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December 18, 2014

Holiday schedule

TSTA offices will be closed from Dec. 22 until Jan. 5. We wish you a happy and restful winter break!
December 17, 2014

Dallas home-rule panel to decide on charter in January

From the Dallas Morning News: The Dallas ISD home-rule commission will decide next month whether to create a charter that could determine how the district is operated and governed. Voters would need to approve it in an election with at least a 25 percent turnout.

The story: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20141216-dallas-isd-home-rule-panel-to-decide-on-charter-in-january.ece

New blog: http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas/austin-isd/a-tale-of-two-superintendents

Background: http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas/dallas-isd/you-cant-improve-schools-by-running-over-educators


December 10, 2014

Sunset Commission endorses move to abolish SBEC

Over the objections of TSTA, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission today recommended that the Legislature abolish the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and transfer its duties to the state education commissioner. If legislators pass the necessary law, the commissioner also would be empowered to establish an advisory committee to assist with the regulation of educators and educator preparation programs.

TSTA supports the continuation of SBEC and its authority to monitor and certify educator preparation programs. We believe that teachers should be treated no differently from other licensed professions that have governing boards of peers who help set and regulate professional standards.

The Sunset Commission also recommended that the Legislature give the education commissioner administrative subpoena power to investigate cases of alleged educator misconduct. TSTA also opposed this proposal because it would allow the Texas Education Agency to obtain confidential information about an educator without notifying the accused or filing a petition. TSTA believes this imbalance of power would violate due process and allow state government to go on unregulated fishing expeditions against educators.


December 9, 2014

Upcoming TSTA and NEA meetings

Here's some new information on the 2015 TSTA House of Delegates and ESP Conference and the NEA Representative Assembly.

TSTA House of Delegates

The TSTA House of Delegates (HOD) is TSTA’s highest decision-making body and serves a vital role in the governance of TSTA. Delegates are elected as representatives to the HoD, and may establish goals for TSTA, amend its bylaws, and act on recommendations from the TSTA officers, board, or committees. Elections for officers, NEA Directors, and At-Large members of the TSTA Board are held at this annual assembly. The HoD will be held at the Embassy Suites in Frisco, Texas this year on Friday April 10 and Saturday April 11. Please make your reservations by using the link below. Please contact Jan Parks at the TSTA Center for Executive and Governance by emailing janp@tsta.org or calling 512-476-5355 X 1543 if you need assistance with this link or if you prefer not to make online reservations. https://resweb.passkey.com/Resweb.do?mode=welcome_ei_new&eventID=11792429&utm_source=62091&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=36656862

ESP Statewide Conference

The ESP Statewide Conference on April 12, follows the TSTA House of Delegates in Frisco and is designed specifically for education support personnel. This conference is open to all TSTA members and non-members alike.

Representative Assembly

The NEA Representative Assembly (RA) is NEA’s highest decision-making body. Delegates to the RA debate issues impacting American public education, elect top officers, and set association policy.  Texas delegates to the RA are elected both locally and statewide. The NEA RA is always held the first week of July. This year, the NEA RA will be in Orlando, Florida.


December 5, 2014

Here’s what the Healthcare Sustainability Studies say

ActiveCare and Care will be in the spotlight during the upcoming legislative session. The legislature will be asked to make improvements in both plans over the next biennium, with the emphasis being placed on increased funding. The TRS Healthcare Sustainability Studies have been delivered to the legislature; here are the details from TSTA Government Relations Specialist John Grey. http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/TRS-2015LegSession.pdf


December 3, 2014

Texas education head refuses to let up on vouchers

From the Houston Chronicle's chron.com: "For more than 20 years and a dozen legislative sessions, the Texas Legislature has defeated one proposal after another that would have diverted scarce taxpayer dollars from public schools and transferred the money to unaccountable private schools. Just last year, there was a test of legislative sentiment on the issue in the Texas House, and by a bipartisan supermajority of 103 to 43, our state representatives voted to ban any spending for private-school vouchers.

"Nonetheless, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams, Gov. Rick Perry's appointee at the helm of the Texas Education Agency, is now trying to bring private-school vouchers to Texas through the back door. In an application this month to the U.S. Department of Education for federal grant funding to expand pre-K in Texas, Williams included a proposed pre-K voucher program that would fund private preschools at a rate of up to $8,000 per child."

Read more: http://m.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Texas-education-head-refuses-to-let-up-on-vouchers-5930598.php

Teacher leaders key to improving student learning

ASCD’s Whole Child Symposium — held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., this week — seeks to identify concrete actions educators can take to improve education systems, processes, and outcomes for students.

“Our goal is to increase and support leadership opportunities for educators in schools across the country,” said NEA Vice President Becky Pringle, who served on a panel at the event. 


December 1, 2014

Harm from vouchers: symposium examines evidence

On Dec. 2 the Coalition for Public Schools, which includes TSTA, will hold a symposium at the state Capitol to examine the evidence regarding private-school vouchers and related policies and look at research-based alternatives.

The Pre-Legislative Education Symposium is free, open to all, and would be well worth attending. The event will be from 9:00 – 11:30 AM at the Capitol Auditorium in Austin. Respected academic researchers and education leaders will examine the flaws in voucher programs that threaten public education. Panelists include:

  • Dr. Kevin Welner – Director of the National Education Policy Center
  • Dr. Julie Fisher Mead – Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Dr. Luis Huerta – Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Dr. David Anthony – Raise Your Hand Texas
  • Leslie Boggs – Texas PTA President
  • Gina Hinojosa – Austin ISD School Board
  • John Kuhn – Superintendent Perrin-Whitt ISD
  • Allen Weeks – Save Texas Schools
  • Steven Aleman – Disability Rights Texas
  • Rev. Charles Foster Johnson – Pastors for Texas Children

Visit the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/595993583862691.


November 24, 2014

Ideology and expediency drive SBOE textbook debate

On Nov. 21, the State Board of Education did what they don’t do well, by essentially violating the textbook adoption process to approve social studies textbooks that in some cases include controversial “theories” that defy accepted historic and academic facts. Due to the impact of the Tea Party on the electoral chances of Republican members, the 10-5 vote to adopt the textbooks was cast along party lines, with Republicans voting to adopt and Democrats opposing adoption. 

The SBOE debate was fractious and unfortunately, not centered on what is best for our students. Instead, ideology drove the debate, and discussions centered on matters ranging from cultural diversity to the evil lurking in Common Core. In the end expediency trumped concerns that sufficient time was not given to review publishers’ responses to errors found during the review process, including a 400-page report submitted by one publisher, as the majority feared textbooks might not be adopted if the process was not concluded at this meeting. 

That adoption process requires that all public comment and review be completed by Sept. 25. However, the process was ignored when the right-wing Truth in Texas Textbooks (TTT) submitted a 460-page report of factual errors just before the November meeting.  Social conservatives allowed the founder of TTT more than an hour to testify, while a Harvard historian was given less than a minute. 

The SBOE is statutorily bound to notify local districts about which textbooks are available by December 1 so the local adoption process can begin. SBOE member Ruben Cortez made a motion that there be a special meeting on Dec. 1 so members could review the reams of reports sent by publishers prior to voting. The motion also failed on a party-line vote. 

The top five for the 84th Session

Also last week, the Board identified several legislative priorities, then narrowed the list down to five top concerns. SBOE member Mercer moved that his legislative priority – criminalization of the Common Core and its use – be included, but after rebukes from members Knight, Ratliff, and Rowley, the motion was rejected. After hours of discussion, the SBOE adopted five legislative priorities: 

restoring the responsibilities of the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to the SBOE, although they didn’t specifically call for eliminating SBEC. 

new and additional funding for instructional materials that wouldn’t involve diverting other funds; 

funding for local districts to hire more guidance personnel to meet the requirements of HB 5; 

additional funds for TEA to strengthen its curriculum department to support the TEKS and textbook adoption processes; and 

funding for the creation and implementation of the SBOE long-range strategic plan.

Commissioner Williams’ report

TEA has applied for a Pre-K grant to provide greater access, strengthen teacher professional development, and fund full-day classes, which includes a provision to use some of those funds for private pre-K providers.

TEA has a new website, http://tea.texas.gov.

A board of managers has been appointed for the Honors Academy charter district.  The campus has been operating as a private school since the beginning of the school year and will cease operation on Dec. 1.

Students will no longer have to pass the 5th and 8th grade Math STAAR to advance to the next grade level. They will still be required to pass the reading assessment.

Williams addressed concerns about the Math TEKS and the timing of the Math STAAR two months before the end of the school year. He feels the latter should be given early enough that results would be back before the end of the school year.

Other action

The SBOE adopted a 3.5 percent distribution rate from the Permanent School Fund (PSF).  The PSF enjoyed a 15.94 percent return in 2014, outperforming its benchmarks by 58 basis points and strengthening the cushion it must maintain to ensure intergenerational equity.

The board adopted on second reading the curricular requirements for Languages Other Than English (LOTE).

The SBOE also adopted textbooks for math and fine arts.
 

Friend of Education Award deadline is Dec. 1

As noted in the Fall Advocate, TSTA presents many awards. One deadline is coming soon: nominations for the Friend of Education Award must be received by Monday, Dec. 1. This award recognizes either (1) an individual who is not a professional educator who has made a significant contribution to the cause of public education or (2) an organization/company outside the field of education that has made an outstanding contribution in the field of education. 

Please see http://tsta.org/news-center/awards-grants#friend for details about the award and how to submit nominations, and contact Neocha Campbell in the Center for Executive and Governance at neochac@tsta.org if you have questions.


November 21, 2014

SBOE adopts instructional materials

The State Board of Education voted today to adopt new instructional products for social studies, fine arts, and high school mathematics courses and adopted legislative recommendations. More details from Texas Education Agency are available at http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Press_Releases/2014/SBOE_adopts_instructional_materials.
 

Teacher Retirement System Board completes two-day board meeting

The important news was the actuarial valuation of the Pension Trust Fund as of Aug. 31. The Fund earned an annual rate of return of 16.8 percent, ending the fiscal year at a market value of $132.8 billion compared to a market value of $117.4 billion for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2013.

The funding period of the Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability increased slightly as a result of the cost-of-living adjustment passed by the legislature in 2013 and a change in mortality assumptions. The Fund is still considered to be actuarially sound, with a funding period under 30 years.

