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Perry signs UNT law school bill

Dallas Business Journal

Gov. Rick Perry finalized the legislative session over the weekend by signing off on a number of bills that were sent to his desk by the Texas Legislature.

Among the bills he signed was a Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, to create a public University of North Texas Law School in Dallas.

Texas. Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who sponsored an identical bill in the Texas House, called the passage of the UNT Law School legislation a major milestone for the North Texas area.

"It's a historic day for North Texas because it's the first time we'll have a public law school here in the state," Branch said.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has only two law schools -- Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law and Texas Wesleyan University's School of Law in Fort Worth. Both schools are private institutions.

Branch told the Dallas Business Journal Monday that the UNT law school has $5 to $6 million in start-up costs that will allow the school to hire a dean, an assistant dean and admissions staff. Branch added that while the state did not grant money to fund bond financing, the school has a commitment of $16 million from the city -- $2 million of it in funding and $14 million in bond financing to renovate the old City Hall building to accommodate the school. Branch added that the school also has the building, which was donated, and now it has the governor's signature which allows the law school to search for more private funding.

The first class at UNT-Dallas law school is expected to be enrolled in 2011.

Perry signed other initiatives related to education, including House Bill 4294, which supports the State Board of Education's position in the electronic textbook approval process, Perry said.

“This legislation will further propel Texas schools into the 21st century and ensure that our students have access to the most up-to-date information available in each subject,” Perry said. “For districts that are ready for the transition to technology, it will provide the flexibility to choose an alternative to traditional textbooks to effectively educate students, bringing technological advances to the classroom and enhancing our children’s learning environment.”

Perry vetoed a bill that would have created a pre-kindergarten grant program, saying a similar initiative already exists. His office added in a statement Monday that the governor is encouraging the Texas Education Agency to use the $25 million appropriated for the bill to expand the number of students served by the existing pre-kindergarten grant program.


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