November 21, 2019
Texas is still reckoning with Special Education challenges
Since federal regulators ordered the state to rescind its de facto cap on special education services in 2018, Texas has been scrambling to ensure that all kids with special needs are identified. Already, TEA has seen the number of students tested for special ed services soar but is now facing a new challenge: not enough licensed school psychologists to keep up with demand. Read more
November 19, 2019
Charters lag behind in struggle to fix special education
Students face delays and poor access to special education services and the special education gap between traditional public schools and charter schools is widening at a time when all Texas schools are supposed to be making major improvements. Over the last three years, Texas charter schools have increased their share of special needs children by about half a percentage point. In comparison, traditional districts — which already served more children with disabilities — have grown their portion at double that rate. Read more
November 18, 2019
Celebrate American Education Week this week along with ESP day on Wednesday
This will present all Americans with a great opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. Read more
Educators weigh in as Supreme Court considers Dreamers’ case
Many educators from around the country, including members of NEA and TSTA, were in Washington last Tuesday for the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The court is expected to issue a ruling next year, deciding the future of several hundred thousand immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Read more
Student debt relief documents to be turned over
The Trump administration will provide House Education and Labor Committee documents detailing the Education Department’s handling of student debt relief claims. The request, issued under threat of a subpoena, centers on the administration’s adherence to a 1995 law, known as borrower defense to repayment, which protects students who are defrauded by their colleges. Hundreds of thousands of people who attended primarily for-profit colleges have applied for debt forgiveness under the law but have yet to learn whether their claims will be approved. Read more
November 15, 2019
Sunset Advisory Commission conducting stakeholder survey on TRS
The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) is undergoing Sunset review as directed by the Legislature in the Texas Sunset Act and we are asking that you participate. The Sunset Advisory Commission is evaluating TRS’ operations and will make recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve the agency’s effectiveness, efficiency, fairness and accountability. Read more
November 14, 2019
SBOE moves plans for African American Studies forward
On Wednesday, the SBOE heard public testimony from students, educators and stakeholders in favor of implementing an African American Studies course. Over the next several months, the board will create curriculum standards for the course based on an existing class in the Dallas Independent School District, and is expected to take a final vote in April. Read more
New state law weakens oversight of teacher 403(b) investments
A new law, HB2820, which went into effect September 1, will require Texas teachers to keep a closer eye on their 403(b) investment products and, maybe, seek more professional investment guidance. That’s because the new law eliminated the requirement for financial firms to register 403(b) products with the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and removed a requirement for TRS to impose a cap on product expenses. Read more
November 10, 2019
Tell senators to VOTE NO on DeVos ally nominated as appellate judge
The Senate is expected to vote early this week on Steven Menashi’s nomination to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit—a position in which he could do even more harm than he already has. Just days ago, the New York Times confirmed that as acting general counsel under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, he helped devise an illegal scheme that deprived thousands of students of debt relief and violated federal privacy laws—a scam that earned DeVos a contempt of court citation and $100,000 fine. Menashi also helped presidential adviser Stephen Miller develop the administration’s disastrous immigration policies.
November 8, 2019
Sunset Survey on the Teacher Retirement System of Texas
The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS’) mission, operations, and performance are undergoing Sunset review as directed by the Texas Legislature in the Texas Sunset Act. The Sunset Advisory Commission is evaluating TRS’ operations and will make recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve the agency’s effectiveness, efficiency, fairness, and accountability.
Please complete the Sunset survey by Friday, November 22. Completing the survey should take about 7 minutes.
NAEP scores look better when adjusted for demographics
When the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for 2019, were announced last week, it was not that average math and reading scores for Texas fourth graders had increased by three points and one point, respectively, from 2017. Texas eighth graders saw their math and reading scores drop from 2017, and it was noted that statewide reading performance in both fourth and eighth grade in Texas remained below the national average. Read more
NEA and TSTA applaud the College Affordability Act
In Washington, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott has introduced the College Affordability Act, comprehensive legislation to reauthorize and improve the Higher Education Act.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said the bill “begins to turn the tide toward making high-quality higher education affordable for all students, improves the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program designed to help educators pay off their student debt and supports our country’s HBCUs and minority-serving institutions.”
November 7, 2019
Texas schools set to receive funding
Voters have approved a measure changing the way the state’s public school endowment distributes money that could see Texas schools receive hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding. The constitutional amendment is the latest in a string of reforms that lawmakers pushed for this spring amid revelations of mismanagement of the state’s $44 billion Permanent School Fund. Under the measure, the land board will now be able to send up to $600 million per year directly to schools, doubling its current cap. Schools received $1.24 billion in 2018. Read more
November 6, 2019
State to take over Houston ISD by replacing school board and superintendent
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath informed Houston Independent School District leaders that he plans to replace their elected school board with an appointed board of managers to “prevent imminent and substantial harm to the welfare of the district’s students.” Read more
Voters approve Proposition 4, but TSTA scores some victories
Trying to kill Proposition 4 on the constitutional amendments ballot was always an uphill battle because of longstanding opposition in Texas to a state income tax, and in the end the proposal was adopted, 76 percent to 24 percent, in Tuesday’s election. On a positive note, Proposition 7, which was endorsed by TSTA, was approved, 73 percent to 27 percent.
All in all, it was a short-sighted vote promoted by state leaders who are under-funding state government now and were happy to play politics with Texas’ future. Read more
November 4, 2019
Watch out for more SB1882 charter conversions; key deadline coming up
SB1882 is the 2017 law that encourages school districts to turn over struggling campuses to “partners,” such as universities, non-profits or charter chains, to help improve student performance. The first batch of charter conversions resulted in lower accountability ratings for most of the chosen schools, but districts will continue to be tempted to go this route. They get extra state funding and a reprieve from state sanctions. Read more
DeVos threatened with subpoena
House Democrats will consider whether to subpoena Betsy DeVos this month if she refuses to testify before the Education and Labor Committee regarding the continued collection of student loan debt from borrowers defrauded by for-profit Corinthian Colleges, who are now suing the Education Secretary over the matter. The warning marks the second time Devos has been threatened with a subpoena in the last two weeks, both in relation to the secretary’s and Education Department officials’ involvement in for-profit colleges. Read more
November 1, 2019
Texas fourth graders improve NAEP math and reading scores
Texas fourth graders taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math test this year scored an average of 244, a three-point increase over the 241 average for Texas fourth graders in 2017. Their average score on the reading NAEP bumped up one point to 216 from 215 two years ago. Read more
School districts that pay elementary teachers the least
Texas teachers will receive mandated pay raises in the 2019-2020 school year under a new law known as HB 3, which affords schools $6.5 billion in new spending, and requires districts to ensure that at least 30% of the funding is used to provide pay raises for staff. Texas Education Agency records show that Stafford Municipal School District elementary school teachers were paid the lowest average salary. Read more
Testimony on school finance and A-F grading system
At a House Public Education Committee hearing this week, educators and stakeholders testified on challenges involved in carrying out both House Bill 22, enacted in 2017, and House Bill 3, the school finance bill enacted last spring. One complication that has arisen out of implementing HB22 involves excessive ambiguity and complexity about when and how the Texas Education Agency will order campus interventions in the new A-F accountability system. Read more
October 31, 2019
Early voting ends tomorrow; please vote against Prop 4
If you haven’t voted already, please take the time to stop by an early voting location and vote AGAINST Proposition 4 and FOR Proposition 7 on the statewide constitutional amendments ballot. Read more
October 30, 2019
Concerns as math and reading scores fall
Math and reading scores for fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States have fallen since 2017, according to the 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card. Most notable was the score drops in reading, which occurred in 17 states with regard to fourth grade reading and in 31 states for eighth grade reading scores. On average, reading scores declined for fourth graders by 1 point and for eighth graders by 3 points compared to 2017. Read more
October 29, 2019
School finance law causing problems
Several months after a major school finance law rewired how billions of dollars get funneled into hundreds of school districts across the state, educators and state officials are still trying to untangle the threads.
House Bill 3, an $11.6 billion measure, gave school districts more money for employee salaries but at a House Public Education hearing Monday, educators and advocates pointed to problems with the way the law was written that have resulted in unexpected increases or decreases in funding for individual school districts. Read more
October 28, 2019
Extended school year option, another part of House Bill 3
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its latest “HB 3 in 30” video and presentation this week on the implementation of an extended school year option, passed into law as a part of House Bill 3, the new school finance law. The provision, which allows for half-day funding for districts that offer an additional 30 days of instruction for students in pre-K through 5th grade, may have been less prominent than other provisions in the bill, but it is seemingly a big ticket item for TEA. Read more
Gov. Abbott makes new appointments to TRS board
The governor appointed Michael Ball of Argyle and Robert “Rob” Hamilton Walls Jr. of San Antonio to the Teacher Retirement System board and reappointed David Corpus of Humble. Ball is the chief financial officer at Lewisville ISD, Walls is an attorney and private investor and Corpus is Bank Office President of Allegiance Bank. Corpus has been on the TRS board since October 2013.
The new terms for all three appointees will expire Aug. 31, 2025. You can find more information on the appointees here.
October 25, 2019
Meanwhile, in this year’s election, vote against Proposition 4
TSTA urges you to vote against Proposition 4 because it could have a devastating effect on future education funding. Early voting for the Nov. 5 constitutional amendments election will continue through November 1. Read more
October 24, 2019
Next speaker will be crucial to public education
Dennis Bonnen’s tenure as speaker of the Texas House was all but done once a tape recording confirmed the speaker was willing to make a deal with a right-wing political activist to target some of Bonnen’s fellow House Republicans during next year’s elections. Bonnen scrambled for a while to try to save his political career, but once he lost the trust of his fellow Republican legislators, it was over, and Bonnen made it official this week. He will not seek reelection to his House seat during the 2020 elections. Read more
October 23, 2019
Dallas ISD struggles with tornado aftermath
Dallas school officials are scrambling to find enough buses and drivers to suddenly transport nearly 3,000 more students each day — students whose schools were damaged by an F3 tornado.
Dallas ISD only recently ironed out most of the kinks in its busing system. It’s in just its second year.
But the probable destruction of at least three campuses and temporary closure of a handful of others as a result of Sunday’s storms will strain already limited resources and even require some charter buses to get students to classes once they resume today. Read more
October 22, 2019
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen won’t seek reelection
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, said Tuesday that he will not seek re-election. His decision to not seek another term comes after a secret recording, released by conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, captured Bonnen offering media credentials in exchange for Sullivan targeting “moderate” Republican House members in the 2020 GOP primary. Read more
Special Education reform ordered in Texas
The Texas Education Agency’s “arbitrary, illegal cap on the number of students that schools could deem eligible for special education” has resulted in some 250,000 children a year unable to get schools or districts to acknowledge their needs or provide appropriate instruction, according to advocates. The state has been ordered by the U.S. Education Department to expand access to special education. Read more
Warren would use wealth tax to increase school funding
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a former teacher herself, has pledged to quadruple federal funding for public schools and invest an additional $100 billion over ten years in “excellence grants” to public schools, along with an additional $50 billion to repair and upgrade school buildings. Financed by a wealth tax on net incomes over $50 million, Warren’s plan would boost Title I funding with an additional $450 billion over the next 10 years for pre-K-12 public schools. Read more
October 18, 2019
How districts can apply for blended learning grants
Blended learning is a method of classroom instruction that combines elements of traditional, teacher-led, face-to-face instruction with personalized digital platforms. The stated goal of the methodology is to enable greater opportunities for student differentiation, both because the digital tool is individualized and because this affords teachers more time to work in rotating small groups and one-on-one with students. Read more
TRS Sunset Review welcomes public input
The Teacher Retirement System of Texas is currently undergoing Sunset Review, during which the Sunset Advisory Commission will evaluate the agency’s core functions, processes, and overall performance. Currently, commission staff is on site at TRS assessing the agency’s programs and operations in order to identify areas for improvement. As part of the review, Sunset also seeks public input to identify problems and opportunities for improving the agency. Read more
October 17, 2019
Early voting starts next Monday, October 21; vote against Proposition 4
The presidential election isn’t here yet, but there are some important decisions for voters to make on the November 5 ballot, and early voting will begin Monday. The statewide ballot will include 10 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, including Proposition 4 that, if adopted, could have a devastating effect on future education funding. Read more
Watch out for more SB1882 charter conversions; your school may be next
As a reminder, SB1882 is the 2017 law that encourages school districts to turn over struggling campuses to “partners,” such as universities, non-profits or charter chains, to help improve student performance. The first batch of charter conversions resulted in lower accountability ratings for most of the chosen schools, but districts will continue to be tempted to go this route. They get extra state funding and a reprieve from state sanctions. Read more
Just the Facts
NEA is now providing a monthly report called Just the Facts which is straightforward information on where the 2020 presidential candidates and NEA stand on specific issues. Follow this link for the October 2019 edition of Just the Facts, which is focused on immigration.
October 16, 2019
Bill would see free school lunch for all children
A bill that would provide up to three free meals per day to all school children, regardless of family income level, has been introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN). The Universal School Meals Program Act would eliminate any requirement for families to prove they earn less than 185% of the national poverty level in order for students to be eligible for the meals. It would also remove reduced cost school meals, in favor of making free meals available to all students. Studies cited by Sanders and Omar claim that children with access to free school breakfasts have fewer absences and better academic performance, while universal access to free meals is associated with improved student health. Read more
October 14, 2019
TSTA: Proposition 4 repeals dedicated education funding; vote against it
The Texas State Teachers Association announced today that it opposes Proposition 4 on the November 5 constitutional amendments ballot. TSTA is urging everyone who cares about the future of public education in Texas to vote against it. Read press release
Apply for NEA’s Pathways Project today!
The National Education Association has launched the application for the Leaders of Color Pathways Project. Through Pathways, NEA is focusing on members who identify as Hispanic, Latinx, Chicano, Native, Indigenous, American Indian, Black, Asian, Pacific/Islander, Native Alaskan, and or Native Hawaiian. The Pathways project will serve to develop, test, and model strategies to build structural pathways for emerging leaders from historically marginalized racial, ethnic, and cultural communities to access leadership training opportunities.
Pathways is open to emerging leaders, as well as veteran leaders who are interested in serving as peer coaches, but space is limited. The application deadline is November 1, 2019. Click here to learn more and to apply.
