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May 3, 2016

Texas Democrats recognize Teacher Appreciation Day

The Texas Democratic Party issued the following news release today: On National Teacher Appreciation Day, Texas Democrats applaud our state’s finest teachers and acknowledge the crucial role they play in making sure every student gets a fair shot and receives a quality education.

Texas Democrats believe that a family’s financial circumstances should not dictate a student’s potential. We know that having an effective teacher is the most important in-school factor for student success. According to the Texas Tribune, “the average teacher in Texas makes about $49,000 a year — about $8,000 below the national average.”

Unfortunately, Tea Party Republicans in our state’s legislature have placed education on the chopping block, time and time again. From cutting student financial aid to neglecting our neighborhood schools, Republicans have asked educators and our children to do more with less.

Texas Democrats know that our schools should be fully funded. Period. It is time to fix Texas’ broken school finance system, so our children receive a quality education.  

On National Teacher Appreciation Day and during National Teacher Appreciation Week, let us ensure our educators know how much we value their service in the classroom, how much we appreciate all they do for our students and families, and how thankful we are for their contributions to our national progress.

Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal Perkins issued the following statement: “Today, Texas Democrats thank our teachers for all they do for our children and our state. We know that teachers are the key to unlocking the potential of Texas’ future. Our children and the Texas economy depends on their dedicated work. Every single one of us remembers that one great teacher that went above and beyond to make sure we got ahead. Now, it’s time we make sure they know we are there for them. We must pay teachers like the future of our country is in their hands. Because it is.”


April 26, 2016

BOGO at Chipotle for Teacher Appreciation Day May 3

Teachers, faculty, and school staff who show a valid school ID at Chipotle Mexican Grill on May 3 can take advantage of a special buy-one-get-one-free promotion for Teacher Appreciation Day. All eligible people can receive a free burrito, burrito bowl, salad, or order of tacos with the purchase of another menu item. The promotion is valid at all U.S. Chipotle locations from 3:00 p.m. to close, local time.

“Teachers are constantly working to cultivate a better world in the classroom and the same goes for our company,” said Chris Arnold, communications director at Chipotle. “Teachers help shape the young minds of their students, planting the seeds of knowledge that will grow forever, and that is something we are happy to recognize and celebrate.”

The promotion is valid for educators and staff at all levels, including pre-school, elementary, middle/high school, and university, who present valid identification recognizing them as staff or support on May 3. This promotion is available for in-restaurant orders only and is not valid for online, mobile, fax or catering. Limit one free menu item per teacher customer. For more information, please visit Chipotle.com/teacherappreciation.


April 26, 2016

Notice of NEA MB Disaster Relief Program Activation

Effective April 25, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program (DRP) in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for incident period April 17, 2016 to April 25, 2016 and affecting Fayette, Grimes, Harris, and Parker counties.

NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs.

A specially designed DRP Web page at www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members.


April 26, 2016

ESSA Cheat Sheet: what's in the new testing regulations?

School districts, state chiefs, advocates, and the U.S. Department of Education now have a better idea of how testing will work under the brand-new Every Student Succeeds Act. And it only took eight days of eye-glazing-and-occasionally-contentious debate, known inside the Beltway as "negotiated rulemaking."
A committee of educators, advocates, and experts charged with hashing out rules for ESSA wasn't able to reach agreement on something called supplement-not-supplant (a wonky spending provision), but they did come to accord on a number of important testing issues, including for English-language learners, and students in special education.

To read more:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2016/04/every_student_succeeds_act_exp.html?cmp=eml-eb-content-testing%2004262016


April 25, 2016

TSTA: Districts of Innovation must justify their waivers from state educational standards

The Texas State Teachers Association today urged Education Commissioner Mike Morath to insist that school districts are fully transparent with parents, employees and taxpayers when they seek exemptions from important state educational standards.

The commissioner is considering rules to implement HB1842, enacted during the 2015 legislative session, which allows school districts to apply for recognition as Districts of Innovation, a status that would allow districts to exempt themselves from many requirements of state law. HB1842 requires a district seeking a District of Innovation designation to identify the specific state requirements from which it seeks exemptions and why those exemptions are necessary to improve the district’s performance.

“When adopting District of Innovation plans, school districts are supposed to explain how exemptions from specific state requirements would benefit their students,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “Parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve to know exactly what their school board members are doing -- whether they are voting for a budget, considering local policy or adopting a District of Innovation plan.”

“Districts of Innovation are not supposed to allow districts to simply cut corners on important educational and employee standards or keep their employees and the public in the dark about their plans,” Candelaria added.

Some of the requirements from which a District of Innovation can be exempted include the teacher minimum salary schedule, teacher planning and preparation time, some student disciplinary rules and some parental rights, including access to teaching materials.


April 22, 2016

Reminder: Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2-6

NEA’s 2016 Teacher Appreciation Week poster, web banners and buttons, Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram images and more are available for downloading at www.nea.org/teacherday.


April 20, 2016

TSTA sues education commissioner over teacher evaluations

The Texas State Teachers Association today filed a lawsuit against Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, seeking to invalidate an element of a new teacher evaluation plan that violates state law.

The suit, filed in state district court in Travis County, asks for a declaratory judgment to block implementation of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS), which is scheduled to go into effect July 1. Morath approved T-TESS to replace the Professional Development Appraisal System (PDAS) as the state-recommended teacher appraisal system.

The commissioner’s T-TESS rule would require school districts to base at least 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on “student growth measures,” which could include so-called value added measures (VAM). A VAM model is typically based on a complicated formula that compares actual student test scores to the scores predicted by a mathematical target based on the standardized test scores of similar student populations.

TSTA contends that state law – Section 21.351 of the Texas Education Code – clearly requires a teacher appraisal system adopted by the commissioner to be based on “observable, job-related behavior.” But a VAM model is not “observable” and is not even available to teachers and others who wish to understand the basis for their evaluations. Section 21.352 of the Texas Education Code sets the same “observable, job-related behavior” requirement for school districts that choose to create their own appraisal systems.

“Commissioner Morath’s appraisal system clearly violates state law because he doesn’t have the authority to substitute a confusing, test-based statistical formula for the work teachers and students actually do in their classrooms,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said. “Teachers are not robots, and their performance should be evaluated by an easily understood, transparent system that helps them perfect their job performance. Let’s be clear. Educators’ compensation and jobs are potentially on the line here, and their work must be evaluated fairly – and legally.”

Candelaria added, “Tying teacher evaluations to test scores will raise the stakes on STAAR testing even higher for children who already are over-tested, much to the anger of a growing number of Texas parents who understand real education is more than a test score.”

The American Statistical Association also has discredited VAM models as ineffective measurements of teacher performance.


April 19, 2016

State budget preview: Will some of the $10 billion in Rainy Day Fund go to public schools?

The House Appropriations Committee met today to discuss interim hearing items dealing with oil and gas revenues and the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) in an effort to get prepared for drafting a budget in the next legislative session.  Chairman John Otto, R-Dayton, started the meeting by sharing a letter from Speaker Joe Straus directed to the committee members, directing their attention to what the speaker sees as the top three budgetary concerns for next session.  The first issue he identified relates to the foster care system and the additional resources needed to better protect Texas children.  The second and third issues identified are the school finance litigation ruling and its potential impact to the budget and TRS care and the significant shortfall in paying future costs associated with insurance for our teachers, school personnel and retired.

The Comptroller of Public Accounts addressed the Committee today and indicated there is a $4 Billion surplus available next session to pay for the supplemental budget bill which essentially fills the gap left in the second year of the current biennium to pays up costs not funded by the budget.  He also indicated that the Rainy Day Fund currently has over $9 Billion and is expected to have over $10 Billion at the start of next session.  The Comptroller stressed that it is okay to spend these funds on one time expenditures to keep a balanced budget and meet demands rather than keeping the funds intact every session.  He also cautioned these funds should not be spent every session and only when necessary.  Later in the hearing, Chairman Otto expressed concern that declining oil and gas revenue could have an impact on the ability of the Rainy Day Fund to replenish and deficits created through expenditures of this nature.

When asked, the Comptroller would not commit to a cost associated with the school finance litigation due to his belief that there are a varied number of rulings that could come down from the Supreme Court of Texas.  Very little discussion was focused on this issue, however, it is expected that a ruling will come down before the end of the year. -- Report from Portia Bosse


April 19, 2016

TEA announces 16 new early college high school designations

Early college high schools are innovative high schools that allow students least likely to attend college an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and either an associate degree or at least 60 college credit hours toward a baccalaureate degree. Under this model, an ECHS provides dual credit at no cost to students; offers rigorous instruction and accelerated courses; provides academic and social support services to help students succeed; increases college readiness; and reduces barriers to college access. 


April 18, 2016

Take three minutes to watch this video

It’s the story of Dawn, a formerly homeless student who is now at Harvard, thanks to the love and support of the teachers and support professionals at her public school in North Carolina.


April 18, 2016

Lake Jackson teacher wins NEA Foundation Grant 

Ioana Agut of Lake Jackson won a $5,000 Student Achievement Grant from the NEA Foundation! She is creating a lending library of calculators for entry-level math courses to help student retention and graduation rates. The next deadline for applications is June 1. http://www.neafoundation.org


April 14, 2016

NEA president: Vergara v. State of California decision reversed

Today the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles reversed the lower court’s decision Vergara v. State of California, and reaffirmed that California’s system for attracting and retaining quality teachers is consistent with the state constitution. 

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“Today was a win for our educators, our schools and most importantly, our students.

“Now we must return to working on real solutions to ensure all of our students succeed.  Only when teachers, school boards, and administrators work together can we ensure that there is a great public school for every student.

“The Vergara v. State of California lawsuit was an example of using our court system for political goals. The unanimous three-judge panel's opinion states it clearly.  The plaintiffs' case--instead of addressing and proposing solutions to the real problems--focused on the wrong issues, proposed the wrong solutions, and used the wrong legal process. It was not about helping students and has become a divisive distraction from the real work needed to improve student success.

“Ensuring that every student gets a good education is a critical goal but one that can’t be solved with stripping our teachers of their rights. Today was a win for our educators, our schools and most importantly, our students.”

For the decision visit http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B258589.PDF. Find out more at www.cta.org/vergara.


April 14, 2016

Commissioner adopts new T-TESS evaluation system

Education Commissioner Mike Morath has adopted a new teacher evaluation system (T-TESS) to replace PDAS. The commissioner did not make significant changes in the proposal initially made by his predecessor, Michael Williams, and he didn’t make any changes recommended by TSTA.

TSTA had expressed a number of concerns to TEA regarding the proposed T-TESS rule, which the commissioner chose to ignore, including:

As adopted, T-TESS will require at least 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student growth measures, which could include “value added measures” (VAM) based on a comparison of student test scores to “expected” test scores developed by outside consultants.

The requirements for observations under T-TESS fall woefully short of best practices and could become subjective, punitive snapshots instead of a genuine effort to provide meaningful professional development.

A local school district can choose to develop its own evaluation systems, provided the local plan follows T-TESS guidelines such as the 20% student growth requirement and observation guidelines. A local plan must also be developed by using the site based decision making process. The only way a local district can avoid these provisions involves exempting itself from such provisions through the District of Innovation process.

TSTA will be developing appropriate policy proposals and actions in response to T-TESS provisions that should be challenged or changed to provide a better evaluation and professional development system. In the meantime, we will continue conducting T-TESS training for locals upon request.


April 14, 2016

Education commissioner announces senior leadership team

The deputy commissioners will be responsible for overseeing key functions of the Texas Education Agency. In addition, senior leadership team members will focus the agency on Commissioner Morath’s priorities of true customer service to school systems, as well as the delivery of effective programs that lead to successful student outcomes and educator support. Read more of the press release here.  


April 13, 2016

Committee hears TSTA testimony on TRS ActiveCare

On Wednesday, April 13, the Joint Interim Committee on TRS Health Benefit Plans met to discuss TRS ActiveCare. It is clear that ActiveCare is not sustainable in its current form. The committee asked to hear from stakeholders regarding the state and future of ActiveCare.

TSTA appeared as invited testimony and laid out its members’ concerns, stating:

“For many years, ActiveCare has had an affordability issue. When the legislature passed the law creating ActiveCare, employees contributed 30% of their health care premiums. Today, employees contribute almost 70% of their premiums. Employee contributions for ActiveCare-2 premiums have risen 332% over the last ten years. For a teacher to cover her or his entire family under ActiveCare-2, the monthly premium is $1521 per month – over $18,000 per year. Starting in September, premiums are projected to increase another 17%.

“Health care costs are driving teachers out of the profession. Teacher salaries in Texas already lag roughly $7,000 below the national average. When below average salaries are coupled with staggering health care costs, we get a system that fails to provide financial security for its employees - one that could be devastating. The legislature’s failure to address this issue for 15 years legislature has created a system that is neither financially sound nor fiscally conservative. The legislature’s inaction is a slap in the face to the hard working, dedicated professionals that are the heart of our public education system. The legislature can and must do better. We look forward to working with you to design a better health care system for school employees.”

TSTA also suggested that the discussion on ActiveCare was incomplete without insurance and pharmacy entities in the room. Senators Huffman and Nelson agreed that the companies driving up health care costs need to be at the table, and stated that there will be a hearing at which those companies will be compelled to appear.

Senator suggests replacing educators on TRS board

Also on Wednesday, the Senate Committee on State Affairs held a hearing at which TRS was invited to testify. At that hearing, Senator Schwertner expressed concern that the TRS board included members without expertise in the financial industry. Specifically, Senator Schwertner would like to replace the board seats currently occupied by stakeholders: the two active teachers; one retiree; and one higher education employee.

Stay tuned for more interim hearings on TRS.


April 12, 2016

Thank a teacher

Join NEA and the National PTA in saying “Thank You” by sharing one of the following on social media during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-6:

  • A picture of yourself with your favorite teacher, past or present;
  • A picture of your child with his or her teacher;
  • A picture of yourself holding a piece of paper with a simple message saying thank you to a teacher and why you’re thanking him or her.

Be sure to use the hashtag #ThankATeacher when sharing.

Teacher Appreciation Week artwork

NEA’s 2016 Teacher Appreciation Week poster, web banners and buttons, Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram images and more are available for downloading at www.nea.org/teacherday. Additional resources for the May 2-6 celebration are available from National PTA at www.pta.org.


April 11, 2016

Photos from TSTA's weekend in El Paso


April 9, 2016

TSTA House of Delegates

Here is the speech TSTA President Noel Candelaria gave to the House of Delegates April 9. He encouraged delegates to ask their school boards to pass a resolution pledging to follow the ESSA requirement that stakeholders be involved in policy making, through site based committees. “This demand is simple and straightforward: honor the provisions of state and federal law that recognize the fact that we are the experts,” Candelaria said. (Sample resolution at tsta.org/ESSA-need-to-know.)

The 137th annual House of Delegates met at the El Paso Convention Center. Several legislators addressed delegates: Sen. Jose Rodriguez, Reps. Mary Gonzalez and Joe Moody, and Rep.-elect Lina Ortega. The following received awards:

  • Ermalee Boice Instructional Advocacy Award: Susan Lynn Bodet, North East Education Association
  • Ronnie Ray ESP of the Year for 2015-16: Yvonne "Bonnie" Najera, Socorro Education Association
  • Friend of Education: Junior League of Lubbock
  • Pride in Communications: Killeen Educators Association, Association of Brownsville Educators, Lubbock Educators Association, Cy-Fair TSTA/NEA
Earning School Bell Awards for outstanding work by the media were El Paso Times, Texas Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Amarillo Globe-News, Killeen Daily Herald, KXAN-TV, and KVIA-TV.
Membership awards went to our local associations in Pflugerville, Austin, Laredo, Southside, San Antonio, Beaumont, Pasadena, Edgewood, Ysleta, San Marcos, Ector County, Donna, Alief, Del Valle, Arlington, Aldine, Harlingen, Cy-Fair, Amarillo, Hays, Lufkin, Judson, North East, Pt. Arthur, Brownsville, Harlandale, Southwest, Socorro, and Lubbock.
Receiving recognition at the regional level were All-Star ARs Yvonne Salcido, Ysleta; Glorimar Yace, Cy-Fair, and Laurell Jernigan, Longview; Leaders for Tomorrow Jose Villalobos, Ysleta, and Laurell Jernigan, Longview; and ESPs of the Year Rene Rivera, Donna; Maria Hernandez, Ysleta; Cornell Sutton, Austin; Deborah England, Amarillo; Richard Martin, Cy-Fair; and Laurell Jernigan, Longview.


April 7, 2016

Math, reading academies for Texas teachers to begin this summer

The Texas Education Agency has shared details with school districts and charters on the launch of new statewide reading and math academies this summer. A major education initiative of Gov. Greg Abbott, the academies will provide high-quality, face-to-face professional development to elementary-level public school teachers.


April 6, 2016

New TEA official changed name after leaving Kansas City school board

Airick Leonard West is a departing member of the Kansas City School Board, a young community activist, and former board president who helped improve the persistently struggling district. AJ Crabill is the new, yet-to-be-announced deputy commissioner of governance at the Texas Education Agency. Also, they're the same guy. more


April 1, 2016

Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability meets

The Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability convened its third meeting this month to discuss the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and its relationship to state testing and accountability.  To review the presentation made to the Commission by American Institutes for Research, go here.

After the ESSA review, the commission members broke out into subgroups to discuss testing measures and accountability framework possibilities.  It appears members of the commission are divided, some preferring to modify the current system while others want less reliance on the high stakes standardized tests currently implemented in Texas.  This discussion was timely from the standpoint of Texas students conducting STAAR exams this week around the state.

The next commission meeting will be held on April 20 with invited testimony regarding the current system of testing used in Texas and in other states. There will also be an opportunity to testify on the controversial A through F rating system, which passed last session but will not go into effect until the 2017-18 school year.

Diego Bernal goes back to school

State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123) is on a mission to visit every school in his district before the next legislative session. He’s going without staff, without media, and without a program. He’s not shaking hands, or even delivering speeches to inspire kids. The legislator has one goal: to listen to teachers, principals, and superintendents as they tell him what they need in order to bring out the best performance in their schools. On April 2, from 10-11:30 a.m., Bernal will share what he has learned so far in a community discussion at 5 Points Local, 1017 N. Flores St. Read more here.


March 31, 2016

Senate Finance Committee report: defined benefit plan under attack

On Wednesday, March 30, the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss state debt. As a part of that discussion, various state pension systems were reviewed, including the Teacher Retirement System. TRS Deputy Executive Director Ken Welch discussed the TRS pension trust fund with the committee.

Currently, the funding rate of the pension trust fund is just over the important 80% threshold, and the amortization period is at 33.3 years. This data shows that the fund is a healthy, strong and respected.

TRS assumes an annual rate of return of 8% for its investments, an assumption determined by TRS actuaries and adopted by the board. Earlier this year, TRS completed a periodic review based on investment data that indicated the 8% assumption is solid, as it has been since the late 1980’s.

Despite evidence demonstrating the accuracy and health of TRS management of the defined benefit fund, Senator Bettencourt claimed the 8% assumption is foolish, noting the current state of the market, and failing to acknowledge that TRS makes assumptions about a defined benefit plan based on long-term investment strategies, not the frequent ups and downs of the market. Sen. Bettencourt would like to lower the assumption by statute. Senator Schwertner agreed that the 8% assumption was foolish. Both Senators stated their objective to turn the defined benefit plan into a defined contribution plan.

Senator Huffman pointed out that changing the assumption from 8% to 6% would devastate the fund – making the unfunded liability of the fund skyrocket. Apparently, that is exactly what Bettencourt wants to do, because a devastated fund would provide the opportunity to change the fund into a defined contribution plan managed by outside investment managers who could reap profit in the process.  

Senators Huffman and West rebuked the Bettencourt idea about changing the assumption by statute – noting that all evidence shows the fund to be strong, and the assumed rate of return to be accurate.  In the face of the evidence, Senator Kolkhorst said she still believes the fund needs to be shored up. 

This hearing indicates that the next session the Senate could be one in which facts are disregarded and reality is suspended. -- report from John Grey

Joint interim committee on TRS health benefit plans: TRS Care faces financial challenge

The House-Senate Joint Committee also met on March 30 to hear a report and take testimony on TRS Care. TRS staff laid out its familiar study that presented the following options to help stabilize TRS Care:

1. Pre-fund the long term liability;

2. Fund on a pay-as-you-go basis through FY2021 with various options for increased contribution rates and plan design changes;

3. Fund on a pay-as-you-go basis through FY2027 with various options for increased contribution rates;

4. Retiree pays full cost for optional coverage;

5. Require purchase of Medicare Part B; mandatory participation in Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans; otherwise must enroll in TRS-Care 1;

6. Fixed contribution rate or Care 1 for non-Medicare retirees;

7. Create a single consumer directed plan design for non-Medicare enrollees; and

8. Combine Care and ActiveCare.

TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie made clear that TRS Care has a funding issue, and that the above options, with the exception of pre-funding the plan, are only band aids, and a long-term solution needs to be found.

TSTA was invited to present testimony, stating:

“Active teachers not only pay for their own health care, they also subsidize the health care of retirees. Health care costs have skyrocketed over the last decade, and current teachers have borne that expense, with no help from the state, and they cannot afford to pay more for retirees’ health care.

“A retired teacher lives on a pension of around $2,000 per month. Retirees cannot afford to either pay more for their health care or accept a reduction in benefits within the plan. Retired teachers disproportionately need and utilize the health care system. Asking them to give more is an unworkable solution.

“The reason TRS Care is underfunded is because the legislature foolishly tied its contribution to the payroll of active teachers, which has failed to keep pace with health care cost inflation. The legislature could have addressed this situation at any point over the last 30 years, yet it refused to be fiscally responsible to the detriment of active and retired teachers. The only acceptable option is for the state to start paying for its mistake.”

Some committee members suggested that retirees and active educators should “share the pain” in order to stabilize the plan. All the education associations said the state needs to accept its responsibility to support TRS Care, noting the active and retired educators have already been sharing the pain. .

The Joint Interim Committee to Study TRS Health Benefit Plans meets next on April 13 to discuss the affordability issue of TRS ActiveCare. -- report from John Grey


March 30, 2016

STAAR retest not required, TEA says

“For students who were not able to complete an online test because of the technology issues related to the STAAR online testing platform, districts are not required to have the students complete the test(s) and should feel under no obligation to do so,” Texas Education Agency has told school districts. Read more about the online testing fiasco here.


March 29, 2016

Supreme Court reaffirms collective bargaining in landmark case

The U.S. Supreme Court today delivered its decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, affirming that public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining. The 4-4 decision leaves intact the sound law of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that has been working for nearly four decades. At issue in Friedrichs was whether non-union members could share the wages, benefits and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share for the cost of those negotiations. 


March 29, 2016

Nominations open for NEA social justice activist

Do you know an educator who demonstrates the ability to lead, organize, and engage educators, parents and the community to advocate on social justice issues? Nominations are open for NEA’s 2016 Social Justice Activist Award until April 15. The winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to attend and address both the NEA Representative Assembly and the Joint Conference on the Concerns of Minorities and Women.  


March 28, 2016

Disaster relief expanded

Effective March 19, 2016, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program (DRP) in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for the incident period of March 7, 2016 and affecting six additional counties: Erath, Gregg, Harrison, Hood, Marion and Parker. 

NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs.

A specially designed DRP Web page at www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members. 


March 21, 2016

Contact your member of Congress about Social Security bill

This Tuesday, March 22, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on HB711, legislation filed by committee chair Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to address the repeal of unfair Social Security penalties that penalize and reduce Social Security benefits earned by educators and other public employees. NEA is fully engaged on this issue. 

To contact your member of Congress, go to http://www.nea.org/home/61524.htm, scroll down and click on the Take Action button. 


March 18, 2016

NEA Member Benefits: here to help

NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster on Feb. 9 for incident period Dec. 26 to Jan. 21, affecting the following Texas counties: Borden, Cass, Collingsworth, Cottle, Crosby, Delta, Donley, Fisher, Floyd, Foard, Franklin, Haskell, Hockley, Jones, Knox, Leon, Motley, Nolan, Scurry, Shackelford, Stonewall, Terry, Trinity, Walker, Wheeler and Wilbarger. (Update, 3/21/16: Jasper, Newton, and Orange Counties have been added for incident period March 7.)

NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs. 


March 18, 2016

Photos from the NEA ESP Conference!

We have photos from NEA’s Kevin Lock of guest speaker Chelsea Clinton, TSTA Vice President Ovidia Molina, Texas ESP of the Year Bonnie Soria Najera, and NEA Directors Linda Estrada and Angela Davis at the Orlando event. 


March 15, 2016

Education Austin wins NEA award

Education Austin has been selected to receive the National Education Association’s 2016 Rosena J. Willis Memorial Award (Local Affiliate).

This award is presented to an affiliate that involves NEA members in advocacy for minority students and families, minority parent involvement in schools, and minority community outreach. 

Each year NEA officers, our Board of Directors, leaders from all 50 states, members, partners, staff, and guests gather to present the NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards at an elegant dinner and program held during our Annual Representative Assembly.  At that time, we honor individuals and organizations like yours who have contributed to the human and civil rights goals and aspirations of Americans across the nation.

The 2016 Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner will take place on the evening of July 3, 2016, in the Ballroom of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC.  For more information on the NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards, visit our website atwww.nea.org/hcrawards.


March 10, 2016

Art from your heart

The Blue Ribbon Task Force is hosting a poster design contest to encourage child abuse awareness.

Deadline is March 23. 


March 9, 2016

Media from NEA’s Read Across America 2016 kick-off event in Dallas

Herbert Marcus Elementary hosted NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and her Dr. Seuss character friends on Feb. 26. Media here:

Photos 

The NEA.org story  

Video 

The multimedia compilation aka Storify


March 8, 2016

Eastside Memorial High School teacher wins inaugural Rather Prize

TSTA member Sanford Jeames, coordinator of health science programs at Eastside Memorial High School in Austin, won the inaugural $10,000 Rather Prize, awarded to the best idea to improve education in Texas. Jeames’ STEP Up Challenge (Student Training and Enrichment Project) will help prepare students to attend college and pursue majors and careers that are underrepresented in minority populations. The project will partner with two- and four-year colleges, community agencies and companies for internships and apprenticeships. 


March 8, 2016

TSTA/NEA leaders speak at SXSWedu

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and TSTA member and National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples were among the speakers at SXSWedu in Austin this week. Garcia was on a panel about Recruiting and Retaining Teachers, while Peeples and two former students spoke about The Power of Student Voice in Today’s Classroom


March 7, 2016

Leaders attend Berlin summit

NEA President Garcia and Education Austin Vice President Montserrat Garibay participated in the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Berlin last week. Since its first meeting in 2011 in New York City, the ISTP has become an important forum for the exchange of effective teacher policies and practice, bringing together government officials and teacher organizations from high-performing and rapidly improving school systems. 


