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Saturday, January 20, 2018

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Scott Kabrich

October, 2010

University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) will receive $2.5 million from The Promoting Post-baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans Program over the next five years to help boost the number of Hispanics enrolled in graduate school.  UIW is one of 21 institutions selected to receive funding in a national competition sponsored by the federal program. UIW Dean Graduate Studies and Research Kevin B. Vichcales is the project’s principal investigator.  School officials will use the money to increase the retention, academic performance and graduation rate of Hispanic students. UIW will hire a full-time director who will coordinate and oversee academic and social support services for grad students at a new Graduate Services Center. The new director will also manage grant-related tasks and activities.  San Antonio-based UIW is the largest Catholic university in the state.

Northwest Vista College won a five-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the INNOVISTA project, which aims to expand distance learning opportunities, improve testing, recruiting, and advising for unprepared students, and to create innovative advising programs that foster connections between faculty and students.

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio medical professor Bin Zhang received a $450000 grant from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to advance his research in boosting the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.  Zhang is an assistant professor of medicine in hematology and medical oncology.

Execupay has agreed to sponsor the American Diabetes Association’s Walk to Fight Diabetes event, which will be held Oct. 30 at Brackenridge Park in San Antonio.  More than 3,000 walkers are expected to participate in the event this year.San Antonio-based Execupay is one of the largest independent payroll services companies in the country. Execupay provides payroll, tax, human resources and benefit-management services to companies throughout the United States.

A University of Texas Health Science Center medical student has been awarded a $10,000 scholarship intended to promote careers in multiple sclerosis research — the first academic award of its kind locally.   Plans for the scholarship were announced during the annual meeting of The Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers staged locally in June. The consortium is the nation's leading professional organization for MS healthcare providers and researchers in North America, with global membership.  Nelda P. Itzep, a second-year medical student at UTHSC's School of Medicine in San Antonio, was awarded the scholarship — a so-called preceptorship with its main objective of pairing up a student with an established professional as a mentor — supported through a donation by Genzyme Corp.


Over $5 million raised on North Texas Giving Day, Monday, October 11 - Results are in from the Sept. 8 Get Up and Give! North Texas Giving Day, and in just 12 hours, there were more than 7,000 donations from North Texans. Some donors gave to more than one of their favorite nonprofits, and the results far exceeded last year's initial effort.  The donations were made through the website.  The total donated was $1.5 million more than last year and totaled $5,050,000 to 460 organizations across the area.  The size of the average donation rose from $400 last year to $545 this year.  Those results are even more impressive when you consider that last year's drive lasted two days and this year's only 12 hours.   The goal of the second annual North Texas Giving Day, developed by Communities Foundation of Texas in partnership with the Dallas Foundation and Center for Nonprofit Management, was to demonstrate the broad community support for nonprofits.

The WellMed Charitable Foundation will receive part of a nearly $500,000 federal grant to help expand wellness curriculum for caregivers.  The organization is being paid to administer a wellness teaching program designed with University of Texas Health Science Center researchers. The Caregiver Stress Busters program is paid for through a two-year grant totaling more than $490,513 from the U.S. Administration on Aging as part of a several federal awards from the Alzheimer’s Disease Supportive Services Program.  The UT Health Science Center program includes nine, 90-minute weekly sessions, focused on using stress management techniques, such as relaxation breathing, meditation, art therapy and music therapy.


Southwestern University in Georgetown was granted $3 million to permanently fund its Paideia program The gift closes a $9 million fundraising initiative to create an endowment for the enrichment program. Paideia was created to foster and promote connections between what students learn in the classroom and the world around them. Participants are required to complete a civic engagement project, a research project with a professor and an intercultural experience. The three-year program accepts about 10 students at a time and reimburses up to $1,000 of student's program expenses.



LBJ School Professor Awarded $100,000 Ford Foundation Grant.  Peter Ward, the C.B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in U.S.-Mexico Relations and professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation for research on sustainable housing policy and policy development for self-help in the Texas colonias, residential areas along the Texas-Mexico border that lack some basic living necessities such as electricity and running water.  The project will build upon data from 2000 and will offer a longitudinal perspective from two cross-sectional databases for 2000-10. Graduate students from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and other programs will assist Ward with research that will contribute to the development of housing and land market policy for low-income colonias in the Lower Valley counties as well as similar subdivisions in areas surrounding major cities such as Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

Texas A&M University has received a $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a new center dedicated to women faculty and improving their odds of success through a more psychologically healthy workplace.  Texas A&M’s ADVANCE Center for Women Faculty is funded under the NSF’s ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Program, which is intended to develop systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. In addition to contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce, ADVANCE works to ensure that women faculty with STEM degrees consider academia as a viable and attractive career option.

The University of Texas-Pan American issued the following news release: The University of Texas-Pan American will be able to connect with other Rio Grande Valley educational and research institutions through a fiber-optic network recently funded by a $15.7 million federal grant awarded to Valley Telephone Cooperative.  The Rio Grande Valley Fiber Optic Me/Ed Foundation Network will include the placement of more than 150 miles of fiber-optic cable throughout the four-county region (Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy and Starr). Co-applicants and anchor institutions will include UT Pan American, UT Brownsville, South Texas College, Texas State Technical College, and the University of Texas Health Science Center.

Almost $1.2 million dollars in federal grant money will be coming to the University of Texas of the Permian Basin to fund oilfield research.   The Department of Energy, through the National Energy Technology Laboratory, gave a grant of $1,198,547 to UTPB as part of its advanced research program. Bob Trentham, geology professor and director of UTPB's Center for Energy and Economic Diversification, said. The money will fund research into tertiary recovery in residual oil zones.

The American Heart Association has received a $3.5 million grant to improve heart attack care in Dallas County.  The two-year grant from the W.W. Caruth Jr. Foundation of Communities Foundation of Texas to the South Central Affiliate of the American Heart Association will go toward coordinating and streamlining the protocols of 17 hospitals and 23 emergency medical service providers in Dallas County, said Dr. John Warner, cardiologist and president of the AHA’s Dallas division and member of the South Central Affiliate Board.


Rachel Leah Collett, a 2010 graduate of Mason High School, has been awarded a scholarship by the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation.  Collett received the Houston Endowment Inc. Scholarship in the amount of $1,000, payable the first year of higher education. This year the Houston Endowment awarded a total of 24 grants to students who have participated in the University Interscholastic League Academic State Meet and who have compiled an outstanding record of academic and extracurricular achievement.  This year the TILF awarded 368 new scholarships and will renew approximately 233 multi-year awards for a total of 601 scholarships being distributed during the 2010-11 academic year, with value of approximately $1.1 million. Recipients must attend any approved college or university in Texas.

Carlos Eduardo Lopez, a graduate of Lufkin High School, has been awarded a scholarship by the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation. Lopez received the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Scholarship in the amount of $20,000, payable $2,500 each semester for the first four years of higher education. The Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Scholarship is awarded to students who have participated in the University Interscholastic League Academic State Meet and have compiled an outstanding record of academic and extracurricular achievement. The recipient must maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average.

Zachary Goodwin Roche and Jesse Crosse Lamon, graduates of Lufkin High School, has been awarded a scholarship by the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation.  Roche and Lamon received the Nelda C. & H.J. Lutcher Stark Scholarship in the amount of $15,200, payable $1,900 each semester for the first four years of higher education.   This year the Stark Foundation awarded a total of seven four-year grants, and two special $1,000 one-year grants, to students who have participated in the UIL Academic State Meet and who have compiled an outstanding record of academic and extracurricular achievement. Recipients must attend a state supported four-year college or university.

The Dallas, Texas-based Embrey Family Foundation has awarded the American Indian College Fund a $1 million grant over a four-year period for a Native women’s leadership program.  The project provides 20 scholarships and leadership training for American Indian women pursuing their bachelor’s degrees. As part of the leadership training, participants will attend annual retreats to develop skills and gain networking opportunities. Participants will also attend culturally relevant programs to help formulate their personal leadership development plans, which will take root in their Native communities, and evolve as they progress toward employment opportunities, and advanced degree programs.

Students across Harris County became a little richer through a grant from Chevron.  The $100,000 grant, presented earlier this year to the Education Foundation of Harris County, will provide teachers across 26 districts including the Pasadena Independent School District, training and K-12 education in the sciences to be a presence on regional and statewide platforms.  Harris County Department of Education’s new free-standing science center will give district teachers a push toward a strong science-oriented foundation for its students, with the objective to initiate curriculum supporting distance learning program at HCDE Science Center, which trains for online, credit, engineering courses for high school students.  
The center will give students and teachers an opportunity to utilize recording and broadcasting technologies to interview engineers in order to relate the sciences to the classroom curriculum.