October 11, 2019
School boards can no longer limit the number of speakers they hear
Open-government advocates are applauding a new law (HB2840) where school boards can no longer limit the number of speakers they hear. The law now requires school boards and other local governing bodies to allow everyone who wants to weigh in on an item on the body’s agenda to speak before or during the board’s consideration of the issue and before the board votes. Read more
DeVos violated court order to stop collection on some loan debts
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos violated a court order to stop collecting on the debts of some former Corinthian College students and now a judge is weighing sanctions or finding her in contempt of court. At a hearing in San Francisco, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim said: “I feel like there have to be some consequences for the violation of my order 16,000 times.” The Department of Education has said that more than 16,000 borrowers were incorrectly informed that they owed a payment on their debt, according to a September court filing. About 1,800 had their wages garnished and more than 800 were mistakenly subject to adverse credit reporting. Read more
October 10, 2019
TEA releases guidance on Teacher Incentive Allotment
HB 3 establishes an optional Local Teacher Designation System and Teacher Incentive Allotment. TEA has subsequently released details on the implementation of the new designation system and allotment. Read more
Retirees didn’t have much room to splurge with their 13th checks; they need a COLA
Retired educators were more likely to spend the 13th check, which they received in September, on credit card debt (about 3 in 10); medical debt (almost 1 in 4); home repairs (more than 1 in 5); doctor visits (almost 1 in 5); or prescriptions (1 in 6). Those figures were the result of a survey by the Texas Pension Coalition, which includes TSTA. Read more
2020 Charter Application includes several TSTA recommendations
The new 2020 Generation 25 charter application was released by the Texas Education Agency late last week and will be used to determine when and whether applicants seeking to open in August of 2021 will be approved. TSTA, in conjunction with a coalition of partners submitted recommendations to TEA and the SBOE. Read more
October 9, 2019
How to create a positive learning environment
Join Luís-Gustavo Martínez from the NEA Center for Great Public Schools on October 17, at 8 pm ET as he shares tips to help you create a positive learning environment in your classroom. Register here
Students next year can retake sections of the ACT
Starting next year students will be able to retake individual sections of the ACT as opposed to having to re-take the entire exam. From September 2020, in an effort to increase student opportunities for college admission and scholarships. ACT will also begin offering online testing options and allowing students to combine section scores for a “superscore” to send to colleges.This is an effort to save time and money. Read more
October 8, 2019
Disaster relief for victims of Tropical Storm Imelda
Effective October 5, 2019, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for the period of September 17–23, 2019 affecting the Texas counties of Chambers, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, and Orange.
NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs.
Go to www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm for details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members.
TEA missed Marlin monitor’s conviction
A man appointed by the Texas Education Agency recently to help reform the operations of the Marlin ISD had pleaded guilty in 2017 to defrauding the Department of Veterans Affairs of $486,000. He was sentenced at the time to five years of probation and 500 hours of community service for the 2013 theft. Read more
October 7, 2019
Free climate change resources
Increasing public protests over climate change concerns are sparking classroom conversations and underlining the need for schools to incorporate material on climate change in curricula. In some cases, state environmental agencies are collaborating with schools to provide teacher training on lesson plans. Districts can also take advantage of programs and resources already in place, such as Republic Services’ Recycling Simplified Education Program, which recently released K-12 lesson plans that include activities, videos and handouts designed by teachers to span subject areas including math, science and language arts. Read more
October 3, 2019
Teacher Retirement System Considering Big Changes
The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) is considering a new approach to health care plans as a means to turn around the declining enrollment numbers in TRS Active Care. Since 2001 the cost of health insurance has continued to rise, causing districts that participate in TRS Active Care to reconsider their participation in the state plan. TRS understands the level of dissatisfaction with Active Care and is looking to make drastic changes, specifically, the system is looking at a never-before-considered option: restructuring Active Care with a potential regional health care plan system, as opposed to the state-wide system. Read more
13th Check Issued
The long awaited 13th check for retired teachers was issued last month and TSTA is proud to have fought for the much-needed benefit. When cutting the checks, the Teacher Retirement System applied the default withholding rate in an effort to get 13th checks issued to its members as quickly as possible. As a result, some members may have seen taxes withdrawn from their checks and some may have not. Either way, your standard deduction will apply come tax season, which will likely differ from what was deducted from the check you received. For more information, see TRS’s FAQ page.
October 2, 2019
TSTA urges votes against Proposition 4 and for Proposition 7
TSTA opposes Proposition 4 because it is anti-education, is unnecessary and, if adopted, will remove a constitutional source of future dedicated funding for public schools. Under Proposition 4, any future attempt to create an income tax would require a new constitutional amendment that would first have to be approved by two-thirds of the Texas House and state Senate, and legislators would not have to use the money on education. They could designate the revenue for any purpose, including tax breaks for wealthy corporations. Read more
TSTA joins effort for real sex education in Texas schools
Next year, the State Board of Education will revise the state’s public school health curriculum standards for the first time in more than 20 years. This process will include proposed changes to sex education standards, which always provoke much political controversy and as a result are woefully deficient. TSTA is a member of a new Teach the Truth Coalition, which will work with the Texas Freedom Network to advocate for the board to adopt a comprehensive and medically accurate sexual education curriculum. Read more
Socorro to add police officers to all elementary campuses
The Socorro ISD Board of Trustees has agreed to approve a recommendation from Superintendent Jose Espinoza to update the job description for SISD police officers – allowing the district to move forward with plans to hire 23 new officers for district elementary schools. There will be police officers at all of our schools, including elementary campuses, to provide an extra layer of security. Read more
October 1, 2019
State’s performance not good enough
Addressing Monday’s State of Public Education luncheon, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said he believes that teaching Texas’ kids is the “hardest work” that he’s ever seen on the planet—but sees the state making important strides in accountability, educational strategy, and teacher pay. The commissioner did not discuss the merits of the state’s new accountability system, which grades districts and campuses on an A-F scale largely on their performance on the state’s standardized test. However, he made it clear that he believes in holding schools accountable by using data—including test scores. While noting the positive trends in a number of various indicators—including pre-K readiness and STAAR scores in 3rd grade reading—Morath admitted that the state’s performance was not good enough. Read more
New funding formula negates recapture payments
Documents have revealed that prior to the last legislature session, Round Rock ISD estimated it was liable to pay more than $58 million back to the state in property taxes in the 2019-20 school year under Texas’ public education funding formula. Since HB 3 went into effect RRISD now states it will not have to send recapture funds back to the state until at least the 2021 legislature session. Read more
September 25, 2019
Free school lunches vulnerable under federal proposals
About a half-million students could lose access to free school meals under a federal proposal to limit the number of people who qualify for food stamps. Almost one in seven children came from households that were considered “food insecure” in 2018 and, under the plans, an estimated 3 million people could be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which is intended to eliminate eligibility for people who get food stamps because they have qualified for other forms of government aid. Read more
September 23, 2019
Poverty drives achievement gaps, study says
Poverty, not racial segregation, is responsible for the racial achievement gap in U.S. schools, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford University, who examined scores from hundreds of millions of tests over the last decade by students in thousands of school districts and found that students in high-poverty schools consistently performed worse than those from schools with children from wealthier families. Read more
September 19, 2019
Senate’s education spend would boost school safety
The Senate’s bill to fund the U.S. Department of Education would broadly hold overall spending at current levels but boost programs intended to improve school safety and grants for charter schools. Another winner would be the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program, known as Title IV Part A in the Every Student Succeeds Act, intended to provide more well-rounded school experiences to students. Legislation to fund the Education Department would provide $71.4 billion in discretionary funding for fiscal 2020, which begins on October 1. Read more
September 18, 2019
Districts announce closures ahead of storm
School districts have canceled classes for today ahead of Tropical Depression Imelda arrival on the Southeast Texas coast — which is expected to bring rain and flooding to much of the Greater Houston area. Houston ISD has cancelled after-school activities and sporting events, while Galveston ISD has cancelled classes altogether. Other closures, cancellations and delays announced so far include Dickinson ISD, Dayton ISD, Alvin ISD, Brazosport ISD, Angleton ISD, Channelview ISD, Deer Park ISD, Friendswood ISD, Pasadena ISD, High Island ISD, Hitchcock ISD, Goosecreek ISD, Cleveland ISD, Dayton ISD, Santa Fe ISD, High Island ISD and Texas City ISD, which will all be closed today.
TSTA and allies seek more transparency, public notice and other changes in the charter approval process
TSTA and a number of other pro-public education groups have presented recommendations to the State Board of Education to improve transparency in the charter approval process, allow for more public input and help decision-makers and taxpayers better understand the impact of new charters on students and local school districts.
The recommended changes to the Generation 25 charter application process for 2020 were presented to the SBOE Committee on School Initiatives. They were seemingly well-received by the committee. Members asked TEA staff to guarantee that they would consider the recommendations and report back to the board on their implementation. TEA staff agreed.
The recommendations would ensure adequate public notice about charter expansion plans; identify existing enrollment capacity by geographic area to determine the need for a new charter school; and ensure a more efficient use of public funds.
These changes to the application process are critical because at present education stakeholders and the public have little notice about key steps in the charter application process, and that limits their opportunities to provide input to decision-makers. In addition, critical information that could contribute to a more thorough evaluation of an application is either not included or difficult to find in the application document.
It is important that TEA consider existing enrollment capacity and the impact of new charter schools on the state and local school districts in its approval process for charter expansion.
You can find a complete list of our recommendations here.
September 16, 2019
Governor appoints SBOE chair
Gov. Greg Abbott today appointed Lufkin chiropractor Dr. Keven Ellis chair of the State Board of Education (SBOE).
Although the members of the board are elected, the governor appoints the chair from among the 15 board members. The appointment must be confirmed by the Texas Senate. Read press release
Texas schools still suspending young children
The Houston Chronicle Editorial Board asserts that Texas preschoolers being suspended for “horseplay” or violating school dress codes is “disturbing” and must stop. Despite the 2017 state law again such practices, which has helped drastically reduce the number of incidents where early elementary students are sent home for their alleged infractions, some Texas districts, the Board alleges, including Killeen ISD, Klein ISD, Alief ISD and Houston ISD, continue to use out-of-school suspension to punish young children. In the year after Texas banned such suspensions, the number of out-of-school suspensions dropped to 7,640 in 2017-18, down from 36,475 a year earlier, while the total number of suspensions also plummeted – from 101,248 to 70,197, according to a report from Texans Care for Children.
September 13, 2019
Democratics lay out education positions at Debate
Democratic presidential contenders have laid out their visions for the U.S. education system at a Texas Southern University debate Thursday night, with former tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang saying he supports a mix of options, including charter schools. Other candidates, including Pete Buttigieg, and Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), proposed an increase in teacher salaries, with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) noting “we actually did it” during his time as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Meanwhile Sen. Warren, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) advocated for student debt cancellation plans, while Harris pro posed investing $2 billion in teacher training programs. Read more
September 9, 2019
Over 200 Texas school marshals created
The state of Texas’ School Marshal program, which began in 2013, has so far created more than 200 school marshals prepared to respond to active shooter incidents. Initial response to the program, which provides 80 hours of training, including improving the security of the campus, use of force, active shooter response and weapon proficiency, was light, with only 34 people appointed as school marshals in the first 5 years of the program. Following the school shootings in Parkland, FL and Santa Fe in 2018 however interest in the program increased significantly, and the state provided a grant to TCOLE to cover the cost of instructors, equipment and psychological evaluations. According to TCOLE, as of August 8 there are 172 appointed school marshals assigned to Texas campuses. An additional 52 been trained, but not yet appointed, or are enrolled in a licensing course that is expected to be completed by the end of August. This would place 224 armed marshals in Texas schools this year. Read more
September 4, 2019
TEA puts struggling districts on notice
Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath has put the state’s largest school district on official notice that it could lose its locally-elected school board over failing grades. Historically-black Wheatley High School in Houston’s Fifth Ward recently had its seventh failing grade in a row and HISD’s interim superintendent, Grenita Lathan, and school board president, Diana Davila, were told outside managers could be appointed to oversee the district. The TEA sent similar letters Tuesday to three other districts facing a potential state takeover due to chronic low school ratings – Midland, Shepherd and Snyder. Read more
August 29, 2019
Suspensions reduced at elementary level
The number of children given school suspensions fell by almost a third after the state implemented a law banning such punishments other than in the most extreme cases. In the 2017-18 school year, 70,197 students in prekindergarten to second grade were suspended, down 31% on the more-than 101,000 students barred from classes in the 2015-16 school year. However, the study found that children in foster care, black children, and those in special education were more likely to face suspensions. Read more
August 28, 2019
Rethinking the college adversity score
A plan to rate the socioeconomic profile of students with a single score has been abandoned by the College Board, which has chosen instead to provide admission officers with information about students’ high school and neighbourhood. This follows estimates by admissions officers that they lack information about high schools for around a quarter of all applications, with consistent data allowing them to consider each student more fairly. Read more
August 27, 2019
TSTA member is Teacher of the Year finalist for 2020
Jennifer Garner, a math teacher at River Road High School in River Road ISD in Amarillo, is one of six finalists for the 2020 Texas Teacher of the Year.
“Every second you are gifted with a student is to be used, not only for math, but for a connection,” said Garner, who has taught geometry, Algebra II and in the alternative program at River Road High for the past year of her 18-year teaching career. “Students will learn and respond to teachers who care about them as individuals, not as scores.”
Garner also is a 2019 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
The six finalists — three elementary and three secondary teachers — were selected from among 40 Regional Teachers of the Year, one elementary and one secondary teacher from each of Texas’ 20 Education Service Center regions.
The finalists will be invited to Austin in October for interviews before a panel of judges, who will include educators and community and business leaders. The panel will select two state-level winners — one elementary and one secondary — and designate one of the two to represent Texas in the National Teacher of the Year program.
The winners will be announced at an award ceremony Oct. 25 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, where the 40 Regional Teachers of the Year also will be recognized.
The Texas Teacher of the Year program has honored excellence in classroom education since 1969 and has been coordinated by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) since 2011.
Several TSTA members have been recent Texas Teachers of the Year, including Shanna Peeples of Amarillo ISD, 2015, who also was the National Teacher of the Year.
Other TSTA members claiming Texas Teacher of the Year honors were Monica Washington of Texarkana, 2014; Revathi Balakrishnan of Round Rock ISD, 2016; Allison Ashley of Austin ISD, 2017; and Tara Bordeaux of Austin ISD, 2018.
“Every day in public schools across Texas, teachers perform miracles as they inspire children for lifelong learning. These six finalists are among the best in a profession that is perhaps the most important in our nation,” said Kevin Brown, TASA executive director.