The overall takeaway from the meeting is that the Fund is in good shape, and that the next legislative session will need to address funding issues with ActiveCare and Care.

The next Board meeting will be Feb. 11-13.


November 20, 2014

How did you celebrate ESP Day?

Wednesday of American Education Week is ESP Day, and our locals in the Beaumont, Pt. Arthur, Ysleta, Southwest, and Cy-Fair school districts celebrated.

Beaumont/Pt Arthur: The two locals’ annual banquet honoring ESPs and other school employees drew 60 people! 

Southwest: Southwest TSTA welcomed NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, TSTA President Noel Candelaria and TSTA Vice President Ovidia Molina. 

Ysleta: Ysleta Teachers Association launched a fair pay campaign on National ESP Day at the Board of Trustees meeting. Their resolution was put on the agenda for the December meeting. 

Cy-Fair: Three members spoke at the school board meeting about the great education employees in the district.

November 19, 2014

NEA president returns to Texas

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia is back in Texas for American Education Week. She'll be at Southwest Elementary in Southwest ISD for Educator for a Day Thursday, when community leaders are invited to serve as educators to get a glimpse at a day in the life of a school employee. Later in the day, TSTA President Noel Canderlaria will join her for a press conference, meeting with the San Antonio Express-News editorial board, and a reception at Aggie Park. Garcia ends her tour Friday with a breakfast with area superintendents and board members.

Textbook controversy continues

From the Austin American-Statesman: Despite months of debate, the State Board of Education failed to grant preliminary approval Tuesday to new history and social studies textbooks for Texas public schools with a third of its members voting no and nearly as many abstaining.

In separate unanimous votes, the 15-member elected education board gave preliminary approval to fine arts and mathematics textbooks and online instructional materials that will appear in classrooms starting next fall and which were not the subject of nearly as much controversy as those covering history and other social studies topics such as geography and government.

The failed preliminary vote came amid a fresh wave of concern about bias in the textbooks from across the political spectrum with new requests for revisions, and responses from publishers, continuing to roll in despite submission deadlines the board set.

The nearly four-hour public hearing Tuesday, for example, was somewhat dominated by conservative group Truth in Texas Textbooks, which submitted a 469-page report in October — a month after a Sept. 5 submission deadline — requesting publishers make hundreds of changes.

The group’s chairman, San Antonio tea party activist Roy White, who also leads the local chapter of a national organization dedicated to fighting extremist Islam, told the board the textbooks did not adequately portray Islam as violent. Several members applauded White for his efforts and lamented the fact that his report had come in so late, saying they hoped publishers would respond on their own accord.

Another speaker said she thought one textbook published by Cengage Learning — which the board later decided to exclude from its approval list — illegally invoked the Common Core, a national initiative to set uniform academic standards in public schools that the Texas Legislature banned last year and conservatives often bash for perceived liberal bias. That led to a motion to approve all social studies materials except for Cengage, which board members later dropped amid concerns that they might approve content they haven’t reviewed with publishers still responding to change requests.

A few scholars reiterated concern about the textbooks’ emphasis on the influence of Moses and Christianity upon the founding of the nation, but were asked almost no questions.

The board has given publishers an indefinite amount of time to respond to public comments. Some of their revisions were posted online as late as Tuesday, which is why Chairwoman Barbara Cargill said she chose to abstain from the vote. Three other Republicans abstained, and all five Democrats voted no.

“I want to read those first,” Cargill said. “For me, what’s really important is that they stand firm on our rich religious heritage and the benefits of the free enterprise system.”

Despite the failed preliminary vote, the education board still is set to take a final — likely tense — vote on textbooks and dozens of related digital learning materials for all subject areas on Friday.

Cargill said she thinks all the fine arts and mathematics instructional materials, including textbooks, will be approved at that meeting and “at least some” of the social studies instructional materials.

Others who abstained noted the vote was nonbinding.

“It’s no big deal,” said District 11 board member Patricia Hardy of Fort Worth. Hardy said she wanted to be sure textbooks accurately described the U.S. as a “constitutional republic” rather than a “democracy,” a concern another speaker raised during the public hearing.

District 9 board member Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, however, bemoaned the vote as a sign of gridlock — and that changes are needed to improve the instructional material adoption process. Ratliff said he “cast an aye vote to keep it moving forward.”

“It’s time to look at our process and make it longer, more robust and allow for more thoughtful deliberation, because this is awful. This is just awful,” he said.


November 17, 2014

Senate Education Committee report: voucher fight begins, again

On Monday, Nov. 17, the Senate Committee on Education, led by Chairman and Lt. Governor elect Dan Patrick, met to discuss school facility demands, privatization, and the implementation of Senate Bill 2, the charter school expansion bill from last session. The liveliest discussions centered on vouchers and education tax credits.

TSTA testified on the perils of privatizing public education. TSTA noted that Texas voters do not favor taking state tax dollars from shortchanged neighborhood schools and sending those funds to private and religious schools, for several good reasons.

The state school finance system has been found unconstitutional, woefully inadequate and inequitable by a state district judge, and state tax dollars for education should be used to fix that system, not for private schools.

Private and religious schools discriminate in their admissions on the basis of religion, prior educational performance, gender, English-speaking ability, citizenship, and athletic ability. Using state dollars to engage in discriminatory practices would be unconstitutional. 

Further, special needs students who would use vouchers or education tax credits to attend private schools would lose the important federal protections under IDEA. 

The bottom line is simple: vouchers and education tax credits are bad public policy and only serve to harm neighborhood public schools when we should be working to provide parents and teachers the opportunity to develop policies that truly involve the community in the effort to strengthen neighborhood schools. 

Today’s hearing will most likely be the last Senate Education hearing of the interim. Stay tuned to learn who will chair the Senate Education Committee during the next legislative session.
 

Celebrate American Education Week

Communities nationwide are joining the NEA from Nov. 16-22 to celebrate 93 years of American Education Week (AEW), the annual observance that honors students, teachers, education support professional, parents, and community members who help students succeed. http://neatoday.org/2014/11/13/celebrate-american-education-week-november-17-21


November 12, 2014

What will Texas do with its additional billions?

The Legislature, when it convenes Jan. 13, will have billions of additional dollars to spend on state needs without raising anyone’s taxes, thanks to the state’s strong economy. Lawmakers will have enough money to immediately begin drafting an adequate and fair school finance system, as recently ordered by a state district judge. What the Legislature actually does with the additional billions, however, will be decided by the officeholders elected on Tuesday, including a new governor and a new lieutenant governor, who so far seem more inclined to waste the opportunity. 

•Read more in Grading Texas at http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas/dan-patrick/strong-economy-offers-opportunity-for-schools-but.  

•A related post says this great opportunity for school funding already is in jeopardy: http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas/dan-patrick/the-debate-should-be-about-school-funding-not-tax-cuts.


October 28, 2014

TSTA member wins Teacher of the Year

Shanna Peeples is the 2015 Texas Teacher of the Year! An English teacher at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo ISD, Peeples has been a member of Amarillo Education Association/TSTA since 2003. She will represent Texas in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Since 1969, the Teacher of the Year Program has honored excellence in classroom education and provided a forum to showcase many outstanding educators whose efforts and example have inspired their students, their colleagues, and the communities they serve.


October 24, 2014

Raising the bar or shutting the door?

For the third time, the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) reviewed and discussed the contentious GPA requirement for entry into an educator preparation program. At its May 2013 meeting, SBEC adopted language that would raise the GPA requirement to 2.75.  It reversed itself at its August meeting and sent the proposed rule to SBOE, which exercised its authority to reject the rule.  SBOE rejected the entire rule (19 TAC Chapter 227) on grounds that a 2.5 GPA requirement did not comply with legislative intent (SBOE had requested a letter from the sponsoring legislator).

At the most recent meeting of SBEC, the board considered three options.  The first was to do nothing and let the 2.5 GPA requirement stand; the second option was to seek an opinion from the Attorney General but the time lag in the process deemed this unlikely; and the third option was to gather additional data and bring it back for discussion at its March meeting.  Some board members expressed concern about having sent the rule with the 2.5 in it to SBOE and, after reading the statutory language, admitted that it mandated as 2.75 GPA.

Alternative certification providers and school administrators expressed the most concern about increasing the GPA requirement, citing the impact it would have on potential candidates for entry into teacher certification and shrinking the pool of available teachers.  SBEC member Grant Simpson presented the board with research on this issue.  The study concluded that:(1) GPA is an adequate predictor of success in the educator preparation program, on the certification exam, and in the classroom; and (2) an increase in the GPA requirement from 2.5 to 2.75 would eliminate 25% of under-represented groups in teacher preparation programs.

Proponents of the increase in the GPA requirement argue that the higher GPA would elevate teaching as a profession and make public schools more competitive with high-performing global counterparts which attract the highest performing 1/3 of their students into teaching.

The confusion stems from the language in the statute:

Sec. 21.0441.  ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS FOR EDUCATOR PREPARATION PROGRAMS.  (a)  Rules of the board proposed under this subchapter must provide that a person, other than a person seeking career and technology education certification, is not eligible for admission to an educator preparation program, including an alternative educator preparation program, unless the person:

(1)  except as provided by Subsection (b), satisfies minimum grade point average requirements prescribed by the board, not to exceed the following:

(A)  an overall grade point average of at least 2.75 on a four-point scale or the equivalent on any course work previously attempted at a public or private institution of higher education; or

(B)  a grade point average of at least 2.75 on a four-point scale or the equivalent for the last 60 semester credit hours attempted at a public or private institution of higher education. 

The Sun Also Sets

SBEC member Bricker opined that SBEC’s failure to address the issue (i.e., raise the GPA) may provide ammunition for the Texas Sunset Review Commission to approve a recommendation to axe the board.  The Sunset Review Commission will hold a public hearing on November 12th and 13th. SBEC adopted a statement to be presented to the Commission, with its recommendations being released on or around December 10th. 

Who’s on First

The board received an update on the new Core Subjects EC-6 and Core Subjects 4-8 tests being implemented in January, 2015 and approved the passing standards for each examination.  Members expressed concern that the exhaustive tests (over five hours in length with 267 core subjects covered) may present problems for people taking the test.  A key change in the format is that candidates no longer have to pass all content areas to pass the test.  Currently, if you fail one content area, you have to take the entire examination again. Under the Core Subjects examination, a candidate would only take the exam(s) not passed. 