The University of North Texas is set to begin construction on a Nanofabrication Analysis and Research Facility next month at its Discovery Park.  The $6.4 million project is being funded with a grant totaling more than $1 million from the National Science Foundation and approximately $5.4 million from the UNT system, according to university officials. The facility will allow researchers and students to break down materials and devices to determine the elements that make them most effective.

A project called "Mexodus" and funded by a $25,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, will examine the economic, academic and cultural impact of the growing migration from Mexico to El Paso and other areas.   A team of student reporters from The University of Texas at El Paso will work with an experienced bilingual journalist to develop and publish a multimedia package of stories that examines the exodus of businesses and members of the middle class from Mexico due to increasing levels of crime and drug violence. The stories will appear on

Zbranek Custom Homes, a local luxury home builder (Austin TX), will give $150,000 to the Lake Travis Youth Association on Saturday.  The youth sports association was defrauded of $200,000 in 2008 by a financial company hired to collect online credit card payments, according to a news release.   The money was raised through the construction of a benefit home; donations and discounts were given by Zbranek's' vendors and contractors to complete the project.   "We live in a wonderful area and the Lake Travis Youth Association is an integral part of our community," said Tony Holt, Zbranek's owner/partner. "Even in these tough economic times, we are honored to have the ability to give back to such a worthy cause."


Nationwide to place site in Westover Hills - Nationwide Insurance will be hiring hundreds of new employees and consolidating office space in San Antonio once it opens a new facility in Westover Hills in 2012.  Last year, Nationwide announced that it had selected San Antonio for a new sales and service operations center that would support the hiring of 800 individuals. On Monday, the insurer said it has placed land under contract near the intersection of Hyatt Resort Drive and State Highway 151 on which to place the building. The insurer expects to close on the land by the end of the year. The proposed size of the office was not immediately available.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro has been named to Hispanic Business magazine’s list of the most influential Hispanics in America.  He ranked fifth nationwide in the magazine’s Government category. Castro was elected the youngest mayor of a top 50 American city on May 9, 2009. He is 36 years old.   The magazine noted Castro’s public policy emphasis on education, economic growth and quality of life. He was first elected to City Council in 2001 at the age of 26.

 Carenet will hire 100 new call center employees over the next year at its Northwest San Antonio campus.  The company spent the last year increasing the size of its campus on Interstate 10 and Woodstone Drive from 18,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet of space.  Carenet employees field health-related questions from 10 million members and route them to a team of registered nurses that respond via the telephone and the Internet. The company currently has 216 employees.

Medtronic Inc., which expanded its operations to San Antonio in 2009, says it has entered into an agreement to settle existing U.S. lawsuits relating to its Sprint Fidelis family of defibrillation leads.  Medtronic has agreed, subject to certain conditions, to settle U.S. lawsuits and claims pending as of Oct. 15, 2010, for a total payment of $268 million. The settlement includes attorneys’ fees and administrative expenses.  In October 2007, Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) voluntarily suspended worldwide distribution of the defibrillation leads in question because of the potential for fractures.  In a press statement, Medtronic says the parties involved in the Sprint Fidelis lawsuits will file joint requests to terminate the Multi-District Litigation (MDL) and Minnesota state court proceedings, and to dismiss the plaintiffs’ appeals pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday appointed Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller to succeed San Antonio Archbishop Jose H. Gomez.  In this role, Garcia-Siller will have spiritual authority over the more than 700,000 Catholics served by the Archdiocese of San Antonio. He will be officially installed as Archbishop of San Antonio on Nov. 23.Last April, Pope Benedict named Gomez to be Cardinal Roger Mahony’s successor in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles once Mahony retires in early 2011.

Brooks Development Authority President and CEO Donald Jakeway has been re-elected to the International Economic Development Council board of directors for a two-year term.  The Washington, D.C.-based International Economic Development Council has a membership of 4,500 economic development professionals.  As CEO, Jakeway is overseeing the development of Brooks City-Base, a business and technology park with 2 million square feet of lab, office and light industrial space. Brooks City-Base is the former Brooks Air Force Base.

