One important election result that likely passed under the nose of most observers was the drastic transformation of the Texas Courts of Appeals on Tuesday. There are fourteen Courts of Appeals in Texas varying in size from 3 to 9 judges (technically called justices) with a total of 80 appellate justices statewide. Before Tuesday night these courts were dominated by Republicans with only a handful of Democratic judges on the El Paso and Corpus Christi courts. The Democrats swept through the Dallas (5th) , Austin (3rd) , San Antonio (4th) and both Houston (1st and 14th) courts on Tuesday. Those five courts and the El Paso and Corpus Christi courts will now have Democratic majorities. The only court of appeals based in a major urban county that remains in Republican control is the Fort Worth (2d) court. Even that may change in another couple of years. The remaining courts under Republican control (Amarillo, Beaumont, Eastland, Texarkana, Tyler and Waco) cover the more rural areas of the state and typically do not get as many high profile cases. This is a major shift as the now Democratic controlled courts of appeals are the end of the line for a large number of the most hotly contested cases in Texas. Very few cases reach the still Republican dominated Texas Supreme Court.
The Texas Supreme Court will tackle home schooling in Texas this week in a case pitting home schooling advocates against the El Paso Independent School District. The case involves Michael and Laura McIntyre from El Paso who have been home schooling their 9 children since at least 2004. Allegations were that the children were mostly singing and playing instruments and that little or no actual education was occurring because the children were going to be raptured at the second coming. The problems were somewhat confirmed when one of the McIntyre children ran away from home in an attempt to actually get an education. The school district was unable to confirm what level of education the girl had received and she was place in a school almost 2 years below her age level. That prompted El Paso educators to make some attempt to determine what was going on at the McIntyre’s “home school.” They were rebuffed at every turn with the McIntyres being assisted by the various home schooling associations, and truancy charges followed. The McIntyres sued, predictably claiming that their religious freedom had been interfered with by the state attempting to make sure their children were getting some basic education. The El Paso Court of Appeals found that no parents have an absolute constitutional right to home school their children completely free of any state supervision, regulation or requirements. The McIntyres appealed to the Texas Supreme Court which will hear arguments this week. The Washington Post has the full story.