sued, which is how the case wound up before the Texas Supreme Court. Currently, homeschooled kids in Texas don’t have to meet specific grade requirements and “even in the most extreme cases, about the most a local truancy officer can do is get the parents to sign a verification form,” writes the Austin American-Statesman. How much control school districts have in ensuring proper education is just one of the major issues that will be addressed. “In court filings, the McIntyres say the district is biased against Christians and accuse its officials of mounting a ‘startling assertion of sweeping governmental power,'” writes the AP. The McIntryes say the “form appeared to require the couple to adhere to a curriculum that ‘must comply with the Texas Education Agency,'” and feared “that agreeing to those terms would violate their religious convictions.” Whether or not this is another attack on good Christian folk, likely only God knows. But any decision could have huge implications. An estimated 300,000 students are homeschooled in Texas (reports and figures vary because parent-teachers don’t have to register), with an estimated 20,000 kids going off the school grid every year.
Place Your Bets — What’s going to happen to racing in Texas? There’s no safe bet. The Texas Racing Commission and lawmakers have been playing a game of chicken for more than a year over “historical racing,” basically a slot machine game revolving around real horse races. In defiance of lawmakers, the TRC has been running these races, and in response lawmakers haven’t signed off on the needed state funds to run the race tracks. But the finish line is just around the corner, with current funds drying up after November. “Everybody is holding their breath, collectively praying for the result that the commission will be funded so they can go ahead and plan their lives,” the director of facilities and track superintendent at Lone Star Park told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Lawmakers and the bingo lobby (really) has argued against the historical betting either on grounds of morality or to protect business interests. As the Star-Telegram notes, caught in the middle of the fight is “a slumping racing industry made up of thousands of Texans who work as veterinarians, jockeys, grooms, breeders and more. State estimates show they contribute $5.5 billion to the Texas economy and create 36,000 jobs.” It’s no Seabiscuit, but the tension is real. “Behind the scenes, state budget writers again appear to be deadlocked over the issue. Observers say negotiations are going on behind the scenes to find a funding solution. Lawmakers aren’t publicly talking about it.”
Loaded Question — The Dallas Morning News digs into a few of the many issues surrounding the state’s forthcoming campus gun laws. At issue, predicts the Morning News, will be be state school’s possible ability to designated specific gun-free zones. “The discretion — part of a compromise late in the Legislature’s session that helped the bill pass — has injected uncertainty over how far schools can stretch those bounds. And as lawmakers keep a close eye on how universities proceed, some have speculated that campus carry could end up in court.” The provision’s author, Representative John Zerwas, said some classes “may not be a comfortable setting” for guns (debates in philosophy 101 can get pretty heated), but the lack of clarity on the law is pretty disconcerting. Still, the article includes plenty of unanswered questions about what will and won’t be allowed, and just how far schools (which have pretty much been uniformly against the law) can go in keeping firearms away entirely. Hooray for compromise!
Where I’m Calling From — This is, as Jalopnik put it, “the greatest weather television interview of all time.” In case you missed it, Austin’ KVUE was interviewing a man whose car had been swept away during the area’s extensive flooding on Friday. Describing the scene over the phone, Kerry Packer casually mentions that he’s calling from twenty feet in the air, after climbing a tree to avoid the churning waters below. He says this so calmly that you can actually hear one of the TV talents begin to move on with a different question before the other, rather astutely, asks, “Wait, you’re still in the tree?” Packer, the chillest man in Texas, replies, “Thankfully this is the nicest tree here. It’s a little cold, but I did Boy Scouts for 20 years, so I know how to keep my energy up and keep warm, so I’m doing fine.” Stuck up there since about 9 a.m., emergency personal confirmed to KVUE at 2:40 p.m. that Packer was back on the ground, safe.