 Giant call-center operator Affiliated Computer Services Inc. is expanding again in San Antonio and will hire 400 people by June. The latest expansion follows an announcement by ACS last year to add 300 jobs at Port San Antonio, where it already employed 538 workers.   ACS, which was acquired by Xerox Co. for $6.5 billion in cash and stock in February, expects the new jobs will pay a median wage of about $35,000, meaning half will earn more and half will earn less. Hourly wages start at $9. Positions include agents, administrative staff, trainers and managers.

San Antonio-based Overland Partners won the Texas Society of Architects 2010 Architecture Firm Award, given to recognize firms for consistent architectural excellence.  The TSA is in San Antonio this week for its 71st Convention and Design Products and Ideas Expo at the Convention Center. Overland will receive its award Saturday at a luncheon at the Grand Hyatt. The firm also won a TSA design award this year for its work at Overlook Pavilion at Penn State University.   Just three other San Antonio firms have won the TSA award: Marmon Mok in 2008, Lake|Flato Architects in 2004 and Ford, Powell & Carson Architects and Planners in 1999.

Startech and the South Texas Regional Center of Innovation and Commercialization (STRCIC) today announced the investment of $2.5 million in San Antonio-based ViroXis Corporation by the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF). The award is to advance the product development and commercialization of its topical Albuterpenoid drug, a patented anti-viral therapeutic derived from East Indian Sandalwood oil (EISO), aimed at treating common skin warts, a highly prevalent disease that currently lacks a successful means of treatment.   ViroXis is an innovative life sciences company merging evidence-based healthcare and botanical drug development technology. EISO is produced by steam distillation of the heartwood of the East Indian Sandalwood tree (Santalum album) and is widely used as a perfume, cosmetic, skin enhancer, and flavoring agent.


China makes move into Texas oil - DALLAS — China's state-owned offshore oil and gas company has bought a one-third interest in 600,000 acres that Chesapeake Energy leases in a South Texas oil and gas field.  CNOOC Ltd. and Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake announced the deal worth up to $2.16 billion Sunday in the Eagle Ford Shale project between Laredo and San Antonio. A joint statement says CNOOC will pay Chesapeake $1.08 billion in cash at closing and share 75 percent of Chesapeake's drilling and completion costs up to another $1.08 billion.

Texas came in 7th on Forbes’ latest annual list of the best states for business, rising one spot from its 2009 ranking.  The rankings are based on business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life. Business costs — including labor, energy and taxes —are weighted the most heavily.  Texas is ranked 26th best for business costs, 17th for regulatory environment, first for growth prospects, 38th for quality of life and second for economic climate.  Texas had the third largest gross state product with $912 billion, behind California with $1.5 trillion and New York with $946 billion.


Mexico-based IT and telecommunications provider Evox opened a U.S. division in Austin.   The U.S. Evox IT unit will target U.S. companies with operations in Mexico and Latin America that need remote infrastructure management, on-site IT and telecom support and telecom expense management. The Austin office will be led by three executives and Evox founder Javier Priego, who graduated with a master's in technology commercialization from The University of Texas.


Entertainment restaurant chain Dave & Buster’s reported a $9.5 million loss for the second quarter as the company reeled from a flood-related closure in Nashville and a 4.8 percent drop in same-store sales.  Dallas-based Dave & Buster’s saw its total revenue drop 2.7 percent to $127.9 million in the second quarter ending Aug. 1, compared to $131.5 million a year earlier.   Last year at the same time, Dave & Buster’s posted a profit of $63 million, compared to this year’s loss.

Thomas Clark Jr., a prominent Houston philanthropist and member of the board of directors at Dynegy Inc. and the Endeavor International Corp. has died.  Clark, the president of consulting firm Strategy Associates, was a member of the Dynegy (NYSE: DYN) board since 2003 and the Endeavor (NYSE: END) board since 2006. He was also a former dean of the business school at Louisiana State University.

A Knoxville, Tenn.-based software company has opened an Austin office, where it plans to employ 100 to 150 people as it grows over time, a company spokeswoman said.  About 10 to 15 employees of Environmental Systems Corp., or ESC, have been working for just over a month in temporary space on the second floor of Plaza 7000 at 7000 N. MoPac Blvd. (Loop 1), said Angie Droz, ESC's marketing communications manager, on Wednesday. Most of those workers are new local hires, with others having transferred from Knoxville.  ESC is in the process of finalizing details for its long-term space, with information about the location to be available soon, Droz said.

