Lone Star Success News

Charter Schools Doing Remarkably Well According to New Policy Brief from TXSmartSchools.org

November 10th, 2016

Donald Trump’s education plan proposes to redirect $20 billion in federal education spending towards school choice. The grants will favor states that have private school choice, magnet schools and charter schools. Which raises the obvious question: how are existing choice programs doing? According to a new report from The Texas Smart Schools Initiative, many charter schools in Texas are doing remarkably well.

The new report is the first issue of Smart Steps, a policy brief series that uses the data from the TXSmartSchools.org website to identify smart practices that help make Texas schools both effective and efficient. The issue entitled “Charter Schools Well Represented Among Five-Star Schools” highlights the impressive performance of Texas’ open enrollment charter schools in two dimensions: academic progress and cost-effectiveness. The report revealed that 41% of the districts identified as top performers in 2016 by TXSmartSchools.org were open enrollment charter schools, even though traditional public schools outnumber open enrollment charter schools by more than five to one. The issue also explores the ways open enrollment charter schools differ from traditional public schools and the reasons so many charter schools might have better scores than their traditional counterparts.

TXSmartSchools.org uses academic, financial, and demographic data to identify school districts and campuses that produce high academic achievement while also maintaining cost-effective operations to better advise educators, administrators, and legislators on best practices in public education. It is built on the foundational work of the Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST) launched by Susan Combs during her tenure as Texas Comptroller, and is now housed at Texans for Positive Economic Policy and administered by Texas A&M University in College Station.

Susan Combs said that she is “very pleased that TXSmartSchools.org is helping to identify the schools and practices that are best serving our Texas schoolchildren and to draw attention to some of the great things that are happening in Texas education.” To read the article go to http://txsmartschools.org/highlights/smart-practices/index.php

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Transparency in Government

January 13th, 2016

What can transparency do in Texas?

Click here to download the slides.…

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Texas A&M to Maintain Education Accountability System

July 27th, 2015

Susan Combs to ensure underwriting of education best practice

Representatives of Texas A&M University today announced an agreement with Texans for Positive Economic Policy (TPEP) to maintain a measurement tool that helps Texans identify schools making the best use of their tax dollars. The Financial Allocation Study for Texas, better known as FAST, overlays academic achievement with school spending to pinpoint schools offering the best value to their students. FAST also serves as the inspiration for U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s recent amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act, allowing states and local schools to use Title I funds to pay for efficiency reviews, and thereby allowing schools to better serve students without expending additional resources.

“Public education is one of the biggest items in the Texas budget and it’s important to know which schools are delivering the biggest bang for our buck,” said Susan Combs, former Texas Comptroller, architect of FAST, and founder of TPEP. “The FAST numbers allow local communities and leaders in Austin to hold schools accountable and identify best practices that might benefit other schools.”

FAST got its start in 2009 when the 81st Texas Legislature directed the Comptroller to identify school districts and campuses that use resource allocation practices that contribute to high academic achievement and cost-effective operations. In response, the Combs team — which included researchers from Texas A&M, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas at Dallas — created FAST to help identify school districts and campuses that produce high academic achievement while maintaining cost-effective operations.

“Texas A&M is committed to public education as an investment in future generations and their impact on the state economy,” said Lori Taylor, Director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy, Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. “We’re honored that Susan asked us to continue working on this project, and look forward to making …

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Lynette’s Texas Story

July 16th, 2015

I came to Texas in 1989 as a young private in the Army. I was stationed at Ft. Sam Houston, and I fell in LOVE with Texas. It was the most amazing place I had ever been, and I swore that one day I would move here.

After I got out of the Army in 1999, as a traumatized parent trying to re-assimilate in the civilian world, I came back to Texas, as promised, to raise my girls as Texans. I loved the core values of Texans. Those same values that one finds everywhere in Texas is rare in places like Michigan. Personal responsibility, honor, integrity, caring for others, personal space, and hard work made Texas Heaven to me.

I went to college in Killeen, Texas, and I was able to get two degrees in three years. I was motivated by my professors and their belief that we are NOT victims of the world – that we had free will and we could choose to be successful. All of that is true, and I got to do everything I wanted to do in Texas. I bought property here and the day I signed my loan on my house, I was officially a Texan – one of the happiest days of my life.