March 3, 2016

Teacher of the Year entries now accepted

Nominations are open, and the application has been posted, for the 2017 Texas Teacher of the Year Awards program. District-nominated Teacher of the Year applications are due to the appropriate ESC by June 8. 


March 2, 2016

NEA's Read Across America tour begins in Dallas

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia — accompanied by the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, and Thing 2 — kicked off NEA's Reading Tour in Celebration of Read Across America 2016 at Herbert Marcus Elementary School in Dallas. Read Across America is a year round effort to inspire children to become lifelong readers.


February 27, 2016

National Teacher of the Year addresses TSTA Student Program Convention

TSTA Student Program, TSTA's group for college students, met in Austin at the Omni Southpark this week. National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples was the featured speaker at tonight's banquet. See photos on our Flickr page and listen to her speak about her experiences!


February 26, 2016

TRS Board holds training meeting

The TRS Board of Trustees held a three-day meeting in Richardson, Texas, starting on Wednesday, February 24. The meeting served largely as a training session for the board on the inner workings of TRS, fiduciary duties, and market conditions and issues.

The Board adopted two important resolutions. First, the Board voted to continue with Aetna as the health plan administrator of TRS Care. In the event contract negotiations with Aetna are unsuccessful, TRS will pursue a contract with United Healthcare for the administration of TRS Care.

The Board also adopted a resolution standardizing the surcharge rate passed on to employers when a district hires a retiree in a return to work situation. The surcharge is for a retiree already participating in TRS Care. Previously, TRS used a complicated formula to determine the surcharge rate for each employee. Under the adopted resolution, TRS will use a standard surcharge rate of $535 per retiree per month, starting on September 1, 2016. The standard surcharge rate is the approximate average previously charged by TRS under their formula, and is due to a change in statute.

Finally, as of February 23, 2016, the pension trust fund was valued at $124 billion, down from $128 billion on August 31, 2015.

The Board meets next on April 7 & 8, 2016. -- Report from John Grey


February 25, 2016

Oh, the places they'll go

Between Feb. 26 and March 4, NEA leaders will travel to six cities to provide resources to schools in need and honor Dr. Seuss for NEA's annual Read Across America celebration. Dallas is the first stop! Watch for NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 at Marcus Elementary, starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow!


February 24, 2016

Next Generation commission discusses student assessments

The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, formed by legislative authority last year, met in Austin this week to discuss student assessments.  The Commission is charged with developing and making recommendations for a new system of student assessment and public school accountability to address the purpose of an accountability system and the role tests play in that system.  The new assessment system is meant to provide actionable information for a parent or person standing in a parental relation to a student, an educator and the public to support learning activities; recognize application of skills and knowledge; measure student educational growth toward mastery; and value critical thinking.  

The new Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, Mike Morath, was invited to testify before the Commission. Morath’s main point of his testimony is to develop a system of testing which occurs throughout the school year to allow educators to have a constant feedback loop on the progress of the educator’s students. This series of mini tests throughout the year was presented as a diagnostic strategy by the commissioner. Morath was quoted as saying, “The idea of using a continuous, but low-touch formative assessment throughout the course of the year and then building a summative picture from that has a great deal of merit in my mind.” Morath did acknowledge, “ when you start looking at the state mandating one specific approach in every classroom, it becomes problematic.”

This approach could have devastating consequences to the high stakes nature of testing that parents, students, administrators and teachers have been fighting against for decades.  Using testing for diagnostic purposes is the only way a standardized approach should be used, however, it should be up to the local district and the individual classroom teacher to determine what diagnostic testing approach to take.  The commission meets again on Wednesday, March 23. -- report from Portia Bosse


February 24, 2016

Nominations now open for SBOE Heroes for Children Award

The State Board of Education is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Heroes for Children Award, which recognizes public school volunteers who are strong advocates for Texas schoolchildren. Volunteers may be nominated by individuals or by organizations. Educational employees, elected government officials, and organizations are not eligible to be nominated. The nomination form is available on the Texas Education Agency website


February 23, 2016

Books Across America Grants: apply by April 29

NEA’s Read Across America and the NEA Foundation will make 100 $1,000 awards to public schools serving economically disadvantaged students to purchase diverse books for school libraries. The 2016 NEA’s Books Across America Library Books Awards are made possible by a contribution by The Weinstein Company and Walden Media in connection to their film The Giver, based on the popular young adult novel by Lois Lowry. NEA members are currently able to apply for these grants by going to nea.org/readacross from now until April 29, 2016.  Grants will be announced by May 15 on neafoundation.org.


February 22, 2016

NEA’s Read Across America Day 2016

The 19th annual NEA’s Read Across America Day takes place March 2. NEA is teaming up with Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Random House to celebrate the debut of Dr. Seuss’ “What Pet Should I Get,” a recently discovered manuscript. Working with partners and NEA members, NEA will encourage schools and organizations throughout the country to feature this popular book to their RAA Day celebrations. http://bit.ly/y8RGp4

The “Cat-a-Van Reading Tour” kicks off Friday, Feb. 26 in Dallas. NEA leaders will embark on a six-city, cross country reading tour to spread important messages about reading and literacy, as well as provide reading resources to schools in need. 


February 18, 2016

Texas Gateway launches

The Texas Gateway (www.texasgateway.org), a free online resource library for educators and parents provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), has launched.

The Texas Gateway not only builds upon the success of TEA’s online learning community Project Share but also expands access to resources—such as videos, interactives, formative assessments, professional development courses, and other classroom support materials—designed to strengthen classroom instruction to help every student succeed.

It provides open access to instructional resources that align with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the state standards that describe what students should know and be able to do at every grade level. A majority of the current resources focus on middle school and high school subjects in English language arts and reading, math, science, and social studies. Each resource contains a lesson or series of lessons that introduce a new idea or skill and then give the learner opportunities to practice and apply what he or she has learned.

While Project Share relied heavily on the use of usernames and passwords, the Texas Gateway does not. Visitors to the Gateway are able to search and use resources by grade level, subject, TEKS, and keywords. Upon identifying resources that may be helpful in supporting students, parents and teachers can voluntarily create and manage personal accounts to save lists of resources. The saved lists can then be easily shared with other teachers, parents, and students.

Educators may also search and self-enroll in online professional development courses. Read more at www.texasgateway.org.


February 16, 2016

Paraeducator professional development opportunity

Registration is now open for the National Resource Center for Paraeducators Conference which is taking place April 1-3 in Oak Brook, IL (suburb of Chicago). This premier professional development opportunity for paraeducators features a variety of sessions that will help paraeducators improve their professional practice, foster effective paraeducator/teacher/administrator teams, and understand how the new Every Student Succeeds Act impacts their careers. Paraeducators, teachers, administrators and others from across the United States can attend. NEA members and non-members attend. This conference is open to the public and has content for paraeducators of all types, years of experience, etc.


February 12, 2016

House Public Ed looks at middle school and high performing students

This week, the House Public Education Committee convened its first hearing since interim charges were issued by the Speaker of the House. The first charge addressed was to review the state's current education policies and initiatives regarding middle grades and make recommendations to ensure a comprehensive, research-based state strategy for preparing those students for high school retention, success, and postsecondary readiness. This review should include an examination of school-based strategies and best practices that encourage at-risk youth to finish school. 

Invited testimony indicates that 1 in 5 students fail to graduate high school on time and that students at risk could be identified during their middle school years. The community schools model was brought up as a solution.

The second charge was to review current public education programs that address the needs of high performing students, including: 

  • Identifying the adequacy of current programs statewide and exploring additional means to promote high quality programs. 
  • Studying ways to increase the recognition of higher performing students on test-based and non-test based measures. 
  • Examining whether the current and proposed state accountability systems adequately promote districts’ addressing the needs of students across the performance spectrum, including those students significantly outperforming their peers, and recommending whether the academic performance of high achieving students should be specifically addressed as a separate indicator in the accountability system. 

Texas Education Agency staff testified about resources available at the state level for high performing students, and said the state plan guides gifted education for all students K-12. Additionally, the Texas Performance Standards Project targets gifted students, but could be used in any classroom to increase student engagement in the curriculum. 

Review a list of all the interim charges at http://www.house.state.tx.us/_media/pdf/interim-charges-84th.pdf. -- report from Portia Bosse


February 12, 2016

State Board for Educator Certification meets

The State Board for Educator Certification met in Austin for its February meeting to finalize rules relating to its process for handling disciplinary cases under Chapter 249, to implement rules on number of opportunities for taking certification exams, and the waiver process once an applicant hits the limit.  

Final rules were approved to create more specific penalty guidelines for Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff to follow in settling or prosecuting educator discipline cases. In addition, the proposed amendments sets out the process that SBEC will use when the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) dismisses and remands a case in accordance with Texas Government Code, §2001.058(d-1), as amended by House Bill (HB) 2154, 84th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 2015, after a respondent fails to appear for a contested case hearing.  The State Board of Education will review this rule at its next meeting. 

SBEC also discussed 19 TAC Chapter 230, Professional Educator Preparation and Certification, Subchapter C, Assessment of Educators. The proposed amendments discussed complies with the requirement from the 84th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 2015, to enforce a limit of five attempts on any certification examination, unless the SBEC approves an additional attempt based on an individual's demonstration of good cause.  SBEC did not adopt rules at this meeting and simply discussed the waiver options to exceed the limit passed by the Legislature.  However, the statute still pre-empts an applicant from exceeding five times going forward and TEA will enforce this limit by law.

The proposed rule sets out reasons for a waiver as follows:

1. the candidate's highest score on an examination is within one conditional standard error of measurement (CSEM) of passing and the candidate has completed 50 clock-hours of educational activities. CSEMs will be published annually on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website;

2. the candidate's highest score on an examination is within two CSEMs of passing and the candidate has completed 100 clock-hours of educational activities;

3. the candidate's highest score on an examination is within three CSEMs of passing and the candidate has completed 150 clock-hours of educational activities;

4. the candidate's highest score on an examination is not within three CSEMs of passing and the candidate has completed 200 clock-hours of educational activities; and

5. if the candidate needs a waiver for more than one of the individual core subject examinations that are part of the overall examination required for the issuance of a Core Subjects certificate, the candidate has completed the number of clock-hours of educational activities required for each individual core subject examination. -- report from Portia Bosse


February 11, 2016

TSTA partners with Project Paradigm  

The Paradigm Challenge is an annual competition for youth ages 7-18 that inspires innovation in addressing important social issues. May 1 is the deadline.  


February 11, 2016

Watch the NEA Foundation Gala live on Feb. 12

On Friday, more than 850 people will gather in Washington, D.C., to honor 42 award-winning public school educators at the NEA Foundation's annual Salute to Excellence in Education Gala


February 10, 2016

TSTA participates in National Summit on Teacher Leadership

Texas was selected as one of 19 states to participate in the first National Summit on Teacher Leadership this month. 

WHAT IS THE SUMMIT?

It’s the collaboration of four leading education groups – NEA, Council of Chief State School Officers, U.S. Department of Education, and American Federation of Teachers – who brought some of the best and brightest to Washington, D.C. to empower more educators to lead their professions and turn ideas into action. 

WHAT TOOK PLACE?

“This is a national-level conversation on the importance of teacher leadership,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria, who led the Texas team, said. “It is an important part of a commitment made by four U.S. education organizations to bring key state-level educational stakeholders and practicing classroom teacher leaders together.” 

Teachers, state superintendents, and union representatives shared ideas, best practices, and examples of existing teacher-leadership efforts. They also identified common challenges and created concrete, actionable teacher leadership plans to address those challenges back home.

HOW CAN I LEARN MORE?

NEA Today posted an article about the summit and we have posted photos.


February 9, 2016

NEA President: Budget rightly shines spotlight on education, students

Educators remain concerned about impact of budget on implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act

President Barack Obama today released the final budget of his administration for fiscal year 2017. The president’s budget is the first since the congressional passage of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). “We believe that essentially flat-funding the main programs aimed at helping the students most in need will undermine the promise of ESSA to provide opportunity for all students,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a released statement.

February 8, 2016

Join the community conversation in Dallas, Fort Worth, Brownsville

State Board of Education Chair Donna Bahorich invites you to participate in a Community Conversation to discuss the Next Generation Assessments and Accountability for Texas Public Schools.

The Board hopes to include a variety of parents, educators, and business leadersin the discussions. Though you may wear many "hats" as a parent, educator, and business leader, they are asking you to choose to wear one hat for the activities at the meeting. You will choose either the  EDUCATOR, PARENT/COMMUNITY MEMBER, or BUSINESS LEADER caucus group at registration. Results will be gathered by caucus group. There is limited seating for each ticket type, wiith a maximum of 200 on a first come, first serve basis. An RSVP is required to participate.

The Purpose: The 2015 legislature established the creation of an appointed Next Generation Commission on Assessments and Accountability composed of 15 members to submit a report of recommendations for the 2017 legislative session. As part of the State Board of Education's contribution on the Commission, the chair, fellow Board members and a variety of community leaders are hosting a series of face to face and online “Community Conversations” in order to engage greater participation surrounding these important topics. 

Commission Task: The Commission will develop recommendations to address the purpose of a state accountability system and the role of student assessment; opportunities to assess students that provide actionable information, support learning activities, recognize the application of skills and knowledge, measure growth and mastery, and critical thinking. Commission recommendations will also address alignment of state performance standards with college and career readiness; policy changes to enable student progress; policy changes necessary to meet state goals, as well as policy changes that are community based, promote parent and community involvement, and reflect unique community needs.

Brownsville Feb 11th @ 9:30 am

Ft Worth Feb 16th @ 6 pm

Dallas Feb 17th @ 6 pm


February 4, 2016

Update your TSTA app

Our app is now compatible with iOS 9 devices. Download free from the Apple Store to stay up to date with news updates and push notifications!


February 3, 2016

Senate democrats meet with stakeholders to address student debt & college affordability

Watch it live at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYF5mg_-DNw


February 2, 2016

Obama wants more girls, kids of color to learn computer science

The White House has a new plan to get students involved in the important subject. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/computer-science-for-all_us_56abe38be4b00b033aaf3689


February 1, 2016

Black History Month lessons & resources

To help you integrate Black History Month into your classroom, we offer a selection of lesson plans that cover a variety subjects and that can be adapted to fit multiple grade levels. http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/black-history-month.htm#.VrIlXR_bNRc.twitter


January 29, 2016

NEA, Michigan affiliate help Flint with water crisis; taking contributions

From Michigan Education Association: As you have no doubt heard, we have a lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan. Obviously, this affects our students and our members.  Due to intense national interest, we wanted to give you a brief update.

MEA has distributed free home water testing kits to every MEA member in good standing who lives in one of the affected areas in Flint.  Within the next few days, water testing kits will be going out to all our retired members who live in the affected areas of Flint.

Last October, we reached out to NEA Healthy Futures, who worked with Britta to provide filters and water to the Flint community for several months now.

Our health insurance trust, MESSA,  will  be sponsoring a number of educational events concerning the long term effects of lead poisoning and the education support that will be required long-term.

Our locals have been donating busloads of water, socks, gloves, mittens. and school supplies. Frankly, the schools have had so many water donations they cannot store  all the water.  Mittens, gloves, coats and school supplies are a greater need as this is a very economically depressed community.

Next week, at our statewide bargaining conference, Lilly Eskelsen-Garcia will be speaking. As a part of her visit, she will be meeting with Flint leaders and "Dr. Mona," the pediatrician who was tenacious in blowing the whistle on what was happening to the Flint water supply.

The most helpful thing locals and members who wish to help can do is to send tax-deductible charitable donations. This is a 501 (c) 3.  They can designate their funds by noting "Flint" on the check.

MEA Classroom Support Fund
Michigan Education Association
P.O. Box 2573
1350 East Kendale Blvd.
East Lansing, MI 48823


January 28, 2016

Remembering the Challenger

On Jan. 28, 1986, at 11:39 a.m., people across the country watched in horror as the space shuttle Challenger exploded over the Atlantic Ocean, killing everyone on board. It remains one of the worst accidents of the American space program. One of the crew members was NEA member Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire high school teacher.


January 25, 2016

Vote now for the Rather Prize winner

The Rather Prize offers $10,000 for the best idea to improve Texas education. Ten finalists have been selected from Northwest ISD, Klein ISD/Dallas ISD, South Texas College, Austin ISD, North East ISD, Round Rock ISD, Dallas ISD, Friendswood, Ford Bend ISD, and Dallas Baptist University. Vote for your favorite idea online; on Twitter using #RatherPrizeIdea with your preferred idea number (e.g. #RatherPrizeIdea11); or via email to help@ratherprize.org.


January 25, 2016

Presidential election dates

A chart of important dates — primaries, caucuses, debates, conventions — in the 2016 presidential election. 


January 23, 2016

State committees meeting

Today, TSTA state committees are meeting in Austin. See photos of all 10 state standing committees on our Flickr site.


January 14, 2016

Nominate a student hero

The State Board of Education is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Student Heroes Award; the award recognizes Texas public school students in prekindergarten through high school who do outstanding things to benefit their fellow Texas students. The deadline for nominations is March 11. http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Awards/Student_Heroes


January 13, 2016

Educators share President Obama’s vision for America

President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union Address to the nation before a joint session of Congress last night. "The president’s vision rightly reflects educators’ inherent can-do optimism and our strong belief that the road to economic prosperity begins with a nation that provides more opportunity for all students regardless of ZIP code," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

Read her full statement here:

“We applaud President Barack Obama for presenting a bold vision for America that continues to build on his historic and consequential presidency. We are encouraged by his sense of possibility of a brighter future for our country. The president’s vision rightly reflects educators’ inherent can-do optimism and our strong belief that the road to economic prosperity begins with a nation that provides more opportunity for all students regardless of ZIP code.

“While much has been accomplished in the past seven years, the stakes are still high for working families as they continue to work harder and harder just to make ends meet. President Obama understands that in order to put more opportunity within reach of more families we need to build on the progress already made, expand the middle class, and close the persistent disparity gap. This will give more families a leg up to move into more solid economic footing.

“As the president enters his last year in office, we urge him to continue to put students and families before politics. We encourage him to stay the course and to rise above partisan politics as he and Congress did with the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It took bipartisan cooperation, leadership, and hard work to get the job done with the passage of ESSA. This was an important step forward in ushering in a new era for public education and to provide every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

“We believe what President Obama outlined tonight is spot on and makes common sense. We join the president in calling on policymakers to set aside their differences and work in a bipartisan manner to address the pressing issues facing our country. We need to make college more affordable so that our students aren’t burdened by student loan debt, fix our nation’s broken immigration system, and protect our students, educators, and communities from further harm, pain and needless gun violence.

“Success, boundless opportunities and the American Dream are within reach of our kids. With a president, families, and a nation of educators who believe in them, our kids will have a stronger country and brighter future. Now we move forward knowing that with a shared, positive vision for America, collaboration, and hard work, the best is yet to come. We look forward to working with Congress and President Obama to help enact an opportunity agenda that works for all.” 


January 11, 2016

TSTA: Teacher evaluations should encourage professional development, not punish educators

TSTA today urged Education Commissioner Mike Morath to design a teacher evaluation system that encourages professional development to help teachers and students achieve instead of punishing teachers over test scores.

“The goal of teacher appraisals should be creating a first-class learning environment for Texas’ 5.2 million public school children, not a ‘gotcha’ game designed to single out teachers for punishment,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

“Educators welcome evaluations and constructive guidance on how to master their teaching skills. Their students benefit when those evaluations are conducted fairly and based on a range of indicators of student progress and are not tied to a student’s ability to take a designated test,” he added.

Candelaria commented as the Texas Education Agency accepted public comments on T-TESS, the new teacher evaluation proposal drafted under former Education Commissioner Michael Williams. Under the T-TESS proposal, at least 20 percent – perhaps more – of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on STAAR test scores.

Candelaria pointed out that T-TESS was drafted in an effort to satisfy an outdated waiver requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act, which Congress recently repealed. In its place, and with strong bipartisan support, Congress enacted the Every Student Succeeds Act, which encourages states and school districts to reduce the importance of high-stakes testing. The new law also prohibits the U.S. Secretary of Education from mandating that teachers be evaluated based on test scores.

“TSTA urges Commissioner Morath and TEA to comply with the spirit of the Every Student Succeeds Act and eliminate STAAR test scores from the teacher evaluation model,” Candelaria said. “Education is a continuous, collaborative process, and an individual teacher’s contribution to a student’s success in any given year cannot be fairly measured by the student’s ability to pass a set of standardized tests.”

Some alternatives to STAAR test scores could include high school graduation and college admission rates, success in pre-AP courses, improvements in English language proficiency and other indicators of student progress.


January 11, 2016

Critics say something's off with Texas' very low special education enrollment numbers

Four years ago, the Houston Chronicle detailed a statistical mystery in Texas public schools: Special education students were disappearing. More accurately, the percentage of students receiving special education services was dropping sharply. Read more in the Texas Observer.


January 9, 2016

We’re onto the phony education reformers

The education counter-narrative is that public schools are not as much the perpetrators of failure as they are victims of resource deprivation, inequity in the system and undermining forces driven by corruption and greed. In other words, it wasn’t schools that needed to be made more accountable; it was the failed leadership of those in the business and government establishment that needed more accountability. Read more in Salon


January 8, 2016

'Bill of Rights' for schools echoes Abbott's constitution proposals

Texas State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff gave Gov. Greg Abbott a lesson in parody late Friday, issuing a "Public School Parent Bill of Rights" that mimicked Abbott's  proposals for overhauling the U.S. Constitution. Read more in the Houston Chronicle


January 8, 2016

Patrick vows to push tax credit scholarships

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Thursday he will press Texas lawmakers next year to pass a bill helping public school students from all economic backgrounds transfer to private or religious schools at state expense.

“What we have in Texas is an epidemic of failing state leaders, including the lieutenant governor, when it comes to adequately and fairly paying for public education,” TSTA’s Clay Robison told the Dallas Morning News.


January 8, 2016

Another poor report on Texas school funding

A new scorecard by Education Week gives Texas a grade of “D” on school finance. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick would make it worse by dusting off his old privatization schemes, beginning with another run at vouchers; read more in Grading Texas

Children's Policy Conference to be in Austin

The Texas Children’s Policy Conference Feb. 24 in Austin will include sessions on pre-k, mental health in schools, and other subjects of interest to TSTA members. Details at www.txchildren.org/conference


January 7, 2016

Zoos argue for right to ban weapons

Private businesses, amusement parks, and educational institutions can ban weapons if they choose under new open carry laws, but zoos — frequent destinations for school field trips — often don’t fall into any of those categories, the Texas Tribune reports. 

“Given the mission of the zoo and the presence of hundreds of thousands of children on its campus, it is clear that guns and zoos simply do not mix,” a spokesperson for the Houston Zoo told the Tribune. 

Zoos in Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth argue that their programs meet the definition of educational institutions — and they have been threatened with possible fines. Read more at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/01/07/texas-zoos-struggle-limiting-guns....

NEA Student Program accepting applications for CREATE Grants

CREATE Grants are for chapter and/or statewide community service projects that enhance public education; increase advocacy and outreach to communities; support younger educators involvement in the Association; and support the development of innovative approaches to engagement. The application deadline is Feb. 16. 


January 6, 2016

3 things Morath should do to demonstrate commitment

As our new state education commissioner, Mike Morath must work with educators and parents to advocate for what is best for all of Texas’ 5.2 million school children. TSTA’s Clay Robison outlines three things Morath can do to show he truly is committed to supporting educators and giving every student an opportunity at success. 


January 4, 2016

Morath takes office as Commissioner of Education

Mike Morath was administered the oath of office today in Austin to become the new state Commissioner of Education; as such, he heads the Texas Education Agency, which oversees pre-kindergarten through high school education for approximately five million students enrolled in both traditional public schools and charter schools.

Morath served on the Dallas ISD board of trustees for more than four years; to see how that went, read Clay Robison's Dec. 15 blog, "New Education Commissioner Tied to Testing." (Update: a new Grading Texas blog about Morath was posted Jan. 6.)

Additional background from the TEA news release: Morath graduated from Garland High School in Garland ISD and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, summa cum laude, from George Washington University. He says his priorities include supporting educators throughout the state, transitioning the state’s accountability system to an A-F framework, and improving the overall efficiency of TEA.

Morath succeeds outgoing Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. Williams served in the position for more than three years. The Commissioner of Education is a gubernatorial appointment and serves at the pleasure of the Governor. Commissioner Morath’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation during the next legislative session in 2017.

NEA Member Benefits expands area for recovery assistance

NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster Nov. 25 affecting five additional counties: Bosque, Hill, Jasper, Newton, and Walker.

See the original post below, on Nov. 30. NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs. Visit www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm for details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members. 

Texas schools get more leeway on scheduling

The requirement that students go to class for 180 days has changed to 75,600 instructional minutes. http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/local/counting-the-minutes-texas-schools-get-more-leeway/npw3G 


December 16, 2015

TSTA testifies before SBEC Committee on Educator Discipline 

The State Board for Educator Certification meeting last week included a meeting of the Committee on Educator Discipline to consider and approve rules relating to proposed changes to 19 TAC Chapter 249, Disciplinary Proceedings, Sanctions, and Contested Cases, Subchapter A, General Provisions, §249.5, Purpose; Policy Governing Disciplinary Proceedings; Subchapter B, Enforcement Actions and Guidelines, §249.15, Disciplinary Action by State Board for Educator Certification, and §249.17, Decision-Making Guidelines; and Subchapter D, Hearing Procedures, §249.35, Disposition Prior to Hearing; Default.

TSTA Governmental Relations Specialist Portia Bosse testified before the Committee on Educator Discipline to identify two areas the committee should reconsider in the proposed rules.  

The first point addressed the minimum penalties set out for settlement authority by TEA staff. Bosse cautioned the committee to allow staff to have greater flexibility for settlement by not binding staff to minimum penalties.  

The second point identified in the proposed rules request was a condition for good cause on abandonment of contract cases where the educator can show a clear agreement from the district showing both parties agreed to the abandonment of the contract.

The new rule revisions will allow TEA staff and/or the commissioner of education to settle disciplinary cases with certified personnel more efficiently and without having to go through SBEC for final approval.


December 15, 2015

TSTA: Mike Morath should be replaced with a teacher on new study commission

The Texas State Teachers Association today asked Governor Greg Abbott to replace Mike Morath with a school teacher on a new commission that will study alternatives to standardized testing. The commission was created by House Bill 2804 last spring, and the Legislature did not include the commissioner of education as a member of the commission.

The governor on Monday appointed Morath, a Dallas ISD trustee, as the new state education commissioner, only a few weeks after naming him to chair the new Texas Commission on the Next Generation of Assessment and Accountability. That panel is charged with recommending to the next session of the Legislature a possible replacement for the STAAR testing regime.

