State of Texas: Judge orders Texas to pay daily fines until foster care problems are fixed

State of Texas

AUSTIN (Nexstar) —  In 2015 Judge Janis Jack ruled the Texas foster care system was broken and ordered the state to make changes, including around the clock supervision by adults who are awake for foster children in a group setting.

Almost five years later, the Department of Family and Protective Services have not implemented her orders. Now, Jack is suing the state of Texas.

Jack announced Tuesday until the problems are fixed the state will be fined $50,000 a day. That amount will double later this month if the foster care system still hasn’t changed.

Will Francis, Executive Director for the National Association for Social Workers Texas Chapter, said there are kids in the system who may never be adopted, and they have to support those children.

“We have to let them know that they have resources, support and tools and all the things that they need so that they can become those healthy, thriving adults that they want to be,” Francis said. “And our system does not do a great job of that.”

Bob Garrett, the Austin Bureau Chief for the Dallas Morning News, has been covering the story, and he said he thinks the state has taken a high risk gamble in thinking they can beat the lawsuit.

“The state’s position has been not to settle, not to yield an inch, and in the end they didn’t succeed in completely crushing the lawsuit,” Garrett said. “So they have a federal judge in their business.”

Garrett said the state has not been answering his question whether they will pay the fines or appeal the case, but he said he doesn’t think the state is on good grounds to appeal.

“I don’t know where you go if you’re a lawyer advising the governor of Texas, but we’ll see,” Garrett said.

Houston ISD Takeover

The state announced Wednesday they are taking over the largest school district in Texas, Houston Independent School District.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath told the district their repeated low academic performances and the school boards’s failure of governance are two reasons for the take over.

The state will appoint a board of governance and a new superintendent. The state will be in charge of almost 215,000 students and over 270 schools.

Ross Ramsey, executive editor and co-founder of The Texas Tribune, said Houston ISD has problems in governance, violations of the Open Meetings Act and the TEC has problems with the way the board handles business.

“The state law says if a district has a school that’s under performing for a certain number of years, you can take over the school, or you can take over the district,” Ramsey said. “In this case they’ve decided, because of the governance problems, to take over the district.”

Ramsey said the school board has one last shot to appeal, but it doesn’t look very good for them.

“And the state’s been saying, ‘You need to fix that, you need to that,’ persisting in this,” Ramsey said. “HISD has had a lot of warning that this was coming , and here we are at the precipice.”

Houston ISD has acknowledged the take over, but has not made any other official comments about it.

Prop 4 and what it means for Texas

On Tuesday voters made their voices loud and clear about raising the bar to implement a state income tax.

Three quarters of voters voted for Prop 4 which means it takes a two-thirds super-majority in both the Texas House and Senate and then a majority vote from the public to impose an income tax.

The prop had support from all of the state’s Republicans in both chambers and the support of a few Democrats. However, some teachers are not happy about Prop 4 passing.

“The biggest concern is just the elimination of the guarantees to reduce property taxes and fund public education if at any point in the future if Texas, were to decide to, through a vote, adopt a state income tax,” Noel Candelaria, Texas State Teachers Association President said.

Sam Robles, advocacy director of Progress Texas, said this means either property taxes or sales taxes are going to go up.

“We do need to pay for the core competencies of government,” Robles said. “But we have got the revenue we need now. We just need to continue to invest and grow the Texas economy for the future.”

Voter turnout for the elections was 12% which means 1.5 million people made the decisions for 28 million Texans.

U.S. Senate

While President Trump is confident about Texas Senator John Cornyn’s chances in the 2020 election, it is still uncertain who will challenge the incumbent next November.

The primaries are less than four months away, and the race for the Democratic nomination is still unclear.

The University of Texas and the Texas Tribune polled likely Democratic primary voters, and they found retired Air Force officer and former Congressional candidate MJ Hegar has an early lead with 12% support.

Sema Hernandez, who ran and lost to Beto O’Rourke in last year’s senate primary, is the next-closest candidate with 6%.

The other candidates in the top five are State Senator Royce West, Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards and activist Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez.

Tzintzun Ramirez said she will support whoever wins the primary, but she feels confident she will be the one to unseat Senator Cornyn.

“John Cornyn does not represent the Texas of today,” Tzintzun Ramirez said. “He represents the Texas of the past. We need someone who’s willing to fight for working families and middle-class families. I am that candidate.”

O’Rourke is out, Castro is in

Beto O’Rourke announced last Friday he would be dropping out of the race for the Presidency. Since one Texan is out of the race, some-high profile supporters are endorsing another Texas candidate.

Four El Paso law makers, including State Senator Jose Rodriguez, have announced their support for Julian Castro since O’Rourke dropped out. State Representative Joe Moody and Art Fierro are also backing Castro.

Other Democratic supporters include Abel Herrero, Oscar Longoria, Ana-Maria Ramos, and Gene Wu.

While Castro has received support from these lawmakers, he has been having trouble funding his campaign. Last month Castro said he would drop out of the race unless he raised $800,000 by the end of October.

Castro met that goal, but last week he announced campaign staffers in New Hampshire and South Carolina will be laid off. He still has not reached the threshold to get on the stage for the November debate.

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