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February 16, 2018

TEA extends deadline for special ed survey

In response to US Department of Education report that found grave shortcomings in TEA's compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, TEA has proposed an initial plan to address the DOE's concerns. TEA is soliciting feedback on the plan through a survey, the deadline of which has been extended to February 20, 2018.


February 6, 2018

Nearly half of all Texas students are enrolled in a teacher certification-exempt district

According to a communication from the commissioner of education to the Legislature, half of Texas' public school students are enrolled in districts that have used District of Innovation provisions to exempt themselves from teacher certification requirements.


January 26, 2018

TSTA testifies in opposition to proposed TEA charter school rules

TSTA representative John Grey submitted testimony at the Texas Education Agency this morning against a proposed rules change that TSTA believes oversteps TEA's legal authority.

The proposal would affect the statutes allowing for a school district to enter into a contract with a charter school to provide educational services to students. TSTA believes the commissioner does not have the legal right to require that school districts confer "enhanced authority" to the charter school as a condition of using this option. TSTA also believes that the proposed change fails to include language addressing current employment contracts and agreements for employees at charter school campuses.


January 25, 2018

SBOE seeks public input on long-range plan for public education

The State Board of Education is soliciting public feedback to inform their development of long-term goals for public education. The board has published an online survey in both English and Spanish that will be available until March 2.


January 23, 2018

Can leaders improve the Texas school finance system?

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance conducted its first meeting of the interim with a brief update of the school finance legal framework, a report on the student population from Lloyd Potter, Texas State Demographer, and a discussion of educational outcomes and correlation to funding from Commissioner Mike Morath, Texas Education Agency.

Read TSTA's full report here.


January 22, 2018

School finance panel to hold first meeting tomorrow

The Commission on Public School Finance, a panel created by the passage of HB21 last session, will have its first meeting in Austin tomorrow at 10am.

The panel is made up of members chosen by House Speaker Joe Straus, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education agency. The meeting is open to the public, but will only hear invited testimony.

TEA will livestream the event. You can view the agenda here.


January 16, 2018

Show us the money

Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria released the following statement
on Gov. Abbott’s latest property tax proposal. Read press release

Louisiana teacher hopes her arrest will empower others

Deyshia Hargrave, a Louisiana teacher, was handcuffed and arrested at a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting last week after she questioned the district's decision to renew their superintendent's contract and give him a raise.

Authorities will not pursue charges against Hargrave, a middle school English teacher, but the intent was clearly to cow educators into silence. At a rally in support of Hargrave on Thursday, she said she hoped she would inspire people to show up to their local meetings, and her students to stand up for what they think is right.

You can add your name to the Louisiana Association of Educators’ petition supporting Hargrave here.


January 11, 2018

Federal government concludes that Texas cap on special ed enrollment violated federal law

The U.S. Department of Education has concluded that Texas violated federal law by imposing an arbitrary cap on special education enrollments, depriving untold thousands of students of the special education services to which they were legally entitledThe cap was lifted by the Legislature last year. Read more


January 8, 2018

NEA releases new suite of early career educator tools

Today NEA is releasing a new site called School Me, an expansion of their support for early career educators. The site features blog posts, podcasts and videos from a diverse group of NEA members, covering everything from classroom management tips to handling parent meetings.


January 3, 2018

SBOE and SBEC host free teacher recruitment conference

The State Board of Education and the State Board for Educator Certification will host a free, one-day conference titled Learning Roundtable: Recruiting, Preparing, and Retaining Top Teachers on January 31.

The event will be held at the Austin Convention Center. Keynote speakers are Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion, and Peter Dewitt, author of Collaborative Leadership: Six Influences that Matter Most.


December 15, 2017

UPDATE: TEA ends no-bid special ed contract

Following pushback from education activists, including TSTA, the Texas Education Agency is retracting its contract with a Georgia data mining firm.

New special ed controversy erupts over no-bid TEA contract for student data

Special education teachers, parents and advocates were caught by surprise with news that the Texas Education Agency earlier this year entered into a no-bid, $4.4 million contract with SPEDx, a Georgia company that has been in business for only a year, to analyze as many as 350,000 individualized education plans for Texas special ed students. These IEPs include confidential medical, academic and family information, a fact that has raised concerns and suspicions among many families and advocates.

It also is unclear who will have access to the information. Will corporate charter chains, for example, be invited to mine the data?

Although TEA has sought to assure student families that personal information will be protected from disclosure, at least two advocacy groups have asked TEA to stop the project. School district participation is optional, and about 170 districts have signed up to participate. Austin ISD has declined to join them, and Eanes ISD in Austin has dropped out of the project because of the public concerns.

This controversy comes on the heels the recent firing a new TEA special education director, who was terminated, the agency said, because she failed to disclose allegations that she tried to cover up the sexual abuse of a student while working in Oregon. The former director’s lawyer said she did notify TEA about the Oregon allegations and that the director was fired because she asked the U.S. Department of Education to investigate the SPEDx no-bid contract.


December 13, 2017

Texas charter school system suffers low graduation rates

Texas students in charter schools are not necessarily faring better than their peers in traditional public schools, reports the Intercultural Development Research Association, an independent non-profit. With significantly lower graduation rates and lower accountability ratings reported by the Texas Education Agency, the state’s planned expansion of charter schools is troubling.


December 8, 2017

SBEC declines to ease superintendent certification standards

The State Board of Educator Certification defeated a proposal to weaken the superintendent certification standards by a 3-4 vote today.

The proposal, which TSTA opposed, would have allowed a school district to hire someone not certified as a superintendent. That new hire would subsequently have to attend a TEA-approved program and pass the appropriate exam.

TSTA testified in opposition to this motion, which would have created a fifth pathway to the superintendent's certification, arguing the potentially harmful impact this would have on children and educators.


December 7, 2017

School report cards released

TEA released this years' academic accountability rankings on its website today. Every parent or guardian of a child enrolled in a Texas public school will receive a copy of their student's campus report from their local school district.

The rankings, required by the Texas Legislature and prepared by TEA, survey several metrics for each school campus in Texas, including:

  • Campus distinction designations
  • Attendence rates
  • Enrollment figures
  • Drop-out rates
  • Class size averages
  • STAAR testing results
  • Per-student financial expenditures

December 5, 2017

Special Ed parents protest state sharing private records

When Texas public schools teach children with disabilities, educators are required to keep detailed records that are highly confidential. They are records the Texas Education Agency is now asking hundreds of school districts around the state to share with a private, year-old, Georgia based company known as SPEDx. Read more


November 29, 2017

SBOE approves first ethnic studies material

The State Board of Education in November approved the first state-adopted instructional material for use in an ethnic studies course. A Holocaust memoir called Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin at Auschwitz won the board’s approval. Read more

School funding down nationwide, reports CBPP

Public investment in K-12 schools — crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity — has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade, writes the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in a report released today. Texas ranks sixth on the list of largest declines in per pupil spending between 2008 and 2015.


November 27, 2017

Independent review lauds San Antonio PreK program

Pre-K 4 SA students exceed the national norm in kindergarten readiness according to an independent evaluation of students. For the fourth straight year, Pre-K 4 SA students surpassed averages in cognitive, literacy and mathematics despite beginning the year significantly below average.


November 17, 2017

Governor announces appointments to TRS board, names chair

Governor Abbott announced three new appointments to the TRS board, one of whom is also now the chair. Jarvis V. Hollingsworth, the new chair; James “Dick” Nance; and Nanette Sissney will all be sworn in in time to attend the next board meeting on December 14-15.


November 15, 2017

TEA releases 2017 state accountability results

The Texas Education Agency released the final 2017 state academic accountability ratings for more than 1,200 school districts and charters and more than 8,600 campuses. The final ratings include the results of an appeals process that provides districts and charters an opportunity to contest preliminary ratings.

Preliminary state accountability ratings were announced by TEA in August. The Texas Education Code requires the commissioner of education to provide a process for districts and charters to challenge their accountability ratings. School district appeals are reviewed by an independent appeals panel before being sent to the commissioner for a final decision.


November 14, 2017

Students’ beliefs about their brains drive learning

Responding to the need to look beyond test scores to measure school quality, an increasing number of school districts are striving to incorporate socio-emotional learning measures in their accountability policies. Growth mindset – believing that intelligence and talent can change – is one of these measures. Read more

American Education Week

This week, we celebrate our great public schools and the educators who work every day to help our students succeed. Read more


November 13, 2017

Enrollment of students in special ed programs surges

The Houston Chronicle reports that in the 2016-17 school year, 477,281 students received special education services, an increase of about 14,000 students compared to the previous school year. That's about 8.9 percent of Texas students receiving special education resources, according to the latest data from the state's Public Education Information Management System. Read more


SBOE to host community meeting in El Paso

The State Board of Education is crafting a new long-range plan for public education and is hosting a series of communty meetings around the state to gather information from the public.

The next meeting will be 6:30 to 8:30pm, Thursday, November 2, at the El Paso Community College Administration Building Auditorium at 9050 Viscount Blvd.

During this free event, participants will discuss four broad topics. Those are:

  • Equity and access to funding, advanced courses and technology
  • Educator preparation, recruitment and retention
  • Family engagement and empowerment
  • Student engagement and empowerment

October 30, 2017

Port Arthur Teachers Association distributes Harvey donations

The Port Arthur Teachers Association, many of whose members suffered storm-related losses of their own, distributed school supplies, backpacks and other items to more than 100 students whose families are still recovering from extensive flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

The event, attended by Port Arthur ISD Superintendent Mark Porterie, was held Oct. 28 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Some of the supplies were donated in the Port Arthur community, and others were donated by TSTA headquarters staff in Austin and the Southwest Austin Pop Warner youth football league. Supplementing the school supplies was a donation of 100 backpacks from backpacks.com.

TSTA President Noel Candelaria praised Port Arthur educators for taking the time from their families’ own storm-recovery chores to help out their students. And he commended the backpack company for its generosity to children in need.

“Our Port Arthur members reminded us that even during times of personal adversity, educators are always looking out for the best interests of their students,” Candelaria said.

“We also are extremely grateful to Backpacks.com for its generous contribution of backpacks to school children who were displaced by Hurricane Harvey. A good backpack is an essential piece of equipment for most school kids, and these are even more important for children whose lives were uprooted by the disaster. It will help them return to a sense of normalcy.”

Antoinette Motley Carpenter, the Port Arthur Teachers Association president, who was forced to evacuate her own house during the Harvey flooding and is still dealing with repairs, called on the state to waive the STAAR tests for school districts in the storm area and use the money saved from testing to help repair school facilities.

“Standardized testing interferes with real teaching and learning. It should not be placed above the lives of students and educators who are working to recover from the most traumatic experience that most of us will ever encounter,” she said.

TSTA distributed about 950 grants totaling more than $235,000 from the TSTA/NEA Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to members who suffered personal losses or whose schools suffered losses during the storm.


October 26, 2017

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus says he will not seek re-election

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election. He did not rule out running for higher office. Read more


October 25, 2017

Lieutenant Governor releases second set of interim charges

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has released new charges for the Legislative interim. There are seven related specifically to primary education, as well as charges dealing with higher ed and pensions. TSTA will be closely monitoring these committee hearings, which typically include public testimony.


October 24, 2017

Foundation announces American Kids Create, a nationwide art and illustration program

American Kids Create grew out of Colorado Kids Create, a five year old program that encourages creativity in students and generates funding for art programming in schools. Students age 5-18 can enter a drawing contest and illustrate books about America and win great prizes. The books are sold on Amazon with 100% of book sale profit going towards art scholarships. It’s about young artists helping other young artists while sharing and developing their own talents.


October 23, 2017

TEA, Texas PBS and United Ways of Texas launch Start Smart Texas

Start Smart Texas builds on national research to empower parents to help with their child's educational success. The goal of this initiative is to empower parents with thips that inspire positive interactions between caregiver and child to promote healthy brain development, early literacy and reading skills.


October 11, 2017

State task force to address mental health needs in wake of Harvey

State Education Commissioner Mike Morath today announced the creation of the Hurricane Harvey Task Force on School Mental Health Supports to assist educators, students and families impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Read more


September 27, 2017

Charters are still lagging behind traditional public schools

Anyone who still thinks charter schools are the “silver bullet” for Texas education may want to read a new report from former Texas State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff. After 20 years as part of Texas’ educational landscape, charters, as a whole, are still under-performing traditional public schools with higher dropout rates and lower graduation rates and test scores. They also admit fewer students in special education, career and technical education and gifted and talented programs than traditional public schools. Ratliff, who compiled his findings from TEA data, asks, “How long do we have to wait for the charters to fulfill their promise of improving student learning,” compared to the ISDs that educate EVERY child who walks in the door? Read more


September 26, 2017

Disaster unemployment assistance

The deadline to file for Disaster Unemployment Assistance has been extended to October 31, 2017, for the 39 disaster-declared counties.

If your employment has been impacted by Hurricane Harvey, you should file a claim for Disaster Unemployment Assistance with the Texas Workforce Commission immediately. Claims can be filed online at http://www.twc.state.tx.us/jobseekers/disaster-unemployment-assistance. You can also file a claim by telephone at 1-800-939-6631. (The TTY number is 1-800-735-2989.)

The Texas Workforce Commission press release announcing the new deadline and listing the 39 counties is accessible on their website along with a TWC informational flyer in English and Spanish.

You can find more information at http://www.twc.state.tx.us/hurricane-harvey-resources.


September 21, 2017

TEA releases a suite of Harvey-related communications

In the past few days, TEA has released a series of communications addressed to school administrators dealing with concerns and issues schools may be facing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Links below.

Procurement guidance for schools affected by Hurricane Harvey

Instructional materials concerns related to Hurricane Harvey

Requirements for campuses operating over capacity because of Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey and impact of federal funds: Guidance, FAQ, and waiver requests

More TEA correspondence


September 20, 2017

Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission conducting educator survey

The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, established in 2009, is seeking educator input in order to develop meaningful, age-appropriate materials and lessons that engage students across the state in the study of the Holocaust and the genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan (Darfur), and the Middle East (Iraq and Syria).

THGC has developed a brief, anonymous survey for the purpose of examining more closely how the Holocaust and genocides are being taught, and what gaps in curriculum and practice still need to be filled. THGC is interested in the experiences and opinions of educators as they work on ways to improve their support.

If you are a grade 5 through 12 teacher, please consider taking the THGC survey. The username is thgc and the password is 2009. The survey will be available until October 5.


September 19, 2017

TEA releases parent portal access for STAAR

TEA has created the ability for teachers to access the online site with sample reports that a parent would see for their child. Their goal is to allow teachers to see the information provided on the site, so they can help guide parents who may have questions.


September 12, 2017

Proposed amendments to the Texas state constitution

The state will hold a general election on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 where voters will consider seven proposed amendments to the Texas state constitution.

The House Research Organization has published its biennial analysis of the proposed amendments. The report can be viewed online.


September 8, 2017

Save DACA

Background

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other state attorneys general threatened to sue the federal government over the constitutionality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Sept. 5, creating an artificial crisis that led to the Trump administration’s cruel and foolish decision to rescind DACA. The DACA program has allowed 120,000 law-abiding, productive young Texans to contribute their talents and their taxes to our great state. The order will go into effect in six months with a two year “phase in,” which could give Congress time to address the issue, provided DACA youth do not become “bargaining chips” in negotiations on other controversial issues.

Talking Points

  • The “Dreamers” were brought to the United States as infants or young children. They did not choose to come here, and their adopted country is the only home they have ever known.
  • These young people have studied and achieved here, fought in our military and they love our country. They want and deserve to remain here.
  • Approximately 2,000 Dreamers are now teaching in Texas classrooms —to give their students access to the American Dream. At a time when Texas has a teacher shortage and a majority of Texas students are Hispanic, these teachers have a unique ability to connect with our students and show them the importance of education. Our DACAmented teachers are an example of what is best about America.
  • Rescinding DACA would do hundreds of billions of dollars in damage to the U.S. economy, according to leaders of Fortune 500 companies. More than 90 percent of DACA recipients are currently employed, and their employers include at least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies.
  • We urge Congress to act quickly to reauthorize the DACA program and remove the uncertainty plaguing the lives of 800,000 law-abiding, productive young people, including more than 100,000 Texans. To end this very successful program and make these young people subject to deportation would be cruel and short-sighted.
  • Our Dreamers contribute to our nation’s prosperity and successful future. Ending DACA isn’t about national security. It is about mean-spirited politics and foolishly pandering to fear.

August 31, 2017

TSTA/NEA activate Hurricane Harvey relief fund

TSTA and NEA are now accepting donations to the Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund to help TSTA and NEA members displaced by the storm and to assist the schools where they work. These educators have the double task of rebuilding their own lives as well as helping rebuild the lives of their displaced students.

Tax-deductible donations can be made by going to this link and scrolling down to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund: http://www.neafoundation.org/donate/.

TSTA President Noel Candelaria said early estimates indicate at least 20 to 30 percent of TSTA members have been adversely affected by the storm. Some have been forced to flee from their homes, and some teach and work in schools that are expected to be closed for the foreseeable future.

“This recovery will not happen overnight,” Candelaria said. “We can’t predict how long many of our TSTA and NEA sisters and brothers will be out of work or unable to move back into their homes. In many cases, their financial costs will be huge. Hurricane Harvey may fade from the headlines, but your continued support will help our members get through the long haul.”

“As educators, our top priority is our students, and in the aftermath of Harvey, we will work with our members, students and their families to rebuild homes and classrooms to make sure we all have a safe place to live, to learn, and to prosper,” he added.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said: “All of us can play a role in rebuilding the lives of those impacted by this storm, standing strong for our members and mending communities. On behalf of affected NEA members, thank you for your prayers and generosity. We will help our sisters and brothers find their way to brighter days and be their anchor through this storm.”

More counties eligible for hurricane aid

The NEA Member Benefits Disaster Relief Program has been expanded to additional counties. NEA MB is now ready to provide resources to TSTA members and affliates affected by Hurricane Harvey in 29 counties: Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad,  Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Victoria, Waller and Wharton.

NEA Member Benefits partner responds to Hurricane Harvey

California Casualty released the following statement regarding policyholders affected by the hurricane:

If you are a TSTA Member and California Casualty policyholder who has been affected by Hurricane Harvey, please report a claim online at: http://www.calcas.com/report-a-claim or call us at 1.800.800.9410. We hope you're okay.


August 28, 2017

NEA help available for Harvey victims

NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to Hurricane Harvey. TSTA members and affiliates in the following counties who are storm victims are eligible for assistance: Aransas, Bee,  Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Kleberg, Liberty, Nueces, Matagorda, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Wharton.

NEA MB and its business partners are ready to assist with recovery by providing resources. For more information, click here: https://www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm.


August 28, 2017

TRS releases generic medication list

The attached pdf is a list of generic medications that will be offered at no cost to retirees in the TRS Care Standard Plan.


August 16, 2017

TSTA Special Session Wrap Up—August 16, 2017

The first and hopefully only special session is over!

Please see TSTA President Noel Candelaria’s statement at the end of this wrap up.

The special session ended last night after the House was forced to adopt the inadequately funded Senate version of HB21, the $1.8 billion House-approved school finance bill that was cut to $351 million by the Senate. The inability to pass a meaningful school finance bill was the most glaring failure of the special session. The Senate did include an additional $212 million for TRS Care in HB21, funding that was approved in separate legislation by both the House and Senate. These funds will be used to reduce the impact of rising health care costs in the health insurance program for retired teachers. The House passed the bill before adjourning “sine die” and ending the special session.

Some legislators who were involved in the House-Senate negotiations discreetly indicated that the Senate was not interested in finding common ground on school finance or property tax reform, the final issues being negotiated. The House did send the Senate a property tax reform bill that would have automatically triggered a rollback election if a local government entity increased property taxes by 6% or more, but Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick insisted on a 4% trigger and described the bill as “cutting” property taxes, a blatant misrepresentation. Instead of working to resolve these issues, it appears that Patrick wanted to use the special session for political reasons and not what’s best for Texas. Meanwhile, students, educators and local taxpayers were left without adequate state funding again, despite the best efforts of House members from both political parties to enact a meaningful school finance bill.

The Governor has not decided whether he will call another special session to address property tax reform (again, these bills do not cut property taxes) or when such a session would be called.

What you can do now: Vote Education. When we vote, we must consider the candidate’s record on education. Elections have consequences, and it’s time for educators to Vote Education.

TRS Care funding approved

The legislature appropriated $212 million for TRS Care in HB21, funding that was approved in separate legislation by both the House and Senate. These funds will be used to reduce the impact of rising health care costs in the health insurance program for retired teachers.

SB7, payroll dues deduction ban, defeated in the House

Senate Bill 7 passed the Senate early in the special session, but it lacked enough support in the House State Affairs Committee to warrant a hearing. Nonetheless, proponents of the bill tried three times to pass amendments to other bills that could have halted payroll deduction. The first two amendment efforts were ruled non-germane, but a vote was taken on Rep. Bill Zedler’s amendment to require a study commission to look into the impact of providing payroll dues deduction for educators. The Zedler amendment was defeated on a bipartisan 78-49 vote.

SB3 and HB253, ESA and Tax Credit Scholarship voucher bills defeated in the House

SB3 passed the Senate early in the special session, but it lacked support in the House, where votes in the regular session indicated a super majority opposed vouchers. TSTA and our Coalition for Public Schools allies have now defeated every voucher proposal in the past 22 years.

Gutted HB21 school finance bill approved and sent to the governor

After the Senate refused to provide significant funds for public education, a very disappointed House approved the Senate version of HB21 before adjourning to end the special session.

  • The House version of House Bill 21 added about $220 per pupil in the basic allotment, enough to benefit every school district and every child. The House-passed TRS Care bill appropriated $212 million for TRS Care. The total House appropriation for HB20 and HB21 was $2.012 billion.
  • The final version of HB21 includes charter facilities funding and totals only $351 million in addition to TRS Care funding. A majority of school districts would get no additional funding from the Senate version of HB21.
  • For the first time, the state provided $60 million for open-enrollment charter school facilities funding.

“Bathroom bill” dies in the House

The discriminatory and economically threatening “bathroom bill” also died in the House as a result of vigorous opposition from educators, civil rights activists, law enforcement officials, and major Texas CEOs who saw the bill as a dangerously misguided and brazenly political appeal to address a problem that does not exist.

Abbott’s, Patrick’s most harmful missed opportunity 

TSTA President Noel Candelaria issued the following statement regarding the end of the special session.

The singular failure of the recent special session was Governor Abbott’s and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s refusal to support the effort by Texas House leaders to address the woefully inadequate level of state funding for our local public schools.

Abbott and Patrick like to talk about property tax relief, but their failure to provide additional state funding for public schools is responsible for property tax increases in community after community across our great state. When the late Mark White was governor, the state share of education funding was 67 percent. Just a decade ago, the state share was nearly 50 percent. Today, it is 38 percent and falling faster than the president’s poll numbers. Local property taxpayers are forced to make up the difference, while teachers have to spend hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket to provide supplies for their classrooms.

The House passed a solid plan to provide an additional $1.8 billion for public schools, and Dan Patrick’s Senate said no. Our children deserve better. Educators deserve better. Local taxpayers deserve better. But Abbott and Patrick turned their backs on them. They also are out of step with most Texas voters.

Recent polling by TSTA shows that most Texas voters believe the state should increase school funding. Seventy-nine percent believe the state “should provide additional funds for schools to provide relief for rising property taxes,” and by a 56 to 39 percent margin, Republican primary voters support “using some of the Rainy Day Fund for public schools.”

Instead, the governor and the lieutenant governor peddled discrimination and threatened our economy with the failed bathroom bill and dangled the false promise of property tax “relief” with Senate Bill 1. SB1 was not and is not a property tax cut. Neither the Senate version nor the House version of SB1 would have taken a dime off anyone’s property tax bill.

Sadly, Abbott and Patrick deliberately missed their opportunity to provide real property tax relief to Texans by refusing to support the House’s school finance bill. As Speaker Straus correctly pointed out, you can’t reduce local property taxes without addressing school finance. More importantly, we cannot prepare our children for a prosperous future unless other state leaders join the effort to provide every child the opportunity to study and learn in a great public school.


August 16, 2017

TRS Care

During the special session, the legislature appropriated $212 million for TRS Care to reduce the impact of rising health care costs on retired teachers. Here are the details.


August 15, 2017

2017 Accountability Ratings

TEA released the 2017 accountability ratings today. To see how your district and campus rated, read more.

TSTA Special Session Update—August 15, 2017

The special session updates focus on major education bills coming up for votes.

Act on Action Alerts now before special session ends

When you use Action Alert to send an email to your legislator’s office it does make a difference. Please check your email and your voice mails to contact your legislators in a timely manner.

You made a difference: House defeats attempt to have school finance commission address payroll dues deduction

Yesterday afternoon, Rep. Bill Zedler filed an amendment to Senate Bill 16, which would create a 15-member school finance study commission, with five members appointed by the governor, five by the lieutenant governor and five by the House speaker. Zedler’s amendment would have required the commission to study the financial impact of payroll dues deduction. Unlike two previous attempts to bring a payroll deduction amendment to the floor on other legislation, Zedler’s amendment was considered germane and came up for a floor vote. Although a study commission would not have eliminated payroll deduction now, two-thirds of this commission would be appointed by Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, both of whom favor elimination of payroll deduction for public employees.

The Zedler amendment was the first time the full House had voted on payroll deduction and it was defeated on a bipartisan 78-49 vote. Two key Republican committee chairs strongly opposed the amendment, along with House Democratic leaders. A number of members were absent or in end-of-session negotiations when the vote was taken and we believe we would have had at least 90 votes if all members had been present.

The outcome of this vote was the result of efforts that date back to the 2016 primary elections, and includes your emails and calls, a coordinated Unity Table coalition, support from other education organizations, polling and messaging that was shared with the House leadership, and hundreds of meetings with individual legislators that prepared them to make winning arguments during floor debate.

Senate approves an inadequately funded version of HB21 that includes both school finance and TRS Care

We’re down to the final two days of the special session and a new version of HB21 was approved by the Senate last night. The Senate-passed version provides only $351 million in additional state funds for education and $212 million to help reduce the drastic out of pocket cost increases in the TRS Care health insurance program for retired teachers. The original version of HB21 as passed by the House provided $1.8 billion for public schools and separate legislation, HB20, provided $212 million for TRS Care. Now a conference committee will try to hash out the differences.