“Mike Morath will be involved with this study and many other tasks as the state’s new education commissioner,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “He should step down from the study panel and give the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House an opportunity to correct a critical oversight by appointing a teacher – a real classroom expert – to the commission that will study a more effective way of measuring student success.”

“No teacher was appointed to the study commission when it initially was named a few weeks ago,” Candelaria pointed out. “A teacher can bring a critical perspective to a panel that is now top-heavy with school board members and administrators. Teachers know we don’t have standardized students and know first-hand the futility of trying to measure their success with standardized tests.”

http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/20151215MikeMorath.pdf


December 15, 2015

Nominations accepted for 2016 presidential awards in math, science

Nominations for the 2016 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are now being accepted.

Administered by the National Science Foundation on the behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, PAEMST is the highest recognition a mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. This year, the PAEMST program will honor mathematics and science teachers in kindergarten - grade 6.

Teachers may be nominated for the award or may sign up to apply themselves. Principals, teachers, parents, or other members of the general public are encouraged to nominate outstanding teachers. Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Teach mathematics or science at kindergarten - grade 6 in a public (including charter) or private school;
  • Teach in one of the 50 states or the 4 U.S. jurisdictions;
  • Hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution;
  • Be a full-time employee of the school or school district as determined by state and district policies and teach at least 50 percent of the time;
  • Have at least 5 years of full-time, K-12 mathematics or science teaching experience prior to the 2014-2015 academic school year;
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; and
  • Has not received the PAEMST award at the national level in any prior competition or category.

To nominate an outstanding teacher or access the application, visit https://www.paemst.org.  The nomination deadline is April 1, 2016, and applications are due by May 1, 2016. In addition, eligible teachers who submit a completed application by the May 1, 2016, application deadline may be awarded 20 continuing professional education (CPE) hours.

PAEMST recipients receive a presidential citation; a paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities; and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

The PAEMST program recognizes teachers for their contributions to teaching and learning and their ability to help students make progress in mathematics and science. Awards are given to mathematics and science teachers from each of the 50 states and 4 U.S. jurisdictions. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.


December 14, 2015

Governor Abbott appoints Morath as Texas education commissioner

Governor Greg Abbott today appointed Mike Morath to be the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency. He will oversee the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the state’s 1,200 school districts and charter schools.

Morath has served on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees since 2011. A press release from the governor's office calls Morath "a change-agent" who led reforms that "helped propel Dallas public schools to achieve greater student and operational outcomes, including helping guide DISD to a new teacher evaluation and compensation system, becoming the first major school system in Texas to pay teachers based on performance rather than seniority."

What kind of state education commissioner will Mike Morath be? Based on his record as a self-styled “reformer” in Dallas ISD, the best response for an educator right now is to expect the worst and hope you are wrong. Read more in Grading Texas


December 10, 2015

A new era begins: Obama signs ESSA into law

With NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and other educators standing by his desk, President Obama today signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law. "There is nothing more essential to living up to the ideals of this nation than making sure every child is able to achieve their God-given potential," the President said, thanking the people standing next to him on the stage -- one of whom was NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. Watch here and read NEA's news release here.


December 9, 2015

Students and educators freed from the chains of NCLB

This morning, the U.S. Senate passed the Every Student Succeeds Act by a vote of 85-12; the House passed it last week. TSTA President Noel Candelaria released the following statement:

“Fourteen years ago, the federal No Child Left Behind Act was passed with good intentions, but it became a test and punish system that took the essence of learning out of our classrooms and robbed teachers and students of the time needed for teaching and learning.

“Today’s final passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a victory for students and educators because it recognizes that we don’t have standardized students and it gives educators and parents a greater voice and more flexibility to prepare our children for a lifetime of success.

“Parents and educators, not the federal government or self-styled reformers perched in remote think tanks, know what works best for our children and students. The new law returns the focus of education where it belongs – to the classroom – and encourages the states and local school districts to invest the resources needed to provide every student with an opportunity to succeed.”


December 9, 2015

Senate Education Committee Report on Charters and Teacher-Student Relationships

On Monday, December 7, the Senate Committee on Education met to discuss three issues: (1) the disposition of real property when the charter of a charter school is revoked or surrendered; (2) the possibility of providing facilities funding in the future for charter schools; and (3) the issue of preventing inappropriate teacher-student relationships.
The majority of the hearing focused on the charter school issues, because there was no real opposition to the belief that stamping out inappropriate teacher-student relationships was of the utmost importance.
The Committee engaged in a highly technical discussion regarding the issue of disposition of real property of certain closed charter schools, but they could not determine how to resolve the problem.
Under current law, charter schools do not receive facilities funding, however, charter school proponents showed up en masse to ask the state for a blank check to fund their facilities wish list. The majority of the Senators were sympathetic to the plea of the charter operators, but TSTA testified to highlight the following points:
 
(1) any appropriation for charter facilities funding will be made to the detriment of neighborhood public schools because it is very unlikely that this legislature would enact a new tax to cover the funding of charter facilities; 
(2) it is insulting to teachers and students for the legislature to consider such a proposal when Texas is so far behind the national average for teacher salaries and per pupil funding; and 
(3) Texas teachers spend an average of around $1,000 out of their own pockets on classroom supplies each year because funding of our public schools is inadequate.
The Committee was receptive to TSTA’s testimony, but gave no indication of whether they intend to pursue such a risky agenda.
Stay tuned for more information on when the Senate Committee will meet again.

December 7, 2015

Free webinar Wednesday at noon

Learn how your community can use the Texas Education Scorecard to identify policies and practices that can move students from their first steps in school on to higher education and a promising career. Register at http://cc.readytalk.com/r/jqzspthnadmo.


December 4, 2015

NEA applauds House ESEA reauthorization vote, bill heads to Senate

On Wednesday, the House approved the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan and bicameral bill to reauthorize ESEA.  The 1,061 page bill was approved by the large margin of 359-64. The vote came after a House and Senate conference committee met to finalize the bill the week before Thanksgiving, approving it by a vote of 39-1. 

The Senate is expected to take up ESSA next week. Tell your Senator to vote for ESSA, S. 1177. Read more about the bill below.


December 3, 2015

House votes to replace No Child Left Behind

After living for years with the consequences of No Child Left Behind, NEA members waged an unprecedented campaign on behalf of their students for a new law. Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives took what NEA calls "a historic step to usher in a new era in public education" when they approved the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Senate will take it up next week.

"ESSA empowers educators as trusted professionals to make school and classroom decisions while keeping the focus on students most in need," NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said. "The bill also reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools and, most importantly, decouples high-stakes decision-making and statewide standardized tests so students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach."

Read: Why educators support the ESSA 


December 2, 2015

U.S. House approves bill to create greater opportunity for every student to succeed

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan and bicameral bill to reauthorize the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Senate is expected to take up ESSA next week.

Educators and students have lived with the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for years. As a result, NEA members have waged an unprecedented mobilization and advocacy campaign on behalf of the nation’s students to turn the page on the failed NCLB law and to bring in a new federal education law that provides more opportunity for all students. This herculean effort, which NEA launched in earnest in February with its “Get ESEA Right” national campaign, and peaking this past summer when both legislative chambers passed their respective bills, resulted in a bipartisan and bicameral compromise and eventual bill language in late November. 

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement:

“Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took a historic step to usher in a new era in public education that will ensure every child has equal opportunity to a high quality education regardless of ZIP Code. On behalf of NEA’s three million members, we offer our strong support for the Every Student Succeeds Act. For the first time since No Child Left Behind was enacted nearly 14 years ago, ESSA empowers educators as trusted professionals to make school and classroom decisions while keeping the focus on students most in need. The bill also reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools and, most importantly, decouples high-stakes decision-making and statewide standardized tests so that so students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach. Last, ESSA begins to close the opportunity gaps for students by providing a new accountability system that includes an ‘opportunity dashboard’ with – for the first time – indicators of school success and student support. We applaud the U.S. House for getting the job done and doing what works for students, educators, and public education. We urge the Senate to follow suit and send a bill to the president that gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.” 


December 2, 2015

Get up to $3K for your high school sports department

Public high schools across the nation can score up to $3,000 for their sports departments with a California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant. California Casualty, provider of the NEA® Auto & Home Insurance Program, is providing $100,000 to offset budget cuts that have affected high school athletics. Details and entry forms can be found at www.calcasathleticsgrant.com. Applications must be received by Jan. 15 for 2015/2016 consideration. 


December 1, 2015

On Giving Tuesday, support education

Ms. Roberts had an ingenious idea, a way to empower her students to read, analyze, and perform with confidence. She had everything she needed – engaged parents, excited students, and a team of supportive colleagues – except the funding necessary to begin. So she  applied for an NEA Foundation grant to help her students creatively study British icons living hundreds of years apart – Shakespeare and The Beatles.  

By participating in a series of collaborative activities, culminating in a school-wide performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set to the music of The Beatles, not only did Robert’s 3rd graders learn that they could read an entire Shakespeare play and understand it, they learned that it could be fun!

Today, on Giving Tuesday – a global day for giving – we ask that you give back to educators like Roberts, educators who help our students reach their college, career, and life dreams. With your help, we can bring more project ideas to life. https://www.neafoundation.org


December 1, 2015

TSTA-Student Program Convention change

The TSTA Student Program is honored to have National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples as the keynote speaker for the awards banquet of its Feb. 26-28 state convention. She will speak at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. We had previously announced a second speaker, NEA Student Program Chair Chelsey Jo Herring, but she has had a change of plans and will be unable to attend. 


December 1, 2015

Nominate an outstanding humanities teacher for an award

Humanities Texas awards recognize excellence in K-12 humanities teachers. In 2016, 15 winners will receive $5,000, with an additional $500 for their schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. Nominations must be submitted by Friday, Dec. 11. Nominated teachers will then have until Feb. 10 to complete an application.


November 30, 2015

NEA president supports the Every Student Succeeds Act

Today, the U.S. Senate and House conference committee released to the public legislative language of a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for the first time in years. The bill is now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. The House of Representatives is planning to take up ESSA this week. The Senate is expected to follow next week.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement: “NEA is supportive of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Students have suffered long enough under the broken system of test and punish created by the No Child Left Behind Act. We are encouraged that this new bill will help to create greater opportunity for every student to succeed, regardless of their ZIP code.  

“In particular, the bill includes student and school supports in state accountability plans to create an opportunity ‘dashboard’; reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools and decouples high-stakes decision making and statewide standardized tests; and ensures that educators’ voices are part of decision making at the federal, state and local levels.

“We look forward to working with members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to ensure that we produce a final bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.” 


November 30, 2015

Disaster relief programs are available from NEAMB

Effective Nov. 25, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for the incident period Oct. 22 – 31 and affecting the Texas counties of Bastrop, Brazoria, Caldwell, Comal, Galveston, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Liberty, Navarro, Travis, Willacy, and Wilson. 

NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs. A specially designed DRP Web page at www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members. 


November 19, 2015

NEA president encouraged by bipartisan and bicameral approach to fix broken law

Today, after months of speculation and work, the U.S. Senate and House conference committee jointly approved the staff recommendations as amended to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for the first time in years. The House of Representatives is planning to take up the conference committee recommendation after the Thanksgiving break. The Senate is expected to follow.

NEA members — educators who have lived with and have been sounding the alarm about the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind — have waged an unprecedented mobilization and advocacy campaign on behalf of the nation’s students to close the chapter on the failed NCLB law and to bring in a new federal education law that provides more opportunity for all students.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement: “It is time for Congress to usher in a new era in public education that commits America to creating opportunity for all students regardless of background or ZIP code. While we appreciate the bipartisan and bicameral work of Congress to finally replace No Child Left Behind, our work isn’t done." Read more here: http://www.nea.org/home/64601.htm


November 19, 2015

2014-15 Texas Academic Performance Reports available on TEA website

The 2014–15 Texas Academic Performance Reports (TAPR) are now available on the Texas Education Agency website. TAPR provides a wide range of performance information for every public school and district in the state. The campus-level, district-level, regional, and statewide reports combine details of academic performance with financial reports and information about staff, programs, and demographics. TAPR is the successor to the popular Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) report. http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/tapr/2015/index.html


November 19, 2015

Education board votes against more fact-checking of Texas textbooks

From the Austin American-Statesman: The State Board of Education on Wednesday decided, in a split vote, not to add an extra layer of scrutiny to the review of Texas textbooks. Board member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, proposed adding a state review panel that could include college and university scholars assigned specifically to look for factual errors.

“We need more experts looking at these books and catching factual errors before the fact, not after they’ve made it to the classroom,” he said. “I want to catch it before it affects kids in the classroom.”

Ratliff’s proposal comes months after the first new social studies textbooks in about a decade made their debut in Texas classrooms. The texts were the subject of a prolonged and partisan battle over what Texas children should be taught about Islam, capitalism and the role of Judeo-Christianity in the country’s founding.

Most recently, a Houston-area mom complained about a photo caption in a world geography text that referred to slaves brought to the U.S. from Africa as “workers.” Her son had seen it and called it to her attention. After a social media discussion of the gaffe that went viral and drew national attention, the textbook publisher agreed to change the wording. http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/texas-education-board-could-add-extra-layer-of-tex/npQYj


November 18, 2015

Texas tests should get harder, ed commissioner says

From the Houston Chronicle: Outgoing Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams on Wednesday encouraged the state board to continue increasing the difficulty of standardized tests after he steps down at the end of the year. http://www.chron.com/news/education/article/sboe-texas-testing-staar-michael-williams-6640740.php


November 18, 2015

Education Scorecard launches

This new tool from the Center for Public Policy Priorities can help local communities identify policies and practices that can move students from their first steps in their first steps in school on to higher education and a promising career.

The Texas Education Scorecard does not grade individual schools, colleges, or educators. Instead, the scorecard compares county-level data that highlight five key milestones, or transition points, along the “education pipeline” from Pre-K through college completion. The scorecard also provides data on 12 policy indicators that communities can use to help determine where there may be room for additional improvements.

It's live today at http://texaseducationscorecard.org.


November 17, 2015

EdCommunities: where great minds are inspired

Free and open to all, the NEA edCommunities for Professional Practice is the place online where educators, school support professionals, and community members join forces to improve student success. A variety of groups address diverse education issues, from Common Core to school bullying, National Board certification to safe and healthy schools, ESP hot issues to flipped classrooms. You can also form a group of your own to advocate and collaborate on an issue near and dear to your heart. http://MyNEA360.org


November 17, 2015

Hundreds of amici file 24 briefs with U.S. Supreme Court to support public services, and a strong middle class in Friedrichs v. CTA

States, governors, cities, school districts, civil rights organizations, academic experts and others warn of threat case poses to working families, public services. http://www.nea.org/home/64551.htm


November 17, 2015

Texas board may vote to let academics check school textbooks

At its meeting this week, the State Board of Education may vote to have outside experts check for factual errors in textbooks used in its public schools, the Austin American Statesman reports. Republican SBOE member Thomas Ratliff is expected to propose that university academics check board-sanctioned books to avoid future mistakes. Approved books currently are scrutinized by citizen review panels whose members are nominated by board members.

"The problem is you get some political ideologues, like some of my colleagues like to appoint, instead of people who can think for themselves and not be told what to think," Ratliff, from Mount Pleasant in East Texas, told the Statesman. http://www.statesman.com/ap/ap/texas/texas-board-may-vote-to-let-academics-check-school/npN8M/


November 16, 2015

American Education Week begins

American Education Week—Nov. 16-20—presents all Americans with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. This year’s theme is "Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility." Learn more at http://www.nea.org/grants/19823.htm. Here's the daily schedule:

Monday, November 16: Kickoff Day -- Across the country, schools will celebrate excellence in education by hosting kickoff events and activities.

Tuesday, November 17: Parents Day -- Schools will invite parents into the classroom for a firsthand look at what the school day is like for their children.

Wednesday, November 18: Education Support Professionals Day -- Education Support Professionals keep schools running and students safe, healthy and ready to learn. Check out these videos to see how hard ESPs work to serve students in public schools and how committed ESPs are to both their jobs and their communities. 

Thursday, November 20: Educator for a Day -- Community leaders will be invited to experience the day as educators and experience the challenges of teaching and the needs of students. Learn more about this program through the Educator for a Day Promotional Kit.

Friday, November 21: Substitute Educators Day -- Substitute educators play a vital role in the maintenance and continuity of daily education. Learn more about these professionals and take a look at resources and tips for substitute educators.


November 16, 2015

Applications for H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards due Dec. 6

Don't forget to fill out your application for a 2016 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award at www.heb.com/education by Dec. 6; you could win a cash prize ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. 

Last year, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards gave out more than $800,000 in cash prizes, gift cards, and grants. Since its inception in 2002, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards program has awarded over $8 million to Texas educators, schools and districts.

For additional updates, follow the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards program on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HEBExcellenceinEducationAwards.

About the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards

H-E-B launched the Excellence in Education Awards program in cooperation with the Texas Association of School Administrators in 2002 as a positive way to support public education in Texas. It has become the largest monetary program for educators in the state, spotlighting best practices and celebrating the passion and creativity of Texas educators.

H-E-B asks customers, Partners (employees) and community members to nominate teachers, principals, districts, early childhood facilities and school boards in Texas. Each nominee is sent an invitation to complete an application online and is asked about their professional experiences, educational philosophies and achievements both in and out of the classroom. 

A team of judges reviews the applications, narrowing the field to semi-finalists. From that pool, five regional judging panels comprised of former winners, administrators, and university and community leaders not affiliated with H-E-B select 40 teacher and principal finalists. Finalists and their schools receive a cash prize of $1,000 to $2,500, depending on category.

Three separate panels select eight school districts and five early childhood facilities as finalists, awarding $2,500 to $5,000 in cash prizes. Up to five school boards may also be recognized, and awarded $5,000 towards the district they serve. Additionally, one or more school boards may receive a special judge’s award totaling up to $25,000. Site visits are conducted to determine winners.

Teacher and principal finalists are invited to San Antonio in May to compete on a statewide level for larger cash prizes totaling more than $400,000. A statewide panel of judges, not affiliated with H-E-B, conducts a personal interview with each finalist to select winners.

Eight winners — two principals and six teachers — will be announced along with two school districts, one large and one small, a public school board and an Early Childhood Facility, at a celebratory dinner on May 13.

Each winning principal—one elementary school and one high school—will each receive $10,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools. The winning large school district will receive a $100,000 cash prize and the winning small school district will receive $50,000. The winning Early Childhood Facility will receive $25,000 and a school board could be awarded up to $25,000.

The six winning teachers will include one elementary and one secondary teacher in each of three categories:

  • The Rising Star Award — honors exceptionally promising teachers with less than 10 years of experience. These winners will each receive a $5,000 check for themselves and a $5,000 grant for their schools.
  • The Leadership Award — honors teachers with 10 to 20 years in the classroom. These winners will each receive a $10,000 check for themselves and a $10,000 grant for their schools. 
  • The Lifetime Achievement Award — salutes teachers with more than 20 years of experience. These teachers will each receive $25,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools.

November 13, 2015

NEA president welcomes Congressional plans to take next step in ESEA reauthorization

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García today reacted to published media reports about a tentative deal among House and Senate education leaders to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The National Education Association has been engaged in an unprecedented mobilization and advocacy campaign on behalf of its members and the nation’s students for years now to close the chapter on the failed No Child Left Behind law and write a new federal education law that provides more opportunity for all students.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement:

“Today we are a step closer to rewriting a federal education law that commits America to the success of every student regardless of ZIP code. While we welcome this progress, our work is not done. We look forward to working with the Congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.” 


November 13, 2015

SBOE to meet Nov. 17-20

The State Board of Education will meet Nov. 17-20. The full agenda is available at http://tea.texas.gov/sboe/agenda/. The Nov. 17 meeting will be livestreamed at http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/.  The meetings on Nov. 18-20 may be watched at http://www.adminmonitor.com/tx/tea/.


November 12, 2015

Tell Congress to get ESEA right

We need your help to carry out a grassroots organizing effort to demand that Congress pass a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) before it adjourns for the year. The House and Senate have passed different versions of the bill, and those differences must be resolved by a conference committee in the next few weeks. Let’s engage, organize, and make sure the Texas congressional delegation hears our voices!

WHAT DO WE WANT TO SEE IN THE BILL?

Support for state accountability plans that provide the resources to enable every child to succeed, regardless of zip code?

More time for students to learn, by reducing the time spent on the high stakes standardized testing that is currently the basis for critical education policy decisions 

A voice for educators in decision making at the federal, state, and local levels

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Tell Congress it's time to #GetESEARight by emailing, tweeting, or calling 866-331-7233.

Personalize this “Get ESEA Done” sign, take an individual or group selfie with it, and post it to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. 


November 11, 2015

No teachers appointed to new assessments panel

Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders appointed several school administrators, school board members, and charter school representatives – but no teachers – to a new study commission that will make recommendations to the Legislature for a new assessment and accountability system for public schools.

Dallas ISD Trustee Mike Morath will chair the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, whose goal is to recommend a replacement for the STAAR regime to the 2017 legislative session.

http://educationblog.dallasnews.com/2015/11/governor-appoints-dallas-isds-mike-morath-to-lead-commission.html


November 11, 2015

Teacher Well-Being, Instructional Practices, and High-Stakes Testing

The purpose of this study is to understand the impact that State Achievement Tests and recent changes to Curricular Standards have had on teachers, students, and schools. Your participation will help policymakers, administrators, and educators understand the influence of these policies on teacher well-being and instructional practice, ultimately leading to enhanced school climate and improved student outcomes.  http://tinyurl.com/TEXASteachersurvey


November 6, 2015

Get your Educators for Hillary car magnet

All you have to do is sign the Educators for Hillary pledge, create an NEA activitist account, and post to Facebook. http://www.strongpublicschools.org


October 29, 2015

Medicare premium dramatically reduced

On Oct. 15, the Social Security Administration announced that there will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries in 2016. When Medicare beneficiaries don’t receive a COLA, a provision known as “hold harmless” protects 70 percent of beneficiaries from higher Medicare Part B premiums. Unfortunately, 30 percent of seniors and persons with disabilities are not protected. These include new Medicare beneficiaries, public sector retirees not receiving Social Security (those in GPO/WEP offset states), higher income beneficiaries, and low-income beneficiaries who have both Medicare and Medicaid. 

This news meant that many NEA members were facing a $54 monthly increase to their Part B premiums. NEA used multiple avenues of advocacy and the Medicare Part B premium increase has been dramatically reduced as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. 

While NEA is pleased to see the looming Medicare Part B premium increase being significantly reduced, they are disappointed that the budget agreement doesn’t extend the “hold harmless” provision to all Social Security beneficiaries. Under the bill, Part B premiums will now increase by $19 per month instead of $54 per month. Many of these beneficiaries live on a fixed income and cannot bear the additional financial burden this increase will cost. These increases are especially unfair to the seniors whose benefits are eliminated or greatly reduced by GPO and WEP.

TAKE ACTION: Please contact your members of Congress today and urge them to sponsor and support S. 2148 and H.R. 3696 to protect all Medicare beneficiaries from higher Medicare Part B premiums and deductibles.  


October 25, 2015

Urge Congress to protect seniors from Medicare cost hike

Absent Congressional action, millions of seniors—including educators already unfairly impacted by GPO/WEP Social Security offset penalties—will face a 52 percent increase in Medicare Part B premiums. Most other Social Security beneficiaries will be held harmless from the premium increase. NEA is working with labor and retirement security allies to extend the same financial protection to public servants currently hurt by the GPO/WEP penalties. You can help by urging Congress to support S. 2148 by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and H.R. 3696 by Representative Dina Titus (R-NV), which would extend the hold harmless provision to all Medicare beneficiaries. Take action here: http://capwiz.com/nea/issues/alert/?alertid=68282426


October 23, 2015

10-22-15 TRS Report

On October 22, 2015, the TRS Board of Trustees held a town hall meeting on healthcare, focusing on the ever-rising costs facing school employees and retirees. The Board acknowledged that the paychecks of current employees and annuities of retirees remained relatively stagnant while healthcare costs increased dramatically and became more of a burden than a benefit. read more


October 22, 2015

Teachers reiterate call for state to step up health care support

“Texas teachers are once again calling on the state to increase its share of their growing health care costs, after lawmakers this year failed to pass legislation upping the support,” Houston Chronicle reporter Lauren McGaughy writes. 

”’After 14 years, how long must we wait for the state to do its fair share to make sure Texas teachers and public school employees have affordable, high quality health care coverage?’ Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria asked Thursday at a special meeting of the Texas Retirement System Board of Trustees.” http://m.chron.com/news/education/article/Teachers-reiterate-call-for-state-to-step-up-6585151.php

You can watch Noel speak in the archived video at http://trs.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/23f91d2006004357a0370186b89f02651d; scroll to 7:17:3.


October 22, 2015

TSTA urges TRS to ask Legislature to double state contribution to educator health care

TSTA today urged the Teachers Retirement System of Texas to join educators in asking the Legislature to double the state’s $75 monthly contribution to health insurance costs for school employees to $150. The contribution hasn’t been changed since the program was created in 2001.

“Employee premiums have increased 10 times since 2003 – by as much as 238 percent for some employees – at a time when budget cuts have left Texas teacher pay stagnant, $7,000 below the national average,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said at a TRS town hall meeting on educator health care.

“Meanwhile, the $75 per month state contribution for school employee health care has not increased – not even by a penny,” he added.

Depending on the level of coverage, Candelaria said, insurance for an entire family can cost some school employees more than $1,300 per month – more than a mortgage payment for most TSTA members. Consequently, many educators are delaying medical treatment, waiting to start a family or leaving the profession.

“After 14 years, how long must we wait for the state to do its fair share to make sure Texas teachers and public school employees have affordable, high quality health care coverage?” Candelaria asked. “Will you, the TRS board, join us in asking the Legislature to double the state contribution for educator health care?”

School districts are required to cover at least $150 per month of each employee’s health insurance premium. Some districts contribute more, but many don’t, saddling employees with most of their rising health care costs.

TSTA believes this also is a fairness issue. The state of Texas covers virtually the entire cost of health care for state employees, while educational employees have seen health care premiums take bigger bites out of their paychecks, year after year.

Watch the meeting at http://trs.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/23f91d2006004357a0370186b89f02651d and find out how to participate here.


October 21, 2015

TSTA president, other educators to discuss crisis in teacher health care

WHAT: The Teachers Retirement System of Texas will host a town hall discussion of the rising cost of teacher health care and what can be done to address it. Some premiums have increased as much as 238 percent in recent years, sharply reducing the take-home pay of educators already paid almost $7,000 below the national average.

WHO: Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria will call on the Legislature to increase its contribution to school employee insurance premiums and seek the support of the TRS board. Representatives of other educator groups also will participate.

WHERE: Teacher Retirement System of Texas headquarters, 1000 Red River St., 4th floor cafeteria.

