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Texas May Be Missing Out On Quality Pre-K, Fort Bend DA’s Office Fires 15, Community Rally Announced For Jazmine Barnes, And More

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

The advocacy group Disability Rights Texas has decided it will keep a close eye on the Harris County Department of Education’s alternative schools

Texas May Miss Out On Quality Pre-K

Early education can do more than teach children the ABCs. High quality pre-K can also improve children’s physical and emotional well-being, according to a new analysis by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Analysts found that attending preschool can result in children having less depression, less stress, better blood pressure and better job prospects.

But in Texas, many children may be missing out on those benefits.

That’s because researchers only find these health outcomes if the pre-K is quality. And state standards for early education programs miss most of the national benchmarks for quality pre-K. For the 2016-2017 school year, the most recent data available, researchers at Rutgers found that Texas only met four out of 10 benchmarks.

For example, Texas doesn’t have limits on class sizes or student to teacher ratios and doesn’t require assistant teachers to have more than a high school diploma.

Fort Bend DA’s Office Fires 15 As Middleton Succeeds Healey

Fort Bend County’s new district attorney has fired 15 staffers. The move comes as Democrat Brian Middleton reshapes the office, following 26 years under Republican DA John Healey.

Those let go include 11 of the county’s 70-plus prosecutors, along with two investigators and two other staffers.

“We conducted a thorough review of the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office staff with one objective,” said First Assistant District Attorney Ibraheem Khawaja. “And that’s finding the attorneys and staff that will help bring Brian [Middleton] and his administration about the criminal justice reforms that he promised the voters. The process began with all positions being required to reapply for employment at the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office.”

The DA’s office notified the 15 staffers last Friday that they were out of a job. Khawaja says the office will announce their replacements soon.

 
A Houston freeway.

Gas Prices Are Still Falling In Houston And Around Texas

Gas prices are still falling in Houston and around Texas. AAA Texas says the statewide average is now $1.93 a gallon. That’s four cents less than last week.

The average price in Houston is now $1.92 a gallon. That’s five cents cheaper than last week.

Joshua Zuber, a spokesman for AAA, said they expect prices to stay low for the rest of January but it’s hard to predict what happens next.       

“We are expecting the OPEC cuts to take place starting off this New Year,” Zuber noted, “we’ll have to see how big of an impact that will have on gas prices.” He also highlighted the United States is producing oil in record numbers.

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