  • The House version of House Bill 21 added about $220 per pupil in the basic allotment, enough to benefit every school district and every child. The House-passed TRS Care bill appropriated $212 million for TRS Care. The total House appropriation for HB20 and HB21 was $2.012 billion.
  • The Senate version of HB21 includes charter facilities funding and totals only $563 million, and that includes TRS Care funding. A majority of school districts would get no additional funding from the Senate version of HB21. 
  • For TRS Care, the $212 million would cut the scheduled deductible increases in half.
  • The only education funding increases approved by the Senate are the following items.
    • $150 million for a Hardship Grant Program for ASATR districts that face extreme shortfalls under the current school finance plan. The House version of HB21 would have provided sufficient funds to eliminate this need.
    • $60 million for the Existing Debt Allotment for traditional public schools.
    • $60 million for Open-Enrollment Charter School Facilities Funding. The Senate did add an amendment intended to restrict this funding to facilities only, an accountability measure that was not included in the version approved by the Senate Education Committee. This provision was not in the House bill.
    • $41 million for the first year of a six-year phase-in of the Small District Adjustment.
    • $20 million for autism grants.
    • $20 million for dyslexia grants.
  • Both bills are paid for by deferring some existing budget payments into the next budget cycle, a longstanding accounting practice. The Senate defers Medicaid payments. The House defers Foundation School Fund payments for education spending but used the Rainy Day Fund to pay for TRS Care.
  • Both the House and the Senate have also approved a school finance study commission in SB16, an item requested by the Governor.

Comptroller increases revenue estimate

State Comptroller Glen Hegar revised his revenue estimate, predicting an additional $195 million will be available during the current fiscal biennium. This additional funding can be used to fund HB21, the school finance bill.

Vouchers

As expected, there has been no action on any vouchers.

What You Can Do

Our job is to focus our legislators’ attention on education issues. Other items—like the bathroom bill—are on the governor’s list and are likely to draw more attention. But the only two issues that a majority of voters believe are “very important” are additional state funding for public schools and cutting local property taxes, and you can’t do the latter without the former.

  • Personally contact your legislator on behalf of your local, and report what they say.
  • Gather a group to meet with your legislator, and report what they say to those who attended.
  • Be on the lookout for Action Alerts to call and email your legislator.

August 14, 2017

TSTA Special Session Update — August 14, 2017

The special session updates focus on major education bills coming up for votes. 

Act on Action Alerts now before special session ends

When you send an Action Alert email to your legislator’s office it does make a difference. Please check your email and your voice mails to contact your legislators in a timely manner. 

School finance and TRS Care legislation still stuck in House-Senate negotiations 

We’re down to the final three days of the special session and legislation to provide funds to address the TRS Care crisis and provide additional state dollars for local schools is stuck in negotiations between the Senate and the House. The Legislature met Saturday and Sunday and here’s where we stand this morning.

  • The House-passed version of House Bill 21 would provide an additional $1.8 billion for public schools, adding about $220 per pupil in the basic allotment. 
  • The Senate cut HB21 funding by $1.5 billion to $311 million.
  • Both bills are paid for by deferring some existing budget payments into the next budget cycle, a longstanding accounting practice. However, some Senators act like the House bill deferment is so bad that the bill must be cut, even though the Senate is doing the same thing. 
  • Bottom line: the Senate wants a school finance study without providing enough additional funding to benefit all schools. Negotiations continue, and the Senate Education Chair is hinting they might be willing to spend $800 million. 
  • Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee cut the HB30 budget bill to $311 million—but it could be amended on the Senate floor or in a conference committee if a deal were reached. 
  • On TRS Care, both the House and the Senate passed bills that provided $212 million to reduce the increased cost of health care (premiums and deductibles) for retired teachers, but they disagree about how the funds would be provided. In HB20, the House paid for TRS Care funds from the Rainy Day Fund and the Senate’s SB19 used a deferral of Medicaid payments to provide TRS Care funds. The TRS Care issue may have become entangled in the school finance disagreement. Prospects for a real teacher pay raise, this year, appear bleak unless the full $1.8 billion of additional funds is approved. 

Vouchers

There was no action on any voucher proposals this week and the Senate has not yet added a voucher amendment to House Bill 21, the school finance bill. The House remains solidly opposed to vouchers 

Payroll Due Deduction Ban: another end run thwarted

On Saturday, Rep. Jason Isaac filed an amendment to SB1, the property tax reform bill that said a local taxing jurisdiction could not increase its tax rate if the local government allowed payroll dues deduction for unions and professional organizations. The TSTA lobby team and our Unity Table allies were on alert and worked with House members of both parties to make sure the amendment would have been subject to a point of order and considered “not germane” to the bill, so it was not offered for a vote. Thanks to quick and decisive action, this end run failed, and we are still on watch, though prospects for the bill grow dimmer every day. 

What You Can Do 

Our job is to focus our legislators’ attention on education issues. Other items—like the bathroom bill—are on the governor’s list and are likely to draw more attention. But the only two issues that a majority of voters believe are “very important” are additional state funding for public schools and cutting local property taxes, and you can’t do the latter without the former. 

  • Personally contact your legislator on behalf of your local, and report what they say.
  • Gather a group to meet with your legislator, and report what they say to those who attended.
  • Be on the lookout for Action Alerts to call and email your legislator. 

August 11, 2017

TSTA Special Session Update — August 11, 2017

The special session updates focus on the major education bills coming up for votes. Scores of bills have been filed in both Houses and you can find the status of those bills at: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/TSTASpecialSession2017-TrackedBills.pdf

Keep your emails and calls coming

When you send an Action Alert email or make a call to your legislator’s office it does make a difference. Please keep checking your email and your voice mails to contact your legislators in a timely manner. For talking points on major issues, contact: clayr@tsta.org

Special session is nearing an end. Negotiations underway, rumors abound

Late this week, House and Senate members, and the Governor’s office, started negotiating seriously on a number of the items being considered in the special session. The last day of the special session is next Wednesday. Both the TRS Care bill and the school funding bill are the subject of negotiations at this time. Prospects for a real teacher pay raise, this year, appear bleak. We are optimistic that the bathroom bill, vouchers and the payroll dues deduction prohibition will not pass, but it’s not over until it’s over.

School Finance: Senate committee guts funding from HB21, conference committee likely

Today, the Senate Committee on Education substituted their version of House Bill 21, the school finance bill. For the first time this year, the Senate plan does not contain a voucher provision, but it provides only an additional $311 million in funding, and $60 million of that would go to charter facilities funding. The original House plan provided an additional $1.8 billion, and would have provided additional funding for every school district in the state, a goal that the Senate plan would not meet. Here’s how the Senate plan would spend the money.

  • $150 million for a Hardship Grant Program for ASATR districts that face hardships under the current school finance plan (The House version of HB21 would have provided sufficient funds to eliminate this need).
  • $60 million for the Existing Debt Allotment for traditional public schools.
  • $60 million for Open-Enrollment Charter School Facilities Funding, but the bill would let charters spend these funds on anything, not just facilities. This provision was not in the House bill.
  • $41 million for the first year of a six-year phase in of the Small District Adjustment.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill tomorrow, setting the stage for conference committee negotiations. 

Vouchers

There was no action on any voucher proposals this week and the Senate has not yet added a voucher amendment to House Bill 21, the school finance bill. The House remains solidly opposed to vouchers, and barring a seismic shift, vouchers will not pass in the special session. 

TRS Care 

Both the House and the Senate approved $212 million in funding for TRS Care, but they differ on how to pay for it. The House paid for funding in House Bill 20 by using the Rainy Day fund. In Senate Bill 19, the Senate paid for it by deferring Medicaid payments into the next fiscal year. Negotiations are underway to resolve this impasse. 

These funds could be used to decrease the premiums and deductibles for the 2018 and 2019 plan years for enrollees in the high deductible health plans. The deductible increase caused by an inadequately funded bill in the regular session would be cut in half until a long term solution could be developed in the next legislative session. 

Teacher Pay

  • HB24, the “real pay raise” bill, has been approved by the House Appropriation Committee, but has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full House.
  • HB198, the House version of the merit pay plan being developed by commissioner Morath for the governor, has been changed to a study only.

Payroll Dues Deduction Ban: still no action in the House

The Senate-passed payroll dues deduction ban has not been heard in committee, where a majority of committee members oppose the bill. The bill would eliminate payroll deduction for TSTA employees and all city, county, and state employees except peace officers, firefighters, and EMS employees. TSTA and a coalition of public employee organizations have worked hard to defeat this bill. Just last week, the Chairman of the House Government Transparency and Operation Committee, Rep. Gary Elkins, considered an effort to tack the payroll deduction bill onto his very broad-captioned government efficiency bill, HB347. Thanks to quick and decisive action, this end run failed, and we are still on watch, though prospects for the bill grow dimmer every day. 

What You Can Do 

Our job is to focus our legislators’ attention on education issues. Other items—like the bathroom bill—are on the governor’s list and are likely to draw more attention. But the only two issues that a majority of voters believe are “very important” are additional state funding for public schools and cutting local property taxes, and you can’t do the latter without the former. 

  • Personally contact your legislator on behalf of your local, and report what they say.
  • Gather a group to meet with your legislator, and report what they say to those who attended.
  • Be on the lookout for Action Alerts to call and email your legislator.

August 10, 2017

TEA releases schedule for implementation of A-F grading system

TEA has published a timeline for the implementation of HB22, the accountability scheme that will assign an A-F grade to Texas school districts and campuses. You can find the communication, which includes an implementation schedule through summer 2018, here: http://bit.ly/2vTmhrK


August 4, 2017

TSTA Special Session Update — August 4, 2017

The special session updates focus on the major education bills coming up for votes. Scores of bills have been filed in both Houses and you can find the status of those bills at: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/TSTASpecialSession2017-TrackedBills.pdf 

Please encourage your members to respond to Action Alerts and call requests

When you send an email or make a call to your legislator’s office it does make a difference. Please check your email and your voice mails to make sure you contact your legislators in a timely manner. For talking points on major issues, contact: clayr@tsta.org 

Special session action moves to the more deliberate House this week

The Senate was out of town most of the week after they completed Dan Patrick’s race to pass to an extreme agenda that is out of touch with the priorities of a majority of Texas voters, and the special session action moved to the House. The House passed a number of important bills this week, including a $1.9 billion increase in state education funding, an increase in TRS Care funding, and special education improvements through the public school system. 

Here is a summary of Senate and House action on the major education issues. 

School finance

  • Today, the full House approved House Bill 21, a school finance bill similar to the House plan from the regular session that would increase state education support by $1.9 billion. The bill originally included $25 million for charter facilities funding, a provision that was removed before the bill was approved in committee, in response to opposition from TSTA, our allies and a number of committee members. HB21 will face Senate opposition because it contains no vouchers, and Lieutenant Governor Patrick has shown he is willing to shortchange our schools unless he gets his privatization agenda included. The House has rejected vouchers repeatedly this session. TSTA prefers HB21, minus the charter facilities funding provision. 
  • The House also approved HB30, which appropriated the $1.9 billion for HB21, and HB23, a $20 million public school grant program to address educating children with autism. 
  • The House rejected HB22, a bill to continue the ASATR program that provides funds for districts that face financial challenges due to structural “gaps” in the school finance system. If HB21 were approved, the problem would be fixed. 

Vouchers

After the Senate approved SB2, the House Public Education Committee held a hearing on HB253, the House version of the bill that would create a voucher program in the form of a special education tax credit or grant program that would drain as much as $79 million from the state education budget and increase charter facilities funding by $60 million. TSTA, and a majority of the committee, opposes HB253. Rick Beaule, our Killeen local president, testified against HB253. He also testified for two bills that would reimburse teachers for purchases of classroom supplies. HB253 is not expected to be approved by the committee or the House. 

TRS Care 

With a 130-10 vote, the House approved HB20, which TSTA supported. The bill provides $212 million in funding for TRS Care, paid for by the Rainy Day fund. The bill would be used to decrease the premiums and deductibles for the 2018 and 2019 plan years for enrollees in the high deductible health plans. The deductible increase caused by an inadequately funded bill in the regular session would be cut in half until a long term solution could be developed in the next legislative session. 

Teacher pay

  • HB24, the “real pay raise” bill, has been approved by the House Appropriation Committee, but has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full House. The bill would provide a real, paid-for, pass-through teacher pay raise of an additional $100 per month for teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses. 
  • The House Public Education Committee also heard HB198, the House version of the merit pay plan being developed by commissioner Morath for the governor. Chairman Huberty and several committee members raised a number of concerns about this bill. TSTA submitted written testimony against HB 198, with the following points: incentive pay shouldn’t even be considered until the state provides adequate base pay on a salary schedule that recognizes years of classroom experience at a level that keeps up with the national average; the bill would cover at best roughly 25% of teachers in Texas; and too much discretion is given to the appointed commissioner to determine performance and “student growth” measures (i.e., test scores) for a local district's teacher pay plan. 

SB7/HB156 Payroll Deduction Ban not moving now, but we must remain vigilant…

The Senate-passed payroll dues deduction ban remains stalled in the House State Affairs Committee, where a majority of committee members oppose the bill. The bill would eliminate payroll deduction for TSTA employees and all city, county, and state employees except peace officers, firefighters, and EMS employees.

TSTA is working hard to defeat this bill because payroll deduction costs taxpayers nothing and we educators and other public employees who work hard for our paychecks should be free to spend our own money as we see fit. 

Here’s why we remain vigilant. The Chairman of the House Government Transparency and Operation Committee, Rep. Gary Elkins, is considering an effort to tack the payroll deduction bill onto his very broad-captioned government efficiency bill, HB347. It’s Elkins’ bill that is filed every year, and it is sitting in his committee. We are hopeful that a payroll deduction amendment would be considered non-germane and out of order on this bill but we are still working with the committee members. Stay tuned. 

Other bills TSTA supported in the House Public Education Committee.

  • HB132 relating to the election of trustees of certain school districts.
  • HB145 relating to social work services in public schools.
  • HB149 relating to a reduction in required days of service for educators in public schools under certain circumstances.
  • HB200 relating to the creation of a commission to recommend improvements to the public school finance system.
  • HB204 relating to cardiac assessments of high school participants in extracurricular athletic activities sponsored or sanctioned by the University Interscholastic League.
  • HB231 relating to reporting teacher turnover information in the performance report of a public school district.
  • HB232 relating to class size limits for prekindergarten classes in public schools.
  • HB264 relating to the admission policy of an open-enrollment charter school.
  • HB263 relating to the composition of the student body of an open-enrollment charter school.
  • HB306 relating to an annual adjustment to the basic allotment under the foundation school program to reflect inflation.
  • HB320 relating to the establishment and funding of an education enhancement program for certain students with disabilities.

What you can do 

Our job is to focus our legislators’ attention on education issues. Other items — like the bathroom bill for example — are on the governor’s list and are likely to draw more attention. But the only two issues that a majority of voters believe are “very important” are additional state funding for public schools and cutting local property taxes, and you can’t do the latter without the former. 

  • Personally contact your legislator on behalf of your local, and report what they say.
  • Gather a group to meet with your legislator, and report what they say to those who attended.
  • Be on the lookout for Action Alerts to call and email your legislator. 

July 28, 2017

TSTA Special Session Update – July 27, 2017

The special session updates focus on the major education bills coming up for votes.  Scores of bills have been filed in both Houses and you can find the status of those bills at: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/TSTASpecialSession2017-TrackedBills.pdf

Thanks for responding to Action Alerts and patch through call requests

When you send an email or make a call to your legislator’s office we hear about it when we visit them in their Capitol offices. Please check your email and your voice mails to make sure you contact your legislators in a timely manner.

For talking points on major issues, contact: clayr@tsta.org

Senate speeds through harmful legislation this week, House maintains deliberate pace, education issues to be debated by full House next week

After holding committee hearings all day and into the night last weekend, the Senate continued Dan Patrick’s race to pass to a special education voucher bill, a bill to eliminate payroll dues deduction, a teacher “bonus” and TRS Care bill funded by deferring Medicaid payments, a bathroom bill and more.  Meanwhile, House committees approved legislation that would provide a real teacher pay raise, an increase in state education funding, an increase in TRS Care funding, and special education improvements through the public school system – bills the full House will consider next week.

Here is a summary of Senate and House action on the major education issues.

School Finance/Vouchers

The Senate approved SB2, a bill that would create a voucher program in the form of a special education tax credit/grant program that would drain as much as $79 million from the state education budget. The bill also increases charter facilities funding by $60 million and contains hardship grants for school districts receiving “ASATR.”  TSTA opposes SB2.

Meanwhile, the House Public Education Committee approved House Bill 21, a school finance bill similar to the House plan from the regular session that would increase state education support by $1.6-$1.9 billion. The bill also includes $25 million for charter facilities funding, a provision TSTA opposed. HB21 contains no vouchers, as the House has rejected vouchers repeatedly this session. TSTA prefers HB21, minus the charter facilities funding provision.  HB21 will likely be debated on the House floor next week.

Teacher pay, TRS Care – House committee approved real teacher pay raise bill, TRS Care funding

This week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 19, which would:

  • provide a bonus of at least $600 during the 2018-19 school year to each classroom teacher with at least six years of experience, and a bonus of $1,000 for teachers with eleven or more years of experience. The bonus would cost $193,000,000 funded by a one time delay in Medicaid payments; 
  • increase funding for TRS Care, a similar one-time $212,000,000 would provide relief for about half of the $3,000 deductible increase felt by retirees under 65; and
  • the $1,000 unfunded “fake teacher pay raise” was dropped from the bill after TSTA and other teacher groups demanded a funding commitment for a raise that might happen two years from now.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee approved a real teacher pay raise and TRS funding increase paid for by the Rainy Day fund. These bills should be debated by the full House next week.

  • TSTA supported HB 20 by Rep. Trent Ashby, which is similar to the Senate version of TRS Care funding with one glaring exception – the House would use Rainy Day Fund money while the Senate used an accounting trick to pay for the $213 million. The bill would be used to decrease the premiums and deductibles for the 2018 and 2019 plan years for enrollees in the high deductible health plans.
  • TSTA also supported HB24 by Rep. Drew Darby,  which would provide a real, paid-for, pass through teacher pay raise of an additional $100 per month for teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses.

SB7 – Payroll Deduction Ban

This week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, which would eliminate payroll deduction for TSTA employees and all city, county, and state employees except peace officers, firefighters, and EMS employees. TSTA opposed SB7 because payroll deduction costs taxpayers nothing and we believe that educators and other public employees who work hard for our paychecks should be free to spend our own money as we see fit.

In the House, the identical HB156 faces serious opposition in the House State Affairs Committee, and it has not been set for a hearing. TSTA is working hard to secure and maintain enough opposition to defeat the bill in the House.

What You Can Do

Our job is to focus our legislators’ attention on education issues. Other items — like the bathroom bill for example — are on the governor’s list and are likely to draw more attention. But the only two issues that a majority of voters believe are “very important” are additional state funding for public schools and cutting local property taxes, and you can’t do the latter without the former.

  • Personally contact your legislator on behalf of your local, and report what they say.
  • Gather a group to meet with your legislator, and report what they say to those who attended.
  • Be on the lookout for Action Alerts to call and email your legislator.

July 24, 2017

TSTA Special Session Update – July 24, 2017

These updates will focus on the major education bills coming up for votes in Senate or House committees or on the House or Senate floor.  Scores of bills have been filed in both Houses and you can find the status of those bills at: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/TSTASpecialSession2017-TrackedBills.pdf

Your calls, emails and voices can make a difference. Please respond to Action Alerts and patch through call requests

Important committee and floor votes on critical issues come quickly in a 30 day session, making timely emails and calls to your legislator even more important. Please check your email and your voice mails to make sure you contact your legislators in a timely manner.

For talking points on major issues, contact: clayr@tsta.org

Senate continues rush to pass the Abbott-Patrick agenda. Weekend committee meetings send bills to the full Senate for debate today, tomorrow.

The Senate is still racing to pass voucher bills, an unfunded teacher pay raise bill, a bill to eliminate payroll dues deduction, a bathroom bill and more. Over the weekend, the Senate Committees on Education, Finance, and Business & Commerce passed bill after bill without a great deal of deliberation, sending bills to the full Senate for floor debate that started this afternoon. These bills are expected to be approved today and tomorrow by the full Senate but face opposition in the House.

SB2 - Vouchers

On Friday, the Senate Committee on Education passed Senate Bill 2 by Sen. Larry Taylor. S.B. 2 creates a voucher program in the form of a special education tax credit/grant program. The bill also increases charter funding and contains hardship grants for school districts receiving “ASATR.” The bill is being debated by the full Senate now and it is expected be approved on second reading today and finally passed tomorrow. TSTA opposes SB 2.

SB19 - Unfunded teacher pay raise, TRS Care, Teacher bonuses

On Saturday, the Senate Committee on Finance approved Senate Bill 19 by Sen. Jane Nelson. SB 19 has three parts. 

  • A bonus of at least $600 during the 2018-19 school year to each classroom teacher with at least six years of experience, and a bonus of $1,000 for teachers with eleven or more years of experience. The bonus would cost $193,000,000 that would come, for one time only, by delaying payments of funds originally appropriated for health care. Sen. Nelson did not find funding to make the bonus permanent. 
  • A $1,000 per teacher raise during the 2019-2020 school year, but the raise is not funded. Senator Nelson did not put a mechanism into school finance formula that would make it more likely that the raise would be funded in the 2019-2020 school year.
  • For TRS Care, a one-time $212,000,000 transfer to TRS Care by delaying payments of funds originally appropriated for health care. This funding would provide relief for about half of the $3,000 deductible increase felt by retirees under 65. Senator Watson stated that he would like to have the Committee commit to making the TRS-Care appropriation permanent, but Sen. Nelson said the money is not available now.

TSTA opposed SB19 because we oppose an unfunded pay raise. These three issues should be in separate bills, and that is what the House has done in bills that would actually pay for the pay raise and TRS Care increase. 

SB7 – Payroll Deduction Ban

On Sunday, the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce approved Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Bryan Hughes. SB 7 eliminates payroll deduction for all school, city, county, and state employees except peace officers, firefighters, and EMS employees. Eight TSTA members testified against SB7, as well as many other teachers, corrections officers, and CPS workers. All these witnesses pointed out that payroll deduction costs taxpayers nothing and made the important point that we work hard for our paychecks, and we should be free to spend our own money as we see fit.

Note: SB 2 and SB19 passed on party line votes, with all Republicans voting aye. One Republican, Se. Robert Nichols, vote against SB7.

House committee hearings on school finance, TRS Care and teacher pay begin today

Eight “real” teacher pay raise House bills filed, plus Governor’s “average” pay raise/merit pay plan

House members have filed eight teacher pay raise bills that would pay for a teacher pay raise, either from general revenue or the Rainy Day Fund - HB’s 24, 64, 65, 79, 172, 217, 218, and 270. HB 198 is the plan developed by Commissioner Morath for the governor that would provide raises only in districts that pay below the statewide average and establish a merit play plan similar to the one now used in Dallas ISD. 

HB24 - Tomorrow, the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on HB24 (Darby), which would provide a $100 per month pass through teacher pay raise for all teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses. We also support all “paid for” pay raise bills that apply to all professional employees.

Three “paid for” TRS Care bills to be heard in House Appropriations tomorrow

TSTA supports HB 20 (Ashby), HB76 (Darby) and HB151 (Gooden), bills that would provide additional funds for TRS Care.

TSTA supports these bills.

School finance

The House Public Education Committee will hold hearings today and tomorrow on school finance.

  • HB21 (Huberty) is similar to Chairman Huberty’s HB21 from the regular session that would have increased funding by $1.6 billion, but the special session bill would also add funding for charter facilities. TSTA supports other elements of HB21, but we will encourage the committee to eliminate funding for charter facilities.
  • TSTA also supports HB61 (Hinojosa); HB194 (Ashby); HB’s 98, 121, 197, 234 and 256 (Bernal); HB22 (K. King); HB140 (Giddings); and HB178 (Cortez).

What You Can Do

Our job is to focus our legislators’ attention on education issues. Other items — like the bathroom bill for example — are on the governor’s list and are likely to draw more attention. But the only two issues that a majority of voters believe are “very important” are additional state funding for public schools and cutting local property taxes, and you can’t do the latter without the former.

  • Personally contact your legislator on behalf of your local, and report what they say.
  • Gather a group to meet with your legislator, and report what they say to those who attended.
  • Be on the lookout for Action Alerts to call and email your legislator.

July 21, 2017

Texas Special Session Update – July 21, 2017

These updates will focus on the major education bills coming up for votes in Senate or House committees or on the House or Senate floor.  Scores of bills have been filed in both Houses and you can find the status of those bills at: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/TSTASpecialSession2017-TrackedBills.pdf

Please respond to Action Alerts and patch through call requests

Important committee and floor votes on critical issues come quickly in a 30 day session, making timely emails and calls to your legislator even more important. Please check your email and your voice mails to make sure you contact your legislators in a timely manner.
For talking points on major issues, contact: clayr@tsta.org

Your calls, emails and voices can make a difference

Yesterday, the Governor added TRS Care funding and at least one small but important (in some school districts) school finance matter to the special session call. The outcry over increased insurance costs for retirees was heard by everyone at the Capitol, and this should serve to remind you that your voices can make a difference on other issues as well.

Senate abandons traditional rules in rush to pass the Abbott-Patrick agenda. House takes more deliberative approach

The special session began Tuesday and the lieutenant governor and Senate majority moved quickly to change traditional rules that allow Senators to slow the process by 48 hours to provide more public notice and deliberation on important issues. The Senate is now racing to pass voucher bills, a bathroom bill, an unfunded pay raise bill, a bill to eliminate payroll dues deduction and more, by holding Friday, Saturday and Sunday committee hearings so the lieutenant governor can focus on pressuring the House. House members have filed a number of bills on all the major issues as well, but they will take a more deliberative approach, holding hearings next week on school finance, TRS Care, and other issues in the special session call. The House leadership has signaled that they are not as interested in the more divisive ideological issues, preferring instead to address issues like school funding and genuine property tax relief that are important to all Texans.

SB7, SB94 and HB156 would ban payroll deduction of your TSTA dues — Senate committee hearing set for Sunday

Payroll dues deduction bills have been filed in both the House and the Senate. In fact, Senate Bills 7 and 94 are scheduled for a Sunday committee hearing in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee and the bill could be considered by the full Senate by next Wednesday. Please look for an Action Alert that will let you contact your Senator and express your opposition to this bill.

The House, which has less interest in this bill, has not yet scheduled a hearing on House Bill 156. Our polling has identified a very simple argument against the bill that 80% of Republicans, Democrats and independents support: “Teachers work hard to earn their paycheck and they should be free to spend their own money to pay dues to a teacher organization, especially when there is no cost to taxpayers.”

SB2, a special ed voucher bill, expected to be approved by Senate committee today

The Senate Education Committee is holding a hearing today on SB2, a bill that would establish a special education voucher in the form of a tax credit scholarship. TSTA and numerous organizations and individuals opposed this bill in committee, but the Senate is expected to pass this legislation before it goes to the House, where voucher bills have been repeatedly defeated this year.

