Education News

June 13, 2024

Democrats think they can flip Texas House seats by going after GOP’s education funding and school voucher policies

Democratic leaders in Texas are looking to zero in on education issues as they seek to flip several Texas House seats this fall.

What are Democrats’ arguments? At last week’s Texas Democratic Convention, party leaders heavily criticized Gov. Greg Abbott’s push to provide taxpayer funds for private school tuition. Historically, Democrats and rural Republicans have united against school voucher measures, arguing such measures could take money away from public schools. During the last legislative session, Abbott had threatened to veto education funding that did not include school vouchers.

The Democratic Party also looks to blame GOP lawmakers for teacher shortages and school closures. Lawmakers last year, in the Republican-led state House and Senate, failed to tap into the state’s $33 billion budget surplus to help boost school funding. Read more

June 12, 2024

Does tough love in grading work?

The ongoing debate among educators about the efficacy of “tough love” in grading has resurfaced, highlighting varied opinions on its role in enhancing student performance on standardized tests. This discussion was rekindled by a 2020 report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which suggested that stringent grading correlates with better standardized test outcomes. As this topic gained traction on social media, teachers shared their insights, questioning the real value of high test scores and criticizing the focus on standardized testing as a true measure of student learning. Many educators argue that rigorous grading standards, where ‘A’ represents exceptional work and ‘C’ is average, maintain the integrity of academic evaluations by ensuring grades reflect genuine achievement and effort. This approach is contrasted by others advocating for a nuanced grading scale that offers a clearer depiction of student progress and abilities, potentially increasing engagement from students and parents. Furthermore, the discussion reflects a consensus on the necessity of combining high expectations with robust support systems. Educators emphasize the importance of feedback and the opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes without facing harsh penalties, promoting an educational environment focused on continuous improvement rather than punitive measures. Overall, the dialogue underscores a shift towards a more supportive and balanced educational approach that prioritizes meaningful learning and comprehensive development over mere performance on tests. Read more

June 11, 2024

More than half of U.S. states require schools to provide free period products

More than half of the states in the U.S. have legislation requiring K-12 schools to provide free period products or offer funding for schools to purchase them. Access to pads and tampons in schools is crucial for keeping low-income students in class when they get their periods. According to the Alliance for Period Supplies, 21 states require K-12 schools to have period products available for students, but only about half of them provide funding for it. Lacey Gero, director of government relations for the Alliance for Period Supplies, emphasized the importance of both funding and a mandated requirement for successful implementation. Pennsylvania could be the next state to legislate access, with a proposed $3m grant fund for low-income districts to purchase period products. Other states already offer funding for supplies. “What we’ve seen over the years is that those states that have provided funding in the budget along with a mandated requirement, they’re having more successful implementations, and students are seeing products more consistently in schools,” said Gero. Read more

June 9, 2024

School districts and libraries can seek federal grants to protect against cyberattacks

School districts and libraries in the U.S. can now apply for federal grants to protect themselves against cyberattacks. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a pilot program that will provide up to $200m in competitive grants over three years. The grants will help schools and libraries purchase advanced cybersecurity equipment such as firewalls and anti-virus protection technology. Cyberattacks have become a severe problem for schools, with 80% of K-12 schools targeted by ransomware in the past year. The FCC’s pilot program will determine whether further resources should be directed towards cybersecurity equipment for schools and libraries on a permanent basis. The program has received support from education groups, although it is acknowledged that the $200 million investment is not enough to meet the cybersecurity needs of all schools. Critics argue that the root problem lies in leadership, training, and capacity, rather than the lack of protective technology. However, advocates believe that the investment in upgraded equipment is a positive first step in addressing the critical need for cybersecurity in schools. Read more

June 8, 2024

Two new webinars for educators next week

June 10 – Leaning into Hard Conversations: Why We Must Discuss Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Racism to Maintain Our Multicultural Communities. Amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza and a surge in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents, this panel discussion features Wajahat Ali, Amy Spitalnick, and Eric Ward tackling the tough conversations around hate and racism. They will explore how these issues intersect and how we can engage respectfully. With their extensive experience in combating hate groups and fostering diverse coalitions, the panelists will model a path forward that rejects divisive tactics and promotes a shared commitment to multicultural democracy. Join us June 10 @ 6:30PM CT:

June 12 – Educator Mental Health: It’s Okay to Be Not Okay. The NEA Health and Safety Program and Active Minds, a leading mental health non-profit organization, have partnered on a presentation on educators’ mental health, including approaches to discussing mental health in educational environments, how to advocate for mental health services and resources, and ways to identify mental health needs both within yourself and among your peers. The webinar will be held on June 12 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. CT. Link to register:

June 7, 2024

High school students’ math scores are still lagging, STAAR results show

Partial scores from the state’s standardized test released Friday show high school students are still struggling with algebra, once again raising concerns about young Texans’ readiness to enter high-paying careers in STEM-related fields.

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness end-of-course tests evaluate high-schoolers in five subjects: Algebra I, Biology, English I, English II and U.S. History. The exams gauge whether students’ grasp of a subject is appropriate for their grade level and if they need additional help to catch up.

The percentage of students who took the test this spring and met grade level for Algebra I was 45%, the same as last year. Since the pandemic, students’ academic performance in the subject has remained mostly unchanged. The latest results are still 17 percentage points below students’ scores in spring 2019. Read more

June 6, 2024

Austin ISD considers school closures amid budget shortfall

In response to a worsening budget deficit, which has increased from $60m to $89m, Austin ISD is contemplating severe measures, including potential school closures. School board Trustee Candace Hunter raised the issue during a meeting on May 9, suggesting that the district might need to consider such actions in the future. Superintendent Matias Segura, though reluctant, acknowledged the possibility of discussing school closures within three years if financial conditions do not improve. The district has outlined a three-year plan to address the deficit, hoping for community support through a voter-approval tax rate election (VATRE) in November to raise an additional $40m. Should the VATRE fail and if the Texas legislature does not increase school funding in the 2025 session, Austin ISD may be forced to implement painful cuts that could affect student education directly, such as increased class sizes, reduced teacher planning time, and potential layoffs. Previously, in 2019, Austin ISD closed several schools primarily on the Eastside due to enrollment declines caused by gentrification. The decision faced strong opposition and accusations of racism from the affected communities. As the financial outlook remains uncertain, the district is bracing for tough decisions ahead to stabilize its financial health and maintain educational quality.

June 5, 2024

Public education is not Sunday school

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement about the proposed instructional and curriculum materials that include biblical references:

The Texas State Teachers Association urges state officials to be careful in adding stories from the Bible and other biblical references to instructional materials or curriculum used in Texas public schools. Our public schools were created to teach facts to children of all religions or no religion, not to indoctrinate students in the teachings of selected religions. This is consistent with the separation of church and state principle under which our country has operated since its beginning. Read our full statement

June 4, 2024

TEA proposes new curriculum for public schools

The Texas Education Agency has issued a proposed curriculum for public schools, allowing parents to provide feedback until August 16. The curriculum, which aims to standardize education across the state, has received criticism for including Biblical teachings and references in the language arts section. However, state leaders argue that other religious teachings are also included. Governor Greg Abbott supports the curriculum, emphasizing the need for high-quality, consistent education in all school districts. The TEA’s move to regain control over curriculum has sparked debate, with some expressing concerns about potential indoctrination. The curriculum is not mandatory for schools, but those that adopt it will receive additional state funding. The TEA encourages public participation to make the curriculum more reflective of all students.

June 3, 2024

Ysleta ISD faces nearly $14m deficit in 2024-25 school year

Ysleta ISD in El Paso is expected to adopt a $405m budget with a near $14m deficit for the upcoming school year. The district has been grappling with rising costs and declining enrollment for over three decades, with an estimated loss of 1,000 students projected for the next school year. Ysleta ISD Superintendent Xavier De La Torre stated that the deficit is a “worst-case scenario,” depending on various factors. This would be the third consecutive year that the district has adopted a budget without sufficient revenue to cover expenses. Efforts are being made to increase revenue by boosting attendance and cutting expenses through the elimination of vacant positions. Ysleta ISD, unlike neighboring districts, cannot ask for a tax increase due to the homestead exemption. If the deficit persists, the district will need to tap into its reserves. Read more

May 31, 2024

Fort Worth ISD reverses decision, offers free school supplies for elementary students

The Fort Worth ISD has reversed its decision to discontinue the distribution of free school supplies to elementary students. Superintendent Angélica Ramsey announced the change, stating that the district was able to identify resources to continue providing supplies. The supplies were initially set to be discontinued due to the expiration of federal relief money. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, distributed to school districts during the pandemic, will now support the initiative for at least one more school year. The district did not provide details on the specific supplies or whether middle and high school campuses will also receive funds. The cost of supplies has decreased each year, with $2.1m allocated for the upcoming school year. Read more

May 30, 2024

State Board of Education seeking public comment on new instructional materials

SBOE announced the public comment period for so-called “high quality instructional materials” as part of a new review and approval process created by House Bill 1605, a new law enacted last year. During this first cycle, 25 publishers submitted 142 products for review. These materials include full-subject, Tier 1 instructional materials (intended for classroom-wide instruction) in K-5 reading and language arts and K-12 mathematics. Partial-subject instructional materials for K-3 phonics were also submitted.

The new law also directed the Texas Education Agency to develop a set of state-owned instructional materials, or Open Education Resources (OER). There are currently two sets of OER textbooks being reviewed as part of this process:

  • K-5 reading and language arts
  • K-8 algebra and mathematics

TSTA opposed HB 1605 because it provides incentives for a state curriculum at the expense of local control of instructional material selections. The instructional materials undergo an internal approval process according to a rubric that is written so narrowly that it essentially permits only OER products, or anything developed to mimic OER, to pass the test. The OER products include scripted materials with strict scope and sequence, such as products offered by Amplify, that TSTA believes reduce the professionalism of educators and are bad for students, especially students in need of differentiated instruction.

You can review the instructional materials and Texas OER textbooks here

May 28, 2024

Texas school funding crisis: Abbott denies relief

An editorial in the Austin American-Statesman claims that Governor Greg Abbott is ignoring students across the state, amid many school districts facing financial distress. Gov Abbott turned down a request for a special session this month from 39 House Democrats. The Democrats wanted 30 days to discuss increasing state money for school safety and per student. Campus safety expenses, inflation, and a base budget level per student that has remained unchanged since 2019 are all major problems for many districts. Austin ISD, which was facing a $89m shortfall, revealed plans to reduce it to $59m through cost-cutting measures like 42 central office layoffs and reducing overtime, contracts, and other expenses. In addition, the school board is considering a tax increase that would add $44m to the district’s $956m budget, allowing for additional needs and a 3% pay increase for teachers. Read more

May 26, 2024

Schools illegally suspended homeless students

Despite a 2019 law banning schools from suspending homeless students from school grounds, thousands of homeless students have been illegally suspended from Texas schools. The Texas Education Agency has not taken an active role in enforcing the law, and many school leaders have failed to ensure compliance. The lack of training and oversight has allowed districts to continue issuing illegal suspensions without consequences. The law was intended to protect vulnerable homeless students who rely on school for food, shelter, and education. However, the law’s implementation has been incomplete, and the exact number of illegal suspensions is difficult to measure due to data tracking issues. Children’s advocates are calling for changes to the law and increased support for homeless students. Read more

May 25, 2024

Laredo ISD launches second annual summer lunch program

Laredo ISD is launching its second annual summer lunch program to provide free meals to children in need. The Summer Meals Program, hosted by D.D. Hachar Elementary School, offers free lunches to children and young adults between the ages of 1-18. The program is open to all children, regardless of enrollment in summer school, and is available at various locations throughout the district. LISD Child Nutrition Program Director Robert Cuellar Jr. aims to surpass last year’s distribution of 144,000 meals and welcomes children from outside the district to participate. The program has received recognition for providing nutritious and appealing meals, earning gold status in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Turnip the Beet challenge. D.D. Hachar Elementary School, which won the “Be a Star with School Breakfast” singing competition, hosted the kickoff event. The program aims to combat hunger and ensure that children have access to nutritious meals during the summer vacation. Read more

May 24, 2024

Documents detail how Texas’ DEI ban is changing university campuses

In the most comprehensive picture yet of how Texas’ DEI ban has changed campuses across the state, recent communications with lawmakers reveal the range of steps university leaders have taken to comply with the law and keep billions in state funding.

University system leaders described their efforts in written responses to Sen. Brandon Creighton, the author of the DEI ban, after the Conroe Republican warned them they could lose their funding or face legal consequences if they weren’t following the law, which went into effect in January.

In documents obtained by The Texas Tribune and in public testimony before senators, leaders from all of Texas’ seven university systems said they have closed multicultural offices, fired or reassigned DEI staff and stopped requiring diversity statements, or letters in which job candidates in academia share their previous efforts to promote diverse learning spaces and help students of all backgrounds succeed. Read more

May 23, 2024

White House aims to expand access to African American history

An interagency initiative by the Biden administration seeking to protect and increase access to literature and other resources on African American history aims to “preserve African American history” for public school students, the White House announced Friday on the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

The effort is an extension of President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting the Arts, the Humanities, and Museum and Library Services.

“This effort will bolster African American history and culture as integral, indelible parts of American history,” the White House said in a press release.

The announcement came as part of a broader Biden administration push to support school diversity. Read more

May 22, 2024

Families of Uvalde shooting victims sue Texas DPS officers for waiting to confront gunman

Relatives of 17 children killed and two kids injured in Texas’ deadliest school shooting are suing Texas Department of Public Safety officers who were among hundreds of law enforcement that waited 77 minutes to confront the gunman at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary, lawyers announced Wednesday.

“Nearly 100 officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety have yet to face a shred of accountability for cowering in fear while my daughter and nephew bled to death in their classroom,” Veronica Luevanos, whose daughter Jailah and nephew Jayce were killed, said in a statement.

The legal action against 92 DPS officers comes days before the two-year anniversary of the shooting in which an 18-year-old used an AR-15 to kill 19 students and two teachers in two adjoining fourth-grade classrooms.

Relatives of most of those students killed and two who were injured also announced Wednesday that they are suing Mandy Gutierrez, who was the principal at Robb at the time, and Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who was the school district police chief, for their “inaction” that day. Read more

May 21, 2024

Waiting for STAAR results? Here’s what to know

The school year is coming to a close, but families still have a few weeks to wait to see how students performed on state assessments.

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, known commonly as STAAR, is Texas’s testing program. The tests measure what students learn each year in reading, writing, math, science and social studies and determine whether a student is ready for the next grade level.

Students in grades 3-8 took STAAR tests this spring. Students in high school-level English I, English II, Algebra, Biology and U.S. History courses also take end-of-course exams.

Families can expect to start seeing results in June.

The STAAR test was redesigned last year to incorporate more open-ended questions. The state has also recently introduced automated scoring by computers for open-ended written response questions.

Computers will grade this year’s written responses, with a quarter of responses rescored by humans. Read more

May 20, 2024

Addressing persistent literacy challenges in secondary education

Recent data reveals a persistent literacy crisis among middle and high school students in the U.S., with nearly 3 in 10 8th graders lacking basic mastery in reading. A RAND report highlights that secondary English/language arts teachers frequently find themselves teaching foundational reading skills typically taught in earlier education levels. This situation points to significant gaps in reading proficiency that extend beyond the elementary years, underscoring the need for targeted interventions in older students’ reading education. The RAND study raises important questions about how such students go unnoticed for so long and what can be done to support them more effectively. Experts suggest that increasing awareness of these issues, implementing appropriate assessments, and adopting supportive teaching strategies are crucial steps towards addressing this problem. Engaging students in discussions about their challenges and providing targeted, empathic support can help bridge the literacy gap and improve educational outcomes for all students. Read more

May 17, 2024

Push to enforce occupancy rule in College Station highlights Texas A&M students’ housing woes

Starting in June, College Station will enforce an occupancy ordinance that prohibits more than four unrelated people from renting a single-family unit together — and students in housing arrangements that exceeds the ordinance will be liable to fines similar to parking tickets.

While a version of the rule has already existed in the city for around a century, it had remained largely unenforced. The push for some kind of enforcement started about two years ago amid simmering tensions between A&M students living in single-family units near campus and homeowners in those neighborhoods.

May 16, 2024

Texas tax dollars have been spent to help fund out-of-state charter schools; TSTA calls for legislative investigation

The story by Spectrum TV, which aired this week, said the Texas funding was used to help prop up struggling Colorado charters that are part of Third Future Schools, a chain founded by Mike Miles, who now is superintendent of Houston ISD. Miles was appointed to the HISD post by state Education Commissioner Mike Morath when the state took over the campus last year.
According to the TV report, more than $2 million — maybe more — was sent to the Colorado charters through Ector County ISD, which had a charter contract with Third Future Schools in Odessa. The money was transferred before Miles took the Houston ISD job, but the story noted that Miles remained a paid consultant for the charter chain, at least for a while, after he started working at HISD.
The report comes as many Texas school districts, including Houston ISD, are wrestling with spending cuts because of deficits. HISD’s deficit alone has been reported as more than $400 million, and Miles is planning extensive staff layoffs, among other budget reductions.
Much of the funding shortages are the result of Gov. Greg Abbott’s and the Legislature’s failure last year to increase funding for public schools, beginning with the basic allotment. Despite a record $33 billion budget surplus, Abbott refused to approve higher funding for public schools after lawmakers failed to pass his top education priority, a multibillion-dollar voucher giveaway for private schools.
Miles denied any wrongdoing, responding that all administrative fees for Third Future Schools in both Texas and Colorado are directed to the charter chain’s central office, which is based in Colorado.
TSTA President Ovidia Molina said funding was “dire” for public education now, with many teachers leaving and some schools in danger of closing. She called for a legislative investigation of the education tax dollars being moved to Colorado.
“I don’t know where it says (in state law) we can take our public school money and send it to another state,” she said. “But if there is any place that says that, it is wrong and needs to be changed.” Watch story

May 15, 2024

White House summit targets chronic absenteeism with community engagement initiatives

The White House’s “Every Day Counts Summit” tackled the surge in chronic absenteeism since returning to in-person classes, focusing on community engagement to promote attendance. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona emphasized the crucial role of community in ensuring daily attendance, highlighting the distressing statistic that more than one in four students were chronically absent in recent years, significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels. New initiatives announced include $250m in grants for learning acceleration and a partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics to support parents. The summit showcased strategies like Connecticut’s door-knocking campaigns, which have proven effective by addressing specific family issues behind absenteeism. States like Rhode Island and Indiana are using real-time data dashboards to monitor attendance, part of broader efforts to mitigate chronic absenteeism through community and state-level engagement. Read more

May 14, 2024

Houston Democrat Jon Rosenthal calls for increased school funding

Representative Jon Rosenthal and other members of the House have written a letter urging Texas Governor Abbott to address the severe financial challenges faced by school districts due to inflation and chronic underfunding. The representatives argue that the state’s failure to improve school funding since 2019 has led to these issues. They emphasize that Texas has a surplus of about $18bn, which should be used to better fund public schools. The letter calls for increased funding per student and allocation of funds for school safety needs. Local school leaders have criticized lawmakers for passing under-funded mandates, leading to closures of schools and staff reductions. A survey from the Texas Association of School Business Officials reveals that more than half of the districts anticipate budget shortfalls and plan to implement cuts. Read more

May 13, 2024

Parents protest layoffs in Texas’ largest school district

Parents in Houston ISD are protesting against layoffs resulting from recent budget cuts. The district has not disclosed the number of job losses, but a 20-page list of positions potentially facing layoffs, including teachers, principals, and custodians, has been approved. Despite the district’s claim that the teacher cuts are performance-based and unrelated to the budget, the layoffs coincide with a $450m budget gap. Notably, recent principal of the year winners, such as Auden Sarabia at Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School, are among those being let go. The budget shortfall is attributed to decreased student enrollment, the depletion of COVID relief funds, and the state’s refusal to increase public school funding. Read more

May 12, 2024

Fort Worth ISD returns previously banned books to students

As officials with Fort Worth ISD return most of the books that were unavailable to students for the majority of the 2023-24 school year, the parameters surrounding student book access are still somewhat blurry. There were 118 titles pulled from school libraries in August after officials closed libraries to students during the first two weeks of school for inventory and book review purposes. Now, 90 of those titles are coming back, but district officials have declined to say whether this process will be finished by the last day of school, which is May 23. Additionally, questions asking for specifics of how each book was deemed appropriate or inappropriate for certain age groups have gone unanswered, and officials have backtracked on the reasons why the review happened in the first place. Texas school districts are also being required to update their book collection and review policies after new standards went into effect in January. This means regulations around student book access are still being decided, and it’s unclear when, or if, the debate will be put to rest. Read more

May 10, 2024

Deepfakes pose new threats in public schools

A “deepfake” audio recording of a principal making derogatory comments has sparked serious concerns in Baltimore County, showing the damaging potential of AI in schools. The incident involved Dazhon Darien, the athletic director at Pikesville High School, who created a fake audio of Principal Eric Eiswert uttering racist and antisemitic remarks. This deepfake not only divided the community but also led to Darien’s arrest for multiple charges, including theft and disruption of school operations. The case highlights a growing issue within educational settings, where the misuse of AI technology can lead to significant harm. Principals and school officials, often public figures due to their roles, are particularly vulnerable to such attacks, which can damage reputations and lead to serious professional consequences. The ease of creating deepfakes and the challenge of distinguishing them from real recordings complicate the response even further, raising fears among educators about their potential misuse. School districts are currently ill-equipped to handle the rise of deepfakes, lacking policies to govern the use of AI and protect against its abuse. This incident underscores the urgent need for educational institutions to develop strategies to mitigate these risks, including educating staff about AI, updating policies, and perhaps even incorporating AI detection tools. As AI technology evolves, so too must the safeguards against its misuse in schools to protect educators and uphold the integrity of educational environments. Read more

May 9, 2024

Police dismantle pro-Palestinian encampment at University of Houston, arrest two students

University of Houston students protest outside of the Harris County Joint Processing Center following the arrest of two students at a on campus protest to defend the UH encampment in Houston, Texas, US, on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.
Protesters gather outside the Harris County Joint Processing Center in Houston following the arrest of two University of Houston students and the dismantling of an on-campus encampment in support of Palestinians on Wednesday. Credit: Callaghan O’Hare for The Texas Tribune
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Police were quick to dismantle a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Houston on Wednesday, detaining at least two students in the process, according to university officials.

Protesters had set up a blue tarp to cover the fields of the university’s Butler Plaza and surrounded the area with wooden barricades. They joined students across Texas and the country who have been demanding that their schools divest from manufacturers supplying Israel weapons in its strikes on Gaza. Read more

May 8, 2024

Feds investigate another Texas school district for its gender identity mandate

The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation Monday into Katy Independent School District’s gender identity policy on the basis of gender harassment under Title IX. The investigation came nine months after the district adopted a policy that notifies parents if their child requests to use a different name or pronouns at school.

Katy ISD did not respond to a request of how many parents have been notified this year under the new policy, which requires staff to inform parents that students are transgender or ask to use different names or pronouns. Read more

May 7, 2024

Cardona defends education policies amid House criticism

During a heated U.S. House of Representatives hearing, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona faced sharp questioning over several pressing issues, including the botched rollout of a simplified FAFSA form, increasing reports of antisemitism in schools, execution of student-debt relief, and changes to Title IX regulations. Cardona advocated for the Biden administration’s 2025 budget proposal, emphasizing the need for increased funding for the Education Department’s civil rights office to handle a growing number of discrimination complaints more efficiently. Republicans criticized the recent Title IX updates, arguing they could harm girls’ sports and privacy, while also expressing frustration over persistent technical problems with the FAFSA application process, which has deterred students from seeking federal aid. Despite these controversies, there was bipartisan support for enhancing career and technical education, highlighting a rare agreement on the importance of expanding vocational training opportunities. Cardona’s testimony underscored ongoing debates about educational priorities and the federal role in ensuring fair treatment and access to education amidst policy challenges. Read more

May 5, 2024

Republican states challenge Biden’s Title IX protections for transgender students

More than a dozen Republican-led states are suing the Biden administration over new Title IX regulations that include protections for transgender students. The Education Department unveiled the final changes to Title IX, which also cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The lawsuits argue that the new regulations are “plainly illegal” and undermine protections for cisgender students. The regulations would also prevent states from enforcing laws that bar transgender student-athletes from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. The legal battle with the White House increases the likelihood that the measures will be blocked in court before taking effect. The administration’s Title IX revamp would also bolster nondiscrimination protections for pregnant students and change how schools handle claims of sexual harassment and assault. If the lawsuits are successful, it would deal a significant blow to LGBTQ students, especially in the South where most of the lawsuits were filed. Elections have consequences for the long-term trajectory of any litigation on this matter. Read more

May 3, 2024

Texas School Book Bans

Texas students deserve access to books that reflect their own lives, teach them about others’ lives, and inspire them to lead.   

But some Texas politicians have promoted book ban efforts that target LGBTQ+, Black and other marginalized students — on books that save lives.  

Book bans have deep roots in the United States, from bans on anti-slavery writings in the early 1800s to McCarthy-era bans on “subversive” materials, such as LGBTQ+ works. Today, Texas districts have banned hundreds of books in the past two years. The banned books range from children’s picture books to young adult fiction to nonfiction texts. Most discuss race and racism, feature LGBTQ+ characters or explore themes related to student health and well-being. In 2023, the Texas legislature fanned the flames of book bans by passing House Bill 900 (HB 900).

As of January 17, 2024, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has found that key parts of HB 900 are likely unconstitutional. This decision means that the HB 900 book ratings regime imposed on booksellers cannot be enforced at this time. Learn more about what this decision means for you and your school.

May 2, 2024

TSTA leaders lobby members of Congress to repeal Social Security provisions that are unfair to educators

TSTA President Ovidia Molina, Vice President Linda Estrada and NEA directors David Ring of Lubbock and Aaron Phillips of Amarillo are in Washington today urging congressional members to enact the Social Security Fairness Act of 2023. It would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which unfairly reduce or eliminate much-needed benefits for millions of retired educators, their spouses and survivors, including many in Texas.