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 22, 2:30 p.m.


October 21, 2015

TEA report: school districts implementing House Bill 5

According to an evaluation study released today by the Texas Education Agency, more than half of all school districts responding to a recent survey reported currently offering students all five endorsements – Multidisciplinary Studies; Business and Industry; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); Arts and Humanities; Public Services – created under House Bill 5 (HB 5).

Passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature in 2013, HB 5 initiated substantial changes to the curriculum requirements for high school graduation in Texas. The legislation replaced the existing graduation programs with the Foundation High School Program and included the option for students to earn endorsements, a distinguished level of achievement, and performance acknowledgements within the new program.

Review the complete House Bill 5 Evaluation Report here.


October 20, 2015

Health care town hall: how to participate in the interactive Q&A sessions

During the Teacher Retirement System's town hall meeting Thursday, there will be two interactive Q&A sessions, one on the health care environment and cost trends, and the other specific to TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare. How can you participate?

If you attend the Austin meeting, you can submit questions on the cards provided or use Facebook or Twitter.

Webcast audience members can submit questions through:

  • the internet link on the webcast homepage.
  • Twitter at @trsoftexas. For TRS-Care questions, use #trscare. For TRS-ActiveCare questions, use #trsactivecare. For all other questions, use #trstownhall.
  • Facebook by commenting directly to the TRS Health Care Town Hall post.
TRS will publish FAQs on the TRS website to address questions not answered during the Q&A. Please do not submit questions regarding personal health situations, as those cannot be discussed in this forum. 
Read more here.

October 20, 2015

South Carolina flood relief efforts 

South Carolina has experienced a historic flood, and although water levels have begun to recede, many people struggle to overcome heart-breaking personal losses and continue to reside in temporary emergency housing. 

South Carolina Education Association has received numerous phone calls and emails from NEA members, wanting to know how they can help; SCEA believes the best vehicle is United Way


October 19, 2015

TSTA represented on T-TESS Steering Committee

Pflugerville Educators Association President August Plock is serving on the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) Steering Committee For Commissioner Rules Chapter 150. Their first meeting was today; see photos here


October 19, 2015

Nominations are in order for five awards

TSTA needs your help to find social justice activists, outstanding association representatives and upcoming leaders, great local communication efforts, and excellent media coverage of education events and issues. Do you know a person or organization that should be honored?

  • The Social Justice Patriot Award acknowledges professional and human rights activities. The honoree can be a Texas educator, a TSTA local or regional association, or an individual or association that is deemed a friend of education.
  • All-Star ARs are exemplary TSTA association representatives or campus leaders. They engage members at their worksite; encourage volunteerism; help identify new leaders; lead organizing campaigns; assist members with problems; and inform local leaders of issues and concerns at their worksites.
  • Leaders for Tomorrow demonstrate such characteristics as good listening and communication skills, being enthusiastic team players, and assisting with organizing campaigns. 
  • Pride in Communications Awards are presented for outstanding local or regional newsletters or websites. 
  • School Bell Awards recognize outstanding media coverage of education issues and events. This includes newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations, and electronic media. Twelve awards were presented in 2015.

School Bell Award nominations are due January 31; all others are due at the beginning of March. Please visit tsta.org/news-center/awards-grants for more information. 


October 17, 2015

TSTA Committees are in the house!

TSTA's state committees are meeting this weekend in Austin. See the photos here.


October 16, 2015

TEA to reduce length of 2016 STAAR tests

From TEA: Commissioner of Education Michael Williams today notified school districts and charters that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will reduce the length of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) in grades 3–8 for the 2016 spring administrations.

“House Bill 743, which was passed by the Legislature earlier this year, requires STAAR assessments be designed so 85 percent of students can complete the grades 3–5 assessments in two hours and 85 percent of students can complete the grades 6–8 assessments in three hours,” said Commissioner Williams. “The steps I’m announcing for the coming school year are merely the first as TEA works to meet the legislative requirements while also balancing the validity and reliability of each assessment.”

To meet this legislative requirements of HB 743, TEA will take the following actions in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years:

For 2016 only, TEA will remove all currently-embedded field-test questions for STAAR grades 3–8, which will reduce the length of each assessment by five to eight questions.  

TEA has also redesigned the 2016 STAAR grades 4 and 7 writing tests so they will be completed in one four-hour administration.

In addition, Commissioner Williams advised that TEA will also collect detailed data during the spring 2016 test administration on the time it takes students to complete the assessments. That data will then be used to determine how to adjust the STAAR grades 3–8 assessments for spring 2017 testing to more precisely meet the testing time requirements of HB 743.

To read Commissioner Williams’ letter to school districts, visit http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Correspondence/TAA_Letters/Reduction_of_Number_of_Questions,_State_of_Texas_Assessments_of_Academic_Readiness_%28STAAR®%29_Grades_3–8_Assessments.


October 15, 2015

Health care town hall is next week

Here’s the agenda for the Teacher Retirement System’s Oct. 22 town hall meeting on educator health care. TSTA will participate in the 2:30 p.m. association panel. Remember, you don’t have to be in Austin to watch the proceedings or ask questions. You can participate by email, Twitter, and Facebook as well. Watch for details and instructions on the TRS website, www.trs.state.tx.us.


October 15, 2015

Texas education commissioner to resign

The media is reporting today that state Education Commissioner Michael Williams has informed Gov. Abbott that he will be resigning at the end of the year. Abbott will appoint a successor. Williams was appointed to the education post in 2012 by former Gov. Rick Perry.

TSTA President Noel Candelaria issued the following statement: “We wish Commissioner Williams well in his future endeavors. The Texas Education Agency faced many challenges under his watch, as the legislative majority slashed the state education budget while excessive standardized testing drew the wrath of parents and educators.

“The Texas State Teachers Association urges the governor to listen to the vast majority of Texans and appoint a commissioner who will advocate for a greater investment in our public schools and policies that will end punitive standardized testing that robs teachers and students of the time they need for real teaching and learning,” Candelaria said.

He was quoted in the Texas Tribune article: http://www.texastribune.org/2015/10/15/education-commissioner-williams-resigning-years-en/


October 14, 2015

Take the pledge to end student hunger

Across the country, NEA members just like you are working to do their part to help fight the growing problem of hunger in the classroom. In support of your efforts, Bank of America will make a $1 contribution on your behalf, up to $50,000. Just log in or register to make your click count. Each NEA member can make their click count only once. Proceeds will go to the Challenge to End Student Hunger. http://www.neamb.com/fightstudenthunger.htm


October 13, 2015

Teacher wellness and instructional practices survey

A Philadelphia university is conducting a study of the impact state achievement tests and recent changes to curricular standards have had on teachers, students, and schools. They hope to help policymakers, administrators, and educators understand the influence of these policies on teacher well-being and instructional practice, ultimately leading to enhanced school climate and improved student outcomes. http://tinyurl.com/TEXASteachersurvey


October 12, 2015

Cross-Site Convening

Each fall, more than 200 education leaders join union-district teams from the NEA Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps and Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning initiatives in Washington, DC, to engage in powerful discussions led by nationally renowned thought leaders, and, most importantly, work collaboratively to apply this knowledge to inform their work plans to improve learning conditions and student performance at home. Watch video clips here: http://www.neafoundation.org/pages/cross-site-convening.


October 7, 2015

NEA on National Bullying Prevention Month

Recognizing the enormous physical, emotional, and academic toll that bullying can take on students, the National Education Association, during National Bulling Prevention Month, is ramping up efforts to raise awareness and engage all adults—especially among educators—in stopping bullying whenever or where it occurs and to make the nation’s schools and classrooms safe, bully-free environments for all students. http://www.nea.org/home/64119.htm


October 6, 2015

Commissioner proposes revising STAAR phase-in 

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams today advised school districts and charters of his recommendation to replace the current phase-in schedule for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) student passing standards with a revised approach.

Under new proposed rules from the Commissioner, the traditional phase-in approach would be replaced with a standard progression approach from 2015–2016 through 2021–2022, the year final standards are scheduled to be in place. In other words, rather than larger jumps to more rigorous performance standards every few years, this progression approach would mean smaller, predictable increases every year through the 2021–2022 school year.

http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Press_Releases/2015/Commissioner_Williams_announces_STAAR_performance_standards_for_2015-2016_and_beyond


October 6, 2015

Candelaria: the cost of increasing standards but not resources

The standardized tests Texas students take in grades 3-8 will be harder to pass, Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced last weekend at the Texas Association of School Boards Conference. 

Television station KLBK-13 in Lubbock asked TSTA President Noel Candelaria for his take on the issue.

“We are setting not only our students up, we’re setting our schools up for failure,” Candelaria said. 

The state is raising standards for test scores but teachers and schools still aren’t getting the resources they need, he explained. “We are focusing on the symptoms not the cause.” 

Candelaria said his own daughter didn’t want to start third grade because she knew that’s when statewide testing starts. “No child at any age should feel that way about going to school,” he said. “School should be an opportunity and a place for joy and learning.” Read more here

The background: On Monday, the Texas Education Agency issued this statement:  "During his appearance at the TASA/TASB conference this weekend, Commissioner Williams confirmed that the STAAR passing standard for the coming school year will increase. The announced move should not have been a surprise to superintendents because the state has been at Level I for the past four years and the Commissioner had already advised several months ago that the state would be moving to the next higher standard." Read more here.


October 6, 2015

Teaching math to young children

This free workshop will provide hands-on experience in applying the evidence‑based recommendations in the Teaching Math to Young Children practice guide produced by the What Works Clearinghouse. The Austin workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 16. http://relsouthwest.sedl.org/bridge_events/2015-11-16_prekmath2/index.html


October 5, 2015

NEA joins Harvard-led partnership to transform teaching profession 

The Transforming Teaching Project, a Harvard Graduate School of Education-based initiative allied with education organizations across the nation, today released a white paper offering a comprehensive analysis of the problems with American teaching and detailing 12 Design Challenges to transform the teaching field.  The white paper, entitled From Quicksand to Solid Ground: Building a Foundation to Support Quality Teaching, and written by Harvard Graduate School of Education associate professor Jal Mehta and his colleagues, argues for the development of a reliable and integrated set of mechanisms—a functioning system—to build teachers’ knowledge, skills, and expertise. The paper’s authors also challenge the education sector to codify current and future research and practical knowledge about quality teaching to improve teacher effectiveness in every classroom and to advance the field of education overall. The paper is the result of a two-year effort to assess the state of the field, drawing on interviews with 60 sector leaders and 25 teachers, and initial pressure testing of ideas with several hundred educators.

“The quality of a teacher is the most critical school-based factor in student success. But we do not have a reliable system to build teachers knowledge, skills, and expertise,” Mehta said.  “These 12 Design Challenges are critical first steps toward transforming the teaching field into one that is professional, consistently high-quality, rewarding, and revered.”  

The paper has been endorsed by those seeking to improve and professionalize teaching across the political spectrum. Organizational endorsers include the NEA, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the National Commission for Teaching and America’s Future, Deans for Impact, and Teach Plus. Individual endorsements include Norman Atkins, president of the Relay Graduate School of Education; Orin Gutlerner and Michael Goldstein, founding directors of Match Education; and Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute and professor emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.


October 3, 2015

NEA supports Clinton in Democratic primary

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García announced today that the largest labor union in the country will support Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary for president of the United States.

“Clinton is a strong leader who will do what is best for America’s students,” Garcia said. “For more than four decades, Clinton has fought to make sure all children have a fair opportunity to succeed regardless of their ZIP code. Clinton will continue to advocate on behalf of students, educators and working families because she understands the road to a stronger U.S. economy starts in America’s public schools.”

“The teachers and educators of the NEA shape our future,” said Clinton, upon learning of the Association’s support. “By opening new horizons for children, they spark new ideas, innovations, and industries. Our educators are the frontline fighters building a stronger and more prosperous America--and I know it is not an easy job. NEA members work hard every day to provide the education and support our children need to grow and prosper. I know from personal experience that a teacher can make a profound difference in a child's life. My mother had a difficult and painful childhood, and when she didn't have enough to eat, her first-grade teacher noticed--and quietly shared her own lunch. Decades later, I am grateful to that teacher every day.”

Clinton is committed to giving educators a stronger voice in making a difference for their students. She has a proven record as a supporter of public education and working families that goes back decades, evidenced by her work at the Children’s Defense Fund, as the first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, and, as a U.S. senator, she earned an “A” ranking in NEA’s Congressional Report Card. She also earned NEA’s highest honor, the Friend of Education Award, at its 1999 convention.

“I’ve stood with educators throughout my career--from my early days working at the Children's Defense Fund to my success creating a new teacher recruitment program in the Senate,” said Clinton. “As President, I will fight to defend workers’ right to organize and unions’ right to bargain collectively, and I will ensure that teachers always have a voice and a seat at the table in making decisions that impact their work. I will fight to raise incomes and to ensure that hardworking Americans can retire with dignity and security. We have to make sure that every family in America doesn’t just survive, but thrives. I’m honored to stand with the National Education Association to support teachers and education support professionals and grow our economy.”

Clinton will reduce the role of standardized tests in public education because she agrees with educators that no bubble test can measure a student’s curiosity. Teachers need more time to teach and students need more time for learning.

Read more here: http://www.nea.org/home/64092.htm


October 2, 2015

TSTA leaders walked the halls of Congress this week

...and visited Texas lawmakers during NEA Super Week. Thanks to Congressman Castro for meeting with our #‎TeamTSTA leaders, TSTA Vice President Ovidia Molina, NEA Director Jessica Powell, and NEA ESP-At Large Karen Barnes.


October 2, 2015

TSTA, Killeen presidents speak at meeting on advocating for special needs kids

Excerpts from an article in the Killeen Daily Herald: About 120 parents, educators and district administrative officials attended a forum on special education Tuesday, hearing from experts on ways to better advocate for special-needs children in and out of the classroom.

In response to community concerns in the area of special education, the Killeen Daily Herald partnered with Austin-based The Cuddy Law Firm with the goal of educating the community on an often-confusing topic....

Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, turned the focus away from the district and onto state and federal public education funding disparities. Without proper funding, he said, school districts often cannot properly staff campuses with the qualified educators needed to educate special-needs children.

“We all have a responsibility to hold each other accountable to ensure that our children — who are the future of our community — have what they need. When we all work together with the child’s best interest at heart, we can do great things for every child.”

After an in-depth critical look of the school district’s “low-trust behaviors” in response to the special education “crisis,” Killeen Educators Association President Richard Beaule reminded the audience that a vote is often all it takes to create change.

“To our friends in the community who are here tonight — you are the ultimate deciders of right and wrong. Your tools for doing so are your presence, your voice, and perhaps most importantly, your vote.” http://kdhnews.com/news/education/experts-offer-advice-to-parents-kisd-teachers-administrators/article_b7fa833c-672b-11e5-9a73-2b2fcdbf8232.html


October 1, 2015

Oregon Education Association, NEA presidents react to school shooting

Oregon Education Association President Hanna Vaandering and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García provided the following joint statement in reaction to the tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon:

“OEA and NEA represent nearly 250 faculty and staff members at Umpqua Community College. What happened there today is unthinkable, and we are simply devastated.  We are still learning details, but dozens of students and at least one of our members, a part time faculty member at the college, were inside the classroom when today’s senseless shooting occurred.  Our hearts ache for the students, faculty, staff, and families at the college, and we extend our deepest sympathies to everyone there, most especially, the victims’ families. Educators are prepared to assist in any way as the Roseburg community, and indeed the entire nation, grieves and copes with this tragedy.”

NEA Healthy Futures provides The School Crisis Guide, which can be used to both prepare for a crisis of this nature, and respond to the aftermath.


October 1, 2015

#TEACHNATGEO list: kindergarten memories

Teachers and classrooms leave students with memories that last a lifetime. The start of the new school year has National Geographic staffers reminiscing about their first year of school. Share yours! 


September 29, 2015

Texas secures conditional ESEA waiver for 2015-2016

AUSTIN – Commissioner of Education Michael Williams was notified today by the U.S. Department of Education that the department has approved the state’s request for renewal of flexibility from specific provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, through the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

However, federal officials also stated that the state must meet specific conditions to continue ESEA flexibility beyond 2015-2016, placing Texas on "high-risk status." ESEA flexibility beyond this school year would be dependent on the state meeting specific conditions that would require statewide use of specific teacher and principal evaluation and support systems, as well as utilizing them to inform personnel decisions at the local level.
Though Commissioner Williams welcomed approval of the waiver, he said the state is not changing its position on allowing local school districts to make decisions on using evaluation systems of their choosing.

"Throughout the waiver application process, I have made it clear to federal officials that I do not have nor will I ever seek the authority to compel local school districts to use one uniform teacher and principal evaluation system statewide," said Commissioner Williams. "Our state believes strongly in local control of our schools. As a result, we will continue discussing this specific point with the U.S. Department of Education, but they should not expect any shift in Texas’ position."

According to the approval letter, Texas must demonstrate how the state will ensure all school districts and charters implement teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that meet ESEA requirements, including the use of growth in student learning as a significant factor. Federal education officials also seek a statewide approach to measuring growth in student learning based on state assessments for those teachers of tested grades and subjects. Finally, the U.S. Department of Education expects Texas districts and charters to utilize those teacher and principal evaluations for personnel decisions beginning in 2016-2017.
Federal officials have given the state until Jan. 15, 2016, to meet the conditions.

Texas may also request reconsideration of its high-risk status, but must do so by Oct. 9. Commissioner Williams said the state will seek that reconsideration. To date, Texas and South Dakota are the only states in the current round of renewals granted a federal waiver with a high-risk designation.
Commissioner Williams noted that federal officials are aware that – separate from the waiver process – the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been working with schools districts and the regional Education Service Centers to develop new teacher and principal evaluation and support systems with the intent of offering it as a resource to improve instruction. During the 2014-2015 school year, TEA piloted these systems in 64 school districts and 430 campuses across the state. : As part of the refinement phase, 256 districts and approximately 2,000 campuses statewide are implementing the systems this school year.

"Statewide rollout of our new state-approved appraisal system would occur in 2016-2017, but would not be mandatory," said Commissioner Williams. "I believe a majority of our school districts representing roughly 85 percent of the state’s student population would make use of these new appraisal systems. However, that choice will be made at the local level, not by the federal government."

The State of Texas secured a conditional waiver from the U.S. Department of Education in 2013 giving the Texas Education Agency and more than 1,200 school districts and charters relief from certain ESEA provisions. However, the waiver was granted provisionally as USDE reviewed specifics related to new teacher and principal evaluation systems in Texas.

Under key components of the state’s waiver, Texas schools are no longer designated as having met or made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Instead of federal ratings of designations for all schools in Texas, only the lowest performing 15 percent of schools are identified as Priority or Focus Schools. Those schools are subject to a series of federally-prescribed interventions.

Additionally, Texas school districts are no longer required to set aside 20 percent of their Title I federal dollars to provide Supplemental Educational Services (SES) for students at low-performing campuses. A district is now free to use those funds on academic intervention programs it deems most effective for its students.

To view all materials related to the state’s waiver request (including the Sept. 29 letter from the U.S. Department of Education),  visit the Texas Education Agency website at http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Waivers/NCLB-ESEA_Waiver_Information.

25 Texas schools receive 2015 national Blue Ribbon honors

AUSTIN – Earlier this year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) nominated more than 20 Texas public schools for national 2015 Blue Ribbon Schools recognition. Founded in 1982, Blue Ribbon Schools is a U.S. Department of Education program that recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at very high levels.

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that 25 schools nominated by TEA have been awarded Blue Ribbon honors for 2015. The schools in Texas include the following:
 
•    Aldine ISD – Victory Early College High School
•    Amarillo ISD – South Lawn Elementary School
•    Austin ISD – Blackshear Elementary School
•    Canyon ISD – Canyon Intermediate School
•    Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD – Country Place Elementary School
•    Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD – Kent Elementary School
•    Crawford ISD – Crawford Elementary School
•    Dallas ISD – Harry Stone Montessori Academy
•    Dallas ISD – Trinidad Garza Early College High School
•    El Paso ISD – Lamar Elementary School
•    Falls City ISD – Falls City Elementary School
•    Garland ISD – Kimberlin Academy for Excellence
•    Grandview ISD – Grandview Elementary School
•    Harper ISD – Harper Middle School
•    Highland ISD – Highland School
•    Houston ISD – North Houston Early College High School
•    Klondike ISD – Klondike ISD
•    Los Fresnos ISD – Olmito Elementary School
•    Malakoff ISD – Malakoff Elementary School
•    McAllen ISD – Achieve Early College High School
•    Mt. Vernon ISD – Mt. Vernon Intermediate School
•    Roma ISD – F.J. Scott Elementary School
•    San Antonio ISD – Young Women’s Leadership Academy
•    South Texas ISD – South Texas Preparatory Academy
•    Vega ISD – Vega Elementary School

“National Blue Ribbon recognition for these campuses is well deserved and reflects the hard work of teachers and students in our communities,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “It is also indicative of the strong education efforts taking place in classrooms throughout our state.”

All schools were selected as exemplary high performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Each school has an economically disadvantaged population of 25 percent or greater.

The nominated schools completed a rigorous application process through the U.S. Department of Education. Schools that receive the award are recognized at the Blue Ribbon School conference in Washington, D.C.

For more information about the national Blue Ribbon Schools program, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/index.html.


September 25, 2015

TRS provides more details for Oct. 22 health care meeting

TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie today announced more details for the Oct. 22  town hall-style meeting on educator health care. The meeting will take place at TRS but will be moved from the board room to the cafeteria to accommodate more people.

Tentatively, the meeting is supposed to feature a discussion and panels on national health care trends in the morning, with the afternoon session to include panels on TRS-ActiveCare and Care. One afternoon panel will include a TSTA representative discussing the ActiveCare and Care challenges facing our members.
Questions will be taken from audience members in the room, as well as by email, Twitter, and Facebook. Guthrie will moderate the meeting. TSTA will provide more details as we learn them.

In a two-day quarterly board meeting that ended today, TRS reported that the Pension Trust fund had a rate of return of -0.001. For the last quarter, the Pension Trust Fund had a rate of return of -0.03. The negative rates of return are due to the recent volatility of the market.


September 21, 2015

Nominate someone -- or yourself -- for an H-E-B Award

H‑E‑B Excellence in Education Awards honor outstanding public school professionals. Nomination deadline is Nov. 1. 


September 21, 2015

Help H-E-B collect a million books

Since 2011, H‑E‑B has donated nearly 3 million books to children in need. Help them collect another million during their book drive Sept. 16- 29. Donate new or gently used children's books at the donation bin in your neighborhood store. https://www.heb.com/static-page/Read-3-Help-Grow-Young-Minds


September 21, 2015

Know of a great environmental project?

Applications for the Texas Environmental Excellence Awards will be accepted through Oct. 9. 


September 18, 2015

Nominations due for science teacher awards

Nominate an outstanding science teacher for Texas Medical Association’s Ernest and Sarah Butler Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. Three Texas science teachers will receive $5,000 each and their schools will receive $2,000; nominations are due Oct. 26.  www.texmed.org/teachers


September 16, 2015

TRS news: town hall on health care, new London office

The Oct. 22 board meeting of the TRS trustees will be a town hall meeting in Austin on the state of educator health care coverage and the challenges facing TRS ActiveCare. Last session, TSTA worked closely with Rep. Cesar Blanco and Sen. Jose Rodriguez in support of their legislation that would have doubled the state contribution for health care coverage from $75 to $150 a month for school employees in the TRS system. Since the session, TSTA and other educator and educational organizations have pressed the TRS Board to seek additional state funds to make that increase possible.

The town hall, which will include opportunities for you to participate without being physically present, is expected to last the entire day, much like the town hall in Corpus Christi a year and a half ago. TSTA will be participating in one of the panels being assembled for the meeting.

Here's a video announcing the town hall meeting; scroll to 6:17. Please stay tuned for more details on the Oct. 22 meeting as they come available.

At the TRS board’s upcoming meeting, Sept. 24-25 in Austin, staff will present a status report on the London office TRS is opening, its first international office, which is expected to increase the number of investment opportunities. http://www.trs.state.tx.us/about/news_releases/trs_opening_london_office.pdf


September 15, 2015

Get up to $3K for your high school sports department

Public high schools across the nation can score up to $3,000 for their sports departments with a California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant. California Casualty, provider of the NEA® Auto & Home Insurance Program, is providing $100,000 to offset budget cuts that have affected high school athletics.  Details and entry forms can be found at www.calcasathleticsgrant.com. Applications must be received by Jan. 15 for 2015/2016 consideration. 


September 15, 2015

Seattle school strike talks reach 'tentative agreement'

Both sides of talks to end a Seattle teachers' strike that has idled the city's 53,000 public school students for nearly a week said on Tuesday that they have reached a "tentative agreement." 


September 15, 2015

Grants for bullying, genocide education

The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission is still accepting applications for its Educator Grant for the 2015-2016 school year. These grants -- of up to $1,000 for up to 10 educators or educational institutions -- can be used towards projects that further civic or social responsibility. Previous grants have helped schools develop anti-bullying campaigns, address local social issues, create genocide education projects, and take field trips to various Texas Holocaust museums. Applications are due by Sept. 30. You can find the application, procedures, and guidelines at http://thgc.texas.gov/grants/educators-grant.


September 14, 2015

Striking in Seattle

This solidarity statement is circulating: "We, the undersigned stand in solidarity with 5,000 striking members of Seattle Education Association (SEA). These brave educators are taking this action in the face of growing privatization, increased standardized testing, and persistent inequality in public schooling. The educators’ demands would improve public schooling for everyone. They are demanding competitive pay, fair evaluations, less standardized testing, and end to systematic racial discrimination in student disciplinary actions. The union also represents school counselors and psychologists, and demands that their caseloads be capped, so that they can give students the individual attention they deserve. SEA is bargaining for quality education for their students, but in more than 20 meetings with the district prior to the strike vote, all of these demands were rejected...."

Read more and add your name at http://brianpjones.tumblr.com/post/129078492460/solidaritywithseattlestrike.


September 14, 2015

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 — October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. You can find lessons, activities, videos, and more at http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/hispanic-heritage-month.html.


September 12, 2015

TSTA Board of Directors meets

Your TSTA Board of Directors is meeting in Austin this weekend. See photos.


September 10, 2015

ASCD: It's what you don't say that counts

One of the most effective questioning strategies that I used in my classroom did not need a professional development workshop, did not have books written about it, and used no high-tech hardware or software. In fact, it was not so much about questioning as it was about what to do after questioning. From the ASCD website


September 8, 2015

ESEA on agenda as Congress returns

Fresh off a five-week summer sabbatical, members of Congress confront a handful of pressing education issues, high among them brokering a path forward for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization, with dueling bills having already passed in both chambers.