Senate committee to consider SB19 tomorrow — bill would provide TRS Care funding, a teacher bonus and an unfunded “teacher pay raise, maybe, two years from now”

SB19 addresses the issues the lieutenant governor outlined last week in a press conference, and, as expected, the bill does not match the lieutenant governor’s rhetoric. Here are the facts about SB19:

In SB19, only two of the three items are paid for.

$193 million — money we would have used for a scheduled health care payment — would be transferred to TEA for the 2018-19 school year to pay for a one-time classroom teacher bonus of at least $600 per teacher.

A similar $212 million transfer of funds to TRS would be used for TRS Care. 

The third thing, a proposed classroom teacher salary increase of $1,000 per teacher, is set to begin in the 2019-20 school year (next biennium) — but no funding source is specified, meaning that as the bill stands today, no funds are provided for this “teacher pay raise.”

When something is called a pay raise, it should be put in statute — in this bill — to set a certain date and provide a funding source to be effective two years from now. To do that, the teacher pay raise should run through the formulas, which is the only way we can make a real, binding commitment to our teachers.

Real teacher pay raise bills filed

A number of real teacher pay raise bills have been filed, bills that provide a funding source. We will provide a complete list of those before they are heard in committee, although prospects for Senate passage are dim.

House hearings on school finance, TRS Care and teacher pay to begin next week

Next week, the House Appropriations Committee will hold hearings on bills that would provide additional funds for TRS Care and a teacher pay raise. The House Public Education Committee will hold hearings on HB21, which would move additional state funding into the public school system. We will provide more detail on those positive proposals next week.

What You Can Do

Our job is to focus our legislators’ attention on education issues. Other items — like the bathroom bill for example — are on the governor’s list and are likely to draw more attention. But the only two issues that a majority of voters believe are “very important” are additional state funding for public schools and cutting local property taxes, and you can’t do the latter without the former.

  • Personally contact your legislator on behalf of your local, and report what they say.
  • Gather a group to meet with your legislator, and report what they say to those who attended.
  • Be on the lookout for Action Alerts to call and email your legislator.

July 19, 2017

TSTA member wins California Casualty teaching excellence award

TSTA member Revathi Balakrishnan, a talented and gifted teacher at Patsy Sommer Elementary School in Round Rock ISD, is among 38 public school educators who will receive the California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence at an NEA Foundation gala next February in Washington, D.C.

California Casualty awardees are nominated by their peers for their dedication to the profession, community engagement, professional development, attention to diversity and advocacy for fellow educators.

“Students excited about learning, making connections to the real world, handling failure as a learning experience, with the community forming a safety net – these are the intangible rewards of teaching,” Balakrishnan said.

The 38 state award winners were nominated by their National Education Association state affiliates. Five will be announced as finalists at the beginning of the new school year and will receive $10,000 at the gala. The nation’s top scholar also will be announced at the gala on Feb. 9 and receive an additional $25,000.

“These outstanding educators put heart and soul into supporting students and improving the profession,” said Harriet Sanford, NEA Foundation President and CEO.

Balakrishnan was the 2016 Texas Teacher of the Year and received this year’s Ermalee Boice Instructional Advocacy Award from TSTA.


July 10, 2017

Texas Special Session Preview – July 10, 2017

Overview: sill just one issue officially on the special session call – 19 others could be added
Last Month, the governor called a 30 day special session of the legislature to begin on July 18. Only one bill must pass, a “sunset bill “to keep the Texas State Medical Board and four other state agencies operating after September 1. The sunset legislation is the only issue the Governor put on the special session agenda at this time.

The governor said he intends to add as many as 19 other items to the agenda after the sunset bill passes, most of them items that failed to pass in the regular session. None of these issues have to be addressed and most have serious opposition or they would have passed in the regular session.

Education-related items could be added– talking points on these issues in this preview
Four education-related items made the Governor’s list, three of which failed to pass during the regular session. We can provide upon request fact sheets/talking points on these issues that you can use when meeting with your legislators or talking to the press. These education items are:

  • Eliminating payroll deduction of association or union dues for educators and other public employees;
  • A voucher for some special education students;
  • A so-called $1,000 teacher pay raise that “won’t cost taxpayers a penny” – to be paid for by “adjusting priorities” and “giving administrators more flexibility.” Sadly, this looks like a merit pay raise for a few teachers and less contract protection for most – and no guarantee of a pay raise for anyone; and
  •  school finance study commission – yet another “study” means no money for a teacher pay raise or the House’s attempt to pass its $1.6 billion school finance bill; funds that could help reduce the burden a lack of funding has placed on local property taxpayers.

What You Can Do
Our job is to focus our legislators’ attention on education issues. Other items’ like the bathroom bill for example, are on the governor’s list and are likely to draw more attention. But the only two issues that a majority of voters believe are “very important” are additional state funding for public schools and cutting local property taxes, and you can’t do the latter without the former.

  • Personally contact your legislator on behalf of your local, and report what they say
  • Gather a group to meet with your legislator, and report what they say who attended.
  • Be on the lookout for Action Alerts to call and email your legislator.

July 5, 2017

Selena Valdez is NEA’s 2017 Activist of the Year!

North East Education Association President Selena Valdez today was named NEA's 2017 Activist of the Year. She was chosen over five other finalists by delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly in Boston. Valdez has credited her parents for showing her, by example, the importance of being active in politics and public advocacy. "Being active in marches and advocating for others has been instilled in me from a young age," Valdez said. "One of my first memories is getting to miss school to march alongside my mother to the Texas Capitol to support Governor Ann Richards in her election. For years, I watched my father give school board speeches on the Austin PBS channel. Hearing his passion to represent his fellow educators and demand action helped to build that same passion in me."

Read more at http://educationvotes.nea.org/2017/06/27/.


July 3, 2017

TSTA represents at the NEA Annual Meeting

Follow the action on TSTA’s Facebook pageNEA’s Representative Assembly website, and our Flickr album.


June 29, 2017

Texas teachers see challenges ahead

From TSTA President Noel Candelaria’s interview with KTSA: Challenging times ahead -- that’s just what the President of the Texas State Teachers Association sees for schools. “Texans value and love their public schools… their neighborhood public schools–and they want them to be great” Noel Candelaria told KTSA News from the National Education Association’s annual meetings, taking place this year in Boston. more


June 29, 2017

Congratulations to Selena Valdez!

The North East Education Association president is a finalist for NEA's 2017 Activist of the Year! "Being active in marches and advocating for others has been instilled in me from a young age," Valdez said. "One of my first memories is getting to miss school to march alongside my mother to the Texas Capitol to support Governor Ann Richards in her election. For years, I watched my father give school board speeches on the Austin PBS channel. Hearing his passion to represent his fellow educators and demand action helped to build that same passion in me."

Delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly will pick the Activist of the Year. The winner will be announced July 5. Read more at http://educationvotes.nea.org/2017/06/27/.


June 28, 2017

Submit an idea for the Teacher Leadership Summit in Austin

Teach to Lead will host its 14th Teacher Leadership Summit in Austin on Sept. 22-24. This summit provides teachers and their supporters with time to collaborate, as well as skills and professional consultation, to incubate innovative ideas that can make a positive impact for students in their schools, communities, districts and states. The Austin Teach to Lead Summit is open for applications until August 9. http://bit.ly/AustinTTLSummit


June 27, 2017

Retired members meet in Boston

Representing 317,000 NEA-Retired members nationwide, delegates to the organization’s 2017 NEA-Retired Annual Meeting gathered Tuesday in Boston, for two days of talks and policymaking that will steer the organization through the next 12 months. more


June 22, 2017

NEA delegates heading to Boston

Delegates from around the country are getting ready to travel to Boston for the 2017 NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly. The theme of this year’s meeting is Uniting Our Members and the Nation. When educators are united, they become empowered professionals who create the conditions for successful students and strong communities. http://www.nea.org 


June 21, 2017

STAAR report card is updated

Texas Education Agency has been working to revamp the STAAR report card to make it more informative and customer friendly than previous report cards. The revamped TexasAssessment.com has launched with a host of new interactive features that will allow parents and teachers to better understand STAAR results.


June 14, 2017

TSTA Emerging Leaders Institute

This week, new leaders are being trained in Austin as a part of the TSTA Emerging Leaders Institute.  As a part of the training, participants are learning about their leadership style, effective listening, building strong teams, and how to effectively advocate for students, the profession, and public education.

Additionally, the Emerging Leaders toured the new TSTA building and received legal and political training. Today, they join other leaders from their local to take part in the TSTA Organizing Institute.  While participating in the Organizing Institute, participants will receive training on early career educators, campus leadership, organizing for power, strong communication, political organizing and more!

When the Emerging Leaders and Organizing Institute end on Friday, local leaders will be ready to begin planning for the upcoming school year! All participants will leave fully prepared to recruit, engage, and train members in their respective locals.


June 6, 2017

Governor Calls Special Session for July 18 

Today, Governor called a 30 day special session of the legislature to begin on July 18. Only one bill must pass, a “sunset bill “to keep the Texas State Medical Board and four other state agencies operating after September 1. The sunset legislation is the only bill the Governor put on the special session agenda at this time.

However, the Governor said he intended to add as many as 19 other items to the agenda after the sunset bill passes, most of them recycled bills that failed to pass in the regular session. None of these bills have to pass and most have serious opposition or they would have passed previously. 

Education-related items could be added to the list
Four education-related bills made the Governor’s list, three of which were defeated by the House during the regular session. If we are disciplined in our efforts, we have a chance to defeat them again. We will need to see the details on the proposal before commenting on specifics. If you must make public comments, please contact us first if possible because message discipline is very important. The three items are:

• Eliminating payroll deduction of association or union dues for public employees;

• A voucher for some special education students; and

• A brand new $1,000 teacher pay raise that “won’t cost taxpayers a penny” – to be paid for by “adjusting priorities” and “giving administrators more flexibility.” We know some program or someone will pay for it, because nothing is free.

• A “study” about the best way to improve school finance, but no funding now.

We will provide talking points on these issues as soon as more details are available. We have time to organize to defeat these bills, but we won’t win on these issues by shouting to the press or on social media. The path to victory starts with each one of us contacting our legislator directly.

Other items on the Governor’s list likely to draw more attention
• The discriminatory “bathroom bill”
• A tighter limit on how much local governments can increase property taxes without voter approval
• Several bills to limit the ability of local government to pass ordinances for their communities
• Allowing local preemption of the texting while driving ban
• Four items further restricting a woman’s right to choose
• A crackdown on mail ballot fraud, and more…

RELATED: 20 things Gov. Greg Abbott wants lawmakers to address in a special session


May 30, 2017

Legislature adjourns sine die, special session likely

Monday afternoon, the clock ran out on a legislative session long on hyper partisanship and harsh rhetoric and short on genuinely productive outcomes that are sorely needed to prepare our state for the future. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick was particularly visible as the session would down, casting blame and torpedoing a school finance bill that would have provided an additional $1.9 billion for public education because a supermajority of House members voted against vouchers. Although the essential budget bill was approved by both chambers, Patrick attempted to force the Governor to call a special session on his “bathroom bill” rollback elections for local property tax increases by refusing to let the Senate act on a “sunset bill” that must pass to keep the state medical Board and four other state agencies operating after September 1. Speaker Straus and the House approved a “bathroom bill” limited to school facilities but refused to consider a broader bill, pointing to billions in economic losses by boycotts and the threat of business relocations like the ones North Carolina experienced after passage of their bathroom bill, which has now been rescinded. The Speaker also suggested that anyone serious about lowering property taxes would increase state funding for public schools, a priority of the House.

Governor Abbott has indicated he will have an announcement about a special session later this week. Only the Governor can call and set the agenda for a special session, and the only bill considered necessary is the “sunset bill.” Many observers feel it would be wiser to let the acrimony of the last few days and reach a consensus on what could pass in a special session before setting a date or accepting Patrick’s demand for his versions of a “bathroom bill” or property tax reform, two issues that the House treated differently. Of course, the Governor could add vouchers and payroll dues deduction to the special session call, forcing us to resume two battles that we won in the regular session. Right now, most observers expect a special session to be scheduled somewhere no sooner than late June and no later than early August. 

Vouchers Defeated –SB3 and Senate Amendments to HB21 rejected by House

Private school vouchers went down to defeat again, thanks to two overwhelming bipartisan votes in the House. The second vote came a few days before the end of the session, when the House shot down an effort by Patrick and the Senate majority to force the House to approve adding an education savings account voucher for special education students to House Bill 21, the House-passed school finance bill that would have added $1.9 billion to the public education budget. Over 2/3’s of the 150 member, including all Democrats and a majority of House republicans, vote to instruct House conferees to oppose any version of HB21 that included vouchers. 

Payroll dues deduction ban defeated. House refuses to act on SB13

For the second session in a row, TSTA joined other public employee unions and professional associations to kill Senate Bill 13, legislation that would have ended the long-standing practice of deducting membership dues for professional organizations from employee paychecks. We made the successful argument educators hard earned paychecks is our money and we should be free to spend it as we please. After making false claims to the contrary, the main sponsor of the bill admitted that automatic dues deductions cost taxpayers nothing. Another attempt to pass this legislation may be made if there is a special session.

The Budget: Senate majority kills additional school funding

Money always talks, and near the end of the session, the legislature approved a new two year state budget that provided funds for student enrollment growth and nothing more. The House approved House Bill 21, a school finance bill that would have authorized an additional  $1.9 billion for public education (on top of enrollment growth), a bill that represented a first step toward drafting a long overdue school finance overhaul. But Patrick and the Senate majority hijacked that bill, stripping out more than a billion dollars of funding and adding the special education voucher, which killed the bill and any chance for a funding increase. According to the Legislative Budget Board, local property taxes now account for 57.6 percent of total state-local school funding total.  The state share drops to 37 percent when federal education aid is included. While shortchanging neighborhood schools, Patrick claimed to be fighting higher property taxes. Speaker Straus pointed out the inconsistency. “Nobody can claim to be serious about property-tax relief while consistently reducing the state’s share of education funding,” the speaker said.

Accountability: A-F system retained, test reduction nixed

The House approved House Bill 22, which would have delayed implementation of the A-F campus grading system for a year, eliminated placing a single summative score on a campus and reduced the impact of standardized test scores on campus and district grades, but the Senate version gutted the bill. In the closing hours of the session, House and Senate conferees negotiated a “compromise” that will keep give the commissioner, not the legislature, the authority to determine how much test scores test will determine A-F grades. School districts will begin getting letter grades in August 2018, but campus letter grades were delayed until August 2019.

Legislators Also enacted Senate Bill 463, which will extend for another two years an existing law that allows high school students who fail required end-of-course exams to graduate if special committees agree they are academically prepared.

The House also passed House Bill 515, which would have eliminated the requirement that fifth and eighth graders pass the STAAR test to be promoted, but that bill died in the face of Senate opposition.

Special education

The Legislature partially addressed the scandalous limits on special education that were imposed on special education services by Texas Education Agency (TEA) by enacting a new law, Senate Bill 160, that prohibits TEA from ever imposing an arbitrary cap on special education enrollment again. The cap was lifted by TEA after media coverage that as many as 250,000 Texas kids had been denied the services they needed and to which they were entitled under federal law. But as noted earlier, the state budget failed to address the real cause of the problem – inadequate funding of special education and other public school programs.

TRS Care and ActiveCare

Retiree care - The Legislature enacted HB3976 to address a billion dollar shortfall and avert a collapse of the health care system for education retirees. The final version of the bill required a state budget expenditure of roughly $500 million and provides for stair step increases in premiums for non-Medicare eligible retirees. Retiree-only premiums will increase in annual increments from approximately $200 a month in 2018 to $370 a month by 2021. The state contribution will increase from 1 percent of active employee payroll to 1.25 percent of active employee payroll, and district contributions of active payroll will increase from 0.55 percent to 0.75 percent. The active employee contribution of 0.65 percent of payroll will remain unchanged. During the 2018-2021 plans years, TRS will be prohibited from charging a premium to disability retirees who:

  • retired as a disability retiree on or before Jan. 1, 2017;
  • are currently receiving disability retirement benefits; and
  • are not eligible to enroll in Medicare.
  • Active employee care. The Legislature did not increase the state’s $75 monthly contribution to health insurance premiums for active school employees, not did it approve opt-out provisions.

Teacher retirement pensions – defined benefit plan preserved

Senate Bill 1751, which would have established a hybrid plan for new employees and started the process of weakening the TRS defined benefit plan, died without ever being scheduled for a committee hearing. 

Fate of Dallas County Schools hinges on November referendum

Senate Bill 1122, legislation to abolish the troubled Dallas County School District, which provides transportation services to Dallas ISD and other area school districts, won Senate approval and was dying in the House when sponsors pulled a late-session maneuver to keep it alive. The bill’s language was attached as an amendment to SB1566, a measure dealing with school boards, and it passed. The district will be abolished if local voters approve in a November referendum, which could cost 2,800 employees, and hundreds of TSTA members their jobs. TSTA will keep working throughout the process work to protect our members. 

Virtual schools bill defeated

Senate Bill 610, which would have allowed students in kindergarten through second grade to enroll in the virtual school network and created a potential bonanza for private vendors, died. It won Senate approval after being amended to create only a study of the issue and then died in the House. TSTA opposed this bill. 

University admissions

Senate Bill 2119, which would have imposed limits on automatic university admissions under the top 10 percent rule, died.

Sanctuary cities could impact students and school safe zones

Senate Bill 4, a priority for the Governor, became law.  The bill requires local law enforcement officers to cooperate with federal agents in enforcing federal immigration laws. It imposes criminal penalties on officers who refuse to comply and allows officers to ask the immigration status of anyone they detain, even during routine traffic stops. The bill could have a chilling impact on Texas schools. A majority of Texas school students are Hispanic citizens. Although public schools and school police are exempt from the law, some believe other law enforcement personnel could go onto campuses to questions students,  and the fear caused by the potential application of this law could disrupt school attendance and the campus “safe zone” that is essential to learning. The law will face vigorous court challenges.

The “bathroom bill” – Patrick’s reason for causing a special session

Senate Bill 6, which would have restricted transgender individuals, including school children, to using school and other public restrooms that correspond to their biological birth gender, died in the House. A version of the bill that applied only to public schools was approved by the House, but was rejected by the Senate for being “weak.” There have been no reports of transgender Texans attacking anyone in a bathroom, but transgender Texans, and students, are often the victims of attacks, abuse and bullying. If Lt. Gov. Patrick has his way, it will be back in a special session.

Inappropriate student-teacher relationships

Senate Bill 7 became law. Aimed at cracking down on improper relationships between educators and students, it imposes possible jail sentences for superintendents and principals who intentionally conceal reports of these relationships at their schools. Teachers convicted of illegal activities would have to register as sex offenders and those who receive deferred adjudication for misconduct will automatically lose their teaching licenses. Under some circumstances, convicted educators could lose their pensions. A teacher can be charged with an improper relationship with a student even if the student attends school in a different district.

For more information…

TSTA tracked hundreds of bills during the session and we are updating information additional bills at:: http://www.tstaweb.net/BillTracking.html


May 24, 2017

Texas Legislative Session Update

In overwhelming bipartisan vote, House rejects Senate voucher plan; demands more funding for public schools. Senate Education Chair willing to let school funding die.

Led by Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, the House today voted 134-15 to reject the Senate’s overhaul of House Bill 21 and request a conference committee in an effort to reach an eleventh-hour compromise with the Senate on a school finance bill. The House also voted 101-45 to instruct its conferees to reject any voucher programs. The Senate had hijacked HB21, stripping away method to increase public education funding and adding an amendment to create a private school voucher program for special education students. The House had voted to increase public school funding by $1.9 billion in its version of HB21. Huberty blasted the Senate for removing the funding and warned that, without extra state aid, some schools will be forced to close during the next year. “I refuse to give up (on school finance). I’ll continue trying. Let’s at least attempt to rescue this bill,” Huberty said in an address to House members. Late this afternoon, Senate Education Committee said the Senate will not appoint conferees and will let the school finance bill die.

HB3976, TRS Care bill, goes to governor
The House today completed legislative action on this bill, which would help address a $1.3 billion shortfall in TRS Care. The House accepted a Senate provision to allow retirees younger than 65 to get their maintenance prescriptions free.  The bill will increase state funding for TRS Care and phase in stair step increases in premiums for non-Medicare eligible retirees.

Will we have to deal with a special session? 
With five days remaining in the regular session, House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on the two items that must pass to continue state government operations:

  • a new state budget; and
  • an amendment to SB80 to extend the life of several state agencies in the sunset review process.

However, a special session is still possible if the House, Senate and Governor cannot resolve issues that Lt. Governor Patrick and Governor Abbott.

  • School bathroom bill – On Sunday night, the House approved an amendment to SB2078, a school safety bill, to regulate restroom use in public schools by transgender students. TSTA believes the discriminatory amendment is potentially dangerous for transgender kids. Patrick has demanded a special session if he doesn’t get a bill like the far-reaching Senate-passed SB6.
  • Property tax limitations – The House also approved a plan to provide more transparency in property tax increases sought by city and county governments, but the measure doesn’t include the voter-approval tax rollback provisions that Patrick has demanded. SB2 is also headed to a conference committee.
  • Voter ID - Only the governor can call a special session, and Governor Abbott has declared voter ID a an emergency, hoping to pass a law that could get court approval after the courts have ruled against the state’s discriminatory Voter ID law. The House and Senate have both approved a Voter ID bill..

HB22, gutted A-F postponement bill, still awaiting action by full Senate
HB22, as approved by the House, would have postponed full implementation of the A-F grading system for another year, eliminated placing a single letter grade on a campus, and reduced the impact of standardized testing. But Senator Larry Taylor won committee approval of a substitute that wipes out that language. The Senate version doesn’t postpone implementation, continues the current grading system, and gives the education commissioner more power to decide how grades are determined. Lt. Governor Patrick tried to use A_F reform as a bargaining chip if the House would approve a special education ESA voucher. That is not going to happen, and A-F reform is on the ropes.


May 23, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update 

Payroll deduction and voucher bills defeated, but we remain vigilant

Vouchers - Time ran out on Senate Bill 3, a bill to spend tax dollars on private school vouchers.

Payroll deduction ban – Likewise, Senate Bill 13, the ban on automatic payroll deductions of membership dues for educators and most other public employee unions and professional organizations, never received a hearing in the House.

These bills were defeated but we remain on the lookout for any attempt to attach them to another bill in the closing flurry of the session. But both bills could come back if the governor calls legislators into a special session and adds them to the agenda. Your calls and emails made a difference! Thank you! 

Will we have to deal with a special session? 

With six days remaining in the regular session, House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on the two items that must pass to continue state government operations:

  • a new state budget; and
  • an amendment to SB80 to extend the life of several state agencies in the sunset review process.

However, a special session is still a possibility if the House, Senate and Governor cannot resolve three issues that Lt. Governor Patrick and Governor Abbott want to see addressed.

School bathroom bill – On Sunday night, the House approved an amendment to SB2078, a school safety bill, to regulate restroom use in public schools by transgender students. TSTA believes the discriminatory amendment is potentially dangerous for transgender kids, but it is not the far-reaching SB6 that Lt. Governor Dan Patrick demanded and the Senate approved. Patrick has threatened to force a special session if he doesn’t get what he wants, and the bill is likely headed to a conference committee

Property tax limitations – The House also approved an amendment to SB669 to provide more transparency in property tax increases sought by city and county governments, but the measure doesn’t include the voter-approval tax rollback provisions that Patrick has demanded and which the Senate has approved in SB2. SB2 is also headed to a conference committee.

Voter ID - Only the governor can call a special session, and Governor Abbott has declared voter ID a late session emergency, hoping to pass a law that could get court approval after the courts have ruled against the state’s discriminatory Voter ID law. That bill is being debated now.

Senate hijacks and cuts HB21 school finance bill, and adds a voucher to it

Lt. Governor did not make a voucher bill a special session demand, but he has repeatedly offered “deals” in an effort to pass any kind of voucher that he can get and you never know could become an excuse for calling a special session, even though a House supermajority has voted to reject vouchers. In the wee hours Monday morning, Patrick and the Senate majority tacked a special education ESA voucher on to HB 21, a school finance bill that would have added at least $1.6 billion in state school funding as a first step toward a school finance overhaul. The Senate version also cut $1 billion from the House-approved funding level. We are urging House members to reject the Senate version of the bill. Click here for the impact the special ed voucher could have on your school district: https://forabettertexas.org/images/HB21_voucher_district_analysis_May_15...

Budget agreement reached; awaiting details

Negotiators have agreed to supplement the new state budget with about $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund and $2 billion from an accounting trick related to highway funding. We are awaiting details on public school and TRS Care funding levels, which are contingent on the final version of other bills.

HB3976, TRS Care bill, approved by full Senate

This bill, which would help address a $1.3 billion shortfall in TRS Care, was approved Sunday night. The Senate added a provision to allow retirees younger than 65 to get their maintenance prescriptions free. This added about $20 million to the cost of the bill, and we are awaiting final funding levels.

SB1122, bill to abolish Dallas County Schools, approved by House

SB1122 would have died today because it was near the bottom of a very long House calendar because today is the last day that Senate bills can be approved on second reading. But Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas successfully mumbled it on as an amendment to SB2065, a more general regulatory bill, which then won preliminary approval. An attempt to kill the bill on a point of order failed. To defeat the bill, it would have to go to conference committee and have the amendment removed. If the bill becomes law, it would leave the fate of Dallas County Schools up to the voters in a November referendum.

SB1278, vendor teacher certification bill, added to HB4064 in Senate last night

Yesterday, the Senate passed House Bill 4064, which requires candidates for teaching certificates to be instructed, evaluated and, if necessary, remediated on their digital literacy through a pre-service evaluation and follow-up curriculum to address areas that require improvement. TSTA opposed this bill. On the Senate floor, Chairman Larry Taylor amended the bill by adding a portion of one of his educator preparation bills – Senate Bill 1278, which TSTA opposed. Chairman Taylor’s amendment will allow alternative certification programs to conduct three of the five field supervisor visits by video, the internet, or another remote technological method.

HB22, gutted A-F postponement bill, awaiting action by full Senate

HB22, as approved by the House, would have postponed full implementation of the A-F grading system for another year, eliminated placing a single letter grade on a campus, and reduced the impact of standardized testing. But Senator Larry Taylor won committee approval of a substitute that wipes out that language. The Senate version doesn’t postpone implementation, continues the current grading system, and gives the education commissioner more power to decide how grades are determined. 

SB463, Graduation Committees in lieu of STAAR test, approved and extended

SB 463 will extend the expiration dates associated with the use of individual graduation committees (IGC) for students who could not pass the STAAR test. The bill requires the Commissioner to establish a procedure by rule to determine whether certain students who entered the ninth grade before school year 2011-12 may qualify to graduate and receive a diploma through an IGC review.


May 20, 2017

Texas Legislative Session Update: You made a difference!