The U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a public hearing on this issue last month, and TSTA submitted written comments, urging the panel to advance the Social Security Fairness Act.

May 1, 2024

Texas teachers face salary gap concerns

The salary disparity between Texas teachers and the national average has become a significant concern. During the 2023-24 school year, Texas teachers are expected to earn an average of $62,463, which is over $9,000 below the national average, according to the National Education Association’s analysis of Texas Education Agency data. This gap highlights the ongoing challenges in ensuring competitive compensation for educators in the state. Additionally, Texas’ full-time school support staff, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and secretaries, earned an average of $30,382 during the 2022-23 school year. These figures underscore the economic pressures faced by essential school personnel, who often earn wages that are not livable. The funding for Texas schools also presents challenges. The state spent approximately $12,781 per student in the current school year, which is significantly less than the national average. This spending includes a $6,160 basic allotment per student, which has not seen an increase since 2019. The stagnant funding is causing school districts to struggle with budget constraints, leading to potential cuts in programs and staff, and making it difficult to attract and retain qualified teachers. Efforts to adjust teacher pay and enhance school funding did not advance in the 2023 Texas Legislature, largely due to debates over education savings accounts. This program, which was ultimately rejected by the Texas House, overshadowed other legislative efforts to improve public school funding. Read more

April 30, 2024

Greg Abbott and UT-Austin shift from championing free speech to policing protesters’ intentions

About six months ago the University of Texas at Austin administrators touted expansive protections for free speech — including speech that was antiwar or considered hate speech. The protections were touted as part of campus programming around “Free Speech Week.”

But now, as student protesters enter another week of on-campus demonstrations, campus administration has changed its tune.

“Imagine if the government at the whim of a political party could just decide at any time what constitutes hate speech, and then just start arresting people for engaging in it,” Amanda Cochran-McCall, the university’s director of legal affairs, said then at a school-affiliated Free Speech Week program.

In Texas, and at college campuses across the country, pro-Palestinian demonstrations have put university leaders’ commitment to free speech to the test. Some leaders’ stances have led to free speech advocates questioning who gets to enjoy free speech protections. Read more

April 29, 2024

Texas AG sues Biden administration over transgender protections

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over new federal nondiscrimination protections for transgender students. The Education Department recently finalized changes to Title IX, which cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Paxton argues that the new regulations are “vague” and “overbroad” and rely on a misunderstanding of a Supreme Court ruling. Republican-led states, including Louisiana, have also pledged to reject the new rules, claiming they harm women and girls. All federally funded schools must comply with the regulations. The Biden administration has yet to finalize a separate rule governing athletics eligibility for transgender student-athletes. Read more

April 28, 2024

Texas school districts fail to post campaign finance records

The Texas Tribune and ProPublica analyzed 35 Texas school districts that held trustee elections last fall and found none that posted all of the required campaign finance records. The investigation revealed that many agencies are violating the law that mandates the online posting of campaign finance reports. The lack of transparency in local elections prevents the public from making informed decisions about candidates’ financial support. The report highlights the growing push by hard-line conservatives to reshape school boards and advance vouchers as an alternative to public schools. The article emphasizes the need for effective enforcement of the law to ensure compliance and maintain transparency in local elections. Read more

April 27, 2024

Fort Worth ISD to stop giving free school supplies to elementary students

The Fort Worth ISD will no longer provide free school supplies to elementary students next year as federal relief funds expire. The district spent about $4.5m on classroom supplies for the 2021-2022 school year, but the last round of funding expires on September 30. Families will be responsible for purchasing their own supplies starting in the 2024-2025 school year. Trenace Dorsey-Hollins, executive director and founder of Parent Shield Fort Worth, expressed concern for economically disadvantaged families and hopes other resources will be available for them to obtain supplies. The change has sparked debate about equal access to school supplies and the burden placed on families who purchase their own supplies. Read more

April 26, 2024

HISD pulls retention incentives for teachers at non-NES schools

The Houston ISD has withdrawn retention incentives promised to teachers at non-NES schools due to budget constraints. The district had planned to provide extra funds of $1,000 to $2,000 to teachers who continued teaching the following school year. However, an email sent to teachers said the incentives would not be happening anymore. Andrew Dewey, with the Houston Federation of Teachers, expressed disappointment, stating that HISD has made unfulfilled promises in the past. The district cited financial challenges caused by the loss of federal Covid funding as the reason for rescinding the offers. The compensation plan, which included the incentives, was still in the draft stage and subject to change until the budget is passed in June. Read more

April 24, 2024

What you need to know about Texas’ school safety policies

In response to the deadliest school shooting in Texas, lawmakers have upped legislation concerning gun and school safety. House Bill 3 passed late last year, which created the requirement for an armed security guard to be present on all campuses and also ramped up mental health resources for students.

In Texas, the responsibility for establishing the guidelines for public school safety belongs to the Texas Education Agency and Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office along with the TxSSC. These rules have been updated since the 2022 tragedy in Uvalde, but some experts worry that parents and guardians still don’t know the intricacies of school safety policy.

Brian Clason, program manager of training and education for the Texas State School Safety Center, says the best thing parents can do to protect their children is to develop relationships with teachers and school faculty to learn more about safety protocols before an emergency occurs. Read more

April 23, 2024

Biden administration extends overtime pay to 4m salaried workers

The Biden administration has unveiled a new labor rule that extends mandatory overtime pay to an estimated 4m salaried workers, going further than the previous Obama-era rule. From July 1, employers will be required to pay overtime premiums to workers who earn the equivalent of an annual salary of $43,888 when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The total will increased to $58,656 on January 1 2025. “The Department of Labor is ensuring that lower-paid salaried workers receive their hard-earned pay or get much-deserved time back with their families,” said Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “This rule establishes clear, predictable guidance for employers on how to pay employees for overtime hours and provides more economic security to the millions of people working long hours without overtime pay.” The salary threshold will increase over time, reaching $58,656 by 2025. The new rule is expected to face legal challenges. Read more

April 22, 2024

Pflugerville ISD approves staff salary and minimum wage increases

Pflugerville ISD board has approved a 2% increase in salaries and wages for the 2024-25 school year. The increase will apply to teachers, nurses, and hourly bus drivers. This decision aims to improve the financial situation of staff members and ensure fair compensation for their work. Read more

April 19, 2024

Biden administration unveils Title IX protections for trans students

The Biden administration has unveiled a final set of sweeping changes to Title IX, the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at government-funded schools. The changes, which reinstitute protections for student survivors of sexual assault and harassment rolled back under former President Donald Trump, will take effect on August 1. The new regulations expand the definition of sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and aim to equip schools with clear-cut instructions to promptly and effectively respond to all forms of sex discrimination. The final update also establishes a lower burden of proof for survivors and students alleging sex discrimination. However, the administration has maintained several major provisions from the previous regulations to ensure consistency while schools update their procedures. The changes are expected to draw swift criticism from those who view the transgender student protections as an attack on protections for cisgender women and girls. The administration has yet to finalize a separate rule governing athletics eligibility.

April 18, 2024

TEA appoints conservators to help monitor Socorro ISD

The Texas Education Agency has appointed two conservators to oversee Socorro ISD, following a state investigation that exposed widespread failings for improperly graduating students, failing to disclose a trustee’s potential conflict of interest with a vendor, and paying $283,000 in unauthorized stipends. Former Dallas ISD Michael Hinojosa and Andrew Kim, the director of research programs and outreach at the University of Texas at Austin, “The Socorro ISD family is strong, but it needs some guidance. Andrew and I’s role will be to help get things right for SISD’s students, teachers, and staff so that the district can have the positive reputation that it deserves and that the community can believe in,” Hinojosa said in a statement. The conservators will work with the district of 47,000 students to ensure it complies with statutes and regulations under a settlement approved by the school board in early March. “The conservatorship does not replace the board. The conservatorship does not replace the superintendent. Of course, if we are doing things incorrectly, inappropriately, things that would hurt the district instead of help, yes, TEA can step in,” said Socorro ISD board President Michael Najera

April 16, 2024

Surge in book bans seen in schools

Book bans in public schools have surged in the first half of the school year, with over 4,300 books removed across 23 states, according to a report by PEN America. The rise in book bans has been driven by conservative groups and new laws that limit children’s access to certain books. Florida had the highest number of removals, with 3,135 books banned, many of which featured LGBTQ characters or dealt with race and racism. Legislation and policies aiming to prohibit books with sexual content have also led to an increase in book challenges, with nearly 20% of banned books addressing rape and sexual assault. However, opponents of book bans, including parents, students, and free speech organizations, are leading efforts to counter these bans.

April 15, 2024

TSTA and NEA endorse Colin Allred for Senate

The Texas State Teachers Association and its national affiliate, the National Education Association, have endorsed Democratic nominee Colin Allred over incumbent Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate race in Texas, TSTA President Ovidia Molina and NEA President Becky Pringle announced today. Read full release

April 14, 2024

Fort Bend ISD trustee calls for abolishing book review committees

Fort Bend ISD trustee David Hamilton is proposing the abolition of formal book review committees in the district, giving Superintendent Dr Marc Smith sole authority over book decisions. However, the proposal failed to gain support from the majority of trustees. Most trustees prefer to maintain the current selection and review process, which involves librarians and administrators. Superintendent Smith said that he did not support the move toward one individual, himself, having sole authority to make decisions regarding texts in classrooms or library shelves. “The less collaborative we are, the greater the challenge becomes,” he said.

April 12, 2024

Majority of teachers concerned about school shootings

After years of efforts to improve school safety, a majority of teachers are concerned about the possibility of a shooting occurring at their school, with 7% saying they are “extremely” worried according to a Pew Research Center survey. The survey also found that improved mental health screening for children and adults was identified as the top strategy to prevent shootings. While mass school shootings are statistically rare, their pace and scale have increased over the years, shaping teachers’ experiences at work. Many teachers believe their schools could do more to prepare them for an active shooter, and lockdowns disrupt students and teachers. Teachers favor mental health support as a prevention strategy, while allowing teachers and administrators to carry guns is the least supported strategy. Support for prevention strategies varies based on political affiliation. The presence of school police correlates with increased student suspensions, expulsions, and arrests, but may serve as a deterrent for attackers. Read more

April 11, 2024

Most 18-year-old Texans not signed up to vote

Texas high schools are failing to distribute voter registration forms to eligible students, leading to low voter registration rates among young Texans. The state law requiring schools to distribute the forms is not being enforced, and noncompliant schools face no penalties. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 39.6% of Texans ages 18 to 24 were registered to vote in November 2022. The lack of civic education and voter registration in schools is a major barrier to young people’s engagement in the democratic process. Students themselves have taken initiative, organizing voter registration drives and internships to promote civic engagement among their peers. The goal is to empower marginalized communities and increase voter participation among young Texans. Read more

April 10, 2024

Texas lawmakers allege ‘violations of state law’ in Houston ISD

Nine Houston-area state representatives have contacted Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) Speaker of the Texas House, asking for a public hearing by the House Committee on Public Education on allegations that Houston ISD violated state law by having unaccredited teachers in the classroom. “We have also been informed that plans have been shared with teachers and administration to address the continuing exit of teachers by hiring current community college students as apprentices and additional learning coaches,” the representatives allege in the letter. Other concerns addressed in the letter include at-risk students not receiving the services and support they have a legal right to receive. Read more

April 9, 2024

President Biden announces student debt relief for millions

President Joe Biden has announced plans to ease student debt, benefitting at least 23m Americans. Speaking in Madison, Wisconsin on Monday, Mr. Biden outlined proposals to cancel up to $20,000 of accrued and capitalized interest for borrowers, regardless of income. The rules would also automatically provide eligible borrowers with loan relief, even if they haven’t applied for the administration’s other student borrowing programs, such as a loan-forgiveness program for public-service workers. “While a college degree still is a ticket to the middle class, that ticket is becoming much too expensive,” Mr. Biden said. “Today, too many Americans, especially young people, are saddled with unsustainable debts in exchange for a college degree.” Read more

April 8, 2024

Texas will use computers to grade written answers on this year’s STAAR tests

The Texas Education Agency is rolling out an “automated scoring engine” for open-ended questions on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness for reading, writing, science and social studies. The technology, which uses natural language processing technology like artificial intelligence chatbots such as GPT-4, will save the state agency between $15-20 million per year that it would otherwise have spent on hiring human scorers through a third-party contractor.

The change comes after the STAAR test, which measures students’ understanding of state-mandated core curriculum, was redesigned in 2023. The test now includes fewer multiple choice questions and more open-ended questions — known as constructed response items.

TEA officials have been resistant to the suggestion that the scoring engine is artificial intelligence. However, the plan has still generated worry among educators and parents in a world still weary of the influence of machine learning, automation and AI.

The STAAR test results are a key part of the accountability system TEA uses to grade school districts and individual campuses on an A-F scale. When campuses within a district are underperforming on the test, state law allows the Texas education commissioner to intervene. With the stakes so high for campuses and districts, there is a sense of uneasiness about a computer’s ability to score responses as well as a human can.

April 5, 2024

Updated EPA emissions standards include school buses

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released new emissions rules that will apply to school buses. The standards will mean cleaner air and healthier communities, especially in corridors where there’s denser truck traffic, proponents said. EPA Administrator Michael Regan also said that fleets will save “money through reduced fuel and maintenance costs.” Researchers explained that exposure to school bus diesel exhaust can subject students to pollutants, which can consequently increase the likelihood of asthma attacks and school absences. The final rule slows down the timing of the regulatory rollout compared to an initial unveiling. While the agency will track progress of original equipment manufacturers and developing infrastructure needed to support the program, regulations could undergo further changes based on feedback from the public. “EPA will consult with a wide range of stakeholders on an ongoing basis to learn from their experiences and gather relevant information and data,” the agency said, adding that stakeholders will include state and local governments, heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers, environmental and public health groups, and more. Read more

April 4, 2024

Texas counties, cities embrace new child care center tax credit even though few providers qualify

A new child care center tax credit is offering some providers much-needed relief after the COVID-19 pandemic forced some to shutter altogether in 2020.

Some are hoping the exemption will attest to how imperative it is for state and local governments to invest in child care.

So what does the tax credit do? Counties and cities in San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston areas have adopted a new property tax exemption for land used by child care centers. The exemption was approved by voters in November and requires local approval to go into effect. Some are pushing for the exemptions to be enacted in more rural areas.

The exemption has also passed in Denton and El Paso, as well as Hays and Aransas Counties. Read more

April 3, 2024

Austin ISD struggles to improve college readiness

Austin ISD is facing a decline in college readiness among its high school students, prompting the district to take action. The percentage of students on track to earn at least 12 college credit hours has decreased, with only 8.4% of students currently meeting this metric. Economically disadvantaged students are also struggling to meet certification goals. Administrators attribute these low numbers to a lack of alignment between instruction and testing and the absence of a comprehensive case management system. Trustee Kevin Foster suggests learning from successful schools, such as Navarro Early College High, which offers a dual-credit “college transitions” course. However, replicating these programs requires funding. Teacher retention is also identified as a crucial factor in improving college readiness. Read more

April 2, 2024

Transformation Waco to provide wraparound services at four schools

Transformation Waco has been approved for a $650,000 contract to provide wraparound services at four Waco ISD schools. The nonprofit organization will transition to coordinating non-instructional services such as social workers, health care, mental health, and after-school programs. The contract will fund nine professionals and two paraprofessionals, including community school specialists, after-school specialists, and clinical social workers. The staffing will allow for the continuation of after-school programming, free eye exams and glasses for students, telehealth services, and legal services. The future expansion of wrap-around services will depend on funding. In addition, the article mentions the closure of Brazos High School and the transition of its students and programs to Waco and University high schools. The closure is expected to save the district $325,000.

April 1, 2024

It’s no joke! April 5 is the last day to register to vote in the May 4 election

May is the month of elections this year, with school board trustees in many districts on the ballot on May 4, and legislative runoff elections on May 28. Register to vote by this Thursday, April 5 to participate in the May 4 election.

March 29, 2024

Nearly two years after the Uvalde massacre, here’s who has been reprimanded and where investigations stand

Nearly two years after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a Uvalde elementary school, investigations have offered strikingly different assessments of the botched law enforcement response, fueling frustrations and additional calls for transparency from victims’ families.

Many families had expressed hope that law enforcement officers would be held accountable after a scathing Justice Department report in January detailed “cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy and training.” At an associated news conference, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said lives could have been saved had law enforcement acted sooner. But just two months later, Uvalde residents said they felt whipsawed when a private investigator hired by the city cleared all local police officers of wrongdoing, even praising some of their actions.

Now, families anxiously await the results of the only remaining investigation: a criminal case brought by Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell, for which a grand jury began reviewing evidence in January. It will determine whether any of the nearly 400 federal, state and local officers are criminally charged. Read more

March 27, 2024

SBOE threatens delay on American Indian Native Studies course

After more than three and a half years in the making, the Texas SBOE has the opportunity to consider a high school level American Indian/Native Studies elective course for full adoption. If adopted, the course would become an official part of the Social Studies course catalog. This will make it much more likely that Texas school districts will offer it. Native communities throughout Texas and beyond support the course. However, if the Texas SBOE continues to delay bringing the course to First Reading, it could be delayed indefinitely. We need to show that Texas wants American Indian/Native Studies — contact your SBOE member today and register your support!

March 26, 2024

Biden signs FY 2024 education budget

President Joe Biden has now signed the FY 2024 budget for the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies, following its approval by the House and Senate on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The U.S. Department of Education will get $500m less for fiscal year 2024 compared to the previous year, the agency’s first cut since FY 2015. In a statement, Sen. Patty Murray highlighted the budget plan’s inclusion of $8.75bn, or 9% more over FY 2023, for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to help families afford child care. Also included in the spending plan is $12.3bn, up $275m from FY 2023, for Head Start early education services, including money to support and retain staff. Under the proposal, Title I and state grants for special education services, which are two of the largest K-12 federal funding programs, would also each get a $20m increase over FY 2023 allocations. Read more

March 25, 2024

Two killed in Texas school bus accident

A cement truck has crashed into a school bus carrying more than 40 pre-K students returning from a field trip to a Texas zoo, resulting in the death of a boy on the bus and a man in another vehicle. The bus rolled over on the highway, causing critical injuries to four people who were airlifted from the crash site. Six others with potentially serious injuries were transported by ambulance. The child who died was a pre-K student at Tom Green Elementary School in Buda. In addition to the two fatalities, 51 others were injured, including the bus driver. Read more

March 23, 2024

Texas libraries work to bridge state’s mental health services gap

From the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin offering a mental health resources page to the San Antonio Public Library’s mental health awareness presentation on the signs of anxiety to a private telehealth room where patrons can meet with a counselor via Zoom in North Texas town of Pottsboro, librarians do their best to help their communities with mental health resources. Read more

March 22, 2024

Protestors interrupt Houston ISD’s ‘state of the district’ event

Protestors were fired up outside Houston ISD’s “State of the District” luncheon, with some even interrupting. Superintendent Mike Miles is seeking support for his new budget proposal, which includes not closing schools and adding 45 more campuses to his specialized New Education System program. However, schools with falling enrollment could lose up to 12% of funding. Miles acknowledged the need for future bonds and expressed dissatisfaction with the systems in place to serve schools and students. Despite the protests, Miles and his board, appointed by the state, do not require public support to move forward with the budget. Read more

March 21, 2024

Emerging themes from states’ artificial intelligence guidance

An analysis by the Digital Promise nonprofit indicates that several themes are emerging across the states that have released guidance on using artificial intelligence (AI) in K-12 settings. As of late February, California, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia, have all released guidance to help school district leaders navigate AI in K-12. Common themes include AI literacy instruction, equity and inclusion concerns, protecting student data privacy, and securing personal information. Read more

March 20, 2024

Abbott says Texas is two House votes away from passing school vouchers

Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday urged school voucher supporters to make the final push in the May primary runoff elections to bring a pro-school voucher majority to the Texas House.

Delivering the opening speech at an annual conservative policy conference in Austin, Abbott declared that the school voucher movement was “on the threshold of success” after the March 5 primary. The election saw several anti-voucher Republican incumbents lose to pro-voucher challengers, putting pro-voucher members on the verge of a majority in the Texas House, the last legislative roadblock to the policy. Read more

March 18, 2024

Federal officials champion summer learning programs

White House and US Department of Education officials have urged school district leaders to ramp up high quality summer learning programs by offering rigorous and engaging courses, and by tapping into remaining COVID-19 emergency funds and other federal monies. Speaking at a summer learning convention at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., Cindy Marten, deputy secretary at the Education Department, told attendees that districts should “redouble” efforts to ensure that all students have access to summer learning. The gathering last week came two days after President Joe Biden presented a fiscal year 2025 spending plan seeking $8bn for a new Academic Acceleration and Achievement grant program. Specifics of that program are still being crafted, but it’s expected to target state and district initiatives to boost attendance, tutoring, summer, and extended learning. Mr. Biden also touted tutoring as a best practice for raising achievement levels during his State of the Union address earlier this month. Read more

March 17, 2024

Frisco ISD approved for teacher incentive allotment

The Texas Education Agency has approved Frisco ISD’s application for the initial phase of the Teacher Incentive Allotment. Qualified educators in Frisco ISD can now receive a state-funded stipend ranging from $2,700 to $14,000 based on their performance level. The stipend is aimed at attracting and retaining effective teachers and encouraging teaching in challenging environments. Frisco ISD Superintendent Dr. Mike Waldrip expressed pride in the designated teachers and the district’s commitment to supporting educators. The first phase of implementation focuses on specific subjects like Math, Reading, Algebra, and English, with more subjects to be included in future phases. Frisco ISD will provide data for review at each stage.

March 15, 2024

Advocates working hard during National Reading Month

With National Reading Month nearly halfway over, advocates are concerned about the decline in students’ reading habits. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 14% of students read for fun every day. This is down from previous years, with 31% of students never or hardly reading for fun. The decline in reading is often attributed to the increased use of phones and tablets among children. However, experts argue that reading for fun can include various digital spaces, such as social media. While there has been a shift towards teaching the science of reading, there is a need for more emphasis on knowledge and vocabulary. Additionally, the political fight over book bans in schools and libraries raises concerns about access to diverse and inclusive books. National Reading Month serves as a reminder of the importance of reading and the role of educators and libraries in promoting literacy.

March 13, 2024

With new state funds in hand, community colleges waive tuition for some high school students

Austin Community College, one of the most populous junior colleges in Texas, is set to waive tuition for this year’s graduating high school seniors through 2027. The community college’s Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the proposal next month. If it gets approval, the college will use the $6.8 million it received through House Bill 8, which expands the pot of money junior colleges get funding from and ties future funds to student outcomes.

ACC plans to pay eligible students before federal and state aid kicks in, allowing them to have their tuition covered first and use the remaining aid on things like housing and books.

Community college advocates are working to dispel the myth that it’s necessary for students to immediately go to a four-year institution after high school. Read more

March 12, 2024

Texas is preparing higher education for AI

With the popularity of artificial intelligence on the rise, Texas universities are creating programs in hopes of helping students better understand new technology and how to use it when they enter the workforce.

One of the most recent examples of this includes the University of Texas at San Antonio’s decision to launch a new college dedicated to AI, cyber security, computing and data science. The university’s new college is still in its planning phase and expected to launch by fall 2025. It’s not the only university looking to boost its AI offerings: the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Austin have launched graduate and short-term certificate programs.

Next month, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the state agency that oversees Texas’ colleges and universities, plans to start an assessment of AI activity at higher-education institutions across the state in the hopes of building a collaborative system accessible to all schools so they can get up to speed with AI. Read more

March 11, 2024

House lawmakers remain divided over charter schools

A hearing of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education last week revealed that congressional leaders remain divided over the effectiveness and direction of the charter school movement, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Lawmakers and witnesses were torn between bolstering charter school supports with one hand, and increasing oversight of existing charters while fortifying support for traditional public schools with the other. Points of contention included whether charter schools have enough oversight due to substantial closure rates. Lawmakers also debated whether charters are effective and equitable alternatives to traditional public schools, considering that their admissions and discipline practices could disproportionately impact underserved students. Between 1999 and 2017, according to a study by the Network for Public Education, over a quarter of charter schools closed during their first five years of operation, and 40% had closed by the 10 year mark. Read more

March 10, 2024

Despite white supremacist scandal, far-right billionaire powerbrokers see historic election gains in Texas

West Texas oil billionaires Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, major million-dollar donors to far-right conservative political campaigns, emerged from the 2024 primaries seemingly stronger than ever.

Eleven of the 28 House candidates supported by Dunn and Wilks won their primaries outright, with another eight headed to runoffs in May. Five candidates beat incumbents in rematches from 2022 or 2020. One of the candidates they backed is David Covey, who challenged House Speaker Dade Phelan for his seat and earned more votes than him, forcing the Beaumont Republican into a runoff.

Since January, Dunn and Wilks have spent more than $3 million to support candidates through the new political action committee Texans United for a Conservative Majority. The group is a spinoff of Defend Texas Liberty, which came under fire last year after its then-president hosted white supremacist Nick Fuentes at his office in Fort Worth. Read more

March 8, 2024

Biden outlines K12 education priorities in State of the Union address

President Joe Biden outlined his administration’s K-12 education priorities in a State of the Union address on Thursday. He emphasized the need for a strong education system and called for high-quality tutoring, summer learning, and career and technical education. Biden’s agenda includes plans to promote high-dosage tutoring programs, address chronic absenteeism, and monitor states’ federal accountability plans. He also highlighted the importance of career readiness and early education, connecting businesses and schools to provide hands-on experience, and pathways to good-paying jobs. While Biden called for universal pre-school access, he did not provide specific details on funding. Biden’s speech also addressed school violence and gun safety, with a push for new gun laws and the creation of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

March 6, 2024

Texas primaries bring school vouchers closer to reality

After the Texas primaries, school voucher supporters in Texas believe that their long-held goal of implementing a voucher program is closer than ever. Gov. Greg Abbott succeeded in defeating nine fellow Republicans who opposed vouchers, and more victories in the May runoffs could push vouchers across the finish line. Public school advocates, however, are concerned about the potential cost to the school system if vouchers become a reality. The battle for House approval of the program is expected to intensify in the coming months. Both sides are gearing up for a fervent fight. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank, plans to launch an “emboldened and invigorated” push for vouchers in the next legislative session. On the other hand, opponents of vouchers criticize the influx of out-of-state money and attack ads that were unrelated to education. Read more

March 5, 2024

Texas educators urged to stand strong against lawsuits

Texas educators are being encouraged to not be intimidated by recent lawsuits filed by the attorney general against school districts. HD Chambers, the director of the Texas School Alliance, stated that educators have an obligation to promote active citizenship and should not allow the lawsuits to have a “chilling effect.” Chambers also emphasized that school districts have the right to highlight the impact of legislative decisions on education. The attorney general’s office has filed lawsuits against several districts, alleging violations of election law. The lawsuits come ahead of the primary elections, where Republican leaders are hoping to remove House members who voted against voucherlike proposals. Public education advocates oppose such initiatives, stating that they would drain money from public schools. Chambers believes that educators should not be silenced and that encouraging others to vote is an act of patriotism. Read more

March 4, 2024

Texas lawmaker calls for dismantling education agency

A Texas lawmaker’s call to dismantle the Texas Education Agency reflects a growing discontent with the state office in charge of overseeing primary and secondary schooling, the Austin American-Statesman reports. While education policy experts agree that disbanding the agency is unrealistic, the call speaks more about bipartisan conversations at the state level about reforming education policy. In a letter, Rep. Glenn Rogers plans to file legislation to eliminate the TEA, criticizing the standardized test and the agency’s budget. Eliminating the TEA is farfetched, as it conducts federally required duties and tracks data on student outcomes. However, Rogers’ complaints reflect a growing discussion about reforming the agency. Many Texans have a distrust of large administrations and believe local communities and schools best know their students’ needs. Lawmakers from both parties have argued for overhauling the state’s system for testing students and holding schools accountable. There is bipartisan recognition that there is an issue with the current education system in Texas. Read more

March 3, 2024

School districts face budget cuts as federal relief money expires

As the federal COVID relief program comes to an end, districts are facing tough decisions on which programs to keep and which staff to cut. Low-income districts will be hit hardest, as they received larger allotments and have less ability to absorb the losses. Some districts, like Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and Northwest ISD, have planned for the end of federal money and do not anticipate making program changes. However, many districts will have to make difficult decisions, potentially cutting popular programs and even closing campuses. Fort Worth ISD used much of its allotment (roughly $261.64m) on a number of programs intended to give students extra learning time, including expanded summer learning and Saturday Learning Quest, an enrichment program that brings kids to school on certain weekends for fun activities like art, music and STEM, as well as extra instructional time in reading and math. Education experts urge districts to prioritize effective programs and avoid unnecessary cuts that could hinder academic recovery. Read more

March 1, 2024

Schools embracing mindfulness

Educators are spending more and more time outdoors, helping students embrace mindfulness to boost health and wellbeing. How students learn these skills can differ greatly but the goals are similar, helping classes learn how to slow down, get outside of their daily experiences, and bring some of those practices back into their daily lives. Ayesha Ercelawn, an education specialist for Green Schoolyards America, a nonprofit that supports transforming school grounds into green spaces that benefit children, the environment, and communities, stresses that students don’t have to travel far to experience the effects of mindfulness from the outdoors. “The natural world can be in small spaces,” she says. “They just need access to run around on their own every day without being teacher-directed.” Read more

February 29, 2024

Abbott invests millions in pro-school choice candidates

Governor Greg Abbott has contributed $5.8m to pro-school choice candidates and incumbents in Texas House races. The outcomes of these races could impact the use of public money for private schooling in Texas. Abbott is financially backing 10 challengers to Republican House incumbents, with the majority of his spending focused on new candidates or primary challengers who voted against school choice issues. He has also invested in supporting incumbents who voted for school choice proposals. Abbott’s spending is seen as a test of his influence and the power of money in Texas primary races. If successful, Abbott could become one of the most powerful governors in Texas political history. However, an unsuccessful outcome could weaken his legislative power. Regardless of the primary outcomes, the probability of the Texas House passing school choice legislation in the 2025 legislative session has increased.

February 28, 2024

Resources to support early education published

The US Department of Education has released guidance for how states, local educational agencies (LEAs), and schools can use Title I funds to expand access to high-quality preschool in a range of settings, including schools, Head Start, and community-based organizations. The guidance encourages schools across the nation to better set up kindergarten to be a bridge between the early years and the early grades. The Biden-Harris administration has secured historic educational investments, including an additional $1.9bn in annual funding for the Title I program since 2021. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona championed the announcement on Monday during a visit to an early childhood center in New Jersey. “High-quality, early learning opportunities are proven bridges to later academic success and every child deserves access,” Cardona said. Read more

February 26, 2024

Worry over UT-Austin taking Texas’ new DEI ban too far

Ever since Senate Bill 17 — the new state law that bans diversity, equity and inclusion programs in Texas public universities — went into effect at the beginning of this year, students and advocates say that the University of Texas at Austin is going above and beyond what’s required by state law.

So far, UT-Austin has closed a beloved multicultural center that housed several student organizations sponsored by the school and ended a scholarship program for undocumented students. This month, the department of undergraduate studies canceled a lecture on how to find an LGBTQ mentor after university lawyers argued it could be construed as diversity training. Students say university officials have gone back on their word, often with little explanation, after promising that certain programs would not be impacted by the ban.

Amid the lack of response from the university, students are scrambling to fill the financial gaps and continue traditions the university used to support.

As the head of UT-Austin’s Black Student Alliance, Aaliyah Barlow said she used to count on President Jay Hartzell’s office when seeking funding to attend the annual Big 12 Athletic Conference gathering for Black student leaders.

Barlow and her peers were surprised the ban ruined what had been a friendly relationship with leaders across the university. They have spent the last few weeks trying to find a new way to raise $20,000, or they won’t make the trip at all.

Victoria Uriostegui, a UT-Austin junior and a member of Rooted, an organization that has taken over some of the services that the former Monarch program used to provide, said watching the university eliminate resources for undocumented students without warning or explanation was exactly the kind of repercussions she warned lawmakers about when she testified against SB 17 at the Texas Capitol last year. Read more

February 25, 2024

Celebrate Public Schools Week with a pledge to advocate for great public schools

More than 49 million students are enrolled in public schools across America, including more than 5 million in Texas, and we celebrate those schools and students this week (Feb. 26-March 1). TSTA/NEA are determined to create schools where every student can succeed, regardless of their skin color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or ability.

Take this pledge to advocate for great public schools for all students. All signers will receive a free sticker, while supplies last.

February 23, 2024

New dental and vision coverage for TRS retirees will begin in January 2025

Under the new coverage, which was ordered by the Legislature, TRS-Care eligible retirees, their surviving spouses and surviving dependent children will be able to enroll for optional dental and vision benefit plans beginning next Jan. 1. The Teacher Retirement System board approved the posting of rules for the coverage at its meeting last week.

Eligible retirees can enroll in the new plans even if they are not enrolled or applying for enrollment in any other TRS-Care plan. Plan years will run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

TRS is now procuring competitive bids from insurance vendors and will present recommended options to the TRS trustees during the May board meeting.

At its meeting last week, the board received updates from TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie, who reported the TRS Trust Fund balance stands at $195.3 billion (as of Jan. 31), up from $187.2 billion, the last report in 2023. The pension membership has grown to 2 million, including retired, active and inactive school employees.

Guthrie also updated the board on the construction of the second of two office buildings for the new TRS headquarters in Austin’s Mueller development. The outer shell construction of the new TRS “Bravo” building is expected to be completed by the end of February. Inside tenant construction has already begun. The new “Alpha” building was completed late last year, and TRS divisions have already relocated there. TRS is expected to be fully relocated into both new locations by spring of 2025.

TRS trustees also participated in several annual educational sessions relating to ethics, membership experience and strategic asset and investment management.

February 22, 2024

Office for Civil Rights releases new resources on students with disabilities

The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has released four new resources to help students with disabilities, their families, and schools understand the civil rights protections guaranteed to students with asthma, diabetes, food allergies, and gastroesophageal reflux disease or gastroesophageal reflux. The resources explain how these medical conditions can impact a student’s school experience, how the conditions could require protections for students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the options for parents and students if they believe schools aren’t meeting their federal legal obligations. Additionally, OCR shared updated statistics showing there were 8.4m students with disabilities who comprised 17% of the nation’s pre-K-12 student population in 2020-21. About 3%, or 1.6m, of the total student population were students with disabilities who received supports and services under only Section 504 that school year. Read more

February 21, 2024

Black student’s hairstyle at center of trial

A trial is set to be held in Texas to determine if a Black high school student can continue being punished by his district for refusing to change his hairstyle, which he and his family say is protected by a new state law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination. The trial is being held before state District Judge Chap Cain III in Anahuac after Barbers Hill ISD filed a lawsuit seeking clarification of the new law. The CROWN Act, which took effect in September, prohibits race-based hair discrimination and bars employers and schools from penalizing people because of hair texture or protective hairstyles. The school district argues that George’s long hair violates its dress code policy, while George’s attorney argues that the CROWN Act protects hair length. The trial will determine the outcome of George’s punishment and the interpretation of the law. George’s family has also filed a formal complaint and a federal civil rights lawsuit. Read more

February 20, 2024

Most students struggling in math

Most American students are struggling in math, with 65% of fourth graders and nearly three-quarters of eighth graders scoring “below basic” or “basic” in math on the most recent NAEP test. Math disabilities, present in about 7% of students, often go undiagnosed. Additionally, many students without disabilities are still working below grade level. While schools have strategies to help students learn to read, fewer offer the same help for math. Only 23% of schools have numeracy specialists compared to 50% with trained literacy specialists. This lack of support in math education is hindering students’ understanding and proficiency in the subject, impacting their college readiness. Read more

February 19, 2024

Early voting starts tomorrow

Make a plan today to get to the polls for the party primary election. The future of public education in Texas is on the ballot this election, as it is every election. Team TSTA, be voting advocates by encouraging your colleagues, friends and family to get to the polls and Vote Education First!

February 18, 2024

Texas school districts qualify for state funding for clean transportation

Hundreds of Texas public school districts will likely qualify for state funding as they switch to electric buses and other clean forms of transportation. Districts can request reimbursement as they upgrade or replace diesel-powered buses. Roughly $13.5m is available through the grant program, which is administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “The new school buses certainly have little to zero exhaust . . . so the air in and around the school buses are cleaner,” said TCEQ Program Specialist Nate Hickman. Districts can choose to upgrade existing diesel buses to limit emissions or purchase new diesel, propane, and electric-powered vehicles. Applications for the 19th year of the Texas Clean School Bus program opened on February 14. Districts have until October 14 to apply, but funding is typically exhausted within the first few months. The state covers up to five projects for each district, including full reimbursement for retrofitting projects and up to 80% reimbursement for new school buses. Read more

February 16, 2024

Ed. Dept. updates equity action plan

The U.S. Department of Education has updated its Equity Action Plan initiative, part of efforts to implement the President’s Executive Order on “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government.” The department has identified five areas of focus through visits to communities, listening sessions, and roundtables. The department wants to improve college access, affordability, and degree completion for underserved students to increase economic mobility, implement maintenance of equity requirements to ensure historically underserved students have equitable resources for learning recovery, advance equity in and through career and technical education, and increase mental health resources, with an emphasis on underserved communities. Read more

February 15, 2024

STAAR essay answers now being graded by computer

The STAAR exams have probably become even more controversial with news that most students’ answers on essay questions will now be most likely graded by a computer, not a human.

According to The Dallas Morning News story linked below, TEA quietly rolled out this new model for evaluating STAAR essay answers in December, with about three-fourths of written responses scored by an “automated scoring machine.”

Officials said the computers are programmed to emulate how humans would score an essay, after analyzing thousands of students’ responses that were previously scored by people.

The automated scoring engine is “programmed by humans, overseen by humans and is analyzed at the end by humans,” Jose Rios, director of the student assessment division, told the newspaper.

This new scoring method is part of a broader STAAR redesign, which now includes essays at every grade level.

Read more.

February 14, 2024

This Sunday, Feb. 18, is last day to register for the NEA ESP National Conference

Scheduled for March 22-24 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, this annual conference brings together education support professionals from across the country for a weekend of professional learning and networking opportunities. Register here

February 13, 2024

Advocate for fair pay and benefits for ESPs

We all know that schools could not operate without the work of bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, school secretaries and other education support professionals. Yet, more than one-third of ESPs are paid less than $25,000 a year, and more than one-fourth must rely on federal assistance programs to take care of their families.

The Paraprofessionals and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights (S.Res.450) seeks to change that. This legislation calls for living wages, good benefits and fair working conditions for the 2.2 million ESPs in schools and the 750,000 on college and university campuses.

Urge your U.S. senators to co-sponsor this bill.

February 12, 2024

Texas children are still struggling with math after the pandemic. Some schools are trying a new approach.

At Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy in the Dallas Independent School District, students teach each other math.

Students brave enough to share how they solved a problem stand up in front of the other third graders and say, “All eyes on me,” and the classroom responds, “All eyes on you,” ready to learn from their peer’s explanations. If a student disagrees with an explanation, they might debate the concepts to figure out how they got to certain conclusions.

Moving away from tests to measure success, a new curriculum called Eureka Math is “more focused on the kids understanding the concept, and in turn, that will help a child pass assessments,” math teacher Eran McGowan said. While previous curriculums emphasized knowing the answer for standardized tests, this new method focuses on learning the process behind each answer.

Last summer’s state standardized testing scores showed that Texas students have yet to catch up to the pre-pandemic math scores from 2019. Forty-five percent of students who took math in third through eighth grade or Algebra I last year passed the STAAR test. While these scores represent a slight increase from last year, they are still 7 percentage points behind the 2019 state average.

Even more concerning, the number of students who went above and beyond and “mastered” the subject has not recovered since the pandemic.

The low number of students mastering math worries some policymakers and educators as it means not enough Texans will have the skills to meet the demands of the most lucrative jobs in the next few decades. A Stanford University study found students who do not bring their math scores back up to pre-pandemic levels will earn 5.6% less over the course of their lives than students with better grades just before the pandemic. Read more

February 8, 2024

Active shooter training: State-specific requirements for schools and law enforcement

Despite annual active shooter drills occurring at schools across the U.S., required, yearly training doesn’t apply to the thousands of state and local law enforcement officers who do not work in schools.

An investigation by The Texas Tribune, ProPublica and FRONTLINE revealed about 30% of the 116 state and local officers who responded to the Uvalde school shooting in May 2022 did not get active shooter training after graduating from police academies.

At least 37 states, including Texas, require active shooter-related drills in schools, usually on a yearly basis. But decisions about such training within law enforcement departments are not always a given. Compared to other states, Texas does have laws that require active shooter training for officers once on the job. The frequency isn’t necessarily on a yearly basis though.

After a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in 2018, state lawmakers passed a law that all school police officers receive training to confront a mass shooter. But the training only has to occur once. Last year, the state mandated that all law enforcement officers, including those who are not school police, take 16 hours of active shooter training every two years. Read more

February 7, 2024

More schools urge mildly sick kids to attend

Some advocates and school systems are now encouraging kids to come to class even when they have the sniffles or other “nuisance illnesses” like lice or pinkeye. The state of California for example, where 25% of students last year missed 10% of the school year, took a new approach to sick-day guidance last fall. Instead of only saying when a child should stay home, the guidance describes circumstances when a child might be slightly unwell but can come to school. California also doesn’t insist on waiting 24 hours after a fever or vomiting before returning to school. Going fever-free or without vomiting overnight is enough. Boston Public Schools took a similar stance in its online recommendations for parents. “Respiratory infections are common. If the child does not have fever, does not appear to have decreased activity or other symptoms, it is not necessary for the child to stay home,” the district guidance reads. “Families need to hear they no longer must keep kids home at any sign of illness,” agrees Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works. The national nonprofit has even issued its own guidance, urging parents to send kids to school if they can participate in daily activities. “We have to now re-engage kids and families, and change their thinking about that,” Chang adds. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends staying home when there’s fever, vomiting or diarrhea, or when students “are not well enough to participate in class.” Read more

February 6, 2024

FAFSA submissions have declined significantly

Around 676,000 high school seniors submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) through late January, fewer than half the number who had sent in the form by the same time last year, according to an analysis by the National College Attainment Network. As of January 26, high school seniors had submitted 56.6% fewer FAFSA forms compared to the year before. That drop is even more severe for students from high schools with predominantly low-income populations, who’ve seen a 65.2% year-over-year decline in FAFSA submissions. Notably, the U.S. Department of Education released the revamped form nearly three months later than normal, while glitches and technical errors have plagued its rollout so far. Read more

February 5, 2024

Beware of scammers posing as Austin school police

Austin ISD is cautioning residents about scammers posing as school police employees. These callers claim that the person receiving the call has an arrest warrant and ask for sensitive personal information, such as a Social Security number. The district has warned that these calls are fraudulent and that they would never ask for personal information over the phone. Victims of the scam are advised to make a non-emergency report by calling 311. Read more

February 2, 2024

TEA takes over La Joya ISD

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has replaced the La Joya ISD school board and superintendent after an investigation into allegations of fraud and conflicts of interest. The TEA appointed a “board of managers” consisting of seven Hidalgo County residents to temporarily oversee the district. Marcey Sorensen has been named as the new superintendent. Read more 

February 1, 2024

Hundreds of school districts sue over youth mental health crisis

More than 200 school districts have now filed lawsuits against the big social media companies, alleging that their addictive products are harmful to students’ mental health. The plaintiffs are seeking monetary compensation and changes to social media companies’ practices. School districts have reported increased anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems among students due to social media use. The lawsuits aim to hold social media companies accountable and raise public awareness about the issue. Read more 

January 29, 2024

School officials concerned about lack of state money for safety measures

House Bill 3, which was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott last June, requires an armed security officer at every campus in the state. The bill came in direct response to the May 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, which left 19 children and two adult teachers dead. The bill gave school districts $15,000 per campus and $10 per student to help fund these new mandates, and also allotted $1.1 billion to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to award grants to schools and districts. Read more 

January 28, 2024

Young students lag on school

Early elementary schoolchildren who were aged between one and four in Spring 2020, when the pandemic disrupted education, continue to show a lack of school readiness in math and reading skills. According to fall 2023 results from assessment company Curriculum Associates, more kindergartners in fall 2023, those who were one to two years old in March 2020, began the school year below grade level in reading, compared to kindergartners from fall 2019. Read more 

January 24, 2024

Mental Health

The Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine virtual program run by JPS Health Network and the University of North Texas Health Science Center is providing limited and free therapy to students who need mental health care.

Here’s how Tarrant County students can apply

January 23, 2024

Round Rock ISD partners with Texas State Technical College

Round Rock ISD has announced a partnership with Texas State Technical College for the 2024-25 school year. The collaboration aims to enhance educational opportunities for students in the district. According to RRISD Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez, “This partnership will provide our students with access to high-quality technical education and training, preparing them for successful careers in various industries.” The partnership will allow students to earn college credits and industry certifications while still in high school. It will also provide opportunities for internships and work-based learning experiences. Read more

January 22, 2024

Biden announces more student loan relief

President Joe Biden approved more student loan relief for another 74,000 borrowers on Friday, waiving $4.9bn in debt. The relief targets longtime borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment plans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. It comes largely as a result of changes the Education Department made to the programs, in part motivated by a nonpartisan watchdog report. It largely mirrors other relief he has granted in recent months. Read more

January 21, 2024

Schools face fewer supply chain disruptions

Far fewer schools are struggling to secure crucial goods like cafeteria menu items and laptops because of supply chain disruptions this school year than at the same time last school year, new data show. The National Center for Education Statistics’ School Pulse Panel conducted the survey, which included more than 1,500 schools from every state and the District of Columbia. In 2022 and 2023, schools most often cited food services as the area most affected by supply chain disruptions. In 2023 however, only 27% of schools reported food-related issues, compared with 54% the year prior. Laptops and other electronic devices have also proved harder to get because of supply chain problems in many districts. Just under 25% of respondents said in November 2023 that they’ve encountered difficulty securing the equipment, but that was down from 48% of schools in October 2022. Despite improvements, over half of schools still face supply chain challenges. The survey also revealed a shortage of qualified staff in the area of food service, with 41% of schools reporting nutrition staff shortages in November 2023, compared to 32% in October 2022. Read more

January 19, 2024

Justice Department blasts law enforcement’s botched response to Uvalde school shooting

In a newly released federal review, the US Justice Department identified “cascading failures” in the law enforcement’s delayed confrontation of the gunman in the Uvalde school shooting.

It took 77 minutes for responding officers to confront the shooter who killed 19 children and two teachers, wounding 17 others. Officers treated the gunman as a barricaded suspect, even amid pleas for help from children and teachers in calls to 911 operators.

“Their loved ones deserved better,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Thursday morning press conference in Uvalde. Read more

January 18, 2024

Appeals court blocks Texas from enforcing book rating law

A federal appeals court blocked the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday from enforcing a state law that would require booksellers to rate books they send to schools based on their explicitness and amount of sexual references. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative in the nation, sided with booksellers, concluding the state law violated their First Amendment rights. Read more

January 17, 2024

Feds approve 12 months of Medicaid coverage for low-income Texas moms

New Texas moms will be able to stay on Medicaid for a year after childbirth, following years of advocating from maternal health advocates for year-long coverage. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid approved the state’s application for Medicare and Medicaid approved the state’s application on Wednesday.

This makes Texas the 43rd state to be approved for the extended coverage. The approval goes into effect on March 1, 2024. Those whose pregnancy ended in the months before March 1 and lost postpartum Medicaid coverage are eligible to re-enroll to maintain coverage until 12 months after their pregnancy ended.

Back in 2021, the federal government denied Texas’ application for continued coverage because of medically inaccurate language intended to exclude people who had abortions. During the last regular legislative session, lawmakers worked to reach a proposal that the federal government would approve. A bill to expand postpartum coverage initially passed in the Texas House with largely bipartisan support, however it snagged in the Texas Senate. Read more

January 16, 2024

TEA sued over accountability system revisions

Dozens of school districts in Texas have filed a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency (TEA) over revisions to the state’s accountability system. The districts claim that the proposed new rules, which require a higher number of high school students to pursue a career after graduating, would be too abrupt and potentially set them up for failure. The TEA appealed a previous court decision that found the changes to be unlawful and harmful to districts. The release of the school ratings, which inform families and educators about school performance, has been postponed until the case is resolved. The lawsuit highlights the contentious issue of how to hold schools accountable for students’ academic performance and the potential ramifications of a bad grade, including a loss of funding and the threat of a state takeover. The outcome of the lawsuit is expected later this year. Read more

January 15, 2024

Texas schools to lose millions in federal special education funding

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has now notified districts that Medicaid reimbursements for special education students would be reduced by more than $300m, leaving school districts with millions of dollars to make up halfway through the school year just months after they passed budgets. Three districts, Northside ISD in San Antonio, Dallas, and Cypress-Fairbanks will each receive more than $10m less than HHSC expected to give them. Houston, Austin, and Katy ISD are close behind, with special education deficits of more than $5m each to make up. Harlandale ISD and San Antonio ISD, two districts that announced school closures in 2023 in order to make better use of limited funds, will both receive more than $2m less than expected. Read more

January 14, 2024

Houston ISD sued over gender pay gap

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing Houston ISD for allegedly paying some female employees less than their male colleagues. The lawsuit claims that female senior career and technical education (CTE) program specialists received lower wages despite “performing substantially equal work.” The EEOC also stated that these women were subject to stricter interpretations of its compensation manual, limiting their ability to qualify for higher starting salaries based on previous work experience. The lawsuit seeks back pay, damages, the elimination of pay disparities, and “other injunctive relief to correct and prevent future pay discrimination.” HISD is one of Houston’s largest employers, with over 27,100 part- and full-time employees. The district has not commented on the pending litigation. The EEOC will hold employers accountable when they violate this obligation,” said Rudy Sustaita, EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston. Read more

January 12, 2024

Lack of diversity among school superintendents in Texas

The lack of racial diversity among school superintendents in Texas is a cause for concern, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin. The study found that white men dominate the top administrative positions in school districts, despite the fact that the majority of students in Texas are Black and Latino. Women and minorities in the field are also underpaid compared to their white counterparts and often work in under-resourced urban schools. The study’s lead researcher, David DeMatthews, emphasizes that the lack of diversity among superintendents means that white educators are setting policies and standards for Black and brown students. The study also reveals that women, people of color, and women of color are more likely to serve in school districts that serve higher poverty students. Despite population shifts bringing more minority students to rural areas, the superintendent workforces there are still mostly white. Read more

January 11, 2024

This will be a critical election year for public education; voter registration deadline for party primaries is Feb. 5

Not only are we facing probably the most critical presidential election of our lifetimes, we also will be electing a U.S. senator and other members of Congress, members of the Texas Legislature, the State Board of Education and, in some districts, local school boards with major implications for public schools, educators and students.

The governor, lieutenant governor and most other statewide offices will not be on the ballot this year, but all 150 seats in the Texas House and about half of the seats in the state Senate will be. And both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will be actively campaigning for pro-voucher legislative candidates who will support their efforts to divert billions of tax dollars from underfunded public schools to unregulated private schools. They also will try to unseat our legislative allies who value their local public schools and voted against vouchers last year.

Once again, we defeated vouchers in 2023 because of the hard work of TSTA members. But we will be fighting that fight again next year, and the results of this year’s legislative races, beginning with the March 5 party primaries, will go a long way toward determining how successful we are against vouchers and winning more funding for classrooms and educator pay raises when the Legislature returns in 2025.

TSTA PAC will be endorsing candidates from both parties for the Legislature, as well as school board candidates, and our only qualification will be candidates’ records or stands on public education. We will be providing more information about endorsements closer to the election.

For now, the first date to remember is Feb. 5, the deadline to register to vote in the primaries if you are not already registered. But don’t wait until then. Take a few minutes now to go to this secretary of state site and plug in the necessary information to find out if you are registered. If you are not, you can register here.

Early voting in person for the primaries will be Feb. 20-March 1, and the last day to apply for a mail-in ballot will be Feb. 23. Election Day will be Tuesday, March 5. Prepare now to Vote Education First!

January 10, 2024

School cafeterias struggle with rising costs and staffing shortages

School cafeterias are grappling with the dual challenges of rising food prices and staffing shortages, according to the School Nutrition Association’s annual survey. The cost of food, materials, and maintenance is increasing, while manufacturers are facing labor shortages, leading to higher expenses for schools. Staffing is also a major concern, as schools struggle to compete with businesses like McDonald’s and Walmart for employees. The shortage of skilled labor in kitchens necessitates additional training. The survey reveals that increasing costs and staff shortages are significant challenges for nutrition directors. Many directors express concerns about the financial sustainability of school meal programs in the future. The association calls on Congress to increase federal funding for school meals. However, the report also highlights some positive developments, such as fewer shortages of supplies and equipment. Student meal debt is improving, but districts still face challenges in communicating the need for payment to families. The report also shows that more districts are incorporating locally grown and raised foods, preparing more meals from scratch, and implementing farm-to-school initiatives. Read more

January 9, 2024

America’s Hidden Education Crisis

Absenteeism has nearly doubled since the pandemic. With state and federal governments largely abdicating any role in getting kids back into classrooms, some schools have turned to private companies for a reimagined version of the truant officer. Read more

January 8, 2024

The challenge of closing schools: Balancing budgets and equity

School districts across the country are grappling with the decision of whether to close schools with lower enrollments as they face declining student numbers and the end of pandemic relief funds. Enrollment declines have been projected for years, but the rate of decline has accelerated due to lower birth rates, families opting out of public education, and population shifts. The combination of these factors, along with the expiration of relief funds, has created a “perfect storm” for many districts’ budgets and enrollments. The issue of school closures is gaining attention in communities nationwide, with some districts already announcing plans to close schools. Research shows that school closures often disproportionately affect disadvantaged students, highlighting the need for districts to consider the impacts beyond budgetary concerns. Experts recommend early communication with communities, engaging in transparent conversations about potential closures, and incorporating feedback into future plans. The decision to close schools is challenging, but delaying it can strain districts that are already stretched thin. The trend of school closure proposals is expected to continue in the short term. Read more

January 5, 2024

USDA’s Summer EBT program to launch this year

The US Department of Agriculture will this summer launch a new permanent nutrition assistance program known as Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer. Families with children who are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals will receive $40 per child each month to buy food during the summer, when school is out. The program could improve nutrition for 29m school-aged children if implemented nationwide. Over 30 states intend to enroll in the USDA program, while a handful of others, including Iowa and Nebraska, have so far declined to participate. Some state leaders have cited barriers to enrolling, including the program’s requirements for a state to cover 50% of the costs to administer Summer EBT. Congress approved the program in December 2022 through the Consolidated Appropriations Act. States were required to file an intent to enroll in the program by January 1. For school leaders who are passionate about this issue and reside in states that have opted out, Crystal FitzSimons, director of school and out-of-school time programs at the Food Research and Action Center, recommends that they consider “weighing in” with state education departments and policymakers to encourage implementing the program next year. Read more

January 4, 2024

Schools working to support special education teachers

The shortage of special education teachers in U.S. schools has reached crisis levels, with 45% of schools reporting unfilled positions. The stress experienced by these teachers has led to increased attrition rates and job-related stress. Lack of staff support and resources further contribute to the challenges faced by special educators. To address these issues, schools must implement programs dedicated to teaching self-care strategies and allocate resources for mental health support. Training in social-emotional learning skills and the establishment of communities of practice can also help reduce stress levels. Reflexive visual journaling has shown effectiveness in early detection of burnout indicators. Preventing burnout in special education requires collaboration from schools, districts, and policymakers. Prioritizing the well-being of special educators not only safeguards their mental and emotional health, but also enriches the educational experience for students with disabilities. Read more

January 3, 2024

Nine states urged to curb child Medicaid drops

The Biden administration has urged several states who’ve dropped the largest numbers of children from their Medicaid and Children Health Insurance Program rolls to take up more federal flexibilities to prevent them from losing healthcare coverage. Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas account for about 60% of the decline in children’s Medicaid and CHIP enrollment from March through September, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has called on the states to adopt federal flexibilities and strategies to ease renewal, remove CHIP enrollment fees and premiums, reduce call center wait times, partner with local organizations, and expand Medicaid. Read more.

January 2, 2024

FTC proposes tighter limits on using children’s data

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, or COPPA Rule, whereby new guardrails would be placed on the use of children’s personal data and a company’s ability to profit from using that information. The COPPA Rule currently imposes certain requirements on websites or online service providers that target and knowingly collect the personal information of children under 13 years old. Specifically, these providers must notify and obtain parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing their children’s data. The rule also limits how long online service providers can retain the data, which must be securely stored. The FTC said in a statement that its proposal “aims to shift the burden from parents to providers to ensure that digital services are safe and secure for children.” Read more

December 19, 2023

Holiday greetings from TSTA

2023 was a mixed year for TSTA. The Legislature, which was in session for most of the year, refused to increase state funding for public schools or raise educator pay, and, in a slap at the richness of Texas’ growing diversity, banned DEI offices in state-supported universities. But we defeated the toughest campaign for private school vouchers yet, won a long-overdue benefits increase for retired educators and celebrated numerous successes at the local school board level. As we come to the end of this challenging year, we want to thank all of you — our amazing #TeamTSTA family — for the work you do on behalf of the students, educators and communities in Texas.

Through it all — from underfunded campuses to teacher shortages to political attacks — you continued to do your jobs, focusing on your students’ academic requirements as well as their safety and social and emotional needs. We all are looking forward to a well-earned timeout, a chance to gather with our families and friends and recharge for the work and opportunities that 2024 will bring.

TSTA headquarters in Austin will be closed from Dec. 20-Jan 1 for the winter break. The Briefing will resume after we return.

We, the officers and staff of TSTA, wish all of you and your loved ones a joyous holiday season and winter break. Stay safe and healthy. Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

December 18, 2023

TRS board instructs staff to distribute COLAs next month; Pension Trust Fund did better in fiscal 23

At their final quarterly meeting of the year, TRS trustees adopted a resolution directing staff to timely distribute the cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to retirees on their January payment dates. These benefits boosts, ranging from 2 to 6 percent, depending on an individual’s retirement date, were approved last spring by the Legislature and on Nov. 7 by Texas voters in the constitutional amendments’ election.

Several bogus lawsuits filed by election-deniers questioned the election results for all the amendments and for a short while threatened to delay the higher payments. But state lawyers figured out a way to dodge the lawsuits and proceed with the payments after the election results were certified.

You can find updates on the COLA payments on the 2023 TRS Retiree Benefit Enhancements page.

December 17, 2023

Biden-Harris Administration announces approval of an additional $4.8 billion in student loan debt relief

This relief covers 80,300 borrowers and stems from fixes made by the US Department of Education to income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). We believe it includes a large number of TSTA and other NEA members.

This latest wave of debt relief includes $2.6 billion in forgiveness for 34,400 borrowers under PSLF. This brings the total relief through PSLF since October 2021 to $53.5 billion for almost 750,000 borrowers, including $3.4 billion in relief for 47,950 Texans

By contrast, only about 7,000 borrowers nationwide had received forgiveness through these programs at the start of the Biden-Harris Administration.

December 16, 2023

Coalition co-founded by TSTA testifies on educator certification

In its December meeting, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) discussed proposed changes to Educator Preparation Program (EPP) rules in Texas Administrative Code (TAC) chapters 228 and 230. Chapter 228 is related to EPP curricular requirements, and Chapter 230 relates to certification exam requirements for educator candidates. The Texas Coalition for Education Preparation (TCEP), a coalition co-founded by TSTA, provided testimony on items related to both chapters.

TCEP seeks to advance the profile of the education profession by supporting the continuous improvement of educator recruitment, preparation and certification practices. TCEP believes that performance assessment is a beneficial instrument by which to develop teacher candidates but is not an appropriate instrument to use as a licensure exam. When a performance assessment is embedded in the curriculum required by Ch. 228, candidates have access to feedback from field supervisors and more opportunity to grow and learn. When performance assessment is used as a certification exam required by Ch. 230, candidates lack access to this feedback. For this reason, TCEP has advocated since its founding that a performance assessment be added as a requirement in Chapter 228 as a part of a candidate’s preparation, and that certification exams required in Ch. 230 be more traditional exams required of all candidates after completing the EPP coursework.

Even though the State Board of Education vetoed an SBEC-adopted rule in 2022 that would have required performance assessment as a certification exam in Ch. 230, the Texas Education Agency is still pushing this agenda. So, TCEP testified once again that EPPs should be required to prepare educators using a performance assessment of their choosing but that this should not be used as a high-stakes certification exam in Ch. 230.

SBEC also discussed the development of a new standard certificate for teacher residents, a pathway that TSTA and TCEP support. However, TEA is proposing that candidates who complete the residency pathway would not be required to pass the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities exam, an exam required for all other standard certificates. We oppose this provision. TSTA and TCEP believe that all EPPs should be held to high curricular standards and that teacher candidates must be required to demonstrate mastery of skills via certification and licensure regardless of preparation pathway.

Read TCEP’s testimony on Chapter 228

Read testimony on Chapter 230

December 14, 2023

School staffing shortages creating bigger class sizes

Administrators are being pushed to increase class sizes because of teacher vacancies, according to data released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). School leaders relied on other strategies, too, for making do amid shortages. About 40% said they used their teachers and staff to perform duties outside of their intended role, while 24% shared teachers and staff with other schools. The shortages had other effects on school life, including disruptions in student transportation, fewer extracurricular activities, and a reduction in student services. Overall, one in five schools said they had multiple teacher vacancies, a problem that especially affected large schools, those in high poverty neighborhoods, and those with enrollments primarily of students of color. In broad terms, the data reflected improvements compared with a year earlier, but also underlines how the fallout of the pandemic continues. NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr said in a statement that it “does signal progress,” while also expressing concern about the large share of students behind academically. Read more

December 13, 2023

Kentucky charter school funding law struck down by judge

A Kentucky law aimed at setting up a funding method for charter schools was struck down by a judge on Monday, dealing another setback for school choice advocates. The decision likely stymies efforts, for now, to give charter schools a foothold in the Bluegrass State. In his ruling, the judge said the law violated Kentucky’s constitution, establishing a separate class of publicly funded but privately controlled schools. Read more

December 12, 2023

New Ed Dept deadlines revealed for regulations

The Education Department now plans to issue both of its final Title IX rules by March 2024, almost a year after its original May 2023 goal. If published by its new deadline, the rules would come five months after they were delayed a second time in October 2023. Educators, parents, students, and advocates are eagerly awaiting the first major update in four decades to regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which will impact requirements in K-12 for how schools accommodate students with disabilities. Read more

December 11, 2023

Funding package not passed by Texas legislature

The Texas state legislature has failed to pass a school funding package. The Austin American-Statesman comments that “Of 15 school districts in Central Texas, only five avoided adopting a deficit budget this year,” quoting Round Rock school Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez as saying that said his district needed to appeal to voters because it could not afford to wait for the Legislature to act. Read more

December 8, 2023

Biden administration approves $4.8b student loan debt cancellation

The Biden administration has approved an additional $4.8bn in federal student loan debt cancellation for approximately 80,000 borrowers. This brings the total approved debt cancellation to $132bn for 3.6m borrowers. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stated that this relief is historic and no other administration has come close to providing such relief. The latest round of relief is a result of fixes to the income-driven repayment plan and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The Education Department has also canceled $11.7bn for borrowers with disabilities and $22.5bn for borrowers who were cheated by their schools or experienced sudden closures. Read more

December 7, 2023

Texas SBOE member says oil and gas industry influenced decision to reject textbooks

Texas State Board of Education member Aicha Davis says the state is not being straightforward with Texas students about climate change.

The Republican-controlled board recently decided to reject seven of 12 eighth-grade science textbooks that are now required to include some information on climate change.

Davis says many of her colleagues decided the rejected books went too far, teaching students how to advocate for solutions to climate change, for instance, or that they taught climate change as settled science.

These decisions, Davis said, were influenced by the oil and gas industry in Texas.

“My colleagues clearly said it over and over. They wanted to make sure oil and gas was only seen in a positive light, minimal information about clean energy, lots of positive things about oil and gas,” said the board member from Dallas. Read more

December 6, 2023

Texas Legislature adjourns fourth special session

The fourth special legislative session ended Tuesday when the House adjourned without taking action on some key bills the Senate had passed, leaving senators with little choice but to adjourn as well.

It concluded much like it began, with no deal on school vouchers, other Republican priorities sunk by intra-party fighting and a governor unable to broker peace between the feuding heads of the legislative chambers.

The latest casualties were Senate Bill 5, which would spend $800 million on school safety measures through 2025; and Senate Bill 6, which would change the timeline of a trial after an election contest is filed by a citizen or group. The failure to pass school vouchers, while a victory for Democrats and some rural Republicans, came at the cost of blocking funding that would have also increased school funding and provided bonuses for teachers. Read more

December 5, 2023

Telehealth booms as schools address student mental health crisis

As schools across the country grapple with the student mental health crisis, the use of telehealth therapy for students has skyrocketed. At least 16 of the 20 largest U.S. public school districts are now offering online therapy sessions, with schools signing provider contracts worth over $70m. Teletherapy has made therapy more accessible, particularly for rural schools and lower-income students. The growth of teletherapy companies has raised concerns about the quality of care offered. However, educators say teletherapy works for many kids and helps prevent them from falling through the cracks. Schools are using federal pandemic relief money to fund teletherapy services, but competition with telehealth providers is making it harder to hire in-person school counselors. Read more

December 4, 2023

Texas Senate passes bill to increase funding for school safety

The Texas Senate has passed a bill that would increase funding for school safety in public schools. The bill, known as Senate Bill 5, would provide an additional $400m to the Texas Education Agency to distribute among schools. This is in addition to the $1.1bn already set aside for school safety grants. The bill would also increase the amount of direct funding that schools receive for safety improvements. If the bill becomes law, new school safety investments from the state since last year would reach about $2.5bn. However, it is unclear whether schools will actually receive the funds as lawmakers are running out of time to pass legislation. The bill now needs final approval from the House, which has its own similar bill stuck in a Senate committee. Passing the bill may be challenging due to strained relationships between the House and the Senate.

December 1, 2023

Rural students face persistent access barriers

Students attending rural schools across the United States have less access to school psychologists and counselors than their nonrural peers. According to research from the National Rural Education Association, they may also face other educational, mental, and physical well-being barriers impacting rural areas. Rural schools and students “often seem invisible” because lawmakers may not fully understand the challenges they encounter, despite there being 9.5m students attending public schools in rural areas. The report also highlights areas of progress, including increased diversity of rural students and a slightly higher graduation rate than their nonrural peers. Read more

November 30, 2023

Schools to receive free rapid COVID-19 tests

School districts across the country will soon be able to order free rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government. The initiative aims to provide millions of tests to schools as COVID cases are expected to peak in the winter months. This is the first time that 19,000 school districts will have direct access to tests from a federal stockpile. Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response within the Department of Health and Human Services, states that the tests can be used by schools as they see fit, including sharing them with students, staff, and family members. Read more

November 29, 2023

Austin ISD to build 500-unit housing complex for educators

Austin ISD has signed a contract with NRP Group to develop a 500-unit housing complex for local educators. The complex, located on the site of the Anita Ferrales Coy Facility, aims to provide affordable housing for teachers and school staff in Austin. The district plans to prioritize teachers and staff for the housing units, at least half of which will be affordable. The exact number and placement of the units are yet to be determined. The district also plans to construct a new building for the Alternative Learning Center on the Coy site. The housing construction is expected to begin in summer 2025. This project is part of the district’s larger initiative to repurpose old elementary school sites. In addition, the district has partnered with United Way for Greater Austin to create an affordable child care facility at the old Pease Elementary School. The district aims to address the challenge of attracting and retaining staff by providing housing and child care solutions. Read more

November 28, 2023

Ed Dept calls on more states to develop innovative assessments

The federal Department of Education has updated guidance for a federal program that encourages innovative and high-quality assessment design practices. In an effort to improve student assessments, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has written to state education leaders, state assessment directors, and state Title I directors to stress that the department is eliminating the cap on the number of states that can participate in the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA), which is a program that allows states to pilot new assessment approaches. The letter notes that student assessment results may differ between existing state assessments and assessments developed under the IADA. The guidance is broadly intended to provide every state with “running room” to pilot assessment innovation. The department hopes testing changes will inform instruction, interventions, professional development, and resource planning in addition to bolstering grade-level mastery three years after the pandemic began impacting learning. Read more

November 27, 2023

Federal education funds secured through February

Federal funding for education will continue at the fiscal year 2023 level at least through February 2, according to an agreement by Congress. Regarding the entire federal budget, Congress reached a budget deal in June to level-fund nondefense programs, including early childhood and K-12 education, but lawmakers have not been able to agree on specific appropriations. The continuing resolution approved by both the House and Senate avoided a government shutdown, but there’s frustration from parents and early childhood education providers that additional money for child care was not made available. Read more

November 26, 2023

Laws restricting pronouns for students spark concern

Laws enacted in at least 10 states prohibit or restrict students from using pronouns or names that don’t match their sex assigned at birth. These laws have sparked fear and confusion among transgender students and teachers. Supporters argue that parents should have a say in their children’s pronoun usage, while opponents believe these laws further marginalize transgender and nonbinary students. Mental health experts and advocates warn that requiring parental consent or notification of pronouns can put trans students at risk. Some teachers are finding ways to defy the restrictions, but many fear the consequences. The lack of guidance on compliance with the new laws adds to the confusion. Teachers’ groups express concerns about the administrative burdens and confusion caused by these laws. Lawsuits have been filed in Kentucky and Indiana challenging the constitutionality of these laws. Read more

November 25, 2023

Lake Travis ISD proposes new library policy to increase parental involvement

Lake Travis ISD has put forward a new library policy aimed at increasing parental involvement. The proposed policy seeks to engage parents in their children’s education by encouraging them to participate in library activities. The policy has sparked debate among educators and parents. Some see it as a positive step towards fostering a stronger connection between parents and schools, while others have concerns about potential limitations on access to library resources. The district hopes that by involving parents in library policy, they can create a more inclusive and collaborative learning environment. Read more

November 22, 2023

Murky future for vouchers in Texas

Following a pivotal Texas House vote that likely has halted progression on school voucher legislation, it’s unclear what next steps, if any, there are when it comes to one of Governor Greg Abbott’s top legislative priorities.

On Friday, the Texas House took its most direct vote on the issue, with representatives voting 84-63 to strip a voucher program out of an expansive education bill.

Both chambers quickly gaveled in and out on Tuesday, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. The current, fourth special session can go until Dec. 6, but some lawmakers have appeared to already signal uninterest in returning to Austin unless it’s for debate on major legislation. The session has also overlapped with the candidate filing period for the March primaries, which started Nov. 11 and goes through Dec. 11. During this time, lawmakers are usually carving out political plans assessing what elected offices become open as others opt not to pursue reelection. Read more

November 21, 2023

Texas rejects science textbooks over climate change

The Texas State Board of Education has voted to block science lessons published by eight companies from appearing on an influential statewide list of textbook providers, citing problems with the way they depicted climate change and evolution. Some of the 15 elected board members raised issues with a book from publisher Discovery Education because it discussed how the U.S. isn’t energy independent and lags behind other nations in oil reserves. During an initial discussion on the textbooks before the vote, Republican members of the board expressed a desire for some materials to depict both the scientific theory of evolution and the Bible story of creationism. Others said some textbooks cast the oil-and-gas industry in a bad light, which could have negative repercussions on the energy-heavy state’s economy.

November 20, 2023

Austin ISD faces difficult position with TEA

The agreement between Austin ISD and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) puts the district in a difficult position, with many exacting requirements that must be satisfied to avoid TEA taking over the district’s special education services. The Lone Star Governance model, which focuses on student outcomes measured by standardized tests, is a key requirement. Ashley Paz, an LSG coach trained by former TEA deputy commissioner A.J. Crabill, has been hired to coach AISD’s board members. The training sessions have been described as uncomfortable, with participants asked to admit their failures. Some suspect TEA’s intervention is laying the groundwork for privatization of public schools. Austin ISD’s monitorship is set to last two years, but recent experience in Round Rock ISD shows that ending a monitorship can be messy. Relatedly, it looks like there will be a new, permanent superintendent at Austin ISD by early December, and it’ll likely be Matias Segura, the current interim super.

November 18, 2023

TSTA applauds House members who stood up for public schools with anti-voucher vote

TSTA applauds the House members, Democrats and Republicans, who stood up for their public schools today by voting to strip a costly voucher provision from House Bill 1. This should be a clear signal to Gov. Abbott to end his efforts to bully these legislators into doing something they clearly don’t want to do — spend tax dollars on unregulated private schools when their neighborhood public schools, the centers of their local communities — are underfunded. Read full release

November 17, 2023

School voucher bill to reach Texas House floor for potentially pivotal vote

According to legislative records, it’s possible that a school voucher bill has never made it to the floor of the Texas House. Historically the lower chamber has been averse to passing such legislation, with arguments hinging on how integral public schools are to smaller local communities.

But today, the Texas House appears poised to vote on House Bill 1, a $7 billion education proposal that would create education savings accounts. The savings accounts would be a voucher-like program that would allow parents to use taxpayer funds to pay for alternatives to public schools. Inside the bill are billions of dollars worth of new funding for public schools, likely to help entice lawmakers on the fence about school vouchers.

Opponents argue money for education savings accounts could be better spent going straight toward public schools, while school voucher proponents have argued that such a program would help empower parents to make the right educational decisions for their children. Watch the Texas House livestream

November 16, 2023

Rural students face educational challenges

More students in the United States attend rural schools than the 100 largest school districts combined. However, rural students lack access to school psychologists and counselors, broadband internet, and school transportation. Read more

November 14, 2023

HB 1 is a bad deal for Texas students

First, a taxpayer funded voucher would devastate public schools, which are in desperate need of the investment that Abbott is proposing to spend on unaccountable private entities. Everywhere these voucher schemes have been tried, taxpayers end up on the hook for ballooning demands for public funding, and there’s no reason to believe HB 1 would be any different.

Furthermore, the inadequacy of the public school funding and educator pay provisions of the bill would make the whole proposition a non-starter even if vouchers were off the table. The basic allotment to school districts needs an infusion of funding that would cover the $1000 per student shortfall that inflationary pressures have cost schools since 2019. HB 1 does not do that.

Please use this form to let your representative know that vouchers are bad for Texas students, and that you oppose HB 1 even without the voucher provision.

November 10, 2023

Voucher bill gets a hearing, skepticism remains high in House

On Thursday, a House bill on school vouchers finally received a hearing in the lower chamber, a crucial step that will decide whether the proposal gets a full vote after remaining stagnant in the previous special session.

But voucher opponents in the House remained critical of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top legislative priority — and ultimately expressed frustration with the governor’s insistence to tie public education funding with a voucher program. Read more

November 9, 2023

Voter approval rate for school maintenance and construction costs rebounds

At least 50% of the bond proposals put on the ballot in Texas passed. A decrease in voter approval is attributed to a 2019 state law that required school districts to label bond elections as “tax increases.” However, this year’s election saw a turnaround in some places, with voters approving over $400m for school maintenance in Ector County for example. Despite some opposition, voters recognized the need for investment in schools. This year’s election results reflect a desire to improve school facilities and address the rising number of students enrolling in districts. Read more

November 7, 2023

As long as the governor continues to bully lawmakers to pass vouchers, TSTA will fight back

We are angry that Gov. Abbott has called another special session and continues to bully House members to cave to his demands for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers. Abbott continues to pander to wealthy political contributors and school privatization groups, while voucher opponents in the Legislature are trying to protect their neighborhood public schools.

Although the governor has added public school funding and teacher pay to the next session’s agenda, we know his top priority remains the creation of a voucher program that would soon divert billions of dollars from under-funded school districts to subsidize private school tuition for well-to-do families and enrich owners of unregulated private schools.

As long as the governor keeps wasting millions of tax dollars on voucher special sessions, TSTA and our allies continue fighting back because vouchers would be even more wasteful. Texas taxpayers and their public schools can’t afford them. We will oppose any bill in the new session that includes a voucher program.

November 6, 2023

Time is running out for the third session

With just two days left in the third special legislative session, it is increasingly unlikely that Texas lawmakers will agree to pass school voucher legislation or any additional bills related to border security before sine die.

On Sunday afternoon, the Texas Senate gaveled in and out until Tuesday, the last day of the 30-day session, without passing any legislation. Senators had been set to discuss House Bill 4, which would create a state crime to enter the state illegally from Mexico and would allow police officers to detain and transport that person to a port of entry and order them to return to Mexico, even if they’re not a Mexican citizen.

Lawyers have said HB 4 is unconstitutional since the federal government has sole jurisdiction over immigration matters. Critics of the bill have also raised concerns that it could lead to officers mistakenly arresting U.S. citizens who live in border towns if they don’t immediately have proof of citizenship.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick criticized HB 4 in a statement last week, calling it a “Texas-sized-catch-and-release-bill,” arguing that it would allow immigrants who cross the border illegally to become repeat offenders.

Lawmakers have also been unable to agree on a voucher program, which would allow families to use taxpayer dollars on private school education. The House has still not moved on a Senate proposal for such a program.

On Friday, Rep. Brad Buckley released a revised voucher plan that would allow for a significant funding increase for public schools and academic accountability measures for students participating in the proposed voucher program, two of the biggest requests from voucher opponents.

The new legislation would make every Texas student eligible to apply for education savings accounts. Children accepted into the program would have to take a standardized test; if they have failing grades for two years in a row, they would be kicked out of the program.

Buckley said he would file his new bill in an upcoming special session, which Gov. Greg Abbott is widely expected to announce soon. Read more

November 4, 2023

Republicans opposing Wi-Fi on school buses

The federal government’s plan to bring Wi-Fi to school buses is drawing objections from Republicans, who argue that the cost isn’t worth the effort and will only enable unsupervised kids to spend more time on social media. The FCC has issued a ruling allowing E-Rate program funding to be used for Wi-Fi on school buses starting in 2024. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel believes that providing Wi-Fi on school buses can turn ride time into connected time for homework. The plan has faced opposition from Republicans who argue that it goes beyond the scope of the E-Rate program and will not improve learning outcomes. Senator Ted Cruz has introduced a bill to prohibit social media on E-Rate supported devices and networks. Read more

November 3, 2023

Dark money nonprofit with ties to Texas billionaire works to defeat Midland school bond

Public policy groups associated with Texas billionaire Tim Dunn have helped to ensure that tax hike language is attached to every school bond ballot measure in the state. This is regardless of the bond measure’s actual impact on local taxes.

Most recently, Dunn has relied on that language to cast doubt on a bond in his hometown of Midland, where residents will vote on a $1.4 billion bond package, the largest in its history.

The dark-money organization Move Midland, whose leaders have ties to Dunn’s Midland oil and gas company, has become a vocal opponent against the bond. But Dunn also founded a private Christian school in the city, which some argue is a conflict of interest.

Midland ISD has said the bond won’t raise tax rates because new rates adopted in September were set lower than the previous year, and also include the bond’s impact.

Dunn’s vested interests have caught the attention of residents throughout Midland. His oil companies control mineral properties that, combined, owed more than $1.3 million in estimated property taxes to the school district for 2023. Dunn and his family also own five-million-dollar homes where property taxes go to Midland ISD.

November 2, 2023

Abbott’s school voucher deal fails in House

Governor Greg Abbott’s deal to advance school vouchers has failed in the House, with less than a week before the Legislature adjourns. The House has not taken any action on the governor’s priority legislation, and the special session is set to end soon. Despite Abbott’s optimism, no voucher bill has materialized in the lower chamber.

This lack of progress all but guarantees a fourth special session, as Abbott had previously vowed. The governor’s inability to sway Republicans who opposed vouchers in the past has hindered the passage of the bill. The House’s inaction mirrors what happened the previous day, when Abbott announced an agreement on vouchers with House Speaker Dade Phelan’s team, only for the speaker and Republican holdouts to deny the existence of such a deal.

If vouchers fail, Abbott has threatened to support primary challengers to anti-voucher Republican House members. Read more

November 1, 2023

Home schooling numbers appear to be soaring

Home schooling has become the nation’s fastest-growing form of education, a Washington Post analysis shows. The dramatic rise in home schooling at the onset of the pandemic has largely sustained itself through the 2022-23 academic year, defying predictions that most families would return to schools. The Post was able to collect reliable data from 32 states and the District of Columbia, representing more than 60% of the country’s school-age population. The resulting analysis, which includes home-school registration figures for nearly 7,000 individual school districts, is the most detailed look to date at an unprecedented period of growth in American home schooling.

Home schooling’s surging popularity crosses every measurable line of politics, geography and demographics. Despite claims that the home-schooling boom is a result of failing public schools, the Post found no correlation between school district quality, as measured by standardized test scores, and home-schooling growth. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2019 there were 1.5m kids being home-schooled in the United States. This was the last official federal estimate. Read more

October 31, 2023

TSTA will not sacrifice the future of public education for taxpayer-funded vouchers

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement:

We are glad Gov. Abbott has expanded the call of the special session to school finance because our public schools need a significant boost in funding and our woefully under-paid teachers and school support staff need raises. But let me be clear: We will continue to oppose a school funding or educator pay bill that includes an “education savings account” or any other voucher plan spending taxpayer dollars on private schools, regardless of how limited that voucher plan may be.

As the experiences of existing voucher states tell us, initial limits placed on voucher plans are soon lifted, and taxpayers are paying billions of dollars on private school costs for selected families, at the expense of under-funded public schools.

We cannot and will not accept a school finance or educator pay plan now that sacrifices the future of public education in Texas.

The governor also has made it clear that his priorities are not the public schools, teachers and students of Texas. His priorities are still determined by wealthy political donors who want to privatize public education. We continue to call on House members of both parties to reject the governor’s bullying tactics and keep fighting for their public schools, which is their constitutional responsibility. 

Read the press statement

Biden administration urges schools to carry naloxone

Overdose deaths among teens have been increasing, prompting the Biden administration to call on schools to purchase and carry the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote a joint letter urging every school in the United States to have naloxone available. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, for over-the-counter use. Naloxone works by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain and restoring breathing. Read more

October 30, 2023

After-school meal participation declining

Though after-school meal participation remained steady throughout the pandemic’s disruptions to school operations, momentum has since slowed down. After-school programs served 1.42m children in October 2019, 1.45m in October 2020, 1.49m in October 2021, but just 1.15m in October 2022, according to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). On an average weekday in October 2022, over 1.6m low-income children missed their opportunity to eat an after-school meal because the meals weren’t served at all. That equates to $116.5m missed in federal reimbursements, according to FRAC, an advocate for expanding the Afterschool Meal Program. To increase access to after-school meals, FRAC recommends Congress lower the area eligibility requirements to allow more communities to participate. There’s also a need to raise federal funding for after-school programs and to streamline the Afterschool Meal Program and Summer Food Service Program so sponsors don’t have to duplicate administrative hurdles, FRAC says. Read more

October 27, 2023

Temporary injunction secured in lawsuit against Morath

A coalition of school districts has been granted a temporary injunction in their lawsuit against Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath. The districts, including Dallas ISD, sued Morath to stop him from implementing new standards that they argue will lower performance ratings for many districts and campuses. The A-F school accountability system in Texas evaluates every district across the state, providing families with information on how their local campuses are performing. The ratings can influence home-buying decisions and enrollment in the public school system. The lawsuit alleges that Morath did not provide districts with enough notice about the measures and procedures that would apply to their next set of scores. Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde even warned that the district could see a record number of D and F ratings if the revised formula is implemented. The TEA plans to appeal the decision. A trial is set for February 12.

October 26, 2023

Private schools pose limited options for disabled students

The proposed voucher bills in Texas could put accessibility at risk for disabled students enrolled in public special education programs. Private schools that offer special education for disabled students have strict conditions and are clustered in metropolitan areas. There are only 67 of these schools in total, with a majority concentrated in urban areas. Many of these schools have limits on the types of disabilities they can accommodate and have high tuition fees. The current public special education system in Texas could be seen as lacking, and the state has struggled to comply with federal requirements. Vouchers may provide some solutions for families in metropolitan areas, but there are concerns about transparency and accountability in private schools. Vouchers are not a comprehensive solution and leave many issues untouched. Read more

October 25, 2023

New pediatric clinic coming to Fort Worth elementary

A Fort Worth elementary school is set to become the site of a new pediatric clinic under a partnership with the University of North Texas Health Science Center. The Fort Worth Independent School District’s board approved the partnership, allowing the medical school to provide care at Eastern Hills Elementary. The clinic will offer mental and behavioral health care in the coming months and comprehensive medical care next spring. The partnership will have medical providers from UNTHSC staffing the clinic, while the district will maintain the space. Read more

October 23, 2023

Texas House and Senate at odds over how to boost future funding for a school voucher program

The Texas House and Senate are at odds over how much discretion to give state leaders in funding a private-school voucher program. It’s the latest flashpoint in an ongoing battle between the two chambers over whether the state should help schoolchildren pay for a private education.

A key difference between Republican proposals in each chamber lies in whether to allow state leaders to grow the program by sweeping money from other agencies without the approval of the Texas Legislature.

The school voucher program put forward by the House, House Bill 1, states that Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislative Budget Board cannot use the board’s budget authority to boost the amount of tax dollars for the bill’s education savings accounts. Because of the Legislative Budget Board’s “budget execution” power, it can shift money around without legislative action.

The House’s bill says state funding for an education savings account program must come only from dollars already appropriated during this year’s regular session— up to $500 million for the biennium from the general revenue fund, which comes from state tax dollars.

But the Senate’s bill would let state leaders grow the program by taking money from other agencies without the Legislature’s approval. Their bill, Senate Bill 1, explicitly allows budget “transfers” to fund the program at any point before lawmakers meet for the next regular session in 2025.

If there is enough interest in the Senate’s savings account program, the bill could conceivably use the entire $500 million in its first year, which could trigger a potential $1 billion commitment every two years if it continued at that level.

Neither bill, at this point, projects the actual costs of the program beyond its first year. Read more

October 22, 2023

Brownsville ISD begins process to hire new superintendent

Brownsville ISD has started the process of hiring a new superintendent. The announcement comes after the McAllen ISD named BISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez as the lone finalist for its superintendent position. The 21-day waiting period before contract negotiations can begin with Gutierrez has been initiated. BISD Board President Jessica B. Gonzalez expressed gratitude for Gutierrez’s leadership and his role in achieving an “A” rating for the district. The board will hold a special meeting to discuss the next steps in hiring an interim superintendent and deciding on the search process. Read more

October 21, 2023

Houston ISD seeing significant enrollment decline

More than half of Houston ISD campuses have seen a decline in student enrollment this year, resulting in a loss of at least $62m in state funding. The district has experienced a decline in enrollment for several years, with 32,500 fewer students compared to pre-pandemic levels. Other school districts, such as San Antonio and Plano, are also considering closing campuses due to the drop in students. While Houston ISD has reassured parents and educators that there are no immediate plans to close schools, the district has acknowledged that closures may be possible in the future. The enrollment decline is attributed to the pandemic, charter schools, and declining birth rates. Some HISD campuses have seen significant drops in enrollment, with Las Americas Middle School experiencing a 68% decline and Shadowbriar Elementary School seeing a 37% decline. The district is now exploring options such as converting underpopulated campuses into centers for newcomers or early childhood centers. Read more

October 20, 2023

Team TSTA member named Texas Teacher of the Year

Taniece Thompson-Smith, a fifth-grade science teacher at Abilene ISD’s Stafford Elementary and Education Abilene member, was named the 2024 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year. Thompson-Smith was chosen to represent the state as Texas Teacher of the Year in the National Teacher of the Year competition, making her official title Texas Teacher of the Year.

Naveen Cunha, eighth-grade Robotics teacher at Stephen F. Austin Middle School in Bryan ISD, was named the 2024 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year.

The announcements were made during an awards ceremony in Round Rock, Texas, October 20. Both state-level winners will receive a cash award and a commemorative trophy.

Also honored during the luncheon were the Regional Teachers of the Year and the finalists for Texas Teacher of the Year: Schrundagale Griffith, Foster Middle School, Longview ISD; Cynthia Hopkins, Harold C. Kaffie Middle School, Corpus Christi ISD; Isela Russell, Wellington Elementary School, Lewisville ISD; and McKinney Education Association member Genesis Yougas, Lawson Early Childhood School, McKinney ISD.

Texas bill proposes education savings accounts for students

A sweeping bill filed late Thursday in Texas proposes the creation of education savings accounts (ESAs) for a limited number of students, with the potential for it to double in the following year. The bill, introduced by Rep. Brad Buckley, would limit ESAs to 25,000 students in the next school year, with priority given to students with disabilities or those living in poverty. The ESAs would be worth 75% of the state’s average per-student funding. The bill also includes increased formula funding for public schools, higher salaries for educators, and incentives for teacher preparation and certification. However, the bill faces uncertainty in the House, where rural Republicans have previously opposed voucher-like proposals. The bill differs from the Senate’s proposal, which has already passed, and would provide families with access to $8,000 for private-school tuition or $1,000 for homeschooling. The ESAs would be funded by $500m from the state’s general revenue. Read more

October 19, 2023

Amarillo ISD votes on resolution against Senate Bill 1

Amarillo Independent School District has voted to adopt a resolution opposing Senate Bill 1, which aims to implement a school choice program in Texas. AISD is concerned that this program would divert funding away from public schools and towards schools that do not have the same accountability standards. The district is already facing low enrollment rates and has discussed the possibility of consolidating elementary schools. Coyle Corder, AISD Board President, emphasized the need for equal funding, accountability, and entrance standards in any new system. He also noted that Texas currently ranks in the bottom 4% in funding per student in the United States. Read more

October 18, 2023

TSTA: Governor Abbott doesn’t listen to educators; he bullies educators, families and legislators for vouchers

If Governor Abbott listened to educators — the real education experts — he would be demanding and ensuring that the Legislature substantially increase funding for our under-funded public schools, and he would demand and ensure that lawmakers provide raises for our under-paid teachers and school support staff…Period.

He wouldn’t be trying to tie those necessities to vouchers.

But Abbott doesn’t listen to educators. His actions thus far tell you that he doesn’t listen or respect Texas educators, our students or their families. Read the full comment

October 17, 2023

‘Grow your own’ school librarians

The number of certified school librarians in the United States has been decreasing, with a loss of over 10,000 positions between 1999 and 2016. Around 30% of students now lack full-time school librarians. Recruiting new school librarians is challenging due to the stringent requirements, including a master’s degree in library science. However, the Charleston County School District in South Carolina has successfully reversed its teacher-librarian vacancy rate by implementing a “grow-your-own” program. This program, in partnership with a local university, offers incentives such as free tuition and flexible programming. The district reports zero teacher-librarian vacancies and improved academic achievement among students. Read more

October 16, 2023

Federal LGBTQ+ workplace protections could impact schools

Federal proposed guidance protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from harassment and discrimination in the workplace could come into direct conflict with state and local policies on pronoun use and facility access for transgender school employees. At least nine states prohibit transgender people from using bathrooms and other facilities like locker rooms in K-12 schools, according to the Movement Advancement Project, which tracks policies on LGBTQ+ related issues. The guidance, proposed earlier this month by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, would consider intentional and repeated misgendering, as well as denial of bathroom access or other facilities, as sex-based discrimination. Under this policy, schools and other employers that bar transgender employees from bathrooms aligning with their gender identities or don’t recognize an employee’s preferred pronouns would be considered to be discriminatory and in violation of federal sex- and gender-based harassment protections. Read more

October 15, 2023

Schools are cracking down on cellphone use in classrooms

Educators have found creative ways to separate students from their phones, such as requiring students to leave their backpacks and phones at the front of the room. More schools across the country are also restricting students’ smartphone use to address concerns about academic performance and mental well-being. District leaders and principals have reported positive outcomes since implementing no-phone policies, including increased student engagement and reduced discipline problems. Schools are ensuring cellphone bans are effective by taking opinions from students, parents, and staff into account and enforcing the policies consistently. Read more

October 12, 2023

Chronic absenteeism rates have doubled in recent years

The proportion of students attending schools with high or extreme rates of chronic absenteeism has more than doubled, from 26% in 2017-18 to 66% in 2021-22, according to a report by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and Attendance Works. The analysis of federal data highlights the impact of pandemic-era surges in absences on students, even those with strong attendance. Read more

October 10, 2023

Most E-rate participants want greater supports from FCC funds

The majority of schools and libraries participating in the federal E-rate program continue to report a need for cybersecurity support provided by the Federal Communications Commission funds. The 13th annual E-rate survey, released this week by Funds For Learning, indicates that less than half (48%) of participants feel that their library or school currently budgets for cybersecurity products and services on an annual basis. Additionally, 93% of participants agree or strongly agree that the E-rate program should include “support for comprehensive network security solutions.” As the FCC considers ways to include cybersecurity in the program, most participating schools and libraries said cybersecurity measures, such as next-generation firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, content or malware filtering, and domain name system security should also qualify for E-rate funding. Other findings from the Funds For Learning survey indicate ongoing signs the homework gap is closing, though still a prominent issue for most schools and libraries. Read more

October 6, 2023

It’s time to get ready to rally! Join us in Austin tomorrow

Help us show the governor and legislators that Texans don’t want vouchers for private schools but do want more funding for their public schools and raises for teachers and school support staff. Come and bring your family and friends to the “Boot vOUCHers” rally on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. on the south lawn of the state Capitol. The more people who attend, the louder our message.

Make your voice heard! RSVP here. Please share this information and link widely with your community, colleagues, family and friends and urge them to come to Austin with you.

October 5, 2023

Special session on vouchers will begin Monday; make your voice heard — attend the anti-voucher rally on Saturday in Austin!

Governor Abbott revealed the session’s opening date in a letter to legislative leaders, but as of this morning he still had not publicly issued the proclamation officially calling the session and laying out the issues he wants legislators to consider. We know vouchers will be on the agenda because he has been saying that for a long time. But we don’t know if he will include more funding for public schools and educator pay raises as well. The state has the money. The comptroller’s updated revenue estimate shows $18 billion remaining from the record $33 billion surplus with which lawmakers began the year, and there is almost $24 billion in the emergency Rainy Day Fund.

TSTA remains determined to convince legislators to kill vouchers in whatever form they are offered this session. Instead of wasting tax dollars on vouchers, lawmakers must increase funding for public schools and for educator pay raises. Average per-student funding for Texas schools is more than $4,000 below the national average, and Texas teachers are paid more than $7,700 less than their peers are nationally. Education funding must not be diverted to taxpayer-paid vouchers.

Make your voice heard on this issue! Come and bring your family and friends to the “Boot vOUCHers” rally on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. on the south lawn of the state Capitol. Help us show the governor and legislators that Texans don’t want vouchers for private schools but want more funding for their public schools and raises for teachers and school support staff. The more people who attend, the louder our message.

Make your voice heard! RSVP here. Please share this information and link widely with your community, colleagues, family and friends and urge them to come to Austin with you.

October 4, 2023

Overtime pay expansion could impact school districts

School districts may be required to provide overtime pay to more employees under a proposed federal rule. The rule, open for public comment until November 7th, would raise the minimum salary threshold for worker exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This could lead to additional expenses for school districts, along with additional requirements to track and document employee work hours. Employees like school nurses, athletic trainers, and librarians who were previously exempt from overtime requirements may now qualify under the new rule. National education organizations have requested more time to review and comment on the rule, as it will have a massive impact on the economy and millions of workers. The Biden administration’s proposal is similar to a 2016 rule by the Obama administration that was struck down before taking effect. The Labor Department estimates that 3.4m currently exempt workers across all industries would qualify for overtime pay under the new rule. Read more

October 3, 2023

Support for Houston ISD’s Spanish speakers has dwindled under state-appointed leader, parents say

More than a month since the Houston Independent School District started its first school year under state supervision and state-appointed superintendent Mike Miles, complaints have been piling up among Spanish-speaking families, who say they haven’t been receiving the support they need. Read more

October 2, 2023

Abbott announces new special session, likely focused on vouchers

Governor Greg Abbott has notified the Texas Legislature that a third special session will begin on October 9. Abbott’s letter to state lawmakers did not indicate the focus of this special session, but the governor has said repeatedly it would focus on public education, including the issues of school vouchers and public school funding. Read more

October 1, 2023

Brownsville becomes certified childhood vaccine provider

Brownsville ISD in Texas has been certified as a childhood vaccine provider, allowing them to administer required childhood immunizations at school. The district plans to hold clinics across the district to provide childhood immunizations, COVID-19 vaccinations, boosters, and flu vaccines. The immunizations are free under the Texas Vaccines for Children program. Previously, parents had to schedule doctor’s appointments for their children to receive the shots. BISD became a COVID-19 vaccine provider during the pandemic and aims to have healthier kids and minimize absences. The district has about 37,000 students and each school has a nurse who will notify parents about the clinics. Read more

September 29, 2023

Teacher pay penalty quadruples

In what should be a surprise to no one, teacher pay gets a failing grade in this country. Teacher pay is at its lowest level since 1960 and the pay penalty got worse in 2022. On average, last year teachers made 26.4% less than their peers with similar education. In fact, since 1996, the pay penalty for teachers—the gap between the weekly wages of teachers and college graduates working in other professions has more than quadrupled from 6.1 % to 26.4%.

Here’s what the teacher pay penalty means in dollars and cents:

  • Today on average, teachers earn 73.6 cents for every dollar that their peers in other professions earn. In 1996, teachers made 93.9 cents for every dollar their peers in other fields made.
  • Accounting for inflation, teacher weekly wages decreased by $128 from 2021 to 2022, from $1,457 to $1,329 (in 2022 dollars).

Read the report

September 27, 2023

Texans prioritize teacher salaries and school funding

A new poll by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) reveals that Texans prioritize teacher salaries and funding for public schools. Seventy-three percent of Texans consider increasing teacher salaries extremely or very important, while 68% prioritize additional funding for public schools. More than half of all voters (56%) said they are aware of the Legislature’s recent efforts to create a voucher program. Of those, 50% said what they have seen, read, or heard about vouchers has made them less likely to support the program. Only 34% said they are more likely to support vouchers. Opposition against vouchers has increased across party lines and among different communities. The poll, conducted by Perception Insight, surveyed 800 registered voters in June. Among the respondents, 48% reported voting for Republicans, 35% preferred Democrats, and 17% voted independently.

September 26, 2023

Federal Government Shutdown: What it means

The House MAGA GOP is barreling toward a government shutdown on October 1, rolling out an extreme stopgap bill that is surely dead on arrival in the Senate. Government shutdowns are damaging to our families, public servants and the economy that we all depend on. These disruptions also hurt NEA members, like the educators who teach and support the children of our military families. Federal Education Association members will continue working during a shutdown, but they won’t be paid until the House GOP finds the courage and common sense to resolve this impasse. Students, parents and our members need stability and education investments, not more drama or draconian cuts. Contact your legislators

September 25, 2023

Texas lawmakers will have new money going into special session on education, comptroller says

When Texas lawmakers meet next month for a special session on funding public education, they will have more money available to them to spend than they anticipated when they passed the state’s $321.3 billion budget earlier this year, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said Friday.

The rise in state revenue, driven largely by increasing insurance premiums, means there will be new funding opportunities to invest more money in public education, Hegar said, adding that he hoped the Legislature would focus some of the new money on teacher pay raises. Read more

September 23, 2023

Another study underlines rise in book bans

The number of bans and restrictions in the U.S. rose 33% in the last school year, according to a report by PEN America. The report found that 1,263 books were permanently removed from U.S. school libraries and classrooms, quadrupling from the previous year. The increase is even more alarming when considering only the books permanently removed. Efforts to ban books are being “supercharged” by coordinated pressure campaigns and punitive state laws. Recent polling meanwhile shows that a majority of Americans oppose book bans. The bans disproportionately came from Florida, which accounted for over 40% of the book bans. States like Texas, Missouri, and Utah also contributed to the majority of the bans. Read more

September 22, 2023

Whatever you call it, a voucher is a voucher

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a big driver of Governor Greg Abbott’s voucher mania, is now claiming that an educational savings account (or ESA), the form of voucher that Abbott and the Senate tried to ram through the regular legislative session last spring, is not a voucher.

Anything that takes tax dollars to pay for private education expenses is a voucher. Period.

Read blog

September 20, 2023

Governor pushes for school vouchers, threatens political consequences

Governor Greg Abbott has announced a special session on “school choice” legislation, warning lawmakers of political consequences if they obstruct the passage of publicly subsidized school vouchers. He stated that the session will begin next month and emphasized that the legislation will be pursued either through the special session or after the election. The governor’s remarks indicate an escalation of pressure on Texas House Republicans who have been blocking the proposal. Abbott expressed determination to pass the school choice proposal, which allows parents to use taxpayer funds to enroll their children in private schools, even though a coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans in the House has consistently opposed the idea. Read more

September 19, 2023

More districts join lawsuit against Texas Education Agency

More school districts are pushing back against the Texas Education Agency over changes in the TEA’s accountability ratings. More than 50 districts across the state are already part of a lawsuit that says the revisions to the report cards were not properly communicated to districts ahead of time so that they could prepare. On Monday, Hays, Prosper, Red Oak, and Richardson joined the lawsuit, which aims to prevent TEA from releasing scores that use the newest metrics. The districts argue that the new methods will dramatically decrease campus and district scores statewide. Read more

September 18, 2023

Austin parents want TEA deal rejected

Parents in Austin ISD are calling for the rejection of the Texas Education Agency’s proposed deal to fix the district’s special education crisis. The deal requires AISD to accept a monitor appointed by TEA, adopt a “Lone Star governance” model for board meetings, dedicate 50% of meetings to “student outcomes,” and complete evaluations of students seeking special education services by January 31. Read more

September 15, 2023

Texas voters concerned about future opportunities for children

A recent Texas Voter Poll conducted by Baselice & Associates for Texas 2036 reveals that nearly half of Texas voters believe that children today will have less opportunity to succeed than prior generations. This represents a 17-point increase from the previous poll. The poll also shows that 65% of Texas voters are concerned about the state’s future, with 96% agreeing that a strong public education system is important. Read more 

September 14, 2023

Chronic absenteeism contributes to decline in test scores

Widespread increases in chronic absenteeism between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years are large enough that they could have substantially contributed to declines in post-pandemic test scores, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. The agency, which advises the president on economic policy based on data and research, partnered with the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to analyze latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which saw steep and worrisome declines in both math and reading for 4th and 8th graders. Read more 

September 13, 2023

TEA delays school ratings as districts raise concerns

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has announced a delay in the release of its annual school ratings due to scoring changes that could negatively impact schools. The agency was due to release the ratings on September 28th, but now expects them to be released next month. The delay comes after months of complaints from school officials who believe the new accountability system would result in unfair drops in their ratings. TEA said it needs to make adjustments to account for changes in students’ academic performance after the pandemic. Read more 

September 12, 2023

Masks are back on the table as COVID-19 fears resurface

A rise in COVID-19 cases and the approach of fall, when other respiratory illnesses start to spread, has revived discussion of how best to protect students and workers. Several schools across the country have restored temporary masking mandates or suspended classes in recent weeks because of COVID-19. School leaders want to boost attendance rates this year and are hesitant to implement any COVID-19 mitigation measures that would keep students home. Read more 

September 11, 2023

TEA proposes alternative teacher appraisal
to TTESS Domain I

The proposed Alternate Domain I appraisal instrument was developed for the specific purpose of evaluating teachers who are using the “high quality instructional materials” that are being promoted by the education commissioner under a new state law. It would be used to appraise teachers on their ability to follow the scripts that come with these new materials.

A TSTA representative, along with teachers and administrators from districts that were piloting the new materials, served on the committee that developed this new alternative. TEA adopted some of the panel’s recommendations but ignored our feedback that the new system should not confine teachers to just following a script or using the canned curriculum.