August 26, 2019
Districts’ financial ratings show big changes
School districts across the Rio Grande Valley have seen significant changes over the last year, both good and bad, according to the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas’ latest data from the 2017-18 school year, with Donna ISD celebrating the most improvement – climbing from an F to an A – to a perfect score of 100. La Villa and Valley View school districts went from an A to a C, maintaining a passing score, while Progreso dropped to a B from an A. Mission Consolidated ISD again earned an A. Hidalgo ISD, which received 86 points in its weighted sum, enough to earn a B, is appealing its F rating due to a clerical error. Read more
August 23, 2019
Texas’ reading standards ranking ‘complicated’
On the 2017 NAEP tests, Texas scored below the national average (221) average fourth grade reading, with 215, which was lower than 35 other U.S. states or jurisdictions.
In part, suggest the Morning News’ Eva-Marie Ayala and Corbett Smith, Texas’ poor standing in the NAEP study reflects the “difficulty in the semantics around testing” and the TEA “going it alone” when it comes to assessments. Texas Education Agency commissioner Mike Morath says Texas appears to lag in the study because the information used for comparisons is based on the state’s previous, lower standards, and asserts that it has now revamped its academic assessments with higher standards and better transparency. Read more
August 20, 2019
HISD school board files lawsuit against TEA
Following a state investigation into alleged misconduct, Houston ISD’s school board has instructed lawyers to stop the Texas Education Agency from replacing the district’s elected trustees, arguing the agency conducted a “one-sided investigation” that reached conclusions “unsupported by any credible evidence.” Lawyers for the nine-member board cite several ways in which agency leaders violated trustees’ rights and failed to fully investigate allegations of wrongdoing. The lawsuit comes two weeks after TEA investigators determined several trustees violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, improperly influenced district contracts and overstepped their governance role — allegations denied by the board’s lawyers. Read more
August 15, 2019
TEA releases first letter grades for school campuses; more than half get As or Bs
This is the first time that the state has assigned letter grades to individual campuses under the state’s new A to F school accountability law. Letter grades were assigned to districts last year, and campuses were given numerical scores that indicated what their letter grades would have been.
Here is the overall breakdown:
- A – 1,584 traditional ISD campuses and 166 charters (19.8 percent of total)
- B – 3,051 ISD campuses and 225 charters (37.1 percent)
- C – 2,014 ISD schools and 157 charters (24.6 percent)
- D – 627 ISD campuses and 76 charters (8 percent)
- F – 363 ISD schools and 39 charters (4.5 percent)
Some 452 ISD campuses and 84 charters were not rated (6.1 percent).
More than 80 percent of ISD and charter districts got As or Bs this year.
“Performance continues to improve in Texas schools because of the tireless effort of Texas teachers, administrators and staff,” Education Commissioner Mike Morath said. “I am particularly proud of the educators at the 296 high-poverty schools that achieved an A rating this year.”
But questions remain. Pending further analysis, we don’t know yet how many high-poverty schools received Ds and Fs. High-poverty districts were disproportionately represented among districts receiving Ds and Fs last year, and high-poverty campuses would have received a disproportionate share of Ds and Fs, based on the numerical ratings that were assigned to individual schools then.
This is one reason TSTA opposes the A-F law. Grades are based partly on STAAR scores, and many low-income students struggle with standardized testing. Low-income students need more state resources, not the stigma of a failing or near-failing letter grade for their schools.
Overall ratings were based on a school’s performance in three areas:
- Student achievement – how much students know and are able to do at the end of the school year.
- School progress – how students perform over time and how that growth compares to similar schools.
- Closing the gaps – how well different groups of students within a school are performing.
In addition to STAAR scores, TEA said it uses indicators such as graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, college prep course completion and college, career and military readiness to determine the accountability grades.
You can check the ratings of your own district and school at TXschools.gov.
August 14, 2019
More districts announce staff raises
The Fort Worth ISD board has unanimously approved salary increases required under House Bill 3. All district employees (11,930 of them) are getting at least a 3% pay increase for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The Del Valle school board unanimously approved giving 7% and 9% raises to teachers, nurses and librarians, depending on years of experience Tuesday night, while first-year teachers at Spring ISD can expect a starting salary of $54,000 this year – following a unanimous vote by the SISD board of trustees. Denison ISD announced all teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors with less than five years of experience will receive a $2,500 salary increase – though those with more than five years of experience will receive a $3,000 raise. To stay competitive and continue paying above the state minimum, a beginning teacher’s salary in M ineola ISD will be $38,700. The Smithville ISD board approved $679,581 in raises for teachers, counselors, bus drivers, administrators and other staff – one of the largest district-wide pay increases in recent history. Longview ISD’s school board is set to approve $8m in staff raises. As a result, the starting teacher salary in the district will be $47,000, an almost 17% increase, while in Overton ISD Superintendent Stephan Dubose says the district recently approved an average of 14% raises for teachers. Richardson ISD is amending its adopted budget for fiscal year 2019-20 to provide compensation increases for all eligible employees. Superintendent Jeannie Stone said classroom teachers saw raises ranging from 3.5% to 5% depending upon years of service.
August 13, 2019
Districts implement new shooter policies
In the wake of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Northside ISD has announced a new policy for the upcoming school year. The district is adopting the ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ policy which has been recommended by safety experts and law enforcement agencies across the country. Northside ISD has created a video for students, staff and community members on how to respond to an active shooter situation. It will accompany discussions regarding the strategy. Read more
August 8, 2019
TEA recommends Houston board be replaced
Texas Education Agency officials have recommended that a state-appointed governing team replace Houston ISD’s elected school board after a six-month investigation uncovered several instances of alleged misconduct by certain trustees. Allegations of violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act, inappropriate influencing of vendor contracts and making false statements to investigators were all levelled against the board. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath will ultimately decide whether to oust HISD’s school board, however district officials first have until August 15 to respond.
August 7, 2019
Texas schools to receive letter grades
Texas schools will be graded the same way their students are beginning this upcoming academic year. TEA changed its accountability ratings system to where individual campuses will be scored for their STAAR test results with A through F letter grades. Read more
August 5, 2019
El Paso shooting reignites gun violence debate
Saturday’s massacre in El Paso, which left 20 people dead after a 21-year-old gunman opened fire in a shopping mall, has landed Texas’ heavily Hispanic city at the heart of the nation’s gun violence and immigration debates, with state leaders blaming, among other things, white supremacism, poor mental health provisions, violent video games and even a lack of school prayer. Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, appearing on “Fox & Friends” on Sunday, called violent video games “the common denominator,” and suggested that more school prayer and flag-saluting might help stop the epidemic of mass gun violence. The Houston Chronicle Editorial Board laments Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott’s failure to lead on guns and safety. Federal authorities are treating the mass shooting as a case of domestic terrorism, the US Attorney for the Western District of Texas has confirmed. Read more
July 25, 2019
Texas makes it easier to punish students who harass teachers
A new state law effective September will require students who harass teachers to be referred to disciplinary alternative education programs outside their regular classrooms. Some teachers who feel endangered by students say their principals don’t always take their concerns seriously. Under the new law, students who are identified as harassers will be moved to disciplinary alternative education programs, known as DAEPs. Read more
July 23, 2019
Educators warn of census undercount
School superintendents from across the U.S. are growing increasingly concerned over the upcoming decennial census over federal attempts to add a citizenship question, which could have devastating implications for federal education funding – particularly in school districts that serve the most vulnerable children. Read more
July 19, 2019
New legislation set to tackle school violence
A new bill introduced by U.S. Rep Roger Williams (R-Austin) is set to prevent school violence by funding programs to help public schools identify and tackle security shortfalls on campuses. Read more
July 17, 2019
DeVos’ use of email probed
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings is expanding an investigation into Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ use of her personal email while on the job. Information has now come to light indicating that DeVos and other Department officials violated the Department’s prohibition on using personal email accounts to conduct official business, violated the requirement in the Federal Records Act to forward these emails to your official account within 20 days, and violated the requirement in the Freedom of Information Act to produce relevant records in response to public requests. Read more
July 16, 2019
Online bullying on the rise
A new report has revealed that online bullying is on the rise among middle and high school students, even as overall rates of bullying in schools have remained steady. According to the study from the National Center for Education Statistics, 20% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 were bullied during the 2016-2017 school year. Among those students who faced bullying, 15% said they were bullied online or by text, a 3.5 percentage point jump from the 2014-2015 school year. Read more
July 11, 2019
Texas to push FAFSA applications
High school students in Texas will soon be required to apply for FAFSA federal student aid.
Louisiana now requires high school seniors to fill it out before they graduate and officials have seen enrollment in college significantly increased as students got more aid than they expected and signed up for school. The measure takes effect in 2021. Read more
July 10, 2019
Student debt hinders teacher diversity
A new report by the Center for American Progress think tank has underlined a connection between the lack of diversity in the teaching profession and the impact of student debt on black and Latino college graduates.
Black and Latino students tend to have higher debt than their white peers as a whole. The study asserts targeted interventions that increase teacher pay and ease the debt burden could help eliminate barriers to recruiting and retaining teachers of color. Read more
July 9, 2019
TEA investigations examined
Investigations into four San Antonio school districts, all with campuses on the South Side, have been opened by the Texas Education Agency since 2016. In three of those districts, the TEA decided to dismantle elected boards and replace them with State-appointed managers; a fourth district could face similar sanctions pending the completion of an investigation into how its board operates. The Rivard Report notes that in a state with more than 1,000 independent school districts, no other major metro area in Texas has drawn a similar level of State involvement in local school district operations. Rivard Report
America’s schools more segregated than ever
Enrollment of white students in the U.S. dropped by 11 million between 1969 and 2016, according to a report by UCLA and Penn State, as that of Latinos increased by the same amount. While whites remain the largest racial group in public schools but they are no longer the majority and many black and Latino students attend schools segregated by both race and poverty, the report found. Read more
July 8, 2019
Democrats promise teacher as Education Secretary
Democratic presidential rivals Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have echoed a campaign pledge made by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to nominate an educator as Secretary of Education should they win the nomination and defeat President Trump. Speaking at the National Education Association convention in Texas, former vice president Joe Biden said: “We don’t treat you with dignity. If I am president, it will change on day one.” Read more
July 2, 2019
TEA posts “Budget Planning for Teacher Compensation” as part of its “HB3 in 30”
The final school finance package approved by legislators this past session has left many districts and educators confused as to how the $11.6 billion of education funding and property tax relief will be allocated. In an effort to clear up some of the confusion, the Texas Education Agency has launched a new online video series, “HB3 in 30”, a deeper dive into the 331 page bill. TEA posts new episodes to the agency’s website each Thursday. The first episode, “Budget Planning for Teacher Compensation,” focuses on various aspects of the legislation’s pay raise and explains the minimum salary schedule increases for Texas teachers and TRS and budget implications.
More unvaccinated students than ever
The number of unvaccinated students across Texas has reached an all-time high, health officials have warned. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 2.15% of the state’s overall kindergarten student population is currently not vaccinated. Several school districts statewide are recorded as having more than 2.5% of kindergarten students not vaccinated, including Alamo Heights ISD (2.53%), Boerne ISD (5.7%) and La Vernia ISD (3.29%). Read more
June 30, 2019
Educators join national day of action in response to the inhumane conditions in Trumps’ detention centers.
On Tuesday, July 2nd, educators and activists will join organizers in protests planned across the country to demand the closure of inhumane immigrant detention centers that subject children and families to horrific conditions.
Educators and allies in Houston for the National Education Association’s Conference on Racial and Social Justice in advance of the NEA’s 2019 Representative Assembly will participate in a Flash Action to protest the inhumane practice of separating families, incarcerating, and criminalizing immigrant children.
Educators have a moral and professional responsibility to nurture, educate and protect children, especially innocent immigrant children fleeing abuse, violence and war. When they come to our country, they belong to all of us.
Children belong together with their loved ones, not in cages or detention centers.
These conditions are the product of a cruel and intentional strategy by the Trump administration to terrorize immigrant communities, criminalize immigration, and dismantle our asylum laws. From imprisoning children in inhumane detention centers, threatening widespread raids to break up families, and covering up reports of migrants dying in U.S. custody, we must come together to permanently end family detention and separation, ensure all families are reunited, and close the camps.
June 28, 2019
2020 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow
Congratulations to #TeamTSTA member Nicole Vickerman, a social studies educator at Clark High School in Plano, TX, for becoming a 2020 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow! Vickerman will spend a year learning to bring issues of global significance into the classroom.
June 26, 2019
Kim Anglin Anderson to be NEA’s next Executive Director
The NEA executive committee has chosen Kim Anderson to be NEA’s next executive director. She most recently worked as the founding senior director of NEA’s Center for Advocacy and Outreach. She starts her new role on September 1.
June 24, 2019
Most teachers satisfied with jobs
90% of U.S. teachers are satisfied with their jobs, according to the latest Teaching and Learning International Survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which asked teachers and principals in 49 global education systems about their working conditions and professional practices.
U.S. teachers report working more hours, and place more of an emphasis on the importance of raising salaries, than other teachers across the globe, but only 36% of U.S. teachers think that society values the teaching profession. Read more
June 20, 2019
House approves record Education Department spend
The House passed a $1 trillion spending bill on Wednesday, with both sides trying to avert the return of drastic automatic spending cuts or a budgetary impasse that could put federal agencies on autopilot.
After voting took place along party lines, the proposals include funding increases for education programs. Read more
June 17, 2019
NEA to honor 12 human and civil rights champions at annual ceremony
Since 1967, the NEA has recognized and honored everyday heroes who have fought—and continue to fight—for human and civil rights across the country. This year, NEA will acknowledge 12 outstanding social justice champions at its Human and Civil Rights Awards ceremony at 5 p.m., Wednesday, July 3, 2019, at the General Assembly Theater at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. Read more
June 7, 2019
Gov. Greg Abbott signs slate of school safety bills
Gov. Greg Abbott signed a series of bills into law Thursday that would, among other things, strengthen mental health initiatives available to children and allot money to school districts that can go toward “hardening” their campuses. Senate Bill 11 instructs school districts to introduce multihazard emergency operation plans. It requires certain training for school resource officers, ensures school district employees, including substitute teachers, are trained to respond to emergencies, and establishes threat assessment teams to help identify potentially dangerous students and determine the best ways to intervene before they become violent. It will also create the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium to provide access to psychiatric professionals associated with the state’s medical schools to improve the mental health needs of children. Meanwhile, House Bill 1387 eliminates the cap on school marshals at each campus, and House Bill 18 requires districts to introduce further measures to manage students’ mental health.
