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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


February 10, 2017

This bill is an attempt to silence you — call now! 

The Senate State Affairs Committee will hold a hearing at 8 a.m. Monday on Senate Bill 13, a bill that would ban payroll dues deduction for school employees who wish to join TSTA or other educational or public employee unions and professional organizations.

This bill is a priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and when it comes to educators, it has only one purpose: to weaken and silence the voices of educators who disagree with his anti-public education agenda. Several TSTA members will testify at the Austin hearing.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP STOP THIS BILL?

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.

If approved by the committee, the bill cannot go to the full Senate for a month unless the Governor declares it an emergency – something he did not do in his State of the State speech. Please be on the lookout for timely push notifications (alerts through the TSTA app) and action requests for calls and contacts to all senators and state representatives as this bill moves through the process.


February 9, 2017

House committees were announced today 

Speaker Straus has released the names of all committee members for the 85th session. Here's the House Public Education Committee:

CHAIR: Huberty, Dan

VICE-CHAIR: Bernal, Diego

SENIORITY APPOINTMENTS:

Allen, Alma

Deshotel, Joe

Dutton, Jr., Harold

Gooden, Lance

SPEAKER APPOINTMENTS:

Bohac, Dwayne

King of Hemphill, Ken

Koop, Linda

Meyer, Morgan

VanDeaver, Gary

See all the committees at http://www.house.state.tx.us/_media/pdf/committee.pdf.


February 9, 2017

5 names politicians use to sell private-school voucher schemes to parents

From Education Votes: Our new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been called a “four-star general in the privatization movement.” One of the most destructive weapons this general has in her arsenal to use against public schools is voucher schemes.

As education activists know, vouchers divert taxpayer dollars away from public schools—starving them of the critical funding needed for students to thrive—only to use these funds to subsidize private and/or religious schools.

However, voucher proponents, like DeVos and politicians found in your state, almost never call them vouchers. Instead, they attempt to mislead parents, taxpayers, and voters by re-branding these plots to drain and defund public education with some pleasant-sounding, flowery name plucked from the school-choice lexicon. more


February 9, 2017

DeVos’ confirmation spurs anti-voucher fight in Texas 

In Grading Texas: Some of the more avid Texas supporters of Betsy DeVos, the most unqualified person ever to become U.S. Secretary of Education, include Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick – who consistently put ideology over what’s best for public school children – and Randan Steinhauser. Never heard of Steinhauser? Read more.

SBOE member issues very silly, meaningless defense of DeVos

Many people who supported the unfit Betsy DeVos for education secretary have offered weak rationalizations, but the silliest statement in support of her that I have seen came from State Board of Education member David Bradley of Beaumont. more


February 8, 2017

DeVos survives confirmation battle but her agenda may not

Despite the disappointing outcome, the mobilization against Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed yesterday as Secretary of Education, shook Capitol Hill and the White House, NEA Today reports.

“In my years as a public education advocate, I have never witnessed this level of public outcry,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “The nomination has touched a raw nerve not only with public education advocates like me but with the general public as well.”


February 7, 2017

TSTA: With DeVos confirmation, real fight for public schools just beginning

“There is a reason that it took an unprecedented tie-breaking vote by the vice president to confirm the new education secretary: Betsy DeVos is totally unqualified for the job. Millions of Americans spoke out against her nomination, and for us this is just the beginning," said Noel Candelaria, president of TSTA. "Our real fight to protect our students and our public schools begins today. We will resist every attempt to defund public education and divert money to the education privateers, who view our neighborhood schools as profit centers, not as places that offer opportunity to every child."

Candelaria issued the following statement today on the US Senate’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/20170207-DeVos.pdf


February 6, 2017

IRS warns school districts of scam

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued an urgent alert to all employers that the form W-2 email phishing scam is now targeting school districts, tribal organizations, and nonprofits. Previously, the scammers had been focusing their energies on for-profit corporations.

Here's how the phishing scam typically works. Fraudsters send a fake email pretending to be from a high-level corporate employee requesting information about employee forms W-2 from a company's payroll or human resources departments. The emails typically ask for the forms W-2 and earnings summary of all W-2 employees or an updated list of employees with their personal details including Social Security Number, home address, and salary. This scam is sometimes referred to as business email compromise (BEC) or business email spoofing (BES). Just like that, the scammers can literally capture all of the data for an entire company.  