TSTA and the committee believe new appraisals should allow an appraiser to recognize and give high points to a teacher who uses high-quality instructional materials even if the presentation isn’t exactly what is suggested by the curriculum. We also believe that better teaching (the highest two ratings of accomplished and distinguished) would more likely be adapting to the needs of students and not just following a script.

Read all of TSTA’s comments on the proposed appraisal alternative

The School Year has Started Off Hot

Experts expect extreme summer heat to be more intense and last well past the prime summer months, which could lead to more challenging starts to the school year. Read more 

September 8, 2023

Texas’ political environment driving faculty to leave, survey finds

After legislators passed laws banning diversity initiatives and targeting tenure at state universities, more than a quarter of the 1,900 Texas professors surveyed by faculty associations said they plan to look for positions out of state. Read more

September 7, 2023

TSTA and TSTA-Retired kick off campaign promoting Prop 9, the COLA amendment on the Nov ballot

Voter approval of this constitutional amendment is necessary for the TRS retirees’ cost-of-living adjustment approved by the Legislature last spring to go into effect. This financial relief is essential for retirees, many of whom have never received a COLA, are not eligible for Social Security and are struggling to make ends meet on modest TRS pensions.

No public school retiree since Sept. 1, 2004, has ever received a cost-of-living adjustment, while inflation has eroded their ability to purchase basic needs. Unlike Social Security, the TRS pension does not provide automatic COLAs. They must be approved by the Legislature, and this is the first one the Legislature has approved in years. Read more

September 6, 2023

Fort Worth ISD scales back Saturday learning program

A Fort Worth ISD program called Saturday Learning Quest has helped students regain ground in reading and math, according to district figures. However, with federal funding for pandemic recovery efforts set to run out, the district is scaling back the program and targeting it at the highest-needs campuses. The program, which offers extra instructional time in reading and math, as well as enrichment activities, has shown positive results for students who attended nine or more sessions. Read more

September 5, 2023

TSTA members are finalists for Teacher of the Year honors

Two of the three finalists for 2024 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year are TSTA members — Taniece Thompson-Smith, a fifth-grade science teacher in Abilene ISD, and Genesis Yougas, a pre-K Head Start teacher in McKinney ISD.

The annual Teacher of the Year competition, which also includes three finalists for Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year, is conducted by the Texas Association of School Administrators. The winners will be announced at an Oct. 20 awards ceremony in Round Rock.

Thompson-Smith, a member of Education Abilene, teaches at Abilene ISD’s Stafford Elementary, where she has been for the past two years of her 14-year career in education. She is a military spouse, who has taught in more than seven school districts across the U.S., Jamaica and Japan. She collaborates with community members and experts in the science field to design science-based experiential learning opportunities. She believes “each encounter with children must be transformational and awake a sense of curiosity or thirst for knowledge that only education can quench.”

Yougas, a member of the McKinney Education Association, has taught for the past three years at McKinney ISD’s Lawson Early Childhood School. She secured a grant through the McKinney Education Foundation in 2021 for inclusive play equipment. “As a teacher of a student with spina bifida, I saw a problem with accessible play equipment for children with disabilities,” she said. “Through this grant, I was able to secure inclusive play equipment for my campus that is available to all kids, including those who use walkers or have other health impairments…The small moments of pure joy bring teachable moments that allow students to feel safe, loved and connected.”

All the finalists were selected from the 40 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year.

September 1, 2023

Federal judge bars Texas from enforcing book rating law

A federal judge said Thursday he will stop a new Texas law purportedly aimed at keeping sexually explicit materials off of school library shelves on the eve of the law going into effect, according to state attorneys and lawyers for a group who sued over the proposal.

District Judge Alan D. Albright indicated during a hearing that he will grant a temporary injunction sought by a group of book groups and sellers, including two Texas bookstores, who sued the state over House Bill 900 in July, the group’s lawyers said in a statement. Albright will issue a written order in one to two weeks; in the meantime, the state cannot enforce the law, according to the statement. Read more

August 31, 2023

School safety, tutoring and hair: These are some of the new education laws that go into effect this year

Lawmakers failed to pass legislation on school vouchers or teacher raises this year, but they approved other education-related laws like an $800 million investment in high-quality instructional materials and new rules for students found vaping or using marijuana. Read more

August 30, 2023

Texas eighth graders will soon be required to learn about climate change — but not without a showdown over textbooks

Starting next year, Texas will require eighth graders to learn about climate change as part of a science curriculum overhaul from the State Board of Education. It’s not clear though which textbooks they will use. A Tuesday meeting shed light that the board could make the choice along partisan lines. The board plans to adopt instructional materials in November. Any Texas resident can submit written comments on the materials before Oct. 30.

Read more

Submit comments

August 29, 2023

Legal battle looms over Texas school library book law

Days before the effective date for a law that would significantly change how school districts acquire books for their libraries, book sellers and state agencies await a legal decision that could stop the new rule in its tracks. A U.S. district judge heard arguments Monday from lawyers for several Texas book sellers who have asked for a legal pause to House Bill 900, a new law that limits books with sexual content in school libraries.

The lawyers for the bookshops argued that the newly mandated rating system created an expensive, impossible burden for businesses, while state attorneys insisted the law wouldn’t infringe on the vendors’ rights. Read more

August 28, 2023

Texas ban on transition-related care for kids to go into effect despite legal fight

A Texas law banning transgender youth from accessing puberty blockers and hormone therapy will go into effect next week after the state attorney general’s office filed to block a judge’s temporary injunction against the legislation.

Texas lawmakers passed the ban during this year’s legislative session. Families of trans kids and doctors sued the state in July, hoping to block the law and arguing that the ban strips parents of their rights to make medical decisions for their children.

On Friday, state district court Judge Maria Cantú Hexsel issued a temporary injunction, which would have prevented the law from going into effect. But the Texas’ attorney general’s office responded by filing an appeal with the Texas Supreme Court.

The move automatically pauses Cantú Hexsel’s injunction and will allow the law to go into effect Sept. 1. Read more

August 25, 2023

Texas districts struggle with property valuation discrepancies

For decades, Texas school districts have faced financial issues due to discrepancies in property valuations. When state and county appraisers disagree, districts can end up with significant budget shortfalls. This issue is particularly affecting rural districts, where property values are often underestimated.

The Texas comptroller’s office has been double-checking property valuations to ensure fair distribution of state funding, but this has led to unintended consequences for districts like Alpine ISD. These districts receive less state funding because the comptroller’s office believes local property taxes will cover a larger portion of their budget, but they can only levy taxes based on lower property value estimates.

As a result, districts are struggling to balance their budgets and facing operational challenges. Lawmakers attempted to address the issue through a school finance proposal, but it ultimately failed. The situation is dire for districts like Alpine, Fort Davis ISD, and Orange Grove ISD, which are running out of money and unable to provide necessary resources for students and teachers.

The upcoming special session on education provides an opportunity for lawmakers to address these funding gaps and ensure equitable distribution of state funds. Read more

August 24, 2023

Texas chaplains oppose law allowing religious chaplains in schools

Opponents of a new law in Texas allowing unlicensed religious chaplains in schools have expressed concerns about the injection of Christianity into the public school system. Over 100 Texas chaplains have signed an open letter urging school districts not to allow the chaplains, describing the law as “harmful” to students. The law, which will be enacted on September 1, allows individual school districts to employ or accept chaplains as volunteers to provide support for students. Read more

August 23, 2023

Pflugerville ISD joins lawsuit against Texas Education Association

Pflugerville ISD has joined a coalition of school districts in Texas suing the Texas Education Association (TEA) over changes to its accountability ratings system. The rating change would raise the bar for measuring college, career, and military readiness, which some district officials argue could harm the reputation of public schools. Superintendent Doug Killian criticized the timing of the rating system reset, calling it unfair to staff and students. Joining the lawsuit could cost the district between $6,500 and $21,000. Previously, districts could receive an A rating if 60% of students were deemed ready for college or a career, but the TEA plans to increase that threshold to 88%. The changes have raised concerns among 250 Texas school districts, who fear a significant drop in state-rated scores for high schools. Read more

August 22, 2023

PragerU expands reach into Texas schools

PragerU, a conservative media outlet, plans to expand its reach into Texas public schools, but state education officials have stated that the nonprofit has not been approved as a vendor. PragerU offers alternative educational videos that have been criticized for whitewashing history and promoting misleading narratives. While Florida recently approved the use of PragerU videos in classrooms, Texas education officials claim they have not voted on the matter. Read more

August 21, 2023

Medicaid ‘unwinding’ explained for families in school toolkit

A new toolkit for school administrators issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this month asserts that school districts are in a “unique position” to help children and their families retain their Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program benefits as the programs transition from pandemic-era automatic renewals. K-12 and early childhood educators, administrators, staff and parent-teacher associations can help families be aware of the change in public health policy through letters, robocalls, text messages, social media and other communications, the toolkit says. Read more

August 20, 2023

Only ‘modest gains’ seen from summer school programs

A new study on summer school’s impact on student learning during the pandemic reveals that while math scores improved for students who attended summer school in 2022, there were no improvements in reading. The study, considered the most comprehensive analysis to date, suggests that catch-up efforts are paying off to some extent but may not be enough to fully recover students to their pre-pandemic trajectories. The gains made in summer school were modest, and with only a fraction of students attending, it had a limited impact on overall learning loss. Read more

August 19, 2023

Houston ISD leads Texas with $166m special ed funding shortfall

Houston ISD spent $166m more on special education than it received in state funding between 2020 and 2022, the largest budget gap of any Texas district, according to data from the Texas Education Agency. In all, nearly half of the state’s roughly 1,200 public school districts and charter school organizations spent more on special education than the state gave them. Besides Houston, larger districts were among those with the biggest deficits, including Dallas ISD, Northside ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Katy ISD and Austin ISD. The total deficit across all districts in the 2021-22 school year was about $2.3bn. Read more

August 18, 2023

Frisco ISD claims exception to new armed officer law

Frisco ISD’s board has claimed a good cause exception from a new state law that requires armed officers on each campus during school hours, citing a lack of available qualified officers. The law, which goes into effect on September 1st, allows school boards to claim an exception due to funding or personnel shortages. Read more

August 17, 2023

Despite post-pandemic improvements, STAAR scores show Texas students are still struggling with math and reading

Although standardized test scores among Texas students have improved since the pandemic, more than half of Texas public school students are still struggling with math and reading, according to newly released data on spring test scores. Read more

August 16, 2023

Updating school nutrition standards could save thousands of lives

As the US Department of Agriculture considers final rules to gradually tighten school nutrition guidance, a recent study has found that updating K-12 nutrition standards for added sugars, sodium and whole grain would improve children’s diets, blood pressure and body mass index. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, if schools implemented new nutrition standards aligned with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the change would “modestly reduce” the amount of added sugars and sodium children eat, while also increasing their whole grain consumption. The study also found that 10,600 deaths per year tied to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer could be prevented in the long term if school meal standards matched current national dietary guidelines. On top of that, the study claims, the move would save $19.3bn in annual health care costs in adulthood. Read more

August 14, 2023

School cafeterias under increasing pressure

Schools across the country are being pushed to hike the cost of breakfasts and lunches for kids this fall. On top of rising inflation and the end of the short-lived boost in additional federal subsidies for every school meal, the federal government could soon force schools to serve healthier meals with less salt and sugar, which could make them even more expensive to prepare and serve. Many who work to serve kids meals say it’s a noble pursuit “at odds with reality” based on the already challenging financial climate. Read more

August 13, 2023

Houston ISD’s state accountability rating expected to drop

Houston ISD’s state accountability rating is likely to drop this year after the Texas Education Agency (TEA) overhauls how it evaluates campuses. The new updates make it harder for schools to earn a higher grade by raising the bar to achieve top scores in certain fields and implementing other changes to the scoring methodology. State-installed HISD superintendent Mike Miles stated that the district’s overall letter grade would decrease from a B to a C if the new criteria were applied to last year’s data. More than half of high schools would also see a decreased letter grade under the new criteria. The changes include raising the threshold for college, career, and military readiness scores, which will affect schools’ rankings. Miles plans to decrease the number of schools awarded a D or F rating and raise the rating by a grade for struggling campuses. HISD will also focus on increasing the percentage of graduates attending college and updating Career and Technical Education programs. Read more

August 11, 2023

Students missing school at alarming rates

Nationwide, students have been absent at record rates since schools reopened after COVID-forced closures. More than a quarter of students missed at least 10% of the 2021-22 school year, making them chronically absent. An estimated 6.5m additional students became chronically absent, with absences more prevalent among Latino, Black, and low-income students. Chronic absenteeism has devastating long-term consequences, hindering learning and increasing the risk of dropping out. Read more

August 9, 2023

Texas book ban just days away

Through the passage of HB 900, as of September 1, book vendors servicing public schools are now required to submit a list of library materials with a rating system indicating “sexually relevant” or “sexually explicit” content to the Texas Education Agency by April 1, 2024. We are closely following the lawsuit filed by booksellers and First Amendment advocates seeking to overturn the book ban. In the meantime, here is an explainer and timeline on the new law.

August 8, 2023

Legal tussle over first publicly-funded religious charter school could have wider consequences

A legal battle is underway in Oklahoma over the approval of St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Catholic School, the first publicly-funded religious charter school in the country. The school, set to go online in 2024, is already facing legal challenges as the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee has filed a lawsuit to block taxpayer funds from being used. The controversy raises questions about the separation of church and state in public education. Read more

August 7, 2023

Houston ISD might drop to a C-rated district this year — the state is mostly to blame

Upcoming changes to the state’s academic accountability system will result in lower grades for districts across the state, Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles warned last week. Houston ISD’s school ratings will take a hit this year, with their overall grade potentially falling from a B to a C, Miles said. Read more

August 4, 2023

UHCL mentoring collaborative tackles teacher shortage

Being an educator can be a challenging and thankless job. And the high percentage of teachers considering leaving the profession within their first five years raises concerns.

The Texas Association of School Boards reports that low pay and underfunding are among the reasons, but the feeling of being undervalued and unsupported is also a major factor.

In response to the shortage of teachers and to provide a solution to these issues, professors in the College of Education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) have devised a mentoring collaborative to offer progressive and responsive support to new teachers. Read more

August 3, 2023

Texas A&M University settles $1m lawsuit with Black journalism professor

Texas A&M University has reached a $1m settlement with Kathleen McElroy, a Black journalism professor, following a botched attempt to hire her. The university admitted to making mistakes during the hiring process and apologized to Ms. McElroy. Initially, Texas A&M had welcomed McElroy, a former New York Times editor, to revive the school’s journalism department. Ms. McElroy told the Texas Tribune last month that soon after her hiring, she learned of emerging internal pushback from then-unidentified individuals over her past work to improve diversity and inclusion in newsrooms. Read more

August 2, 2023

Houston ISD seeks waiver to hire non-certified teachers

Houston ISD is seeking a waiver from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to hire non-certified teachers. The district aims to fill teaching roles despite the lack of necessary certifications. With over 800 teachers resigning from March to July 2023, HISD is facing a significant shortage. The TEA waiver would allow the district to bring in individuals without teacher certifications to address the gaps. Michelle Williams, a teacher with the Houston Education Association, suggests the district should call for retired teachers and utilize Superintendent Mike Miles’s staff instead. Read more

August 1, 2023

Equity concerns shadow rising special education student numbers

The number of students in special education in the United States has doubled over the past four decades, reaching more than seven million in the 2021-22 school year. These students now make up 15% of the K-12 student population, nearly double what it was in the late 1970s. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires all students with disabilities to receive free appropriate public education. However, while the number of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) has increased, special education teacher shortages have also grown, putting a strain on services. Read more

July 31, 2023

Del Valle Schools to spend more than $1m on armed officers

The Del Valle School District will spend more than $1m to hire 10 employees, including armed officers and a security coordinator, to comply with a new state law. House Bill 3 requires school districts to assign an armed officer to every campus. The district already employs 12 armed security officers, but the new law necessitates additional hires. While the district will receive some state funding, it is estimated to be far less than the amount needed. The district plans to use its general revenue to fulfill the law’s requirements. The board members expressed concerns about the law’s implementation and emphasized the importance of hiring quality employees. The new law was prompted by a school shooting in 2022. Failure to comply with the law could result in the Texas Education Agency assigning a conservator to oversee the district. Read more

July 30, 2023

HISD’s Miles will convert some libraries into discipline areas, eliminate librarians

The Houston school district will eliminate librarians and media specialists from 85 schools and convert the former library spaces into “team centers,” where students who misbehave will be sent to watch lessons virtually and others can work alone or in groups for differentiated instruction. It’s the latest in reforms launched by Texas Education Agency-appointed Superintendent Mike Miles. Read more

July 26, 2023

Booksellers sue to stop Texas law restricting ‘sexually explicit’ content

A coalition of Texas bookstores and national bookseller associations filed suit on Tuesday over House Bill 900, which aims to ban sexually explicit material from school libraries. Plaintiffs in the suit include two Texas bookstores, Austin’s BookPeople and West Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, as well as the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. They are suing defendants Martha Wong, chair of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission; Keven Ellis, chair of the Texas State Board of Education; and Mike Morath, commissioner of the Texas Education Agency. Read more

July 25, 2023

Texas A&M suspended professor accused of criticizing Dan Patrick in lecture

The professor, an expert on the opioids crisis, was placed on paid administrative leave and investigated, raising questions about the extent of political interference in higher education, particularly in health-related matters. Read more 

July 20, 2023

DOE review will forgive debt of some borrowers

About 64,000 Texas borrowers will have their federal student loans forgiven following a US Department of Education review that identified “administrative failures” and 804,000 borrowers whose loans were taken more than two decades ago and should’ve been canceled. Read more

July 19, 2023

Brazosport implements teacher apprenticeship program

Last August Brazosport ISD launched a unique “teacher apprenticeship” program that allows aspiring teachers to earn a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification, at no cost to themselves. In return, the teachers have to work in the district for at least three years. The plan includes a paid residency program in which apprentices are paired with a teacher mentor and work with them in a classroom for a full school year. Read more

July 17, 2023

Republicans propose big cuts to Title 1 funding

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives want to dramatically cut funding for Title I, the long-running federal program that sends money to schools based on the number of children from low-income families that they serve. A bill advanced by a Republican-controlled House subcommittee seeks to cut Title I grants by 80% or nearly $15bn. Read more

July 12, 2023

Bill introduced to fully fund special education

US Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and US Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) have now formally introduced the IDEA Full Funding Act. This legislation would ensure Congress fulfills its commitment to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA, the federal government committed to pay 40% of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. read more 

July 11, 2023

NEA’s annual representative assembly examined

During the National Education Association’s annual representative assembly, educators debated and voted on measures that will shape the future of the teachers’ union. The assembly also approved the union’s budget, which reflects a membership decline. The NEA expects a 1.2% decrease in full-time equivalent members in the upcoming fiscal year. The decline is driven by reductions in teachers and education support professionals. read more 

July 10, 2023

Texas schools battling to pay teacher raises

Texas lawmakers ended this year’s regular legislative session without giving public schools any money for employee raises — so school districts are finding ways to give their workers modest raises, even if it means digging into their savings accounts. Read more 

July 7, 2023

New student loan repayment plan could bring savings

As Texans with college loans are expected to begin or resume making payments later this year in October, other changes are planned for this summer that can help reduce monthly payments, stop interest accruals and forgive debts after 10 to 25 years.

Here’s what you need to know about the updated federal income-driven loan repayment program:

  • The revamped program, now coined the Saving on a Valuable Education plan, or SAVE, will set monthly payments as a percentage of the borrower’s income, rather than the amount owed.
  • Under the plan, a single undergraduate borrower earning $60,000 a year, would have a discretionary income of about $27,195. The borrower would use 5% of that amount, $1,360, to pay back their loan, making their monthly payment $113. If this amount doesn’t cover the interest they owe each month, their total debt wouldn’t decrease but wouldn’t increase either. If the loan isn’t fully repaid in 20 years, the remainder would be canceled.
  • Borrowers with a federal direct loan would be allowed to apply. Federal direct loans are a loan provided directly by the U.S. Department of Education and include Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans.

Other repayment alternatives include the Pay As You Earn plan (PAYE), the Income-Based Repayment plan (IBR), and the Income-Contingent Repayment plan (ICR). Each plan differs in who can apply, the monthly payment calculation and loan forgiveness terms. Read more

July 6, 2023

Austin ISD to install solar panels at 16 more schools

Austin ISD is on track to install solar panels on 16 more schools thanks to a $14.95m grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Austin is the only school district in Texas that was chosen to receive a grant from the department as part of its Renew America’s Schools program. It has already implemented solar rooftop panels at 14 of its facilities—13 schools and the Performing Arts Center. AISD officials said each of those panels is capable of producing 2 megawatts of energy—enough to power 230 homes. Read more

July 5, 2023

Book vendors uncomfortable with Texas schoolbook law

Book vendors selling to Texas public schools, ranging from national sellers like Amazon to local bookstores with eight employees, must now rate all the books they sell based on sexual content, according to new legislation signed into law last month. The law’s primary author, Republican Texas State Rep. Jared Patterson, said the law aims to ensure that school libraries do not carry sexually explicit content. However, the job of rating the books falls on book vendors. Read more

July 3, 2023

New efforts to forgive student loans launched following Supreme Court decision

The US Supreme Court has struck down the Biden administration’s plan to eliminate as much as $20,000 in federal student debt for millions of borrowers. The forgiveness plan would have wiped away an estimated $430bn in loans from the government’s books. Once payments resume, the typical student-loan payment will be between $210 and $314 a month, according to Wells Fargo. Overall, more than 40m borrowers would have qualified for loan forgiveness through a required application. Biden said he would launch a new effort to forgive student loans on a large scale using a different legal authority than the one that the Supreme Court blocked. The wider Biden administration meanwhile has undertaken an overhaul of how borrowers pay off their loans, revamping income-based repayment programs and rewriting accountability regulations for for-profit schools. Read more

July 2, 2023

TEA to release new scores with widespread changes

The Texas Education Agency is set to release new scores with widespread changes, including a more difficult metric for assessing college, career, or military readiness. District leaders are concerned that the new formula will give the impression that schools are worse, even if their performance remains the same or improves. The changes could lead to erroneous conclusions when analyzing letter grades between the 2022 and 2023 school years. To address this, TEA will publish “what if” scores for 2022 alongside the 2023 grades. A major change is coming for the high school evaluations, with the standard for college, career, and military readiness being raised from 60% to 88%. Read more

July 1, 2023

Supreme Court rejects Biden student loan forgiveness plan

The Supreme Court on Friday said President Biden does not have authority for his roughly $400 billion dollar to forgive student loan debt, the latest blow from a Supreme Court that has been dismissive of this administration’s bold claims of power.

The vote was 6 to 3 along ideological lines, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for the court’s dominant conservatives. Read more

June 30, 2023

SCOTUS votes to restrict race-based affirmative action in college admissions

The Supreme Court has held that admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina that relied in part on racial considerations violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The votes split along ideological grounds, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for the conservative members in the majority, and the liberals dissenting. Roberts said the admissions programs at Harvard and UNC “lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points.” He also stressed that “nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement after the ruling: “I want to send a message to all aspiring students, especially Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and other students from underserved communities: we see you and we need you. Do not let this ruling deter you from pursuing your educational potential. Our colleges and our country itself cannot thrive and compete in the 21st century without your talent, ingenuity, perseverance, and ambition.” Read more

June 29, 2023

Texas Senate advances tax relief proposal with teacher pay raises

The Texas Senate advanced a tax relief proposal on the first day of the Legislature’s second special session, detailing an increase to the homestead exemption and pay raises for teachers. The House and Senate have been at odds over property tax relief, with the Senate pushing for increases to the homestead exemption and the House advocating for reducing the cap on annual property appraisal increases. An amendment to Senate Bill 1 would give a $2,000 pay increase to urban district teachers and a $6,000 increase to rural area teachers over the next two years. The proposal was unanimously approved by all 31 senators. Despite the unity in the Senate, an agreement on property taxes between both chambers remains unclear. Additionally, voters would need to approve an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow for the homestead exemption and teacher pay raise in November. It’s unclear when the full House will take up the bill; the House next meets on Friday but is expected to quickly adjourn until July 5th. Read more

June 28, 2023

Katy ISD halts all library book purchases

Katy ISD has frozen purchases of new library books and will place incoming books in storage, following a directive by the board of trustees. On Monday, Superintendent Ken Gregorski was handed the new mandate, and told that the only books exempt from the decision are those destined for the district’s newest schools, which will open for the first time this year, in order for the schools to have a library. Newly elected trustee Morgan Calhoun said she’s seen books in elementary schools that “support sexually alternative lifestyles.” However, other members questioned the legality and practicality of the move. “We’ve spent our taxpayer money on those resources,” trustee Rebecca Fox said, “and a lot of children like to read current and recent books.” Read more

June 27, 2023

As demand for skilled workers rises in Texas, work-based educational programs see a resurgence

College and career programs are a lot more varied than they used to be. In a state that’s aiming for 60% of Texans ages 25 to 64 to have a certificate or degree by 2030, there’s been a new focus on equity, marking a notable difference on what kind of programs are pushed.