 Dell Inc., the world's third-biggest maker of personal computers, won a judge's permission to pay $100 million to settle accounting fraud claims brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The accord reached in July allows founder Michael Dell to remain chief executive after paying a $4 million fine. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon approved the settlement Wednesday at a hearing in Washington.  Dell, 45, and the Round Rock-based personal computer company failed to tell investors about "exclusivity payments" received from Intel Corp., the world's largest chipmaker, in exchange for shunning products made by Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., the SEC said in a civil complaint filed in July.

British Ambassador cites growing business ties with Texas - The new British Coalition Government is looking to expand business ties with Texas.  Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the British Ambassador to the United States, said Thursday that his country recognizes that Texas could help lead the U.S. out of the economic doldrums, and wants to build on an already-thriving trade relationship.  Sheinwald made his remarks at a Houston luncheon.   Sheinwald noted that Texas ranks second among U.S. states importing goods from the United Kingdom, while Texas exported $3.2 billion worth of goods to the U.K. in 2009. The U.K. has made a total investment of $20 billion in Texas, he added.


Baylor University Announces Top Texas Family Businesses of 2010 - WACO, Texas, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Baylor University's Institute for Family Business will be honoring the 2010 Texas Family Business of the Year award winners and finalists at an awards banquet to be held on Thursday, Nov. 4 at Baylor University's Bill Daniel Student Center.  The Texas Family Business of the Year awards program recognizes outstanding firms whose families demonstrate a commitment to each other and to business continuity, and who are responsive to the needs of their employees, communities and industries.

Shalegas Is Bigger Business All the Time - This week China's Cnooc announced it would invest $1-2 billion and take a one-third stake in a Texas project being developed by Chesapeake Energy, the market leader. Almost simultaneously, Norway's Statoil and Canada's Talisman Energy said they would invest $1.3 billion in the same Eagle Ford formation.  Traditionally, extracting shalegas by means of hydraulic fracturing has been dominated by relatively small specialized companies, which keep a low profile. But increasingly big-name players are getting into the business, especially in the United States, as long-term prospects continue to improve


Investment vultures increase pressure on Yahoo CEO - With buyout vultures circling the Internet company, Yahoo Inc. CEO Carol Bartz might have to accelerate her timetable for engineering a turnaround if she wants to save her job.   Bartz has said it could take a couple more years to revive Yahoo after a long period of listlessness, but it appears the company could become a takeover target if its financial performance doesn't improve soon.



The University of Texas at San Antonio College of Business was named the No. 2 MBA program in the nation for minority students in the 2011 edition of the Princeton Review.    Other top-ranked institutions on the list include Florida International University, Howard University, New Mexico State University, the University of Michigan and the University of Miami.  UTSA has a minority graduate student body of more than 30 percent, says Business Dean Lynda de la Viña. The national average is only 10 percent for minority students.  The Princeton Review surveyed 19,000 business students for the report. Business schools were judged on the percentage of minority faculty and students, resources for minority students, student body diversity and institution culture.

Computer problem causes money mess at local college – Students at Alamo Community College say they're digging deeper in debt because of their school's money mess.   "I had to postpone moving into my apartment because I was relying on my [grant] money," explains Calylla Gritz. "I'm still waiting on money now."    Students who say they were supposed to get thousands of dollars from the Pell Grant say they are still waiting for a check from Uncle Sam. They contacted News 4 WOAI after they say they were given the runaround from the school as to why.   "[The school] gives you a specific date to get the check, and then you go there on that day and they say, 'oh well, something is wrong, sorry, we don't have it,'" describes Christ Huffman, a student at St. Philip's College. "We rely on that money to get our books and computers needed to do the homework."   School officials say the problem comes from a new computer system that didn't accurately count student attendance. As a result, students were dropped from their classes. Classes that students needed to apply for financial aid. Administrators say they are working to fix the problem, though they could not tell News 4 WOAI how many students were affected, and when eligible students could expect to see their grant money.  For now, administrators say students with questions should go directly to the school's bursar - or financial administrator - instead of checking into the financial aid department. Each Alamo Community College campus has a business office where the bursar can be reached.  