February 3, 2017

SBOE ignores real scientists, keeps unproven curriculum standards

The State Board of Education voted today to keep language in the new science curriculum standards that could encourage the teaching of creationism and other unproven ideological beliefs in Texas classrooms. The final vote reaffirmed a preliminary vote taken earlier during the week, despite testimony from scientists who had urged that the language be removed.

The board’s vote overturned most of the recommendations of a teacher committee, which had recommended that several controversial standards be deleted. One standard will require that high school students examine “scientific explanations” for the “abrupt appearance and statis in the fossil record,” despite the educators’ recommendation that it be excluded.

Responding to the board’s action, TSTA President Noel Candelaria issued this statement to the news media:

“A science classroom is a place for our children to learn scientifically tested and proven facts, not waste time on disproved theories driven by ideological or political motivations. So-called ‘alternative facts’ may be good enough, unfortunately, for a majority of the State Board of Education. But junk science creates confusion, not learning, and there should be no place for it in our state’s science curriculum.”

A-F and STAAR

On another major issue, State Education Commissioner Mike Morath admitted to the SBOE this week –  probably without intending to – how unfair the new A-F grading system for schools will be. Morath didn’t use the word “unfair,” but in response to a board member’s question about the effect of absenteeism on a school’s rating, he replied: “We ran probably upwards of 40 models of A-F internally analyzing this factor or that factor; but there are too many schools in the state, too many unique conditions, things that we wouldn’t notice until we put it out in the field.”

At another point, the commissioner referred to “this maniacal focus on student outcomes,” something he ironically is promoting.

Morath said TEA’s recent test run indicated a number of problems with implementing the new grading system. He said more work needed to be done and said some changes will be made before the system officially is launched in time for the 2017-18 school year.

But Morath downplayed one major problem with the system, the fact that campuses in low-income neighborhoods got a disproportionate number of Fs and campuses in wealthier neighborhoods generally did better when the test-run grades were assigned.

That finding, which Morath also under-emphasized in an appearance before a legislative committee, was reflected in preliminary research conducted by TSTA and some media organizations. And it bears out what TSTA and other educators had predicted. The A-F grading system, unless repealed by the Legislature, won’t help any student succeed. But it will unfairly stigmatize children and educators in schools in low-income neighborhoods because of the factors that are used to determine a school’s grade.

Fifty-five percent of a campus’ grade will be determined by STAAR test scores, an unfair, punitive assessment that hurts low-income children the most. Other factors include graduation and attendance rates, which also are adversely affected by poverty.

TSTA will continue to seek  repeal of the A-F grading system and a reduction in STAAR testing during this legislative session. We also will work for more education funding to increase resources and lower class sizes so every child has a better opportunity to succeed.

The commissioner said the Texas Education Agency is still working to improve transparency in how A-F grades will be determined, including leadership coaching at individual campuses. Because of limited resources, he said, most of the emphasis will be on struggling schools. Morath said the agency also is seeking to partner some school districts with higher education institutions that can offer assistance to improve grades.

English Language Arts

If standards are approved in April, SBOE can issue a proclamation for new K-8 instructional materials in 2019 and for high school in 2020. Otherwise, the proclamation may be delayed for a year.

Governance Training

The commissioner said training has been well-received by school boards, including those who were not required to participate. Similar training and metrics are being considered for charter districts.

STAAR Report Card

The commissioner said focus groups have been convened around the state and that design changes will be made so that parents can better understand the testing system. Emphasis will be on proficiency and growth, he said.


February 3, 2017

Science classroom is no place for “alternative facts”

“A science classroom is a place for our children to learn scientifically tested and proven facts, not waste time on theories driven by ideological or political motivations,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said in a statement issued Feb. 3 in response to the State Board of Education’s failure to remove language encouraging unproven junk science from the state’s science curriculum standards. 

“‘Alternative facts’ may be good enough, unfortunately, for a majority of the State Board of Education. But junk science creates confusion, not learning, and there should be no place for it in our state’s science curriculum,” Candelaria said.