Now, attention is being turned to career and technical education. Higher education leaders are moving to create shorter and earlier education programs that meet industry standards. The rise in career and technical education programs can partially be attributed to industries and jobs requiring specialized licenses or credentials, even if it’s not a college degree. Read more

June 26, 2023

San Antonio ISD urged to let families have final say on school closures

A coalition of groups representing teachers, parents, students, and neighborhoods in San Antonio has demanded that the public have the final say over which schools are closed during a new project to “rightsize” facilities. The coalition argued that closing or consolidating schools would lead to destabilizing effects in the community and should only be used as a last resort. The district’s timeline for making a decision doesn’t allow for adequate input from families and students, according to the coalition. Read more

June 25, 2023

‘Unprecedented push’ towards school mental health improvements

Schools and colleges are undertaking an unprecedented effort to recruit and retain more school mental health providers. Since December, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded $286m to 264 grantees in nearly every state to boost the training and hiring of school mental health professionals, particularly those from marginalized racial and ethnic backgrounds. The agency estimates that the infusion of cash will prepare more than 14,000 new providers. Schools also spent an estimated $2bn in federal pandemic recovery dollars to hire mental health professionals – an investment that helped increase the number of social workers by nearly 50%, and the number of school counselors and psychologists by 10%, according to the Education Department. Read more

June 24, 2023

Other states could follow Texas in allowing chaplains in schools

A new law in Texas allows chaplains to provide counseling to students in public schools, as part of a broader effort to expand the role of religion in education. The law has attracted national scrutiny and might be challenged in court. The measure fills a critical need by bringing in faith-based reinforcements to shore up a severe shortage of counselors and social workers. However, many licensed mental health counselors and their allies in the legislature warned that the measure will result in substandard care for students at a time when many young people are struggling with mental health issues. Texas appears to be the first state to enact a chaplain bill, and its success might spawn imitators in other states. Read more

June 23, 2023

Abbott signs bill to create higher education portal

Governor Greg Abbott has signed House Bill 2920, which will create a portal for families to easily view the cost and potential earnings of degree and certificate programs at Texas’ public higher education institutions. The portal will also include the median student loan debt in college and university programs. And the “Know Before You Go” bill will quantify the state’s workforce needs and the “most valuable” programs in the state, including the annual starting wage information and educational requirements for the top 25 highest demand jobs in the state. Read more

June 22, 2023

Texas education board OKs conservative-backed charter school’s Houston campus request

The Texas State Board of Education voted Wednesday for Heritage Classical Academy to move forward with a planned campus in Northwest Houston, opening the door for the controversial charter school to begin expanding in the state after three failed applications.

The vote was preliminary and the board will need to ratify it once more during its Friday session. Since the board only controls a network’s initial approval, a final vote backing Heritage on Friday would allow the network to later petition the Texas Education Agency to expand with more campuses across the state. The Board of Education’s members are elected, while the agency’s leaders are political appointees. Read more

June 21, 2023

Houston ISD’s new super wants to use the same controversial approach he tried in Dallas schools

Houston Independent School District’s new state-appointed superintendent, Mike Miles, is looking to implement reforms in the state-led district following a stint leading Dallas ISD that was mired in scandals.

Back in March, the Texas Education Agency announced that Houston ISD would be placed under state control, citing years of poor academic outcomes at Phillis Wheatley High School and allegations of misconduct against school board members.

After a successful stint at a small school district in Colorado, Miles arrived in Dallas in 2012. The Dallas Morning News reported his time at the district “brought disruption and controversy.” Notably, Miles introduced a program within the district that gave teachers huge pay bonuses if they boosted standardized test scores. However, little improvements were seen from the program and once funding dried up, teachers left because they weren’t getting paid the same. Read more

June 20, 2023

Texas sues Ed Department over Title IX interpretation

The state of Texas has filed a lawsuit over the US Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX protecting LGBTQ+ students, adding to the resistance promised by Republican leaders even before the administration proposed its new rule last June. In its lawsuit, Texas’ Office of the Attorney General says the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX, a civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs receiving federal funding, “seeks to radically transform educational institutions” by impacting “living facilities, locker rooms, and showers, in addition to bathrooms, at schools across the country.” Saying the administration’s stance that Title IX protections cover sexual orientation and gender identity is a misinterpretation, the state seeks to stop LGBTQ+ protections under Title IX from being enforced in Texas. Read more

June 18, 2023

School lunch program improvements reduced childhood obesity

Changes to the national school lunch program in the last decade that reduced sodium and fat content in school meals and required more fruits and vegetables could have reduced children’s likelihood of becoming overweight, according to a new research paper. Researchers evaluated data on the quality of school meals between 1991 and 2010, before the Obama administration’s tighter nutrition standards took effect, then tracked a nationally representative group of children from when they entered kindergarten in 2010 and completed 5th grade in 2016, controlling for children who already entered kindergarten overweight. After the nutrition standards changed, they found, students who ate school lunches were no more likely to be overweight than students who brought their food from home. Read more

June 17, 2023

Houston ISD board meeting sparks frustration among attendees

The newly-appointed board of Houston ISD has restricted access to the main boardroom, requiring many people to watch from an overflow space. The move to limit boardroom access followed a contentious meeting last week, during which some members of the public heckled and booed board members. Read more

June 16, 2023

Illinois bans book bans

Illinois has become the first state to prohibit book bans in its public schools and libraries. The law directs public libraries in the state to adopt or write their own versions of a library bill of rights such as the American Library Association’s, which asserts that “Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” The law, which takes effect next year, was the state’s response to a sharp rise in book-banning efforts across the country. Read more

June 14, 2023

School clinics prove their worth

On-campus health clinics are attracting new attention. Nationwide, nearly 2,600 health centers operated out of schools in 2017, the most recent year with available data, which is more than twice the number that existed two decades earlier. Some 6.3m students in more than 10,000 schools had access to the centers, according to the School-Based Health Alliance. Read more

June 13, 2023

Texas bans ‘sexually explicit’ books in schools

Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill that prohibits “sexually explicit material” in public school libraries. House Bill 900 requires the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to create mandatory standards for school libraries, while book vendors will be responsible for rating library materials as “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant.” Books with the latter label could be available to students with parental approval. Read more

June 12, 2023

Ed Dept announces grant opportunities to address workforce challenges

The Department of Education has announced the availability of more than $368m in new grant opportunities through the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program and the Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Incentive program that advance investments in teacher recruitment and retention. The investments specifically prioritize promoting educator diversity and career advancement and leadership opportunities for effective educators tied to increased compensation. Read more

June 9, 2023

Another court ruling on DACA is expected today

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, who were young immigrants when the program started but are now adults, are worried about their futures in anticipation of yet another legal ruling on the program. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled the program illegal in 2021 and is again presiding over the case after his initial ruling was appealed then affirmed by a higher court. The expectation that Hanen will rule the program illegal once more creates added uncertainty for those affected and sets up another long battle about the program’s validity — a case that could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, where DACA survived a 5-4 ruling in front of a more liberal panel of justices in 2019. Read more

June 8, 2023

Austin ISD hopes for lower oversight than TEA planned

The Texas Education Agency has installed a “conservatorship” in Houston ISD and announced plans to do something similar with Austin ISD, citing the district’s failure to provide special education services to students. AISD officials hope to convince TEA to appoint a monitor instead of a conservator. The crux of AISD’s problem is the evaluation process, which determines which students receive special education services. That process slowed during the COVID pandemic, as more than half of the district’s evaluators left their positions. The district is adding more evaluators and aims to reduce the backlog to zero by the end of 2025. The recent legislative session did not help the district’s cause, as a plan to send $5B to public schools died after Senate Republicans attached a voucher system. Read more

June 7, 2023

Humble ISD proposes increased starting salary for teachers

Humble ISD officials have proposed an increase in starting teacher salaries for the 2023-24 school year, with two possible compensation plans depending on the outcome of the 88th Texas Legislature. The first plan would cost an estimated $12.1m and include a 3% general increase, while the second plan would cost an estimated $15.7m and include a 4% general increase. The starting salary for teachers would be $63,700 or $64,000, respectively. Officials increased the district’s starting teacher salary to $62,100 for the 2022-23 school year to stay competitive with neighboring districts. The proposed increase would make HISD the third-highest starting salary in Texas and the highest among the five largest school districts in the state. Other district professions would also see salary increases under the proposal. The district’s 2023-24 budget will be formally adopted in June. Read more

June 6, 2023

Litigation expected as schools tussle with social media companies

About 40 school districts nationwide are suing social media companies over claims that their apps are addictive, damaging to students’ mental health, and causing adverse impacts on schools and other government resources. Many of the lawsuits, which were originally filed in a variety of court jurisdictions, were consolidated into one 281-page multi-district litigation claim filed March 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The consolidated lawsuit, known as the Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Products Liability Litigation, was filed against Meta Platforms Inc., which operates Facebook and Instagram, as well as the companies behind Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube. Read more

June 5, 2023

Houston Education Association: HISD teachers are ready to work with Superintendent Miles, but more state funding is essential

Houston ISD teachers are ready to work with the new superintendent, Mike Miles, to continue the student improvement that had begun before the state takeover. But Supt. Miles also must work with educators, not bully them as he often did when he was superintendent of Dallas ISD. Read the full statement

Education spared as Biden signs debt ceiling deal

President Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 into law on Saturday, ending for now the threat of a default on the nation’s debt. The U.S. Senate had on Friday passed the bipartisan legislation that flat-funds federal education spending for fiscal 2024. The agreement also limits nondefense spending, including education, to a 1% increase in fiscal 2025. Read more

June 4, 2023

Texas Teachers of Tomorrow remains on probation

Texas Teachers of Tomorrow, the largest teacher preparation program in Texas, remains on probation after failing to prove to state education officials that they had corrected long-standing operational problems. The Texas Education Agency recommended revoking the company’s accreditation, citing its failure to meet the conditions of an improvement plan. Read more

June 3, 2023

Collaborative solutions needed to support girls’ mental health crisis

The 74 looks at how girls, especially girls of color and LGBTQ+ youth, are the most impacted by the mental health crisis in schools. Educators, parents, and policymakers need to listen to the most marginalized girls and accept their input in creating systems and environments of belonging, according to Girls Leadership co-CEOs Simone Marean and Takai Tyler, who are calling for collaborative solutions that incorporate administrators, parents, coaches, and other education professionals, and that are ultimately led by girls. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 56% of girls in grades 7 to 12 have experienced sexual harassment, which is the number one reason that girls don’t feel connected at school. Read more

June 2, 2023

Houston ISD employees must reapply for jobs

Newly-installed Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles has announced that employees at nearly 30 schools will have to reapply for their jobs as part of his “New Education System” plan. Miles is starting with 29 schools and undertaking what he calls “wholescale, systemic reform.” He’s raising teacher compensation at those 29 schools to a record $96,000 a year. Employees who aren’t re-hired will go to other HISD schools, and soon, he says, all district employee pay will be tied to student performance. Miles has promised not to close any schools in his first year but said closures are likely after that. Organizations are planning to protest next week at the district’s first meeting with Miles and the nine-member board of managers that are replacing the elected HISD board of trustees. Read more

June 1, 2023

For higher education in Texas, this year’s session was a mixed bag of interference and investment

During this year’s regular legislative session, Texas lawmakers made huge investments in higher education. They gave millions of dollars in funds to community colleges and created new endowments for public universities. But lawmakers also banned diversity, equity and inclusion offices and gave themselves more control over university faculty tenure. Read more

May 31, 2023

Gamesmanship in the Legislature as special session commences

Yesterday, both the House and Senate each passed its version of the tax relief bill, HB 1 and SB 1 with accompanying constitutional amendments, and the House passed its border security bill and then immediately adjourned sine die. Before adjourning the House made it clear that it was the only chamber to pass bills meeting the requirements of the Governor’s special session call, and because the Senate brought in other issues, the House would not be hearing those bills.

With the Senate adjourned until Friday, and still needing to pass its border patrol bill, and the House adjourned sine die, the only move left in this special session is for the Senate to pass the House bills and adjourn. It is unclear what Lt. Governor Dan Patrick will do, but last night in a Twitter feud, the Governor sided with Speaker Dade Phelan and the Lt. Governor called the Governor misinformed.

Patrick believes he is in the right, and the question is, will he pass the House bills and adjourn sine die for the summer, will he pass his bills and run the clock on the special, or will the Senate sine die with no bills going to the Governor and trigger another special session. The other question is, can the House adjourn sine die without the other chambers’ consent. As we continue to watch the drama unfold, one thing has become clear, the Governor probably does not intend to put vouchers on the call until school starts in the fall.

May 30, 2023

Governor calls special session to address property tax

Greg Abbott called an immediate special session Monday night, just hours after lawmakers completed the year’s regular legislative session without passing numerous key bills state leaders had identified as priorities.

Abbott said in a statement the special session officially began at 9 p.m. Monday and will be focused on property tax relief and border security. “Many critical items remain that must be passed,” Abbott said, which he asserts will require multiple special sessions.

Republican lawmakers had identified using a large part of the state’s budget surplus to lower property taxes for Texas homeowners and business owners as a priority, but failed to reach an agreement. It appeared lawmakers were expected to return to work Tuesday, which the leaders of both chambers hinted at in closing Monday.

Read more

TSTA is following the special session closely, especially as it pertains to property taxation (and therefore school funding). Be on the lookout for alerts from our Government Relations team for ways to take action as the session progresses.

May 28, 2023

TSTA applauds death of voucher bill, remains angry at state leaders who put vouchers over funding for public schools, teachers and students

The death of the voucher bill is a victory for public education and Texas taxpayers. This voucher plan would have worsened the budgetary problems of under-funded public schools while enriching unregulated private schools with tax dollars.

TSTA applauds Rep. Ken King and the other House members who stood up for public education and against vouchers after the Senate had hijacked House Bill 100, the school funding measure, with vouchers and Senate conferees refused to negotiate.
Had it passed, the voucher portion of that bill would have cost public schools and taxpayers one-half billion dollars over the next two years and billions of additional dollars in the years to follow.

We are still angry that Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick and their allies gave private schools a higher priority than public schools, while wasting an opportunity to use a record $33 billion budget surplus to give underpaid teachers and other school employees meaningful pay raises and increase the classroom resources that public schools need for their students. Read full statement

May 26, 2023

Voucher bill in conference committee

The new voucher bill, what had been the school finance bill before being hijacked by privatizers, is heading to a conference committee. As of Friday morning, only the House has assigned members. Let’s tell these five representatives that the answer is still, “NO” on vouchers!

Click here to send a message to the conferees.

May 24, 2023

Another day, another voucher scheme in the Texas House

Just before midnight last night, the Texas Senate passed HB 100, the school finance bill which the Chair of Senate Education amended with a voucher. This was a last-ditch effort to force vouchers on the Texas House, which has voiced its opposition through several procedural and substantive votes on the House floor over the course of this session. But we need to hold our House public education friends up and tell them to stay strong against vouchers.

The question ultimately rests on how long the Texas House can play chicken with the Lt. Governor and Governor. So let’s give them the cover they need and take action AGAIN.

May 23, 2023

Texas Senate committee passes revised school funding bill

A substantially altered version of a school funding bill that’s being used as a last-ditch effort to enact a voucher-like program in Texas was approved by the Senate’s education committee Monday. The revised House Bill 100, which passed 9-3 on party lines, is an attempt to avoid a special session after Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to call for one if he didn’t get a school voucher bill he liked.

The Senate’s new version of the bill designates $6,210 per-student spending, increasing the per-student allotment by $50. It also adds an amendment to give families with children enrolled in public schools $8,000 in taxpayer money to put toward private school education. In addition to adding the voucher program, the bill also dedicates $300m to fund special education programs.

The voucher amendment was added late Sunday night after the primary school voucher bill, Senate Bill 8, authored by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), died in the House chamber after missing a crucial deadline to pass out of the House’s public education committee. House Bill 100 now heads to the Senate floor for a vote. Read more

Tell your senator to vote NO on HB 100!

May 22, 2023

Texas Senate passes school safety bill

The Texas Senate on Sunday gave final approval to a priority school safety bill that gives the state more power to compel school districts to create active-shooter plans, requires mental health training for certain employees and puts restrictions on those who carry a gun in school. The proposal requires the Texas School Safety Center — a Texas State University think tank that has been reviewing schools’ safety protocols since the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting — to conduct checks of a school district’s buildings at least once every five years to make sure they are following the state’s safety standards. Read more

May 21, 2023

Uvalde investigation continues

This Wednesday marks one year since a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers inside a fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and the criminal investigation over the hesitant police response is still ongoing. A damning report by Texas lawmakers put nearly 400 officers on the scene from an array of federal, state and local agencies. Read more

May 20, 2023

High-dosage tutoring ‘wins and fails’ shared

At a special event hosted by the National Student Support Accelerator, a Stanford program that shares research and helps schools launch tutoring programs, a group of researchers, school leaders, and tutoring organizations recently discussed the best ways to get high-dosage tutoring to more students and how schools might keep their programs going when federal dollars are gone. Attendees heard that there are several studies expected to be published this summer and fall that could help school districts make their programs more effective. They include two gold-standard experiments looking at whether the tutor’s race or gender affect academic outcomes for students, and another rigorous study looking at whether student group size affects the quality of live virtual tutoring in reading. Read more

May 18, 2023

TEA to share details of Houston ISD takeover today

The Texas Education Agency will outline its Houston ISD takeover plan today, at the final gathering of the district’s elected trustees. This will mark the second TEA presentation at an HISD board meeting. During the first presentation last month, Steve Lecholop, the agency’s deputy commissioner of governance, gave a slideshow presentation and fielded heated questions from trustees. Read more

May 17, 2023

Future of Texas voucher bill unclear as key deadline looms

State Representative Brad Buckley, chair of the House Public Education Committee, has said he currently has no plans to bring the latest version of the Texas Senate’s priority school voucher bill for a full vote, after Greg Abbott threatened to veto it. “It begs the question of — with this threat — is this the legislation to move forward?”, he said. Senate Bill 8, authored by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, significantly rolls back eligibility for the legislation’s proposed voucher program. Read more

May 16, 2023

Abbott threatens to veto pared-down school choice bill, warns of special sessions

Greg Abbott said Sunday that he would veto a toned-down version of a bill to offer school vouchers in Texas and threatened to call legislators back for special sessions if they don’t “expand the scope of school choice” this month. Read more

May 15, 2023

Take action NOW against SB 8, the voucher bill up in House Public Education Today

Texas public schools are under attack, and we need to stand up against out-of-state opportunists looking to defund our local public schools! The committee will be hearing invited testimony only, so public education advocates need to submit comments to the Committee through the Texas House of Representatives website to register our opposition to vouchers in general and this bill in particular.

This link is live NOW! Use the talking points below and share this out to your members, family, friends, and community at large.


  • It diverts much needed funding from our public schools to unaccountable private schools
  • It erodes the rights of parents of special needs students and fails to maintain protections under IDEA federal laws
  • It does not prioritize parental choice, just a private school’s choice in which students to serve
  • It replaces STAAR with a different exam, without deemphasizing standardized tests in our A-F accountability system
  • It gives the TEA Commissioner too much authority

Submit your comments today!

May 11, 2023

Texas House blocks attempt to vote on school choice

Texas House members prevented the chamber’s Committee on Public Education from gathering in what many had expected would be an attempt to advance Senate Bill 8, the education savings account or school choice bill. In a 76-65 vote, House members rejected committee Chairman Rep. Brad Buckley’s effort to meet without meeting the three-day posting rule because Buckley said he planned to call a vote on SB 8 without a public hearing. The bill is still alive, however; after the House recessed at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the committee announced it would meet Monday to consider SB 8. Read more

Contact the House Public Education Committee before their Monday hearing. Tell them to vote “NO” on any version of SB 8!

May 10, 2023

Teachers are losing hope that lawmakers will give them a big raise this session

With less than a month left in the legislative session, the odds that teachers will get the kind of raise they say they badly need are rapidly diminishing.

Teachers had hoped this would be the year the Texas Legislature would approve a substantial across-the-board pay raise for them as lawmakers, tasked with deciding how to spend a historic budget surplus, vowed to address the state’s yearslong teacher shortage.

But some of the ambitious proposals to put more money in teachers’ wallets — including a bill that would have given every teacher in Texas a $15,000 raise — never made it out of the House or Senate education committees, which have to give first approval to a bill before it gets a full vote by either chamber. Read more

May 9, 2023

In surprise vote, Texas House committee advances bill to raise minimum age to buy assault rifles

In a previously unscheduled vote, Texas lawmakers on Monday advanced a measure that would raise the age limit for purchasing assault-style weapons.

House Bill 2744 has been pushed by families of victims in last year’s Robb Elementary School shooting, which left 19 students and two teachers dead. They say a higher minimum age would have prevented the mass shooting.

If passed, the legislation would raise the minimum age required to purchase semi-automatic rifles — like the one used in Uvalde — from 18 to 21. Most Texans are currently not allowed to carry handguns before that age. Read more

May 5, 2023

Record number of civil rights complaints filed

The Education Department received a record-breaking number of civil rights complaints last fiscal year, with people filing nearly 19,000 complaints in the nation’s universities, colleges and public schools. The 18,804 complaints entered between October 2021 and September 2022, are the most ever filed in a single fiscal year in the nearly six-decade history of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Read more

May 4, 2023

Tenure-track faculty worry Texas tenure ban would derail their careers

A proposed ban on tenure in Texas has led some of the state’s highest-achieving faculty to reconsider whether Texas is where they should build their careers.

Five thousand teachers in Texas are currently on the around seven-year track to receive tenure. After intense vetting, tenured faculty receive an indefinite contract. But they still must participate in annual performance reviews, as well as a post-tenure review every five to six years.

Tenure gives faculty additional job security so they can pursue long-term, independent research. That could include finding new scientific discoveries, conducting academic studies or writing books. It’s also used as a recruitment tool to attract and keep prestigious scholars, who in turn raise their university’s research acumen and national profile. Read more

Take Action: tell the members of the House Higher Education Committee that tenure is good for Texas higher ed

May 3, 2023

Protesters evicted from Texas Capitol as clash between LGBTQ residents and GOP leaders escalates

LGBTQ Texans defending transgender kids’ access to transition-related medical treatments that experts consider lifesaving clashed with a state Republican party that opposes all efforts to validate trans identities Tuesday, as state police forcefully booted from the Capitol people protesting a bill that would ban such care.

It was the most dramatic day yet during a legislative session in which Republicans are pushing a slate of bills that could drastically upend how queer people live. It began with LGBTQ Texans, their families and advocates singing outside the House chamber. Hours later, it ended in altercations with law enforcement and scores of protesters being forced from the building after some chanted during legislative proceedings. Read more

May 1, 2023

Wednesday, May 3rd is the Freedom to Learn National Day of Action

NEA is a co-sponsor of this important observance along with a broad coalition and planned activities range from reading a banned book to joining a rally or a sit-in. Please share this event with your members and networks as we focus on defending the truth, protecting the freedom to learn, and strengthening our democracy. Read more

April 27, 2023

Budget conferees have opportunity to spend substantially more on public education, nothing on vouchers

With about four weeks remaining in the legislative session, there are a lot of moving parts and unanswered questions affecting public education funding. Will teachers and support staff get the raises they have earned and deserve? Will retirees get COLAs and more-livable pensions? Will lawmakers waste education dollars on vouchers? Will they short-change public schools, educators and students and spend half of a record $33 billion surplus on temporary property tax relief?

Ten legislators — five senators and five House members — will play a key role in answering those questions. They are the members of the conference committee now writing the final version of the state budget, which all the members of the Senate and the House will be asked to vote on, without further amendments, before the session ends.

The House conferees are Reps. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood; Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint; Jacey Jetton, R-Richmond; Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston; and Armando Walle, D-Houston. The Senate conferees, all Republicans, are Sens. Joan Huffman of Houston, Robert Nichols of Jacksonville, Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, Brandon Creighton of Conroe and Charles Schwertner of Georgetown.
What they decide will be critical to your pay, your retirement and the resources and learning opportunities your students will have.

So, contact them NOW and demand YES on much more funding for public schools and NO funding for vouchers!

April 26, 2023

West Texas A&M faculty condemn university prez after drag show cancellation

Most West Texas A&M faculty have lost confidence in university President Walter Wendler, according to the results of a campuswide vote that came weeks after he canceled a charity campus drag show.

Faculty senate leaders announced the results of the weeklong no-confidence vote Tuesday evening. According to faculty senate president Ashley Pinkham, there were 179 votes to condemn Wendler and 82 against it.

Pinkham said in an email to faculty that some colleagues provided comments with their ballots, which will be tabulated and released in the coming days. Read more

April 25, 2023

Bill would allow state to ban textbooks that discuss gender identity

House Bill 1804, authored by state Representative Terri Leo-Wilson, R-Galveston, would allow the State Board of Education to reject textbooks for students below ninth grade if the textbooks include content on sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual activity. Textbooks could also be rejected if they fail to present U.S. history in a positive light or “encourage lifestyles that deviate from generally accepted standards of society.”

As of Monday afternoon, Leo-Wilson’s bill had been left pending in the House Committee on Public Education. Read more

April 24, 2023

‘Perfect storm brewing’ as low wages, educator shortages grip schools and colleges nationwide

Four new reports examining educator pay and school funding from pre-K through college reveal an alarming trend of decreased educator pay and inadequate investment in public schools and universities as teacher turnover has hit historic levels. The reports, released by the National Education Association, show a perfect storm brewing as educator shortages continue to grip schools nationwide.

NEA’s data reveals only single-digit percentage gains in educator salaries. At the same time, the teacher pay penalty has reached a record high, teacher turnover hit new highs across the United States, and staff salaries haven’t kept up with inflation. The data also points to too many students in schools where decision-makers have driven away quality educators by failing to provide competitive salaries and support and placing extraordinary pressure on individual educators to do more and more with less and less.

Teacher pay in Texas trails national average by $7,700; average ADA near bottom nationally

NEA Rankings and Estimates

NEA’s Teacher Salary Benchmark Report

Education Support Professional Earnings Report

April 23, 2023

Soaring numbers of book bans happening nationwide

Free speech organization PEN America has warned that book bans are rising at a rapid pace in school districts around the country. From July to December 2022, PEN found 1,477 cases of books being removed, up from 1,149 during the previous six months. Since the organization began tracking bans in July 2021, it has counted more than 4,000 instances of book removals using news reports, public records requests and publicly available data. Read more

April 21, 2023

San Marcos CISD to hire armed civilians for each elementary school

San Marcos Consolidated ISD school leaders have signed off on hiring armed marshals to protect students in the district’s eight elementary schools. The plan calls for hiring a school marshal – whose identity would be confidential – to serve as a safety officer at each elementary school campus in the district. The marshals’ responsibilities would include patrolling the campuses, performing safety checks and audits, and conducting safety training drills. Read more

April 20, 2023

Texas House advances bill banning ‘sexually explicit’ books in school libraries

The Texas House gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that aims to ban sexually explicit materials from school libraries. House Bill 900, by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), would require vendors to assign a rating to books with sexual content before selling them to school districts. Despite multiple amendments by Democratic lawmakers and floor speeches that lasted over an hour, the Republican-led chamber voted 95-53 on the legislation, deemed a priority by House Speaker Dade Phelan. The bill still needs to get final approval from the House before it makes its way to the Senate. Read more

April 19, 2023

Texas educator Monica Washington inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame

Former high school English teacher Monica Washington from Texarkana, Texas, is one of only five educators nationwide who have been inducted into the 2023 class of the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

Monica inaugurated her career as a teacher in 1998 at an inner-city school in Memphis, Tennessee. After transferring to Texas High School in Texarkana, she taught English and AP English and served as the Department Chair at Texas High School for nine years there. During her career, she has also served as an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) co-ordinator and a REACH co-ordinator on her campus. Over the course of her 20-year career, she has taught grades 7-12. Read more

April 18, 2023

HB 2102 is scheduled for House Public Education Today

HB 2102 (Rep Goldman) will double the time existing charter schools have to open a new charter campus from 18 months to 36 months through the amendment process. The bill does not require charter schools to notify a school district over the entire 3-year time period once they have selected a site for the new campus. School districts only receive a notice when the amendment is initially filed.

