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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

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.)