February 2, 2017

Save time and money with TSTA’s Health and Wellness discount programs

Can you avoid the urgent care clinic if you get sick on the weekend? Is it time for new eyeglasses, contacts, or a dental checkup? What if you need medical advice? Where do you turn if you have a question about a medical bill or insurance payment? Offered to you through New Benefits, TSTA’s Premier and Ultra Discount Programs offer attractive discounts on products and services ranging from medical consults over the phone to alternative medicine, and diabetic supplies to vitamins--all at affordable monthly rates. Check out these exciting offerings!

Click the links below for program details and enrollment information. When you’ve decided on a program that will best meet your needs, click SELECT. (Please note that some benefits require an email address for initial account activation.)

TSTA Premier: https://tstapremier.secureenrollment.com

TSTA Ultra: https://tstaultra.secureenrollment.com


January 30, 2017

TSTA: Vouchers are an attack on public education, not a parental “choice”

In a news release issued today, TSTA says the latest, so-called school “choice” proposal has nothing to do with parental choice but instead is another attack on public education. It would further shortchange Texas public schools and the vast majority of children who will continue to be educated in them.

“If Dan Patrick and his followers wanted to give all students and their parents a meaningful educational choice, they would more adequately fund public education, so that children of all economic backgrounds would have a full menu of academic offerings and electives in their neighborhood public schools,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

“Instead Patrick and his allies have proposed a budget that continues to under-fund public schools and over-tax local homeowners. Now, they are proposing vouchers, education savings accounts, tax credit scholarships — or whatever you want to call them — to use our tax dollars with little or no public accountability to subsidize private school tuition for a relative handful of selected families.”

“This is an attack on public education that will harm the vast majority of Texas school children in order to benefit a few private and religious schools, and it may allow a few homeschoolers to purchase new family computers at taxpayer expense,” Candelaria added.

“If Dan Patrick really cared about school kids, he would invest more money in public education, not privatization. Texas now spends $2,690 less per child on public education than the national average, and many school districts are still suffering from $5.4 billion in school budget cuts for which Patrick voted in 2011.”


January 30, 2017

TSTA ESP Conference is April 9 in Houston

The annual TSTA Education Support Professionals Conference will be Sunday, April 9 at the Omni Houston Hotel. "Student Success Matters" is the theme of the event, which begins with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 2:45 p.m. It's a wonderful opportunity to enhance your skills as a leader, engaged member, and employee. Workshops will provide you with the tools you need to effectively advocate for ESP members and public education. Early bird registration (March 1 deadline) is $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers; onsite registration is $25 for members and $40 for nonmembers. 


January 30, 2017

As early as kindergarten, girls sell themselves short 

A new study, which appears Thursday in Science, comes amid a push to figure out why women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, fields. One line of research involves stereotypes, and how they might influence academic and career choices. more


January 30, 2017

TASA: 461 Texas school districts oppose A-F rating system

Four hundred sixty-one school districts in Texas oppose an A-F rating system for the state’s public schools, according to the Texas Association of School Administrators. All 461 districts have approved resolutions calling for the Texas Legislature to repeal the system passed in 2015, set to be put in place for the 2017-18 school year. more


January 29, 2017

Contest open for writers in K-3  

KLRU KIDS Writers Contest promotes the advancement of children’s reading skills through hands-on, active learning. Children in kindergarten through third grade will be encouraged to write and illustrate stories and submit them to KLRU, which will then select winners and award prizes on May 13. All entries will be published on KLRU’s website.


January 28, 2017

Fighting fake news: recommended reading and resources

A school librarian in Hawaii shares her reading and resource list to help teachers battle fake news. 


January 27, 2017

Senate Finance Committee Report: Starve Schools and Shame Them

This week, the Senate Committee on Finance met to discuss the biennial budgets for TEA and TRS. The Senate’s version of the budget contains $40.5 billion for public education -- $1.5 billion less than the House version. One of the main problems with the Senate’s budget is they are planning to use $3.2 billion they received from recapture (local school property taxes) to fill in holes they have created elsewhere in the budget. In addition, the current budget doesn’t fully fund education, nor does it even cover inflation or student growth. Texas still lags almost $2,700 in per student spending below the national average. Texas is also approximately $6,300 below the national average in teacher salaries.

Regarding TRS, the Senate’s budget fails to contribute any additional money to either TRS ActiveCare or TRS Care. The state has never increased its $75 per month per employee premium contribution for school employees’ health insurance. That number has been stagnant for 15 years. Moreover, the employee share of TRS insurance premium payments has more than doubled in the past 15 years while the state’s percentage has dramatically decreased. The TRS Care program is facing a $1.3 billion deficit over the next biennium, but the Senate still does not consider that crisis worthy of dipping into the Rainy Day Fund – which will rise to almost $12 billion by the end of the next biennium.