 Perhaps most urgent, however, the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and House and Senate appropriators have yet to pass a spending bill to fund the government past then. When they return, they'll have just 10 legislative working days to negotiate a funding plan for federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education and its programs. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/09/esea-budget-higher-ed-issues-on-agenda-as-congress-returns.html


September 4, 2015

State science conference coming to Ft. Worth

The Science Teachers Association of Texas’s 2015 Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) is coming Nov. 12-14. 

With 400 plus exhibit booths, CAST is one of the fastest growing trade shows in Texas. Special events will be held throughout the convention, including educational excursions to area science attractions, VIP reception, “Mothership” evening social complete with costumes, and several featured sessions by top rated presenters from past CASTs. 

The CAST convention, themed “Defying Gravity” for 2015, is the largest state science conference in the nation. Events will be held at the Fort Worth Convention Center and other downtown properties. www.statweb.org


September 3, 2015

Humanities Texas offers fall workshops 

This fall, Humanities Texas will hold five free professional development workshops for U.S. history and English teachers. Content will align with the TEKS. Topics to be addressed include the debates that took place during the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, teaching the Bill of Rights, and significant constitutional issues in the nineteenth century. 


September 1, 2015

TSTA:  While state leaders talk about fixing school finance, Texas students pay the price

The Texas Supreme Court is again hearing arguments over school finance because the governor and the legislative majority haven’t done their job, Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria said today.

“Gov. Abbott says he wants to ‘fix’ our schools. But when is he going to start?” Candelaria asked. “Instead of doing his job for 5.2 million Texas public school children, the governor is asking the Supreme Court to make the funding issue go away.”

“During the last legislative session, state leaders left billions of our tax dollars sitting in the bank that could have been put to work in the classrooms where teaching students is the highest priority,” Candelaria said. “But once again, our students have been left to pay the price for the state’s failure to provide the resources needed to put an end to crowded classrooms, hire more qualified teachers and improve school facilities.”

Candelaria pointed to three key data points that illustrate the problems that result from the state’s failure to act.

Last year, there were 3,700 fewer teachers in public districts than there were before school funding was cut by $5.4 billion in 2011. Meanwhile, student enrollment grew by more than 220,000, a recipe for crowded classrooms.

Last year, school districts were granted 5,883 waivers to exceed elementary class size limits, and thousands of middle school and high school classrooms also remain overcrowded.

Texas ranks 38th in per-student funding, spending about $2,400 per child below the national average.

“The arithmetic is simple. Our students and teachers are being shortchanged, and every day the state fails to invest in our classrooms is another day that students are forced to pay the price,” Candelaria concluded.


August 31, 2015

The governor needs an education in government

As a former Texas Supreme Court justice and state attorney general, Greg Abbott was an influential advocate of “tort reform,” meaning he worked to prevent aggrieved consumers and other everyday Texans from having their day in court. Now, as governor, he also wants to shut the courthouse door to school districts seeking more funding for educators and students.

On the eve of a Texas Supreme Court hearing of the latest school finance lawsuit, Abbott is quoted today in The Dallas Morning News as saying, in effect, that courts don’t have any business deciding educational policy.

Huh?

Read the rest of Clay Robison's latest Grading Texas blog.


August 24, 2015

Poll: Americans Want Less Standardized Testing and More School Funding

Whether it’s used as a tool to measure student progress or evaluate teachers, standardized testing continues to fall out of favor with the majority of the American public. According to the 2015 PDK/Gallup Survey of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, 64 percent of Americans (and 67 percent of public school parents) say there is “too much emphasis on testing.”  Only 14 percent rated standardized testing as a “very important ” factor in measuring school effectiveness, and 55 percent (66 percent of parents) oppose test scores being used to evaluate teacher performance.


August 24, 2015

TSTA member finalist for Texas Teacher of the Year

TSTA member Lynn Bodet, who teaches gifted and talented math at Frank Tejeda Middle School in North East ISD in San Antonio, is one of six finalists in the 2016 Texas Teacher of the Year program, the Texas Association of School Administrators announced today.

The six finalists will be invited to Austin in October for interviews before a panel of judges, which will select two state-level winners – one at the elementary and one at the secondary level – and designate one to represent Texas in the National Teacher of the Year program.

Shanna Peeples, a TSTA member from Amarillo, is the 2015 National Teacher of the Year.


August 17, 2015

TSTA President speaks out for kids

TSTA President Noel Candelaria is in the news across the state this week; here are a few of the newspapers running his message:

Public schools anchor our communities, Austin American Statesman

Help teachers better help students, The Monitor 

Public schools anchor our communities, Lufkin Daily News

Public schools anchor our communities, Odessa American 

Noel Candelaria: Texas eductors ready to lead children, El Paso Times


August 14, 2015

H-E-B to donate $1 for every #TeacherShoutout Instagram post in August

H-E-B, which has given more than $10 million to Texas schools and educators through its H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards, invites Texas students to give their teachers a back-to-school boost with an Instagram post using the hashtag #TeacherShoutout. For every post made through Aug. 31, H-E-B will donate $1, up to $25,000, to the Texas Teacher of the Year program.

It is easy and fun to participate:

1.   Get creative and write your favorite teacher’s name on a chalkboard, sidewalk, writing paper, etc. and take a photo of it.

2.   Share it using hashtag #TeacherShoutout on Instagram. (Instagram profiles must be public for posts to appear on H-E-B’s #TeacherShout page.)

3.   Include a caption that says why you appreciate that teacher.

About the Texas Teacher of the Year Program

Since 1969, the Texas Teacher of the Year program has honored excellence in classroom education. Facilitated by TASA since 2011, the Texas Teacher of the Year Program annually recognizes and rewards teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching.

Every fall, the 20 Texas Education Service Centers select 40 Regional Teachers of the Year — one elementary and one secondary teacher from each region. Six finalists are chosen from among the 40 semifinalists. Then, following an interview process, the Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year and Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year are selected. One is chosen to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year program. In 2015, Texas Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples of Amarillo ISD was named the National Teacher of the Year. Learn more at http://www.tasanet.org/domain/59. Click on this H-E-B page for details and all the posts so far (at the bottom).


August 13, 2015

TSTA members finalists for presidential award in math and science

Three TSTA members are among 10 Texas teachers named finalists for the 2015 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, TEA announced today.

They are Patty C. Hill, an Algebra I and II teacher at Kealing Middle School in Austin ISD; Penny Smeltzer, who teachers AP statistics at Westwood High School in Round Rock ISD; and Sheri Cole, a seventh grade science teacher at Seabrook Intermediate School in Clear Creek ISD. For more information on the awards and the other finalists, click here.


August 12, 2015

$500 grants for energy/sustainability lesson plans

In an effort to educate students about energy and sustainability, SaveOnEnergy.com is offering teachers a chance to receive a $500 grant and have their energy or sustainability focused lesson plans be recognized and featured on a nationally known energy marketplace. The deadline is Sept. 18. https://www.saveonenergy.com/teacher-grant


August 10, 2015

New Rather Prize will reward ideas for improving Texas schools

Do you have an idea for improving Texas public schools? If so, it could win you $10,000 and mean even more to Texas school children.
Veteran TV journalist Dan Rather and his grandson, Martin Rather, have announced the creation of the Rather Prize, a new award designed to recognize the best ideas for improving education in the Lone Star State.

Eligible applicants include teachers, retired teachers, students and individuals who attended a Texas educational institution within the past three years. Submissions will be accepted through Jan. 10, 2016, and 10 finalists will be notified by Jan. 31. The winner, who will be notified by Feb. 15, 2016, will receive a $10,000 unrestricted educational grant and an opportunity to discuss his or her idea at next spring’s South by Southwest educational conference in Austin.

For more information about the prize and how to submit an idea, click here:  http://www.ratherprize.org/
The award is a partnership of the Rathers and Rice University’s Center for Civic Leadership. It is the brainchild of Martin Rather, who will enroll this fall as a freshman at Rice. Martin is the author of the High School Truth, a compendium of tips and stories from high school students across the country. His objective is to give his Texas student peers a voice on education.

“Texas students and teachers have excellent ideas on how to improve their schools and their districts, but until now they have not had an avenue to have their ideas noted or heard,” Martin Rather said. “The Rather Prize was created to empower those who are committed to improving Texas education by giving them a platform and a path for discussion and implementation of their innovative ideas.”

Dan Rather, one of the country’s most well-known journalists and a former correspondent and news anchor for CBS-TV, is a product of Houston public schools and a graduate of Sam Houston State University.

“For a rightfully prideful state such as Texas, one with the wealth and resources that our great state is lucky enough to have, to be rated near the bottom in national education rankings is a disgrace, and as a fiercely loyal Texan this has long grated on me,” he said. “Texas is better than this, and I hope to do at least a small part in giving back to a state and an educational system to which I owe so much.”
The new prize is to be awarded annually. 


August 7, 2015

Four East Austin campuses rebound, meet state standards

The Austin school district’s Eastside Memorial High School met state accountability standards for the first time in more than a decade this year, according to data released Friday, and is one of three East Austin schools that have rebounded after big changes in recent years. Read more in the Austin American Statesman.

Class of 2014 graduation rate sets new mark

Texas’ high school on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2014 reflects another all-time high for the state and marks the seventh consecutive year the overall rate has increased. According to a new Texas Education Agency report, Secondary School Completion and Dropouts in Texas Public Schools 2013-14, the graduation rate was 88.3 percent, which is 0.3 percentage points higher than the previous record set by the Class of 2013.

153 campuses earn all seven distinctions in 2015 accountability ratings 

The Texas Education Agency today released the 2015 state accountability ratings for more than 8,600 campuses. The ratings reveal that 86.4 percent of campuses across Texas achieved the rating of Met Standard.

Campuses that receive an accountability rating of Met Standard are also eligible for distinction designations. Distinction designations are awarded to campuses based on achievement in performance indicators relative to a group of 40 campuses of similar type, size and student demographics. 

TEA releases 2015 accountability ratings

The Texas Education Agency today released the 2015 state accountability ratings for more than 1,200 school districts and charters, as well as the more than 8,600 campuses statewide. The ratings reveal that 94 percent of school districts and charters across Texas have achieved the rating of Met Standard. 


August 5, 2015

Graduation rates continue to climb

State Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced today that the Texas high school on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2014 set another all-time high for the state. It was the seventh consecutive year the overall rate has increased. The overall 2014 rate was 88.3 percent, some 0.3 percentage points higher than the previous record set by the Class of 2013. For more information, read here: http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Press_Releases/2015/Class_of_2014_graduation_rate_sets_new_mark/


July 24, 2015

Workshop reminder

Don't forget the “Designing Intensive Programs and Services for English Learner Students in the REL Southwest Region” workshop on July 27, presented by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest. Participants residing in Texas may receive Continuous Professional Education credit. Register here: http://www.sedl.org/forms/wg_event_reg.php?event_ID=00552 


July 22, 2015

Candelaria: ‘Our time to stand up is now’

This summer, three groups of members are taking the next step by learning how to effect change for students, public education, and employees.


July 22, 2015

Resources from the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission

The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission assists elementary/secondary schools and universities in their efforts to teach about the Holocaust and genocide. Classroom resources include lesson plans, posters, and oral histories. They also offer a video contest — the deadline is in March — and grants of up to $1000 for civic/citizenship or social responsibility projects (see below). http://thgc.texas.gov/

Grants for increasing social responsibility

The Friends of the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission is offering 10 grants of up to $1,000 to educators and educational institutions for civic/citizenship or social responsibility projects.

Sample projects might include raising awareness in the community about social responsibility concerns; developing a project to help end bullying in a school; addressing a local public safety issue; or creating a genocide education project that culminates in a field trip to one of Texas’ Holocaust museums.

To apply for a grant, submit a short application form, including a budget and narrative, by Sept. 30. Download the application form and read detailed guidelines at http://thgc.texas.gov/grants/educators-grant.


July 21, 2015

Videos of El Paso members go live Thursday

Members of the El Paso Teachers Association share back-to-school advice in this video that displays their passion and enthusiasm. It’s part of NEA Member Benefits' back-to-school promotion, which launches on July 23. NEAMB also offered three members a “makeover”; all videos will be available Thursday at www.neamb.com.


July 21, 2015
 

Why did you decide to take the next step?

TSTA asked participants in this week's conferences -- Emerging Leaders, School Board Activists, and Organizing Institute -- what made them decide to get more involved in the association (and in standing up for students and public schools). Watch the video responses and see the photos.


July 13, 2015

Game, set and match

“When you hear the unending and unsubstantiated rhetoric about ‘failing public schools’ from those that support vouchers or other ‘competitive’ school models, it is important to have the facts,” Thomas Ratliff, vice chair of the State Board of Education, said in a release issued today on Texas Education Agency’s latest “snapshot” of academic and financial performance of school districts and charter schools.

“ISDs aren’t perfect, but they graduate more kids, keep more kids from dropping out, and get more kids career and college ready than their politically connected competitors. Any claims to the contrary just simply are not supported by the facts and at the end of the day facts matter because these lives matter,” Ratliff said.


July 13, 2015

SBOE to meet 

The State Board of Education will meet Tuesday through Friday. The full agenda is available at http://tea.texas.gov/sboe/agenda/ and the meeting will be livestreamed at http://tea.texas.gov/sboe/webcast/.


July 11, 2015

Can you help with research on teacher mistreatment?

Amy Orange, an assistant professor of education research at the University of Houston at Clear Lake, is conducting research on teachers who have been bullied or mistreated by their administrators. The results will be published in research journals and presented at conferences. All responses are anonymous unless you choose to provide your email address so you can be interviewed. In that case, all information you provide would be confidential; Orange is the only one who will have access to the data. All names (those of participants, schools, states, etc.) will be assigned pseudonyms to protect participants' identities. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/teachermistreatment


July 9, 2015

School district profiles available on TEA website

Snapshot is an online resource that provides an overview of public education in Texas for a particular school year. In addition to state-level information, this product contains a profile about the characteristics of each public school district and charter school.

Snapshot summary tables provide district information in some common categories, and a peer search function permits grouping districts according to shared characteristics. While Snapshot does provide an overview of public education in Texas at the state level and for each public school district, it does not provide any campus-level information.

To view the information from the 2014 Snapshot: School District Profiles (or for previous years), visit the TEA website at http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/snapshot.


July 7, 2015

The RA wrap-up video

See the highlights of the NEA Representative Assembly in this video -- and watch for TSTA members Jocelyn Jones and Shanna Peeples! 


July 7, 2015

TEA designates 19 new T-STEM Academies

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams announced today that the Texas Education Agency has designated 19 new Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) Academies for the 2015-2016 school year.

T-STEM academies are rigorous secondary schools focusing on improving instruction and academic performance in science and mathematics-related subjects, with a goal of increasing the number of students who study and enter STEM careers. Designated T-STEM campuses serve students in grades 6-12 or 9-12.

"Students who excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are well positioned to secure jobs in our future workforce," said Commissioner Williams. "Texas STEM academies provide important student experiences in these key subject areas, which in turn strengthens the economic future of our state and nation."

The 19 campuses or charters designated as T-STEM Academies for the 2015-2016 school year are:

Alief ISD – Alief ISD STEM Academy

Angleton ISD – Angleton ISD Wildcat STEM Academy

Austin ISD – Anderson Applied Tech

Comal ISD – Memorial Early College High School with St. Philip’s College

Edinburg CISD – Edinburg North T-STEM Early College High School

Edinburg CISD – Robert Vela T-STEM Early College High School

Fabens ISD – Fabens ISD T-STEM Academy

Goose Creek CISD – Robert E. Lee STEM Academy

Grand Prairie ISD – Grand Prairie Collegiate Institute

Grand Prairie ISD – Young Women’s Leadership Academy

Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy Mesquite West (Mesquite)

Snyder ISD - Tiger STEM Academy

University of Texas at Tyler Innovation Academy (Longview)

University of Texas at Tyler Innovation Academy (Palestine)

University of Texas at Tyler Innovation Academy (Tyler)

Weslaco ISD – Weslaco 21st Century T-STEM Academy

Wharton ISD – Wharton ISD STEM Academy

Ysleta ISD – Del Valle Leadership STEM Academy

Ysleta ISD – Riverside STEM Academy

School districts or open-enrollment charters can apply each year for a campus to be awarded T-STEM designation (if certain criteria are met). Once a campus is designated, professional development and technical assistance are provided to designated T-STEM academies to serve as demonstration schools and learning labs. Designated academies showcase innovative instruction methods which integrate technology and engineering into science and mathematics instruction.

With the addition of these newly designated schools, Texas is now home to 104 T-STEM Academies across the state. To learn more about T-STEM Academies, visit the Texas Education Agency website at http://tea.texas.gov/T-STEM.


July 6, 2015

Call your senator now: “Get ESEA Right!”

The widespread consensus in Washington is that the current education law, ESEA/No Child Left Behind, is broken. Congress is considering how to fix it. They need to hear from you. Fill out the form on this page to send a message to your senator. The vote is scheduled for tomorrow, July 7!


July 6, 2015

National Teacher of the Year draws standing ovation

"Our stories have a unique power," National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples, a TSTA member from Amarillo, told fellow NEA members today at the Representative Assembly in Orlando. “Our critics love clichés, simplistic slogans, and manipulated data,” said Peeples. “This is how they attack, and the good news is the utter banality of those attacks. Stories are different. There is no defense against a good story…I contend that we advocate best for our students and our profession when we are brave enough to tell our stories.”


July 5, 2015

Shanna Peeples to address NEA RA tomorrow

On Monday, July 6, the last day of the NEA Representative Assembly, Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year and an English high school teacher in Amarillo, will address delegates. The 12-year classroom veteran and TSTA/NEA member teaches students from diverse backgrounds in a city that is among several across the nation that help refugees find new paths in life and gain access to critical resources. View her speech on UStream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/N35Orl5ndo.


July 5, 2015

Write your senator: “Get ESEA Right!”

Right now, politicians in Washington are making a HUGE decision. This decision will determine what teaching and learning looks like in America's schools over the next decade.

For students and educators, the stakes couldn’t be higher. We need your voice.

The widespread consensus in Washington is that the current education law, ESEA or No Child Left Behind, is broken. How Congress will fix it, though, is ultimately up to you.

Fill out the form on this page to start writing a message to your senator. 


July 4, 2015

NEA RA: speeches now online

“We demand that all of our students have an opportunity to learn. We want our students to master rigorous content…be critical thinkers and creative problem solvers. We want our students prepared to be citizens in our democracy,” NEA Executive Director John Stocks said.

Check NEA's YouTube channel for more videos.


July 2, 2015

Happy 4th of July!

The TSTA headquarters building will be closed Friday (and today, after 3:30 p.m.) in observance of Independence Day. Our leaders will be working through the weekend in Orlando, representing you at the NEA Representative Assembly; you can follow the action at http://www.nea.org/ra.

Watch Empowered Educators Day live this morning!

If you are in Orlando, join us in person; if not, you can follow all of today's presentations online!


July 1, 2015

July 2 is Empowered Educators Day

Are you in Orlando? You are invited to hear NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, Vice President Becky Pringle, and a distinguished panel of experts discuss their experiences, followed by TEACHTalks by new member leaders from around the country. http://ra.nea.org/2015/06/22/empowered-educators-day-2


July 1, 2015

TRS to extend benefits to same-sex spouses

On the TRS website: "In compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, TRS will extend spousal benefits provided under the TRS pension plan, TRS-Care, and TRS-ActiveCare, to same sex-spouses.

TRS is currently reviewing the benefits available under the TRS pension plan and will provide additional information to members and beneficiaries regarding the administration of pension benefits to same-sex spouses." http://www.trs.state.tx.us


Conference participants address racial inequality, call on educators to take action

From the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, to the recent shootings in Baltimore and Charleston, racially charged events were the focus of approximately 1,000 attendees of the NEA 2015 Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women who broke into small groups and engaged in a brutally frank discussion about racial inequality in our nation’s schools and communities. http://ra.nea.org/2015/07/01/joint-conference-participants-address-racial-inequality-calling-on-educators-to-take-action


July 1, 2015

NEA Read Across Orlando brings books to RA city

NEA partnered with the Orange County Library System to hold read-ins at all 14 branch locations for the first-ever “Read Across Orlando.”

The kick-off event at the downtown Orlando Public Library today included more than 200 elementary-age students and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, not to mention Dr. Seuss’s famous feline Cat in the Hat and his enigmatic characters Thing 1 and Thing 2. http://ra.nea.org/2015/07/01/read-across-orlando


July 1, 2015

El Paso members in new NEAMB campaign

NEA Member Benefits' back-to-school promotion starts July 23, featuring TSTA members from El Paso Teachers Association! Watch this teaser: http://youtu.be/CuI_PxJgDPM


June 30, 2015

San Marcos wins pay hike

"It's amazing. It's the biggest thing that's been done in our district in a long time for our employees,” San Marcos Educators Association President Susan Seaton told Time Warner Cable News after the school board voted to increase salaries by 3.8% for teachers and 5% for ESPs and fully fund TRS Active Care 2.

The local reports: "Last night, San Marcos Educators took home a victory of a 5% raise for ESP’s and 3.8% for Teachers, plus fully funded insurance on TRS Active Care 2 at $341. It was a crazy night, with over 70+ employees attending plus full media coverage. Thanks you to all who have kept up with the campaign the last few months on our social media sites. This spring SMEA ran a school board race around the specific issue of salaries and healthcare, which made all the difference. It was definitely a big win for a tiny local of less than 200." http://www.twcnews.com/tx/austin/news/2015/06/30/san-marcos-cisd-considers-raising-teacher-salaries.html

Today at the NEA Annual Meeting: LEGACY

Hundreds of educators, who are in Orlando for the NEA Representative Assembly, will participate in NEA’s Leaders Empowering Grassroots Advocacy for Communities and Youth (LEGACY) Project today. Nearly 800 elementary-age students will join volunteers from the NEA Student Program and Osceola County Education Association at a community fair at Osceola High School and Thacker Avenue Elementary School. http://ra.nea.org/2015/06/30/hundreds-attend-a-community-fair-aimed-at-students-and-their-families

Working in solidarity at the joint conference

In his speech at the June 29-30 NEA Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women, Dr. Kevin Kumashiro allluded to the conference theme, “Organize, Educate, Lead: Empowering Our Diversity Through Action.” http://ra.nea.org/?p=1447Go


June 29, 2015

We’ve redesigned our app!

In addition to better design and flow, the improved app gives you access to the Advocate, our quarterly magazine; the monthly Member Matters enewsletter; and, if you are a member, the weekly Briefing enewsletter. Also new: you now can add TSTA events to your calendar.

Update or download free from iTunes or Google Play!

Today at NEA: Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities & Women

NEA's Annual Meeting kicks off with the Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women, whose theme is “Organize, Educate and Lead: Empowering Our Diversity Through Action.” All events are in Orlando.

The opening plenary will be given by Marissa Franco, the lead organizer of the #Not1More Campaign for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, which calls for “Not one more deportation. Not one more family separated. Not one more day of inaction.” The daughter of Mexican immigrants and the product of public education, Franco’s message to educators is: “You are powerful! The movement for social justice in our country needs you.”
 

'Wisdom, Expertise, Insight, and Experience'

Yesterday, more than 400 NEA-Retired members kicked off the first day of their 32nd Annual Meeting. Gathered in Orlando prior to the July 3 start of the annual NEA Representative Assembly, the retired educators will address new business items that will guide their organization through the coming year. http://ra.nea.org/2015/06/29/wisdom-expertise-insight-and-experience

NEA’s future teachers are ready to lead

The NEA Student Leadership Conference is a three-day opportunity for future teachers who belong to NEA through campus-based chapters across the country to get together. They attend professional development workshops (how to use technology in your future classroom, for example) and also network with current and retired teachers, developing relationships that will assist them for years to come. http://ra.nea.org/2015/06/29/neas-future-teachers-ready-to-lead

Promoting reading at the NEA Annual Meeting

All 14 branches of the Orange County Library System will host free summer reading events throughout the metro area beginning June 29, as part of NEA’s Read Across America program. Research shows that summer reading is instrumental in fighting the “summer reading slump” or “summer reading slide,” which is the cumulative effect of summer learning differences that are viewed as a primary cause of widening achievement gaps between students of lower and higher socioeconomic levels.

Award-winning Read Across America summer reading packets and kits will be distributed to branch libraries, slated to host events throughout the week. On July 1, NEA will host the signature “Read Across Orlando” read-in at the Orlando Public Library with nearly 200 local students. In this high-energy event, students will be treated to a “Seuss-tastic” morning of readings, activities, and entertainment, and a special visit from the Cat in the Hat and his friends, Thing 1 and Thing 2.


June 28, 2015

Today at the NEA Annual Meeting

The 2015 NEA Annual Meeting is going on now in Orlando. Meetings held today:

  • Ethnic Leaders Meetings (Hilton Orlando)
  • NEA-Retired Annual Meeting (Hyatt Regency Orlando)
  • National Council of Urban Education Associations Meeting (Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista)
  • Resolutions Editing Committee Meeting (Hyatt Regency Orlando)
  • NEA Student Leadership Conference (Buena Vista Palace Hotel)

Tomorrow at the NEA Annual Meeting

  • NEA Student Leadership Conference (Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa)
  • National Education Employees Assistance Fund Annual Meeting (Hyatt Regency Orlando)
  • National Council of Urban Education Associations Meeting (Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista)
  • Constitution, Bylaws and Rules Committee Meeting (Hyatt Regency Orlando)
  • NEA-Retired Annual Meeting (Hyatt Regency Orlando)
  • Joint Conference On Concerns of Minorities and Women (Hilton Orlando)
  • Resolutions Editing Committee Meeting (Hyatt Regency Orlando)
  • National Council of State Education Associations Meeting (Hyatt Regency Orlando)
  • Constitution, Bylaws and Rules Committee Meeting with Candidates for NEA Office (Location TBD)
  • Women’s Issues Hearing (Hilton Orlando)
  • Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee Hearing (Hilton Orlando)
Read more at http://nea.org/ra.

June 27, 2015

Follow NEA's Annual Meeting on social media

The NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly, “Unite, Inspire, Lead,” is June 26 – July 6 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.  

The online home base for all things RA-related is http://nea.org/RA. Here you’ll find the agenda, stories, copies of speeches, and more. News releases can be found at http://nea.org/presscenter.

#NEARA15 is the official hashtag for all pre-conferences, Annual Meeting, and Representative Assembly social media.

NEA will be Tweeting from @NEAToday, sharing photos on the NEA Today Instagram site, and updating the NEA Today Facebook page with RA news all members can use. 

NEA leaders will also be tweeting during #NEARA15; follow them at @Lily_NEA, @BeckyPringle, @PrincessRMoss, @JohnStocks.