I love Texas. I will die in Texas, and I would happily give my life defending her. God Blessed Texas, no truer words were ever sang in a country song!

– Lynette C.
Belton, Texas

Click here to read more about Texas’ Lone Star Success.

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Groups File to Reclassify Endangered Species

July 1st, 2015

Scientific Evidence Indicates Ample Populations of “Endangered” Golden-Cheeked Warbler

On Monday, three groups filed an official petition requesting that the golden-cheeked warbler, a migratory songbird that nests only in Texas, be removed from the list of endangered and threatened species, citing verified scientific evidence of ample populations and habitat. Counsel for Texans for Positive Economic Policy (led by former Texas Comptroller Susan Combs), the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Reason Foundation hand-delivered the petition to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) offices in Washington, DC.

“We have long said that sound science is the best protection for both species and the economy, as we showed in the permit issuance for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard,” said Combs. “In the case of the warbler, the emergency listing was based on woefully inadequate science. In the twenty-five years since, repeated studies have demonstrated that listing the songbird as endangered was not warranted.  We trust that FWS will welcome this information.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed the golden-cheeked warbler under the Endangered Species Act in 1990 on an emergency basis, erroneously believing that the species was in danger of extinction and that its best breeding habitat was primarily limited to Travis County, Texas. This conclusion was based on ten-year-old satellite mapping and an inaccurate study of warbler density conducted 14 years prior.

Since then, new, thorough, and accurate data indicates the warbler’s habitat and population are much greater than the FWS believed in 1990. Unfortunately, during its erroneous tenure as an endangered species, the warbler has been used to restrict landowners’ use of their property and jeopardized military training.

“Continued listing of the golden-cheeked warbler for protection under the Endangered Species Act is no longer necessary,” said Robert Henneke, Director of the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Hard science and objective research prove the warbler population to be nineteen times greater than estimated when …

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Texas Gets It Right

June 17th, 2015

The Texas Legislature ended its 84th regular session just a week or so ago, and, from the perspective of many of us, a lot was done that will help propel the state toward continue economic success. The fiscally conservative stance taken by the 181 men and women in the Texas House and Senate will continue to make Texas a haven for people seeking opportunity.

There were literally thousands of bills filed covering an array of issues. Many didn’t make it very far in the process, but four issues really stood out for me.

First was highway funding. Population growth, combined with our geographic position in the middle of the country, makes trade a big party of the Texas economy. And trade is largely dependent on good, safe highways. Therefore, investing in roads provides a vital boost to our economy, which is why we fund our roads from local, state and federal sources. Voters will be asked this fall to approve a constitutional amendment that would move a portion of motor vehicle sales tax dollars and a portion of general sales tax dollars to highway funding, as along as the sales tax revenue remains above a certain level. If voters approve this amendment, more than $2.5 billion per year would go toward highways. This is extremely important because, from an economic perspective, if you can’t move goods or people, it is pretty hard to grow the economy.

The second major issue addressed this legislative session was taxes. The legislature enacted significant tax cuts, and, as is the case with most legislation, there were compromises. In this case, the compromise was between cuts to sales taxes and cuts to property taxes. In the end, $3.8 billion in tax cuts were approved, including an increase in homestead exemptions (thereby cutting property taxes) and a 25% cut in the business franchise tax. Texas’ continued efforts to lower taxes coupled with the lack of a …

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June 3rd, 2015

by Susan Combs


In 2013, as Texas Comptroller, I was able to secure $5 million in funds from the Texas legislature for high-level, objective research in the endangered species area.  I truly believe the economic impact of an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing is sufficiently large and that it is in everyone’s best interest to fund sound science.


To that end, the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard effort was able to document, through research from twenty-one biologists who scoured a multi-county area, that the lizard was far more prevalent than previously thought.  Because of this, the Texas legislature approved the funding of university-generated science.  This research can be found at www.keepingtexasfirst.org, which shows the particular species, the entities doing the work, and the economic impact of a potential listing.  The work covers a myriad of species: aquatic plant and animal, bird, reptile, insect, etc.  The efforts in this area are to ensure conflicts of interest are eliminated, reviewers are careful, and the scientific data and end results are credible.