Texas' first public school for autistic children opens in SA - Local parents of autistic children now have a school all their own. The Foundation School at 3622 Fredericksburg Road is Texas' first public school solely for children with autism.  The instruction is tuition-free and is provided by the Autism Community Network.

St. Mary’s University’s Bill Greehey School of Business and School of Law have both been recognized as outstanding schools in The Princeton Review’s most recent listing of the Best Business Schools and Law Schools. The 2011 edition guidebooks,  The Best 300 Business Schools and The Best 172 Law Schools, were just released in bookstores.  The Princeton Review listed both the Bill Greehey School of Business’s M.B.A. program and the School of Law among the nation’s best because of the quality academic programs offered. School-reported data and student surveys were also analyzed to compile the list.

Texas A&M-San Antonio President Among Administrative Leadership Institute Honorees.  Maria Hernandez Ferrier, president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio, will be honored with the Golden Deeds Award from the Administrative Leadership Institute (ALI) in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University.  The Golden Deeds Award is considered the highest recognition for distinguished service to education in the state and is given to an individual from any profession who has consistently supported Texas students and teachers through his/her positive impact on public education.  ALI also will honor Charlie Rooke, principal of Twin Creeks Middle School in Spring ISD, with the John R. Hoyle Award for Educational Leadership. The Hoyle award honors individuals who have made a difference in the lives of children. It is named after Hoyle, a professor emeritus of education at Texas A&M and one of the founders of the institute’s current format.  All award winners will be honored at the ALI opening banquet at the Miramont  Country Club in Bryan on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m.


Texas Education Agency Weighs In On AP The Dallas ISD School of Science and Engineering requires parents and students sign a contract agreeing that the students will take Advanced Placement exams - and pay to do so. Students who don't comply risk probation or removal from the school. Some critics have said the policy is unfair to families who can't afford the exam fees. They raised questions about whether the policy violates state law that prohibits schools from requiring payment for public education.  A spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency said school districts can charge fees as authorized by state law, and it's up to the district to cite the relevant law. In response, DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander said: "The fee in question is not charged by the school district; it is charged by the testing company, therefore this is a moot point." He added that a donor covers AP exam fees for students who cannot afford them.

A Dallas-area couple has lost its court fight to remove "under God" from the Texas pledge of allegiance recited by public schoolchildren.   The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected the arguments by David Wallace Croft and his wife, Shannon, that the wording is unconstitutional and violates the separation of church and state. Jeff Mateer, general counsel for the Liberty Legal Institute, a nonprofit firm, defended the Texas pledge on behalf of the American Legion alongside Texas solicitor general James Ho. Mateer said the pledge is clearly constitutional, and public expressions of religion are allowed, as long as they are not used to proselytize.

The Texas Education Agency has launched a new tool called Middle-school Students in Texas: Algebra Ready (MSTAR), which is designed to help teachers determine if their students are prepared for algebra.   For many students, algebra is the stumbling block to graduation. Soon Algebra I and II will weigh even more heavily into students' high school success when rigorous end-of-course exam requirements are implemented beginning in 2011-2012.  Last spring, only 58 percent of the 101,887 students who took an Algebra I End-of-Course exam passed it.

Big Oil Bankrolls Research Bias at Texas Universities - Based on a detailed analysis of university-industry contracts, the world's largest oil companies have funded more than $800 million of potentially compromised energy research at American universities over the last decade, a new report from the Center for American Progress reveals. This includes contracts worth more than $35 million at the University of Texas at Austin, Rice University, and Texas A&M University. Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, and other major energy firms—informally known as "Big Oil"—have underwritten research at top-tier universities with few contractual protections for scientific objectivity or scholarly independence. In "Big Oil Goes to College," independent researcher Jennifer Washburn lays out this disturbing trend and makes the case for strengthening guidelines for federally funded research programs, and improving contract standards for public-private research partnerships.    Washburn attributes the surge in industry-sponsored projects on campus in part to inadequate federal funding for energy research over the last 30 years. From 1993 to 2006, U.S. government spending on all energy-related R&D averaged $3.6 billion per year—60 percent less than the $9 billion the U.S. government spent on energy R&D in 1979. In response, many U.S. universities have turned to Big Oil to bridge the funding gap.   But research universities in Texas have paid a steep price for their reliance on private oil money. Washburn relied on two independent legal experts to evaluate 10 large-scale, university alliance agreements funded by Big Oil, including Chevron’s five-year, $5.2 million alliance with Texas A&M, and a $30 million consortium with 10 energy companies housed at UT Austin and Rice University. This review found a disturbing trend of inadequate contractual protection from corporate influence.