The January 2015 administration is a pilot administration and data from it will be used to make any necessary changes within the confines of (1) test validity requirements; (2) cost of implementation; and (3) legislative intent.

In a somewhat odd twist, TEC 21.048(a) gives authority to the Commissioner to determine the satisfactory level of performance required for each exam and in the second TEC 21.048(a), that authority is given to SBEC.

Sec. 21.048.  CERTIFICATION EXAMINATIONS.

Text of subsection as amended by Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1292 (H.B. 2318), Sec. 2

(a)  The board shall propose rules prescribing comprehensive examinations for each class of certificate issued by the board.  The commissioner shall determine the satisfactory level of performance required for each certification examination.  For the issuance of a generalist certificate, the commissioner shall require a satisfactory level of examination performance in each core subject covered by the examination.

Text of subsection as amended by Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1282 (H.B. 2012), Sec. 5

(a)  The board shall propose rules prescribing comprehensive examinations for each class of certificate issued by the board.  The board shall determine the satisfactory level of performance required for each certification examination.  For the issuance of a generalist certificate, the board shall require a satisfactory level of examination performance in each core subject covered by the examination.

In other action, SBEC:

Adopted a rule-review calendar for years 2015 through 2018.  First up is Chapter 249 – Disciplinary Proceedings, Sanctions, and Contested Cases, which will begin in March 2015.

Amended Chapter 249(b)(7) as follows: “the person has failed to provide information required to be provided by SBEC rules, including, but not limited to §229.3 of this title (relating to Required Submissions of Information, Surveys, and Other Data).”  The board did not reinsert the word “willfully” or “recklessly.”

Adopted for first reading and filing authorization a fee schedule that raises fees for EPPs and reduces the fees for certification candidates.

Adopted for first reading and filing authorization sanctions and a process for investigations for complaints.

Approved Board Operating Policies and Procedures that include, among other things, webcasting of SBEC meetings and a rulemaking process that includes start and ends dates for the public comment period on SBEC rules.


October 23, 2014

All-hazard approach to safe schools should embrace health, mental health 

From TEA: As part of Texas Safe Schools Week (Oct. 19-25), the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) at Texas State University and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) noted that mental health plays a key role in a safe and secure learning environment.
 
Senate Bill 460, passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature and signed into law, seeks to strengthen the detection and education of students with mental or emotional disorders. It provides effective strategies for teaching and intervention and information for parents and guardians as to how they can take appropriate action in seeking mental health services. Under the legislation, the State Board of Educator Certification is responsible for appointing a board of experts in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or emotional disorders to create instruction in the detection and education of students with mental or emotional disorders.  

“Student health and safety are key components of all-hazard emergency plans and procedures and require input from such key community partners as law enforcement, medical services, public health, fire services and mental health,” said Dr. Victoria Calder, executive director of the Texas School Safety Center.

As part of preparedness, it is critical to identify school district and community resources, with disaster behavioral health experience and training, prior to an emergency. Educators then should work with community mental health service providers to ensure a variety of services are available to students and staff who need them.

“A strong collaboration between our educators and local mental health professionals is essential for the academic and emotional well-being of every student,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “This commitment plays a key role in creating a positive learning environment.”

While emotional health should be part of school district health and discipline programs, the psychological and mental health response also is a critical component of school emergency planning. Emotional health often is influenced by emergencies or traumatic events involving the school or the community and can have lasting effects. There are things schools can do to support the emotional needs of students, including:

  • Immediately responding to imminent warning signs;
  • Immediately informing parents or guardians;
  • Making safety the first consideration, even if that means involving administrators and law enforcement; and
  • Seeking assistance from appropriate community agencies (such as child and famliy services and community mental health) that have trained staff  and programs in place specific to the needs of children.

Texas Safe Schools Week is held annually in conjunction with the national America’s Safe Schools Week. To read the Governor’s Safe School Week proclamation, the joint Texas Education Agency-Texas School Safety Center proclamation or to learn more about Texas Safe Schools Week topics, visit the Texas Education Agency website at www.tea.state.tx.us or the Texas School Safety Center website at http://txssc.txstate.edu/.


October 21, 2014

We’ve redesigned our app!

Our TSTA app’s new toolbar helps you stay in contact with TSTA and your local association. In addition to better design and flow, the improved app allows you to easily:

• Share the app with a friend
• Share education news stories
• Access a list of other locals’ social media
• Update your TSTA contact information
• Stay logged in

Update today or download free from iTunes or Google Play!

Apply for an athletics grant 

California Casualty, provider of the NEA® Auto and Home Insurance Program, is taking applications for the 2014/2015 California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant program. The grant program was created to offset severe budget cuts that have forced public high schools across the nation to decrease, eliminate or implement fees for their sporting programs – leaving some students sitting on the sidelines unable to participate. Schools demonstrating the most need will receive grants in amounts of $1,000 to $3,000. Applications for the 2014/2015 academic year must be received by January 15, 2015, for consideration. Details and application forms can be found at www.calcasathleticsgrant.com.


October 18, 2014

TSTA's state committees are meeting

TSTA's state committees are meeting today in Austin. They have some exciting plans for this school year, including new workshops at the state convention! 


October 17, 2014

TRS trustees look at ActiveCare, Care studies

Today, the TRS Trustees conducted a board meeting that largely focused on ActiveCare and Care. Before TRS staff presented a draft of the healthcare sustainability studies, TSTA appeared and offered the following testimony:

“We have three main concerns regarding ActiveCare and Care during the upcoming legislative session. First, we don’t want to see a reduction in benefits; second, we do not want to see an increase in premiums; and finally, we want to see the state pay its fair share.

"We know TRS is prohibited from lobbying, but our hope is that the studies are able to educate the legislature on the hardship borne by school employees and retirees because of the rising cost of healthcare. The better the legislature is educated on this subject, the easier it will be for us to encourage them to do the right thing, and hopefully, for them to do the right thing. 

"Our teachers and retirees deserve great healthcare at a reasonable cost. We are counting on these studies to help us negotiate a better healthcare system for school employees and retirees. We look forward to working with you to achieve that goal.”

Regarding the sustainability studies, staff first tackled Care. They presented the following options in their draft report: pre-fund; pay as you go; fund for a 10-year solvency; retiree pays full cost; a defined contribution with a health reimbursement account; elimination of Care 2 and 3; and a combination of ActiveCare and Care.

Regarding ActiveCare, the options included: increasing state funding and benefits; offer only an HD plan with a health savings account; retain only one plan that would look like ActiveCare Select; eliminate uniform statewide coverage; and eliminate coverage for spouses.

All of these proposals have numerous options within them, including shared responsibility between the insured and the state, and the options can be used in concert. It should also be noted that this is a draft, and many of the options are not financially feasible. What is clear from the study is that TRS believes the legislature needs to increase its funding for both Care and ActiveCare. The final version of the studies should be made available in the next month. A draft of the studies can be found here: http://www.trs.state.tx.us/about/documents/trscare_sustain_activecare_afford_study.pdf

The Board will next meet on November 20-21, 2014.


October 15, 2014

Watch online: TRS to consider future of ActiveCare, Care

On Friday, Oct. 17, Teacher Retirement System staff will update the TRS Board on the Health Benefits Study that is almost complete. The study, which will offer various options for ActiveCare and Care, should be presented to the legislature in November. 

TSTA will be testifying Friday. If you have concerns about the future of ActiveCare or Care, we highly recommend you follow the meeting online at http://trs.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/c49b025876ef404dab8bdcf4b198af401d.


October 14, 2014

School equity

It is the mission of NEA to make every public school as good as the best public school and to ensure that the gifts and talents of each and every child are given a chance to flourish. 


October 10, 2014

Take the Healthy Me, Better Year pledge

NEA Health Information Network has recently launched a pledge-based social media campaign around member self-care – the Healthy Me, Better Year pledge. It's a simple reminder that taking care of yourself benefits your students and the entire school community. Take the pledge at http://bit.ly/HMBYpledge and use the hashtag #NewSelfie1415 across social media platforms.


October 9, 2014

Texas House Public Education Committee report: testing concerns continue

The House Committee on Public Education met on Oct. 8 to monitor and hear testimony on the implementation of House Bill 5, legislation passed last year that eliminated 10 high school end-of-course STAAR exams, leaving only five: Algebra I, English I and II, US History, and biology.  The hearing focused primarily on testimony and committee members’ concerns regarding the testing of students with disabilities and the number of students who were unable to pass the Algebra I and English II exams, which is necessary to graduate.

Declining graduation rates and promotion policies troubled committee members, prompting some to express a desire to file legislation next session to eliminate all high stakes exams that are not required by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, including both high school exams and those required in grades 3-8. The staff of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) made it clear that the commissioner of education does not believe he has the authority to waive the STAAR requirements for graduation from high school, and one committee member suggested a bill be fast tracked by spring of next year to help students trying to graduate in 2015.

Obviously, high stakes testing remains an important and explosive issue; TSTA will continue to work to eliminate testing as a measure in a punitive accountability and evaluation system and to return testing to its proper role as a beneficial diagnostic tool.

The House Committee on Public Education also met jointly with the House Committee on Corrections to discuss the impact of SB 393 and SB 1114, legislation passed last session that now prohibit school police and resource officers from ticketing students involved in fights, cursing teachers, disrupting class, chewing gum, etc., all matters considered Class C misdemeanors. 

TSTA worked last session to make sure a teacher can still remove a disruptive student from a classroom, but ticketing had raised concerns about the impact of the $500 fines being levied against students that were processed through the juvenile justice system in city and county governments. Due to the enormous number of these citations clogging up court systems and the resulting tarnish on a students' records, state senators Royce West, D-Dallas, and John Whitmire, D-Houston, enacted the legislation to reduce the use of ticketing.

The next meeting of the House Committee on Public Education is Thursday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m.


October 8, 2014

Pledge to vote for education

The legislative majority cut school funding; let’s send them a message on Nov. 4. TSTA and Progress Texas are asking you to sign a petition pledging to put our kids and their neighborhood schools first, then share your action with your friends and family on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. http://act.progresstexas.org/sign/education/?source=tsta

Early voting starts Oct. 20

In less than two weeks, you can help elect the candidates who support public education. Early voting takes place Monday, Oct. 20 through Friday, Oct. 31. Learn more about voting early in person or by mail at http://votetexas.gov/voting/when/#early-voting

Your vote makes a difference

Elected officials make decisions that affect you and your students, including salary, class size, benefits, course content, and retirement. That's why we formed TSTA-Political Action Committee - to screen, endorse, and fund pro-public education candidates up and down the ballot. Here is a list of endorsed candidates who have contested races in November; please support them and encourage your family and friends to join you.

http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/EndorsedCandidates14_0.pdf 


October 6, 2014

Candelaria represents NEA on national panel

TSTA President Noel Candelaria was a panelist on "Early Childhood Education: Why Universal Pre-K Makes Sense for America" at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 20.

He joined Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, Libby Doggett of the U.S. Department of Education, Ana Gallegos of Tucson UISD, and Dr. Ana Maria Garcia Blanco of the Instituto Nueva Escuela in Puerto Rico.

“It was a great opportunity to talk about the overwhelming need to provide access to Pre-K for all 3-4 year olds, especially in our neediest communities, to eradicate the school-to-prison pipeline,” he said. “A lot of great data was shared regarding the need to ensure adequate funding for quality programs that offer full day Pre-K with small class sizes; certified teachers with adequate professional development as early childhood specialists; and the need to do away with the punitive overemphasis of testing that is robbing children of learning — a toxic environment that goes against everything we know about children’s brain development. I also spoke about Race to the Top funding for Pre-K that creates a system of winners and losers, when we cannot afford to lose one blessed child to inadequate funding."


October 2, 2014

TSTA president: Texas students deserve a solid school funding system now

“It would be a disservice to Texas schoolchildren for Attorney General Greg Abbott to continue wasting tax dollars on an appeal. Our students shouldn’t have to wait another year or longer for the financial resources they need to excel,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said in a Dallas Morning News op-ed today.

“The Texas economy is strong. The state comptroller’s office recently reported a 5.5 percent annual growth in sales tax receipts last fiscal year, and similar growth this year is expected to swell state coffers. The rainy day fund is at $8.4 billion and growing, thanks to robust oil and gas production.

“There is no reason, financially, for the Legislature to delay a real school finance remedy past next year’s session,” Candelaria said. “Lawmakers need to begin work to develop a reliable school funding plan now, so all our children can have equal educational opportunity. http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20141002-tsta-president-texas-students-deserve-a-solid-school-funding-system-now.ece


October 1, 2014

Helping girls make the leap from great students to great leaders 

Educators play a key role in supporting girls’ leadership development and shaping perceptions among all students about girls’ and women’s suitability for leadership, according to a new report from NEA, the American Association of University Women, and the Tisch College of Citizenship & Public Service at Tufts University.

The report, Closing the Leadership Gap-How Educators Can Help Girls Lead, was released at a webinar/panel discussion yesterday that featured teachers and key international education and equity advocates. 

Read the report, watch a recording of the webcast (scroll forward eight minutes), and download NEA’s Girls Leadership and Equity Toolkit here: http://www.nea.org/women.

$30 million in proven or suspected fraud in Pennsylvania charter industry

The Center for Popular Democracy has issued the first state-specific follow-up to its whistle-blowing May 2014 report Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse. The report reveals more than $30 million in proven or charged fraud, waste, or abuse in Pennsylvania’s charter school system.

“It’s time for lawmakers to stop providing charter industry players a blank check with little oversight and no accountability. We’re referring to the same politicians who call for ‘public school accountability’ by piling toxic tests on our students, yet seem to look the other way when it’s time to hold all charter schools responsible for their use of public funds,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said.

Read the press release at http://www.nea.org/home/60569.htm.

September 30, 2014

TSTA: Van de Putte advocates for schools; Patrick poses a disaster

Leticia Van de Putte reaffirmed her position as the real education candidate during last night's lieutenant governor's debate, while Dan Patrick emerged from hiding long enough to try to mislead Texans about his miserable education voting record and the real danger he poses for public schools. 

"Dan Patrick, in tonight's debate, continued to falsely portray himself as a champion of education, when, in fact, he would be a disaster for public schools as lieutenant governor," said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. "Patrick voted for $5.4 billion in school budget cuts in 2011, he voted against the entire state budget -- including all education funding -- in 2013, and, if given the chance, he will continue to steal tax dollars from Texas students for more testing and private school vouchers.

"Leticia Van de Putte is a genuine advocate for students and educators. She will reduce testing and tap into billions in available state revenue to increase our investment in strong neighborhood schools, including expanded early childhood education and other programs critical to our state's future," Candelaria added.

The state comptroller's office recently reported that sales tax revenue grew by 5.5 percent last fiscal year and is expected to increase by about that much this year, thanks to a strong economy. The Rainy Day Fund balance has reached $8.4 billion and is projected to reach double digits soon because of increased oil and gas production.


September 29, 2014

A closer look at the school finance ruling

In his recent EdAlert newsletter, Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth explains why increased funding for public schools makes sense and why Texas will have a “stark future” if education gaps aren’t closed. He also includes useful facts about school funding taken directly from the Executive Summary in the Judge Dietz's ruling. http://www.tsta.org/sites/default/files/EdAlert_School_Funding.pdf


September 27, 2014

NEA President: Texas tour highlights

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García’s Back to School Tour included Texas, where she was joined by TSTA President Noel Candelaria and local leaders. See some of the highlights at http://lilysblackboard.org/2014/09/texas-week


September 26, 2014

TSTA: Abbott wrong to appeal school finance decision

The Texas State Teachers Association said today that Attorney General Greg Abbott’s decision to appeal the school finance ruling is a huge disservice to school children, educators, and Texas taxpayers.

“Despite being caught telling a lie in the first gubernatorial debate, Greg Abbott did not have to appeal the district court ruling that found the state’s school funding system inadequate and unconstitutional,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “By filing this appeal, Abbott made it very clear that he is willing to make five million Texas students wait another year or more for the resources crucial to their success.

“We demand that Abbott quit wasting tax dollars and drop an appeal that robs our children of the opportunity guaranteed them by our great state,” Candelaria added.  “Legislators should begin working now on a fair and legal school funding plan that can be enacted during next year’s session.”

Your vote makes a difference

These candidates, who are endorsed by TSTA-Political Action Committee, have contested races in November. Please consider helping them by volunteering, contributing to TSTA-PAC, and taking your friends and family with you to vote.
http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/EndorsedCandidates14_0.pdf 


September 24, 2014

NEA expanding teacher leadership initiative

NEA, the Center for Teaching ,and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards are expanding the national Teacher Leadership Initiative, a joint endeavor to develop a new generation of leaders within the teaching profession. TLI was launched in 2013 and was formally announced earlier this year at an event at NEA.

“Positive change in education must be driven by the profession and shaped by the experience of teachers working in classrooms,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “This initiative will ultimately develop expertise and engage thousands of teacher-leaders in leadership work in schools—because every student should have the best possible educators in their schools.”
 
The NEA Foundation was awarded a $750,000 grant over 24 months from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) of Battle Creek, Mich., which will support the NEA’s efforts to expand the scope of the initiative in three ways:

Recruit a more diverse cohort

NEA will expand the number of participant states and develop an “urban” teacher cohort in efforts to recruit, retain, and prepare a more diverse pool of candidates for the TLI. New sites for expansion include Columbus, Ohio and Prince George’s County, Md.

Expand the TLI curriculum

NEA will build a new module for Diversity, Equity, and Cultural Competence (DECC) to help teachers develop Instructional Leadership skills that improve their effectiveness in teaching students from diverse cultural, racial, economic, and language backgrounds.

Design leadership capstone experiences

This project will also foster leadership in public policy by ensuring that teacher leaders know about and learn to influence the key policy levers that influence educational equity and teaching excellence. As with other TLI strands, the NEA will develop capstone projects that will require teacher leaders to study and engage on a related policy issue related to equity at the district or state level.

The TLI is a product of the organizations’ shared vision of teacher-leadership advancing the profession. The long-term goals of the TLI are: 1) define the foundational competencies of teacher leadership; 2) develop relevant experiences and supports to help teachers cultivate those competencies; and (3) activate teachers to be leaders for their profession as a result of their participation in this process . The TLI has previously received support the Ford Foundation as well.

Participants will engage with an interactive curriculum designed and facilitated by other expert teachers. Their learning will take place on CTQ’s collaboratory platform and in face-to-face meetings led by NEA affiliate leaders. Once teacher leaders have been prepared, TLI will mobilize their leadership to help advance student learning, strengthen the teaching profession, and provide vision and direction to the Association. In addition, the partners will develop systems to support their on-going professional growth.

“The program will prepare and support the next generation of our profession’s leaders to meet the demands of a 21st century teaching professional and ensure the success of their students,” said Eskelsen Garcia.


September 23, 2014

Free webinar: Girls’ Pathways to Leadership

NEA invites you to a free webinar revealing new research on closing the leadership gap for girls, insights about international innovations and challenges, and tips to facilitate learning environments that foster girls' leadership. The report was commissioned by NEA and the American Association of University Women, and conducted by Tufts University.

WHEN: Tuesday, September 30 at 7 p.m. EST

WHERE: Virtual Event (You will need to install Firefox or Chrome browser. After verifying you have either browser, you will need to install a Google Hangout Plugin.)

WHY: Women account for half of the U.S. population, yet they hold only 24 percent of seats in state legislatures; 12 percent of mayoral seats in the 100 largest American cities; 10 percent of governorships; 20 percent of seats in the U.S. Senate; and 18 percent of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Schools provide a venue for addressing persistent gender leadership gaps by creating a pipeline of girls and young women who are interested in taking on future leadership roles.  Educators play an important role in supporting student leadership development and in shaping the perceptions of all students about girls’ and women’s suitability for leadership.


September 22, 2014

TSTA: Greg Abbott lied about school finance appeal

Attorney General Greg Abbott is under no legal requirement to appeal state District Judge John Dietz’s school finance ruling, contrary to the claim Abbott made in Friday’s gubernatorial debate. Abbott said a 2011 law does not give him the discretion to drop the appeal and settle the lawsuit.

“Greg Abbott either deliberately lied to Texans, or, as the state’s chief lawyer, isn’t competent enough to know the law,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “There is absolutely nothing in state law that requires the attorney general to continue wasting tax dollars trying to defend an inadequate and unconstitutional school funding system.”

“TSTA renews its demand that Abbott drop further appeals now, and we urge legislators to begin work immediately on a school finance plan that gives all Texas children the resources they need to succeed,” Candelaria added. “We commend Senator Wendy Davis for advocating for a sound school funding plan, not costly, politically motivated delays.”

By beginning work now, lawmakers can be prepared to use surplus state funds and a rapidly growing Rainy Day Fund to enact a constitutional funding law when the legislature convenes in January.

The 2011 law that Abbott cited during the debate merely specified which settlements of lawsuits against the state are contingent on legislative approval. It did nothing to prevent the attorney general from dropping an appeal and negotiating a school finance settlement for presentation to the Legislature.

Members are phone banking for pro-education candidates

Here are some photos of TSTA Region 1B phone banking this weekend for Senator Leticia Van de Putte, TSTA-PAC endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor! https://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets/72157647911696955


September 19, 2014

TSTA: Wendy Davis the clear winner for public education

This evening’s gubernatorial debate reaffirmed what public education advocates have known for a long time: Wendy Davis is the only candidate for the state’s top office who will advocate strongly for public schools, educators and students.

“Wendy Davis is the clear winner for public education,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “Davis made it clear that, as governor, she will make sure testing is cut, and not school funding, so educators and students have the time and resources they need to succeed.”

“The state comptroller’s office has made it clear that because of Texas’ strong economy, the Legislature will have billions of dollars in additional revenue next session – more than enough money for lawmakers to start working to correct the deficiencies in the inadequate and unconstitutional school funding system that Greg Abbott is defending,” Candelaria added. “Now is the time to act, but Greg Abbott’s courtroom appeals will force our school children to suffer through a year or more of additional delays.”

In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this week, John Heleman, the comptroller’s revenue estimator, said sales tax revenue grew by 5.5 percent last year and was expected to continue growing at a similar rate next year. Additionally, he said, the Rainy Day Fund balance has reached $8.4 billion and will continue to grow to as much as $15 billion, thanks to increased oil production.


Pension Trust Fund exceeds expectations

On September 18-19, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees held a quarterly meeting. Executive Director Brian Guthrie stated that the Pension Trust Fund finished the fiscal year close to $130 billion.

The Fund exceeded all expectations with an astonishing 16.5 percent annual rate of return. Guthrie also noted that he expects the forthcoming actuarial report (due before the November board meeting) to declare the Fund actuarially sound, with a funding period of between 25 and 27 years.

The October board meeting will be devoted exclusively to healthcare, with a layout and discussion of a draft of the findings of the health care study. The complete Trust Fund and health care studies should be made public some time in November. At the October board meeting, the board will also discuss going out for a bid for a new pharmacy benefits manager for TRS Care.

Finally, on Wednesday, September 24, the Legislative Budget Board will present to Senate Finance the cost drivers for the TRS and TEA budgets for the next biennium. Included in that presentation will be TRS’ request of $875 million for TRS Care as an exceptional item in their legislative appropriations request.


September 18, 2014

Watch the Wendy Davis-Greg Abbott Debate, Friday, 9-19, at 6pm

Don’t miss the debate Friday night between Wendy Davis, the TSTA endorsed candidate for governor, and her opponent Greg Abbott, who continues defending the education budget cuts and our inadequate school funding system. This will be one of only two televised gubernatorial debates before the Nov. 4 election. http://www.tsta.org/sites/default/files/DebateInfo.pdf

September 17, 2014

TSTA endorses Houston, Collier for attorney general, comptroller

The Texas State Teachers Association today announced its endorsements of Democrats Sam Houston for Texas attorney general and Mike Collier for state comptroller.

“These offices – the state’s chief lawyer and its revenue estimator – are extremely important to educators and public schools,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

“As attorney general, Sam Houston won’t waste tax dollars defending an inadequate and unconstitutional school finance system,” Candelaria said, noting that his opponent, Ken Paxton, voted for $5.4 billion in school budget cuts in 2011 and has admitted that he violated state securities laws, which are designed to protect educators and other hard-working Texans against fraudulent investments.

“As comptroller, Mike Collier would use his experience as a first-rate accountant and financial expert to provide the kind of accurate revenue estimates we needed in 2011, when the current comptroller’s underestimate of available state revenue triggered the devastating school budget cuts that Mike’s opponent, Glenn Hegar, supported,” Candelaria said. Hegar has also proposed repealing local property taxes, a major source of school revenue, and a proposal that would require a massive increase in the state sales tax.

TSTA, through its political action committee, earlier endorsed State Senators Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, two of the Legislature’s strongest advocates for educators and public schools, for governor and lieutenant governor.


September 16, 2014

Annenberg study calls for new charter school standards

A new report by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University calls for increased accountability, transparency, and equity in the taxpayer-funded charter school sector. The Institute is proposing standards to be implemented into state and charter authorizer policies that would better serve all students and protect the public’s investment in public education. Approximately 2.57 million students are enrolled in over 6,000 charter schools nationwide.

"Standards and vigorous oversight are key to protecting charter school students and the public’s investment in public education,” NEA President Eskelsen García said. http://www.nea.org/home/60421.htm


September 15, 2014

Support the candidates who will support you

TSTA members are working hard to elect -- and reelect -- pro-public education candidates in November. Here are some photos of Southwest TSTA meeting with Rep. Phil Cortez and TSTA President Noel Candelaria today. https://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets/72157647593907236


September 11, 2014

Garcia promises to lead high-stakes testing revolution

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia promised NEA would lead the nation’s teachers in making the case “to put a blessed end to this obsession with high-stakes testing.” http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/local/article_7f35902a-3962-11e4-beb0-0017a43b2370.html 


September 10, 2014

TEA to apply for federal preschool expansion grant

TEA news release: Commissioner of Education Michael Williams has notified the U.S. Department of Education that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will submit an application for a federal preschool expansion grant.

Jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the new Preschool Development Grants Program will award federal funds through a competitive process to help states build, develop and expand voluntary, high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income families.

“One way to begin closing the achievement gap in Texas is to better prepare children who are entering our public schools,” said Commissioner Williams. “With many high-quality pre-k programs already established in our communities, this federal grant opportunity allows an avenue to enhance and build upon that success.” 

Because Texas currently serves 10 percent or more of four-year olds in established pre-k programs, it is eligible to receive an expansion grant of up to $30 million per year for four years. The total federal funding available nationwide for pre-k expansion grants is $160 million. Texas is one of 35 states, along with the District of Columbia, that are eligible for this funding.

TEA will submit its formal application by Oct. 14, 2014 (the submission deadline). Awards will be announced by the federal government in December. Under the program criteria, awarded funds will begin serving students on or before Dec. 31, 2015.

For more information about the federal Preschool Development Grants Program, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/preschooldevelopmentgrants/index.html.


September 9, 2014

TSTA: TEA budget is inadequate

The Texas State Teachers Association today criticized the Texas Education Agency for submitting a “woefully inadequate” appropriations request for the Legislature to consider next year.

“Education Commissioner Michael Williams should be a leader in demanding that Texas school children have the resources they need to succeed,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “This woefully inadequate budget request would not allow schools to fully recover from the $5.4 billion in budget cuts imposed by the legislative majority in 2011, much less meet continued enrollment growth.”

“The Texas economy is strong.  So, the money will be there to correct crippling deficiencies in school funding. Commissioner Williams and the legislative majority need to find the political will to do the right thing,” Candelaria added.

Part of the cut funding was restored in 2013. But with total school enrollment increasing in Texas by about 80,000 students per year, school districts still will have less state aid to spend per student than they did in 2010-11, the last year before the budget cuts. Enrollment growth and inflation alone are expected to cost an additional $3.8 billion over the next biennium. That means the TEA budget, if adopted by the Legislature, would force local property taxpayers to shoulder more education costs, while state tax revenue is increasing by billions of dollars.

Under the TEA budget, several key grant programs cut in 2011, including the Student Success Initiative and full-day, pre-kindergarten, would not be restored.

New on Grading Texas: when school lunches become political

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has a beef with a “Meatless Monday” program in some Dripping Springs ISD cafeterias, and I have a couple of beefs with Staples, who is a politician, not a nutritionist. http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas/uncategorized/when-school-lunches-beco...

Attempt to overturn key provisions of Citizens United decision clears Senate hurdle 

A legislative attempt to override the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC passed a key hurdle in the U.S. Senate yesterday. SJ Res 19, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would expressly grant Congress the authority to regulate and limit the amount of money raised for and spent on federal political campaigns, was able to meet the 60-vote threshold to proceed to debate in the Senate. The provision will allow states to regulate campaign spending at their level.  

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC in 2010, corporate money has flooded our political system, drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans. In 2012 alone, “Super PACs” and 501(c)4 entities spent hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the outcome of elections. 

“As we approach our midterm elections, millions of dollars of secret, unaccountable corporate money is being spent to influence voters – and politicians,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said. “Educators live the impact of the Citizens’ United decision every day as they fight the pro-privatization agenda of the Koch Brothers, the Walton family, and ALEC-member politicians. Educators know that the corporate education agenda, including private school voucher schemes, teacher evaluations tied to toxic testing, policies that promote the misuse and overuse of high stakes standardized testing, and slashing public education budgets have hurt our students and public schools. We urge the Senate to pass this constitutional amendment to allow Congress to turn down the volume on corporate speech so individual citizens can be heard as our nation’s founders intended."

Follow NEA at twitter.com/neamedia.


September 8, 2014

More funds for Texas teachers and students

In an oped in today’s McAllen Monitor, TSTA President Noel Candelaria and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia discuss the great jobs that educators do every day in teaching children and challenge state government to do its part by passing a fair and adequately funded school finance system. Candelaria and Garcia will tour the Valley this week. http://www.tsta.org/sites/default/files/commentary-more-funds-for-tex.pdf

NEA President visiting Rio Grande Valley this week

TSTA President Noel Candelaria and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia kicked off this week's tour of schools in the Rio Grande Valley with an editorial in The Monitor, McAllen's newspaper.

The leaders, who both began their teaching careers working with disadvantaged students, expect to meet teachers with a high percentage of students who come from low-income families, are English Language Learners, and may be at risk of dropping out of school.

"We have taught children who faced these challenges and went on to succeed in school, but every child and every teacher needs the resources required for success," they said in the column. "Educators alone can’t deliver these resources for our students. Our students need help from everyone who believes in equal opportunity for every child, no matter what their background.” 

Read more at http://www.themonitor.com/opinion/commentary-more-funds-for-texas-teachers-and-students/article_beb96674-355f-11e4-836d-001a4bcf6878.html.


September 2, 2014

A message from your new NEA President 

Lily Eskelsen Garcia took office this week as NEA president! She sends this message to you:

"It's my first week on the job as your National Education Association president, and I want to share this email alert for my new and improved online platform, Lily's Blackboard - www.lilysblackboard.org. We've created this improved site to share my thoughts and the latest news on key issues facing us as we work together in support of student success and public education. For this 2014 Back to School season, I also wanted to highlight a few resources inspired by our members, who are heroes for America's students each and every day. I look forward to staying in touch with you in the coming months, so stay tuned! Also, if you're on Twitter, connect with me @Lily_NEA. Thank you for all you have done and will do to make this the best school year yet for our students!


August 28, 2014

TSTA: Get to work on a school finance solution now

The Texas State Teachers Association today urged state leaders to comply with Judge Dietz’s school finance ruling, stop engaging in costly appeals, and get to work now on a legislative solution for the upcoming legislative session.

“It’s time for state leaders to stop defending a woefully inadequate school finance system in the courtroom and turn their attention to providing students and teachers the resources they need to excel in the classroom,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

“Filing appeals and waiting another year or longer may be convenient for some politicians, but making students wait in a state system that provides roughly $600 less per student than it did six years ago is shameful,” Candelaria added.

“TSTA urges Attorney General Greg Abbott to stop wasting time and tax dollars on appeals and calls on legislators to start working now to develop a school finance plan worthy of our students,” Candelaria said. “Every day of delay risks the future of another Texas child and the future prosperity of our great state.”

Senator Van de Putte blasts TEA Commissioner Williams for blaming teachers for poor STAAR test performance

This week, the Senate Committee on Education met to discuss STAAR writing scores and STAAR passage rates on end-of-course exams. TEA Commissioner Williams attended the hearing to discuss STAAR with the Committee, and he blamed teachers for poor STAAR test performance. 

Before the Commissioner spoke, the committee heard testimony that indicated a large number of students were able to score well in advanced level math and English courses, score well on the ACT or SAT, and gain entrance to college, yet were unable to pass the STAAR EOC exams in math and English. Senator Van de Putte suggested there must be something wrong with the STAAR system if students can do well in the classroom and gain entrance into college, yet fail STAAR exams. 

Commissioner Williams responded that he believed the problem was with the teachers. He stated that the tests have become harder, the subject matter more difficult, and that the teachers were not able to elevate their level of instruction.

Senator Van de Putte blasted Commissioner Williams for the assertion that teachers were to blame, and pointed out that teachers are not even told the content areas that the STAAR exams cover, leaving them to teach in the dark and hoping the kids hit the mark. She went on to state that the tests should be used as a diagnostic tool only, that the state needed to remove the high stakes, punitive nature of the STAAR system, and let the teachers know the content that will be covered on the tests.

Commissioner Williams also came under fire from Senator West for failing to close achievement gaps between African-American students and higher performing student populations. Committee members were clearly disgusted with STAAR and EOC exams.  Senator Van de Putte hopes to address these concerns during the next legislative session, hopefully as Lt. Governor, and TSTA encourages you to help her win that very important election.


August 27, 2014

Davis holds education news event at TSTA headquarters

Flanked by TSTA President Noel Candelaria, Vice President Ovidia Molina and others, Sen. Wendy Davis, TSTA’s endorsed candidate for governor, held a news conference at TSTA headquarters in Austin today. 

She talked about the dramatic differences between her record on public school issues and that of her opponent, Greg Abbott. 

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a person who is in the insider network and who took our schools to court in the first place is someone they can depend on to suddenly fight for them,” Davis, who has consistently fought the legislature’s cuts to schools, said.

Also speaking at the event were TSTA President Noel Candelaria, Education Austin Vice President Montserrat Garibay, and a student.

Clips of Davis and Candelaria on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/TSTAeditor

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets/72157646920846362


August 22, 2014

TEA suspends SSI math requirement for grades 5 and 8

The Student Success Initiative (SSI) requirement that students in grades 5 and 8 must pass the STAAR mathematics test to be promoted to the next grade level has been suspended for the upcoming school year, state Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced today. He said the suspension was necessary because of the state’s transition to revised statewide curriculum standards in math.

The commissioner’s action demonstrates the necessity of aligning tests with curriculum standards that are taught. Williams’ announcement and yesterday’s announcement that the federal government will give states flexibility for a year in tying test scores to teacher evaluations also reinforce TSTA’s argument that an over-reliance on testing is not the way to educate students.

To read the full news release from TEA go to http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx?id=25769815716.


August 21, 2014

Duncan: we'll allow flexibility in tying high stakes consequences to student test scores

Today, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that the Obama administration WILL allow flexibility in tying high-stakes consequences to student test scores for up to two years. In response, NEA released a statement to media that reads in part:

“There is increasing evidence that the collision between old and new standards and assessments with already flawed evaluation systems are fraught with pitfalls and dangerous consequences for student learning and growth—especially when these systems are developed hastily with too much external pressure and too little time for collaboration. It is just common sense to allow a moratorium on high-stakes consequences of test scores,” said NEA President-elect Lily Eskelsen García.

NEA’s full statement can be found in the press center at: http://www.nea.org/home/60170.htm

Duncan’s full announcement can be found at: http://www.ed.gov/blog/2014/08/a-back-to-school-conversation-with-teachers-and-school-leaders

TSTA will be looking at how this impacts the waiver that is the basis for TEA's pilot program, which includes test-based teacher evaluation, and legislative efforts that seek to tie teacher evaluation to standardized test scores.

Participation in state teacher survey is low

The Texas Education Agency released the results of the Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning (TELL) Texas Survey this week
and the responses from educators who actually took the survey about teaching and working conditions were mostly positive. But since only about 20 percent of school-based licensed educators participated, no one really knows how accurately TELL portrays what most Texas educators think.

TSTA encouraged its members to participate when the survey went online last spring. But the timing wasn’t good. The survey was conducted while many teachers were preparing to administer STAAR tests and finishing up many other chores as the end of the school year was approaching. Here is a link to the TEA news release: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx? id=25769815625.


August 20, 2014

New poll shows skepticism over standardized tests

As students, parents, educators and community members continue to push back against the overuse and abuse of standardized testing in our public schools, the most recent PDK/Gallup poll reinforces that Americans have had enough of the nation’s obsession with testing. According to the results, parents are concerned about the amount of testing and an overwhelming majority of public school parents (68%) are skeptical that standardized tests help teachers know what their students are learning or what to teach.

“More and more Americans understand that over testing is taking a toll on our students and on what and how we teach,” said National Education Association President-elect Lily E. Garcia. “Students and teachers continue to lose more and more class time to testing and test preparation, and that time should be spent teaching and learning a rich, engaging curriculum. The serious consequences of these toxic tests will only snowball unless parents, educators and community members push back against lawmakers determined to tie high-stakes decisions to fill-in-the-bubble tests.” 

As opposition to the overuse of standardized tests increases, so has opposition to connecting those tests to teacher evaluations. According to the poll, 61 percent say they oppose the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations. “More and more parents and the public understand the flaws of these tests. And what's even more absurd is that we've seen educators being evaluated on students and subjects they don’t even teach,” said Garcia. “Enough is enough.”

The poll also indicated that public support for Common Core State Standards is diminishing as the majority of Americans are learning of the standards from the media instead of their schools.

“It’s no surprise that many aren’t behind the Common Core as they are victims of targeted misinformation campaigns. Some on the far right have turned high standards for all students into a political football,” said Garcia. “Our students’ futures aren’t a game. These Standards are an opportunity for all students to have access to a great education, but are being overshadowed by a propaganda war on TV and poor implementation by too many states and districts on the ground. Educators need the resources, time and training needed to get it right for students."

Other key findings of 46th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools:

    • 50% of Americans gave the schools in their communities either an A or B, with parents awarding local schools even higher marks. These grades have remained consistent over the last few years.
    • Two-thirds of Americans oppose public school vouchers.

Read the PDK Survey Part I here: http://pdkintl.org/noindex/PDK_Poll46_2014.pdf.


August 19, 2014

Candelaria: Back to school brings new opportunities

An op-ed by TSTA President Noel Candelaria ran in the Lufkin News today:

At the start of the school year, I am reminded of the remarkable connection between teacher and student that is at the heart of learning. When a new class of students meets its new teacher, each student brings both a challenge and an opportunity for success.

My greatest opportunity in the classroom was Robert. That is not his real name, but his challenges, and mine, were very real. Robert was a special needs student. He was often in trouble, in and out of police custody for aggressive behavior. He even shoved a filing cabinet toward a teacher.

Robert was referred to the alternative campus where I taught and was assigned to my class. I was concerned about how he might affect my other students, but I was determined to get through to Robert.

I visited Robert’s home and learned that he acted up when he didn’t take his medication, and that often happened because his single mom was a quadriplegic and sometimes she couldn’t find transportation to the pharmacy.

Some may have seen Robert as impossible, or a failure, but I told his mother my job was to make sure he graduated from high school. After arrangements were made to get help for Robert and his mother, his behavior improved. It wasn’t easy, but Robert made progress and he graduated. He now attends community college and loves to write.

There are other Roberts in neighborhood public schools throughout Texas, where there are teachers equally dedicated to turning their challenges into success stories. Most students’ needs are less dramatic than Robert’s, but just as real. Some enter school speaking little, if any, English. Some come to school too hungry to hunger for knowledge. Others are gifted and talented.

We don’t have standardized students, and teachers must work to find a way to help them meet their unique needs and develop their unique skills. We teach for that moment when a light flickers in our student’s eye that says “I get it,” when learning is fun and builds the confidence needed to reach the next level.

Those moments define success in the classroom, but these days, teachers face other challenges. Crowded classrooms make it harder to give our students the individual attention they deserve. Teachers are frustrated by a high stakes testing epidemic that steals valuable time needed for teaching, dulls the joy of learning, and improperly judges them and their students by a single standardized test score.

As school begins this year, teachers simply want to be free to teach so our students can be free to learn. Teachers are getting ready, spending their own money to buy classroom supplies, preparing to meet their challenges and turn them into opportunities. More than anything, your child’s teacher wants to reach that “aha” moment that lights a child’s eyes when learning happens, because those moments light the path to a successful future, for all of us.


August 5, 2014

TSTA applauds Leticia Van De Putte’s education plan

The Texas State Teachers Association today applauded Leticia Van De Putte for proposing education priorities that will give educators and students the resources and the time they need for classroom success.

“Senator Van De Putte knows that students aren’t standardized. She knows that each student needs a good teacher and the time to learn, not a battery of stressful standardized tests,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

“Leticia is from a family of educators,” Candelaria noted.  “As lieutenant governor, she will work to make sure our teachers have the resources they need to teach effectively and restore common sense to Texas classrooms.”

See the plan here: http://leticiavandeputte.com/texasfirst-education-2

Read a Grading Texas blog on the plan here: http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas/testing/fighting-the-testing-plague.


July 25, 2014

Charter rule hearing

A long line of charter school operators and supporters complained to TEA administrators Friday that new proposed rules designed to hold charter operators more accountable for the tax dollars they receive from the state were too restrictive.

The rules were drafted to comply with requirements of Senate Bill 2, a law enacted by the Legislature in 2013 to raise the previous limit of 215 charters that could be granted in Texas to more than 300 over the next several years. Legislators agreed to the charter expansion only after imposing higher accountable standards on the schools’ academic performances and financial practices.

TSTA believes that the state should hold charter operators to strict accountability standards in how they spend the public’s money. Each tax dollar granted to a corporate-style charter is one less dollar spent on neighborhood public schools, where the vast majority of Texas school children will continue to be educated. (Press release here: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/20140725-Charter.pdf.)

Even with the new accountability standards, charters still have fewer restrictions than traditional public schools. Charters don’t have to provide bus service, and many don’t, and many charter operators cherry pick the best and brightest students, while a neighborhood public school is required to educate any child who lives in its district.

TEA will accept public comments on the new charter rules through Aug. 18.


July 17, 2014

The heartbreak of being a teacher in Texas

TSTA and Del Valle Education Association member Katie Plemmons pens an excellent column in the Texas Tribune about the challenges facing Texas teachers today, and the impact of teacher turnover on our students. http://tribtalk.org/2014/07/17/the-heartbreak-of-being-a-teacher-in-texas/


July 15, 2014

New TSTA president, vice president take office

President Noel Candelaria and Vice President Ovidia Molina, the new leadership team for the Texas State Teachers Association, took office today, following their elections by delegates to TSTA’s annual state convention in April. Each was elected to a three-year term.
 Read press release


July 11, 2014

TRS-ActiveCare and TRS-Care

On Thursday, July 10, the House Committee on Pensions and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III (Education) held a joint hearing on the state and future of TRS-ActiveCare and TRS-Care. TSTA testified, urging legislative action to help educators who are bearing the cost of rising health care premiums and preserve the TRS Care program for retirees. read more


July 10, 2014

Getting involved

The November election is critical to Texas public schools and the educators, support staff, and students who work and learn on our campuses and in our classrooms. TSTA is supporting Wendy Davis for Governor and Leticia Van de Putte for Lt. Governor because they have a proven record of fighting for us in the Texas Senate. And their records are far superior to their opponents, who have supported devastating school funding cuts, vouchers, and privatization.

Many TSTA members have asked us how they can get involved in the effort to elect our endorsed “education candidates.” Battleground Texas is organizing neighborhood teams to get the message out in every Texas community, neighbor to neighbor.  With two candidates who are stressing the importance of education in their campaigns, TSTA members can play an important role by  volunteering whatever time you have to be part of a neighborhood team in your community. 

For TSTA, this is about more than just this fall’s election. By volunteering for a neighborhood team, you get practical community organizing experience and build relationships in your community that will help local TSTA efforts when we are working to elect school board candidates who will work with us.

Signing up for a neighborhood team is easy. Simply use this link to sign up, and we’ll get a Battleground Texas neighborhood team leader in touch with you. https://tsta.wufoo.com/forms/yes.


July 9, 2014

NEA RA votes to end toxic testing

The 9,000 delegates to the NEA RA launched a national campaign to put the focus of assessments and accountability back on student learning and end the “test, blame, and punish” system that has dominated public education in the last decade. The campaign will, among other things, seek to end the abuse and overuse of high stakes standardized tests and reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by them. http://www.nea.org/home/59453.htm 


July 7, 2014

New TSTA leaders take office next week

On Tuesday, July 15, Noel Candelaria will become state president of TSTA. Prior to his election as vice president in 2011, he was a special education teacher in Ysleta ISD and president of Ysleta Teachers Association. Ovidia Molina, an ESL and history teacher in Alief ISD and Region 3B president, will become vice president. 

All-minority, all-female team to lead NEA

At the NEA Representative Assembly July 3-6 in Denver, delegates elected a new president: current Vice President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. Garcia, who was an ESP and teacher in Utah, takes office Sept. 1. Mary Hatwood Futrell was the last woman to lead NEA, from 1983-89.

Delegates also elected Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle, a Pennsylvania science teacher, as vice president, and Executive Committee member Princess Moss, a Virginia music teacher, as secretary-treasurer. 

Honoring Malala Yousafzai

In 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an activist in Pakistan, was gunned down by Taliban militants determined to ban girls from attending school. NEA honored Yousafzai, who continues to advocate for education and children, with the Mary Hatwood Futrell Human and Civil Rights Award and the 2014 NEA Friend of Education Award. Watch a video here: http://www.nea.org/grants/59660.htm.

July 3, 2014

Class size waivers still rampant

From the Dallas Morning News: The Texas Education Agency excused 1,272 elementary schools from the 22-pupil limit in kindergarten through fourth grade. Most cited “financial hardship” or “unanticipated growth” in their requests for waivers. That’s a slight improvement from the previous year, when 1,480 schools were exempted. But it’s nearly 30 percent of the elementary schools in the state. It is also more than 2 1/2 times the number of campuses that received waivers in 2010-11, the last school year before the Legislature dramatically reduced per-pupil funding in an effort to close a huge budget shortfall without raising taxes. Read more at http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20140702-class-size-waivers-still-rampant-in-texas-elementary-schools.ece.

TSTA: Education Commissioner wrong to allow charter expansion

The Texas State Teachers Association today rebuked State Education Commissioner Michael Williams for overturning a veto by the State Board of Education and allowing a corporate charter company from Arizona to expand into Dallas and Irving.

“It was wrong for a political appointee like Commissioner Williams to overturn the decision of elected state officials and give Great Hearts Academies a license to cherry pick students and profits from Dallas County’s public schools and Texas taxpayers,” said TSTA President Rita Haecker.

Numerous reports indicate that Great Hearts has a history of skipping over Hispanic, black and low-income students when it fills its classrooms. In fact, Anglo students make up a majority of students enrolled in Great Hearts classrooms in predominantly Hispanic Phoenix.

“An appointed commissioner should not force Texans to enrich a corporation insensitive to the needs of the majority of Texas school children,” Haecker concluded.


July 1, 2014

Education Austin leader takes spotlight at NEA Annual Meeting

Montserrat Garibay, vice president of Education Austin, spoke at the Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women in Denver June 29; it’s part of the NEA Annual Meeting (http://neatoday.org/2014/06/30/nea-activists-vow-to-continue-fight-for-social-justice). She also will be on stage for the Empowered Educators Day, which will be live streamed July 2 at http://www.gpsnetwork.org/welcome/ra2014.


June 30, 2014

Harris v. Quinn ruling creates uncertainty

In a 5-4 ruling in Harris v. Quinn today, the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated agency fee arrangements for Illinois home healthcare workers. Harris v. Quinn was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a political group that seeks to weaken the power of working people.

At issue in the case was whether non-union members could reap the wages, benefits, and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share. 

“Quality public services, economic stability, and prosperity start with strong unions, but today the Supreme Court of the United States created a roadblock on that path to the American Dream. This ruling jeopardizes a proven method for raising the quality of home health care services —- namely, allowing home health care workers to join together in a strong union that can bargain for increased wages, affordable health care, and increased training,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. “Every educator who enjoys the benefits and protections of a negotiated contract should, in fairness, contribute to maintaining the contract. And fair share simply makes sure that all educators share the cost of negotiations for benefits that all educators enjoy, regardless of whether they are association members.”

Read more at http://neatoday.org/2014/06/30/with-harris-ruling-supreme-court-silences-voices-of-working-families. 


June 24, 2014

TSTA: Abbott playing politics with school finance

The Texas State Teachers Association today applauded the visiting judge’s decision to deny Attorney General Greg Abbott’s attempt to get state District Judge John Dietz removed from the school finance lawsuit.

“As an impartial judge has clearly pointed out, Greg Abbott’s clumsy attempt to remove Judge Dietz was a frivolous, political attempt to delay judgment on an unconstitutional school funding system. The school children of Texas need an attorney general and a governor who will fight for adequate and fair education funding, not someone who will defend school budget cuts and shortchange Texas’ future,” said TSTA President Rita Haecker.

Read more in an Austin American-Statesman report here: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/judge-dietz-can-stay-on-school-finance-case/ngRJq

Volunteer for a TSTA Committee

TSTA relies on member volunteers to serve on its governing committees. There are three standing committees: Legislative, PAC (Political Advocacy), and Credentials, Bylaws and Elections. In addition, there are the following non-standing committees: ESP, Special Education, Communications and Community Outreach, Governance and Compliance, School Board Policies, Member Advocacy, and Teaching Profession.

The TSTA President Elect has begun the appointment process for 2014-15. All members are eligible to serve. If you are interested in a committee appointment, please contact Neocha Campbell at neochac@tsta.org by July 11. Please indicate your particular area of interest and give a brief explanation of why you would like to serve on a TSTA Governance Committee. Please contact the Center for Executive and Governance at 877-ASK-TSTA if you have any questions.

TEA advises districts of Community and Student Engagement deadline

The Texas Education Agency has advised all school districts and charters of the summer deadlines to submit locally-assigned performance ratings.

Under House Bill 5 (passed last year by the 83rd Texas Legislature), all districts are required to evaluate the district’s performance and the performance of each campus in regard to community and student engagement. Districts must assign one of four performance ratings – Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable – to the district and each campus for overall performance, including the following categories:

  • Fine arts;
  • Wellness and physical education;
  • Community and parental involvement;
  • 21st Century Workforce Development program;
  • Second language acquisition program;
  • Digital learning environment;
  • Dropout prevention strategies; and
  • Educational programs for gifted and talented students.

House Bill 5 requires a local committee or committees to determine the criteria that the district uses to evaluate and assign performance ratings and to evaluate the district’s compliance with statutory reporting and policy requirements. The Texas Education Agency will begin collecting information regarding locally-assigned district and campus community and student engagement ratings beginning in late June.

While districts must assign locally-determined performance ratings for the district and all campuses in the district, ratings are not required for budgeted (non-instructional) campuses, Disciplinary Alternative Education program (DAEP) campuses, Juvenile Justice Alternative Education program (JJAEP) campuses and facilities operated by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

Under House Bill 5, districts must post the ratings and compliance status for the district and each campus on the school district’s website by August 8, 2014.

The Texas Education Agency is required to report the performance ratings and compliance statuses on the TEA website no later than October 1, 2014. Please note that while TEA has reporting responsibilities under House Bill 5, the agency has no authority to provide policy guidance to districts regarding the criteria for determining the community and student engagement performance ratings and compliance statuses.


June 19, 2014

Austin member to lead Empowered Educators Day
As you know, nearly 9,000 educators will be in Denver June 26-July 6 for the NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly (RA).

The RA, the top decision-making body for our nearly 3 million members, will set Association policy for the coming year. But what happens before the RA begins on July 3?

June 29: The Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women looks at past, present, and future social justice activism. This year's theme is "Action Now: Unleashing the Power of Diversity."

June 30: Outreach to Teach has been sponsored by the NEA Student Program for 18 years. Future, current, and retired teachers, support professionals, and higher education faculty will repair, landscape, paint, clean, and decorate Denver's Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy and Valverde Elementary School.

July 1: NEA's Read Across America will host a read-in at the Denver Public Library.

July 2: Raise Your Hand - Empowered Educators Day will showcase the work of educator innovators who are leading the way for quality instruction and student success. TSTA's Montserrat Garibay, vice president of Education Austin, will join NEA President Dennis Van Roekel on stage. In the evening is the Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner.

Read more at http://www.nea.org/grants/2014-annual-meeting-agenda.html


June 18, 2014

Students protest proposed cuts in Beaumont

Through social media, flyers, and protest signs, Beaumont ISD students are fighting to save teacher jobs. While BISD administrators argued against a Texas Education Agency takeover of their district in an Austin courtroom Tuesday, students stood outside with signs about saving their teachers and their fine arts programs. 

"This is serious for us. We care about our teachers, and we don't want to lose our programs," junior Kayla Simmons said. "We know this will affect our future."

Using the hashtags #fineartsmatter and #saveBISD, students have mounted a protest that has reached from their hometown to the state Capitol.

"They probably look at our age and think 'They're just a bunch of kids,' but I think we're just people trying to make a difference," Hope Flores said.

A decision on the TEA takeover is expected Friday. "The plaintiffs in evidence tried to establish harm by demonstrating they had to do a major layoff and had a hard time filling high level jobs because of the uncertainty and low morale that looms because of the possible conservatorship," Portia Bosse, TSTA government relations specialist, said.


June 13, 2014

TSTA fighting home rule takeover of Dallas ISD

A big money effort, fueled by Houston billionaire and former Enron executive John Arnold and supported by the Dallas mayor, is trying to use home rule to pave the way for a hostile takeover of Dallas neighborhood schools. Arnold is the same hedge fund manager who is trying to destroy defined benefit pensions for teachers and public employees, along with his support for a charter takeover of New Orleans schools.

A group with a misleading name, “Save Our Public Schools (SOPS),” has secured the number of petition signatures required for the appointment of a charter commission, and the Dallas ISD School Board is appointing that commission while grappling with numerous legal problems raised by the lack of clarity in a statute that was adopted 19 years ago but has never been used.

• TSTA and NEA-Dallas have been working with the “Our Communities, Our Schools” coalition that includes the AFT Alliance, the NAACP, LULAC, and other community groups opposing home rule. TSTA staff and/or officers have attended five meetings in Dallas in support of NEA-Dallas efforts on this issue.

• TSTA has worked with NEA-Dallas to develop and distribute anti-home rule flyers and information to NEA-Dallas members and other Dallas ISD employees.

• TSTA has also alerted NEA to the need for funding should home rule go on the November ballot, and we are working with other potential funders to outline a campaign plan should one be necessary.

• TSTA is spending PAC funds for direct mail and calls in support of Joyce Freeman in the Dallas ISD District 6 School Board runoff. Freeman opposes home rule, and her opponent is supported by so-called “reformers.” Most observers see the outcome of this runoff as important to giving the home rule opposition much needed momentum.

• TSTA is considering the best timing for any appropriate legal action against the DISD home rule effort. AFT has filed suit against the appointment of a teacher member who may not have met the proper criteria for appointment, and TSTA is monitoring that action closely.


June 12, 2014

No value added model this year but... 

Texas Education Agency will not use test-based Value-Added Model (VAM) in the teacher evaluation pilot this year, but it is funding development of a statewide VAM.

This week, TEA notified us that the 20% VAM will not be scored during the pilot year for teachers in school districts participating in the teacher evaluation pilot program. However, TEA is not backing off their intention to require statewide test-based value-added modeling to be used for teacher evaluation, should the legislature give TEA that authority in the 2015 session. 

TEA locals in Cypress-Fairbanks and Pflugerville were active in their opposition to the test-based VAM being used in the TEA pilot program. Cy-Fair withdrew from the pilot and Pflugerville decided they would not use test-based value-added modeling to evaluate teachers.

At this time, if the legislature approves it, VAM scoring may not happen statewide until the fall of 2016 due to logistical problems with the modeling. TEA is contracting with SAS – a firm that has developed VAM models in Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee – for the value added modeling that would ultimately be used in the new teacher evaluation system as a condition of the federal waiver agreement under NCLB.  

TEA is using Title II federal discretionary funds to pay SAS for its services – another example of funds that could be used for other educational purposes being spent on private contractors in a business born of test-based accountability. 

TSTA has a number of specific concerns related to the directives for developing modeling that would attempt to use a VAM that scores an individual teacher, which research has consistently found to be both impossible and inappropriate. While taxpayers pay for another year of this “modeling development,” the pilot year will also be used to come up with alternative growth measures and to determine the cost of the new system.

TSTA fighting home rule takeover of Dallas ISD

A big money effort, fueled by Houston billionaire and former Enron executive John Arnold and supported by the Dallas mayor, is trying to use home rule to pave the way for a hostile takeover of Dallas neighborhood schools. Arnold is the same hedge fund manager who is trying to destroy defined benefit pensions for teachers and public employees, along with his support for a charter takeover of New Orleans schools. 

A group with a misleading name, “Save Our Public Schools (SOPS),” has secured the number of petition signatures required for the appointment of a charter commission, and the Dallas ISD School Board is appointing that commission while grappling with numerous legal problems raised by the lack of clarity in a statute that was adopted 19 years ago but has never been used.

TSTA and NEA-Dallas have been working with the “Our Communities, Our Schools” coalition that includes the AFT Alliance, the NAACP, LULAC, and other community groups opposing home rule. TSTA staff and/or officers have attended five meetings in Dallas in support of NEA-Dallas efforts on this issue. 

TSTA has worked with NEA-Dallas to develop and distribute anti-home rule flyers and information to NEA-Dallas members and other Dallas ISD employees.

TSTA has also alerted NEA to the need for funding should home rule go on the November ballot, and we are working with other potential funders to outline a campaign plan should one be necessary.

TSTA is spending PAC funds for direct mail and calls in support of Joyce Freeman in the Dallas ISD District 6 School Board runoff. Freeman opposes home rule, and her opponent is supported by so-called “reformers.” Most observers see the outcome of this runoff as important to giving the home rule opposition much needed momentum.

TSTA is considering the best timing for any appropriate legal action against the DISD home rule effort. AFT has filed suit against the appointment of a teacher member who may not have met the proper criteria for appointment, and TSTA is monitoring that action closely. 


June 11, 2014

Student loan bill fails in Senate

Partisanship has killed another important piece of legislation aimed at helping Americans who are struggling with student loan debt. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act failed to get the 60 votes needed to proceed to a floor debate. http://www.nea.org/home/59360.htm


June 10, 2014

Wrong call: teacher tenure

A California judge chooses big money over student and teachers in a landmark teacher tenure ruling.
http://neatoday.org/2014/06/10/wrong-call-a-california-judge-picks-big-money-over-teachers-and-students/


June 9, 2014

TRS Board Increases ActiveCare Rates, Again

The TRS Board of Trustees held their long-awaited June Board Meeting on June 5-6. After two days of waiting, the Board finally revealed and approved the new rates for TRS ActiveCare and Care for the next fiscal year. read more

Here's a link to more extensive info on the new ActiveCare setup – including AC Select: http://www.trs.state.tx.us/trs_activecare/documents/ppo_rates_benefits_fy15.pdf


June 5, 2014

TSTA urges halt to increases in educator health insurance premiums, seeks legislative funding

The Texas State Teachers Association today urged the Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees to hold the line on health insurance costs for school employees and to join TSTA in demanding that the Legislature increase the state’s share of those costs. The TRS board is expected to consider an increase in employees’ premiums for ActiveCare, the state health insurance program for teachers and other school workers, when it meets on Friday.

press release


June 3, 2014

Beaumont teachers ask state education commissioner to block layoffs

The Beaumont Teachers Association today asked the state education commissioner to block a proposed reduction in force that could cost the jobs of more than 200 teachers and other employees in the Beaumont Independent School District. press release