SB3, the ESA/voucher bill, and SB13, the payroll deduction ban bill, both died today. We remain vigilant to prevent these bills from being amended to another bill.

Will a special session be necessary?

Heading into the final days of the regular session, the legislature is addressing a number of issues in an effort to complete their work in the regular session that ends on Memorial Day. In addition to the absolute need to pass the budget and extend the life of state agencies in the sunset review process, Lt. Governor Patrick has insisted on addressing two Senate bills: SB2, a bill to put tighter limits on the ability of cities and counties to raise property taxes; and SB6, the Senate’s discriminatory “bathroom bill,” which business leaders, Speaker Straus and others believe could result in boycotts similar to those that could cost the Texas economy billions of dollars.

Today, the House voted 134-0 to offer an alternative version of the SB2 property tax relief plan as an amendment to SB669. SB2 sponsor Rep. Dennis Bonnen, the House Speaker pro-tem, argued that the new property tax relief plan would be more transparent and stronger than SB2.

The House could still consider an alternative version of the SB6 (bathroom bill) as an amendment to another bill.

Today, the House passed an amendment to SB80 that addressed the sunset review issue.

Although the possibility of a special session looms, efforts to address these remaining issues are underway. Whether or not those efforts succeed is another question. If there is a special session and the Governor includes vouchers and the payroll dues deduction ban in the call, TSTA will have to work to defeat these bills again in a special session.

Budget agreement could be close

Legislative leaders say they are confident the House and the Senate will reach a deal on a new state budget, which must pass in order to avoid a special session. At this time, a small increase in education funding is the most that we expect from this session. 

HB21, school finance/voucher bill, will likely be debated in Senate Sunday night. Today, we received details related to a new version of HB21, which could be debated tomorrow night in the Senate. Although the bill addresses some school finance matters, it still includes the special education ESA voucher. Keep urging your state senator to vote against HB21 if the special education ESA/voucher provision is not removed. House leaders say a voucher amendment is unacceptable. To contact your Senator, go to: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/say-no-to-vouchers-2

SB1122, bill to abolish Dallas County Schools, not yet set for House floor debate

SB1122 would have to be placed on the House calendar Sunday in order for it to be considered by the full House by next Tuesday (May23). The bill would eliminate Dallas County Schools if local voters approve in a November referendum. TSTA is working to defeat the bill. 

SB1278, vendor bill to weaken teacher certification could be added to another bill

The House Public Education Committee voted down this measure early Friday and attempts to vote the bill out last night also failed. It would have weakened educator preparation and certification requirements in subject areas where there are teacher shortages. We are now expecting the bill’s supporters to try to amend this bill on to another bill in the Senate. TSTA opposes this measure.

HB22, gutted A-F postponement bill, awaiting action by full Senate

HB22, as approved by the House, would have postponed full implementation of the A-F grading system for another year, eliminated placing a single letter grade on a campus, and reduced the impact of standardized testing. But Senator Larry Taylor won committee approval of a substitute that wipes out that language. The Senate version doesn’t postpone implementation, continues the current grading system, and gives the education commissioner more power to decide how grades are determined.

HB3976, TRS Care bill, awaiting action by full Senate

This bill, which would help address a $1.3 billion shortfall in TRS Care, has been approved by the Senate State Affairs Committee, which added a provision to allow retirees younger than 65 to get their maintenance prescriptions free. This added about $20 million to the cost of the bill, but the amount of funding for the measure will be determined by the budget conference committee.

SB1751 is dead – good news for TRS defined benefit pension

This bill would have started the process of weakening the TRS defined benefit plan, but it was never heard in a Senate committee.


May 18, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update: Threat of special session remains cause for concern

The House was to address one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s demands today – SB2, a bill to put tighter limits on the ability of cities and counties to raise property taxes. But the fate of SB6, the “bathroom bill” that is part of Patrick’s threat to force a special session, is still uncertain in the House, where Speaker Joe Straus and many members believe it is a discriminatory, unnecessary measure that could cost Texas millions of dollars in economic fallout. Patrick is holding hostage an unrelated bill to assure the continued operation of several state agencies. If Patrick doesn’t let that bill pass, a special session would be required. A special session could be dangerous for educators because Patrick also may ask Governor Abbott to include other items in a special session, such as vouchers and the payroll dues deduction ban, bills we have successfully opposed so far during this regular session.

Budget agreement predicted

Legislative leaders say they are confident the House and the Senate can reach a deal on a new state budget, which also has to pass in order to avoid a special session. School funding is one of the final differences to be worked out.

HB21, school finance-turned-voucher bill, set for Senate debate

Contact your Senator now! Urge your state senators to vote against HB21 if the special education voucher amendment is not removed. House leaders have indicated they are not going to accept the voucher amendment. To contact your Senator, go to: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/say-no-to-vouchers-2 

SB3, stand-alone ESA/Voucher bill, dying; no hearing set

The House Public Education Committee held its last scheduled hearing of the session without taking up the stand-alone voucher bill. Without committee approval, it will officially die Saturday, a procedural deadline day.

SB13, payroll deduction ban, is not expected to pass

This bill still has not been set for a House committee hearing. 

HB22, A-F postponement bill, gutted then approved by Senate Ed Committee

HB22, as approved by the House, would have postponed full implementation of the A-F grading system for another year, eliminated placing a single letter grade on a campus, and reduced the impact of standardized testing. But Senator Larry Taylor won committee approval of a substitute that wipes out that language. The Senate version doesn’t postpone implementation, continues the current grading system, and gives the education commissioner more power to decide how grades are determined. 

SB1122, bill to abolish Dallas County Schools, approved by House committee

This fate of this bill will be determined by whether or not it is placed on the House calendar in time for it to be approved by the full House by next Tuesday (May23). The bill would eliminate Dallas County Schools if local voters approve in a November referendum.

HB3976, TRS Care bill, awaiting action by full Senate

This bill, which would help address a $1.3 billion shortfall in TRS Care, has been approved by the Senate State Affairs Committee, which added a provision to allow retirees younger than 65 to get their maintenance prescriptions free. This added about $20 million to the cost of the bill, but the Senate budget doesn’t include sufficient funding for the measure. 

SB1751 is dying – good news for TRS defined benefit pension

This bill would begin the process of weakening the TRS defined benefit plan, but it remains stuck in committee as the session nears the end. 

House Public Education Committee Report

In addition to approving SB1122, the Dallas County Schools bill, the committee also approved:

SB1005 would allow more high school students to use the ACT or SAT as substitute assessments for the TAKS exit-level exams.

SB2144 would create the Texas Commission on Public School Finance to conduct still another interim study of how to improve the school funding system. This bill represents the desire of the Senate leadership to postpone action on school finance. As noted above, HB21, the House’s school finance bill, has been hijacked by the Senate with the addition of a special education voucher amendment.

The committee left this bill pending: SB1278, which would weaken educator preparation and certification requirements in subject areas where there are teacher shortages. TSTA and numerous other public education groups oppose this bill. 

End-of-session process reminders

House bills that have not passed the House are dead. Senate Bills (SBs) must be approved by a House committee by this Saturday (May 20) and by the full House by May 23, or they will die.

There are deadlines for motions to concur in amendments added by the other chamber and conference committee reports. We watch any bill that has passed one chamber because a “dead” bill can become an amendment to another bill if the subject matter is “germane.”


May 18, 2017

Budget shows why the people have no confidence in Trump, DeVos

Reports by the Washington Post show the Trump administration plans to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives. 

“This budget once again illustrates why the American people have no confidence in Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos when it comes to education," NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said. "They just don’t get it. The priorities President Trump outlined in his budget are reckless and wrong for students and working families. If enacted, the Trump budget will crush the dreams of students, deprive millions of opportunities, and make it harder for students to access higher education.

“Members of Congress need to listen to their constituents who do not want to slash public schools in order to spend millions of dollars on private schools. There is a responsibility to provide great public schools for every student in America. We believe improving public schools requires more money, not less, and public money should only be used to help public schools. We urge Congress to reject the Trump-DeVos budget proposal and fight for opportunity for all students.”

Make sure an unqualified person intent on destroying our public schools isn't the only voice legislators hear from. Call 1-855-764-1010 and tell Congress to fund public schools.


May 17, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update: budget agreement possible 

Remember, House bills that have not passed the House are dead. Senate Bills (SBs) must be approved by a House committee by this Saturday (May 20) and by the full House by May 23, or they will die.

There are deadlines for motions to concur in amendments added by the other chamber and conference committee reports. We watch any bill that has passed one chamber because a “dead” bill can become an amendment to another bill if the subject matter is “germane.”

Budget agreement possible

Media reports indicate that House and Senate conferees could be nearing agreement on a new state budget, one of two items that must pass or a special session would be required. There are still some differences on the method of funding and items like higher education and school finance.

Patrick may try to force a special session; Straus says it’s not necessary

Today, Lt. Gov. Patrick announced that he will attempt to force a special session on the SB2 “property tax relief” bill and the discriminatory SB6 “bathroom bill.” SB2 would put limits on city and county governments’ ability to raise property taxes, and Speaker Straus noted that it is scheduled for a House vote tomorrow. SB6 has not been set for a House vote. Straus has indicated that the budget and an unrelated bill to assure continued operation of certain state agencies are the only bills that must pass, and Patrick is holding that bill hostage. Patrick has also indicated that he would ask the Governor to include other items in a special session, such as vouchers and possibly payroll dues deduction ban, to cite just two bills we have successfully opposed so far this session.

Team Patrick hijacking HB21, Senate likely to make school finance bill a voucher vehicle, Straus indicates that is no deal

Patrick also mentioned HB21 as a priority, the school finance bill that was hijacked in the Senate Education Committee by adding a special education voucher amendment to the bill. SB21 may get a Senate floor vote tomorrow. Please check your email and phones for a quick way to urge your state senators to vote against this bill if the voucher amendment is not removed. Patrick told reporters that the Senate would agree to add a half billion dollars to education funding – a figure that TSTA can’t independently verify -- if the House accepts the special education voucher. Patrick said the Senate also would agree to postpone implementation of the A-to-F campus grading system if the House approves vouchers. TSTA remains opposed to vouchers in any form

Speaker Straus noted that Patrick talked about property tax relief, and said that is major reason the House approved HB21 to address the major cause of rising property-tax bills: local school tax increases. As it passed the House, HB21 would begin to reduce our reliance on local property taxes in funding education, adding that "nobody can claim to be serious about property-tax relief while consistently reducing the state’s share of education funding.”  HB21 was the House’s effort to start fixing our school finance system, but Straus said the Senate is trying to derail that effort at the 11th hour by demanding a bill that provides far fewer resources for schools than the House approved and a voucher provision that would “subsidize private education” – a concept the House overwhelmingly rejected in early April.

SB3, ESA/Voucher bill dying: no hearing set.

The stand-alone voucher bill will die if the House Public Education Committee doesn’t approve it by Saturday. Most committee members remain solidly opposed to vouchers. 

SB13, payroll deduction ban dying, too

This bill still has not been set for a House committee hearing. 

STAAR updates

SB463, special graduation committees, approved by House Public Education Committee. This bill would extend until 2019 a law allowing high school students who fail end-of-course exams to graduate if special committees determine they are academically prepared.

HB515, to reduce testing stress for 5th and 8th graders, left pending in Senate Education. This bill would repeal the requirement that 5th and 8th graders pass STAAR tests to be promoted. It also would eliminate social studies STAAR tests in 8th grade and high school.

HB3976, TRS Care bill, awaiting action by full Senate

This bill, which would help address a $1.3 billion shortfall in TRS Care, has been approved by the Senate State Affairs Committee, which added a provision to allow retirees younger than 65 to get their maintenance prescriptions free. This added about $20 million to the cost of the bill, but the Senate budget doesn’t include sufficient funding for the measure.

HB22 (A-F postponement bill) set for Senate hearing tomorrow

The Senate Education Committee will hear HB22 tomorrow. HB22 would postpone full implementation of the A-F system for another year. The Senate is likely to weaken the bill by eliminating the postponement and giving the Commissioner more power to define the system.

SB1122, Dallas County Schools bill awaiting House committee vote

This bill would eliminate Dallas County Schools if local voters approve in a November referendum.

SB1751, bad TRS “pension reform,” dying

This bill would begin the process of weakening the TRS defined benefit plan, but it remains stuck in committee as the session nears the end. 

Senate Floor report – virtual school expansion slowed for study

On Tuesday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 610 by Sen. Don Huffines. Currently, the virtual school network may only be utilized by students in third grade and above. Senate Bill 610 would have expanded the virtual school network to allow students from kindergarten through second grade to enroll full-time in the virtual school network, a potential bonanza for virtual vendors and bad policy.  On the Senate floor, the bill was amended to turn SB 610 into a study to determine the appropriateness and academic impact of expanding the virtual school network to students in kindergarten through second grade. TSTA opposed this bill.

House Public Education Committee Report

In addition to considering SB1122 Tuesday night, the committee approved the following bills.

SB 436 requires special education continuing advisory committee (CAC) meetings to be conducted in compliance with Chapter 551, Government Code. The bill would specify the CAC to have certain procedures and would require the CAC to submit a report to the Legislature with recommended changes to laws and rules related to special education by January 1.

SB 529 would require the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to specify certain educator knowledge and practices, particularly with regard to students with disabilities. The bill would require training requirements to include basic knowledge of each disability category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), competency with the use of evidence-based inclusive instructional practices, and appropriate adaptation strategies. The bill would require: educator preparation programs to use a universal design for learning frame-work integrating inclusion for all students as a requirement for approval or renewal of approval. The bill would require:

  • student achievement of all students, including students with disabilities, to be included as part the accountability indicators for educator preparation programs;
  • centers offering field-based educator preparation programs to design practices applicable to all students, including students with disabilities; and
  • field-based experience of a candidate for teacher certification to include instruction or educational activities involving a diverse student population that includes students with disabilities to the extent practicable.

SB 748 changes the requirements related to transition planning for students with disabilities who receive special education services. The bill would expand the requirements for what must be provided to students and their families; update certain minimum training guidelines; amend requirements for the transition and employment guide; and amend information to be included in a required notice. 


May 17, 2017

National Day of Action: Call Congress about vouchers! 

On May 18, NEA is leading on a Day of Action with coalition partners to advocate for public education funding. Demand that members of Congress invest in public schools, where 90 percent of children go, instead of diverting money to the 10 percent who go to private schools. The call-in number is 1-855-764-1010. 


May 16, 2017

Texas Legislative Session Update

HB21, the school finance bill, has been hijacked by the Senate’s pro-voucher advocates and will be debated by the full Senate this week. Urge your state senators to vote against this bill if the voucher amendment is not removed. Read more below.

End-of-session reminders:

  • Bills that originated in the House – those designated as House Bills (HB) – that had not passed the House last week are dead. They missed a key deadline.
  • Senate Bills (SBs) must be approved by a House committee by this Saturday (May 20) and by the full House by May 23, or they will die.
  • There also are end-of-session deadlines for conference committee reports. But any “dead” bill can be attached as an amendment to another bill if the subject matter is “germane.”

HB21, the school finance bill update

HB21 has been hijacked by the Senate’s pro-voucher advocates and will be debated by the full Senate this week. Urge your state senators to vote against this bill if the voucher amendment is not removed. The Senate Education Committee turned this $1.6 billion school finance bill into a voucher bill by adding a provision to create an Education Savings Account (ESA) program for special education students. There is no funding for HB21, in either form, in the Senate budget.

SB13, payroll deduction ban

The Speaker referred SB13 to the House State Affairs Committee. The bill has not been set for a hearing and it must be approved by the committee by Saturday, or it is dead.

HB3976, TRS Care bill, approved by Senate committee

The Senate State Affairs Committee approved HB3976 to help address a $1.3 billion shortfall in TRS Care and avert a collapse of the retiree health care system. The committee added a provision to allow retirees under age 65 to get their maintenance prescriptions for free. This added about $20 million to the fiscal note.  However, the Senate budget does not include sufficient funding for the HB3976.

SB1751, bad TRS “pension reform” bill, almost out of time

This bill, which would begin the process of repealing or weakening the TRS defined benefit plan, still has not been heard in the Senate and time is just about out. 

House-Senate Budget Conference Committee

Failure to pass a new state budget would require a special legislative session, where many other issues – including issues potentially damaging to TSTA members – could be added to the agenda by the Governor. The conferees are reportedly close to an agreement but Lt. Governor Patrick is trying to use the budget as leverage for his agenda, and that could prompt a special session.

SB3, ESA/Voucher bill: No hearing set

Most members of the House Public Education Committee remain solidly opposed to vouchers, and this bill will be dead if the committee doesn’t approve it by Saturday. 

HB22 (TSTA supports) and Senate Bill 2015 (TSTA opposes) – Accountability (A-F) bills on collision course

The House approved HB22 weeks ago, and the Senate Education Committee approved SB2015 this week, and could hold a hearing on it Thursday. HB22 would reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F campus and district grades,  postpone full implementation of the system for another year and eliminate the posting of a single summative A-F grade on any given campus or school district. The committee has approved SB205, which would not delay implementation and would hang a single STAAR-based score on campuses based on a system that gives almost complete discretion to the Commissioner. These differences must be resolved if there are to be changes in the A-F system.

SB1122, the Dallas County Schools closure bill, left pending by House committee

SB1122, which would eliminate Dallas County Schools (DCS), is being heard by the House Public Education Committee Tuesday evening and is expected to be left pending.  The Senate bill would require voter approval in a ballot referendum in November of 2017 before DCS could be eliminated. TSTA will continue fighting to defeat the bill. SB1122 will die if it is not approved by the House committee by Saturday. 


May 16, 2017

Don't forget to download the TSTA app

TSTA has an app you can download from iTunes or Google Play. You can read education news, get lesson plans and classroom tips, find other local associations on social media, get your membership card, and sign up to receive instant alerts, among many other features.


May 12, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update

Share this update with your members and keep the letters, emails and calls coming. Things can change once or twice daily as the end of session crunch is underway. For example, any bill originating in the House that did not pass the House today is now dead.

Senate bills must pass out of House committees by May 20 and out of the House by May 23. There are similar deadlines in the Senate and for conference committee reports…you get the picture. Any dead bill can come back as an amendment to another bill if the subject matter is ruled “germane.” We will try to provide brief daily updates next week as the fate of our major session priorities is determined. 

House-Senate Conference Committee continues work on state budget

Late this week, there were some hints of progress regarding negotiations on a state budget plan that could include at least some additional funds for public education.  Failure to pass a budget would result in a special session, where many other issues could be added to the session agenda as bargaining issues, including issues of great concern to TSTA. Rumors abound about what could come out of a budget deal, including the Senate demanding a limited special education ESA (voucher). As of today, we can report that a voucher is a no deal in the House, but we have a couple of weeks before the final outcome is determined

HB21, Senate Committee adds special ed ESA (voucher) to school finance bill: look for Action Network request in your email

HB21 originated in the House as a school finance bill that would provide an additional $1.6 billion for public education budget, but it became a voucher bill yesterday, stoking speculation that this could become a deal on the state budget, which is not something the House would approve at this time. The Senate added a provision that would establish an Education Savings Account program for special needs students. An eligible child would be able to take an amount that is equal to 90% of the average state maintenance and operations expenditures per student for the preceding fiscal year and use those public school dollars to pay tuition at a private school, where the student would lose all federal protections under IDEA. Because of the addition of the voucher to this bill, TSTA opposes this bill. HB 21 does increase the basic allotment from $5,140 to $5,350 per student; create new transportation funding; create a hardship provision grant; and increases funding for students with dyslexia;

SB13, payroll deduction ban, still not referred to a House committee

The House received SB13 from the Senate on April 3, and the Speaker has not yet formally referred it to a House committee. Typically, this bill would go to the House State Affairs Committee. If the bill is not approved by a committee by May 20, SB13 will be dead.

SB3 ESA/Voucher bill referred to House Public Education Committee

The Senate voucher bill was referred to the House Public Education Committee last night. This is not a signal that a voucher bill will pass the committee, where a majority of members remain solidly anti-voucher. Again, we take nothing for granted and hope this bill will finally be dead in eight days (May 20 committee deadline).

HB22 (TSTA supports) and Senate Bill 2015 (TSTA opposes) – Accountability (A-F) bills on collision course)

The House approved HB22 weeks ago and now the Senate Education Committee approved SB2015 this week.

HB22 would revise the state accountability system and reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F campus and district grades. (see details in May 5 update)

HB22 would postpone full implementation of the system for another year and eliminate the posting of a single summative A-F grade on any given campus or school district.

HB2051 would make less significant changes to state accountability system and reduce the current system’s five domains to four: student achievement (mostly STAAR tests); school performance (STAAR); closing-the-gaps (STAAR performance disaggregated by racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds); and school climate (50% community and student engagement, plus completion of AP, career/tech, and fine arts courses0.

SB2051 leaves the weight each domain would have in an overall accountability rating to the Commissioner of Education instead of providing legislative guidance and gives the Commissioner the authority to change indicators and standards.

SB2051 would not delay implementations and would hang a single STAAR-based score on campuses based on a system that gives almost complete discretion to the Commissioner.

HB3976, TRS Care Bill set for Senate hearing next week (for details see May 5 update)

Without legislative action, TRS Care would collapse in the face of a $1.3 billion shortfall, the product of years of neglect. The House approved HB3976, a TRS Care bill that is somewhat less painful to retirees than Senate Bill 788 because it appropriates more state funding. The Senate could substitute their version of the bill or adopt a new version. TSTA supports HB3976 because additional House funding and stair step premium increases could cushion the blow somewhat until the legislature meets again in two years.

TRS “Pension reform” bill, SB1751) update: time running out on bad bill

The bill that could begin the process of chipping away at the TRS defined benefit plan has not been heard in the Senate and time is running out rapidly. TSTA vigorously opposes this bill.

Dallas County Schools closure bill, SB1122, set for House hearing next Tuesday

The Senate approved version of SB1122, which would eliminate Dallas County Schools (DCS), will be heard in the House Public Education Committee nest Tuesday.  HB 2329, the House version of the same bill, dies this week.  The big difference in the bills is a Senate requirement of voter approval via a ballot referendum in November of 2017 before DCS could be eliminated. The amendment would allow the voters in the area, not legislators, to decide whether Dallas County Schools will be abolished. DCS has added a contract lobby team to help their efforts, and the bill could fall to end of session deadlines if it not approved by the House committee by next Friday, scheduled for floor debate by May 21, and approved on May 23.  TSTA will continue fighting to defeat the bill in the House.


May 12, 2017

TEA launches new professional development pilot

The Texas Education Agency has launched a pilot project for six learning programs targeted at educators within select districts across the state. The pilot is part of a broader initiative in the agency’s shift towards impact-focused training and will help to form the future of professional development in Texas. more


May 11, 2017

"Heroes of the Holocaust"

Heroes of the Holocaust is an article about the Texas Veteran Liberator Project, a collaboration between the Texas Holocaust & Genocide Commission and Texas Tech University. For more information, please visit the THGC website or http://www.depts.ttu.edu/vpr/discoveries/posts/Spring-2017/texas-liberators.php.


May 10, 2017

TSTA: Per-student spending drops in Texas; Rainy Day Fund would help

Spending for Texas public schools dropped, on average, by $143 per student between the 2015-16 school year and the current 2016-17 school year. In that same period, total public school enrollment in the state increased by about 80,000 children, according to estimates released this week by NEA.

Average spending per pupil in average daily attendance (ADA) dropped from $10,160 in 2015-16 to an estimated $10,017 during 2016-17, NEA reported, drawing on Texas budgetary data.

That was a decrease of 1.4 percent and ranked Texas in the bottom third (36th) among the states and the District of Columbia. Texas spending was $2,555 less per student than the national average, which had increased during the same period by 1.3 percent to $12,572 per ADA.

“Texas has been going in the wrong direction,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “We urge legislative budget conferees to take the House’s lead and provide more resources for the school children who represent Texas’ future.

“We applaud House members for taking an important first step in the right direction by voting to invest an additional $1.6 billion in our public schools, an investment that will require dipping into the Rainy Day Fund. If their Senate colleagues don’t get on board, local school property taxes will continue to rise while school budgets fall farther behind,” Candelaria added.

While state appropriations to Texas public schools lag, the state ranks in the top one-third of states (16th) in the share of school funding paid by local property taxes. School property taxes accounted for 54.6 percent of the state-local school funding total in 2015-16, NEA reported.

The House education plan would add about $200 in funding per student, House Public Education Chair Dan Huberty has estimated.

The average teacher salary in Texas was $52,575 in 2016-17, ranking Texas 26th, according to the NEA survey of national education data. That was a slight increase from the $51,890 average Texas salary in 2016 but left teacher pay in Texas about $6,300 less than the national average.


May 5, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update May 5

House-Senate Conference Committee continues work on state budget: differences in education funding must be resolved

This week, House and Senate conferees continued negotiating on the state budget. The budget is the one bill that must be passed. Failure to pass a budget would result in a special session, where many other issues could be added to the session agenda as bargaining issues, including issues of great concern that did not pass in the regular session. One of the major differences that must be resolved is the House’s decision to use the Rainy Day surplus fund to appropriate $1.6 billion in additional state education funds and $500 million to keep the TRS retired educator health insurance program functioning.

SB13, payroll deduction ban, still not referred to a House committee

The House received SB13 from the Senate on April 3, and the Speaker has not yet formally referred it to a House committee. Typically, this bill would go to the House State Affairs Committee. TSTA and other educational and public employee allies continue working to firm up opposition to the bill.

SB3 Senate voucher bill still dying. Special Ed voucher ploy stopped by the House 

TSTA opposed two special education voucher bills that were heard last week in the House Public Education Committee. Both bills carried a significant cost to the state budget. During a floor debate on HB23, which would create a grant program for public schools to help address autism, the author of the special ed voucher bills attempted to sneak an amendment on to the bill to open it up to private schools. House members were prepared and the amendment was withdrawn.

HB22 – Accountability bill that revises A-F campus grading system approved the House (see more details toward the end of this update)

The House approved HB22 this week and sent it to the Senate, where changes to the bill are likely. HB22 would revise the state accountability system and reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F campus and district grades. HB22 would postpone full implementation of the system for another year and eliminate the posting of a single summative A-F grade on any given campus or school district.  Amendments to further reduce standardized testing were defeated during floor debate. The Senate has indicated they will not allow A-F to be eliminated.

HB3976, TRS Care Bill, approved by the House (see more details at the end of this update)

Without legislative action, TRS Care would collapse in the face of a $1.3 billion shortfall, the product of years of neglect. This week, the House approved HB3976, a TRS Care bill that is somewhat less painful to retirees than Senate Bill 788 because it appropriates more state funding - $633.9 for TRS Care. Neither bill provides a long term solution, but the additional House funding and stair step premium increases could cushion the blow somewhat until the legislature meets again in two years.