Take the NEA or RA quiz

Calling all history buffs, trivia geeks, and compulsive online quiz-takers. Challenge your knowledge of NEA and the RA by taking our history quizzes, created to educate and entertain. http://ra.nea.org/get-engaged/quiz/


June 26, 2015

Supreme Court takes ‘monumental step’ by making marriage equality the law

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark case that decided whether states may discriminate against same sex couples and their children by denying such couples the right to marry and refusing to recognize valid same sex marriages conducted in other states.

The National Education Association and its 22 state-level affiliates, were a part of a broad-based labor coalition with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win, filed an amicus brief, arguing that state discrimination against same sex couples deprives such couples of an array of economic benefits and legal rights, and deprives them and their children of fundamental dignity, benefits and rights that other couples and their families enjoy.

“Today the Supreme Court has taken a monumental step forward in our national journey toward a more perfect union by making marriage equality the law in every state of our great nation. On behalf of our members—and the students they serve—we applaud the court’s historic decision, which will end discrimination against same sex couples, place them on equal footing with other families and safeguard all of our children," NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said.

“We know that today’s ruling will make a tremendous difference both to the dignity and personal and economic well-being of same sex families and to the dignity and personal well-being of their children as well as others who have been bullied and fearful due to their sexual identity. We applaud the Supreme Court and the many advocates whose work resulted in today's historic decision.”

NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows travel Peru

Monica Washington — TSTA/NEA member, 2014 Texas Teacher of the Year, and Texarkana teacher — is on a journey to Peru with her fellow NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows. Follow their journey here: https://findpenguins.com/neafgloballearningfellows2015/43846570/global-fellows-in-peru-2015.

Monica is blogging about the experience here: https://orangeallover.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/the-peru-experience-days-1-3-2. 

NEA delegates arrive in Orlando for NEA’s 153rd Annual Meeting

Educators from around the country are beginning to arrive in Orlando, Florida, where they will take part in the world’s largest democratic deliberative body at the National Education Association’s 153rd Annual Meeting and 94th Representative Assembly (RA) June 26 – July 6. More than 7,000 delegates will gather to set public education policy and establish priorities that will improve teaching and learning conditions in our public schools, tackling complex issues with far-reaching implications for the profession, from the future of testing to equity in education. http://neatoday.org/2015/06/26/nea-delegates-arrive-in-orlando-for-neas-153rd-annual-meeting/


June 25, 2015

Supreme Court rejects attempt to dismantle Affordable Care Act

NEA President: Americans can ‘breathe a little easier’ 

The Supreme Court of the United States today issued a 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell, approving one of the Affordable Care Act’s most significant innovations—premium tax credits that have already helped more than 6 million people obtain quality, affordable health insurance in the 34 states with federally facilitated insurance exchanges. These tax credits help low- and moderate-income individuals and families with household incomes of 100-400 percent of the federal poverty line buy health insurance.

Echoing arguments made in NEA’s amicus brief, the Supreme Court ruled that the overall context and structure of the Affordable Care Act demonstrate that Congress intended financial assistance to be available to residents of all states, regardless of how states’ exchanges are managed. 

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell will let millions of Americans breathe a little easier knowing that their health insurance is secure and will remain affordable. The subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act help increase school children’s access to quality health insurance and medical care,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said.


June 24, 2015

Peeples wins award for teaching excellence

Shanna Peeples, an English educator at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo and 2015 National Teacher of the Year, will receive the 2016 California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence, one of public education’s most prestigious awards. Peeples, who is among 42 awardees from around the country, will have the opportunity to participate in the Global Learning Fellowship, a year-long professional development program that equips educators with global competence skills they can bring back home to share with students and fellow educators. Learn more about the Awards for Teaching Excellence at https://www.neafoundation.org/pages/nea-foundation-awards.


June 23, 2015

With education vetoes, Abbott nods to Tea Party

From the Texas Tribune: After drawing fire over education policy from his party's right wing during the first legislative session of his term, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott appears to be seeking ways to mend fences with vetoes of two seemingly uncontroversial measures that conservative activists felt were stalking horses for Common Core. 


June 18, 2015

Port Arthur educators receive $5,000 grant

Katrina Moreno and Karen Young-Jones of Wheatley School of Early Childhood Programs in Port Arthur have received a $5,000 Learning & Leadership Grant from the NEA Foundation to introduce an art and photography workshop to improve the communication skills of struggling students. Teachers will conduct research by observing students as they use cameras to overcome language barriers. Moreno, a para-educator, and Young-Jones will monitor student engagement and share their findings with colleagues.

The NEA Foundation’s education grants fund $2,000 and $5,000 projects for classroom instruction or professional development. Grantees share knowledge directly with their colleagues and the field at-large by posting lesson plans and curriculum on an open-sourced platform. As a result, the sharing and replication of projects broadens the potential for improved learning among educators and students alike by the thousands. http://www.neafoundation.org/pages/learning-leadership-grants

Home schooler named State Board of Education chair

Gov. Greg Abbott has named Donna Bahorich of Houston chair of the State Board of Education. Why is this significant? Here's what the Austin Chronicle had to say: "Gov. Greg Abbott's position on homeschooling has come under scrutiny after he appointed Donna Bahorich as the new chair of the State Board of Education. The former communications manager for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has homeschooled her own three sons, and has been a vocal advocate for the more controversial and right-wing friendly curriculum standards turned out by the board. She even broke with the board when they asked the Legislature to oppose vouchers." http://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/news/2015-06-22/abbott-sides-with-homeschoolers


June 15, 2015

More Texas elementary classes exceeding size limit

From the Dallas Morning News: Legislative leaders have said education funding is back to normal after historic cuts four years ago. The size of thousands of elementary classrooms in North Texas and across the state last school year suggests otherwise.

The number of classrooms that exceeded the state’s current 22-pupil maximum for kindergarten through fourth grade was up slightly in the 2014-15 school year, to 5,883 classes. That means more than 130,000 students in those grades were in oversized classes — a situation that experts say could harm student achievement.

For hundreds of schools, districts listed “financial hardship” as the reason.

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20150614-more-texas-elementary-classes-exceeding-size-limit.ece


June 12, 2015

TRS holds off on ActiveCare 2 enrollment freeze in face of TSTA opposition

At its quarterly board meeting this week, the TRS Board was prepared to vote on a resolution to prohibit new enrollees in ActiveCare 2, limiting the program to current enrollees. TSTA testified against the resolution, and the board changed its mind today, determining that freezing enrollment in ActiveCare 2 was not in the best interest of public school employees. 

TRS, instead, asked TSTA and other educator groups to send a letter advising what action the board should take on ActiveCare. TSTA will comply with that request. 

TRS Care rates stay the same, ActiveCare rates increased

The board also set member contribution rates and benefit levels for the upcoming plan year for TRS-Care and ActiveCare.

The current retiree member contribution rates and benefit levels for TRS-Care will remain in effect through the next plan year (until August 31, 2016).

ActiveCare contribution rates were increased (see link below)

Legislature authorizes TRS study

During the recent legislative session, House Bill 2974 was passed and authorized two studies of educator health care.

The first study will consider the financial soundness, affordability and access to providers for TRS Care and ActiveCare.

The second study will determine the feasibility of school districts opting out of ActiveCare to form their own insurance plans and the feasibility of allowing regional rates for health care coverage.

Details at http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/TRS-Report6-12-15.pdf


June 11, 2015

NEA Healthy Futures

The NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN) has become NEA Healthy Futures. The website’s focus has shifted from information dissemination to providing health and wellness solutions, advocacy tools, and funding and resource opportunities. http://neahealthyfutures.org


June 3, 2015

NEA Member Benefits providing disaster relief to Texas

NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for incident period May 4, 2015 and affecting the Texas counties of Harris, Hays, and Van Zandt. 

NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs. www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm 


June 1, 2015

Better session than many expected – we have a lot of work to do

The 2015 legislative session presented an unprecedented challenge for TSTA and other public education advocates. With the election of Dan Patrick to the office of Lt. Governor and a much more conservative Senate that changed the traditional 2/3’s “rule,” pre-session press reports proclaimed that this was the session that would see a flood of private school vouchers and unrestrained charter and virtual school legislation approved. Sunday was the last day legislation could pass, and that didn’t happen.

Certainly, a few elements of the so-called ‘reform” agenda were adopted, and funding for public education was not adequately increased, but the legislators who stood with us, with parents and with students, kept the promise of public education in sight. We have a lot of work to do before the legislature meets again. We must fight for better funding and the forces of privatization will be back. We can meet those challenges provided we join with parents and local leaders who understand the important role public schools provide to our communities – and provided we support candidates for local school boards and the legislature who share our commitment to public education.

Thank you for contacting your legislators. Your calls and emails and personal contacts helped us write a different the education story at the end of this session than the one being written in January.

A trail of bad bills defeated…

A great deal of legislation heralded under the banners of “choice” and “reform” before and throughout the session could have been harmful to public schools and public school educators. Fortunately, with a few exceptions, most of those bills died, including those listed below.

  • Payroll Dues Deduction Prohibition: SB1968 would have banned payroll deduction of union and professional association dues by all political subdivisions, including school districts. The bill passed the Senate, but only after a group of key Senators held up the bill for about three weeks. The bill died in the House State Affairs Committee. 
  • Vouchers: SB4, the “Tax Credit Scholarship” bill, died in a House committee
  • “Virtual Vouchers”: SB894, the costly unlimited expansion of for-profit virtual schools, was approved by a Senate committee but never had the votes needed for consideration on the Senate floor. It was never considered by the House.
  • Parent Trigger: SB14 passed the Senate, died in House committee.
  • Teacher Evaluation/Compensation/Elimination of the state teacher salary schedule: SB893/HB2543 passed the Senate, died in House committee
  • “Opportunity School District”: SB669/HB1536, passed the Senate but died in House committee. It was revived briefly as a “Statewide Turnaround District” (STD) in Senate amendments to HB1842, but the STD was stripped from HB1842 by a House-Senate conference committee.
  • Charter/Virtual School Accountability: SB1897 would have weakened charter and virtual school accountability. Passed the Senate, but died in House committee
  • Local Control (Home Rule) School District: HB1798, which would have allowed an unelected ‘lead petitioner” to control a Local Control (Home Rule) Charter Commission, was defeated on House floor

Two “reform” proposals that passed Sunday…

  • A-F Campus grading system. The bill passed the Senate and was ultimately included in HB2804, a major accountability bill approved Sunday. However, the A-F system is part of a bill that could reduce the impact of standardized testing on accountability and it will not go into effect until the 2017-18 school year, meaning the issue can be addressed in the next session before it goes into effect. More details on HB2804 are provided below.
  • Innovation Districts: The original “Innovation Zone” bill, SB1241, passed the Senate but died in House committee. A limited version of SB1241 – now called an “Innovation District” was approved by a House-Senate conference committee and passed Sunday as part of HB1842. An “Innovation District” would only be allowed for districts that already perform “acceptably” and could choose to operate outside state standards with 2/3’s approval of the local school board and approval of the local site based management committee. See more details on HB1842 below.

State Budget approved - education funding still inadequate, inequitable

On Friday House and Senate approved the HB1 conference report, the new state budget. Earlier in the session we were encouraged when the House attempted to provide an additional $3 billion for our public schools, plus $2.3 billion to cover enrollment growth. The final House-Senate conference committee budget provides funding to cover enrollment growth plus a mere $1.5 billion increase, a woefully inadequate amount that may not even keep up with inflation. TSTA can provide you the state funding projections for every local school district.

The state had enough funding available to fully restore education cuts at a time when Texas education funding lags almost $2,400 per pupil below the national average. Unfortunately, this budget left billions on the table unspent and put a higher priority on a $3.8 billion in tax cuts that is heavily weighted toward business tax cuts. The fate of school funding now rests in the hands of the Texas Supreme Court’s decision on the appeal of a district court ruling that found our school finance system unconstitutional. 

Conference Committee Reports Adopted Sunday

HB1842, School Turnaround Bill

Innovation Districts in, “Statewide Turnaround Districts” and Virtual Charter expansion out

House Bill 1842, a school turnaround bill authored by House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmy Don Aycock, was approved by the House and Senate with the addition of the “innovation District” provision that originated in the Senate. The conference committee rejected other Senate bills that were tacked on as amendments, including the “Statewide Turnaround District (STD”, also known as the “Opportunity School District” and Virtual Charter expansion.

HB 1842 included a number of changes in the law governing school turnaround.

Reconstitution was eliminated.

For campuses rated unacceptable for two consecutive years, the local school district would have to  develop a campus turnaround plan within a year, with parental and educator input required. This process could allow a local effort to propose the community school model as a campus turnaround plan.

The Commissioner would be allowed to reject a campus turnaround plan if the Commissioner determined the campus will not satisfy student performance standards within two years.

Failure by the school district to submit an acceptable campus turnaround plan could lead to the appointment of a Board of Managers (BOM) to replace the elected school board for two years.  The BOM would be paid for their service on the board, and if a campus remains unacceptable for two years after the BOM is appointed, the Commissioner could remove the original BOM and appoint a new BOM. In other words, the elected school board could be removed for four years, even if the BOM isn’t solving the problem.

The BOM option would also apply to charter schools. 

The HB 1842 “Innovation District”

An “innovation district” (ID) could be established by a 2/3 vote of the local school board, following a majority vote of the district-level site based management committee, provided the district has an “acceptable” accountability rating. The ID plan could be amended or rescinded by the same vote by which it was adopted.

The ID would not necessarily be subject to many of the standards currently in the Education Code, including Chapter 21 (teacher contracts, planning period; etc.), Chapter 37 (discipline and classroom management) requirements and class size limits, and the district would have to list these “exceptions,” give 30 day public notice is given and hold a public hearing on the innovation plan.

A local innovation plan must provide a comprehensive educational program for the district which program may include innovative curriculum, instructional methods, and provisions regarding community participation, campus governance and parental involvement. The plan could also include modifications to the school day or year and must include provisions regarding the district budget, sustainable program funding and accountability and assessment measures that exceed the requirements of state and federal law;

HB2804, Campus Accountability, with A-F Campus Grading System, approved

HB2804 could improve the accountability system somewhat by reducing the impact of high stakes testing by establishing five accountability “domains”, which, in short form, relate to:

  • performance of student assessments (test scores);
  • “student growth” on assessments;
  • student academic achievement differentials among students from different racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds;
  • a number of campus based measures, including dropout rates, attendance, and the percentage of students completing AP courses and career-tech programs; and
  • locally selected measures of community and student involvement.

HB2804 does included the A-F system, but it would not take effect until September 2017, creating opportunity for “Invest, not Test” local organizing efforts that could lead the legislature to reconsider it. In Virginia the legislature did just that recently, repealing A-F before it was implemented.

Finally, HB2804 creates a 15 member “Texas Commission on Next Generation on Assessments and Accountability” that included 10 public members - four appointed by the Governor, three by the lt. Governor and three by the Speaker of the House. The remaining five members would include two Senators and two House members who chair education committees and one SBOE member. At least two parents and two educators must be included among the public members. This committee will provide a public forum for recommendations on testing and accountability for the next legislature.

HB2205 – Commissioner Subpoena Power added to SBEC bill

A provision of HB2205  would allow the Commissioner, during an investigation of an educator for an alleged incident of misconduct, to issue a subpoena to compel the production, for inspection or copying, of relevant evidence in this state. An amendment to modify this provision was supposed to be added to this bill but it was not amended.

Other conference committee reports adopted Sunday.

  • Senate Bill 313 by Sen. Kel Seliger requires the SBOE to review and narrow the TEKS for each grade level. In conducting their review, the SBOE must take into account the time a teacher would require to provide comprehensive instruction on a particular standard or skill and the time a typical student would require to master a particular standard or skill. The SBOE must also consider whether an assessment instrument adequately assesses a particular standard or skill.
  • Senate Bill 507 by Sen. Eddie Lucio states that, on request by a parent, trustee, or staff member, a school district or open-enrollment charter school must provide equipment, including a video camera, to each school in the district or each charter school campus in which a student who receives special education services in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting is enrolled. A school district or open-enrollment charter school must retain any video recorded for at least six months after the date the video was recorded. A teacher who is the subject of a complaint will be allowed to view a video related to that complaint.
  • HB 743 by Dan Huberty will require that before an assessment is administered, it must be found valid and reliable based on empirical evidence by an entity independent of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the test developer. The bill would require assessment instruments to be designed so that 85 percent of the students in grades 3 through 5 complete the assessment in 120 minutes and 85 percent of the students in grades 6 through 8 complete the assessment in 180 minutes.
  • HB 1305 by Greg Bonnen will authorize a school district which would otherwise be required to participate in the National School Breakfast Program to instead develop and implement a locally funded program to provide a free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch to all students in the school or schools eligible for the national program. The bill would amend the Education Code to change the calculation of the number of educationally disadvantaged students for purposes of calculating the compensatory education allotment within the Foundation School Program from averaging the best six months' enrollment in the National School Lunch Program for the preceding school year to averaging the best six months' number of students eligible for enrollment in the National School Lunch Program.
  • HB 1559 by Tan Parker will require certain schools that maintain an Internet website to post information regarding local programs and services, including charitable programs and services, available to assist homeless students.
  • HB3106 by Dan Huberty will authorize the Commissioner of Education, before the second anniversary of the date the board of managers of a district was appointed, to extend the authority of a board of managers for up to two additional years if the commissioner determines a district is making insufficient progress towards improving academic or financial performance.
  • HB 18 by Jimmie Don Aycock expands the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium from 20 to 30 participants. The bill requires TEA to develop uniform outreach materials that explain the importance of public school curriculum changes from the 2013 legislative session in HB 5; and requires each school district to provide instruction to students in seven and eight in preparing for high school, college and career.

May 29, 2015

TSTA: New budget improves education funding, but not enough

Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria released the following statement today on House and Senate approval of the HB1 conference report, the new state budget:

“We were encouraged earlier this year when the House attempted to provide an additional $3 billion for our public schools, but we are disappointed that the final House-Senate conference committee budget provides only a $1.5 billion increase, a woefully inadequate amount that may not even keep up with inflation.

“Unfortunately, at a time when the state has enough funding available to fully restore education cuts, this budget puts a higher priority on billions in business tax cuts than it puts on our students and our economic future.”


May 28, 2015

Update your info by June 12 for a chance to win!

TSTA leaders congratulate the following, who won $50 gift cards in a drawing held among members who updated their membership information online.

Brandie B. - Judson Education Association

Inocencia C. - Association of Brownsville Educators

Hector N. - Ector Co TSTA

Jeanette Q. - Ysleta Teachers Association TSTA NEA

Javier T. - Socorro Education Association 

To enter the drawing for a gift card, go to www.bit.ly/TSTAMemberUpdate and update your information by June 12.

State Board of Education honors school-aged heroes

A group of 16 Texas public school students who provided outstanding acts of charity and kindness for their fellow students were announced today as the 2015 Student Heroes by the State Board of Education. 


May 27, 2015

Payroll deduction update: effort to tack ban on ethics bill fizzles

As we reported previously, SB1968, the bill that would have banned payroll deduction of union and professional association dues by all political subdivisions, died in the House State Affairs Committee late last week. Over the holiday weekend, we learned that supporters of the PRD bill planned to offer that proposal as an amendment to SB19, a major ethics bill that had been declared an emergency item by the Governor. The House sponsor of the ethics bill is Chairman Cook of the State Affairs Committee, who declared SB1968 dead last week. TSTA worked with our coalition partners and legislative allies to blunt this most recent attempt to resurrect the PRD bill, and the ethics bill was approved by the House last night, without an attempt to pass a payroll deduction amendment.

Senate loads up school turnaround bill with failed “reform” bills

Early this morning (just past midnight), the Senate passed HB1842, a school turnaround bill authored by House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmy Don Aycock. The Senate added numerous amendments to HB1842 in an attempt to resurrect “reform” bills that passed in the Senate but died in the House. Chairman Aycock is expected to ask the House to appoint a conference committee where he will likely work to strip some of these amendments off the bill.

Expansion of appointed Boards of Managers. HB1842 originally required the development of campus turnaround plans for campuses rated unacceptable for two consecutive years, and gave the local district a year to submit its campus turnaround plan to the commissioner. Failure to submit an acceptable plan could lead to the appointment of a Board of Managers (BOM) to replace the elected school board for two years. 

Under Senate amendments, the BOM would be paid for their service on the board, and if a campus remains unacceptable for two years after the BOM is appointed, the Commissioner could remove the original BOM and appoint a new BOM. In other words, the elected school board could be removed for four years, even if the BOM isn’t solving the problem.

The Commissioner could approve a campus turnaround plan only if the Commissioner determines the campus will satisfy student performance standards within two years of implementing the plan. If the Commissioner did not make that determination, the Commissioner would be required to appoint a board of managers to govern the district.

Senator West amended the bill to make the BOM option also apply to charter schools.

Innovation Zones. Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor amended HB1842 by adding his SB1241 to the bill, which failed to make the House floor calendar. The amendment would allow the governing body of an ISD to establish a multiple-campus “innovation zone,” and the campuses is the innovation zone would not be subject to many of the protections currently in the Education Code, including Chapter 21 (teacher contracts, planning period; etc.), Chapter 37 (discipline and classroom management) requirements and class size limits. Additionally, the board of trustees of a district could vote to become a district of innovation, or a district-level committee may initiate the process of becoming a district of innovation. TSTA opposed these provisions.

“State Turnaround District” (STD). HB 1842 was also amended by Sen. Royce West to allow the commissioner to establish a state turnaround district (STD), a concept similar to the “Opportunity School District” (OSD) legislation that failed to pass in the House. 

Like the OSD, the STD would be run by a manager appointed by the commissioner to run all the campuses placed in this statewide district.

The appointed Commissioner would determine the powers and duties of the STD (not the legislature) and would be allowed to put campuses rated academically unacceptable for two consecutive years in the STD.

The Commissioner’s appointed manager would have the same powers and duties as a conservator or management team, and could authorize a district charter for any campus assigned to the STD. This STD concept was never debated in either education committee. 

Virtual Charter Expansion. HB1842 was amended to allow the Commissioner to grant an additional open-enrollment charter to a charter holder if one of the charters is a virtual open-enrollment charter school that provides only electronic courses.

HB2804, Campus Accountability, A-F Campus Grading System, passes Senate

This week, the Senate approved HB2804 by Chairman Aycock, which could improve the accountability system by somewhat reducing the impact of high stakes testing on accountability ratings, a positive step that is offset by including the stigmatizing A-F campus grading system in the bill. Fortunately, the A-F system would not take effect until September 2017, creating opportunity for “Invest, not Test” local organizing efforts that could lead the legislature to reconsider it. In Virginia the legislature did just that recently, repealing A-F before it was implemented. 

House Floor Report

The following education bills have been approved by the House.

HB 4 by Rep. Dan Huberty and Sen. Donna Campbell, relating to a high quality prekindergarten program provided by public school districts. The bill will be sent to the Governor.

HB 2812 by Rep. Drew Springer and Sen. Van Taylor, relating to the limit on junior college courses that a high school student may enroll in for dual credit.

SB 133 by Sen. Charles Schwertner and Rep. Garnet Coleman, relating to mental health first aid training for school district employees and school resource officers.

SB 265 by Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Sarah Davis, relating to student use of sunscreen products in public schools.

SB 313 by Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, relating to review and modification of the essential knowledge and skills of the required public school curriculum.

Bills Sent to Governor

The following education bills have been approved the Senate and House and sent to the Governor.

HB 2025 by Rep. Larry Gonzales and Sen. Charles Schwertner, relating to participation of certain school districts in the three-year high school diploma plan pilot program.

HB 1300 by Sen. Giovanni Capriglione and Rep. Kel Seliger, relating to the required qualifications of persons admitted to educator preparation programs.

HB 218 Rep. Marisa Marquez and Sen. Jose Rodriguez, relating to certification requirements for teachers in bilingual education.

SB 66 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa and Rep. Myra Crownover, relating to the use of epinephrine auto-injectors on public and open-enrollment charter school campuses and at off-campus school-sanctioned events.

SB 934 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Marsha Farney, relating to providing training academies for public school teachers who provide mathematics instruction to students in kindergarten through grade three.

SB 935 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Joe Deshotel relating to the establishment of reading excellence teams.

SB 940 by Sen. Van Taylor and Rep. Rafael Anchia relating to the notification and reporting duties of a state governmental entity with public retirement system investment holdings in Sudan or Iran.

SB 955 by Sen. Charles Schwertner and Rep. Rick Miller relating to permissible locations for open-enrollment charter schools created by institutions of higher education.

SB 972 by Sen. Lois Kolkhors and Rep. Joe Deshotel relating to training academies for public school teachers who provide reading comprehension instruction to students in grades four and five.

Bad Bills Defeated

This session was marked by an intense push by those seeking to profit from school privatization, along with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Fortunately, thanks to your efforts, most of those bills have died. However, we remain vigilant, knowing these things sometimes come back to life as amendments to other bills, as evidenced by the things added to HB1842 in the Senate last night.

  • Vouchers: SB4, the “Tax Credit Scholarship” bill, died in a House committee
  • “Virtual Vouchers”: SB894, the costly unlimited expansion of for-profit virtual schools, never had the votes needed for consideration in the Senate.
  • Parent Trigger: SB14, died in House committee.
  • Teacher Evaluation/Compensation/Eliminate Salary Schedule: SB893/HB2543, died in House committee
  • “Opportunity School District”: SB669/HB1536, died in House committee, revived for now as a “Statewide Turnaround District” (STD) in Senate amendments to HB1842.
  • Charter/Virtual School Accountability: SB1897, would weaken accountability, died in House committee
  • Innovation Zones: SB1241, died in House committee, revived for now in Senate amendments to HB1842.
  • Local Control (Home Rule) School District: HB1798, Defeated on House floor

May 26, 2015

A model for multilingual learning in Texas

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García visited Del Valle Elementary School in El Paso, Texas and addressed the NEA Hispanic Caucus Issues Conference to talk about opportunity, dual-language learning and supporting our public schools.

Follow it on Storify

Preliminary STAAR grades 3-8 passing rates released

Statewide passing rates for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) reading tests in grades 3 through 8, writing tests in grades 4 and 7, science tests in grades 5 and 8, and the social studies test in grade 8, remained stable for the fourth consecutive year, according to preliminary results released today by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The results reflect passing rates for the spring 2015 administration of STAAR. 


May 23, 2015

SB1968: Chairman Cook announces payroll deduction bill dead

House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook announced SB1968 dead today, saying the committee would not take a vote before tonight’s midnight deadline for committee action. We will remain vigilant in case the supporters of this flawed legislation attempt to place it on another bill as amendment.

Your calls and emails really did make a difference, as committee members and other legislators became aware of the flaws in this legislation. We also extend another special thanks to our TSTA leaders and other educational and government employees who presented excellent testimony to the State Affairs committee Thursday. In the Quorum Report article below, Chairman Cook explains the reasons for SB168’s demise, noting the bill’s unfair treatment of teachers.