June 6, 2019
Migrant shelters cut back on child provision
The Federal Department of Health and Human Services has instructed migrant shelters to begin scaling back or discontinuing awards for activities that are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation. Federal officials insisted that the refugee office is running out of the money to deal with a huge influx of unaccompanied minors at the southern border. Read more
Permanent School Fund fix agreed
Legislation now awaiting the governor’s signature would correct substantial flaws in management of the $44 billion Permanent School Fund, enhancing transparency, reducing conflicts of interest and getting millions more into Texas classrooms. A significant other proposal however, stripping Bush’s land board of its investment authority, failed to get a hearing in the House. The Chronicle claims that the fund, chaired by George P. Bush, has lost out on billions in potential revenue and paid out less to schools over the past decade, adjusted for inflation, even as its overall size has swelled and fees to outside managers have grown. Read more
May 29, 2019
Joe Biden’s education agenda
Biden released his sweeping education proposal on Tuesday, which calls for federal investment in low-income schools, support for universal prekindergarten, higher teacher pay, and, he added in a public appearance afterwards, opposition to for-profit charter schools. The plan earned praise from the National Education Association. Read more
May 28, 2019
House passes bill to break up tests
The Texas House has passed HB 3906, which means fourth and seventh graders could soon no longer take writing tests under the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness measures. Though the bill still contains a provision that would require the Texas Education Agency to appoint an advisory committee to advise on the development of “valid and reliable assessment instruments,” it would also put writing questions on the reading test in grades three through eight without significantly expanding the testing time. Read more
Lawmakers nix special education review
The proposed review of Texas’ strategic plan on special education won’t happen because lawmakers have nixed the idea — on the last possible day to pass bills in the legislative session. Read more
Legislature approves retired teacher payments
In near-unanimous votes, the Texas House and Senate have both agreed to make the Teacher Retirement System pension fund financially healthy and give retired teachers a one-time extra monthly payment. The House voted 145-1 and the Senate 31-0 to approve the final version of Senate Bill 12, authored by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and will use $1 billion from the state savings account over the next two years to shore up the pension fund by gradually increasing state, school district and teacher contributions over the next six years along with providing retired teachers with a one-time “13th check” of $2,000. Read more
May 26, 2019
Legislature considers TRS stabilization bill
Senate passes TRS stabilization bill. Active employee contribution rates will increase in 2022 to 8% and in 2024 to 8.25%. Also includes supplemental check for eligible retirees as of 12/31/18 to be capped at $2,000. This is a developing story. Click here for more information about SB12
May 25, 2019
HB 3 passes both the House and the Senate with increased funding for public education, compression of school district property tax rates, and a 2.5% revenue cap. This cap in conjunction with the tax compression rates will have a significant long term impact on the ability of school districts to grow budgets as their student populations increase going forward.
May 23, 2019
Education Department enacts special-education rule
The Education Department has informed states that it is to reverse course and enforce an Obama-era regulation designed to ensure children of color are not disproportionately punished or sent to special-education classrooms. Under the regulation, states face stricter rules about how they tabulate data about the demographics and treatment of children in special education to ensure that there are not racial disparities — which could tip more states over a threshold that requires them to create a plan to ensure students of color are not being disproportionately targeted. Read more
May 22, 2019
Texas House expands school safety provisions
The Texas House expanded its sweeping school safety bill on Tuesday to require students to learn about domestic violence prevention, require certain training for school resource officers and provide an undetermined amount of state money for a raft of campus security measures and mental health initiatives. The bill, SB 11, which touches on proposals Gov. Greg Abbott laid out in a school safety plan following the Santa Fe shooting, now heads back to the Senate – which must agree to the changes or call for a conference committee to iron out the differences between the two chambers’ versions. Read more
May 21, 2019
Principles to guide Austin school closures
Principles that will guide how to tackle school closures have been adopted by Austin ISD trustees. District leaders have said the goals are aimed at taking a districtwide approach toward closures and to ensure schools aren’t consolidated primarily because they have low enrollment. Furthermore, the principles also ensure students have equitable access to academic programs and families continue to have the ability to choose other school programs across the district. Read more
DeVos used personal emails for work
Betsy DeVos used her personal email accounts for official business in “limited” cases, according to an internal investigation, leaving the Education Secretary open to criticism. The Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General surveyed DeVos and 51 other political appointees “to determine whether the officials and the Secretary received the Department’s records management training and used their personal email and/or messaging accounts to conduct government business.” Read more
May 17, 2019
Cruz calls on Congress to make schools safer
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has introduced two bills aimed at protecting students in the classroom from danger. During a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, one year on from the Santa Fe High School shooting that saw 10 people killed and 13 others injured, Sen. Cruz said the “unspeakable act of evil” not only shook the Santa Fe community, but Texas and the entire country. The School Security Enhancement Act would allow school districts to apply for grants that would provide funding for things like metal detectors, bulletproofing doors and windows, and provide more training to school police officers. He also introduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act, which aims to strengthen the nation’s criminal background system and provide stronger laws to prosecute felons who try to buy guns.
May 15, 2019
Stabilizing the TRS pension fund
In this video, retired teacher Donna Haschke, a former TSTA president, tells why it is important that the state pay for the cost of stabilizing the TRS pension fund and providing a much-needed 13th check for retirees. Donna refers to House Bill 9, which now is the House version of Senate Bill 12. Watch video
May 8, 2019
Comparison of Senate and House versions of HB3
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the Senate and House versions of HB3, the school finance bill. It was prepared by Raise Your Hand Texas. A conference committee will try to negotiate the differences and write a final version of the bill.
May 7, 2019
Uncertainty remains over school finance bill
The Texas Senate has approved a bill to overhaul public school finance, but without utilising an increased sales tax to lower school district property taxes. The Senate voted 26-2 in favour of House Bill 3 on Monday, which under the version passed by the upper chamber would increase student funding, give teachers and librarians a $5,000 pay raise, fund full-day pre-K for low-income students, and lower tax bills. However the Senate opted to remove provisions from HB 3 that could have made reductions to property taxes contingent upon an increase to the state sales tax. The House and Senate still have to negotiate significant differences over the bill, including how to actually fund teacher pay raises and property tax relief. Read more
Feds heading to Texas to monitor special education
As part of the ongoing review into how the state violated federal education law by failing to provide students with disabilities with a proper education, officials from the U.S. Department of Education will monitor how six Texas school districts are educating students with disabilities this week. Feds will monitor progress at schools in Houston ISD, Laredo ISD, Everman ISD, Comal ISD, Spring Branch ISD and Lubbock ISD, after Texas determined last year that all of those school districts, except Comal ISD, are in need of some assistance or intervention in their special education programs. Read more
April 25, 2019
New TRS-ActiveCare mobile app
The new TRS Health App provides everything you need in one place related to your TRS-ActiveCare medical and pharmacy benefits offered through Aetna and CVS Caremark.By downloading the TRS Health App you will have access to: ID cards, benefit information, health and wellness information, and key TRS health related contacts. Read more
April 24, 2019
Registry of school employees bill passed
The Texas Senate has passed a bill that would require the state to create a registry of people, maintained by the Texas Education Agency, who should not be hired by public or private schools. Senate Bill 1256 would result in a list of people who the agency determined had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a student, committed a serious crime against another person or engaged in other prohibited misconduct, and is aimed at preventing teachers from going to one school to another. It will cost the state about $900,000 over the next two years to create and update.
April 17, 2019
Organized advocacy scores another victory —
Del Valle employees get pay raises
The Del Valle Education Association and its #FightFor15 campaign were rewarded – and so were all other Del Valle employees – when the school board on Tuesday night approved a new, minimum salary of $16 an hour for bus drivers and $15 an hour for all other support staff. The board also approved across-the-board raises for all school employees, calculated on 3 percent of the district’s mid-point salary, effective with the 2019-20 school year. And bilingual teachers got a $4,500 stipend.
The raises will be in addition to any pay increases provided by the Legislature.
DVEA President Katrina Van Houten, a math teacher, called the raises “crucial to school employees and their families.” Some of the district’s support staffers, living in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas (Austin) in the country, have been earning as little as $10 an hour, hardly a livable wage.
First Vice President Shea Smith, an RTI teacher, said the raises “will help Del Valle ISD attract and retain some of the best and most-dedicated teachers and support staff in Central Texas, and our students will benefit.”
“We expect and deserve professional salaries,” added Second Vice President Michelle Cardenas, a pre-K teacher. “We hope the Legislature adds to these raises for all school employees throughout Texas and also provides some overdue relief from our rising health insurance premiums, which continue to erode our paychecks.”
April 15, 2019
Texas Senate passes bill to expand protections for private-schools
A bill expanding protections for private-school students from student-teacher misconduct has been unanimously passed in the Senate. It closes loopholes in the Education Code that allow educators who engaged in inappropriate student-teacher relationships to resign from public schools and return to teaching in private schools. It will give private school administrators access to reports of misconduct while also placing stricter guidelines for administrators to follow if misconduct does occur. Also, if the educator chooses to resign before a full investigation into their actions is completed, administrators are required to submit any evidence collected to the State Board.
April 12, 2019
Property tax reform proposals stall
Property tax reform efforts stalled in the both the House and the Senate yesterday. Efforts to make progress were stymied by issues including how school districts should fit into broader property tax reform, and how much their property tax revenue should be allowed to grow annually without the approval of voters. At present, the figure is capped at 2.5%. In the months before the legislative session began, Abbott proposed capping individual districts’ property tax revenue increases at 2.5% and having the state make up the extra funding they were entitled to – which critics said would lead to an inequitable school district funding system. The House and Senate both adjourned for the day without taking up the high-priority legislation. Read more
April 11, 2019
Legislature examines bills tackling STAAR
The Legislature is currently considering a series of bills that would scale back and re-evaluate the STAAR testing regime. One of the bills on the slate, HB 4242, would require independent groups of educators to vet the assessments for “readability,” or the ease with which passages can be read and understood. It would drop the penalties associated with the 2018-19 STAAR, which Texas students are taking this month and next, and require the STAAR in subsequent years not to be administered if the tests fail to meet readability standards. Supporters of HB 4242 said that if the STAAR is too advanced, students who score low on the test and their teachers are being painted as failures when they’re not. Read more
April 8, 2019
Tell Congress to stop denying public servants Social Security benefits they have earned
The Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 141/S. 521) would fully repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that unfairly deprive 2.5 million Americans of the Social Security benefits they have earned-educators, police officers, firefighters, and other employees of state and local governments who dedicate their lives to public service. The GPO reduces the Social Security spousal or survivor benefits of people not covered by Social Security themselves. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefits of people who work in jobs covered by Social Security and jobs NOT covered by Social Security-for example, educators who take part-time jobs to make ends meet. Click here and tell your representatives to cosponsor and support the Social Security Fairness Act.
Texas may owe U.S. for short-changing special education
Texas education officials, who had previously thought they owed the federal government $33 million for illegally decreasing funding for kids with disabilities, now estimate that they owe $223 million, almost a quarter of the state’s annual special education budget. The original figure represented how much the state reduced its special education budget by in 2012; however, under a new formula, Texas may owe additional penalties for cuts in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The Texas Education Agency said Friday that it is discussing solutions with the federal government and the Legislature. Read more
Trump administration withholding critical student loan data
Twenty-one state attorneys general have signed a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to end a recent decision to withhold student loan information from their offices and other law enforcement agencies. At issue is the raft of data on student loan accounts held by the private companies the Education Department pays to service its $1.4 trillion portfolio of education debt; the firms used to provide state and federal authorities records on repayment plans, correspondence with borrowers, internal memos and other information to aid investigations. A year ago, the Trump administration issued guidance telling state regulators to back off those student loan servicing companies, arguing that only the federal government has the authority to oversee its contractors. Read more
Texas School Scores $1,000 Athletics Grants from California Casualty
Student-athletes at Estacado High School in Lubbock will benefit from a $1,000 2019 California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant, which will help provide a much-needed pitching machine for the baseball team.
Estacado High is one of 64 public middle schools and high schools in 32 states awarded a total of $67,000 to aid sports programs affected by tight budgets.
The grant is named for California Casualty Chairman Emeritus Tom Brown, an avid sportsman who has observed that lessons learned on athletic fields – teamwork, confidence and sportsmanship – translate to the classroom and beyond.
Since its inception in 2011, more than $738,000 has been awarded to some 630 schools across the nation.
“The Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grants benefit students and communities, and California Casualty is proud to support that effort,” said Lisa Almeida, Assistant Vice President. Serving educators since 1951, California Casualty has other giving initiatives to help schools that include a $7,500 School Lounge Makeover®, www.schoolloungemakeover.com; $250 Music and Arts Grants, www.calcasmusicartsgrant.com, and $200 Help Your Classroom grants, www.calcas.com/help-your-classroom.
April 5, 2019
Retired teachers could get an extra check
Proposals currently in the Texas House and Senate could lead to the state’s retired teachers receiving one-off bonus payments. The measures would also shore up the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, which currently has an unfunded liability of $46.2 billion. The Senate plan would give retirees a check of up to $500, while boosting pension contributions by the state, active teachers and some school districts. House Bill 9 would give them a one-time check of up to $2,400. It would gradually raise the state’s contribution to the Teacher Retirement System from 6.8% to 8.8% of active teacher payroll, which would cost an estimated $765.7 million in the 2022-2023 state budget. Read more
April 3, 2019
The Texas House on Wednesday approved a provision pitched by Democrats that would require school districts to give all school employees pay raises using some of the extra money districts receive from a comprehensive school finance bill.
That provision, filed by House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, appears to serve as an attempt to compromise on an issue that quickly became a fault line between the House and Senate on how to spend money on schools. Until Wednesday, Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has said he would prefer to give school districts flexibility on how to use additional funding and that he does not favor a key Senate proposal for $5,000 teacher pay raises.
House to mull school finance bill
The Texas House will today consider House Bill 3, the comprehensive school finance bill that would spend $9bn over the next two years, along with over 90 other “bolt on” improvements. HB3 would spend $6.7bn on public education and $2.7 billion on property tax relief over the next two years.
Among the several amendments, the House will consider cutting school district’s tax rates even more, increasing funding for special education students, restoring a special pot of money set aside for gifted and talented programs, establishing a school safety allotment in the formulas, and automatically adjusting for inflation each year the base amount of money school districts get per student. Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, has also proposed five amendments that would give classroom teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses across-the-board $3,000 to $5,000 raises, while Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, has proposed an unpopular amendment, among teacher groups at least, which would give teachers additional pay based on their relative performance — merit pay.