HB 515, state standardized testing requirements, approved by the House

As originally filed, HB515 would have more dramatically minimized the testing regime in Texas by requiring only those tests required by the Federal government under ESSA.  However, as passed, the bill does not make that kind of major reduction to the overemphasis on standardized testing. HB 515 would exchange the U.S. History end of course exam for a somewhat simpler civics exam and eliminates only the social studies test in 8th grade. The bill also eliminates the need for 5th and 8th graders to retake English and math tests if they fail to meet standards. Other matters regarding the administration of tests would be left to the commissioner.

TRS Pension (SB1751) update: no Senate committee hearing scheduled, time running out

The bill that could begin the process of chipping away at the TRS defined benefit plan has not been heard in the Senate and time is running out rapidly. TSTA vigorously opposes this bill.

Senate Report

Dallas County Schools closure bill, SB1122 approved by Senate, would require voter approval

This week, the Senate approved SB1122, which would eliminate Dallas County Schools (DCS). This week, the House Public Education Committee heard HB 2329, the House version of the same bill. Passage of this bill would eliminate approximately 2,500 jobs of bus drivers, monitors, crossing guards, and their families, many of whom are NEA-Dallas and TSTA members. This bill would eliminate the tax base that pays for many services in districts including bus, special education and other services that the individual school districts in Dallas would not be able to reproduce under current funding levels.

On the floor, Senator Royce West amended the bill to put require voter approval of a ballot referendum in November of 2017 before DCS could be eliminated. The amendment would allow the voters in the area, not legislators, to decide whether Dallas County Schools will be abolished. TSTA will continue fighting to defeat the bill in the House.

Senate Bill 1882, Public-Charter Partnership bill, approved

SB 1882 would allow a school district to partner with an open-enrollment charter school to operate a district campus. In committee, the author, Senator Menendez. offered a committee substitute that requires the charter to be an in-district charter. The bill would increase state funding for the partnering school district. Senator Jose Rodriguez, with the support of Senator Menendez, attempted to amend the bill on the floor to make sure statutory protections of teachers would not be lost in the partnership, but the amendment was withdrawn because Lt. Governor Patrick made it clear there would not be enough votes to adopt the amendment.

Senate Bill 2144 by Senator Larry Taylor. SB 2144 establishes the “Texas Commission on Public School Finance (TCPSF)” to develop and make recommendations for improvements to the current public school finance system or for new methods of financing public schools. This bill could be seen as the Senate indicating it does not want to address school finance this session, although if the limited “first-step” $1.6 billion House-approved plan is not a long term plan and would not be mutually exclusive from SB2144.

On Monday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 463 by Sen. Kel Seliger. SB 463 would remove the expiration date for the use of graduation committees for students who fail one or more end-of-course assessments, passage of which is required to graduate. The law authorizing the use of graduation committees is set to expire September 1, 2017. 

House Public Education Committee report: More Virtual School Bills Considered

This is the last week for House bills to be approved by committees, although Senate companion bills could still be approved for two more weeks. The following bills were considered by the committee earlier this week. More bills are being approved at committee meetings during the House debate and we will catch you up on those before any important bill goes to the floor.

HB 4170 would expand virtual school network for students in grades kindergarten through third grade, grades had been exempted from the Virtual School Network since its inception.  TSTA went on record against the bill and its purpose to expand virtual schools to all grade levels.  The criticism delivered to the committee on this bill centered around the low performance of the current providers in the system and the inability to grade kindergarten through third grade programs due to the lack of testing in those grades. The bill was left pending

TSTA also went on record against HB 1485, which would require TEA, districts and staff to create an environment within all grade levels for students to explore scientific questions, learn based on evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately to differences in opinion about scientific subjects required by framework developed by SBOE, and to assist teachers in finding effective ways to present scientific subjects required to be taught under that framework that may cause controversy. Bill language insists it should not promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine or discriminate against either.  This bill would allow for inconsistent teachings in science driven by non-scientific beliefs in some areas. 

TSTA went on record in support of the following bills.

HB 1847, which would require districts to give parents notice of lack of full time nurse on a campus and defines what full time nurse means. Notice must be provided by the 30th day of instruction.

HB 3632 would grant an extended timeline for requesting a special education due process hearing if request is made by a service member of the armed forces or other type of corps.

HB 3767 would require school boards to annually certify to the agency in accordance with commissioner rule to be developed that the board has established the district and campus level committees as required by law.

HB 3853 would require districts that receive additional state aid to assign a behavioral health professional to each campus in the district.

Details on HB22 Accountability bill

HB 22 amends the Education Code to require the commissioner of education to review the commissioner's adopted indicators of the quality of learning and achievement used to measure and evaluate public school districts and campuses and to revise the domains of achievement indicators on which school district and campus evaluations are based by making the following changes:

  • Delays implementation of the A through F rating system to the 2019-2020 school year;
  • Removes the third domain, which concerns the achievement gap, and the fourth domain, which concerns college and career readiness;
  • Renames the first domain, which concerns student performance on statewide standardized tests, as the “student achievement” domain;
  • Renames the second domain, which concerns student progress on statewide standardized tests, as the “school progress” domain, specifying that the school progress domain includes indicators that account for effectiveness in promoting student learning, and revising and adding to the domain's components;
  • Renames the third domain, which concerns community engagement, as the “school climate” domain, specifying that the domain include indicators of school climate, and revising and adding to the domain's components, including a teacher quality indicator allowing up to 25% of student standardized test scores be used;
  • Requires the Commissioner to consult with educators, parents, business and industry when establishing and modifying those standards; and
  • Allows the Commissioner to incorporate student surveys as an indicator under the school climate domain.

HB 3976 TRS Care Bill Impact on Plan Design

Pre-65 Plan for Non-Medicare eligible participants

a. Reduce current Care 1 deductible from $5,250 to $3,000*

b. Maintain current Care-1 prescription drug benefits (80%/20%)

Medicare Advantage Plan for Medicare eligible participants

a. Maintain current Medicare Advantage 2 plan $500 deductible

b. Maintain current Medicare Part D Plan for prescription drug benefits

c. TRS would develop a policy to ensure Medicare eligible participants have sufficient provider access.

Eliminate statutory requirement to provide a no-premium healthcare plan

Provide statutory opt-in for pre-65 retirees who choose coverage elsewhere to opt-in to Medicare Advantage Plan at age 65

Stair-Step Premiums for Pre-65 Non-Medicare Eligible Participants:

Non-Medicare eligible participant premiums* would be gradually increased from 2018-2021 from $200.

  • Plan Year 2018: Retiree only - $200/month
  • Plan Year 2019: Retiree only - $250/month
  • Plan Year 2020: Retiree only - $310/month
  • Plan Year 2021: Retiree only - $370/month

* These are illustrative premiums/deductibles; actual premiums/deductibles will depend on funding and plan experience.

Premiums for Disability Retirees:

During the 2018-2021 plan years, TRS shall not charge a premium to disability retirees who:

(1) retired as a disability retiree effective on or before January 1, 2017;

(2) are currently receiving disability retirement benefits; and (3) are not eligible to enroll in Medicare.

FY 2018-19: $12.6M

Structural Contribution Changes:

State Contribution:

  • Currently, 1% of active employee payroll
  • State contribution increases to 1.25% of active employee payroll

Total FY 2018-19: $167.4M additional funding from the state

School Districts & Active Employees:

  • Active employee contribution of 0.65% of payroll remains unchanged
  • District contribution of active payroll increases from 0.55% to 0.75% 
  • Total FY 2018-19: $133.9M additional funding from the district

Total Additional State/District Contribution Needed for FY 2018-19:

$167.4M (0.25% state contribution increase) + $332.6M (supplemental) = $500M

SB 1 (as passed in the House) provides $500M from the ESF

$133.9M (0.20% district contribution increase)

Total Additional Funding = $633.9M


May 4, 2017

News coverage of TSTA's T-TESS lawsuit settlement

As reported yesterday, Education Commissioner Mike Morath has agreed to drop a requirement that at least 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on value added measures (VAM) such as standardized test scores. TSTA sued the commissioner last year for including that provision in the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (TTESS), the new state-recommended teacher evaluation system. Here's some of the press coverage:


May 3, 2017

TSTA: Education commissioner drops test scores as requirement for teacher evaluations

TSTA announced today that Education Commissioner Mike Morath has agreed to drop a requirement that at least 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on value added measures (VAM) such as standardized test scores. TSTA sued the commissioner last year for including that provision in the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (TTESS), the new state-recommended teacher evaluation system.

In a negotiated settlement of the lawsuit, the amended evaluation system will allow individual school districts to determine how to measure the progress of a teacher’s students by “one or more student growth measures” of their own choosing.

TSTA contended in its suit that state law — Section 21.351 of the Texas Education Code — clearly requires a teacher appraisal system adopted by the commissioner to be based on “observable, job-related behavior.” Section 21.352 of the Texas Education Code sets the same “observable, job-related behavior” requirement for school districts that choose to create their own appraisal systems.

But a VAM model is not “observable,” and evaluation standards based on VAM models often are incomprehensible to the teachers being evaluated. A VAM model typically is based on a complicated formula that compares actual student test scores to the scores predicted by a mathematical target based on the test scores of similar student populations.

The American Statistical Association has discredited VAM models as ineffective measurements of teacher performance.

“We are happy that Commissioner Morath has agreed to remove a provision from his evaluation system that not only has been discredited by experts but also violated state law,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said. “You can’t use a confusing, test-based formula to accurately or fairly measure the work that teachers do for their students every day in the classroom or how that work will affect a child’s future.”

“Educators appreciate and deserve a fair, easily understood evaluation system that helps them do an even better job for their students,” Candelaria added. “Tying teacher evaluations to test scores only raises the stakes on STAAR testing, unnecessarily raising the stress level of children and teachers alike and angering parents.”

A bipartisan poll commissioned by TSTA earlier this year showed that 66 percent of Texas voters — and 73 percent of Republican Primary voters — want to do away with standardized testing.

The Texas American Federation of Teachers, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association and the Association of Texas Professional Educators, which had filed separate legal proceedings against the commissioner over TTESS, also participated in the settlement.


May 2, 2017

Sign up for summer Teacher Institutes

The Texas Education Agency is conducting two Teacher Institutes this summer to develop online interim and formative assessment items that align to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) grades 3–8 mathematics and reading assessments. Click this link to learn more about the upcoming Teacher Institutes. The application is open through Friday, May 19, 2017. 


April 28, 2017 

State budget update debate moves to House-Senate Conference Committee

This week, the House and Senate conferees met for the first time and made nice before the press. However, some important differences have to be ironed out.

For example, the House voted overwhelmingly to use the Rainy Day surplus fund, appropriate $1.6 billion in additional state education funds and prevent private school vouchers. These things must be ironed out before the session ends or we could be forced to revisit these battle and others, depending on what the Governor adds to the special session agenda.

SB13, payroll deduction ban, still not referred to a House committee

The House received SB13 from the Senate on April 3, and the Speaker has not yet formally referred it to a House committee. Typically, this bill would go to the House State Affairs Committee, which has been handling numerous high profile controversial issues. TSTA and other educational and public employee allies continue working to firm up opposition to the bill by organizing constituent contact with State Affairs Committee members and other key House members.

SB3 Senate voucher bill still dying, but special ed voucher bill was heard in House committee last night

TSTA has been preparing to oppose two special education voucher bills that were heard last night in the House Public Education Committee.

  • HB 1335 would establish an education savings account program for certain children with special needs and other educational disadvantages; and
  • HB 4193 would establish a credit account program for students with disabilities to obtain educational support services. 

Both bills carry a significant cost to the state budget, which did not provide funding for these bills. Both were left pending before the committee. At this time, we believe we have the votes to prevent committee approval.

House approves HB28 – bill could have severe impact on education funding in the future

After a similar bill had been approved by the Senate, the House approved a phased-in elimination of the state’s main business tax, which was created in 2006 to offset the loss of education funding caused by property tax reduction. Although the bill would have no implications for the current cycle, it could create a $3.5 billion hole in the state budget in the future if an alternative revenue source is not tapped. TSTA worked with legislators who sought to amend the bill to make franchise tax repeal contingent on having adequate funding available for education, but those amendments were defeated. 

TSTA President Noel Candelaria released the following statement today on the House plan to debate House Bill 28, which proposes to phase out the franchise tax:

“It is short-sighted for the Texas House to consider House Bill 28, a bill to cut an important source of state revenue for education and many other critical programs, without providing a funding alternative. Only last week, TSTA and other education advocates applauded when the House approved House Bill 21, an important first step toward overhauling an inadequate and outdated school finance system.

“Should the House pass HB28 and approve a business tax cut that soon would be worth billions of dollars a year in lost revenue, it would be very difficult for the state to take the next step toward properly funding our schools and taking the burden off the backs of local property taxpayers. The franchise tax is a major source of state education funding, and this legislation provides no revenue source to make up for the funds this bill would take off the table.

“Unfortunately, the business community’s support for the gradual franchise tax repeal, without an alternative funding source for public education, is a short-sighted approach for businesses whose success depends on a well-educated labor force in the 21st century economy. Perhaps that is why Texas voters, by a 49-39 margin in a recent bipartisan poll commissioned by TSTA, said they oppose reducing and eventually ending the state’s main tax on businesses.”

TRS Pension bill (SB1751) update: no Senate committee hearing scheduled

This bill could begin the process of chipping away at the TRS defined benefit plan. TSTA will vigorously oppose this bill.

HB22, accountability bill that revises A-F campus grading system, to be debated by full House Wednesday

HB22 would revise the state accountability system and reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F grades. HB22 would not eliminate the A-F system, but it would postpone full implementation of the system for another year and eliminate the posting of a single summative A-F grade on any given campus or school district.  Amendments to further reduce standardized testing and eliminate the A-F could be brought up during floor debate. The Senate has indicated they will not allow A-F to be eliminated.

HB3976, TRS Care Bill, also set for House debate next Wednesday

Without legislative action, TRS Care could collapse in the face of a $1.3 billion shortfall, the product of years of neglect. This week, the House approved HB3976, a TRS Care bill that is somewhat less painful to retirees than Senate Bill 788 because it appropriates more state funding for TRS Care. Neither bill provides a long term solution that would not include a greater expense for retirees, but the additional House funding and stair step premium increases could cushion the blow somewhat until the legislature meets again in two years and make it the better of the two bills to keep TRS Care alive.

Dallas County Schools update – TSTA opposes HB2239 in House committee

Last week the Senate Education Committee approved SB1122, which would eliminate Dallas County Schools. This week, the House Public Education Committee heard HB 2329, the House version of the same bill. Passage of this bill would eliminate approximately 2,500 jobs of bus drivers, monitors, crossing guards, and their families, many of whom are NEA-Dallas members. This bill would eliminate the tax base that pays for many services in districts including bus, special education and other services that the individual school districts would not be able to reproduce under current funding levels. TSTA submitted a letter by TSTA board member Dale Kaiser outlining reasons to oppose this bill, and we are working with the Dallas County Schools lobby team to defeat it.

Senate floor action on charter funding

Yesterday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 457, a charter schools facilities funding bill by Sen. Donna Campbell.  As reported from committee, SB 457 would have drastically increased funding for charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools. Over the next biennium, the bill could have pulled over $410 million dollars from traditional ISDs. On the Senate floor, Sen. Kirk Watson amended the bill to cap its fiscal impact to $100 million over the next biennium – with half that funding going to traditional ISDs to pay down existing bond debt and the other $50 million going for charter facilities. TSTA will address problems we have with charter facilities funding in the House. 

The Senate Committee on Education approved the following bills: 

  • Senate Bill 1785 by Sen. Carlos Uresti. SB 1785 would prevent student evaluations from being used to evaluate the performance of a teacher. TSTA supported this bill:
  • Senate Bill 1294 by Sen. Dawn Buckingham. The language of SB 1294 deals with inclusive representation on campus- and district-based decision-making committees. Sen. Buckingham, however, stated that she intended this bill to be a vehicle for outlawing exclusive consultation. TSTA opposed this bill.
  • Senate Bill 2168 by Sen. Don Huffines. SB 2168 states that a record produced by a board of trustees during an investigation involving an alleged incident of educator misconduct will remain confidential if the complaint proves to be groundless.
  • The Senate Committee on Education also heard two accountability bills yesterday – Senate Bill 1173 by Sen. Charles Perry and Senate Bill 2051 by Chairman Larry Taylor. Both bills delete the attendance domain on which schools are rated. SB 1173 then increases reliance on the STAAR test to replace the attendance domain. SB 2051 lets the Commissioner of Education decide what to replace the attendance domain with – which could also lead to increased reliance on the STAAR test. TSTA opposed both bills.

House Public Education Committee report

House Public Education met for a second committee meeting this week to hear house bills before next week’s bill deadline. 

TSTA supports Community Schools Legislation - HB 3861 would allow a turnaround campus to operate as a community school. The community school plan must include strategies and programs to coordinate academic, social, and health services and reduce barriers to learning through partnerships and service coordination. The commissioner could not close a campus without allowing it at least two years to implement the community school plan.

TSTA also went on record in support of the following bills.

  • HB 3437 mandates TEA to operate a special education recovery program for benefit of students negatively affected by TEA's use of a performance indicator under the PBMAS that evaluated the percentage of the total number of enrolled students of a school district who received special education services.
  • HB 4027 relating to transition planning for a public school student enrolled in a special education program.  The bill would amend the Education Code to change the requirements related to transition planning for students with disabilities who receive special education services. The bill would expand the requirements for what must be provided to students and their families; update certain minimum training guidelines; amend requirements for the transition and employment guide; and amend information to be included in a required notice.
  • HB 3684 relating to recommendations regarding instruction in public schools to prevent the use of e-cigarettes.
  • HB 356 makes it unlawful for a person to carry a handgun to a board meeting, on campus or to visit with a superintendent, unless it is a board member in his or her official capacity.
  • HB 1261 prohibits charter schools from using disciplinary history as basis for not accepting a student.
  • HB 2159 relating to school district grace period policies and the provision of meals to public school students with insufficient balances on prepaid meal cards or meal accounts.
  • HB 3244 creating a salary bonus for a public school teacher who completes certain autism training. 
  • The following bills were approved by the committee.
  • HB 306 enacts David's Law and expands the definition of bullying including methods of cyberbullying using electronic communications and social media.
  • HB 884 requires SBOE to narrow number and scope of all TEKS.
  • HB 1799 relating to employing, terminating, and reporting misconduct of public school personnel and related entity personnel, including creating a registry of persons ineligible for hire.
  • HB 2209 relating to improving training and staff development for primary and secondary educators to enable them to more effectively serve all students.
  • HB 2395 relating to testing for lead contamination in public school drinking water.
  • HB 3887 requires trauma training for public school employees to include recognizing students displaying signs of physical or emotional trauma, and to intervene effectively with students by providing notice and referral to a parent or guardian so appropriate action, such as seeking mental health or substance abuse services, may be taken. District must report annually to TEA number of educators, principals and counselors employed who have completed training.

April 27, 2017

TSTA: Phasing out franchise tax could undermine school funding in the future

Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria released the following statement today on the House plan to debate House Bill 28, which proposes to phase out the franchise tax:

“It is short-sighted for the Texas House to consider House Bill 28, a bill to cut an important source of state revenue for education and many other critical programs, without providing a funding alternative. Only last week, TSTA and other education advocates applauded when the House approved House Bill 21, an important first step toward overhauling an inadequate and outdated school finance system.

“Should the House pass HB28 and approve a business tax cut that soon would be worth billions of dollars a year in lost revenue, it would be very difficult for the state to take the next step toward properly funding our schools and taking the burden off the backs of local property taxpayers. The franchise tax is a major source of state education funding, and this legislation provides no revenue source to make up for the funds this bill would take off the table.

“Unfortunately, the business community’s support for the gradual franchise tax repeal, without an alternative funding source for public education, is a short-sighted approach for businesses whose success depends on a well-educated labor force in the 21st century economy. Perhaps that is why Texas voters, by a 49-39 margin in a recent bipartisan poll commissioned by TSTA, said they oppose reducing and eventually ending the state’s main tax on businesses.”


April 26, 2017

The New STAAR Report Card

The Texas Education Agency publishes STAAR report cards for all students every year. It has been redesigned and will be available starting in June 2017. Here's more information.


April 21, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update

Please share this update with your members and keep the letters, emails and calls coming.

State budget, debate moves to House-Senate Conference Committee

This week, the House and Senate each named five conferees to attempt to work out the differences in their respective budget proposals. If they do not agree to a budget plan, we will face a special session this summer, which could bring a number of other issues back into play. The key differences in the House and Senate plans include the following:

By a 104-43 vote, the House passed an amendment prohibiting the use of state funds for vouchers. The Senate bill included a contingency rider that would fund the SB# voucher bill should it pass. It is extremely unlikely that the House would go back on such a substantial vote.

By an even larger bipartisan majority, 130 House members voted to use the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which will be used to secure passage of a school finance plan that would increase public education funding by $1.5-$1.6 billion (in addition to covering the cost of enrollment growth) and provide $500 million to support TRS Care. The Senate version does not use the Rainy Day fund and would instead rely on an accounting trick to delay state transportation funding into the next fiscal biennium to balance the budget. The Senate bill does not increase state education funding and provides only $311 for TRS Care.

House approves HB21, a $1.6 billion school finance bill, by a 132-15 majority

House Bill 21, a bipartisan school finance proposal, was approved last Wednesday. Although much more is needed to restore adequate funding, HB21 is an important first step toward improving an overhaul of the state school finance system. The bill’s principal author, Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty, has said that 95 percent of Texas school districts would receive more state aid per under HB21, which would provide a per-pupil funding increase of more than $200 per student. A number of thoughtful amendments illustrated the need for additional funding, but the House budget is structured to provide the $1.6 billion in additional revenue. TSTA supported the passage of HB21.

SB13, payroll deduction ban, not yet referred to a House committee

The fate of payroll deduction was always going to hinge on the House, and SB13 has not yet been referred to a committee in the House. TSTA and other educational and public employee allies continue working to firm up opposition to the bill, both in the Capitol and in key members’ districts. 

SB3, Senate voucher bill

Has not been set for a House committee hearing and probably won’t be considered at all in the House.

TRS Pension bill (SB1751) update: no Senate committee hearing scheduled

This bill could begin the process of chipping away at the TRS defined benefit plan. The bill has not yet been set for a committee hearing, TSTA will vigorously oppose this bill.

HB22 – Accountability bill that revises A-F campus grading system

It will be debated by full House as soon as next week

HB22 would revise the state accountability system and reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F grades. HB22 would not eliminate the A-F system, but it would postpone full implementation of the system for another year and eliminate the posting of a single summative A-F grade on any given campus or school district. 

HB3976, TRS Care Bill, approved by House committee

Without legislative action, TRS Care could collapse in the face of a $1.3 billion shortfall, the product of years of neglect. This week, the House approved HB3976, a TRS Care bill that is somewhat less painful to retirees than Senate Bill 788 because it appropriates more state funding for TRS Care. Neither bill provides a long term solution that would not include a greater expense for retirees, but the additional House funding and stair step premium increases could cushion the blow somewhat until the legislature meets again in two years. For excerpts of TSTA’s testimony on HB3976 and more details on the bill, go to the end of this update.

Senate approves SB160 special education legislation

This week, the Senate approved Sen. Jose Rodriguez’s bill to prohibit TEA from establishing a monitoring system performance indicator based solely on the number or percentage of students receiving special education services. TEA’s informal ban in the past led to a federal investigation and is the subject of TSTA’s digital ad campaign, which can be viewed at: https://www.dorightbytexaskids.org/

Senate Education Committee report

SB122 - bill to abolish Dallas County Schools, approved. This week, the Senate Education Committee approved SB 1122, which would eliminate Dallas County Schools, a district that provides student transportation to ISDs within Dallas County as well as providing crossing guards to ISDs in and outside of Dallas County. The passage of SB 1122 would eliminate approximately 2,500 jobs of Dallas County Schools bus drivers, monitors, crossing guards, and their families, many of whom are NEA-Dallas members. In addition, ISDs which rely on Dallas County Schools services will incur great costs. Those ISDs will have to buy school buses and hire their own drivers, monitors, and crossing guards. Further, the increased costs to ISDs will result in cuts to other programs, including academics. TSTA will continue to oppose this bill. Committee passage in the Senate was expected and it has still not had a hearing in the House. Lend a hand to our brothers and sisters in Dallas and ask your legislators to oppose SB1122.

Senate Bill 1882, by Sen. Jose Menendez, would allow a school district to partner with an open-enrollment charter school to operate a district campus. Senator Menendez offered a committee substitute that requires the charter to be an in-district charter. The bill would increase state funding for the school district.

Senate Bill 653 by Sen. Van Taylor. Originally, SB 653 dealt with improper relationships between educators and students. One of the penalties in the bill for being convicted of a crime associated with an improper relationship with a student was the partial or entire loss of the educator’s TRS pension. The bill was amended to deal only with partial or entire loss of an educator’s TRS pension if convicted of certain crimes associated with an improper relationship with a student.

House Public Education Committee Report

Committee takes up HB306, “David’s Law.”  HB 306 addresses student harassment, bullying, cyberbullying, and injury to or death of minor. David's Law would expand the definition of bullying to include methods of cyberbullying using electronic communications and social media.  The new law, if passed this session, would create levels of criminal conduct for bullying.

TSTA went on record in support the following bills.

  • HB 413, which would allow for the use of instructional materials allotment to pay salary and other expenses of an employee who is directly involved in student learning and staff involved in addressing the social emotional health of students;
  • HB 884, relating to a revision of the essential knowledge and skills of the public school foundation curriculum and proclamations for the production of instructional materials; and
  • HB 1010, relating to compliance with rules, bylaws, and written policies adopted by a school district's board of trustees.

TSTA went on record against the following bills.

  • HB 3706, which would allow a private or public community based dropout recovery education program for alternative education programs to be offered at a campus or through private online program; and
  • HB 4064, requiring educator certificates to require instruction in digital learning and be aligned with the International Society for Technology in Education's standards for teachers; provide effective, evidence based strategies to determine a person's degree of digital literacy; and include resources to address any deficiencies identified by the digital literacy evaluation. Adds digital learning and digital teaching to requirement in professional development for integrating technology into the classroom instruction.

The following bills were approved by the committee.

  • HB 1114 would allow a district to reduce the number of days in a teacher's contract for any reduction of days for instruction to students during the school year and will not reduce teacher's salary, and
  • HB 3318 would require Districts of Innovation to post the current local Innovation plan on its website. Any amendment to a district of Innovation must be submitted to TEA and the agency shall promptly post the plan to its website where both passed out of Committee.

For additional TRS Care information -- scroll to the entry for April 17


April 19, 2017

Breakfast in the Classroom Grant Webinar

On May 2, learn about an exciting grant opportunity that provides students with a nutritious morning meal to help them learn and thrive. Breakfast in the Classroom is a program that takes 10-15 minutes from start to finish and happens after the opening bell.

This webinar looks to provide real experiences from individuals who have implemented the program successfully. It starts at 4 pm CT. Please RSVP by Friday, April 30.


April 17, 2017

TRS Care Update

TSTA submitted written testimony on HB 3976. The bill would do the following:

  • Eliminate the requirement for TRS to provide a premium-free health plan to retirees and instead require eligible retirees, surviving spouses, and dependents participating in the plan to pay a monthly contribution (premium) to TRS-Care as determined by the TRS board of trustees; 
  • Require TRS to establish three plans to be offered; a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medicare prescription drug plan for participants eligible to enroll in Medicare, a high deductible (HD) plan offered under the Retiree Health group benefits plan, and if TRS made another health benefit plan available, any individual otherwise eligible to enroll in Medicare Advantage would be eligible to enroll in this plan.
  • Increase the state contribution rate from 1.0 to 1.25 percent of public education payroll.   
  • Allow the trustee, as needed, to set premium contribution rates of participants and to modify benefit plan design to maintain the solvency of the fund.

TSTA’s position is that the House version is certainly more favorable than the Senate version of this concept; however, the bill fails to provide a long-term solution for retirees.  It instead appears to be looking at solutions that increase a retiree and actives responsibility to pay for these benefits in lieu of the State bearing such costs, which it does for the Employees Retirement System.  One of the problems with the current TRS care system is that there is no legitimate relationship between health care costs and payroll.  

Any insurance benefit for retirees should be funded in an effort to reduce deductibles and premiums for retirees not eligible for Medicare, extend assistance to disability retirees, and require continued oversight by the Legislature.

Texas’ 262,000 retired teachers spent much of their adult lives securing Texas’ future with barely adequate – or worse – pay. They are entitled to a secure health care system, and there is more than enough money – about $12 billion– in the state’s Rainy Day Fund to keep TRS-Care solvent and increase funding for public schools. -- submitted by Portia Bosse

More on the bill

Without legislative changes AND additional funding to the TRS-Care program, the estimated $1.06 billion shortfall would be fully borne by the retirees. The program will quickly become unsustainable and forced to close.

Read more here.


April 13, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update  

I want to express my appreciation to Portia Bosse and John Grey for the work they do as our TSTA Government Relations Specialists at the Capitol. Portia covers the House and John covers the Senate for us, and these reports reflect the long hours they work during the session.

House approves “no vouchers, more education funding” budget, debate moves to House-Senate Conference Committee

Last week, the House passed its version of the budget. Here are some highlights of the House budget plan.

We previously reported that a bipartisan Texas House majority soundly rejected vouchers by approving, on a 104-43 vote, an amendment to the Appropriations Bill prohibiting the use of state funds for private school vouchers. The broad bipartisan opposition to vouchers sent a powerful message to Lt Gov. Dan Patrick and his Senate. There is still voucher legislation pending in the process, but today’s vote signals that vouchers are unlikely to pass the House

By an even larger bipartisan majority, 130 House members voted to use the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which will be used to secure passage of a school finance plan that would increase public education funding by $1.5-$1.6 billion, provide $500 million to support TRS Care and provide additional funding for Child Protective Services and other urgent state needs.

An amendment that could have ended payroll deduction for some public employees was also pulled down and was not added to the bill.

HB21, School finance bill, scheduled for House floor debate next Wednesday

House Bill 21, a bipartisan school finance proposal, is the enabling legislation that would parcel among local school districts the $1.6 billion in additional funding approved last week in the House budget. HB21 is considered a modest "first step" toward improving an overhaul of the state school finance system. The bill’s principal author, Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty, has said that 95 percent of Texas school districts would receive more state aid per pupil if HB21 passes.

SB3 Senate voucher bill

Has not been set for a House committee hearing and probably won’t be considered at all in the House.

SB13, payroll deduction ban, faces uncertain future in the House

The fate of payroll deduction was always going to hinge on the House, and SB13 has not yet been referred to a committee. TSTA and other educational and public employee allies continue working with a bipartisan group of key House leaders and the members of the committee that will consider the bill to secure and firm up opposition.

TRS Pension bill (SB1751) update: no committee hearing scheduled

This bill could begin the process of chipping away at the TRS defined benefit plan. The bill has not yet been set for a committee hearing, TSTA will vigorously oppose this bill.

HB22 – House committee approves accountability bill that revises A-F campus grading system

The House Public Education Committee approved HB22, but it has not yet been scheduled for floor debate. HB22 would revise the state accountability system and reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F grades. HB22 would not eliminate the A-F system, but it would postpone full implementation of the system for another year and eliminate the posting of a single summative A-F grade on any given campus or school district. 

SB788, TRS Care Bill– no Senate vote yet.  House committee to consider its TRS Care plan next week.

Without legislative action, TRS Care could collapse in the face of a $1.3 billion shortfall, the product of years of neglect. Senate Bill 788 would completely change the TRS Care health care program, increase costs to retirees and provide fewer benefits. TSTA opposed SB 788 in committee, pointing out that the state’s funding stream for retiree health care has no logical connection to the actual cost of health care. There are many other options the Senate could have considered, but did not. The Senate plan would require $311 million.

The House will begin consideration of its plan Monday when the Appropriations Committee hears HB3976. The House budget provided $500 million for TRS Care and this bill could prove to be a more

House Public Education Committee Report

“Virtual Voucher” bill, HB 895, would expand “Virtual Education” without limits and accountability. HB 895The bill would remove limits on the number of state-funded courses that could be provided online by a private vendor paid with public school money.  Arguably, this bill creates a virtual voucher as a student could enroll in a full day virtual school.  TSTA went on record in opposition to this bill.

TSTA supported the following bills in Committee:

HB 3318 requires Districts of Innovation to post the current local Innovation plan on its website. Any amendment to a district of Innovation must be submitted to TEA and the agency shall promptly post the plan to its website.

HB 156 relating to establishing a pilot program in designated public high schools in certain municipalities for placement of students in Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs as an alternative to placement.

HB 168 relating to creating a voluntary program to recognize licensed before-school and after-school programs that promote healthy eating and physical activity.  Applies to after school programs and limits the amount of screen time and play time to be instituted.

HB 209 relating to voter registration application forms in high schools. Requires high school to always make available voter registration application forms to students and employees at the campus.

HB 1114 was also heard which allows a district to reduce the number of days in a teacher's contract for any reduction of days for instruction to students during the school year which will not reduce teacher's salary.

TSTA supported HB 713 relating to a prohibition of a monitoring system performance indicator based on the number or percentage of students receiving special education services which was voted out of committee and will be considered by the House in the next few weeks.  The bill prohibits TEA from using a performance indicator for students receiving special education services.

TSTA also supported HB 743 relating to social work services in public schools, voted favorably from committee; and HB 2130, which requires TEA to conduct study of alternative assessment instruments for special education students and whether they comply with ESSA.

The Committee heard HB 2616 by Helen Giddings (D) relating to the discipline and behavior management of a student enrolled in a grade level below grade four at a school district or open-enrollment charter school.  This bill would prohibit suspensions and require more intervention with students creating disciplinary problems; however, the bill does not change a teacher’s ability to remove a student from the classroom at his or her discretion.  TSTA took no position on this bill but is working with the author to ensure a teacher is able to manage the classroom appropriately.

Senate Education Committee Report – Dallas TSTA leaders testify against SB1122

This week, the Senate Education Committee met to discuss two bad bills. The first bill was Senate Bill 1122 by Sen. Huffines. Senate Bill 1122 would eliminate Dallas County Schools, which provides student transportation to ISDs within Dallas County as well as providing crossing guards to ISDs in and outside of Dallas County. TSTA opposed this bill 

Angela Davis, NEA Dallas President & NEA Director, testified in opposition to the bill. Ms. Davis argued that eliminating Dallas County Schools would adversely affect the approximately 2,500 bus drivers, monitors, crossing guards, and their families. She encouraged the committee members to think of the lives being affected by this bill and to vote “no.”

Dale Kaiser, TSTA Board Member & NEA Administrator At-Large, testified in opposition to the bill, pointing out that if the bill passes, ISDs who rely on Dallas County Schools’ services will incur great costs. Those ISDs will have to buy school buses and hire their own drivers, monitors, and crossing guards. In addition, Mr. Kaiser noted that the increased costs to ISDs will result in cuts to other programs, including academics. 

Senate Bill 1122 was left pending. 

The Senate also heard Senate Bill 1278 by Chairman Larry Taylor. Senate Bill 1278 applies to alternative teacher certification programs. The bill would reduce the accountability for these programs as well as lowering the teaching standards within the programs. For these reasons, TSTA opposed this bill.

House Public Education Subcommittee on Educator Quality Report

The subcommittee met this week to hear bills related to Districts of Innovation, teacher quality and educator preparation programs. 

TSTA went on record for HB 1867 relating to the applicability of educator certification and assignment requirements to school districts of innovation, and HB 3692 relating to appraisal criteria for assessing performance of public school teachers and excluding high stakes tests from those criteria.

TSTA was neutral with concerns on HB 2941 relating to improving the quality of teachers employed by a school district, teacher performance appraisals, and the hiring of mentor teachers. TSTA opposes any link between teacher appraisal/performance and compensation.  The use of high stakes tests to determine a teacher’s value is unjust, unfair, and not an accurate representation of the educator’s performance in the classroom. TSTA is currently involved in litigation against the Commissioner of Education over the link between teacher appraisals and high stakes test scores through the TTESS rules developed by TEA. 

Moreover, if the bill seeks to codify what constitute professional efforts and accomplishments, then it may succeed in creating tiers of teaching that could unfairly penalize those who do not, because of personal commitments, have the time to achieve those distinctions.  A program under this bill would create an impossibly high burden for teachers who are already working on average 55 hours per week and do not have the time or financial resources to participate in continuing education courses 

The bill also would create a burden to appraise every educator under the program every year.  Many teachers with years of experience might not need an appraisal every year.  Effective teacher appraisals afford opportunities for teachers to improve; more than that, they also afford opportunities for appraisers to work with teachers who need to improve.  The less than annual provision opens the door for appraisers to work with and coach teachers at either the Developing or Improvement Needed levels.  Appraisers do not have time to do effective evaluations as it is and taking away the option for the less than annual appraisal would undermines the bill’s intent.

TSTA also went on record against HB 2924 relating to educator preparation programs.


April 12, 2017

TEA establishes #IAmTXEd website

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has established a website (www.tea.texas.gov/iamtxed) to feature all educator profiles published in the agency’s successful #IAmTXEd social media campaign.

Launched in December 2016, the #IAmTXEd campaign collects and shares the ongoing success stories of Texas educators whose work is leading to greater student outcomes and achievements. The social media posts are shared statewide each Thursday via the TEA’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Stories from the campaign feature teachers providing rigorous and rewarding academic experiences; highlight the critical role that educators play in students’ lives; showcase teachers driving student achievement, a love of learning and personal growth; and/or exhibit instances in which educators go above and beyond to provide meaningful learning experiences for students.

TEA has solicited submissions to the #IAmTXEd campaign directly from school districts and charters and plans to publish stories from every region of the state. Submitted stories should be approximately 300 words in length and include at least one high-resolution photograph that corresponds to the story. To see submissions and to learn more about the #IAmTXEd campaign, visit TEA on social media or online at www.tea.texas.gov/iamtxed. For questions regarding the campaign or to submit a story, please email IAmTXEd@tea.texas.gov.


April 10, 2017

Highlights of the TSTA state convention

TSTA held its state convention at the Omni Houston on April 7-8, with 375 delegates in attendance. Reelected to three-year terms at the convention were President Noel Candelaria, Vice President Ovidia Molina, and NEA Director Linda Estrada. Recognized award winners included Revathi Balakrishnan, Ermalee Boice Instructional Advocacy Award; Richard Martin, Ronnie Ray ESP Advocate of the Year; Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Mickey Leland Memorial Award for Social Justice; Carla A. Ranger, Frank Tejeda Award; and Rep. Diego Bernal, Friend of Education.  


Highlights of the ESP Conference

Saul Ramos, a Massachusetts paraeducator, was the keynote speaker for the TSTA ESP Conference April 9 in Houston, and NEA-Dallas member Sheila Walker, a community liaison at Lincoln High School in Dallas ISD, was named TSTA 2017 ESP of the Year.

April 6, 2017

Bipartisan Texas House majority soundly rejects vouchers

Just before noon, the  Texas House approved an amendment to the Appropriations Bill prohibiting the use of state funds for private school vouchers. The House rejected vouchers by a 104-43 vote (it looks like we picked up one more vote since the Speaker announced the vote at that time). The broad bipartisan opposition to vouchers sends a powerful message to Lt Gov. Dan Patrick and his Senate.

The initial count indicates that all 55 House Democrats and 59 of the 95 House Republicans - a majority of members from both parties – voted to say no to vouchers. There is still voucher legislation pending in the process, but today’s vote signals that vouchers are unlikely to pass the House.

TSTA monitoring budget debate for any payroll deduction amendments
One poorly drafted attempt at a payroll deduction amendment was filed but at this time, the author has told numerous people he intends to pull it down. We believe that amendment would be subject to a point of order if offered.

House vote on Rainy Day Fund and an additional $1.5 billion for public education still to come.


April 5, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update

Thanks to TSTA members who have contacted us if you are planning to come to Austin to testify on a bill. It is important to coordinate with TSTA Public Affairs to make sure our testimony is consistent with ongoing TSTA lobbying activities. As negotiations evolve during the session, the content of testimony can change from week to week and day to day. Thanks.

House budget debate set for Thursday, April 6, key votes on vouchers, Rainy Day Fund expected

The House will begin a marathon session (hundreds of amendments have been filed) on the state budget tomorrow. TSTA has sent an Action Alert on the budget requesting you to contact your legislators on the voucher amendments. The most important votes related to public education are:

  • A vote to use the state’s Rainy Day Fund requites a 100 vote supermajority, which will require bipartisan support. The use of the Rainy Day Fund is necessary in the House plan to secure passage of a school finance plan that would increase public education funding by $1.5 billion.
  • Votes on six voucher amendments, two that support vouchers and four that would prevent state funds from being used for private and religious schools. The anti-voucher amendments could be consolidated to one or two and the authors come from both political parties.

TSTA Public Affairs staff will be monitoring and working with members throughout the budget debate.

SB3 Senate voucher bill. House budget vote could signal bill’s fate in the House

As we reported last week, SB3 passed the Senate, but it faces a much cooler in the House. The bill has not yet been referred to a committee in the House, the Public Education Committee Chairman has expressed opposition to vouchers, and if a House majority rejects vouchers during the budget debate, voucher prospects will dim considerably. That said, we can take nothing for granted because the pro-voucher forces will not give up.  

SB13, payroll deduction ban passes Senate, still faces uncertain future in the House

To no one’s surprise, SB13 was approved by the Texas Senate this week, but the fate of this bill was always going to hinge on the House, where SB13 has not yet been referred to a committee. TSTA and our public employee allies have been working with a bipartisan group of key House leaders and the members of the committee that will consider the bill to secure and firm up opposition. A budget rider to prevent payroll deduction was filed, as we expected, but the author has pledged to withdraw the amendment and it is subject to a point of order for violating House rules. We expected this, prepared the point of order and will remain vigilant on this bill every day.

TRS Pension bill (SB1751) update

Still not yet referred to committee.This bill could begin the process of chipping away at the TRS defined benefit plan. The bill has not yet been set for a committee hearing, TSTA will vigorously oppose this bill. 

HB22 – House committee approves accountability bill that revises A-F campus grading system

On Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee voted unanimously to approve HB22, a bill that would revise the state accountability system and reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F grades. HB22 would not eliminate the A-F system, but it would postpone full implementation of the system for another year and eliminate the posting of a single summative A-F grade on any given campus or school district. Although TSTA favors the elimination of the A-F system, we support of the bill as a step in the right direction.

Senate State Affairs committee approved SB788, TRS Care Bill would increase premiums, decrease benefits

On Monday, the Senate State Affairs committee approved Senate Bill 788, a bill that would completely change the TRS Care health care program. SB 788 will increase costs to retirees and provide fewer benefits. TSTA opposed SB 788 in committee, pointing out that the state’s funding stream for retiree health care has no logical connection to the actual cost of health care. In addition, TSTA implored the committee to stop the Senate’s war on teachers and public education (see payroll deduction, vouchers and Senate budget), and to appropriately fund TRS Care. This critical bill will soon move to the Senate floor for further debate. Now is the time to call your Senator and request they amend the bill to increase the funding for TRS Care.

Senate Bill 788 would:

  • eliminate the requirement that TRS offer a zero-premium plan to its members;
  • do away with the three-tiered system (Care 1 HD, Select, and Care 2) in favor of one high-deductible plan for retirees under age 65 and retirees over age 65’
  • cause a premium increase for retirees under age 65 over a four-year phase-in, and all Medicare-eligible retirees would be placed in TRS’ Medicare Advantage program; and
  • the state will increase its funding from 1% of active payroll to 1.25%.

April 5, 2017

TEA issues report on on rural and small schools

Following almost a year of work, the Texas Rural Schools Task Force has released a report, Texas Rural Schools Task Force: Elevating Support for Texas Rural and Small Schools. 

Rural school districts face many educational challenges unique to their size and region. Created in 2016, the Texas Rural Schools Task Force was charged with identifying current challenges and best practices for rural school districts statewide. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, Texas has more than 2,000 campuses classified as being in rural areas. Nationally, Texas has more schools in rural areas than any other state, with more than 20 percent of campuses in rural areas.

To learn more about the Texas Rural Schools Task Force and read the entire report, click here.


April 4, 2017

Paraprofessionals come together to fight the stigma of mental illness

Last November, a New Hampshire local won an NEA grant to provide training for 20 members in mental health first aid. Read more.


March 31, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update

Look for Action Alert emails and patch through calls next week. Keep ‘em coming. The House will consider the public education budget education funding next Thursday or Friday, which could include amendments to prohibit using state funds for vouchers and funding for TRS Care. Please stay on the lookout for emails or phone calls that connect you to your legislator.

No surprises: Senate budget (SB1), voucher bill (SB3), payroll deduction ban (SB13). Three key fights move to the House where our prospects are better, but not certain

SB1 Senate Budget Plan

On Tuesday, the Senate approved Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s budget, a plan that would not use the Rainy Day Fund, could cuts overall funding for public education by as much as $69.5 million and state general revenue funding for public education by as much $1.877 billion. 

The Senate plan flies in the face of Texans’ budget priorities, A recent TSTA poll, conducted by a respected bipartisan polling team, found that 71 percent of Texas voters believe all or some of the Rainy Day Fund should be used to support public schools. And, by a 56 to 39 percent margin, Republican primary voters agree that some of our state tax dollars would be better used to invest in our future, rather than sitting in the bank doing nothing.

Late next week, the House will consider its budget plan, and it contains three key difference related to public education:

The House budget does use the Rainy Day Fund and would provide an additional $1.5 billion for public education;

The House provides $500 million to partially shore up TRS Care. The Senate budget did not include a line item for TRS Care, and only included a funding provision contingent on passage of a single high deductible plan that would increase out of pocket expenses for retirees.

The Senate budget included an open-ended provision to fund the voucher bill if it should pass. The House plan does not. 

SB3 Senate voucher bill

Next stop: a less receptive House

On Thursday, the Texas Senate today approved Senate Bill 3, a voucher bill that creates “Education Savings Accounts” and “Tax Credit Scholarships” that would allow a handful of parents use our tax dollars to pay tuition at private and religious schools that are not subject to the same accountability and testing requirements required of our neighborhood schools. The Senate leadership had to craft numerous floor amendments that limited the scope of the bill in terms of eligibility, including a “rural carve out” amendment that limited the bill to counties with a population greater than 285,000. Nonetheless, despite the limitations, every Texas taxpayer would be paying taxes that subsidize private school tuition to let a few select students attend private school on our dime.

The fight now goes to the House, where the Public Education Committee Chairman has expressed opposition to vouchers, but we can take nothing for granted because the pro-voucher forces will not give up.  We must continue our efforts to defeat SB3, and you are a very important part of it. Hundreds of you who have called and written your Senators, and we will be sending you action alerts urging you to contact your state representatives when the House begins its consideration of SB3. 

Our arguments Senate Bill 3 have not changed:

  • SB3 would siphon funds from a state education budget that provides Texas public schools about $2,700 less per pupil than the national average. Texas taxpayers can’t afford to pay for two separate school systems, one public and one private system with little or no accountability.
  • A bipartisan TSTA poll shows that most Texas voters, including Republican Primary voters, oppose spending tax dollars on the education savings accounts that would be created by SB3.
  • The same poll shows that 80% of Texas voters oppose sending tax money to private and religious schools that do not meet the accountability standards that apply to public schools.

SB13, payroll deduction ban, passes Senate, but faces uncertain future in the House

To no one’s surprise, SB13 was approved by the Texas Senate this week, but only after TSTA and our public employee union and association allies united to keep the bill off the Senate floor for six weeks after it was approved by the Senate State Affairs committee on February 13. Credit goes to more than 1,000 of you who made calls and sent emails through TSTA’s Action Network and patch through call systems.

The bill faces a much more uncertain future in the House, where we have worked for months already developing a plan to defeat the bill and lining up opposition to it. We are counting on you to contact your House members and remind them that SB 13 is a selective attack on teachers and school employees and that you simply want to be free to spend or hard earned paycheck as you see fit. The bill would let you use payroll deduction to join a health club or give to a charity the lobbies on legislation, but it would not let you to use payroll deduction to join your own association in a safe and secure manner. And police and firefighter unions are exempt from the bill, but they also oppose it.

TRS Pension bill (SB1751) update: bill could undermine TRS defined benefit pension – bill still not yet referred to committee

SB1751 could be the first step in an effort to undermine the promise of the TRS defined benefit pension, the only certain retirement income for most retired teachers. The bill would allow the appointed boards of ERS and TRS - by rule without legislative approval - to establish an “alternative retirement plan” to provide benefits to newly hired employees under an alternative plan instead of under a defined benefit plan.  TSTA will vigorously oppose SB 1751. The bill has not yet been referred to a committee, and we will launch an aggressive campaign against the bill when it is.

HB22 – House committee could vote accountability bill that could revises A-F campus grading system next Tuesday

The House Public Education Committee could vote week on HB22, a bill that would revise the state accountability system and possibly reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F grades. HB22 would not eliminate the A-F system, but it would postpone full implementation of the system for another year and eliminate the posting of a single summative A-F grade on any given campus or school district.  Although TSTA favors the elimination of the A-F system, we testified in support of the bill as a step in the right direction and urged the committee to reduce the impact of high stakes testing on campus grades.

Coming Next Week…

House debates its version of the state budget Thursday and Friday.

The House Public Education Committee will hear a number of bills related to special education and student wellness and HB3439, a bill that would allow a school district to contract to partner with an open-enrollment charter school to operate a district campus and share education resources. TSTA will work to make sure this bill is not harmful to our neighborhood schools.

The Senate State Affairs committee will hear several TRS bills. TSTA will oppose SB788, a bill that would create a single high deductible plan TRS Care that reduce benefits and increase premiums for retired teachers.        


March 30, 2017

TSTA: Voucher bill is as shameful as the Senate budget

“First the Senate follows Dan Patrick’s lead and cuts state funding for public education. Then senators approve his voucher bill to drain even more of our tax dollars from public schools to help a handful of families pay private school tuition. The voucher bill is as shameful as the Senate budget and as harmful to public schools, educators and students," TSTA President Noel Candelaria said, regarding the Senate’s approval of SB3, the voucher bill.

“A recent bipartisan TSTA poll shows that most Texans, including Republican Primary voters, oppose education savings accounts, which would require little, if any, accountability for how tax funds are spent. Most Texans also oppose tax-credit scholarships and other forms of vouchers," Candelaria said. “Carving some rural counties out of Senate Bill 3 may have won the votes of a few senators, but it did  nothing to protect their rural constituents from having to pay state tax dollars to subsidize private schools in distant cities, if this bill were to become law. TSTA believes that House members will see through this ploy and protect their neighborhood public schools by opposing the voucher bill.”

2016 Snapshot: School District Profiles now available on TEA website

The 2016 Snapshot: School District Profiles is available on the Texas Education Agency website. Snapshot is an online resource that provides an overview of public education in Texas for a particular school year. In addition to state-level information, this product contains a profile about the characteristics of each public school district and charter school.

Snapshot summary tables provide district information in some common categories, and a peer search function permits grouping districts according to shared characteristics. While Snapshot does provide an overview of public education in Texas at the state level and for each public school district, it does not provide any campus-level information.


March 29, 2017

TSTA: Senate Bill 13 is a selective attack on educators and other public servants

TSTA President Noel Candelaria issued the following statement on the Senate’s approval of SB13, the dues deduction bill:

“By approving Senate Bill 13, the Senate majority made a selective attack on educators, Child Protective Services workers and certain other public employees who voluntarily join employee associations and unions for professional development and other reasons important to their job performance. They use their own money to pay their membership dues, and it doesn’t cost governments anything to deduct their dues payments from their paychecks. These dedicated public servants should be free to use their own money to pay their membership dues as they see fit.

“The Texas State Teachers Association and other employee organizations don’t use membership dues for political purposes, but this bill is obviously politically motivated. Otherwise, why would some employee unions and associations be exempted from the bill and allowed to continue to have their membership dues automatically deducted by their government employers each payday?”

Senate approves SB13, the dues deduction bill; fight now goes to House; vouchers up next

Earlier: The Senate today approved Senate Bill 13, the bill prohibiting TSTA members and most other public employees from paying their dues through voluntary, automatic payroll deductions. Thank you to the hundreds of TSTA members who contacted their state senators and urged them to vote against this bill. The Senate fight was tough, but this bill now moves to the House and it's far from over.

Be on the lookout for our action alerts when the House starts considering the bill and be prepared to contact your state representatives against the measure. Our arguments against the bill haven't changed:

  • This is your money, and you should be free to spend your money in any way you want to.
  • Payroll deductions are entirely voluntary and cost taxpayers nothing.
  • Payroll deductions are the most secure way to maintain your membership in an organization that is important to you.
  • TSTA membership dues do NOT pay for political activity. They are spent on state-certified professional development, liability insurance and other programs that help educators do a better job for their students.
  • SB13 would allow payroll dues deductions for other groups and charities, and it is simply not right to allow payroll deduction for some public employees while denying educators the freedom to spend their own money as they see fit.

SB3, the voucher bill, may be debated by the full Senate on Thursday

Contact your state senators and urge them to vote against Senate Bill 3, which would create an unaccountable private school voucher program. TSTA's recent bipartisan poll shows that most Texans don't want to spend their tax dollars on private school tuition for a handful of students.


March 29, 2017

Vote NO on the “new SB3”

It's still a voucher entitlement bill with little or no accountability.

The evolving substitute version of SB 3 is a voucher bill, period! Call it an Education Savings Account (ESA) or a Tax Credit Scholarship, SB3 is still puts state tax dollars into private or religious schools that are not subject to the same kind of accountability and curriculum standards required of neighborhood public schools.

82% of Texas voters, and 79% of Republican primary voters, believe private and religious schools that receive state tax dollars through a voucher program should have to meet the same accountability standards required of neighborhood public schools, according to the findings of a TSTA survey conducted by a respected bipartisan polling team that included an oversample of 418 Republican primary voters. 

Changes in ESA’s in the new SB3 make it a pure voucher bill. Restricting ESA use to almost nothing but private school tuition reveals that SB3 is what it always was: a voucher bill.                                                                                                                        

Adding caps and limits to SB 3 does not change the fact that SB3 still diverts limited state education funds from public schools to private schools.  At a time when the state is providing only 38% of public school costs, taxpayers cannot afford to pay for two separate school systems – one private and one for over 90% of Texas children who attend public schools. The limits and caps being added to the floor substitute only serve to limit voucher recipients to a select few now, while setting the stage for future expansion that will be more damaging to public schools in future, a pattern that followed in other states.  

The “rural carve out” in the new SB3 is a cynical ploy that does nothing for rural public schools. Exempting small rural counties from SB3 is of little value. Small rural counties have few private schools, so local issues related to voucher students were never going to be a major problem there, but with or without a carve out, state tax dollars paid by rural taxpayers would be used to subsidize private school vouchers in the rest of the state. 


March 28, 2017

TSTA: Dan Patrick’s Senate budget is a slap in the face of 5.3 million Texas school children

“Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s Senate budget is a slap in the face of 5.3 million Texas students, their parents and teachers, and the majority of Texas voters of all political persuasions," TSTA President Noel Candelaria said today, regarding the budget approved by the Texas Senate.

“Dan Patrick’s education budget cuts shamefully neglect our students’ needs. Simply put, it is wrong to cut overall funding for public education by $69.5 million and cut the amount of state general revenue funding for public education by $1.877 billion, while relying on locally generated funds to make up the difference.

“At a time when Texas has a Rainy Day Fund surplus of $12 billion, the largest of its kind in the country, failing to adequately fund our neighborhood schools in unconscionable. TSTA’s recent poll, conducted by a respected bipartisan polling team, found that 71% of Texas voters believe some of the Rainy Day Fund should be used to support public schools. And, by a 56 to 39 percent margin, Republican primary voters agree that some of our state tax dollars would be better used to invest in our future, rather than sit in the bank doing nothing.

“To add insult to injury, the Lt. Governor wants to siphon money from his underfunded education budget to pay for a private school voucher entitlement program that would hand out state tax dollars with little or no accountability.

“Fortunately, today’s Senate budget action is just the first round of what could be a protracted debate, and the Texas House is considering what Texas voters want: using a reasonable part of the Rainy Day Fund to provide additional funds to education and other critical state needs. We believe that in the end, a number of our state senators will agree, because our children’s future hangs in the balance.”


March 28, 2017

House Public Education Committee votes out School Finance Bill

The House Public Education Committee voted out HB 21, the school finance bill, by Chairman Huberty.  The bill increases the Basic Allotment, creates new transportation funding, includes funding for Additional State Aid for Non-Professional Staff, and lowers recapture. Other bills voted out of committee: HB 1291, HB 657, HB 1469, HB 2263, HB 789, HB 1731, and HB 3075.  

TSTA went on record against several charter school bills that would allow for facilities funding, growth of charters, and more funds per charter student. HB 171 mandates the commissioner of education to determine what facilities are being unused by districts in the state, and provides for an open enrollment charter to make a written offer to a district for lease or purchase of said unused facilities. If the unused property meets requirements, the district must lease or sell the property to the charter.  HB 1269 provides for additional funding for charters including facilities funding. HB 2337 establishes a calculation for charters to get facilities funding.

TSTA went on record in support of HB 2298, which would expand the limitations on serving on a school board, including registered lobbyists and charter board members.

TSTA did not weigh in on the following bills, also heard in committee:

HB 467 relating to the guarantee of charter district bonds by the permanent school fund.

HB 480 relating to open-enrollment charter schools that provide only prekindergarten programs.

HB 481 relating to the recovery of over-allocated state funds by the Texas Education Agency.

HB 852 relating to adult high school diploma and industry certification charter school pilot program requirements.

HB 1023 relating to the powers and duties of the commissioner of education regarding granting additional charters for open-enrollment charter schools.

HB 1039  relating to funding for open-enrollment charter schools. Equalizes funding to charters by the per pupil spending of the encompassing district, or the lesser of the two.

HB 1059 relating to the effective date of certain actions taken by the commissioner of education against school districts that exceed the equalized wealth level. Requires the commissioner to notify districts every year of the decision to reattach property previously detached from the district for equalized wealth purposes.

HB 1081 relating to the new instructional facility allotment under the foundation school program.

HB 1560 relating to the removal of an obsolete reference regarding open-enrollment charter schools and the State Board of Education.

HB 1669 relating to appeals and complaints arising from school laws brought by parents and public school students. Defines a "frivolous complaint" filed by a student or parent and provides for attorneys fees to be awarded.

HB 2051 relating to the new instructional facility allotment under the foundation school program. Increases allotment to $1000 from $250.

HB 2340 relating to the use by a school district of certain undesignated funds in the district's general fund. Requires districts to keep minimum fund balance of at least 90 days operating expenses.

HB 2611 relating to broker agreements for the sale of real property by school districts.

HB 2649 relating to certain meetings of open-enrollment charter schools. Requires charter boards to meet in same county where charter is located or broadcast the meeting pursuant to state law.

HB 3722 relating to funding adjustments for school districts that annex unacceptable school districts. -- report from Portia Bosse


March 27, 2017

House Public Education subcommittee meets

The House Public Education Subcommittee on Teacher Quality met to consider more improper relationship bills, including SB 7, and other educator quality bills.

TSTA went on record in support HB 1918 relating to providing grants for professional development training for certain public school teachers, and HB 2209 relating to improving training and staff development for primary and secondary educators to enable them to more effectively serve all students.  Both of these bills would allow for more professional development and training for educators.

TSTA did not take a position on the following educator improper relationship bills:

  • SB 7 relating to improper relationships between educators and students; creating a criminal offense and expanding the applicability of an existing offense.
  • HB 3769 relating to improper relationships between educators and students; creating a criminal offense and expanding the applicability of an existing offense.
  • HB 460 relating to continuing education requirements for certain educators.
  • HB 1403 relating to the prosecution of the offense of improper relationship between educator and student.
  • HB 1799 relating to employing, terminating, and reporting misconduct of public school personnel and related entity personnel, including creating a registry of persons ineligible for hire; creating a criminal offense. -- report from Portia Bosse

March 27, 2017

Our forgotten children

Texas is last in the nation in providing special education to children with disabilities. Meet Kelsey and see the difference special education and passionate teachers can make in the lives of exceptional children and their families. Then sign the petition. more


March 25, 2017

TSTA at the Save Texas Schools Rally

TSTA leaders, members, and staff were at the Save Texas Schools Rally at the Capitol today!


March 23, 2017

Candelaria: there is no good reason to support SB3

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Education took up Senate Bill 3 by Chairman Larry Taylor. Senate Bill 3 is a voucher bill that attempts to establish an education savings account program and a tax credit scholarship program. Both programs would take public tax dollars and send them to private and parochial schools at the expense of public education funding – which was recently described as barely constitutional by the Texas Supreme Court.

TSTA’s President, Noel Candelaria, appeared in opposition to the bill and offered the following testimony:

“Good afternoon, I’m Noel Candelaria, a special education teacher from Ysleta ISD who now resides in Austin, and Senator Campbell’s district, where I work as President of the Texas State Teachers Association. I know my time is short today, so I’ll get to the point and highlight just three of the many reasons to vote against Senate Bill 3.

  • "The first reason is money.  At a time when our neighborhood public schools are already woefully under-funded, now is not the time to divert state tax dollars to a concept like Educational Savings Accounts, which is the worst voucher idea yet.  Texas taxpayers simply cannot afford to pay for two separate school systems, one for public schools and one for an entitlement like ESA’s. And when it comes to money, most families could not afford to go to the best private school, even with a voucher. In fact, that’s one reason why, in states with vouchers, most voucher recipients are already in private schools.
  • "Second is academic quality. The whole notion that vouchers create competition is undermined by the fact that year after year, almost all credible research indicates that private schools that accept voucher students do not perform better than neighborhood public schools. In fact, when it comes to helping students in struggling schools, the most recent research from Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana indicates that voucher students who transfer to private schools may actually do worse academically than they had before. Vouchers could hardly be called the civil rights issue of our time – or any time – given the fact that vouchers were considered a way to get around the Brown decision that struck down separate but equal in the 1950’s.
  • "Third, is accountability.  Time after time, we have seen data that shows the overwhelming majority of Texans think private and religious schools that receive public tax dollars through a voucher program should be held to the same accountability standards as neighborhood public schools. This bill does not require that kind of accountability and most private schools would not accept it, And the lack of accountability is a particular concern when it comes to ESA’s. 

"Simply put, there is no good reason to support Senate Bill 3,” Candelaria concluded.

The Senate Committee on Education voted out Senate Bill 3 this morning. Now is the time to contact your state representative and senator to tell them to vote “no” on Senate Bill 3.


March 23, 2017

TSTA Legislative Session Update

You can make a difference your calls and emails to your legislators…keep ‘em coming.  Legislation on education funding, vouchers, paycheck freedom (dues deduction), testing and accountability (A-F campus grading system), and more will be debated frequently in the coming weeks. Please stay on the lookout for emails or phone calls encouraging you to contact your legislators. 

ACTION ALERT.  Senate voucher bill (SB3) approved by Senate Education Committee, could be considered by full Senate next week.

Today, the Senate Education Committee approved on SB3 on a 7-3 vote, with Senators West, Seliger and Uresti voting no. The voucher bill that would establish “Education Savings Accounts” and “Tax Credit Scholarships” to divert state education funds to private and religious schools with little or no accountability to the state. At this time, we may be one vote short of having the votes to keep this bill off the Senate floor, so contacting your Senator. Tomorrow and Monday you should receive an email or a patch through call that will enable you to contact your Senator and urge a no vote on SB3. 

TSTA President Noel Candelaria testified against SB3. You can read his testimony at: http://tsta.org/news-center/education-news#nogood.

SB13, payroll deduction bill update – bill remains eligible for Senate floor debate, but so far opposition has prevented Senate floor consideration.

TSTA continues working to slow down and defeat SB13 and HB510, bills that would prevent members of teacher organizations from paying their dues via payroll deduction. The bill passed a Senate committee weeks ago and is eligible for consideration by the full Senate. We are working every day to maintain the support of 13 Senators to block Senate consideration of the bill. Keep your calls and emails coming as we work to defeat this attack on teachers. The House companion bill has not been scheduled for a committee hearing.

TRS Pension bill (SB1751) update: bill could undermine TRS defined benefit pension – bill not yet referred to committee

SB1751 could be the first step in an effort to undermine the promise of the TRS defined benefit pension, the only certain retirement income for most retired teachers. The bill would allow the appointed boards of ERS and TRS - by rule without legislative approval - to establish an “alternative retirement plan” to provide benefits to newly hired employees under an alternative plan instead of under a defined benefit plan.  TSTA will vigorously oppose SB 1751. The bill has not yet been referred to a committee, and we will launch an aggressive campaign against the bill when it is.

HB22 – House committee considers accountability bill that could revise A-F Campus Grading System

The House Public Education Committee held a hearing this week on HB22, a bill that would revise the state accountability system and possible reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F campus grading system. HB22 would not eliminate the A-F system, but it would postpone full implementation of the A-F system for another year and eliminate the posting of a single summative A-F grade on any given campus or school district.  Although TSTA favors the elimination of the A-F system, the Senate has made it clear they would not allow that to happen. TSTA testified in support of the bill and urged the committee to reduce the impact of high stakes testing on campus grades. The committee is making tweaks to the bill and will vote on a final version soon. 

School finance update: HB21 by House Public Education Committee next week.

HB21, a "first step" in an overhaul of the woefully inadequate Texas school finance system. The bill is still being refined at this time but committee approval could come at any time. Under the bill, 95 percent of school districts would receive more state aid per pupil, spending an additional $1.6 billion on schools in the next two years.

State Budget Debate Coming during the next two weeks

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee approved a state budget that shortchanges public education. The Senate leaders say their education budget plan is “status quo” and cover the cost of enrollment growth, but many analysts say it fails to provide sufficient funds to cover growth and inflation, and the status quo is simply not sufficient anyway. Senate floor debate could happen as early as next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the House is working on a budget plan that would use the state’s $12 billion Rainy Day Fund that cover enrollment growth and provide an additional $1.5 billion to public education. The House budget debate is expected the week after next. Look for a more detailed budget analysis early next week.


March 23, 2017

TSTA bipartisan poll: spend Rainy Day money on schools; stop ESAs; and reduce impact of high stakes testing on A-F school grading system

Most Texas voters — Republicans, Democrats and independents — believe the Legislature should spend part of the Rainy Day Fund to increase funding for public schools, according to a statewide poll conducted for the Texas State Teachers Association by a respected bipartisan polling team.

The poll also indicates significant bipartisan opposition to two other major legislative issues: education savings accounts and the A-F grading system for school accountability.

The TSTA poll was led by Keith Frederick, who has conducted polls for Democratic candidates in Texas for more than a decade, and Jan van Lohuizen, who has conducted polls for numerous statewide and national Republican officeholders. TSTA surveyed a representative statewide sample of 750 registered Texas voters and an oversample of 418 Texas Republican Primary voters. 

“Texans of both political parties value their neighborhood public schools,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “They expect legislators to do a better job of providing educators the resources needed for student success, resist efforts to divert education tax dollars to unaccountable privatization schemes, and reduce the disruption and stress felt by students, parents and educators due to high stakes testing.”

Key findings of the survey include:

  • 83% of Texas voters — 79% of Republican voters — have a positive opinion of teachers in their local schools;
  • By a 55%-34% margin — 54%-35% among Republican Primary voters — Texas voters believe inadequate state education funding causes increases in local school property taxes;
  • 71% of Texas voters — a 56%-39% majority of Republican Primary voters — believe the Legislature should tap into the Rainy Day Fund for public schools;
  • 73% of Texas voters — 64% of Republican Primary voters — believe the state should increase per pupil spending;
  • 66% of Texas voters — 73% of Republican Primary voters — believe high stakes testing should be scrapped;
  • Likewise, by a 57%-38% margin — a 61%-33% margin among Republican Primary voters — Texans oppose an A-F grading system based mostly on standardized test scores;
  • 82% of Texas voters — 78% of Republican Primary voters — believe that “any private or religious school that receives state tax dollars should be held accountable to the same standards as neighborhood public schools”;
  • Only 25% of Texas voters — and 28% of Republican voters — favor legislation to create Education Savings Accounts that would allow a few parents to use state tax dollars to pay for private, religious or home school expenses with little or no accountability;
  • By a 49-39% margin, Texas voters oppose phasing out the state’s main business tax, and only 44% of Republican primary voters favor that proposal.

March 22, 2017

Supreme Court ruling on IDEA standards directly debunks Gorsuch’s view

The U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously reversed the lower court’s decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District and rejected the “merely more than de minimis” standard to students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This standard has been pushed by Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, who is currently testifying before a U.S. Senate panel. The unanimous court decried the Gorsuch standard as one that would consign “children with disabilities” to an educational program that “can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.”

NEA applauds the Supreme Court for unanimously affirming that the IDEA is intended, and must be interpreted, to provide children with disabilities with an individualized education program that is “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” NEA urged the court to adopt exactly that approach in its amicus brief in the Endrew case. more


March 21, 2017

TSTA: ESAs are entitlements without accountability; may be worst voucher idea yet

“The Texas State Teachers Association strongly opposes Senate Bill 3 because it would siphon tax dollars from under-funded public schools to create a new taxpayer-funded entitlement—a so-called education savings account (ESA)—for a select number of families. The ESA entitlement may be the worst idea that voucher and privatization advocates have come up with yet," said TSTA President Noel Candelaria in a statement issued today. "With little or no public accountability, recipients would be able to access an account, possibly with a debit card, loaded with our tax dollars to pay for private school tuition or buy items like family computers to help home-school their children.

“The most recent studies in several other states continue showing that voucher programs don’t improve academic outcomes.  At a time when our public schools are already under-funded, the Texas Legislature needs to improve funding for our neighborhood public schools, where the vast majority of Texas’ 5.3 million school children will continue to be educated, not divert tax dollars to unaccountable and ineffective privatization schemes for a relative handful of kids," Candelaria said. “Senate Bill 3, if enacted, would cost Texas’ public schools as much as $2 billion a year, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. That would be shameful, especially since Texas already spends about $2,700 less per student in average daily attendance (ADA) than the national average.”


March 20, 2017

Rally for schools on March 25!

Join TSTA President Noel Candelaria and public school educators and advocates at the Save Texas Schools Rally March 25! Candelaria is among the speakers for the event, which begins at 10 a.m. on the south steps of the Capitol. Details at http://savetxschools.org.


March 20, 2017

TSTA connectivity issues this week

Please be aware that the TSTA headquarters will be experiencing limited connectivity starting at 7:00 PM, on Thursday, March 23rd, as we transition to our new location.

Our email server, phone and fax lines will be down, but our Help Center email server will remain up. If you need to contact the Help Center during this time, please  click on the Help Center box at the bottom of the home page, and we will contact you on Monday, March 27th.


March 17, 2017

TSTA: Trump’s proposed education cuts are shameful; Texas children could lose $328 million

The Texas State Teachers Association today rebuked President Trump for proposing education budget cuts, including $328 million impacting 68,000 Texas students, to help pay for his own misguided priorities.

“These proposed cuts, which would hurt some of Texas’ most vulnerable children, are shameful,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “And they are made worse by the fact that the president would use this money that should be going into public school classrooms to help pay for a federal private school voucher program and his border wall.”

“President Trump is either woefully ignorant about the needs of school children and their families or simply doesn’t care. Either way, he is threatening to weaken a public education system that has built our state and nation and must be preserved for future greatness,” Candelaria added.

Trump proposes the elimination of three formula-allocated state grant programs worth more than $4.2 billion nationwide and $328 million in Texas.

They are:

·         The Supporting Effective Instruction program, which provides federal dollars to help states recruit, hire, and retain effective teachers, particularly in low-income schools. The funds have been used to help reduce class sizes, improve support systems for teachers, and improve professional development for educators who teach children with disabilities and English language learners. Texas would lose $183.2 million.

·         21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provide extra student learning opportunities, such as before- and after-school programs and summer school programs. Texas would lose $103.2 million.

·         Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which provide as much as $4,000 per academic year to undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need. Texas would lose $41.7 million.


March 17, 2017

Thanks for your calls and emails to your legislators…keep ‘em coming!

Please stay on the lookout for emails or phone calls encouraging you to contact your legislators. In the last week, almost 500 of you have used the Action Network to send letters to your Senators asking them to vote against SB13, the bill that would eliminate payroll dues deduction. Please watch for similar requests on the voucher bill, SB3, and other important issues as votes in committees and on the floor approach as the session heats up. These legislative contacts are extremely important. 

Payroll deduction bill update 

This bill was eligible for Senate floor debate this week, but the bill may not have the 19 votes needed for Senate consideration. TSTA continues working to slow down and defeat SB13 and HB510, bills that would prevent members of teacher organizations from paying their dues via payroll deduction. The bill passed a Senate committee weeks ago and was eligible for consideration by the full Senate this week. Keep your calls and emails coming as we work to defeat this attack on teachers. At this time, we are continuing our effort to secure the support of 13 Senators to block floor consideration of the bill and your help matters. The House companion bill has not been scheduled for a committee hearing.

SB3 the voucher bill update: committee hearing rescheduled for next Tuesday

The Senate Education Committee postponed its scheduled Thursday hearing on SB3, the voucher bill, until next Tuesday. If your Senator is a member of the Education Committee, you will be receiving an email and a patch through call that will enable you to contact your Senator and urge a no vote on SB3. 

SB1751: a potential first step to undermining the TRS defined benefit pension

Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) has filed SB1751, a bill that could be the first step in an effort to undermine the promise of the TRS defined benefit pension, the only certain retirement income for most retired teachers. The bill would allow the appointed boards of ERS and TRS - by rule without legislative approval - to establish an “alternative retirement plan” to provide benefits to newly hired employees under an alternative plan instead of under a defined benefit plan.  Here are the details of SB1751.

  • This “alternative retirement plan” is defined as a defined contribution plan or a “hybrid retirement plan.” 
  • The “hybrid retirement plan” is defined as a retirement plan that combines the elements of a defined benefit plan, a defined contribution plan, or an individual retirement savings account.
  • If the board of trustees established an alternative retirement plan, they would be required to designate a date by which all newly hired employees shall begin participation in the plan.
  • An employee who left as a member of a define benefit plan and returned would be eligible to participate in the defined benefit plan upon their return, and would not be considered a new hire.
  • An employee would vest in an alternative retirement plan after five years.
  • State, district, and employee contributions to an alternative retirement plan will be the same as the required contributions to a defined benefit plan.

Bottom line: SB1751 could start a “drip, drip erosion” of the defined benefit pension fund as employees were moved to hybrid plans. TSTA will vigorously oppose SB 1751. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing, but we will launch an aggressive email and phone campaign against the bill in the near future.

School finance update: HB21 could be approved by House Public Education Committee next week

Last week, House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty filed House Bill 21, and along with a bipartisan group of House members, called it a "first step" in an overhaul of the woefully inadequate Texas school finance system. Huberty said that under the bill, 95 percent of school districts would receive more state aid per pupil, spending an additional $1.6 billion on schools in the next two years. The committee has been tweaking the bill and could vote it out of committee as soon as next week. 

Accountability bill filed, could revise A-F Campus Grading System

Late last week, House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty filed HB22, a bill that would revise the state accountability system and possible reduce the impact of high stakes standardized testing on the A-F campus grading system. As filed, HB22 would not eliminate the A-F system, but in the committee process, TSTA will work Chairman Huberty and other stakeholders to reduce the impact of high stakes testing and the stigmatizing effect of the A-F system. More details to come in future updates.

TSTA urges the House to reject SB6, the “bathroom bill"

TSTA registered against SB6 when it was heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee, joining the Texas Association of Business, the NFL and civil rights organizations who oppose this grossly political attempt to solve a non-existent problem. Yesterday, after SB6 passed the Senate, TSTA President Noel Candelaria this statement:

“The Texas State Teachers Association urges members of the Texas House to reject Senate Bill 6, the so-called ‘bathroom bill,’ one of the most discriminatory and potentially dangerous pieces of legislation to emerge during this session. This bill won’t protect anybody. But it may very well endanger the students it singles out for discriminatory attention by subjecting them to bullying and even physical abuse.

“Schools should be safe zones for learning for all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or sexual identity. For years, educators have been providing the necessary accommodations for transgender children with dignity, respect and sensitivity for privacy for all students. TSTA is unaware of any reported problems related to current policy.

“Senate Bill 6 is a politically motivated measure that will create problems that don’t exist and threaten the safe and secure learning environment that every student should be provided.”

House Public Education Committee Report

House Public Education met Tuesday to consider a number of House bills, including HB 21, the public school finance bill filed by Chairman Huberty that was first considered last week.

TSTA went on record in support of the following bills heard in committee:

  • HB 69 by Ryan Guillen (D) relating to a requirement that school districts and open-enrollment charter schools report certain information regarding children with disabilities who reside in residential facilities. The bill expands Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) reporting to include the number of children with disabilities residing in residential facilities.
  • HB 357 by Dan Huberty (R) relating to the eligibility of the children of certain first responders for free prekindergarten programs in public schools. The bill grants children of first responders at age 3 to free prekindergarten if eligible.
  • HB 367 by Diego Bernal (D) relating to feeding hungry children through efficient use of excess food in public schools. The bill allows a district to donate unused food to a nonprofit organization through an official on campus nonprofit organization representative who is directly affiliated with the campus for receipt, storing and redistribution on campus at any time.
  • HB 404 by Rafael Anchia (D) relating to higher education curriculum review teams to review public school curriculum standards for college readiness purposes. Creates a Higher Education Curriculum Review Teams to review and make recommendations to the State Board of Education concerning the essential knowledge and skills to ensure that proposed TEKS are factually accurate and aligned with contemporary scholarship, serve to prepare students for college and serve appropriate instructional purposes.
  • HB 452 by Joe Moody (D) relating to the notice to the parent or other person having lawful control of a public school student concerning the student's class performance. Requires including class size information to parents with grades.
  • HB 710 by Gene Wu (D) relating to providing free full-day prekindergarten for certain children. Provides for full day prekindergarten.
  • HB 1270 by John Smithee (R) relating to excused absences from public school for the purpose of visiting a military recruitment center. Allows for excused absences for students to visit and investigate military options after high school.
  • HB 1389 by Helen Giddings (D) relating to class size limits for prekindergarten classes in public schools. Amends statute to include prekindergarten in the 22 to 1 class size limit.
  • HB 1645 by JM Lozano (R) relating to requiring certain school districts to adopt a policy allowing students who participate in Special Olympics to earn a letter on that basis. Districts allowing a student to earn a letter for academic, athletic, or extracurricular achievements must also allow a student to letter in a Special Olympics event.

The following bills were also heard by the committee:

  • HB 136 by Cecil Bell (R) relating to inclusion of career and technology education and workforce training in the mission of public education. Amends the statutory mission in the Education Code to include the importance of allowing students to succeed through curriculum in areas including employment, workforce training, and enrollment in institutions of higher education. 
  • HB 264 by Ana Hernandez (D) relating to public outreach materials to foster awareness of certain public school curriculum requirements. Removes B On-time program from items required to be disclosed in public outreach materials for foster awareness.
  • HB 441 by Armando Martinez (D) relating to operation of public schools on Memorial Day. Mandates a student holiday on Memorial Day.
  • HB 539 by Gary VanDeaver (R) relating to the ability of certain students to enroll full-time in courses provided through the state virtual school network. Expands State Virtual School Network for students in state's care or military students.
  • HB 620 by Jeff Leach (R) relating to the first day of instruction at a public school. Changes start date for public schools to the second Monday in August.
  • HB 639 by Doc Anderson (R) relating to authorizing the purchase of certain insurance coverage by public school districts for the benefit of businesses and students participating in career or technology training programs and providing for immunity. Allows school district board of trustees to obtain health benefit plan, liability or automobile insurance coverage for protection of business partners and district students.
  • HB 728 by Bobby Guerra (D) relating to the establishment by the commissioner of education of an advanced computer science program for high school students. Requires the commissioner of education to develop and implement a program that allows students to meet the third year math or science requirement by taking an advanced computer science course.
  • HB 729 by Dwayne Bohac (R) relating to instruction in positive character traits in public schools. Directs the State Board of Education to integrate positive character traits into the TEKS adopted for kindergarten through grade 12.
  • HB 878 Ken King (R) relating to the extension and modification of a public school district depository contract. Allows a depository contract to be extended an additional two years by school board.
  • HB 1291 by Charlie Geren (R) relating to the inclusion of American principles in the public school curriculum and instructional materials. Requires SBOE and districts ensure the curriculum taught in public high school includes the historical significance of certain founding documents and the meaning of American principles.

March 16, 2017

NEA president: Trump budget deprives students of opportunity

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García today released a statement regarding President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which would slash the federal investment in public education programs by a whopping 13.5 percent for the upcoming fiscal year.

“The priorities Donald Trump outlined in his budget are reckless and wrong for students and families. If enacted, the Trump budget will crush the dreams of students and deprive millions of opportunities,” García said. Read more here


March 16, 2017

Action Alert!

Next Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee will be considering Senate Bill 3, the private school voucher bill. If your State Senator is a member of the committee, now is the time to urge him or her to VOTE NO on vouchers. Committee members are Chair Larry Taylor, Vice Chair Eddie Lucio Jr., Paul Bettencourt, Donna Campbell, Bob Hall, Don Huffines, Bryan Hughes, Kel Seliger, Van Taylor, Carlos Uresti, and Royce West.

SB3 is a private school voucher bill that would divert education funds from local public schools to pay for a select few students to attend private schools. And, SB3 would funnel these tax dollars to private and religious schools without requiring them to meet the same accountability standards required of neighborhood public schools. At a time when Texas schools are woefully underfunded, taxpayers cannot afford to pay for two separate school systems -- one for private schools and one for over 90% of Texas children who attend public schools. 


March 16, 2017

Valley educators urge senator to vote against vouchers

Educators who live and vote in state Sen. Eddie Lucio’s Rio Grande Valley district delivered a petition to the senator’s office today that urges him to vote against Senate Bill 3, a private school voucher bill that could cost local public schools in Senate District 27 as much as $97 million a year in lost funding.

The petition campaign was organized by local affiliates of the Texas State Teachers Association and has already been signed by more than 700 educators. 

An analysis of Senate Bill 3 by the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP), a respected Austin think tank, estimated that the school districts in Senator Lucio’s district could lose as much as $97 million next year if 5 percent of their enrollment received education savings accounts, or vouchers, under the legislation. The potential loss would be almost $20 million if only 1 percent of the students received vouchers.

“Our public schools, which already are under-funded, can’t afford this kind of loss,” said Fred Alvarez, a member of Donna TSTA/NEA. “The vast majority of students will continue to be educated in neighborhood public schools, and that is where our state education funds should be spent.  We are calling on Senator Lucio to please vote against Senate Bill 3.”

SB3 would create education savings accounts, a form of voucher, which would give tax dollars to a select group of parents to spend on private school tuition or home-school expenses, such as computers, with little accountability for how the tax dollars are spent. The bill also would create tax-credit scholarships that parents could use to pay for private school tuition and expenses. 

“Public schools and educators are accountable for how they spend our tax dollars. It makes no sense to take tax dollars from public schools and allow parents to spend them on private schools with no accountability to taxpayers,” said Maribel Martinez of the Association of Brownsville Educators.

The legislation is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday, March 21, by the Senate Education Committee. Lucio, who is vice chair of the committee, has said he intends to vote for the measure. The potential loss to public schools statewide was estimated at $2 billion (b) next year by CPPP.

See photos of the group holding a press conference and delivering the petition to Sen. Lucio's office here.


March 15, 2017

Got School Breakfast?

On Tuesday, March 28, hear from the School Nutrition Foundation, The NEA Foundation, and The Food Research & Action Center about funding available through the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. The Partnership works to expand universal in-classroom breakfast programs and is providing grants to school districts in Texas and nine other states. Register now! 


March 15, 2017

TSTA urges House to reject “bathroom bill”

“The Texas State Teachers Association urges members of the Texas House to reject Senate Bill 6, the so-called ‘bathroom bill,’ one of the most discriminatory and potentially dangerous pieces of legislation to emerge during this session, TSTA President Noel Candelaria said in a press release today. "This bill won’t protect anybody. But it may very well endanger the students it singles out for discriminatory attention by subjecting them to bullying and even physical abuse.

“Schools should be safe zones for learning for all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or sexual identity. For years, educators have been providing the necessary accommodations for transgender children with dignity, respect and sensitivity for privacy for all students. TSTA is unaware of any reported problems related to current policy.

“Senate Bill 6 is a politically motivated measure that will create problems that don’t exist and threaten the safe and secure learning environment that every student should be provided.”

Rally to Save Texas Schools March 25

Join public school advocates at the Capitol from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 25, for the Save Texas Schools Rally. See details here.


March 14, 2017

Texas Senate confirms Donna Bahorich as SBOE chair

The Texas Senate today, by unanimous vote, confirmed Gov. Greg Abbott’s appointment of Donna Bahorich as chair of the State Board of Education.     

“I’m honored that Gov. Abbott and the Texas Senate have affirmed their confidence in me to continue to chair the State Board of Education. Along with my fellow board members, I look forward to continuing our efforts to strengthen curriculum standards, approve high quality textbooks, increase transparency in both curriculum standards development and textbooks adoption, and provide oversight to the $37 billion Permanent School Fund,” Bahorich said.

Bahorich, R-Houston, was initially elected to the board in 2012. The governor, who selects the chair from one of the 15 elected board members, first appointed her as chair in June 2015. On Jan. 24, he reappointed her to a term that runs from Feb. 1, 2017 to Feb. 1, 2019.


March 10, 2017

Dues deduction bill could be on Senate floor next week, write now!

Senate Bill 13 would take away your right to have association dues deducted from your paycheck. The bill is eligible for Senate debate as early as Wednesday.

We are working to secure the votes to block Senate consideration. You can help by emailing your senator now! The bottom line is this: we choose to join our association, and we should be free to spend our paycheck as we see fit. This bill would not apply to many other public employee groups; teachers have been targeted because we are working to stop vouchers and other attacks on public education.

Please ask your senator to oppose SB 13 by clicking here now. This link takes you to the TSTA Action Network, where you will see a letter you can email to your senator after you fill in your address. Use the letter as is, edit it, or compose your own letter, then click to send.


March 9, 2017

Bipartisan group of House members supports school finance bill

On Monday, House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty filed House Bill 21, which could be a "first step" in an overhaul of the woefully inadequate Texas school finance system. Huberty said that under the bill, 95 percent of school districts would receive more state aid per pupil, spending an additional $1.6 billion on schools in the next two years. Seventeen House members, from both parties, joined Huberty at a Monday news conference. The bill was heard in committee on Tuesday.

Typically, the details of school finances bill are worked out as the session evolves, and the key to any school funding bill is the state budget bill. In its initial budget, the House added $1.5 billion for schools — provided that a bill that would rework school finance laws also passes. The Senate's budget added no additional funding for schools, other than an amount that may not even cover enrollment growth.

House Public Education Committee Report: HB 21 and other bills

At Tuesday’s hearing on HB21, TSTA testified on HB 21, and went on record in support of creating a new school finance system while urging the Committee to secure additional funding for public education.  At a minimum, TSTA stressed the need for an increase in the basic allotment. Proponents of HB21 say the final bill will result in a modest increase in the basic allotment.

The Committee also heard other bills related to school finance, including bills related to more funding for career technology course work, continuing additional state aid for tax reduction, compensatory allotment use for at risk students, and conducting a study to determine the actual cost of educating special populations of students.

TSTA went on record on two of those bills.

HB 186 by Representative Bernal, relating to a study regarding the costs of educating educationally disadvantaged students and students of limited English proficiency in public schools; and

HB 223 by Representative Howard, relating to use of compensatory education allotment funding to provide assistance to students at risk of dropping out due to pregnancy or being parents.

TSTA took no position on the following bills:

HB 395 by Representative Bell relating to the career and technology education allotment and the essential knowledge and skills of the career and technology education and technology applications curriculums.

HB 587 by Representative Bohac relating to the creation of a technology applications course allotment under the foundation school program.

HB 811 by Representative Ken King relating to the extension of additional state aid for tax reduction provided to certain school districts.

HB 883 by Representative Ken King relating to funding for career and technology programs in public schools.

HB 1245 by Representative Cortez relating to funding for public school career and technology programs.

SB 3, the voucher bill, no hearing this week, could be set for hearing next Thursday

The Senate Education Committee did not meet this week, but there is speculation that SB 3 could be heard next week on Thursday. We continue working to prevent Lt. Governor Patrick from having sufficient support to pass his voucher bill at this time. We will keep you updated. 

Senate passes SB 7, bill about improper student-educator relationships

The Senate approved Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Bettencourt, a bill intended to address concerns about improper student-educator relationships. Bottom line: no one wants to put an end to the abuse of students more than the teachers who care greatly for their students, but due process must be provided to make sure only the guilty are punished. 

During the committee hearing on this bill, TSTA encouraged Senators to look at technical problems in the bill, and the Senate did amend the bill to eliminate a provision that would have made a principal subject to criminal prosecution for failing to submit a report of an incident that the principal “should have known” about – very vague language that could not pass muster as a legal standard. Another provision that gives the TEA commissioner subpoena power to compel the attendance of a witness – a lot of power for a non-judicial official – remained in the bill. 

Other provisions of the bill include the following:

  • Teacher prep courses now need to address this subject.
  • A teacher annuity can be terminated for felony conviction of continuous sexual abuse, improper relationship, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault. This does not affect a spouse’s right to that annuity.
  • Teachers will be told to whom they should report an attempted inappropriate contact/relationship initiated by a student. 

Teacher Pay Raise bills

Two identical teacher pay raise bills have been filed, SB 216 by Senator Menendez and HB 399, by Rep. Alma Allen, two champions for educators and public education. Although passage of these modest pay raise bills may be unlikely, it is very important that we continue to press this issue. And the bills do prevent a pay cut.

Under these bills, for the 2017-2018 school year, a classroom teacher is entitled to a monthly salary that is at least equal to the sum of: (1)  the monthly salary the teacher would have received for the 2017-2018 school year under the district's salary schedule for the 2016-2017 school year, if that schedule had been in effect for the 2017-2018 school year, including any local supplement and any money representing a career ladder supplement the teacher would have received in the 2017-2018 school year; and (2)  $400.

Dallas and Harris County Schools

Two bills have been filed that would abolish the Dallas County board of education, board of county school trustees, and offices of county school superintendent. SB 1122 by Huffines and HB 2329 by Burkett would abolish these county-wide school districts. In Dallas County, Dallas County Schools has traditionally provided transportation services for several local school districts. Dissolution of this district could impact the jobs of a significant number of TSTA members.


March 9, 2017

House leaders try to help students, educators; Senate leaders play politics

There is a deep gulf between the leadership priorities of the two Texas lawmaking chambers, Clay Robison points out in a new Grading Texas blog.


March 8, 2017

Six Ways to Avoid Those Social Media Landmines

Social media is here to stay. It’s a powerful tool for educators that can transform your professional practice or blow up in your face, librarian Gwyneth Jones says in NEA Today


March 4, 2017

TSTA-Student Program meets

Texas Teacher of the Year Allison Ashley, a TSTA member and Austin elementary school teacher, was the keynote speaker tonight at TSTA-Student Program's banquet at the Omni Austin Southpark Hotel. See photos here


March 3, 2017

SB13/HB 510, payroll deduction bill update

SB13 and HB510 are the same, bills that would allow police, fire, and emergency responders to continue paying their dues their payroll dues deductions while cutting out teachers, prison guards, social workers, and other public employees.

The bottom line is this: teachers are being targeted by Senate Bill 13 because we oppose vouchers and other attacks on public education. We voluntarily choose to join our association, and we should be free to spend our paycheck as we see fit. This bill would still allow us to deduct contributions for other purposes, but not to TSTA. And it would still allow police and firefighters to deduct union dues.

TSTA and other public employee unions and professional organizations are working hard at the Capitol, but your legislators need to hear from you, frequently!

SB3, the voucher bill, could be set for hearing next week

Again this week, there is speculation that the Senate Education Committee may set a hearing on SB3 next week, but it has not yet been scheduled. And there continues to be speculation that Lt. Governor Patrick may not have sufficient support to pass his pet bill at this time. We will keep you updated.Meanwhile, House Public Education Chair declares vouchers DOA, but…

This week, House Public Education Chair Dan Huberty (R-Houston) said Tuesday that he would not allow the approval of school vouchers by his committee this legislative session. That is very encouraging, but there are almost three months left in the session, and one form of vouchers, “tax credit scholarships,” would likely be sent to another committee. And there is always the possibility that a voucher amendment could be tacked onto another bill. 

Huberty said “he and his colleagues in the House already had debated the issue at length and determined that vouchers would reduce school accountability by putting public dollars in private schools that are not subject to the same rules and also would distract from more pressing challenges, such as fixing the school finance system. TSTA will keep a close eye on any attempts to revive vouchers this session. 

House Public Ed considers school finance

This week, the House Public Education Committee heard invited testimony on school finance. More than 25 invited witnesses – including representatives from the Texas Education Agency, Legislative Budget Board, and several school districts – testified. Most of those invited to testify agreed that:

  • Texas schools are woefully underfunded;
  • “Robin Hood” recapture is inequitable; and
  • unless the state puts significantly more money into the system, any new school finance system will create winners and losers. 

There was also consensus that at a minimum, the basic allotment must be increased for the next biennium. The committee will hear specific bills on revising the school finance system next Tuesday.

On a related note, House Appropriations Committee Chair John Zerwas, said that he believes using some of the almost $12 billion in the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” for education funding would be appropriate. The proposed House budget would invest at least $1.5 billion more in public education than the Senate budget.

Legislative Floor debates begin March 13, TSTA to use Action Network for additional legislative contact

In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for emails that will allow you to click to a link that will let you send emails directly to your Senator and State Representative. We will continue to use patch through phone calls as well.


March 2, 2017

House Public Education meets on school finance

The House Public Education Committee heard invited testimony on school finance today. More than 25 witnesses – including representatives from the Texas Education Agency, Legislative Budget Board, and several school districts – addressed the committee. The overall sentiment was that Texas schools are overwhelmingly underfunded, recapture is inequitable, and unless the state can put significantly more money into the system, any new school finance system will create winners and losers. Most speakers said that at a minimum, the basic allotment must be increased for the next biennium. The committee will hear specific bills on revising the school finance system on Tuesday.


March 2, 2017

Your help needed: research study on the needs of schools that serve students with disabilities

The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) is currently conducting a research study to examine the needs of schools serving students with disabilities, particularly in regards to emergency management practices. TxSSC is an official university-level research center at Texas State University that serves as a clearinghouse for the dissemination of safety and security information through research, training, and technical assistance for K-12 schools and junior colleges throughout the state of Texas.

They invite special education teachers in K-12 schools to participate in a short online survey of 18 questions that should take no more than 20 minutes to complete. To access the survey, please click here. TxSSC thanks you for your feedback, which will help them better serve schools across Texas.


March 2, 2017

Read Across America events in Ysleta ISD

On March 3, TSTA President Noel Candelaria, TSTA Vice President Ovidia Molina, Ysleta Teachers Association President Arlinda Valencia, other educators, and guests will make the following school visits in El Paso to celebrate Read Across America: 

8:30-10:30a.m.  Constance Hulbert Elementary, 7755 Franklin Dr.

12:30-2:30p.m.  North Loop Elementary, 412 Emerson St.


March 1, 2017

San Antonio educators, students, and the Cat in the Hat to celebrate Read Across America

Officers of NEA and TSTA will join San Antonio teachers to read to elementary school students at several campuses in San Antonio and Southwest ISDs. The events are part of an annual, national Read Across America celebration emphasizing the importance of literacyand commemorating the March 2 birthdate of renowned children’s author Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). School employees will wear colorful Cat in the Hat and other Seuss character costumes, and children will receive books and Dr. Seuss red-and-white stovepipe hats.

Participants will include NEA Vice President Becky Pringle, TSTA President Noel Candelaria, TSTA Vice President Ovidia Molina, Southwest TSTA President Beverly Botti, San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel Executive Vice President Gracie Oviedo, and administrators, other educators, and guests of the two school districts. Here's the schedule:

9 a.m.  Hidden Cove Elementary, 5102 Trading Post (Southwest ISD)

10:45 a.m. Barkley-Ruiz Elementary, 1111 S. Navidad St. (San Antonio ISD)

1:35 p.m. Sarah King Elementary, 1001 Ceralvo St. (San Antonio ISD)

2:25 p.m. Hillcrest Elementary, 211 W. Malone Ave. (San Antonio ISD)

3 p.m. Kelly Elementary, 1026 Thompson Place (San Antonio ISD)


February 28, 2017

Texas House education chief declares school choice bill DOA

From the Houston Chronicle: The top education policy official in the Texas House said Tuesday that he would not allow the approval of school vouchers this legislative session, a blunt pronouncement that could be fatal to the prospects for legislation that is a priority for many top Republicans in the state.

The official, House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, said during a Texas Tribune event here that he and his colleagues in the House already had debated the issue at length and determined that vouchers would reduce school accountability by putting public dollars in private schools that are not subject to the same rules and also would distract from more pressing challenges, such as fixing the school finance system.

Asked whether that meant a high-profile voucher proposal from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was "dead, dead, dead," Huberty said yes. Asked whether there was anything that could change his mind, Huberty said no. Read more


February 25, 2017

House Public Education Committee conducts first hearing of 2017 Session

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath made a presentation to the Committee. Chairman Dan Huberty announced the Subcommittee on Educator Quality will continue its work this session and appointed Ken King, chair, Dr. Alma Allen, vice chair, and members Gary Van Deaver, Harold Dutton and Morgan Meyer.

The areas highlighted in the Commissioner's remarks to the Committee included recruitment, supports and retention of educators, building a foundation of reading and math, connecting high school to career and college, improving low performing schools and an explanation of the rollout of A through F rating system.

The Committee will hear invited testimony on school finance next Tuesday.


February 24, 2017

Lawmakers want to stop deducting dues — but only for employees they disagree with

The Texas Tribune understands the purpose of SB13, the bill that would allow police, fire, and emergency responders to keep their payroll dues deductions while cutting out teachers, prison guards, social workers, and other public employees.

“Legislators are selective in their scorn: Some public employees are easier to kick than others,” columnist Ross Ramsey says. Read the article here.

SB13 passed the Senate State Affairs Committee and is awaiting action on the Senate floor. 

• Now is the time to engage your local senators and state representatives. Please use these talking points. 

• We will send patch-through call requests to TSTA members who live in key Senate districts and all Senate districts represented by members of the State Affairs Committee.


February 24, 2017

Research suggests private school vouchers may harm recipients

From the New York Times: The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform.

But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers 


February 23, 2017

Dismal results from vouchers surprise researchers as DeVos era begins

The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform. But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers say. more


February 23, 2017

Bills lack protection for falsely accused educators

Today, the Senate Committee on Education met to discuss two bills regarding inappropriate relationships between educators and students (Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Bettencourt and Senate Bill 653 by Sen. Van Taylor). While the bills are well intentioned, they have several problems that need to be addressed.

One case of sexual abuse of a student is too many, but due process is still necessary to protect the person who is falsely charged. Obviously, no one tolerates a school official who enables a person who actually committed such an offense to find work in another school district, but the rhetoric of “pass the trash” is intentional and this must be approached with reason.

The fact that a principal is subject to criminal prosecution for failing to submit a report of an incident that the principal “should have known” about is vague. How does one define “should have known” as a legal standard?

Further, TEA and the SBOE should be the disciplinarians, but the bill expands the subpoena power of the commissioner to compel the attendance of a witness – does this mean the commissioner also has the power to issue a contempt order like a judge? That’s a lot of power for a non-judicial education official.

Bottom line: No one wants to put an end to the abuse of students more than the teachers who care greatly for their students, but that requires a reasonable approach. This bill could use some common sense changes.


February 23, 2017

Poll: Private school voucher not a popular fix for public schools

Reducing standardized tests is the most popular way to improve the state’s public school system, according to the results of a poll released by the Texas Tribune and the University of Texas on Wednesday.

The internet survey of 1,200 registered voters, conducted Feb. 3-10, found that 21 percent of respondents believed that reducing the number of tests was the most effective way to improve schools, followed closely by increasing funding to schools. According to 13 percent of those surveyed, using state money to send students private schools — a school voucher program sometimes referred to as school choice — was the third most popular choice.


February 21, 2017

Nominate a student volunteer for Student Heroes Award

The State Board of Education is accepting nominations for the 2017 Student Heroes Award, which recognizes Texas public school students in prekindergarten through high school who voluntarily work to assist or benefit their fellow Texas students.

Examples of activities recognized last year include students voluntarily serving as mentors, collecting and distributing stuffed animals to ill children, and creating a non-profit organization to break down cultural barriers.

Nomination forms and program guidelines are available online


February 17, 2017

Analysis: A window into who Texas legislators’ favorite employees are

Lawmakers want to stop deducting dues for union and non-union employee associations from state paychecks — but only for the employees they disagree with. say. Read the Texas Tribune article here.


February 16, 2017

Committee approves bill to prohibit automatic dues deductions; fight far from over

Despite overwhelming opposition and compelling testimony from school teachers, child protective services workers, corrections officers, and other public employees, Senate Bill 13, which would prohibit school districts and other government agencies from deducting membership dues from most workers’ paychecks, was approved today by the Senate State Affairs Committee.

The measure by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, now heads to the Senate floor, where TSTA and other public employee unions and associations will continue to fight it. TSTA members were among numerous witnesses who testified against the legislation on Monday. The measure would ban a longstanding practice that costs governmental bodies nothing and is a convenient and secure way for educators and other public workers to pay their membership dues.

The party-line committee vote for the bill was 6-2, with the “no” votes cast by the only two Democrats on the panel, Sens. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo and Eddie Lucio of Brownsville. Senator Craig Estes was absent due to the flu. This is only the first step for SB13 in a long legislative process.

Police, firefighters, and emergency medical responders are excluded from the bill, but they also oppose the legislation as an unfair and unnecessary attack on teachers and other public workers.

In order to keep this legislation from becoming law, it is extremely important for you to call, write, or meet with your legislators and register your strong opposition to the bill.

A similar bill was approved by the Senate two years ago but died in a House committee. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who wants to weaken the voices of educators and public employees who oppose his harmful policy agenda at the Capitol, has made it a priority again this session.


February 15, 2017

AISD has legal & moral obligation to all students, especially during immigration crisis

While the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigrants continues to promote confusion and fear among many children of color – including many who are American citizens and lifelong Texas residents – school officials must remember all their legal and moral obligations to all their students.

A school district’s foremost legal obligation is to educate all the students who live within its boundaries, regardless of a student’s immigration status. This is the law of the land, regardless of who is tweeting from the White House, thanks to a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision. An equally important moral obligation of educators is to create safe school zones, assuring students as best they can that their schools are safe places for learning.

Members of Education Austin, TSTA’s local affiliate in Austin ISD, believe they also have a moral obligation to help inform their students of their legal rights in the event immigration officials show up at their homes or question them on the way to and from school. So, they have been providing that information to students at a number of campuses.

Now, the Austin American-Statesman reports, some fearful AISD attorneys and principals are clamping down on the educators’ efforts to protect their students. Education Austin nevertheless vows to continue working in the best interests of students whose lives have suddenly been disrupted through no fault of their own.

As Education Austin President Ken Zarifis explained: “Students are in crisis. Where the students will turn to first outside of their household is their teacher and their school. If we don’t provide the information to them, we’re doing them a disservice.”

Sometimes, it takes courage to do the right thing.


February 14, 2017

Scholarships for Austin young women

Young Women’s Alliance of Austin offers scholarship for young women in Austin area who are dedicated to the community, leadership, academics, and have a financial need. Accepting applications through March 15. youngwomensalliance.org


February 12, 2017

Senator: "Teacher groups represent the worst of teachers"

“We have a number of fairly large teacher organizations in Texas, but unfortunately they typically don’t represent teachers that I know. They represent the worst of teachers, and they tend to protect the worst.” — Senate Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, speaking to business leaders on Thursday (as quoted in the Quorum Report)

If you would like to help educate the senator:

The Honorable Larry Taylor, P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station, Austin, TX 78711 
(512)463-0111
174 Calder Road, Suite 151, League City, TX 77573 (281)332-0003
6117 Broadway, Suite 122, Pearland, TX 77581, (281)485-9800
 

February 10, 2017

NEA, TSTA Presidents: Children are fearful to go to school as a result of immigration raids

Reports from news media and immigrant rights advocates indicate new Trump administration immigration enforcement raids are underway in several states, including Texas, Arizona, California, North Carolina, and Georgia. Advocates and media outlets are reporting chaos in schools and communities affected by the raids. In a North Carolina community, students witnessed arrests. Other communities are reporting that immigration agents are following school buses. 

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García and TSTA President Noel Candelaria issued a joint statement:

“Children are fearful to go to school. Parents are desperately trying to find guardians for their children in the event they are detained or deported. We’ve seen this before. And it’s happening again. This time, it is happening in the middle of the night or as students load up buses and head to school. This time it is happening without any oversight, review, or due process. 

“The current raids are beyond reprehensible, they are inhumane, and they are a deliberate and coordinated attack on those who come to America seeking safety, freedom, and opportunity, and, in the process, make America a better country. 

“These shocked and frightened families are our friends and our neighbors. Our students are collateral damage as a result of these raids. The heightened environment of intimidation and fear in immigrant neighborhoods is carried into classrooms by traumatized students. 

“As the Trump administration threatens our students, their families, and our way of life, we will not stay silent. 

As families turn to their children’s educators for solace and advice, we are going accelerate ongoing efforts to create and implement commonsense policies like our public school safe zones where all students are welcome. 

Public school safe zones allow school boards to go on the record to that they won’t allow immigration enforcement agents into their schools without a proper review process and that they are committed to the protection of student privacy via practices ensuring that no data is being collected with respect to students’ immigration status or place of birth.

“We call on the Trump administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to put an immediate stop to these abhorrent immigration raids in our communities.” 

Every student should feel safe at school!

Join TSTA in urging local school boards to make every school a "Safe Zone for Learning," where students can learn and achieve without fear of deportation or bullying.

More and more students are going to school fearing immigration raids that could divide families and halt their academic careers. Others are subjected to taunts and bullying.

Find out how you can participate in the Safe Zone campaign; tools include flyers, fact sheets, FAQs, and sample school board resolutions in English and Spanish. 

For more information about NEA’s Public School Safe Zones, please click here

To learn more about our partner’s Know Your Rights campaign, please click here