Anti-union bill is dead
By Scott Braddock 

Chairman Cook will not schedule a vote in State Affairs; he says the Senate sent it to the House in badly flawed form and there is simply not enough time left in the session to do it right

Texas House lawmakers will not vote on a bill that would weaken organized labor in the state even more than it already is, Quorum Report learned Saturday morning.

Today is the last day for Senate bills to be considered by House committees. House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, told us at Buzz Central that he will not schedule a vote on SB 1968 because it is badly flawed and the Senate sent it to the lower chamber for consideration way too late in the game.

The bill would outlaw the practice of government workers being able to have their union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.

“There are serious problems with this bill,” Cook said. “I have a problem with the teachers unions not being exempted,” he said and pointed out that police, fire, and EMS were exempt from the bill as it was drafted in the Senate.

“That doesn’t make any sense for the teachers to be in there,” he said. “If we’re going to do something like this, we need to do it right.”

Cook said the issue needs to be thoroughly studied. In a future session, Cook would like to see the policy dealt with in a thoughtful way rather than in the context of a last-minute push.

Even some of the bill’s supporters have privately groused in the last few weeks that the Senate author, Sen.Joan Huffman, R-Houston, did not push hard enough for the bill and left it on the intent calendar for about two weeks without trying to bring it to the floor.

Please be on the lookout for Action Alerts on other education bills that could still come up before the end of the session.


May 22, 2015

SB1968: No action on payroll deduction bill as deadline approaches

The House State Affairs Committee met today and approved six bills but took no action on the bill that would ban payroll deduction of your TSTA dues. The bill must be approved by the committee tomorrow or it cannot be considered by the full House. The committee Chairman repeated today that the bill passed by the Senate was flawed and suggested that there is not time to address the bills flaws, but we will remain vigilant until the deadline passes. Your efforts to inform your legislators about this bill and encourage them to oppose it did make a difference. Thank you. 

Voucher Bill Update

No action has been taken on SB4, the Tax Credit Scholarship bill, and it appears dead in the House. We will keep a close watch on other bills to make sure dead bills don’t come back as amendments. 

House Public Education Committee Report

The committee held its last meeting today, an event most significant for what it did not approve. Among the so-called ‘reform” bills that it did not approve were:

  • the “parent trigger” bill;
  • the “Opportunity School District” bill; and
  • the “Teacher Evaluation/Compensation” bill that would have eliminated experience-based raises and the minimum salary schedule. 
  • The House Public Education committee approved the following bills.

SB 1222 by Paul Bettencourt and Dan Huberty, which would allow the state education commissioner to issue subpoenas for records and other evidence in investigations of alleged misconduct by educators. TSTA opposes this bill. Huberty indicated he would accept a floor amendment to address some of our concerns.

SB 507 by Eddie Lucio and Senfronia Thompson, which would require schools to provide cameras in special education classrooms if requested by parents, school trustees or school staff.

SB 811 by Jose Rodriguez, which would require a translated copy of a student's individualized education program to be presented on audiotape if requested by a parent unable to speak English.

SB 1004 by Paul Bettencourt and Dan Huberty, dealing with public school students to whom public junior colleges may offer courses and programs.

SB 1494 by Carlos Uresti, which would provide transition services for homeless students. 

Senate Education Committee Report

The Senate Education Committee approved substitute versions of HB1842 and HB2084, which were described in yesterday’s update. We will have details about the revisions made by the Senate before these bills come up for a vote in the Senate. TSTA opposes these bills.

We still have some fights ahead of us, but have a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend!


May 21, 2015

SB1968: Payroll Deduction Bill Update

TSTA members deliver effective testimony against dues deduction bill; over 100 witnesses denied opportunity to testify; measure left pending

Pflugerville Educators Association President August Plock and Vice President Cindy Perkins were the first and second witnesses in a long line of educators and other public employees testifying Thursday morning against SB1968, which would prohibit educational employees and most (but not all) government workers from having dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. The testimony and sentiment in the packed committee room was overwhelmingly against the bill. Brenda Dominguez of the Del Valle Education Association; Nancy Cox, an emerging leader from the Killeen Education Association; Shelley Potter, president of the San Antonio Alliance; and many members of Education Austin also attended the hearing of the House State Affairs Committee. They were among over 100 witnesses from education and other government employee unions and organizations who were unable to testify because Chairman Byron Cook cut off witnesses after about two hours when the full House went into session, and refused to agree to resume the hearing after the House adjourned.

The bill was left pending and could not be considered for a vote until tomorrow (with two hour notice). Before adjourning the committee, Chairman Cook noted that the bill that came from the Senate was technically “flawed” and could not pass. Cook is expected to offer a committee substitute that could “fix” the technical flaws.

Timeline Matters, Keep Contacting Your Legislators

Taking the extra day may have been valuable. The bill must be approved by the committee by Saturday, placed on the House calendar by Sunday, and approved by the full House by next Tuesday, May 26, or time will run out in the end of session logjam and the bill will die. We believe we only need one additional vote (or absence) on the committee to stop this bill, so please keep your calls and emails coming and urge your representative to oppose Senate Bill 1968. Here are some points to make with your representative.

Teachers and school employees should have the right and the freedom to manage our paychecks.

Texas is a right to work state and all dues are entirely voluntary. No one is being coerced into paying dues against their will. And our dues cannot be used for political contributions.

Payroll deduction is the safest and most secure way to pay dues and contribute to organizations of your choice.

There is no legitimate public policy purpose for this bill. No school district is asking for this bill and many openly oppose it. 

Under SB1968, tax exempt organizations that lobby the legislature and engage in politics would be allowed to collect funds through payroll deduction. What's good for one group should be good for all groups, and the state should not be picking winners and losers.

House-Senate conferees tentatively agree on education budget that shortchanges public schools

Last night, the appropriations conferees increased funding for public education by only $1.5 billion (in addition to what is needed to cover enrollment growth) for the 2016-17 budget period. The committee reopened the education budget discussion tonight but at this time, that number is not expected to change. The $1.5 amount is only slightly more than the Senate budget proposal and significantly less than the $2.2 billion approved by the House and the $3 billion that would have been available had a related school finance bill also passed. Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, was the only budget conferee to vote against the agreement, noting that it is woefully inadequate for the needs of public schools. Rep. Turner is correct, but assuming this is the final version of the budget that will go to both the House and the Senate for final approval, it can no longer be amended.

House Public Education Committee approves SB1241, “Innovation Schools”

Parent trigger, Teacher Evaluation/Salary schedule bills not considered

Tonight, the House Pub Ed Committee approved a number of bills, and we will have a full report on those tomorrow. The only major bill approved was SB1241, which TSTA opposes.

SB1241 would allow a school board to establish - subject to approval by the Commissioner of Education - a multiple-campus “innovation zone.”

Campuses in the “I-Zone” would not be subject to important state education standards, leaving teachers, students, and parents without the rights, protections and high-quality standards that apply to our local neighborhood schools, including class size limits, student discipline, requiring certified teachers, and many more.

Senate Education Committee approves good bill, bad bill, leaves two major bills pending until tomorrow

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee approved House Bill 1706 by Rep. VanDeaver, a bill designed to reduce teacher paperwork. It would require the state education commissioner to eliminate state reports or paperwork that duplicate the content of reports or paperwork also required by federal law. TSTA supported this bill.

The committee also approved House Bill 3106 by Rep. Huberty, which would allow the state education commissioner to extend an appointed board of managers for two years beyond its initial two-year appointment. TSTA opposed this bill.

Tonight, the committee left HB2804 (Accountability/A-F campus rating) and HB1482 (School turnaround) pending. A vote on these bills is expected tomorrow. Details of these and other major bills was provided in yesterday’s Update, part 2


May 20, 2015

Legislative Update

SB1968 Payroll Deduction Bill Update 2

The House State Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on SB1968 tomorrow, May 21. A vote on the bill is likely after testimony is taken. 

House Public Education Committee hears Parent Trigger Bill

On Tuesday, TSTA testified against SB14 by Sen. Larry Taylor, the so-called Parent Trigger Bill, which would make it easier for outside groups to take over neighborhood schools.

Current law, enacted in 2011, allows parents to petition the state education commissioner to close, replace the staff, change the management or convert to charters any public schools with five consecutive years of poor state ratings. SB14, which already has been approved by the Senate, would reduce the five years to three. Our concerns with the bill include:

  • a petition seeking alternative management of a campus may specify the process to be used in selecting the new management organization or team, and the commissioner would be required to use the process specified by the petition with no review;
  • the bill would not give parents any say in how the school was run after the petition is signed; and
  • the bill lacks accountability provisions - it would not allow the commissioner to determine whether the course of action set out in a petition had merit or would improve school performance.

TSTA supports bill to expand dual-credit courses

TSTA went on record before the House Public Education Committee in support of SB13 by Sen. Charles Perry, which would increase opportunities for high school students to take dual-credit courses for college preparation. It would prohibit rules limiting the number of dual credit courses or hours in which a student may enroll while in high school or limiting the number of dual credit courses or hours in which a student may enroll each semester or academic year. The bill also would require school districts to provide instruction to seventh- and eighth-graders in preparing for high school, college, and a career.

Potential Voucher Vehicle Among Bills Approved by Committee

The House Public Education committee also approved several bills - SB 96, SB 159, SB 265, SB 453, SB 496, SB 945, SB 996, SB 1003, SB 1771, SB 1867, SB 1259.

SB945 is a school finance bill targeted at a specific finance issue that should be addressed. However, a voucher amendment could be germane to any school finance bill. The House sponsor of the bill is opposed to vouchers and he would likely amend the bill or pull it down to avoid a vote on vouchers, which we would likely win in the House. We will advise you should a voucher vote appear likely.

The House Public Education Committee also heard the following Senate bills:

SB107 by John Whitmire, which would give districts more discretion in dealing with serious student disciplinary problems. Some cases now requiring mandatory expulsion or transfer to alternative campuses would become discretionary.

SB382 by Carlos Uresti, which would require the State Board of Education to adopt rules for an educator to receive continuing education credit for completing a course on the use of an automated external defibrillator.

SB471 by Jose Rodriguez, which would specify when TEA could monitor a school or district problem instead of conducting an on-site investigation.

SB 968 by Royce West, which would require the State Board of Education to adopt health curriculum components that address the dangers, causes, consequences, signs, symptoms, and treatment of nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

SB 1200 by Larry Taylor, which would establish the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability to develop and make recommendations for new systems of student assessment and public school accountability.

SB 1309 by Jose Menendez, which would allow SBEC to issue a certificate to a person who holds a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor teaching certification issued by the United States military.

SB 1896 by Larry Taylor, which would require TEA to develop or contract for the development of interactive electronic tutorials providing comprehensive reviews for end-of-course examinations.

SB 2062 by Kirk Watson, relating to authorizing certain charter holders to provide combined services for adult and high school dropout recovery programs.

All these bills were left pending and will be voted on by the committee Thursday. There are no education bills pending a floor vote in the Senate today.

Major Education Bills Status, 5-20-15

Good Bills

HB 1891 and HB 1892, by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez/SB 1483 by Senator Sylvia Garcia – Status: HB 1891 passed 69 to 52 on May 15; HB 1892 (grants for coordinators) lost 60 to 82 on May 14; SB 1483, companion to HB 1891, on Senate intent Calendar for 5/19

Would establish the community school concept in state law, codifying a proven, sustainable method of school turnaround that has worked in several states nationwide and in the Austin ISD.

In a community school, the plan for school turnaround is designed by a committee of parents, educators and members from community businesses and non-profits, and the plan must be approved by a supermajority of parents and educators and the local school board.  As a result, the school becomes a vital community hub.

The community school plan is designed to address the needs of the students, and typically provides a range of services that students bring to school with them, creating a better leaning environment and curriculum that has fostered student success.

When Austin’s Webb Middle School and Reagan High School faced closure, the Community Schools model was instituted and since then, Webb went from the worst to best Title One Middle School in AISD, while Reagan’s graduation rate went from 48% to 85%.

The only cost associated with this community school solution is the cost of a community school coordinator who coordinates the wrap around services . 

Vehicle for Amendments

HB 1842 by Aycock. Status: Passed by House, Senate Education Committee hearing set for 5-21-15.

This is Aycock’s accountability bill that is intended to establish a local process for school turnaround efforts. There is concern that the Opportunity School District and Innovation Zone bills could become amendments. Has good parts (ending automatic reconstitution, which mandates laying off teachers/staff in second year of low ratings) and bad parts (allowing state takeover of entire district if a campus is low-rated for any reason as few as three years and not more than five)

Bills that Raise Serious Concerns

SB 1968 by Huffman. Elimination of Dues Payroll Deduction for certain public employees. Status: passed Senate May 7 by a 20-to-11 vote; House State Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the bill on May 21 at 8am.

SB 893 and HB 2543, by Kel Seliger and Marsha Farney, pay based on teacher evaluation/test scores, eliminates minimum salary schedule. Status: Has not been approved by House Pub Ed committee.  These bills would:

  • eliminate teacher pay raises based on experience and the only vehicle for across the board pay raises by eliminating the minimum salary schedule;
  • establish what is essentially a “merit pay” framework that could allow pay to be based, at least in part, on standardized test scores;
  • make it harder to get the best teachers to teach at low performing schools;
  • weaken local control of teacher evaluation and compensation; and
  • although fears about drastic teacher pay cuts are unfounded, changing teacher pay to a “merit pay” system ignores the importance of having highly qualified, experienced teachers on campuses, where they provide valuable leadership as part of the faculty team.

SB 669 by Sen. Royce West, HB 1536 by Harold Dutton, the “Opportunity School District” bills. Status: SB 669 passed Senate 5-7, referred to House Public Ed; HB 1536 died in House Calendars May 12.

  • Would take the school away from the neighborhood community by allowing the appointed Commissioner of Education to appoint a Superintendent based in Austin to manage low-performing campuses from around the state.
  • Campuses would be governed under charter school provisions that do not provide adequate standards for class sizes, teacher quality and contract protection, or student discipline.
  • The Opportunity School District takeover would diminish input from parents and other local stakeholders in how their school is run—sets schools up for charter management takeover.
  • Similar efforts in other states have not improved academic performance, and in Tennessee in particular, parents are petitioning to get their children out of the “Achievement School District.”

SB 894, by Sen. Larry Taylor, the “virtual voucher” bill. Status: Not on Senate Intent Calendar.

  • Would provide per pupil state funding to for-profit virtual education vendors for students enrolled full-time in a virtual school who never set foot in a public school classroom.
  • The committee sub has a huge fiscal note (over $126 million) and could actually cost billions.
  • Would allow a student to take an online course even if the student’s school offers a substantially similar course and eliminates any ceiling for what may be charged for online courses.
  • Would allow full-time student enrollment without a minimum age requirement in certain circumstances, meaning virtual kindergarten would be possible.

SB 1897 by Sen. Larry Taylor – Weakens Charter Accountability/Allows Expansion to Virtual Voucher Charters. Status: Passed by Senate, referred to House Public Ed, not set for hearing.

  • Changes and weakens the accountability ratings for charters by allowing certain low performance ratings to be thrown out, lowering the threshold for obtaining a charter and prohibiting the expiration or revocation of a charter under certain circumstances.
  • Would allow the commissioner to grant more than one charter for an open-enrollment charter school to a charter holder if the additional charter is granted for a different purpose or serves a different student population from the charter holder's existing open-enrollment charter school(s).
  • The “different purpose” could include a virtual voucher charter school operated through the Virtual School Network.

SB 1241 by Sen. Larry Taylor – Innovation Zones. Status: Passed by Senate (no House companion); referred to House Public Ed Committee, Was heard on May 19, could be voted on by committee on May21.

  • Would allow a school board to establish - subject to approval by the Commissioner of Education - a multiple-campus “innovation zone.”
  • Campuses in the “I-Zone” would not be subject to important state education standards, leaving teachers, students, and parents without the rights, protections and high-quality standards that apply to our local neighborhood schools.
  • The standards that would not apply include class size limits, student discipline, requiring certified teachers, and many more.

SB 4, by Sen. Larry Taylor, the voucher bill (tax-credit scholarships). Status: In House Ways and Means since May 5, no action

  • This is a voucher bill. Instead of paying taxes that could go to public schools, businesses could send that money to an “educational management organization” (EMO) that would give the money away as vouchers.
  • This bill does nothing to help over 90% of Texas students. At a time when we do not adequately fund public schools, Texas cannot afford to fund a separate education system for a handful of private and religious school students. Texas currently ranks 40th in the nation in per pupil spending ($9,326), nearly $2,400 behind the national average ($11,722).
  • Under this bill, private schools would not be accountable for the money they receive from the state. They would not be subject to the same test-and-punish system that public schools must endure, nor would they have to account for how the state money is spent.
  • Would allow religious organizations of any faith to operate an “EMO” and distribute that money in the form of vouchers, in violation of the constitutional principle of church-state separation.
  • These vouchers would help very few low-income children because they would not cover full tuition for most private schools and would not provide for transportation to private campuses that are nowhere near low-income neighborhoods.

SB 14 by Larry Taylor, the “parent trigger” bill. Status: heard by House Pub Ed committee on May 19, committee vote likely on May 21. 

  • Is not a parent empowerment bill because once parents sign a takeover petition, they no longer have a voice in how the school is run.
  • Would allow a petition that seeks alternative management of a campus to specify the process to be used in selecting the organization or team to assume management of the campus.
  • Would still offer a strong profit motive for private operators to take over neighborhood public schools.
  • During Senate floor debate, several amendments were passed, including some recommended in committee testimony:
  • The “trigger” for allowing a petition was lengthened  from 2 years to 3 years as a low-performing campus (current law is 5 years);
  • a charter operator was prohibited from funding a petition drive; and
  • if parents choose alternative management, preference must be given to a charter that does not contract with an outside management organization.

HB 1798 by Joe Deshotel, the local control school district bill. Status: Defeated on House floor 59 to 76 on May 13 (similar but not companion bill by Hancock, SB 1012, still in Senate Ed Cmte)

  • Would make it easier to convert an entire school district into a local control (home rule) school district governed by a board that could bypass many important state regulations, including class size limits, disciplinary procedures, and parental rights.
  • Would allow the self-appointed “lead petitioner” for the local control effort to appoint a majority of the 15-member commission that would determine how the district would be run, instead of the elected school board.
  • An effort initiated last year by a former Enron executive tried to convert Dallas ISD into a home rule charter. That effort fell short, thanks to strong community opposition, but it could be revived – and similar efforts could be attempted in other communities – if this bill were to become law.

SB 6 by Larry Taylor amended into HB 2804 by Aycock, the A-F campus grading system. Status: HB 2804 passed on May 15, after Phillips amendment to strip A-F ratings from the bill was defeated 69 to 75 on May 14; Senate Education Committee hearing set for May 21

  • Aycock has included SB 6 in his broader accountability bill, HB 2804. The A-F grading system would:
  • Assign letter grades as campus accountability ratings, which does nothing to provide parents additional information about the quality of a campus. In this system, A would replace Exemplary, B replaces Recognized, C replaces Acceptable, and D and F replace Unacceptable.
  • Letter grades would be linked to performance on high-stakes standardized tests, which a growing number of educators and parents oppose as punitive and harmful to real learning.
  • Could stigmatize schools based on a single accountability factor and have a negative impact on students attending F- or D-rated schools
  • Create a disincentive for our best teachers to teach at C, D- or F-rated schools.
  • Would not take effect until September 2017, creating opportunity for legislature to reconsider. In Virginia the legislature did just that recently, repealing A-F before it was implemented.
  • SB 1900 by Donna Campbell, charter schools’ funding for facilities Status: Placed on Senate Intent Calendar for first time May 14, placed again on May 19 Intent Calendar
  • At a cost of $427 million for the biennium, would provide an entitlement to facilities funding for charter schools, equal to average amount flowing to school districts, even though facilities funding for school districts is extremely inadequate. Charter facilities funding would take priority over unmet needs of school districts for facilities funding help. According to the Equity Center, the state share of facilities funding has dropped from 30 percent to less than 10 percent of districts’ total facilities costs over the past 16 years, during which a freeze of the guaranteed yield for facilities at $35 per ADA has been in place despite significant increases in building costs and ever-increasing I&S tax rates. 

SB 1968, Payroll Deduction Dues Prohibition (posted in the morning, updated above)

SB1968 would prohibit school districts and any other state or local government entity from collecting dues for unions or professional associations through payroll deduction. Yesterday, an attempt to suspend House rules to allow SB1968 to be considered in a public hearing today failed to get the necessary 2/3’s vote for rules suspension. State Affairs Committee Chair Byron Cook could still call a formal meeting at any time and vote on the bill without a public hearing, but a Thursday hearing is being discussed. Yesterday, we launched patch through calls to TSTA members who live and vote in the districts of House State Affairs committee members, because the first vote on SB1968 will occur in that committee this week. All Senate bills have to be out of committee by Saturday or they are dead. All Senate bills must pass the House by next Tuesday.

The TSTA lobby team has constantly been involved in meetings on this important issue and our efforts at the Capitol will continue, but unless something unexpected happens, we will expand that action to the whole Texas House, so be on the lookout for an Action Alert and patch through calls to all TSTA members. It is time to make all our voices heard.

Here are some key points to make to your legislators. Vote No on SB1968! 

Employees should have the right and the freedom to choose who receives our voluntary contributions and payroll deduction is the safest and most secure way to do that.

Please keep your hands off of my paycheck.  Politicians should not be allowed to tell us what we can do with our paychecks.

There is no legitimate public policy purpose for this bill. No school district is asking for it and some openly oppose it.   

Under SB 1968, many other tax exempt organizations that lobby the legislature and engage in politics would be allowed to collect funds through payroll deduction. What’s good for one group should be good for all groups, and the legislature should not be picking winners and making teachers and other school employees the losers.

In Texas, membership in unions and other employee organizations is entirely voluntary, and no one is being forced to pay dues against their will.


May 19, 2015

Free workshop

Designing Intensive Programs and Services for English Learner Students will be offered July 27 in Austin or you can take it remotely. http://relsouthwest.sedl.org/events/fliers/ELS_workshop_3.pdf


May 15, 2015

House Floor Report

At midnight Thursday, the deadline arrived for House Bills to be approved by the House on second reading. Last night, the House acted on several education-related bills.

School Finance bill debated and pulled down

On Thursday, House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock withdrew HB 1759 from further consideration by the House, ending his attempt to overhaul a school finance system that has been declared inadequate, unfair and unconstitutional by a state district judge. Aycock acted to avoid prolonged debate that would have killed dozens of other bills in the face of an end-of-session, midnight deadline for passing House bills on second reading. Aycock also knew the Senate had little interest in changing the school finance law.

Four voucher amendments had been filed with the bill, but TSTA is confident those amendments would have been defeated or declared out of order. Had it passed, HB 1759 would have added an additional $800 million for public education to the new state budget. There was disagreement over some provisions in Chairman Aycock’s bill, but TSTA applauds him for trying to provide additional education funding without waiting another year or longer for the Texas Supreme Court to rule on the lower court’s school finance decision.

Additional education funds could still be appropriated by a House-Senate conference committee, which is trying to reach a compromise on the new budget. 

Revised Accountability Bill with A-F grading system approved

HB 2804 by Jimmie Don Aycock has been approved by the House and sent to the Senate.  This bill makes substantial changes to the accountability system, but it also changes campus accountability designations to an “A through F” system

Aycock’s bill would create an accountability system for public schools with a lesser role for standardized test scores. In addition to the raw test results, two measures of student growth (improvement) would factor into test results. Graduation rates, attendance, dropout rates and parental engagement would also be a factor in rating the campus.

Attempting to improve the overall accountability system is a good thing, and adding the A- F grading system could improve the bill’s chances in Lt. Gov. Patrick’s Senate, but the system is rife with problems and has not worked in states where it has been adopted.

The A-F grading system has numerous flaws. Assigning letter grades to campuses does nothing to provide parents additional information or improve educational quality. In fact, a D or F designation could stigmatize a school, its students and the neighborhood. A-F would also create a disincentive for our best teachers to teach at poorly rated schools, where they are most needed, and the problems with an A-F system would likely fall disproportionately on schools with the highest concentrations of students from families with lower incomes and/or of limited English-speaking ability.

Community Schools Bill Approved

After a community schools amendment was removed from Chairman Aycock’s sanctions and school turnaround bill Wednesday, HB 1891, community schools legislation by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, was approved by the House after amendments were added to give the commissioner of education final approval of the community schools plan and prevent organizations that provide abortions from offering health services on a community schools campus. The bill now goes to the Senate.  

Voucher Bill Update

Senate Bill 4, the tax credit scholarship voucher bill, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing in the House Ways and Means committee, weeks after it was referred to the committee. Approval of vouchers by the House is unlikely. 

“Virtual Voucher” bill languishing in Senate

SB 894, the “Virtual Voucher Bill,” was not approved by the Senate this week. Given Senate opposition and House deadlines, SB894 is not likely to pass, but this proposal, like others, could find its way onto other bills in the form of an amendment.

Several other bills were passed by the Texas House before the deadline.

HB 1490 by Dan Huberty relating to public school interventions and procedures for truancy which allows for a graduated intervention policy for students found to be truant and encouraging attendance at school while lowering the number of class C misdemeanors. 

HB 2205 by Myra Crownover relating to educator preparation programs, including the appointment of a member of the State Board for Educator Certification with experience and knowledge of alternative educator preparation programs.

HB 2684 by Helen Giddings relating to the creation of a model training curriculum and to the required training for school district peace officers and school resource officers.

HB 964 by Donna Howard relating to the calculation of the rollback tax rate of a school district.

SB 934 by Lois Kolkhorst and Marsha Farney relating to providing training academies for public school teachers who provide mathematics instruction to students in kindergarten through grade three.

HB 731 by Eddie Lucio, III relating to participation of certain school districts in the three-year high school diploma plan pilot program.

HB 2251 by Rafael Anchia relating to an established schedule of payments from the foundation school fund of the yearly entitlement of certain open-enrollment charter schools.

HB 2593 by Four Price relating to the method of determining the average daily attendance in certain school districts.

HB 3657 by Cesar Blanco relating to a study of the use of regional rating for health coverage provided under the uniform group coverage program for certain active school employees and their dependents.

HB 3756 by John Otto relating to the methods and procedures used to determine school district property values.

SB 810 by Kel Seliger and John Smithee relating  to the authority of an independent school district to contract with a municipality for the design, improvement, or construction of an instructional facility, stadium, or other athletic facility.


May 13, 2015

HB1798, Home Rule/Local Control charter district bill, defeated by House

Your calls and contacts do make a difference! Today, the House rejected, on a 59-76 vote, HB1798, which would have made it easier for a small group of petitioners, supported by outside interests, to take over local school districts from elected school boards.  The bill by Rep. Joe Deshotel of Beaumont would have amended a 1995 law under which a former Enron trader attempted to engineer a hostile takeover of Dallas ISD last year. That takeover attempt was unsuccessful, but this bill, had it passed, would have made similar attempts easier.