Austin ISD would get $1,759 more per student under the bill, more than any other Central Texas school district, due to its recapture payment falling by $194 million in 2020. Read more
April 2, 2019
Districts could receive major increase
School districts in Central Texas could receive $1,800 more per student next year under legislation being considered in the Texas House. Lawmakers have received estimates on how school districts would be affected by the legislation, House Bill 3, which would cost the state $9 billion over the next two years, $2.7 billion of which would go toward reducing property taxes. HB 3 gives school districts a huge bump by tweaking various elements of the school finance formula, with the most important change affecting the base amount of money each school district would receive. The bill would increase the basic allotment from $5,140 to $6,030 per student. Districts would also receive more money to expand their prekindergarten programs from half day to full day. Read more
More teachers leaving their jobs mid-year
State education officials have said that at least 220 teachers have left their jobs mid-school year, breaking their contracts. Poor school management and an emphasis on standardized testing are two major complaints that spur teachers to leave. One in 10 teachers quit teaching in Texas schools after their first year, according to state records. Five years after earning their teaching certificate, three in 10 teachers are either no longer in the profession or have left the state. While the number of teachers leaving mid-year is up, the vast majority of teache rs stay on the job throughout the year. However, this year’s spike of teachers breaking their contracts is a 40% increase over last year, when the state opened 131 cases of teacher abandonment. Texas opened 198 cases in the 2015-16 school year.
April 1, 2019
STAAR Reading Tests Are Not on Grade Level
Eight different readability formulas showed the test’s reading portions are at a higher level of difficulty than appropriate for the grades they’re assessing. The study reaffirms that for the most part reading tests given to students in grades 3–8 are at a level of difficulty at least one year above grade level. Read more
Districts could be barred from suspending homeless students
School districts would be barred from suspending students who are homeless under Senate Bill 1001. Instead, districts would be directed to use other disciplinary methods like in-school suspension when dealing with those students.
March 29, 2019
House and Senate outline similar school funding plans
The Texas Senate’s budget-writing committee has approved adding billions more dollars for public education and property tax reform to the upper chamber’s base spending plan, bringing the total to $9 billion aligning with the Texas House. The Senate proposal calls for $4 billion to boost teacher and librarian pay, $2.3 billion for a school finance overhaul, and $2.7 billion for property tax relief. While the two chambers are in agreement with regard to property tax relief, they differ on how much to spend on pay raises for teachers and other school district employees. The Senate wants $5,000 across-the-board salary increases for teachers and librarians, while the House wants districts to use the discretionary cash to decide on staff compensation for themselves. In both chambers’ budget packages, retired teachers would receive a “13th check,” their first inflation adjustment in several years. Read more
Trump pledges to fund the Special Olympics
The federal government will continue to fund the Special Olympics, President Trump has announced, telling reporters at the White House, “The Special Olympics will be funded.” The announcement appeared to reverse the previously proposed elimination of approximately $18 million in government funding for the games, which had first appeared in the 2020 budget of the Department of Education. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggled to defend the cuts during congressional hearings this week, where she told senators the cuts represented only a fraction of the “tough choices” the department had to make about funding. Read more
March 28, 2019
TEA delays special education fix
The Texas Education Agency does not expect to be able to adequately educate kids with disabilities until June 2020. Last May, state education officials submitted an application for federal funding saying they would comply with all federal requirements by this January, a timeline that now appears to have been extended by a year and a half. Read more
March 27, 2019
House considering school safety improvements
The Texas House Public Education Committee considered over 30 bills aimed at making the state’s public schools safer on Tuesday, including measures that would put more armed personnel on campuses and give districts money for sweeping security changes. Read more
Devos defends education spending cuts
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has defended proposed cuts to education programs, including the elimination of $18 million to support Special Olympics. While proposing to add $60 million more to charter school funding and create a tax credit for individual and companies that donate to scholarships for private schools, DeVos’ proposal would cut more than $7 billion from Education Department funding. Read more
March 25, 2019
Public school endowment faces overhaul
A wide range of reforms for Texas’ public school endowment has been proposed by lawmakers. One bipartisan bill would restore the State Board of Education’s control over nearly all of the investments for the $44bn Texas Permanent School Fund, reverting to the way it was before a 2001 law change. Meanwhile, another would allow the School Land Board, which now controls about $10bn of the endowment, to double the amount it can send annually directly to schools—up to $600m. An investigation conducted by the Houston Chronicle found that last year, the fund distributed just 2.8% of its value—roughly half the share paid out by many endowments. If it had paid out 5% of a four-year average market value, as many endowments try to, Texas schools would have received $720m more in 2018. According to the investigation, based on more than 100 public records requests, thousands of pages of records and interviews with current and former endowment employees, a series of law changes since 2001 have radically reshaped the structure of the fund, impacting its performance and the amount of money it sends to schools.
March 22, 2019
New Bill targets Texas charter school admissions
State Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) has authored a bill that would prohibit charter schools from denying admission to students based on their disciplinary history, arguing that being able to do so gives them an unfair advantage over public schools. If charter schools are going to get 100 percent state money being publicly funded, then they need to take all kids. Charter school officials, who say they are given flexibility by the state to be more innovative in their classrooms, say they don’t have the facilities to handle students with chronic disciplinary problems. Read more
Texas gets an ‘F’ for school drinking water lead levels
Texas was one of 22 states that received an “F” for lead contamination, which has been found in at least 784 schools since 2017. State Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) recently introduced a bill regulating lead levels in drinking water. Research has shown prolonged exposure to lead can have serious health effects, particularly in brain development among children. Read more
March 21, 2019
Most Texas voters want an across‐the‐board teacher pay raise
According to a bipartisan poll conducted for TSTA, most Texas voters say raising teacher pay is the top priority among education issues for the Legislature to address this year, and they believe lawmakers should provide and fund an across-the-board raise for all teachers rather than leave the responsibility to local school districts. Read more
Bill requiring civics exam for graduation passed
The Texas House has passed a bill that will include a civics test in the graduation requirements for public high school students. HB 1244 would prohibit a student from receiving his or her high school diploma until the student has passed the civics test by answering at least 70% of questions correctly. There are concerns that the public-school curriculum and the end-of-course test for U.S. history fail to cover critical issues of historical importance and that high school graduates are becoming less proficient in basic civics.
March 20, 2019
Betsy DeVos Not Giving Up on Vouchers
She still wants to take your money to pay for private school tuition. This was evident last week with the introduction of something called the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act. Read more
March 19, 2019
Texas House committee supports budget plan
A budget that would spend $115 billion in state funds, including a $9 billion injection of new funds for Texas public schools and property tax relief, has received initial approval from a panel of House budget writers. The budget plan would spend $2 billion from the state’s savings account, known as the Economic Stabilization Fund, which currently holds more than $11 billion. The total two-year budget would spend state, federal and local funds totaling about $250 billion. Read more
March 15, 2019
Texas teacher pay dropping further behind national average
The Texas State Teachers Association said in a press release that updated research by the National Education Association shows the average teacher salary in Texas is dropping farther behind the national average.
Press coverage, Press release
March 14, 2019
Three San Antonio-area members—Evangelina Perez, a pre-K 3 and 4 dual language teacher for Edgewood ISD; Andrea Greimel, a bilingual early childhood teacher in San Antonio ISD; and Cheryl Kindred, an art teacher with Southside ISD—are among the 19 teachers chosen as finalists for the 2018-9 Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
The distinguished educators will be honored and the two recipients of the award will be announced on Friday, March 22, on Trinity’s campus at the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching ceremony, sponsored by the Whataburger Foundation. Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, leader of the Teachers Against Child Detention alliance and organizer of the recent Teach-in for Freedom protest in El Paso, will present a lecture at the ceremony.
The educators were nominated by area school districts for their commitment and passion to education. Award criteria includes outstanding classroom performance, leadership in the school and school district, leadership in the education profession, and outstanding community service.
Senate approves $100m for school security
The Texas Senate has unanimously approved awarding school districts up to $100 million to boost security. Texas lawmakers are striving to help school districts boost security and improve student access to mental health to prevent school violence before it starts. Read more
March 13, 2019
Educators offer views on House Bill 3
During a 12-hour hearing of the House Public Education Committee yesterday, school district officials offered their views on House Bill 3, a school finance bill that would boost funding for students from low-income families, drop property tax rates by at least 4 cents for homeowners, and eliminate or update outdated elements of the state’s complex school finance formula, among other provisions. The Texas State Teachers Association expressed their opposition to the bill’s merit pay provision, which would be tied to student performance on the STAAR test.
March 12, 2019
Texas teachers rally at Capitol
More than a thousand teachers from across Texas descended upon the State Capitol Monday to push for more state education funding and higher teacher pay that isn’t linked to students’ performance on state standardized tests. Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said: “Education funding is an emergency in Texas. Thousands of effective teachers are leaving Texas classrooms each year because of the inadequate pay.”
March 8, 2019
Legislators moving to ‘get ahead’ of protesting teachers
Lawmakers in at least 25 states are now proposing increasing teacher pay following the raft of recent educator strikes. In Texas, a bill would provide teachers a $5,000 annual salary increase, while Virginia’s budget includes a 5% teacher raise and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has approved raising the m inimum teacher salary 13% — to $36,000 over four years.Los Angeles teachers ended their strike in January after coming to an agreement with the school district that included a 6% raise, additional staffing at schools and a reduction in class sizes, while West Virginia, Arizona and North Carolina are among states operating at lower spending levels and where teacher protests took place — which resulted in pay increases for educators of between 5% and 20%. Read more
March 6, 2019
Thousands of teachers, school employees expected for Capitol rally
Several thousand teachers and other school employees from throughout Texas are expected to gather at the state Capitol on Monday, March 11 to demand more funding for public school students, educators and retired educators. Read more
Texas House raises school funding stakes
The Texas House revealed a monster education overhaul on Tuesday, setting the stage for a three-month debate with the Senate over how much to invest in public schools. The House plan would pump $9 billion extra into education and school tax cuts over the next two years, along with calls for full-day prekindergarten for low-income kids, more money to teach students who don’t speak English at home and more cash for school districts to issue merit raises for teachers and school staff. TSTA press release
March 5, 2019
STAAR debate reignites
Education Commissioner Mike Morath and school superintendents are expected to back the reliability of STAAR today, amid a long-standing debate that students are being tested on reading material beyond their grade level, causing exam scores to slightly dip in recent years. The question is expected to pit skeptics of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness against Morath’s administration during a hearing in front of the Texas House Public Education Committee. Read more
February 25, 2019
After hearing compelling testimony from TSTA member Virginia Caldwell of Hutto ISD and other teachers, the Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 3, which would give all classroom teachers an across-the-board $5,000 pay raise. The measure, which now goes to the full Senate, doesn’t include librarians, counselors, nurses and school support staff, and TSTA will continue working to include a pay raise for them as well.
If enacted, SB3 would help us close the $7,300 annual deficit by which the average teacher pay in Texas lags behind the national average.
Caldwell, an ESL middle school teacher, told the committee that she earns more a day as an Uber driver on weekends than she does for each day of teaching, despite having eight years of experience in the classroom and a master’s degree. She is one of the 39 percent of Texas teachers who have to take extra jobs during the school year to meet their families’ budgetary needs.
February 22, 2019
House Democrats call for $14.5 billion boost for education
Texas House Democrats announced Thursday a $14.5 billion plan to improve public education in Texas by paying teachers and other school staff more, bolstering school safety and offering full-day prekindergarten, among other measures. The Texas Kids First Plan will also increase per-student funding and lower the amount property-wealthy districts pay to the state to support property-poor districts. Rather than a single omnibus bill, Democrats say their platform is spread across dozens of bills that they’re backing — some of which have yet to be filed. A key element of the platform would allocate $3.8 billion for teachers and support staff, including raises and increased contributions to health care costs, stabilizing the Teacher Retirement System and issuing teachers $500 stipends for classroom supplies. The Texas State Teachers Association applauded the proposal but said it would only support a permanent, across-the-board pay raise funded by the state, rather than raises based on performance. Read more
February 21, 2019
House Democratic Caucus addresses important educational priorities
Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, issued a statement on educational priorities. Read press release
On Feb. 19, the House Public Education Committee held its first hearings on filed bills, including House Bill 55 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez to limit prekindergarten class sizes. The measure, which was left pending by the committee, would require one certified teacher or teacher’s aide for a class of fewer than 16 students and for larger classes, it would set a student-teacher ratio of 11-1.
The committee also heard Gonzalez’ House Bill 111 that would require additional training of school personnel to identify sexual abuse and sex trafficking. The committee also heard Gonzalez’ House Bill 116 that would significantly expand training requirements for school personnel who work with students with disabilities. Representative Gonzalez also laid out House Bill 108 to establish a pilot program for digital portfolio assessments and House Bill 120 to extend the exemption from the state assessment of bilingual students from one year to two. Witnesses, including a representative of the Texas Education Agency, voiced concerns about postponing the assessment due to restrictions in federal law. The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) registered in support of these bills.
House Bill 102 by Representative Bernal would create a mentor program allotment and modify current program parameters, including a requirement for mentor teachers to make a two-year commitment. TSTA registered on this bill with concerns about the requirement for mentor teachers to make a two-year commitment when most teachers work under one-year contracts. TSTA registered in support of Representative Bernal’s bill to create an endorsement for students who are enrolled in special education programs.
The Committee also heard House Bill 187 by Representative Reynolds that is bracketed to Fort Bend ISD and would require the district to change the way it elects its school board to provide for geographic representation. Representative Eric Johnson laid out House Bill 65 that would require districts to report on out-of-school suspensions, and Representative Martinez laid out House Bill 109 to correct a drafting error from legislation passed last session to include charter schools in the prohibition from operating on Memorial Day. Representative Hinojosa laid out House Bill 128 that would require school districts to notify parents of the availability of their student’s physical fitness assessment. TSTA registered in support of all of these bills.
The only bill TSTA registered against was House Bill 134 by Representative Swanson related to the structuring of ballots for bond proposals because it creates inefficiencies and could impede the passage of bonds for much need facility repairs and expansions.
All bills were left pending.
February 14, 2019
The issue of giving retired educators a long-overdue cost of living adjustment (COLA) was discussed before the Senate Finance Committee this week. Teacher Retirement System Executive Director Brian Guthrie indicated the Legislature will have to find a way to boost funding for the TRS Pension Fund by an additional $1.6 billion in order to achieve 31 years of funded liabilities, a minimum requirement before TRS trustees can consider a COLA.
Most retirees have not had a COLA since 2002.
The committee mainly discussed options that would require increasing contributions to the fund from active employees, as well as the state and school districts. But the possibility of making a transfer to the pension fund from the state’s Rainy Day Fund also was discussed. The comptroller has forecast a record $15 billion balance in the Rainy Day Fund by the end of this budget period, which makes further discussions of the Rainy Day Fund likely. TSTA believes it is a revenue source that should be considered as lawmakers draft the next budget over the next few months.
Guthrie indicated that once the fund achieves 31 years of funded liabilities, it could take up to two years before the COLAs could be paid without jeopardizing the minimum threshold. The additional funding for the pension is required because TRS trustees, in response to the changing global economy, lowered the fund’s anticipated rate of return on investments.
The Finance Committee also discussed the skyrocketing costs of health insurance premiums for both TRS-Care and TRS-Active Care. TRS-Care will require an infusion of $231 million during the coming biennium in order to remain solvent. Committee members also indicated an interest in some relief for active and retired employees’ health care premiums.
February 13, 2019
Warnings over performance-related pay
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García says that the teacher strike in Denver should serve as a cautionary tale for other districts that want to pay teachers in bonuses and incentives. “There is not one school district in the country that is going to look at Denver and think, ‘Oh, I think I’ll try that.’ No. They should have stopped this and changed this years ago, and they didn’t. And this is the result.” Read more
February 12, 2019
Members of the State Board of Education have voted to pursue rules changes that would make the application process for new charter schools more transparent to the public and to local school district officials who are losing tax dollars to charter campuses.
Charter schools took more than $2.2 billion in tax revenue from traditional public schools in Texas last year, and charter chains continue to expand in our state. TSTA believes the SBOE and Texas Education Agency need to revise the charter application process to encourage more public participation. Recommendations include changing posting requirements so that all applications for charter expansions are readily accessible to the public within five days after they are submitted, notices of public meetings conducted by charters are clearly posted and information is provided about the potential fiscal impact of each proposed charter campus.
At the request of member Ruben Cortez, the SBOE voted last week to include review and evaluation of charter amendments in its operating rules, and SBOE members responded favorably to the charter transparency recommendations.
The SBOE acted after TSTA legislative liaison Lisa Dawn-Fisher and representatives of other educator groups explained the key issues and proposed solutions to the board’s Committee on School Initiatives.
SBOE member Barbara Cargill announced that she and SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich have met with TEA staff and the education commissioner to discuss the transparency issue. Cargill read the following statement from the director of the charter school office: “The Commissioner is contemplating the staff and resources necessary to implement changes to the charter school web page that would provide additional transparency for those interested in charter schools.”
TSTA and other educator groups will do more follow-up work with TEA and SBOE.
Finance committee debating education funding
Members of the Senate Finance Committee met on Monday to consider the public education budget. The Senate budget bill, as filed, adds $2.4 billion to cover projected enrollment growth over the next two years, but also $6 billion above that to pay for increased teacher compensation and to offset whatever revenue is lost by any property tax reform measures that become law.
Both of these issues were labelled as “emergencies” by Governor Greg Abbott in his State of the State address last week, and both him and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen have vowed to “fix” the school finance issue this session. Read more
Unions oppose calls to arm teachers
The the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have joined with Everytown for Gun Safety to oppose proposals in Florida and elsewhere to arm teachers and staff. The Florida Legislature is considering allowing school districts to arm volunteer teachers who undergo background checks and training. Read more
February 8, 2019
‘Teach-In For Freedom’ to highlight child detentions
Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, is uniting teachers in a new group called Teachers Against Child Detention – which is currently planning a 10-hour “Teach-In for Freedom” on February 17 in El Paso, Texas, to focus attention on the continued plight of immigrant children held on the border with Mexico. Read more
New bill would require passing citizenship test to graduate high school
A new bill introduced by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), HB 1244, would require every Texas public school student to take a civics test in order to graduate high school. The test would consist of all of the questions on the test administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] as part of the naturalization process. If the bill passes, this act will take effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, and will be applied beginning with students who enter the ninth grade during the 2020-2021 school year. Read more
February 7, 2019
House Public Education Committee hears testimony from TEA and school finance commission
The House Public Education Committee met for two days this week, Tuesday and Wednesday, to hear testimony from the Texas Education Agency, the Legislative Budget Board and the Texas Commission on Public School Finance.
Read full report
Calls for schools to disclose unvaccinated students
Some Texas lawmakers and advocacy groups are calling for parents to be able to find out how many unvaccinated kids are in their children’s schools. Plano, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston, were all recently identified as national hotspots for nonmedical vaccine exemptions in schools. Texas is one of 18 states in the U.S. which allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children because of their philosophical or religious beliefs. Senate Bill 329 would require schools to give their immunization rate to parents who ask for it. Read more
February 5, 2019
During his State of the State address to the Legislature today, Gov. Greg Abbott continue to push for “merit” pay raises for teachers, a short-sighted idea that TSTA will continue to oppose in favor of an across-the-board pay raise. Teachers in Texas are paid, on average, $7,300 less per year than the national average, based on NEA’s latest survey.
January 31, 2019
The House Public Education Committee held its first meeting of the 86th Legislative session on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. The Committee heard invited testimony from the Commissioner and staff of the Texas Education Agency. Commissioner Mike Morath opened the hearing with an overview of the state of education in Texas. He reported that less than half of kindergarteners start school ready to learn and only 16% of graduating seniors meet college readiness as measured by SAT and ACT scores. The agency’s Legislative Appropriations Request included requests for money for school safety initiatives, including increased mental health supports and the implementation of other best practices for school safety.
Districts closing for cleaning due to widespread illnesses
Illness and low attendances are causing Texas school districts to close temporarily. Fairfield ISD has closed for the rest of the week to allow widespread deep cleaning of premises, as has Winters ISD and New Summerfield ISD. The Walgreens Flu Index listed the Tyler-Longview area as No. 2 in the nation for flu activity last week.
January 30, 2019
Rep. White files bill to set ‘teacher salary floor’
Texas Rep. James White has filed a bill asking fellow legislators to support the idea of setting a salary “floor” for school employees in order to address appropriate compensation. When addressing pay, the Texas Education Agency sets a state minimum, which school districts abide by. From there, districts set salary schedules for teachers which specify how much raises are worth, and largely depends on a teacher’s experience. Rep. White’s bill would set a salary “floor” for educators which is tied into the state’s funding formula. He explained that a state standard may benefit teachers in rural districts the most; giving smaller schools in rural areas the ability to offer competitive salary means districts will be able to attract and retain talented educators. Read more
Hundreds out sick in Coppell ISD
More than 300 Coppell Middle School West students are off sick with flu or flu-like symptoms, Coppell ISD has confirmed, some 25% of its students. The district has notified parents of its concerns. The flu claimed more than 150 lives in North Texas last year, including 83 in Dallas County. This season there have been five flu deaths in Dallas County.
January 28, 2019
“Privatization” option for Dallas schools opposed
Parents and community members told trustees Thursday night that Dallas ISD should not surrender control of any campus to an outside partner.
This comes as DISD expressed interest in a new state law that would allow more state funding to flow into schools which become in-district charters run by their own governing boards. Read more
Graduation rate improvements ‘stalling’
The U.S. high school graduation rate hit 84.6% in 2017, according to the Department of Education’s latest data, only ‘inches’ up from 84.1% in 2016, leaving education professionals concerned that the nation is losing momentum in improving outcomes for pupils. The graduation rates for black, Hispanic and low-income students and students with disabilities, increased by 1 to 2 percentage points, but decreased by 0.5 percentage points for students for whom English is a second language. Read more
Shutdown resolution averts lunches crisis
Resolution of the weekslong partial federal government shutdown averted the growing crisis for the 22 million poor public education students who rely on the federal National School Lunch and breakfast programs for meals. A coalition of education organizations representing school superintendents, principals, school boards, parents, along with the two national teachers unions, had joined to urge Trump and congressional leadership to pass and sign a funding bill for the Department of Agriculture that the House of Representatives passed earlier this month. Read more
January 22, 2019
NEA reacts to tentative agreement reached by UTLA, LAUSD
Students win as national #RedForEd movement sweeps Los Angeles; tentative agreement gives students more librarians, nurses and counselors while reducing class sizes. Read more
Bonnen’s education agenda considered
House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has revealed that he doesn’t support using student test scores to determine school funding, a recommendation that the Texas Commission on Public School Finance has made to the Legislature. Referring to the Senate’s teacher pay proposal, which would give schools the money to provide a $5,000 pay raise to all full-time teachers, Bonnen has said that the House would aim to provide districts “greater flexibility” with how they spend those funds. Read more
January 17, 2019
SB 3 will still leave Texas teachers below national average
Senate Bill 3 would increase education funding in the state by more than $4 billion, with most of the money going to towards a $5,000 raise to teachers. TSTA President Noel Candelaria praised the proposal, with the caveat that the average Texas teacher pay would still lag below national average. According to data from the National Education Association, Texas teachers are paid $7,300 below the national average.
Concern over government shutdown
Though the U.S. Department of Education remains fully-funded throughout, there is concern the shutdown will impact federal administrators and the National School Lunch program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If the shutdown lasts for several months district finances for grants and federal funding may be affected for the coming year.
January 16, 2019
House and Senate $3 billion apart on education spending
Leaders of the Texas Senate are proposing giving schools $3.7 billion to provide $5,000 pay raises to all full-time classroom teachers. The House proposes to put more than $7 billion in new state funds into public schools. The Senate budget also includes $2.3 billion to pay for property tax relief, if lawmakers agree to pass reforms that decrease the need for the unpopular “Robin Hood” system, which requires property-wealthy school districts to subsidize poorer ones.
January 14, 2019
Texas may adopt outcomes-based funding
A number of newly elected governors are addressing the issue of school funding in Texas, after a new report by a state commission on school recommended major changes in the system. Educator and public education advocate Carol Burris, writing in the Washington Post on so-called “outcomes-based” school funding, describes it as “ineffective” and claims it “can make inequities worse”, stating: “this Texas version, which is especially bad, will result in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer with funding going to students who need it the least, not the most.” Read more
L.A. teacher negotiations at impasse
Following the failure of negotiations with authorities over the weekend to reach agreement, tens of thousands of teachers in Los Angeles are to go on strike. The district’s latest offer included adding nearly 1,200 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians to schools, reducing class sizes by two students, and capping class sizes to between 32 and 39 students, depending on age and curriculum. The offer also included the district’s previously proposed 6% salary increase over the first two years of a three-year contract. The teachers’ union labelled a new pay offer from the LAUSD as “woefully inadequate.” Read more
January 10, 2019
Houston ISD facing tough challenges
HISD trustees have called a Saturday meeting to discuss some of the challenges facing the district, including declining enrollment at small schools, options for closing a projected budget deficit, the growing need for pre-kindergarten seats and preliminary academic performance data. Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said forming a task force to recommend budget cuts, similar to the one created in June 2018 by Austin ISD, which also pays the state’s largest “recapture” bill, is “not off the table” and “may be part of the discussion”. Read more
January 8, 2019
Legislature convenes, Dennis Bonnen elected speaker
amid promises of school finance changes
The 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature convened today, with the House unanimously electing Republican Dennis Bonnen of Angleton as the new speaker and Gov. Greg Abbott promising, “We are going to solve school finance reform and property tax reform this session.”
In brief opening remarks to both the House and the Senate, Abbott didn’t spell out how he intended lawmakers to address those issues, so much work remains to be done. Bonnen also has declared school finance a priority, and he announced that the refreshment cups provided for House members will be imprinted with a new slogan: “School finance reform — the time is now.”
Comptroller Glenn Hegar has forecast lawmakers will have additional general revenue with which to work as they address school funding and other needs. Hegar also has projected a record $15 billion balance in the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s savings account.
But school finance “reform” can mean different things to different people. To TSTA it means appropriating more state funds for public education, and we will work toward that goal. Additional state education funding also is the key to property tax relief.
Absent for the session’s opening day was Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was summoned to Washington for a meeting with President Trump. Sen. Jane Nelson opened the Senate session, and senators elected Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, as their new president pro tempore.
The House, under Bonnen’s predecessor, Joe Straus, passed legislation in 2017 to add as much as $1.8 billion to the public education budget, but it was rejected by the Patrick-led Senate.
Among new legislators taking their oaths for the first time today were two pro-public education senators and more than a dozen House members, both Democrats and Republicans, who were elected with TSTA’s support.
January 3, 2019
Our first analysis of the Public School Finance commission’s report
In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 21 during its first Called Session of the 85th Legislature. The bill authorized the formation of the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. The stated purpose of the commission was to develop recommendations related to:
- The purpose of the public school finance system and the relationship between state and local funding.
- The appropriate levels of tax effort necessary to implement a public school system that complies with the requirements of the Texas Constitution.
- The policy changes needed to adjust for student demographics and geographic diversity in the state.
The 13-member Commission was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Joe Straus, and State Board of Education Chair Donna Bahorich. The Commission began meeting in January 2018 and continued to meet monthly throughout the year. The final report was released in December 2018. Broadly, the report includes recommendations to change the funding formulas, to change accountability goals, and to provide funding for a pay-for-performance program. Strategies to reduce the state’s reliance on local property tax revenue, both as a source of local funding and as a source of state revenue in the form of recapture, are also addressed.
- System needs clear, widely understood goals for educational outcomes.
- School finance system has not kept up with changing demographics of the state.
- Student outcome shortfalls are evident early in the K-12 system.
- Low-income students are not accessing federal funds available for post-secondary education.
- “Summer slide” reduces outcomes for low-income students in all subjects and for high-income students in math and science.
- Post-secondary completion rates fall far short of state’s goal of having 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-old adults holding a post-secondary credential.
- Students are not prepared for military service.
- Districts and campuses with similar demographics have vastly different levels of performance.
- Teaching workforce experiences high turnover rates and a shrinking pipeline of new educators at the same time the student population is growing.
- Funding formulas are complicated and outdated.
- Reliance on property taxes has resulted in high property tax rates (6th highest in the nation).
- Reliance on recapture as a source of revenue is unsustainable.
- Overall, the tax burden in Texas is low when compared nationally (5th lowest in the nation).
*Recommendations: Modify Foundation School Program (FSP) funding formulas to “free up” funds.
- Reallocate $3.5 billion in recurring revenue:
- Cost-of-education index = $2.9 billion/year
- Chapter 41 hold harmless recapture reduction = $30 million/year
- Chapter 41 early agreement credits = $50 million/year
- Gifted and talented allotment = $165 million/year
- High school allotment = $400 million/year
- Shift to current year property values:
- One-time savings = $1.8 billion
- Reallocate $3.5 billion in recurring revenue:
*Recommendations: New or modified funding components
- Educator effectiveness allotment: provides optional formula-based funding to districts that adopt approved evaluation programs = $200 million/year in 2019–20 growing to $1.0 billion/year by 2029–30
- Dual language allotment: adds 0.05 weight to existing bilingual allotment = $15-50 million/year
- Dyslexia weight: creates new weight of 0.1 = $100 million/year (assumes only those currently identified)
- 3rd grade reading allotment: provides additional funding for students in K through 3rd grade who are low-income or English language learners in return for adhering to specific standards; certain districts would be mandated to participate (Arlington, Austin, Beaumont, Dallas, Conroe, Houston and Fort Worth ISDs) in order to establish benchmarks for performance
- Extended year incentive program: provides half-day funding for up to 30 additional school days for student pre-K through 5th grade = $50 million/year
- Compensatory education allotment: change from 0.2 to sliding scale ranging from 0.225 – 0.275 based on the concentration of low-income students on a campus; consider use of alternate measures of income = $1.1 billion/year
- Transportation funding
- Base funding on mileage rate of at least $0.80/mile to reduce administrative costs associated with administering linear density formulas = $0/year (revenue-neutral)
- Provide transportation funding to Chapter 41 districts = $60 million/year
- Small- and mid-sized district adjustments: recreate as stand-alone allotments to reduce the compounding effects of formulas and increase transparency = $0/year (revenue-neutral)
- New Instructional Facilities Allotment (NIFA): fully fund current rate of $1,000/student in average daily attendance = $76 million/year
- Career and technology allotment: include 6th- 8th grade = $20 million/year
- Basic allotment: increase basic allotment with all “remaining” funds from streamlining outdated formula elements; results in reduction of recapture.
- Copper penny yield: link copper penny yield to percentage of basic allotment to increase Tier II and reduce recapture; increase yield from $31.95/penny to $43.50/penny to restore yield to 88th percentile = $286 million/year
- Golden penny yield: decouple yield from Austin ISD and set at percentile of wealth per student = $Undetermined cost/year (depends on yield set)
*Hold districts harmless from declines in per-pupil funding that result from the proposed changes until such time as local taxing actions can be taken
Recommendations: New outcomes-based funding
- 3rd grade reading outcomes: provides funding of $3,400/low-income student and $1,450/non-low-income student who meet 3rd grade reading proficiency standards = $400 million/year
- College, career, and military readiness outcomes: provides funding of $5,380/low-income graduating senior and $2,015/non-low-income graduating senior who meets the following criteria = $400 million/year
- Graduates from high school and does not require post-secondary remediation and either:
- Enrolls in a post-secondary institution,
- Graduates high school with an industry-accepted certificate, or
- Enlists in the military.
- Graduates from high school and does not require post-secondary remediation and either:
- Accountability changes:
- Eliminate end-of-course exams
- Require completion of FAFSA or similar financial aid application
- Allow reconstitution of elementary and middle school campuses with two consecutive years of “F” ratings that places better educators at struggling campuses
- Modify accountability system to eliminate penalty for districts that help formerly incarcerated individuals obtain their diploma or GED
- Funding changes:
- Provide FSP funding for full-day pre-K
- Allow children of Texas public educators to be eligible for free full-day pre-K
- Provide technical assistance funds for targeted professional development aimed at blended learning and personalized learning pilots
Texas special education students receive harshest discipline
Analysis of Texas public school data indicates that the state’s special education students are likely to receive some of the harshest punishments in the classroom. The Houston Chronicle reports that roughly a tenth of students were listed as special education in the 2016-17 academic period — but they accounted for nearly one-fifth of students who were sent to alternative education programs run by local juvenile justice departments. The Texas Education Agency says it is working to address the issue. Read more
December 19, 2018
School Finance Commission completes report to Legislature
The Texas Public School Finance Commission finished work today on its recommended school finance changes to the Legislature. The preliminary report includes proposals for increased state funding for some programs, a reallocation of funds in other cases and proposals for property tax relief. The report was still subject to some last-minute changes. TSTA will study the final version of the report and provide updates as the Legislature prepares to convene on Jan. 8. Regardless of the commission’s priorities, TSTA will continue to advocate for a significant, overall increase in state funding for public education. See page 5 of the report for an executive summary.
December 18, 2018
TEA discusses removing and replacing Harlandale ISD leaders
A report by the Texas Education Agency has concluded that the Harlandale ISD’s board of trustees should be removed and replaced by a state-appointed board of managers. At a meeting Monday, the board discussed the report’s findings, which harshly criticized the district’s financial practices, called its governance “dysfunctional” and recommended lowering its accreditation. Read more
Bilingual/ESL programs at Midland ISD
Midland ISD’s bilingual/ESL programs have suffered a drop in standards. The state has given the district’s Bilingual/English-as-a-second-language programs a stage 4 ranking, the worst ranking. This means the district has achieved the worst ranking in 10 of the last 13 years. Read more
AISD budget cuts
Austin Independent School District is facing a $29 million budget shortfall next year. Among the proposals are closing 12 schools, cutting special education programs, and increasing class sizes. If these cuts are approved, it could eliminate up to 200 jobs. Read more
Houston trustees opt against seeking partnership bids
Houston ISD trustees narrowly voted yesterday against pursuing partnerships with private organizations to run long-struggling schools. The district has four schools that must meet academic standards in 2019; should they fail, the Texas Education Agency is legally required to replace HISD’s entire school board and appoint new members, or close still-failing schools. Read more
Department of Education to cancel student loan debt
The Department of Education has said that it will cancel $150 million in student loans connected to for-profit colleges that closed in recent years. The move was made under an Obama-era policy that a federal judge in October essentially forced Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to implement. Read more
North Lamar TSTA holds silent auction
The North Lamar Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) is holding a silent auction with the proceeds going toward scholarships for North Lamar graduating seniors. Read more
December 12, 2018
Sex education linked to sexual assault statistics
Students who received pre-college sex education that included training in refusing unwanted sexual attention (54%) are half as likely to be assaulted in college, according to researchers at Columbia University, who examined data from a survey of 2,500 students in 2016 as a part of the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation. Read more
December 11, 2018
At least two House members of the Commission on Texas Public School Finance, including House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, said they won’t sign any commission report that doesn’t add new money to the state’s school finance system.
They made their comments during a meeting in which the commission reviewed a draft report. Chairman Scott Brister, meanwhile, was reluctant to even describe the current school finance system as insufficiently funded. Brister, a former member of the Texas Supreme Court, also indicated he prefers incentives, such as merit-based teacher pay, over recommending a general increase in school funding.
“I would not be willing to sign a report that will not say we need to spend more money, new money, on public education,” Huberty, R-Houston, said, according to a report in Quorum Report.
Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, said without discussing additional school funding, he will have wasted 11 months on commission business. Real school finance reform, he said, will require several new revenue sources.
Brister was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, who has advocated tight, new limits on property taxes and has suggested additional state education funding may be needed. But Abbott has not proposed a funding source. Property taxes have to be addressed, Brister said, but he pushed back against any suggestion that was his main concern.
The commission, which has an end-of-year deadline for submitting a report to the Legislature, is expected to take a final vote on Dec. 19.
The TSTA Art Contest is open to all students in kindergarten through 12th grade attending Texas Public Schools. The theme is “The Heroes Around Me in My Public School.” Its purpose is to showcase student talent, recognize students, parents, and teachers and to display prize-winning creations at the TSTA HQ. Winners will be selected by the delegates of the 2019 TSTA House of Delegates in Frisco. Download application
December 10, 2018
Frisco applies to become first dyslexia-training-accredited US school district
Frisco ISD is on course to becoming the first public school district in America to be recognized as an accredited, independent dyslexia therapist training center. FISD is pursuing accreditation in order to train and certify teachers as dyslexia therapists, with nearly 1,000 students across the district enrolled in its dyslexia program. Administrators note that a “shortage of dyslexia training centers” in Texas coupled with Frisco’s significant growth means that student needs would be best met by training teachers in-district. Read more
December 7, 2018
NEA working to ensure education is a priority in federal budget
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) introduced the Keep Our PACT Act into Congress which NEA is supporting. This would create a 10-year mandatory glide path to fully fund both Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that could help ensure education is a priority in the federal budget.
The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:
“The National Education Association has been steadfast in its mission that that all students deserve early learning opportunities, classes small enough for one-on-one attention, modern tools and textbooks, and community support services. We thank Senator Van Hollen for his leadership and introducing the Keep Our PACT Act that makes student opportunity a federal budget priority, especially when it comes to the targeted investments in education programs designed to help students in poverty, children with disabilities and those who are most in need.
“Voters made it clear that they believe our schools need more resources. Congress always has fallen short on funding Title I and IDEA, but we believe the momentum is building to correct these shortfalls — and this bill proves it. We urge Congress to put students, educators and working families ahead of politics and pass the Keep Our PACT Act because it provides opportunities to all students.”
December 5, 2018
Texas lawmaker claims mandate to fight school vouchers
State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has claimed that the November 6 election results show voters agree with his opposition to private school vouchers. He was one of only two Republicans to vote against private school voucher legislation in the Texas Senate in 2017. Read more
San Antonio ISD working to stem enrollment losses
To stem student outflows to private and charter schools, San Antonio ISD is working to redesign curriculums at several schools to offer more popular programs such as dual language or Montessori. While it’s unclear whether the district’s educational experiment is financially sustainable, and district leaders worry that it will be difficult to reach some parents to inform them about these new options, “network principal” Brian Sparks has been awarded more than $1 million in grants as part of a wider effort to overhaul low-performing schools and boost falling enrollment. Read more
December 4, 2018
White House to launch STEM push
The federal government will launch a five-year strategic plan for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education at the White House today, to encourage students to pursue STEM careers and to increase access to STEM among historically underserved students. White House officials conceded at least one challenge however, the lack of STEM teachers in K-12.” Read more
Federal education funding: Which states come off best?
Federal education funding for K-12 is rising compared to where it was two years ago, with Congress paying no heed to attempts by the White House to slash the Education Department’s budget. Education Week takes a look at Education Department data for fiscal 2017 – the last budget Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed – and the fiscal 2019 package that President Donald Trump approved around two months ago, to see which states have come off best. One winner, it says, is California, which is slated to get a Title I funding bump of more than 9%, from just over $1.8 billion in fiscal 2017 to a little over $2 billion in fiscal 2019. Oklahoma has also seen its funding rise, by over 12% to $190 million. Read more
November 28, 2018
State lawmakers discuss teacher misconduct legislation
In a hearing at the Capitol yesterday, members of the state Senate Education Committee discussed what to do about the increasing numbers of Texas teachers accused of soliciting inappropriate romantic relationships with students. In the fiscal year that ended September 1st, the Texas Education Agency opened 429 cases of improper teacher-student relationships, a 42% rise from the previous year and the 10th straight annual increase. Read more
November 27, 2018
Board renames 1 of 4 schools with Confederate monikers
The Austin school board Monday night renamed one campus with a Confederate moniker but again delayed a decision to change three other schools named for Confederate figures. Trustees voted 6-1-1 to rename the John T. Allan building, formerly Allan Elementary, for Anita Ferrales Coy, who was principal at Allan and a district administrator. Read more
How the Government tracks child autism numbers
The U.S. Government estimates that one in every 40 children could be classified as being autistic – a figure arrived at from one of three periodic surveys it uses to assess autism rates. The figure is higher than that reported in a survey earlier this year; however, that survey used a different method to arrive at its conclusions. Because there’s no medical test, “autism spectrum disorder is a particularly challenging condition to track,” government researchers wrote in a report for the Pediatrics journal. The true occurrence of autism likely ranges from about 1 in 59 kids to 1 in 40 kids, researchers say. Read more
November 15, 2018
SBOE adopts legislative priorities
The State Board of Education is addressing more than Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller and Moses this week. Board members, among other actions, also tentatively approved a list of legislative priorities. You also may notice that in his remarks before the board Education Commissioner Mike Morath tried to deny the fact that the school finance budget TEA has submitted to legislators would reduce state education funding by $3.5 billion during the next budget period. But that is exactly what the TEA budget request would do, unless lawmakers change the school finance law. If the law isn’t changed, local property taxpayers will have to make up that $3.5 billion.
These are the tentative items SBOE has included in its Legislative Priorities to go to the next round, which is Friday.
- Fix the governance structure of the PSF to include the following:
- A better decision-making process moving forward
- Address the issue of the $4 billion the SLB has in cash holdings
- Adopt the motion made at the Sunset Commission today to increase the SLB to five members with members 4 and 5 appointed by the Governor and AG from a list submitted by the SBOE
- Fix the school funding formula based on recommendations that will be made by the Texas School Finance Commission – this would include adding a Dyslexia weight of 0.1 and creating a dual language weight of 0.15 in addition to the Bilingual Education Allotment
- Funding support to ensure sufficient appropriations to expand the TEA staff, especially the curriculum division to oversee and support the TEKS review and implementation process as well as textbook adoption.
- Continue funding the Math and Reading Academies
- Fund TEA’s two LAR exception items: (1) Special Education Supports/Compensatory Education for children that did not receive FAPE [this will also be impacted by a 5th Circuit Court decision] and (2) Safe and Healthy Schools Initiative
- Similar to the above (1) SpEd call center and online portal to assist families of students with special needs in navigating the public school systems and (2) establish a Safe and Healthy Schools Initiative
- Submitted Instructional Materials must align with 100% of the TEKS
- Adequately fund the ESCs
The board removed language addressing teacher salaries and retention because other organizations would be promoting them.
Percent Distribution from the Permanent School Fund
The board voted to increase the percent distribution for FY20/21 to 2.9% from its September recommendation of 2.75%. This increases the SBOE distribution from the PSF to the ASF by $110 million to $1.069 billion for each year of the biennium had the rate been set at 2.75%. This is still less than the $1.364 billion for each year of the current biennium. The increase does close the gap with the $500 million needed to cover instructional materials and technology needs.
The impact results in a $10 decrease in the per capita allotment through the ASF to school districts. Chapter 42 districts will feel the brunt of the impact as the distribution from the ASF offsets state Tier 1 funding for the Foundation School Program by an equal amount. It does not have the same impact on Chapter 41 districts, since their FSP state funding is based on the ASF+New Instructional Facilities Allotment+High School Allotment.
Commissioner Morath “clarified” the “erroneous” reports that TEA is cutting funding by $3.5 billion, The reduction is because property taxes are increasing and property taxes are calculated and the local fund assignment is established and everything else is driven by that.
SBOE Long-Range Plan
The SBOE recommended its long-range plan for adoption on Friday following some edits. The most cogent comment was made by Gina Perez (El Paso), who questioned why TEA would be included with the entities encouraging high standards for teacher preparation when it allows charter districts and DOI districts to exempt themselves from those same standards. This was done primarily because the Commissioner writes some of the administrative rules and because the legislature passed the authority to set the passing rates on certification exams from SBEC to the Commissioner.
November 12, 2018
Dennis Bonnen claims speakership
State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, said he had a bipartisan majority of 109 House members who have agreed to support him for speaker when the legislative session convenes on Jan. 8. He said his No. 1 priority will be school finance and said the House will take the lead in fixing the state’s “broken” school funding system.
He answered only a couple of questions from the media at his Capitol news conference. He said the House will operate in a bipartisan fashion. There will be 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats in the new House, after Democrats gained 12 seats in the recent election.
Bonnen offered no details about how he intends to address school funding. A school finance study commission appointed by the state leadership last year is completing its work and will make recommendations before lawmakers convene.
November 8, 2018
Feds’ special education funding penalty upheld
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the U.S. Department of Education was within its rights to try to withhold $33.3m from Texas, the same amount the state decided to cut from its special education grants in 2012, noting a 1997 federal statute which prohibits states from reducing funding for kids with disabilities from year to year. While Texas has not yet publicly indicated whether it will try to appeal the ruling, the court’s 13-page opinion questions the state’s current system for funding special education – suggesting that it could give Texas reason to “minimize the needs of kids with disabilities in order to save money.” Read more
November 6, 2018
The Commissioner of Education has adopted new rules in 19 TAC Chapter 89, Adaptations for Special Populations, rules concerning State Plan for Educating English Learners.
Timeline: The rule took effect on July 18, 2018.
What You Need to Know:
- The change was necessary to bring rule language into compliance with current practices and ESSA.
- The change removes references to the use of the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) for teachers at the secondary level who teach English Learners (ELs).
- Bilingual/ESL programs in Texas are opt-in programs; however, EL students who do not participate in a Bilingual/ESL program because of parent refusal are still entitled to instruction in the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS), which outline the English language proficiency level descriptors and student expectations for EL students.
- Comparable to Section 504, this, too, is a civil rights issue – persons with limited English proficiency must be afforded a meaningful opportunity to participate in programs receiving federal funds, including public education.
- Although the rule language impacts Bilingual teachers, the greatest impact is on ESL teachers who, depending on the program implemented in the district, may be required to get the ESL Supplemental Certification.
- The two ESL programs are “content-based” and “pull-out.”
- Teachers only have five opportunities to pass the ESL or Bilingual Certification Exams.
- Teachers with a lifetime certificate who get the ESL or Bilingual certification will now have to renew their certificates every five years.
How It Impacts Teachers
- Teachers who teach English Learners are required to have appropriate certification.
- “Content-based” ESL programs require teachers in the core content areas (English/Language Arts/Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies) to have ESL certification.
- “Pull-Out” ESL programs require instruction in English/Language Arts/Reading by (1) an ESL certified teacher or (2) an ELAR Teacher with the ESL Supplemental Certification.
- Teachers in Bilingual programs who do not have the Bilingual Supplemental certification will need to get it.
- Each exam costs $116 and the certification application fee is $75.
- Teachers needing Bilingual certification MUST take two examinations: the Bilingual Supplemental Exam and the Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test (bot of which cost $116).
- Examinations must be taken at test preparation centers, some of which are not convenient to our members.
Advise Leaders and Members To:
- START PLANNING NOW! Allow a 90-day window to complete the certification process so that if the exam(s) is not passed the first time, then there is time to take it a second time.
- Contact their district certification coordinator to find out (1) what they need to; (2) what supports and services are in place to support teachers impacted by this change; and (3) what the timeline for completion is.
- Work with the district to make this a Human Resources priority. ESL/Bilingual is a recognized shortage area in Texas so getting rid of teachers who lack the certification may not be a good idea if districts cannot find new teachers who are properly certified.
- Contact the TSTA Help Center ONLY IF AND WHEN their employment is in jeopardy.
October 26, 2018
TEA releases information on 2018-19 charter partnership approval process
The Texas Education Agency today provided school districts with information regarding the 2018-19 benefits approval process under SB1882. This is the law, enacted by the Legislature in 2017, which gives school districts additional state funds if they find partners, including charters, for struggling campuses.
TEA’s news release includes a link to what TEA calls the Texas Partnership Guide.
October 24, 2018
SAT now most widely-used admission test
The SAT has overtaken the ACT as the nation’s most widely-used college admission test, according to fresh data, with almost 2 million U.S. students in 2018 taking the SAT, compared with 1.91 million taking the ACT. Increased delivery of the SAT on school days has helped fuel the switch — the ACT had been the more popular route since 2012. Read more
NEA Member Benefits to launch new website
NEA Member Benefits is committed to Making Members’ Lives Better. To that end, we are excited to announce that we will be launching a new website (NEAMB.COM) on November 1, 2018. This new website shifts the website experience from descriptions of products and services to a member-centric, emotionally driven expression of the value and benefits for NEA members.
October 23, 2018
Backpack Full of Cash takes an urgently needed look at how charter schools, vouchers and the privatization movement are threatening public schools.
Texas needs high quality Pre-K education
The Texas Legislature has been urged by the group ‘Children at Risk’ to commit to offering affordable, subsidized early childhood education to every Pre-K student in the state. President Dr. Bob Sanborn said that the ages of two to four are the time when childern are most open to learning, However, he added that with the cost of simple ‘baby sitting’ day care now averaging $15,000 a year in San Antonio, or more than one quarter of the average family’s entire budget, too many parents can’t afford to enroll their child into the lest productive program, let alone into a program which is staffed by trained and certified teachers, and aims to teach children, instead of just warehousing them for eight hours. Dr. Sanborn said: “If our child care doesn’t serve those children, doesn’t serve that need to learn, then it is a missed opportunity for us, and a missed opportunity for the state of Texas. Read more
October 22, 2018
Early voting starts today! Make sure you’re prepared to vote
Find your polling place. Conveniently, registered and eligible voters may vote at ANY early voting location within their county of residence. Check here to see a list of early voting locations
Make a plan to get to the polls. Put voting on your schedule so you can set aside the time to go. While you’re at it,
Think about anyone you may know who might have trouble getting out to vote. Can you offer to carpool with a friend or neighbor who otherwise might not get to the polls?
Check out our sample ballot tool customized with our endorsed candidates. We select candidates solely on their record and stance on public education, irrespective of party.
October 15, 2018
Lack of funding hurting public schools in Texas
Writing in the Houston Chronicle, David DeMatthews and David S. Knight claim that Texan lawmakers are failing to adequately finance public education, and communities and students are suffering the academic, physical and economic consequences. With a preliminary budget request from the Texas Education Agency projecting a $3.5 billion decline in state funding over the next few years, they call for elected leaders to be held more accountable for making substantial improvements in the next legislative session. Houston Chronicle article
October 11, 2018
How badly Texas funds public education
Ross Ramsey details data published in the Texas legislature’s “Fiscal Size-Up: 2018-19 Biennium” report, which tracks what local, state and federal taxpayers have been contributing to public education in Texas over the past decade. Texas is spending 18.9% less per student now ($7,983), in constant dollars with inflation factored out, than it was in 2010 ($9,845), the report reveals, while the state’s share of public education spending has dropped from 37.6% of the total to 35% of the total projected for the 2019 budget. Federal contributions have dropped from 16.4% of the total to 9.5% in 2019, while the local share, part-funded by property taxes, has risen from 46.1% in 2010 to 55.5% now. To keep the state and local shares at about 45% each, Ramsey notes, state lawmakers would have to find $9 billion for the next two-year budget.
October 9, 2018
Today is the last day to register to vote!
Get a printable voter registration application here. Your application must be postmarked today. You can also apply in person at your county voter registrar’s office. Make certain you can #VoteEducationFirst this November!
October 5, 2018
SBEC adopts TSTA-recommended rule change to Chapter 228.35(c)
When the State Board of Education rejected proposed changes to SBEC rules in Chapter 228, it did so based on testimony from TSTA and the other education organizations. During its testimony, TSTA recommended going back to the original rule change proposed at the March SBEC meeting. At its October 5 meeting, SBEC concurred and agree to the change, which now goes back to SBOE.
SBEC rule changes in 19 TAC Chapter 228, specifically 228.35(c), sought to establish an expedited pathway to certification for Health Science, Marketing, and Trade/Industrial Workforce (T/IW) Training. The rule also allowed providers other than recognized educator preparation programs (EPPs) to this certification training. This changed, which occurred at the May SBEC meeting, represented a significant movement away from legislative intent, which limited it to T/IW programs, limited education preparation programs in this area to EPPS.
The new rule language limits the scope of the rule to on the T/IW training certificate and provides for only SBEC-recognized educator preparation programs to provide the training and preparation.
TSTA opposed this section of Chapter 228 rule at both the SBEC and SBOE meetings for three primary reasons:
- The proposed language exceeded legislative intent;
- It expanded the expedited certification to areas that allow holders of the expedited certificate to “test” in to other areas of certification that typically require more preparation; and
- It expanded authority to provide the training and preparation to providers outside the scope of SBEC supervision and accountability.
October 3, 2018
Maps show how neighborhoods shape children for life
The research has shown that where children live matters deeply in whether they prosper as adults. On Monday the Census Bureau, in collaboration with researchers at Harvard and Brown, published nationwide data that will make it possible to pinpoint — down to the census tract, a level relevant to individual families — where children of all backgrounds have the best shot at getting ahead. Read more
September 26, 2018
Today, the Texas Commission on Public School Finance met to discuss the recommendations of the Expenditures Working Group (EWG). The EWG recommended updating multiple weights and allotments, and also suggested a few new weights and allotments. The EWG recommended that the state of Texas increase funding for public education, but that was met with stern disapproval from many on the Commission.
Commissioner Morath testified that property values are up 10% over last year’s values, and suggested that the increase in local revenue means the state can pay less for educating the 5.4 million public school students in Texas. Several Commission members agreed with Morath that local property revenues should be used instead of state revenue to fund public education.
As expected, it appears the Commission will offer no intelligent solutions to the public school finance quagmire that the legislature created.
September 25, 2018
Today is National Voter Registration Day
Now is a good time to make sure you are registered to vote. The voter registration deadline in Texas is Oct. 9.
September 21, 2018
TRS board keeps retirees’ premiums for TRS-Care unchanged
The TRS Board of Trustees met today to discuss premiums and plan design for TRS Care for the upcoming plan year. Previously, TRS predicted the Care fund balance would be negative $410 million at the end of 2021. To pay for this negative fund balance, during the last legislative session, the legislature directed TRS to stair-step the premium increases on retirees by $50 per year over the next four years. Since the session, however, TRS was able to negotiate a better rate with Humana, and along with program cost savings, the new projected fund balance at the end of 2021 was projected to drop to negative $238 million. Because of the new numbers, TRS staff was able to recommend to the Board that no changes be made to the Care plan. The Board agreed, and, therefore made no changes to the Care plan, meaning there will be no premium increases, and plan and pharmacy benefits will remain the same as the current year. At earlier Board meetings, TSTA appeared and requested the Board freeze premiums in the Care program due to the hardship that increased premiums would bring to retirees. TSTA is thankful to the Board for listening and responding to our requests. Stay tuned for more TRS updates before the next legislative session.
September 18, 2018
NEA reopens its hurricane relief page for Florence
Today NEA released the following statement from President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
By now, we are all beginning to see the extent of the damage from Hurricane Florence. It has ravaged communities in the Carolinas and Virginia, leaving behind a trail of pain and loss. The huge, slow-moving tropical storm has caused 32 deaths, and additional fatalities are feared as floodwaters fill more streets and homes. Although its hurricane-force winds are gone, catastrophic flooding, widespread power outages, and overall disruption are compounding the hardship.
In the spirit of solidarity and compassion, please visit our Hurricane Resources and Relief web page (nea.org/hurricanerelief) and contribute to the NEA Member Benefits’ Disaster Relief Fund for NEA members. You were so very generous last year after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. I know I can count on the NEA family once again to open your hearts to those in desperate need of our help.
In many communities, our members will need ongoing contributions and support to make it through this difficult time. They need to know we are here for them, and that we share their sorrow and empathize with their pain.
Let us keep all affected members and communities in our thoughts and prayers. Our compassion and generous donations will help restore their hope that tomorrow will be better.
In solidarity, Lily
September 12, 2018
H-E-B accepting nominations for the 2019 Excellence in Education Awards
H-E-B is now accepting nominations for educators to apply for the 2019 H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards. Each year, these awards highlight a variety of educators who go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of their students and communities. Nominations can be submitted online through Oct. 22, 2018.
September 5, 2018
Today, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Education met to hear invited testimony on TRS Care funding. TSTA appeared and testified as follows:
TRS Care has a funding problem. Care funding is linked with active teacher payroll, which has no relation to the cost of health care. TSTA believes the Legislature needs to address this issue during the next session. Basing Care funding on an agreed-upon base level, and then linking Care funding to a health care cost inflation index means funding will automatically rise with increasing health care costs.
Recently, the TRS Board voted to lower the assumed rate of return from 8.0% to 7.25%. Lowering the assumed rate of return to 7.25% means that, unless contribution rates increase by 1.82% ($786 million), the unfunded liability of the fund will jump from $35.5 billion to $45.9 billion, and the funding period will jump from 33 years to 86 years. This is significant because the increased funding period means that retirees could potentially face decades without a cost of living increase, decreasing their buying power, especially in the healthcare market.
This is a multifaceted problem: there is the funding issue with Care, and the Pension Trust Fund is going to need a shot in the arm if our retirees are ever going to receive a much-needed cost of living increase. Although our retirees have access to health care through TRS, if they can’t afford to pay for that health care, that is paramount to not having access to health care. Our retirees are being squeezed on both ends of this issue.
For years, retirees have been asked to do more with less. Our retired teachers deserve better from the State of Texas. TSTA asks that this body look into a viable, permanent solution for TRS Care funding.