Neely picked as new TWU provost  - Texas Woman’s University officials announced Thursday that Robert Neely will be the new provost and vice president for academic affairs starting Jan. 3.  Neely, who has a doctorate in botany from Iowa State University, currently serves as associate provost and associate vice president for research at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich.

School districts in Texas have begun monitoring students on campus by issuing identification badges equipped with RFID technology, according to the Houston Chronicle.   The Spring school district in Houston has distributed the RFID-enabled badges to about 13,500 of its 36,000 students since December 2008. About 30 miles south, the Santa Fe school district began using the badges this year.  School officials say the new system will improve security and increase attendance rates, which is important because school funding is tied to attendance.

Texas' student career interests don't match up with projected job supply, ACT saysAre students prepared for college and careers?  That's the question ACT asks in its new "Condition of College & Career Readiness 2010" report. In Texas, as across the nation, many students fall short of ACT benchmarks for college readiness. And not enough are interested in the careers where there will be the most demand for new workers in the decade ending 2018, ACT says.



U.S. education stocks nurse Apollo hangover - Just as investors had showed a little more faith in the U.S. for-profit education sector -- stocks were up 31 percent in 6 weeks -- industry leader Apollo Group (APOL.O) triggered a sell-off with a warning about falling student enrollment numbers. While Apollo's outlook has gone from "slowing growth" to "no growth" as it positions itself to cope with tighter rules due in 2012, rivals may be better placed as their program offerings and student mix are different.  Apollo and peers such as Strayer Education (STRA.O) and DeVry Inc (DV.N) have been attacked for saddling students with debt and not fully preparing them for work, prompting government proposals that could restrict some college programs.  The Education Department is also threatening to cut off federal aid where loan default rates are high.

National Literacy Gap for Boys Plagues U.S. Education - The national gender reading gap in K-12 education has widened in recent years to such a degree today that now girls between the ages of 8 and 13 read on average a grade and a half better than boys. The troubling trend is made more serious by the fact that the main predictor of a child’s later academic success is their reading level at age seven. To combat this growing epidemic, global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has delivered to school districts across the country a breakthrough leveled reading program called Pair-It Extreme, focused on developing strong literacy skills for boys in grades K-4.


Chinese and US Education Companies to Merge - The online education companies Eleutian Technology and Idapted said on Wednesday that they would merge, bringing together the American and Chinese companies in the fast-growing $100 billion market for online English instruction, Reuters reported.  Backers of the new company, which will retain Eleutian’s name, include Cheyenne Capital and Gobi Partners, as well as the former Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers partner Russell Siegelman and Xu Xiaoping, co-founder of New York-listed Chinese education company New Oriental Education & Technology, Eleutian said in a statement. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office released a report that revealed the U.S. Education Department's faulty oversight of incentive compensation rules. Federal law prohibits institutions that are eligible for federal financial aid from offering commissions, bonuses or other payments to student recruiters.   The report is part of an investigation that was mandated by the 2008 Higher Education Act renewal. It examines the department's actions on 60 incentive compensation cases from 1998 to 2009. The study comes at a time when the Education Department is preparing to revise its rules on incentive compensation by removing 12 "safe harbors," added in 2002, that clarify how recruiters could be paid without violating the federal ban.  According to the study, the department has applied fines and penalties inconsistently and has not utilized its most effective powers to deter the practice of paying recruiters based on the number of students they enroll. The GAO attributes much of the inadequacies in the department's system of enforcing the rules and identifying potential violations to the 2002 policy changes.

The U.S. Education Department recently said it was about a month away from announcing a new gainful-employment regulation that colleges will have to meet to maintain their eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs.  The regulation will probably aim to prevent schools from overloading students with debts they're highly unlikely to pay on time, based on the salaries they'll make in a given field.   Another regulation proposed by the agency would require schools to provide prospective students with their programs' job-placement rates.  "Career colleges play a vital role in training our work force to be globally competitive, but some of them are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in calling for new gainful-employment rules.


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