Garland ISD's Former HR Director Exploited H1-B Visa Program for Cash, Trips to Philippines, Investigators Say

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@KRLDEmily
Attorneys outline their investigation into Garland ISD's H1-B visa program.
Until now, there have been only vague hints of improprieties in Garland ISD's H1-B visa program. There was an investigation serious enough to call in the feds, possibly involving foreign teachers paying fees they shouldn't have had to pay, and a bunch of teachers' visas were set to expire.

Today, Garland ISD cleared the air with a press conference detailing the findings of an outside investigation into the program. To quickly summarize: It's all the HR guy's fault.

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SMU Students Aren't Quite Ready For Increased LGBT Representation

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Daniel Lobo
Two years ago, SMU finally climbed off the Princeton Review's list of the country's most "LGBT-unfriendly" schools. The news was welcomed by administrators, who have worked hard to shed the university's homophobic image, but it hardly meant that The Hilltop had suddenly become a bastion of progressive inclusiveness.

Case in point: The student body on Thursday voted down a measure that would have added a permanent LGBT seat to the student senate, much like the seats already set aside for African American, Asian and transfer students.

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Dallas County Schools Unveils the "School Bus of the Future," Complete with "Pedophile Finder"

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Dallas County Schools
Dallas County Schools -- the local school district with no schools or students but lots and lots of school buses -- sent word last Friday that it was preparing to unveil the "School Bus of the Future," and that this futuristic vehicle will "will revolutionize school bus transit and exponentially increase the safe passage of students to and from school." We were intrigued.

My money personally was on some sort of armored personnel carrier, which the Department of Defense is handing out like peppermints. Web editor Gavin Cleaver, a deeply cynical British man, speculated that it's "probably just some unemployed guy in a battered old Ford Galaxy," which would be more in keeping with tradition.

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Plano ISD's Security Director Gambled Away $2.5 Million of the School District's Money

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Kris Gentz, via Facebook
Meet Kris Gentz, 59-year-old Princeton resident, 14-year veteran of Plano ISD, and, according to the feds, a compulsive gambler and prolific thief.

Federal prosecutors, along with the FBI and Plano police, announced this morning that Gentz has pleaded guilty to embezzling some $2.5 million from the district, most of which he frittered away at casinos.

According to the Plano Star Courier's Bill Conrad, the scheme was rather simple: Gentz created two fake companies and got them approved as Plano ISD vendors. Those companies would regularly submit fake invoices that would be paid by the district. That money would then go in the pocket of Gentz and two accomplices, neither of whom worked for the district.

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Uplift Education Sat on Teacher-Rape Allegations for More Than a Year, Family Claims

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Donald Carter Jr.
A Dallas family says Uplift Education kept a known sexual predator on staff as a teacher for more than a year after learning he raped their teenage daughter.

The rape, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the parents and alleged victim (all identified by pseudonyms), happened on the night of Uplift Hampton Prep's homecoming game in November 2011.

Carter, who is currently charged with sexual assault, had been involved in "other deviant and felonious sexual relationships with other students at Hampton Prep" when he set his sights on the girl. He began a "careful and methodical process of grooming," giving her an inordinate amount of attention in school and calling her and texting her frequently, often after hours, putting increasing pressure on her to have sex.

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Texas Now Just Fifth to Last In Per-Student Education Spending

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Elgin County Archives
Once upon a time, when public schools could afford art.
The Texas legislature's decision to cut $5.4 billion from the public education budget three years ago had some rather predictable consequences: fewer teachers, larger class sizes and a sizable drop in the telling funding-per-pupil metric. Texas promptly dropped to 49th on the latter metric among states and Washington, D.C.

This past legislative session restored some $3.4 billion to public schools, which lawyers for the state touted as proof that Texas' school finance system is not in fact broken and shouldn't be interfered with by the courts.

Whether Austin District Judge William Dietz buys that argument will become clear in May, when he's expected to rule in an enormous school-finance lawsuit. For now, we can only marvel at the gains the legislature's partial funding restoration has brought about.

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The Texas Education Agency Is Preparing to Close an Azle Charter School for Foster Kids

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Screengrab
The way that Azleway Charter School Superintendent Steve Lenz describes it, his students wouldn't last long at a regular old public school.

Even the ones that aren't hospitalized or in special ed are often several grades behind where they should be. They also tend to move a lot. "Some of our students might come to us for three months, some might come for nine months, some might stay for two or three years," Lenz says.

Worse, they're often mistrustful of adults, and might do something violent to show it, like throw a desk at a teacher.

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Are Mike Morath and Dallas ISD's Home-Rule Backers Overstating How Terrible the Schools Are?

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Dallas ISD Trustee Mike Morath, who came forward yesterday to explain his role as the watchmaker who set into motion Support Our Public Schools, is Rain Man-like in his ability to spout off statistics. He -- and Mayor Mike Rawlings and the others behind the home-rule push -- have been dropping a lot of numbers recently, giving the general impression that DISD is an abject and irredeemable failure.

But Morath et al might be overstating things just a bit. DISD isn't Highland Park, but is it really as awful as they say?

The short answer is no. The Dallas Morning News' Matthew Haag does a solid job of picking apart one of SOPS' claims, that "Only 7% of DISD seniors graduate high school prepared to go to college." (In his weekend Q&A with the DMN, Morath puts the figure at 8.1 percent).

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Tarrant County College's White Student Union Debuts on National Hate-Group List

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Richard Railey
Just so there's no confusion, the White Student Union of Tarrant County College never had any official connection to Tarrant County College. The group was founded a little more than a year ago by Richard Railey, a 56-year-old white supremacist who happened taking classes there. There was nothing for the school to do but ask Railey to include a disclaimer "Not an officially chartered or school sanctioned club") and tweak the name to avoid confusion. (it's now simply the White Student Union of Tarrant County).

The Tarrant County GOP also made clear it wanted nothing to do with the organization (in the past it has counted Railey as a precinct chair). Ronald Reagan, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, all of whom Railey claims as ideological allies, would no doubt have the same reaction.

Nor, it seems, did Railey's fellow students thrill to his message, which had a little to do with a specific program aimed at boosting academic achievement among minority students and very much to do with white people being awesome. The registration table he set up on campus last spring apparently garnered little interest.

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The Arguments Against Dallas ISD's Home-Rule Charter Push Are All Pretty Terrible

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Dallas ISD trustee Carla Ranger, one of the main opponents of the new home-rule charter push.
The folks behind Support Our Schools, the group pushing to free Dallas ISD from many state regulations by turning it into a home-rule district, have finally gotten around to explaining themselves.

Their stated goals: to combat voter apathy, extend the school year and school day, woo back the middle class, make it easier to fire bad teachers and provide more local control over funding and curriculum.

In response, trustee Carla Ranger took to her blog -- again -- to decry the effort as a cynical power grab by the city's business elite:

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