One of the early partners in high-level endangered species research has been Fort Hood, a major United States Army installation.  The combined task of protecting species as well as performing the national defense objectives has proven to be one that the Army has taken on very willingly.  The current commanding general of Fort Hood, General MacFarland, has the oversight of very significant and important national work in the area, especially with regard to the Golden Cheeked Warbler and the Black Capped Vireo.  I met with him over a month ago and discussed the potential for a renewal of the science fund.  He was very optimistic and encouraged, and I am glad that he was right.


Just a couple of weeks ago, the Texas legislature, again, approved the research funds, and Texas is once again a leader in the area of endangered species research.


Why is this so important?  Virtually everyone I talk …

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The 4 Reasons We Chose to Retire in Texas

May 27th, 2015

Lee & Ann P.’s Texas Story

We are originally Chicagoans who had long planned to retire there when the time came. Last year, we did retire and decided to stay here in the Austin area. Many reasons were considered, but four influenced our decisions:

1. The state of Illinois is a financial disaster with a potential bankruptcy looming.

2. Illinois has a significant state income tax, likely to increase significantly to pay future debt. When on a fixed income, this uncertainty creates anxiety.

3. Texas welcomes growth, has no state income tax, a more temperate climate and a more moderate socio-political environment suited to us.

4. Finally our daughters and grandchild have chosen to live here, making Texas our home now and in the future.

– Lee and Ann P.

Click here to read more about Texas’ Lone Star Success.

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Julie’s Texas Story

May 18th, 2015

At the ripe age of 22, I convinced my older, highly educated, fully-employed sister to quit her job, pack her things, and move to Washington, DC, with me. (She actually got there first, but who’s keeping score…) With an adventurous spirit in tow, we drove across the country with all of our worldly possessions packed in an SUV, excited to start a new life in our nation’s capitol.

We planned to work on Capitol Hill for a couple of years, and then, like most Texans, return home. Slowly but surely, opportunities blossomed and I found myself very happy and in a very successful career. Before I knew it, I had been there nine years. Yes, nine years came and went in the blink of an eye, and there really wasn’t an end in sight – until the day my sister approached me and said, “I think I’m ready to just think about moving home. Let’s discuss.” So we slept on it that night, and the next morning my response was, “Let’s do it.”

My sister expected a more calculated, thoughtful response. She made us take our time and talk it through, which was the wise thing to do. But deep down, we both knew my “let’s do it” was the right call all along.

How could I have made that big of a decision in such a short amount of time? I can blame my decision to move to DC on being young and bored and looking for adventure. But as someone in her thirties, on a solid career path, who owned a home and had an established community of ten and a half years, why would I uproot my life and move again?

It’s simple – life in Texas is just better. Yes we have good food and good people, but we also have an environment that is friendly to creating a successful life.

Let me give you one …

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Texans Aren’t Sheepish About Success

April 21st, 2015

I love the winter and early spring in Texas because, just like the bluebonnets, rodeos are blooming all across the state. One of my all time rodeo favorites is the mutton busting events for little kids, boys and girls, generally in the 6-year-old range.

For those of you who are not aficionados of this extremely sheepish event (sorry for the puns but you will understand in a bit), videos of it can make you laugh out loud.

Yes, we feel empathy for the sheep. After all, they have to run crazily across a dirt-packed arena with a helmeted kid clinging to their wool for dear life.

Actually, I have more than a passing acquaintance with those woolly mammals—my family raised both cattle and sheep decades ago. My father, a lifelong cowman, was not a fan of sheep and always compared them unfavorably to cattle. He had a saying I always remember, “there are two things we always welcome: a rain and a baby calf.”

He never said that about sheep, but nonetheless, for a while we had them, and I dealt with them in pens, loading them on trucks, and generally handling them to get them to go where I wanted them. The sheep and I frequently had differences of opinion, but, since I was taller and bigger, I always won. I also vividly remember the smell of dusty wool in the pens and how yellow the lanolin was in the wool. It really is a gorgeous, gooey, yellow mess that is all natural. And slippery.

So back to mutton busting. My best definition of this nightly rodeo event is that a kid in a helmet and their best boots and jeans is plopped down on top of the unsuspecting animal in a narrow pen or small chute and told to hold on tightly. The child has to stay on for a specified period of time and points are awarded …

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