Without notice of the address where a charter intends to locate, parents and taxpayers are left in the dark, and school districts can’t plan ahead for the financial impact of enrollment loss. In addition, with a three-year window to open a new charter campus, low-performing charter schools could be allowed to expand.

TAKE ACTION and SUBMIT electronic comment before the hearing is over at

April 17, 2023

Texas House panel advances bills banning puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender kids

Texas lawmakers are a step closer to banning puberty blockers and hormone therapies for transgender youth after the House Public Health Committee advanced Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 1686 on Friday. The committee voted 6-3 to approve the two bills, and they will now have to get through the Calendars Committee before getting to the House floor. The Senate has already passed a version of the legislation, and a majority of Texas House members have signed on to an earlier version of HB 1686. Read more

April 16, 2023

Texas Senate passes school library bill meant to keep “harmful” materials off shelves

The Texas Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would significantly change the processes and procedures Texas’ school libraries have to follow.

Senate Bill 13, from Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, would let parents receive notice each time their children obtain school library materials, prohibit the acquisition or retention of “harmful” and indecent materials, and create local councils to help districts ensure “community values are reflected in each school library catalog in the district.” Members of the upper chamber approved the bill with a 18-12 vote. It now heads to the House. Read more

April 15, 2023

Texas House OKs bill that would fund community colleges based on their performance

A bill that would dramatically change how Texas funds its community colleges is sailing through the Legislature, receiving its first major stamp of approval Wednesday in the Texas House.

House Bill 8 would fund community colleges primarily based on how many of their students graduate with a degree or certificate or transfer to a four-year university. Currently, schools are largely funded based on the number of hours students spend in a classroom. Read more

Texas House passes CROWN Act, which would ban hairstyle discrimination

The Texas House overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit race-based hair discrimination in schools, workplaces and housing. The lower chamber’s vote took the state one step closer to adopting a law inspired by the experiences of two Black high schoolers near Houston threatened with discipline in the 2019-20 school year if they didn’t cut their locks.

House Bill 567, filed by state Rep. Rhetta Bowers, D-Garland, was voted out of a House committee in late March. An identical Senate bill from state Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, is sitting in the Senate State Affairs Committee but hasn’t yet received a hearing. Representatives approved the bill with a 143-5 vote. Read more

April 14, 2023

Texas Senate passes school library bill

The Texas Senate on Thursday approved SB 13, a bill that would change the processes and procedures Texas’ school libraries have to follow. It would let parents receive notice each time their children obtain school library materials, prohibit the acquisition or retention of “harmful” and indecent materials, and create local councils to help districts ensure “community values are reflected in each school library catalog in the district. Read more 

April 13, 2023

State Senate budget leaders approve $308B spending package

Texas Senate budget leaders on Wednesday approved a $308B spending proposal for the next two years that includes an extra $5B in additional money for schools to pay for teacher pay raises and other educational programs, including costs associated with offering parents private school subsidies. It also includes billions of dollars for cost-of-living adjustments for retired teachers, $650M for measures to help schools improve security and $650M to revamp community college funding. Read more

April 12, 2023

Senate approves bill prohibiting professors ‘forcing’ beliefs on college students

The Texas Senate has given preliminary approval to SB 16, a bill that would prohibit a college or university professor from “compelling” a student to adopt certain political beliefs. Read more

April 11, 2023

Voucher Day in Texas House

House Public Education Committee will be hearing several voucher bills of all shapes and sizes including the companion bill to SB 8 TODAY, and we encourage educators, parents, students, and community leaders to come testify against these terrible bills. You can find the hearing notice and list of bills linked here.

PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR WRITTEN COMMENTS ONLINE TO THE COMMITTEE!!!!! You can submit written comments until the hearing is adjourned. 


April 10, 2023

Black and Latino students more likely to experience policing in schools

A new analysis by the Urban Institute indicates that predominantly Black and Latino schools are more likely to have on-site law enforcement than those with largely white enrollment. The disparity holds true in both high- and low-poverty schools, asserts the report, which combined data from the U.S. Department of Education’s 2017-18 federal Civil Rights Data Collection, which is the most recent data available on school policing, with a separate school-level poverty estimate model developed by Urban Institute researchers. Read more

April 9, 2023

School board members should be paid, academics argue

Dorothy Rohde-Collins, a Ph.D. student in education policy and equity at Saint Louis University and the former president of the Board of Education for Saint Louis Public Schools in St. Louis, Missouri, and J. Cameron Anglum, an assistant professor of education policy and equity at Saint Louis University, argue in favor of paying school board members an appropriate salary. Read more

April 8, 2023

Education data breaches hit record highs

To date, 2021 marked the biggest year for data breaches in education, according to research by cybersecurity and online privacy website Comparitech. Some 771 institutions and nearly 2.6m records were impacted and the now high-profile Illuminate Education data breach, which affected at least 605 institutions, made up a significant portion of that number. The next year, 2022, brought 96 breaches that exposed almost 1.4m records, and so far 2023 has seen 11 breaches with over 3,500 impacted records. Read more

April 7, 2023

TSTA applauds House for approving anti-voucher amendment; calls Senate Bill 8 an assault on public education

We applaud the House members who stood up for public education and voted to adopt the amendment by Representative Abel Herrero to prohibit the expenditure of public funds for private school vouchers of any kind. But with voucher bills still pending, TSTA will continue to fight any effort to take much-needed funding from under-funded public schools in order to enrich private school owners. Read our statement here

April 6, 2023

Texas schools ‘especially vulnerable’ to ESSER expiry

A new report by Education Resource Strategies, a nonprofit consultant that works with school districts on school finance issues, has identified 15 states at a particular disadvantage when the unprecedented surge in federal funding from pandemic relief efforts expires in September 2024. Read more

April 5, 2023

Austin ISD mulls appeal of state oversight

Austin ISD is deciding whether to appeal the Texas Education Agency’s plan to install a management team to oversee the district’s special education department. A union representing AISD employees, Education Austin, has already expressed opposition to the conservatorship. Ken Zarifis, the group’s president, said AISD has had issues with special ed services for a long time, but he believes in the district’s current leadership. “Right now, we have an interim superintendent and a board that we believe will work with us to problem solve for special ed students. Because at the end of the day, our students are the most important priority in this district,” he said. Read more

April 4, 2023

Voters support teacher raises

In a bipartisan poll conducted for TSTA earlier this session, 81 percent of voters said a teacher pay raise was one of their top priorities. This included 53 percent of Republican voters, 52 percent of Republicans in swing districts and 64 percent of rural Republicans.

In the same poll, 65 percent of voters said the pay raise must be statewide across-the-board for all teachers, not for just a few based on STAAR scores. This included 44 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of Republicans in swing districts and 52 percent of rural Republicans. Read more of our statement here

April 3, 2023

TEA to appoint conservators for Austin ISD

The Texas Education Agency on Friday said it will move to appoint conservators to oversee Austin ISD, citing “systemic issues” in the district’s failings in serving students receiving special education. Austin ISD’s board of trustees said in a statement Friday evening that conservators selected by the TEA would work with the district to provide special education services to students with disabilities. The board also said the district has a right to appeal the conservatorship, but did not state whether it would do so. Read more

April 2, 2023

Nationwide push for harsher school discipline as safety fears rise

In a turn toward stricter discipline that reflects mounting fears about school violence and disorder, lawmakers across the country are moving to make it easier to tackle disruptive students. A proposed Texas law would allow teachers to eject disruptive students after a single incident, while a North Carolina proposal would permit long-term suspensions for cursing and dress code violations. A bill advancing through the Florida legislature would empower teachers to remove “disobedient” or “disrespectful” students from their classrooms and to use “reasonable force” to protect themselves and others. Read more

April 1, 2023

NEA opens tornado relief fund for Mississippi

Members, educators, employees and friends who want to help our colleagues in this time of crisis are encouraged to contribute. All donations are distributed to affected NEA State Affiliates for them to distribute to their members through their respective relief programs. NEA Member Benefits will pay any fees imposed by GoFundMe, so 100% of the money raised will go directly to supporting NEA members and their families. Funds will be withdrawn by the NEA Member Benefits Relief Fund and sent to the impacted State Affiliates. Donate here

March 31, 2023

Texas Senate OKs transgender athlete restrictions in college sports

The Texas Senate has approved a proposal to ban transgender college athletes from competing in sports with those who match their gender identity. Senate Bill 15, filed by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston), would require college athletes to compete on teams that align with their sex assigned at birth. Read more 

March 30, 2023

Texas House bill calls for armed school employee at every campus

House Bill 3, a school safety proposal to require an armed district employee in every campus in Texas, was taken up by the House Youth Health and Safety Committee this week. The bill, and other similar proposals, were left pending in the committee without a specific date for voting. Read more

TSTA’s testimony opposing HB 3

Retired Texas teachers closer to long-awaited pay bump

Retired Texas teachers are closing in on a long-awaited cost-of-living raise after a bill was unanimously approved by the state Senate on Wednesday afternoon. Co-authored by all 31 members of the chamber, the bill includes both a cost-of-living adjustment and $7,500 one-time checks to retirees who are older than 75. Those who retired before September 1st 2013 would receive a 4% raise, while those who did so between then and the beginning of last year would receive a 2% raise. Read more

March 29, 2023

Texas Senate education committee advances SB 8

The Texas Senate education committee has voted 10-2 on party lines to advance Senate Bill 8, a proposal that would allow families to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools and restrict classroom lessons on sexual orientation. The measure, which was rejected by Democrats José Menéndez of San Antonio and Morgan LaMantia of South Padre Island, now goes before the Senate for a full vote. Read more

March 28, 2023

Six killed in Nashville school shooting

A former student shot and killed three children and three staff members at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday. The Covenant School is located in the affluent Green Hills neighborhood, just south of downtown Nashville. In addition to the three nine-year-old students, the 28-year-old attacker fatally wounded a custodian, a substitute teacher and the head of school, before being killed by responding officers. Read more

Lawmakers aim to expand federal loan forgiveness for educators

U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), along with U.S. Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) and Jahana Hayes (D-CN), has reintroduced the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act – a piece of legislation that aims to address educator shortages and increase children’s access to a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce by expanding the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. It would see the federal government make monthly federal student loan payments for educators serving in early childhood education programs and high-need public schools and completely forgive any outstanding debt after five years of service. Read more

March 27, 2023

Soaring autism identification rates

One in 36 children was identified as autistic between 2018 and 2020, the most recent period data is available. In 2000, just one in 150 children was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The prevalence among four-year olds jumped 26% between 2018 and 2020, increasing even more in girls than boys, though boys are still about four-times more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls. For the first time, white children were less likely to carry the diagnosis than children of color, according to Andy Shih of the Autism Speaks advocacy group. Read more

March 26, 2023

West Texas A&M University students file free speech lawsuit after president cancels campus drag show

An LGBTQ student group at West Texas A&M University and its two student leaders have filed a lawsuit against university president Walter Wendler, alleging he violated their First Amendment rights when he canceled a planned campus drag show earlier this week because he believed the shows degrade women. Read more

March 25, 2023

LGBTQ groups criticize Texas bill’s broad restrictions on school lessons and activities about sexuality and gender identity

Senate Bill 8 supporters say the legislation protects the rights of parents who don’t want their kids to learn about gender identity and sexual orientation. Critics say it could force schools to ignore the existence of LGBTQ people. Read more

March 24, 2023

House panel advances new budget with teacher pay raises

A key Texas House panel on Thursday gave final approval to a two-year spending plan that includes property tax cuts, border security initiatives and the first pay raises for state employees and teachers in more than a decade. The plan recommends an additional $5 billion for public schools, more funding for higher education, $3 billion to boost mental health services and another $3.5 billion for cost-of-living adjustments for retired teachers, their first in nearly 20 years. Read more 

March 23, 2023

School voucher-like program in Texas could initially cost $1bn

The current push by lawmakers for a voucher-like program that could funnel state money to private schools could cost an estimated $1bn a year by 2028, while draining funds from public schools, according to a newly released fiscal note from the state’s Legislative Budget Board. The analysis is the first to place a price tag on a bill prioritized by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Read more

March 22, 2023

Texas bills call for teachers to be given overdose training

A number of bills have been filed by Texas lawmakers that would require teachers to be trained and equipped to treat fentanyl overdoses with Narcan and other overdose medications known as “opioid antagonists,” both on campus and at school-related events. Eight bills calling for some sort of opioid emergency training for school personnel have been filed by Democrats: state. Sen. José Menéndez of San Antonio and state Reps. Philip Cortez of San Antonio, Bobby Guerra of Mission, Jolanda Jones of Houston, Erin Zwiener of Driftwood, Sheryl Cole of Austin; and Rep. James Talarico of Round Rock. Read more

March 21, 2023

Parents disrupt first public Houston ISD takeover meeting

Houston ISD community members were irate Tuesday night as Texas Education Agency officials tried to explain the process of taking over their school district. State officials did not take questions about the effects such a move could have on the district, which is the largest in Texas, but did try to recruit community members to replace the existing school board. Read more

March 16, 2023

House Dems want to tap surplus for public education

Texas House Democrats are proposing to spend much of the state’s record-setting surplus on public education by doling out $15B to boost funding for schools, salaries for teachers and pensions for retirees. The figure is the same that GOP leaders earmarked from the start of this year’s session for school property tax cuts.

House Democrats’ four-point education plan would increase public schools’ “basic allotment” funding by $1,340 a student, which would provide teacher pay raises of $7,000 on average this fall, followed the next year by an additional $3,000 bump. The plan also would peg school funding to student enrollment, not attendance, giving schools more financial certainty – and more money. Retired teachers would see a cost-of-living increase. Read more

March 15, 2023

Texas Education Agency will take control of Houston ISD in June

After a prolonged legal battle and weeks of speculation, the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday confirmed it’s removing Houston Independent School District’s democratically elected school board and superintendent, effectively putting the state in charge of its largest school district. Read more

March 14, 2023

Austin ISD employees are burdened by housing costs, survey finds

A district survey shows 73% of employees spend more than 30% of their salary on housing. That figure is significant because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says people are cost-burdened if more than 30% of their income goes toward housing costs, such as rent or mortgage payments. Read more

March 13, 2023

Fort Worth ISD pushed to hire more non-certified special ed teachers

As schools in the Fort Worth area struggle to find enough teachers to cover their special education classrooms, some are increasingly being pushed to turn to non-certified educators hired on an emergency basis. Fort Worth ISD hired nearly three times as many special education teachers on emergency permits ahead of the current school year as compared to the year prior, district records show. Read more

March 12, 2023

Texas’ teacher pension fund shed $500m over fossil fuel law

Texas’ largest biggest pension fund shed more than $500m worth of investments in BlackRock to comply with the new state law meant to punish companies that snub fossil fuels. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas also shed positions in BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse Group, Danske Bank, Nordea Bank, Schroders, Svenska Handelsbanken, Swedbank and UBS Group worth a combined $112m as of last August, records show.

March 11, 2023

Texas families would get $8,000 in tax dollars to send students to private school in sweeping ‘parental rights’ bill backed by lieutenant gov

A sweeping education bill introduced in the Texas Senate late Friday would allow families to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools, establish new opportunities for parents to review instruction material and impose new rules on how gender and sexual orientation is taught in all grades. Read more

March 10, 2023

Texas Senate’s priority bills on higher ed would end tenure, diversity policies

The bills are part of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s list of priorities and, if passed as filed, could have profound impacts on how Texas universities recruit top faculty and other employees. Read more

March 9, 2023

Texas House prioritizes legislation on school security, teacher pipeline

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has announced his support for several education bills this legislative session, highlighting bills addressing campus safety and strengthening the teacher pipeline. One measure, House Bill 13, would require districts to adopt active-shooter preparedness plans. Authored by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian), it would also expand funding for mental health resources. Read more

March 8, 2023

Texas senators file bill to block Houston ISD takeover

State Senators Carol Alvarado, Borris Miles and John Whitmire have filed a bill to soften the law that triggers school district takeovers. State Rep. Alma Allen also filed a companion bill in the House. Read more

March 7, 2023

The TX House has a record number of LGBTQ reps as lawmakers face scores of bills focused on gender and sexuality

The Texas Legislature has nine lawmakers who are openly LGBTQ, all Democrats. At the same time, some Republican lawmakers are pushing a slate of bills aimed at transgender children and how sexuality is discussed in schools. Read more

March 6, 2023

New plan for school safety

New legislation proposed in the Texas Senate would create a safety and security department in the Texas Education Agency and give the education commissioner direct power to compel school districts to establish safety protocols for active-shooter situations. Read more

March 5, 2023

Plurality of Texas voters say they support school voucher-like program

A February survey of 1,200 voters from the University of Texas at Austin has found that a plurality support redirecting tax revenue to help parents pay to school their kids outside the traditional public education system. In all, 46% of voters are in favor of the idea, with 41% against. Gov. Greg Abbott has thrown his weight behind the proposal and is traveling the state to pitch parents on it, particularly in rural communities. Read more

March 4, 2023

Houston ISD braces for possible state takeover

Parents, teachers and retired HISD employees were among the many that came out in support of their district and against a midsemester change of leadership that has been in the works since 2019, when the TEA first announced plans to take over the district after allegations of misconduct by trustees and years of low academic performance at Phillis Wheatley High School — one of the district’s 276 schools. Read more

March 3, 2023

Texas bond debt guarantee program hits limit

Texas’ Permanent School Fund, which has long helped school districts get the lowest possible interest rates on bonds, has reached the $117bn debt limit set by the IRS. Since December, at least 49 school and charter districts that asked the PSF to back their debt were denied due to insufficient capacity, resulting in more than $6.87bn in unguaranteed bonds. Read more

March 2, 2023

TEA takeover of Houston ISD imminent, says Mayor Turner

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday morning that he has been told that the Texas Education Agency plans to take over Houston ISD as early as next week. “I’m talking to legislators, and what they’re saying to me is that the state intends to take over the district, replacing the entire board, replacing the superintendent,” Mr. Turner said at a City Council meeting. “I find that totally alarming.” Read more

March 1, 2023

Supreme Court appears skeptical of Biden’s federal student loan debt plan

In arguments this week, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical of the legalities of President Joe Biden’s plan to slash federal student loan debt burdens, which he initiated via an executive order last year. Some scholars have suggested that Biden’s plan was always on shaky ground legally and have urged the administration to start over, however White House officials remain confident about their case. In all, up to 43m Americans could benefit from Biden’s headline debt relief plan. Read more

February 28, 2023

Crosby ISD votes to become largest Texas district to adopt four-day school week

Crosby ISD leaders voted 4-3 Monday night to become the largest school district in Texas, and first in Harris County, to adopt a four-day instructional week. The new school calendar is a move by the district to attract additional teachers after facing 40 openings at the start of the school year. Read more

February 27, 2023

Solving Texas’ teacher shortage

A yearlong review by a state task force examining Texas’ teacher shortage recommended that lawmakers increase teacher salaries, improve training and commit to respecting educators’ time. The task force, formed last year by Gov. Greg Abbott, also recommended increasing the base funding schools get per student, an idea that has already gained traction in the Texas Legislature during this year’s session. Read more

February 26, 2023

HBCUs play ‘outsize role’ in producing teachers of color

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) play an outsize role in producing teachers of color in the United States. Of all Black teachers nationwide, almost half are graduates of an HBCU. Meanwhile, just 7% of teachers are Black, compared with 15% of students. Read more

February 25, 2023

Houston-area school districts battling to retain teachers

Amid considerable workforce challenges, school districts in and around Houston are offering stipends, bonuses, and even four-day weeks in attempt to retain teachers. Many Houston area school districts already pay slightly above the state average for teacher salaries, which is nearly $59,000. Read more

February 24, 2023

International Baccalaureate to allow pupils to use ChatGPT

International Baccalaureate, a global qualification body, has said children will be allowed to quote from work generated by the AI chatbot in their essays, as long as they give it credit and do not plagiarize. Read more

February 23, 2023

Region 13 career fair

Please join us for the 2023 Region 13 Education Career Fair on May 4, 2023, from 4:00 – 7:00 pm. This is an opportunity to meet local area recruiters to learn about exciting opportunities in Texas schools! There will be numerous districts from the central Texas region for candidates to meet and possibly interview with. Read more

UT System pauses diversity policies

The University of Texas System’s board of regents said it has put a pause on all new policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion at its 13 university and health campuses. The board has also asked all school leaders to provide a report on their current DEI policies. Read more

February 22, 2023

Education savings accounts profiled

Education savings accounts (ESAs), a fairly new program that started about a decade ago, are essentially taxpayer-supported bank accounts for parents who remove their children from the public education system. Those parents get state money up front to pay for their educational expenses, like private school tuition, online schooling or private tutors. In most cases, the state manages these accounts. Read more

February 21, 2023

In a Central Texas county, high schoolers are jailed on felony charges for vaping what could be legal hemp

Police often can’t tell if a cannabis vape pen is derived from marijuana or legal hemp, like the delta-8 products on display in gas stations across Texas. That doesn’t stop them from making felony arrests in high schools. Read more

February 20, 2023

Districts mull four-day school weeks

After much research and discussion, Galveston ISD this week adopted a calendar that won’t include a four-day week, arguing raises for teachers and some programs could suffer as a result. The district’s calendar committee recommended the district not adopt four-day school weeks for the 2023-2024 school year after polling schools and the community. Read more

February 19, 2023

Federal funding to support student wellness initiatives

The U.S. Department of Education has announced awards of more than $188m across 170 grantees in over 30 states to increase access to school-based mental health services and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals, particularly in regard to high-needs districts. Read more

February 16, 2023

Public schools are about duty; vouchers are about politics and shortsightedness

Following Governor Abbott’s State of the State Address, Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement: Abbott doesn’t seem to understand that the bright Texas future he loves to brag about, including that new $32 billion surplus, owes a lot to the hard work of Texas public schools and public school educators. Businesses and our economy couldn’t operate very long without them. Read more

February 15, 2023

TEA official recorded discussing voucher-like programs with parent

A high-ranking Texas Education Agency official has been recorded advocating for voucher-like programs on behalf of Governor Greg Abbott, and stating that funding to public school districts could decrease if such a policy passes this Legislative session. Read more

February 13, 2023

Help us celebrate Black History Month

Join our social media campaign in celebration of Black History Month. Submit a 60 second video honoring a Black icon or artwork that captures Blackness or Black history through a visual experience. Enter the contest

February 12, 2023

Texas Tech reviews its hiring practices as efforts to promote diversity come under fire

Texas Tech’s review comes as Governor Greg Abbott has instructed state agencies and public universities that “forbidden DEI initiatives” violate federal and state employment discrimination laws. Read more

February 11, 2023

After botched response to Uvalde massacre, Texas senator wants better mass shooting training for public safety entities

State Senator Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, wants to prevent communication breakdowns like the ones that occurred in the botched response to the Uvalde school shooting. Read more

February 9, 2023

House speaker fills key panel with past school voucher opponents

Amid a conservative push for private school vouchers, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on Wednesday made a number of appointments to the House Public Education Committee, with state Representative Brad Buckley (R-Killeen) to chair the panel. He replaces Rep. Harold Dutton, a Houston Democrat who remains on the committee. Read more

February 8, 2023

Texas schools ramp up awareness of fentanyl dangers

Across Texas, school leaders are grappling with how to address fentanyl use among students. Law enforcement officials say the drug is often laced into fake pills, putting unknowing buyers at risk when they seek Percocet or Xanax, for example. The synthetic opioid is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and an amount as small as the tip of a sharpened pencil can be lethal. Read more

February 7, 2023

Much for education in Biden’s State of the Union speech

President Joe Biden emphasized schools’ role in supporting student mental health during his State of the Union address in Washington on February 7th. Rising rates of anxiety and depression among children and teens should be a top concern for the nation, he asserted. Read more

February 6, 2023

TRS divests from investment firms accused of ‘boycotting’ oil and gas industry

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) has divested part of its massive pension fund from 10 financial firms that the state comptroller singled out for “boycotting” the oil and gas industry. Financial firms in recent years have increased their commitments to environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies that attempt to account for the negative societal costs of investing in companies that worsen climate change, use exploitative labor practices or engage in corporate corruption. However, in 2021 Texas prohibited state funds from contracting with or investing in companies that divest from oil, natural gas and coal companies. Read more

February 5, 2023

Senators indicate openness to changing state education funding formula

During the Senate Finance Committee’s first public education hearing Monday, senators seemed open to reconsidering the core metric used to determine how much money the state gives schools per student, a switch that many school districts say would result in millions in additional funding. Read more

February 3, 2023

State Board of Education eases stance on school choice

The State Board of Education altered its stance on school vouchers on Thursday night, voting to rescind its recommendation from late last year that the Legislature deny any measures to provide public funding for private schools. A few months ago, the 15-member board approved legislative priorities that included a repudiation of voucher-like initiatives, which can give parents public dollars to spend on private school tuition. On Thursday night, the board, with new members taking their positions, voted 8-5 to remove the language opposing vouchers. Read more

February 2, 2023

Texas Legislature g