AUSTIN — Some 109 independent school districts and charters directly affected by Hurricane Harvey are eligible for special evaluation in this year’s state accountability system, the Texas Education Agency announced Aug. 1. 

Based on data reported to the agency during the past school year, the affected districts and charters encompass some 1,188 eligible campuses.

Among the submitted data are the numbers of displaced students and teachers and the impact on local school facilities and instructional time. 

Hurricane Harvey criteria announced in June represents a change to storm-related accountability adjustments when compared to prior storms in Texas due to the extraordinary magnitude and unique impact of the storm. The adjustments provide the necessary reprieve from accountability while also ensuring that student outcomes continue to be the focus in Texas, the TEA said.

Districts and charters were given several opportunities to submit information regarding students, teachers and facilities throughout the school year, the TEA said.

Gallego, Flores to face off

Former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego of San Antonio and retired game warden Pete Flores of Pleasanton will face each other in a runoff for Senate District 19. A date for the runoff had not been set as of press time.

Gallego, a Democrat, beat state Rep. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio for the right to face Flores, who easily outdistanced two other Republicans in the SD-19 special election on July 31.

Gallego, a lawyer, was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1990. He served 11 consecutive terms in the House until he was elected to Congress in 2012. He served one two-year term in Congress and in 2014 lost to Republican challenger Will Hurd, a Helotes lawyer, who is now running for his third straight two-year term as the representative for Texas Congressional District 23.

The winner of the Gallego-Flores runoff will fill the seat formerly held by Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, who resigned from office after he was convicted by a federal district court on 11 felony counts of fraud. Uresti was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Miller stops spraying

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller on July 30 shut down a cattle fever tick spray box operation at a South Texas ranch. 

The spray boxes apply a high-powered insecticide to combat ticks that may infect livestock with deadly Texas cattle fever. Miller said lack of ventilation in the confined spray box violates federally approved label requirements for the insecticide and that licensed applicators were not present at the inspection, as required by state and federal law. 

The Cattle-Fever Tick Eradication Program is managed by the USDA and the Texas Animal Health Commission. The use of pesticides is regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture, over which Miller presides.

The goal of the program is to limit the cattle fever tick to the eight-county quarantine zone along the border with Mexico, and ultimately to eradicate the pest from Texas entirely. 

On Aug. 1, the Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association issued a statement critical of Miller’s action. 

“We are very disappointed that Commissioner Miller made such a rash decision to take away this vital tool from Texas cattleraisers,” wrote the organization's president, Robert McKnight Jr. “His decision has a direct and immediate impact on cattle health, Texas ranchers and the entire U.S. cattle industry. His action could seriously endanger cattle welfare and prevent Texas ranchers from participating in commerce at a time when our industry is already facing hardships due to drought and other issues. We hope Commissioner Miller will reconsider his position that harms Texas cattle and cattle raisers.”

Revenue total increases

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Aug. 2 announced that state sales tax revenue totaled $2.74 billion in July, 6.9 percent more than in July 2017. 

“Sales tax receipts from almost all major economic sectors were up compared with last year,” Hegar said. “The most notable increases were from oil and gas mining and manufacturing sectors, followed by wholesale trade, restaurants and services. Recent tax collections have also been boosted by a tax amnesty, including more than $39 million in delinquent state sales tax revenue, most of which was processed in July.”

Also, total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in July 2018 was up 10.2 percent compared to the same period a year ago.