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Whose Job Is It To Oversee Plants Like The One In West, Texas?

Ryan Poppe
TPR News

Texas Matters: With the investigation into the West fertilizer plant explosion ongoing, the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee held a hearing to clarify who is responsible for reviewing these kinds of facilities. Also on this show: The chances that Ted Cruz makes a presidential run and the future of high-stakes testing in Texas.

Hearing on West fertilizer explosion shows lack of regulation and coordination

Two weeks ago a fire ignited at a fertilizer plant in the small Central Texas town of West. About twenty minutes later, there was a massive explosion that killed 15 people, injured over 200 and nearly 150 homes destroyed.

Wednesday at the Texas Capitol, lawmakers questioned state agencies that had oversight over the plant, but didn’t get many answers.  For StateImpact Texas, KUT’s Terrence Henry has more.

"The purpose of the hearing was really to look at what potential there is in other parts of Texas for actions like these. So how many other fertilizer plants there are like West, and what kind of regulations are in place for state agencies to do safety inspections. The upshot was there is not really a whole lot that state agencies can do to look at safety at these kind of plants."

Also on this episode of Texas Matters:

Ted Cruz for president, 2016

Last November Texas elected Republican Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate and it seems that he already has his eye on next November's presidential election.

It's never too early to start an unofficial run for the presidency, just ask former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Cruz’s senatorial colleagues Marco Rubio and Rand Paul.

Alexander Burns is a senior political reporter for POLITICO and writes about Cruz’s run-up to running for the White House.

"Ted Cruz recognizes that he has swept into the U.S. Senate as the Republican party's newest celebrity. So whether or not he is actively thinking about 2016, he is clearly trying to draw out his moment in the sun as this golden boy standard bearer of the Republican right. That's why he's going to South Carolina on Friday to speak in the early primary state. That's why you see him seeking out confrontation after confrontation on the Senate floor in ways that are frankly very unusual for a first term senator."

What should we do with high-stakes testing?

Almost one in four fifth and eighth graders failed their state math exams; about one in five failed the state reading exams.  These startling numbers come as the state legislature is looking for a solution to the STAAR Test and high-stakes testing as a whole.

There's a growing understanding in Austin that high stakes testing has gotten out of control and may be doing more harm than good to the state’s education system.

Nate Blakeslee writes about the high stakes testing problem in his article "Crash Test" in the current issue of Texas Monthly.

"There has been a growing backlash against testing for years now - starting of course amongst teachers and administrators who felt like the tests really weren't an accurate barometer of how they were doing their jobs, and were taking up too much time and energy in the classroom. But what has happened more recently is middle class and suburban parents have become much more organized in opposition to the tests. Previously, the kids who struggled with the tests were in struggling districts - inner-city high schools, areas like that."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi