Tell the governor to keep schools fully funded and safe
We are asking educators and community allies to call on the governor to keep school districts fully funded, at last year’s levels, for the remainder of this school year, regardless of attendance or the method of instruction, in-person or remote, a district chooses to use. Send a letter here.
As you know, districts’ level of funding is based on their average daily attendance, but many districts have been suffering attendance losses because of the pandemic. So far, the Texas Education Agency has given districts a so-called “hold harmless” provision that has kept districts’ level of state funding stable, despite these attendance losses. But that provision is expected to end after the fall semester. The state must renew it for the spring semester because attendance will remain an issue as long as the pandemic continues to disrupt Texas families who are trying to stay safe.
Now more than ever, schools need stable funding, and it must be based on last year’s funding levels. Districts must not be penalized for drops in attendance during a health crisis over which they have no control and which has cost them millions of dollars in extra expenses.
Although the deadly pandemic is resurging in Texas, Gov. Abbott and the Texas Education Agency also continue to force teachers and other employees, many with serious underlying health conditions, to return to campuses for risky in-person instruction or lose state funding.
“This is political bullying, and it must stop,” TSTA President Ovidia Molina said. “The governor and TEA must quit holding the safety of our students, educators and families hostage.”
When you write to the governor, also tell him that he and TEA must allow school districts to offer only virtual learning for the remainder of this school year, without a financial penalty, if local school officials and health experts — the people who know their communities best — believe that is the best way to protect them.
ActiveCare will now include four PPO options: the new ActiveCare Primary, ActiveCare HD (formerly 1-HD), ActiveCare Primary + (formerly Select) and ActiveCare 2, which is closed to new enrollees. There also will be three HMOs covering some regions of the state. The TRS board approved provider changes in February and the new premiums at its meeting last Friday.
Depending on your selected plan and coverage options (individual, family, etc.), some members will see reductions in your premiums, and others will see increases. The size of the contribution your school district makes to your insurance premium also will be a factor. You can compare the new premiums and previous premiums by plan and coverage option here.
The new premiums and other changes will go into effect Sept. 1 for the 2020-21 school year.
TRS Chief Healthcare Officer Katrina Daniels said the reengineered ActiveCare plans and structural changes were based on school district and member feedback collected over the past year. She said changes were made possible by savings realized through negotiating a new vendor contract. Based on the feedback, Daniel said, the new plans will eliminate regional boundaries and offer statewide or nationwide networks as well as provide lower individual deductibles for family plans so the plan begins to pay for each participant’s medical costs faster.
During its February meeting, the board approved one of the largest health care procurements ever undertaken by TRS, awarding the TRS-ActiveCare contract to Blue Cross Blue Shield.
New election dates
The May 26 primary election runoffs will be delayed until July in response to the growing outbreak of the new coronavirus in Texas under an order signed by Governor Greg Abbott.
Abbott signed the postponement under the emergency powers of his previous statewide disaster declaration. Dozens of runoffs are ongoing for party nominations to congressional and local offices. The most prominent is the contest between former Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar and state Sen. Royce West of Dallas for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
The primary runoff elections are now scheduled for July 14; early voting will begin July 6.
The election to replace retiring state Sen. Kirk Watson (District 14), an Austin Democrat leaving office at the end of April, has also been moved to July 14, although in this election early voting will begin June 29.
The governor also issued a proclamation to allow municipalities to delay local elections scheduled for May 2 until November. Notably, individual municipalities will still have to act to postpone their elections, though Abbott “strongly encouraged” local election officials to take advantage of the waivers and reschedule their elections.
Be a convention delegate for your presidential candidate
The political party conventions are important parts of the presidential nominating process where delegates also participate in writing party platforms. Educator delegates can ensure that strong support of public education, educators and students remain key issues during this election year.
The Texas Democratic Convention will be a pro-forma event hosted virtually, and the Democratic Party plans to delay its National Convention in Milwaukee from July until mid-August to increase the chance that the party can hold an in-person gathering. More information will follow. Here are the steps in becoming a Democratic delegate.
The Texas Republican Convention, which is planned for Houston, will likely occur July 13-18 instead of May 11-16. Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey recommended the change in convention dates. His decision must be approved by the party’s executive committee in April. The Republican National Convention will be in Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 24-27. Here are the steps in the Republican delegate selection process for the state convention. Delegates to the national convention will be chosen at the state convention.
Read the above links first about qualifying for the state conventions and then plan to participate in one of two online information sessions that NEA will be hosting to discuss the role of delegates and how to become one. NEA staff will answer questions and discuss what assistance NEA is willing to offer to members. NEA has developed a guide to help you decide whether being a delegate is right for you, and help you navigate the process.
Pro-public education group hosting candidate forums
Raise Your Hand Texas will be hosting more than 40 non-partisan, public education-focused candidate forums around the state within the next month before the March 3 party primaries. To find a forum near you, use this link. Take advantage of this opportunity to ask candidates for the Legislature or the State Board of Education from your area about their priorities for public schools.
- Texas House candidates to appear at two Collin County forums
- State representatives to discuss public education in Amarillo town hall meeting Thursday
- Thursday candidate forum in Cleburne to be education focused
TSTA issues endorsements in March 3 primary races
These endorsements in legislative, congressional and State Board of Education races include both Democrats and Republicans, and they are based on one issue — the candidates’ views on public education. The election of pro-public education candidates is essential if educators are going to have the political support and resources necessary for student success. Read more
Want to be a delegate to your political party’s state and/or national convention next year?
It is important that educators be delegates to the Democratic and Republican state and national conventions next summer to help ensure that public education is a central issue in the 2020 presidential race and state races. Download TSTA’s flyer to learn more about becoming a delegate to your political party’s state and/or national convention.
Voters approve Proposition 4, but TSTA scores some victories
Trying to kill Proposition 4 on the constitutional amendments ballot was always an uphill battle because of longstanding opposition in Texas to a state income tax, and in the end the proposal was adopted, 76 percent to 24 percent, in Tuesday’s election. On a positive note, Proposition 7, which was endorsed by TSTA, was approved, 73 percent to 27 percent.
All in all, it was a short-sighted vote promoted by state leaders who are under-funding state government now and were happy to play politics with Texas’ future. Read more
TSTA urges votes against Proposition 4 and for Proposition 7
TSTA opposes Proposition 4 because it is anti-education, is unnecessary and, if adopted, will remove a constitutional source of future dedicated funding for public schools. Under Proposition 4, any future attempt to create an income tax would require a new constitutional amendment that would first have to be approved by two-thirds of the Texas House and state Senate, and legislators would not have to use the money on education. They could designate the revenue for any purpose, including tax breaks for wealthy corporations. Read more
Chapter 37 student discipline updates
During its recent session, the Legislature made a number of changes to laws governing student codes of conduct and procedures, and the Texas Education Agency has analyzed these changes in correspondence to school districts. These new laws covered by TEA make changes to Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code that will impact districts in the 2019-20 school year. Read more
HB 3 analysis
School finance and teacher pay commanded a lot of attention during the recent session of the Texas Legislature, but years of neglect weren’t reversed overnight. The end result, House Bill 3, is a mixed bag for educators and their students. It’s also an enormous bag. The bill runs 300 pages and touches on dozens of aspects of public education, including pre-K, dyslexia identification, teacher certification and much more. As TSTA parses this new law we will post our analysis of key provisions here.
TRS legislative wrap-up
The major legislation passed this session impacting TRS, SB 12, is intended to stabilize the pension fund for retirees going forward, and includes a one-time 13th check not to exceed $2,000 to be issued by September 2020 to eligible retirees (those retired on or before December 31, 2018). Read more
86th Legislature wrap-up
You made a difference! TSTA thanks everyone who marched to the polls, rallied at the Capitol, responded to our Action Alerts and contacted their state legislators during the session. Read more
Report from the Capitol
TSTA works hard to monitor the activity of the Legislature and the committees that deliberate the legislation that is critical to public school students and educators.
- May 9 House Floor report
- April 30 House Public Education report
- March 18 testimony to House Appropriations Committee
- March 12 written testimony on House Bill 3
- February 7 House Public Education Committee hears testimony from TEA and school finance commission
- February 5 response to the governor’s State of the State address
- January 30 report on House Public Education committee
TSTA has prepared several one pagers that outline our legislative priorities on a range of educational issues. Feel free to use them when you are contacting your legislator or speaking with family or colleagues about the issues affecting you and your students.
TSTA’s legislative priorities
Senate Bill 4 analysis
Teachers deserve a livable and dignified retirement
Comparison of HB9 and SB12
Charter schools versus public schools
Top education issues
Here is a summary of major educational issues before the Legislature and TSTA’s stand on them.
6 steps to boost your advocacy for students and public schools
It’s time to take stock of what’s important to us, what is worth speaking out about and protecting. Whether it’s health care, nutrition and safe communities or ensuring every student has a caring, qualified teacher and education support professionals, a well-rounded curriculum and inviting classes small enough for one-on-one attention, we are deeply committed to the success of every student. Here are six ways to stand up for students and public schools.
TRS Pension, Health Care Briefing Materials
TRS Pension, Health Care briefing materials provide updates, detailed information regarding the status of the TRS defined benefit pension fund and the TRS Care and ActiveCare health care plans.
Find out who represents you
Type in your address to find out who represents you in the Texas Senate, Texas House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and State Board of Education.
Contribute to TSTA-PAC
Because TSTA dues money cannot be used to elect public officials, we must count on our members making contributions to our political action committee. Together, we can change the future, and it’s easy to contribute! Become a continuing contributor or make a one-time contribution.