HB1798 was opposed by TSTA and other public school advocates. The bill would have allowed a “local control district” to operate without the 22-1 class size limit and other important academic standards and teacher employment protections.  Rep. Deshotel amended the bill to require the lead petitioner for a local control takeover to be a resident of the school district, and Rep. Donna Howard of Austin won approval of an amendment to require more transparency in the petition process. But a local control election still could have been forced by as few as 5 percent of registered voters in urban districts and 10 percent of voters in the smallest rural districts. And, Deshotel fought back amendments to protect the 22-1 class size limit and teacher employment protections before the bill went down to defeat.

In closing arguments against the bill, Reps. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, and Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, warned House members against allowing local school districts to be hijacked by outside interests. Keffer said the bill would have given “way too much power (to) people who may not even like public schools.” He also pointed out that in much of Texas school districts are “our biggest employer and our community.”

Community Schools effort suffers setback

On third reading Wednesday, the House removed from HB1842 the Community Schools amendment that was approved yesterday. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, the Community Schools sponsor, reluctantly made the motion to remove the amendment from the sanctions/school intervention bill we described in yesterday’s update..

House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, the sponsor of HB1842, had accepted the Community Schools amendment, but Rodriguez had it removed on Wednesday to save HB1842 from being defeated by legislators who were nervous about the impact of a right wing attack by Breitbart that falsely contended that strengthening community involvement in neighborhood schools was not in line with Texas values, an opinion that really means not in line Texas profiteers’ pocketbooks.  Rodriguez’s separate Community Schools legislation, a TSTA priority this session, still could be voted on because it is on the House calendar, but time is running short.

In their own words: video of presidential candidates

Clips of Presidential candidates speaking on education and workers' rights: https://youtu.be/yK37RmChDmU

TEA responds to tragedy in Van

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams issued the following statement regarding Van ISD: "Over the past several days, I have had multiple conversations with Van ISD Superintendent Don Dunn regarding the storms that hit facilities within his district last weekend.
I have assured him that the Texas Education Agency stands ready to assist with any issues he may identify. As the elementary school buildings have suffered extensive damage, agency staff has been instructed to approve the attendance waiver that will allow the district to cancel its classes for Pre-K through third grade students for the remainder of the school year. In regard to testing requirements, the circumstances provide us with the ability to work with Van ISD to provide the necessary flexibility. Superintendent Dunn has far more pressing issues relating to his students, staff and community. The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the Texas Education Agency continue to be with the city of Van during this time."


May 12, 2015 (10 p.m. update)

Action request

This evening, a patch through call went out to all TSTA members, urging you to call and oppose HB1798, the “local control” (home rule) school district bill. The bill would allow a non-resident of the school district be appointed “lead petitioner” and appoint a majority of a “local control commission” that could draft a plan for voter approval that could eliminate an elected school board, teacher contract and due process rights and class size limits. House members will offer floor amendments to address those issues.

Payroll Deduction Bill Update

Senate Bill 1968, which was received by the House Friday, has not yet been referred to a committee. A broader coalition is now working against the bill. 

Voucher Bill Update

A hearing for Senate Bill 4 has not been scheduled for a hearing by the House Ways and Means Committee. 

House Floor Report

HB 1842, Sanctions/School Intervention Bill Approved, Community Schools Amendment Added to Bill

Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock’s HB 1842 was approved by the Texas House today. HB1842 addresses the assessment, intervention in and sanction of a public school that does not satisfy accreditation criteria. The Chairman accepted 7 amendments to the bill.

Under HB 1842, if a campus is designated unacceptable for two consecutive school years, the commissioner must order the campus to prepare and submit a campus turnaround plan. The campus intervention team must address all requirements under turn around provisions and do so as part of reconstituting the campus. A campus turnaround plan would be implemented as part of the updated targeted improvement plan.

Aycock accepted an amendment that would allow the community schools model to be used as a school turnaround model.

The bill removes the requirement that the campus intervention team decide which educators may be retained at the underperforming campus and removes the prohibition of retaining certain principals unless the campus intervention team determines that retention of the principal would be more beneficial to the student achievement and campus stability than removal.

Another amendment was approved that requires parental and community stakeholder notification and involvement early in the process.

Other Education Bills Passed by the Texas House:

HB 4046 by Carol Alvarado, relating to confidentiality of student records.

HB 1783 by Joe Moody, relating to the right of a school employee to report a crime and persons subject to the prohibition on coercing another into suppressing or failing to report information to a law enforcement agency.

HB 1559  by Tan Parker, relating to public school Internet website information concerning local programs and services available to assist homeless students.

HB 2974 by Dan Flynn, relating to contributions to, benefits from, and the administration of systems and programs administered by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

HB 18 by Jimmie Don Aycock, relating to college and career readiness training for certain public school counselors.

HB 1300 by Giovanni Capriglione, relating to the required qualifications of persons admitted to educator preparation programs.

HB 506 by Eddie Rodriguez, relating to the issuance of tax-supported bonds by certain school districts and increasing the tax rate limitation on the issuance of those bonds.

HB 2847 by Myra Crownover, relating to policies and training regarding the use of epinephrine auto-injectors by school districts and open-enrollment charter schools.

The House Public Education Committee met to hear the following senate bills and left all pending:

SB 453 by Kel Seliger relating to minimum scores required for public school students to receive credit by an examination administered through the College-Level Examination Program. Changes the minimum scaled score from 60 to 50.

SB 1434 Van Taylor relating to counting time spent by students participating in certain approved off-campus instructional programs in calculation of the average daily attendance for a school district or open-enrollment charter school. Allows certain off-campus activities to be counted on ADA.

SB 1771 by Larry Taylor relating to the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium. Raises participant districts from 20 to 30.

SB 1867 by Judith Zaffirini relating to excluding certain adult students receiving special education services from computation of dropout and completion rates for purposes of public school accountability.

Senate Education Committee Report

The Senate Education Committee met today and took additional testimony on a committee substitute for Senate Bill 1012, the Senate version of the “local control” school district bill. After testimony revealed numerous flaws in the bill, SB1012 was left pending and lacked the votes for committee approval.


May 12, 2015

Governor signs bill to ease testing

Gov. Abbott signed Senate Bill 149 yesterday (by Sen. Kel Seliger), a bill that will allow some high school seniors who have failed one end-of-course exam to graduate with their class this spring.

The new law, which TSTA supports, will require school districts to form special graduation committees for every senior who has completed all other graduation requirements but has failed one or two of the STAAR exams also required for graduation. The committees – which will include principals, teachers and parents – must consider several other factors, including the student’s “overall preparedness for postsecondary success.”

More than 20,000 high school seniors, about 10 percent of this year’s senior class, had failed at least one of the end-of-course exams as of mid-January and were at risk of not graduating. By signing the new law, Abbott said he took into consideration the fact that the Class of 2015 was the first graduating class required to pass the more-difficult STAAR exams. The new law takes effect immediately and will expire in the fall of 2017.

Senate Floor Report: More bad news from Dan Patrick’s Senate

On Monday, the Senate approved these bills, which TSTA opposes:

Senate Bill 1241 by Sen. Larry Taylor would allow a school board to establish - subject to approval by the Commissioner of Education - a multiple-campus “innovation zone.” The bill would allow the schools in this zone to be operated without most state education standards, leaving teachers, students, and parents without the rights, protections and standards (like class sizes) that apply to our local neighborhood schools. The measure would limit the initial term of an innovation zone to five years but would allow an innovation zone to be renewed for successive five-year terms.

Senate Bill 1897 by Sen. Larry Taylor would weaken accountability standards for open-enrollment charter schools and allow for the creation of virtual voucher charter schools. Charter schools receive tax dollars and should be held as accountable as traditional public schools for their expenditures of public money and educational results. Studies repeatedly have shown that charter schools, on average, don’t perform as well as public schools, and TSTA believes it is wrong to reduce their accountability standards.

SB1897, if approved by the House, would allow the state education commissioner to grant more than one charter to a charter holder if the additional charter is for an open-enrollment charter school that has a different purpose or serves a different student population than the charter holder's existing open-enrollment charter school or schools. This could include a charter for a virtual voucher charter school through the Virtual School Network. The bill also would lower the threshold for obtaining a charter, prohibit the expiration or revocation of a charter under certain circumstances, and change the accountability ratings for charters, allowing certain low performance ratings to be thrown out.

Senate Bill 1178 by Sen. Huffines would require TEA to conduct an interim study on the implementation of an education savings account program. An ESA is a voucher program that traditionally allows businesses to pay taxes they owe the state into an account used to award scholarships to private school students. The state would lose tax revenue that would go to support public education (and other needs), and instead use that money for vouchers. It is similar to the program that would be created by Senate Bill 4, which also has been approved by the Senate but has gone nowhere, so far, in the House.

The study must evaluate: best practices in implementing an education savings account program; the experiences of other states that have implemented similar programs; the populations that might be served by the program; potential student eligibility guidelines for participation in the program; potential guidelines for the voluntary participation of private schools in the program; methods of funding for the program; which expenses to include as qualified educational expenses under the program; whether to preapprove certain vendors for participation in the program; potential academic and financial accountability measures for the program; and methods of contracting between the state and one or more financial institutions for the provision and maintenance of the accounts. The final report of the study must include any recommendations for implementation of an education savings account program from individuals who have assisted in implementing similar programs in other states.

House gives final approval to TRS ActiveCare study bill. 

On Monday, the House gave final approval to HB3453 by Rep. J.M. Lozano, a bill to establish an interim study of TRS ActiveCare, including the potential impact of allowing school districts participating in ActiveCare to opt out of the program. Initially, the bill would have allowed school districts to opt out but it was amended by the author.

If the bill is approved by the Senate, the interim committee would include six senators and six House members. The panel also would study the potential impact of establishing a regional rating method for determining premiums charged in different regions of the state for school employee health care. The study would be directed to make recommendations to Legislature in 2017. 

Although the TRS Opt Out provisions were not passed this session, a study would provide a forum for organizing around our efforts to provide affordable, high quality health coverage for educational employees.

The House also gave final approval to these bills: 

HB2349 by Jimmie Don Aycock, dealing with public school assessment, performance standards, and course requirements.

HB2610 by Ken King, relating to the minimum number of minutes of instruction for public school students and the scheduling of the last day of school 

HB2811 by Ken King, relating to proclamations issued by the State Board of Education for instructional materials.

HB2632 by Harold Dutton, dealing with authorizing a civil penalty, rather than a criminal penalty, for truancy.

HB2851 by Tan Parker, relating to the immunities of a non-profit corporation created for the purpose of aiding open-enrollment charter schools in providing educational facilities.


May 11, 2015

Action Alert SB894: STOP Virtual Vouchers

Senate Bill 894, which would provide state funding for for-profit virtual education vendors, is on the Senate calendar and may be voted on Tuesday. Please contact your state senator and tell them you are opposed to this bill, which could cost taxpayers billions of dollars. This is a virtual voucher bill.

SB894 would funnel an additional $160 million in state funds to private on-line vendors - more than was provided for pre-K expansion - and the actual cost could be over a billion dollars.

SB894 would provide state funds for private vendors that enroll students full-time in a virtual school, even if they have never set foot in a classroom.

SB894 would allow a student to take an online course even if the student's school offers a substantially similar course.

SB 894 would eliminate any limit on what may be charged for online courses.

SB894 would allow full-time student enrollment for online courses without a minimum age requirement. Even virtual kindergarten would be possible.

To contact your legislator go to our Legislative Action page and click on the "Who is my legislator" tab at: http://tsta.org/issues-and-action/take-action-state-level


May 10, 2015

Election Day wins

Yesterday was Election Day for many TSTA locals. Our initial count shows that 15 of the 22 candidates endorsed by TSTA locals won election. When we win these elections, we have an opportunity to work with a more favorable school board to provide the quality education that every student deserves. Congratulations to all of you who took the time to work and win elections that make a difference in the work we do for our students, our schools and our communities. Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets/72157652181812229


May 8, 2015

Legislative update

HB 3453 by Jose Lozano relating to participation in and rates for coverage provided under the uniform group coverage program for active employees was preliminarily passed today by the Texas House. The bill was completely amended by the author to establish an interim study of TRS ActiveCare to study the impact of allowing school districts and other participating entities in the uniform group coverage program for active employees to opt out of that program; to study the impact of entities to be allowed or prohibited in the future from participation if previously participating entities; and study the impact of establishing a regional rating method for determining premiums charged in different regions of the state for the benefits provided under a group coverage plan established under the program.  The joint interim committee shall be composed of six senators and six house members.  The study shall be completed and reported by January 1, 2017.

The Texas House finally passed the following bills today:

HB 1613 by Ryan Guillen, relating to the use of performance on certain assessment instruments designated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to satisfy requirements concerning high school end-of-course assessment.

HB 2025 by Larry Gonzales relating to participation of certain school districts in the three-year high school diploma plan pilot program.

HB 3748 by Marsha Farney relating to the coordination of educational support services for and information regarding students who are currently or were formerly placed in foster care.

HB 3596 by Dan Huberty relating to school safety and the prevention of school violence.

HB 1170 by Marsha Farney relating to the applicability to open-enrollment charter schools of certain laws regarding local governments and political subdivisions.

HB 1171 by Marsha Farney relating to the applicability of certain immunity and liability laws to open-enrollment charter schools.

HB 2168 by Sergio Munoz relating to the payment date for annuities from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. 

HB 2014 by Kenneth Sheets relating to the authority of military personnel to obtain certification to teach career and technology education classes in public schools.

HB 1431 by Susan King relating to the development of a career-oriented foreign language program that public schools may offer.

House Public Education met while the House was in session and voted out the following bills: HB 2251, HB 3896, SB 66, SB 133, SB 810, SB 836, SB 934, SB 935, and SB 972.


May 7, 2015

Invest Not Test ad and petition: please post on Facebook and web page

As we told you Monday, TSTA launched a new ad, which is running on TV in El Paso and will roll statewide as a social media campaign that includes social media advertising. The ad reinforces TSTA’s image and our mission as the organization that will engage, organize and lead on important issues that impact our members, our schools and our communities. You can view the ad and sign the petition at: http://www.investnottest.org/

Senate Floor Report 

Elimination of payroll dues deduction passed and sent to the House

After delaying passage of SB1968 for three weeks, today the Senate passed the bill that would limit certain employee’s rights, including educators, on a 20-11 party line vote. SB1968 would prevent most state and local government employees in Texas – including school employees – from exercising their right to have membership dues in TSTA or any other labor or professional organization deducted in a safe, secure manner from their paychecks.

SB1968 does not prohibit payroll dues deduction for a number of other organizations and charities that have an active political agenda. Instead, the bill is designed to prevent only certain union and professional employees from having dues deducted from their paychecks. 

SB1968 will now go to the House and be referred to a committee. Please stay tuned for Action Alerts on this bill. A similar bill was filed in the House this session, but it has not made any progress. 

Senate okays SB669, amended “Opportunity School District” bill

SB669 by Sen. Royce West is the “Opportunity School District” (OSD) bill, which would allow the Commissioner of Education to appoint a statewide Superintendent to oversee low-performing campuses from around the state. The OSD would operate under charter school provisions that do not provide adequate standards for class sizes, teacher quality, and contract protection, or student discipline. The OSD design takes control of the campus away from the community.

The bill was amended, however, to allow the Superintendent of the local school district to retain control of the campus if the local district is taking action to improve student performance at that campus. The amendment also opens the door to out-of-state vendors and would prevent a Texas charter operator from putting its charter at risk by contracting with the OSD.

HB4, Governor’s pre-K plan, approved by Senate

Today, the Senate approved House Bill 4, Governor Abbott’s high quality pre-kindergarten grant proposal. Although TSTA believes HB4 could be improved by providing additional funding and full-day pre-K opportunities, TSTA supports efforts to provide additional state support for pre-K.

House Floor Report

TRS ActiveCare bill debate scheduled for tomorrow: contact your representative now

Debate on HB3453, by Reps. J.M. Lozano and Todd Hunter, has been postponed until Friday. HB3453 would enact three changes that could help local school districts find more affordable, high quality health care coverage. HB3453 would:

  • allow a school district to “opt out” of TRS ActiveCare;
  • allow TRS to set regional premium rates; and
  • allow school districts to participate in risk pools.

Contact your representatives and urge them to vote for HB3453. Go to our Legislative Action page and click on the “Who is my legislator” tab at: http://tsta.org/issues-and-action/take-action-state-level.

Today, the House passed the following education bills

SB925 by Lois Kolkhorst and Jimmie Don Aycock relating to providing training academies for public school teachers who provide reading instruction to students in kindergarten through grade three.

HB3106 by Dan Huberty relating to the period of time allowed for appointment of a board of managers for a school district.

HB2186 by Byron Cook relating to suicide prevention training for certain educators and other employees of a school district.

HB1305 by Greg Bonnen relating to a program to provide a free or reduced-price breakfast to eligible students attending a public school and the method of determining the number of educationally disadvantaged students.

HB1551 by Donna Howard relating to money distributed by the School Land Board to the available school fund or to the State Board of Education for investment in the permanent school fund.

Voucher bill update

SB4 has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. The House version of SB4 has been in the same committee for weeks and has not moved. We’re working to keep it that way. 


May 6, 2015

TRS ActiveCare bill debate postponed until Friday: contact your representative now

Debate on HB3453, by Reps. J.M. Lozano and Todd Hunter, has been postponed until Friday. HB3453 would enact three changes that could help local school districts find more affordable, high quality health care coverage.

HB3453 would:

  • allow a school district to “opt out” of TRS ActiveCare;
  • allow TRS to set regional premium rates; and
  • allow school districts to participate in risk pools.

Contact your representatives and urge them to vote for HB3453. Go to our Legislative Action page and click on the “Who is my legislator” tab at: http://tsta.org/issues-and-action/take-action-state-level

Invest Not Test ad and petition – please post on your FB and web pages

As we told you Monday, TSTA launched a new ad, which is running on TV in El Paso and will roll statewide as a social media campaign that includes social media advertising. The ad reinforces TSTA’s image and our mission as the organization that will engage, organize, and lead on important issues that impact our members, our schools, and our communities.

Voucher Bill update

SB4 has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. The House version of SB4 has been in the same committee for weeks and has not moved. We’re working to keep it that way. 

Community Schools bills approved by House committee

Last night, the House Public Education Committee approved two of TSTA’s legislative priorities -- HB1891 and HB1892 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez of Austin -- legislation that would adopt the Community Schools concept. A community school involves teachers, parents and the local community in the school improvement effort. The bills would establish the community school concept in state law, codifying a proven, sustainable method of school turnaround that has worked in several states nationwide and in the Austin ISD.

In a community school, the plan for school turnaround is designed by a committee of parents, educators and members from community businesses and non-profits, and the plan must be approved by a supermajority of parents and educators and the local school board. As a result, the school becomes a vital community hub.

The community school plan is designed to address the needs of the students and typically provides a range of services that students bring to school with them, creating a better learning environment and curriculum that has fostered student success.

When Austin’s Webb Middle School and Reagan High School faced closure, the Community Schools model was instituted and since then, Webb went from the worst to best Title One Middle School in AISD, while Reagan’s graduation rate went from 48% to 85%.

The only cost associated with this community school solution is the cost of a community school coordinator who coordinates the wrap around services.

The committee’s approval means these bills are eligible for the Calendars Committee to set them for debate by the full House.

The House Public Education Committee also approved the following bills:

HB279 by Ron Simmons, dealing with the eligibility for public education grants for special education students.

HB1135 by Sergio Munoz, to require the state education commissioner to consider the transportation of students attending dual credit courses in districts’ transportation allotments.

HB1783 by Joe Moody, which would allow a school district or charter employee to report a crime witnessed at school to any peace officer with authority to investigate the crime, regardless of district policy.

HB3417 by Diego Bernal, dealing with endorsements for public high school students enrolled in special education programs.

HB4047 by Alma Allen, relating to the extension to open-enrollment charter school employees of certain rights granted to school district employees.

TSTA went on record in support of HB1341 by Jimmie Don Aycock, which would require the State Board of Education to streamline the TEKS curriculum for public schools. The bill was left pending in committee.

The committee heard and left pending the following bills:

HB1498 by Sarah Davis, relating to student use of sunscreen products in public schools.

HB1705 by Eddie Rodriguez, dealing with managing the physical facilities of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Texas School for the Deaf. 

HB2040 by Tony Tinderholt, relating to professional development requirements for teachers of gifted and talented students.

HB2251 by Rafael Anchia, relating to an established schedule of payments from the foundation school fund of the yearly entitlement of certain open-enrollment charter schools.

HB2579 by Rafael Anchia, dealing with the governance and operation of certain independent school districts.

SB935 by Lois Kolkhorst, relating to the establishment of reading excellence teams. 

SB972 by Lois Kolkhorst, relating to training academies for public school teachers who provide reading comprehension instruction to students in grades four and five.

House floor report

On Wednesday, the full Texas House passed HB1486 by Rick Galindo, relating to a prohibition on vendor contact with a member of the board of trustees of an independent school district during the procurement process.  This bill is bracketed to apply only to South San Antonio ISD.

Senate floor report

Although three education bills opposed by TSTA were on the Senate intent calendar, the Senate did not vote on:

  • SB669, the Opportunity School District bill;
  • SB1241, the Innovation Zone bill; or
  • SB894, the virtual voucher bill.

Yesterday, the Senate did pass SB313 By Sen. Kel Seliger, which requires the State Board of Education to modify the essential knowledge and skills to narrow the number and scope of standards and skills for each subject and grade level.
 

Nominate an employer who supports participation in schools

The Employers for Education Excellence Award was established in 2007 by the state legislature to honor Texas employers who encourage and support staff participation and voluntarism in the public schools.

Nominations are due by June 26. http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Awards/Employers_for_Education_Excellence


May 5, 2015

Health care: urge your State Representative to vote for HB3453

HB3453, by Reps. J.M. Lozano and Todd Hunter, would enact three changes that could help local school districts find more affordable, high quality health care coverage for teachers and other school employees.Educational employees have seen premiums under TRS ActiveCare increase by as much as 238 percent since the plan was created in the 2001 session, a burden that has amounted to a take home pay cut for many active teachers.

Under current law, when a local school district chooses to go into the TRS ActiveCare health insurance program, it is prohibited from leaving the program. All terms of the policy are set by the state. 

HB3453 would:

free a school district to shop for a more affordable, high quality plan and “opt out” of TRS ActiveCare if the district can get a better deal for employees;

allow TRS to set affordable regional premium rates; and

allow school districts to participate in risk pools to lower health care costs.

To contact your legislator go to our Legislative Action page and click on the “Who is my legislator” tab at http://tsta.org/issues-and-action/take-action-state-level.


May 4, 2015

TSTA launches statewide “Invest, Not Test” media campaign

TSTA today launched a rolling, statewide campaign, beginning with television spots in El Paso, to remind policymakers that our children’s education is about much more than teaching to the test.

According to a bipartisan poll sponsored by TSTA in March, the top two things most Texans want for improving our schools are not vouchers or other privatization schemes. What Texans really want are:

  • A real investment in our children’s neighborhood public schools; and
  • A reduction in standardized testing.

TSTA is launching its “Invest, Not Test” campaign in El Paso, where parents and community leaders — like parents and community leaders across the state — recognize the importance of local schools. Funded with a $174,000 media grant from the National Education Association, “Invest, Not Test” will become a statewide effort, fueled by social media, over the next several weeks.

“We don’t have standardized students, and education is about more than a standardized test score,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said. “Testing takes away time that teachers and students need for real teaching and learning, and we are launching this campaign to focus on the issue that matters most to our kids: making a real investment in their future.

“It is time to invest, not test, and that means investing in our neighborhood schools, not imposing so-called reforms that would turn our neighborhood schools over to for-profit operators that aren’t accountable to local taxpayers,” he added.

When 800 Texas voters were polled by TSTA in March, they — both Democrats and Republicans – said the two most important things that could be done to improve education were to increase teacher pay to attract more highly qualified individuals to the classroom and reduce high-stakes standardized testing.  An overwhelming majority also said education funding should be increased.

The new state budget approved by the Texas House would add $3 billion to public education, over and above what is needed to cover enrollment growth. That is about twice as much as the Senate approved in additional school funding and is a step in the right direction. But both budgets would leave billions of available dollars unspent or dedicated to tax reductions while Texas continues to rank near the bottom of states in per-pupil spending and teacher salaries.

The average teacher salary in Texas is about $6,900 below the national average, according to recent National Education Association rankings. Some 83 percent of all respondents to the TSTA poll — and 76 percent of Republican primary voters — said they favored increasing teacher pay by $7,000 to meet the national average.

Here's the ad, which launched today on television in El Paso. https://youtu.be/IPnJ3-ge4RY

Sign the petition at our website http://investnottest.org

ALERT: contact your senator! Vote no on SB1241

The so-called "Innovation Zone" bill, SB 1241 by Sen. Larry Taylor, could come up for a vote in the Senate as soon as tomorrow. SB1241 would allow school districts to opt out of compliance with Education Code standards related to educational quality, including:

> class size limits;

> teacher certification requirements; 

> parental rights and discipline standards;

> employee contract protections; and

> many more.  

The bill's disregard for important educational policy standards has nothing to do with "innovation," which has been achieved repeatedly under current law through parent-teacher led efforts such as community schools and district charters. This proposal applies to most of the the same policy exemptions that charter schools have and, it is important to note that on average, charters perform worse than neighborhood schools. 

Please contact your Senators and urge them to vote NO on SB 1241.

Bills passed out of the Texas House today

HB 1706 by Gary VanDeaver relating to reducing paperwork and duplicate reports required of a school district.

HB 743 by Dan Huberty relating to the essential knowledge and skills of the required public school curriculum and to certain state-adopted or state-developed assessment instruments for public school students.

HB 256 by Donna Howard relating to use of compensatory education allotment funding to provide assistance with child care to students at risk of dropping out of school.

HB 771 by Joe Deshotel relating to funding for the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities.


May 2, 2015

Human trafficking course offered for continuing education credit

"Human Trafficking Issues and Warning Signs" is a free, online course that the Texas Education Agency has approved for four CEUs. https://lwvedu.expertlearning.net


May 1, 2015

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 4-8, and NEA offers a poster, web banners, and buttons for downloading at www.nea.org/teacherday. 

Idea: Share on social media a picture of yourself or your child with a favorite teacher, or a picture of yourself holding a piece of paper that says thank you to a teacher and why you’re thanking him or her. Use the hashtag #ThankATeacher when sharing. 

Bonus: NEA will select 10 people who thanked a teacher to receive a $100 Visa gift card to give to their favorite teacher. (See giveaway details at www.nea.org/thankateacher.)