TSTA appeared at the Finance Committee hearing and blasted the Senate leadership for the irresponsible and immoral way budget they have proposed. The majority of the Senate Committee on Finance seems determined to continue down that same old path – starve schools and their employees and then shame them for appearing malnourished. If there ever were a time to rise up and tell these legislators you have had enough – this is it. Get involved. Stay involved. Make a difference.


January 27, 2017

State Board of Education swearing-in ceremony set for Jan. 31

Eight recently elected or re-elected State Board of Education members will be sworn in at 9 a.m. Tuesday in room 1-104 of the William B. Travis State Office Building in Austin. New members are Georgina C. Pérez, D-El Paso, and Keven Ellis, R-Lufkin, who were both backed by TSTA-PAC. Re-elected members are: Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio; Donna Bahorich, R-Houston; Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; Tom Maynard, R-Florence; Sue Melton-Malone, R-Robinson; and Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo. The board will elect a vice chair and secretary during this meeting, which continues through Friday.

Agenda items include:

  • A public hearing and first reading vote on revised English and Spanish language arts and reading Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS);
  • A public hearing and first reading vote on efforts to streamline the science TEKS; and
  • Discussion of the schedule and instructional materials to be included in Proclamation 2019.

January 27, 2017

TSTA: Senate budget is shameful; school kids need help now

From the Orange Leader: The Texas State Teachers Association today said Senate leaders should be ashamed of themselves for proposing a budget that continues to shortchange public school students and attempts to deceive local property taxpayers. more


January 26, 2017

NEA: More than 1 million emails sent to senators urging a vote against DeVos

Read more in the Washington Post: http://wapo.st/2kKzWM4


January 26, 2017

Students must be free to learn and achieve without fear

The time to act is now! Join TSTA’s  campaign to urge local school boards to make every school a “Safe Zone for Learning,” where every student can learn and achieve without fear of deportation or bullying. more


January 25, 2017

Rivard: Education Advocates Troubled by ‘Bare Bones’ Senate Budget

A new article from the Rivard Report quotes TSTA President Noel Candelaria: “This budget proposal would barely – maybe – cover enrollment growth, but only by increasing the burden on local school taxpayers, who already pay for the lion’s share of school costs.”


January 24, 2017

TSTA: Senate budget is shameful; school kids need help now

The Texas State Teachers Association today said Senate leaders should be ashamed of themselves for proposing a budget that continues to shortchange public school students and attempts to deceive local property taxpayers.

“The budget is about more than numbers. It is about people’s lives, and this budget would make it more difficult for Texas’ 5.3 million public school children to receive the opportunities for success they deserve,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

“This budget proposal would barely — maybe — cover enrollment growth, but only by increasing the burden on local school taxpayers, who already pay for the lion’s share of school costs. Meanwhile, the lieutenant governor, who pretends to feel the pain over property taxes, continues promoting his ill-conceived idea to take tax dollars from under-funded public schools to pay for private school vouchers for a handful of select kids.”

“This budget is shameful. The vast majority of Texas children will continue to be educated in neighborhood public schools. They need — and deserve — more than this from state lawmakers who purport to represent them,” Candelaria added.

“The Senate leadership has ordered still another study of school funding, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to delay giving Texas school children the resources they need now for success. As legislative leaders of both parties already have suggested, lawmakers should tap the Rainy Day Fund, which is approaching a $12 billion balance. School funding is a true emergency.”

Texas spends $2,690 less per child in average daily attendance (ADA) than the national average, ranking Texas 38th among the states and the District of Columbia in this important measure of a state’s commitment to its school children.


January 24, 2017

Apply now for NEA Foundation's Global Learning Fellowship

For the first time, the NEA Foundation is accepting applications from all active NEA classroom teachers for its 2018 Global Learning Fellowship. As a member, you are eligible for this opportunity of a lifetime, to receive 12 months of fully-funded professional development and participate in a nine-day field study abroad! The goal of the fellowship is to support educators as they build global competency skills and create their own lesson plans to share with educators around the world. The deadline to apply is February 28, 2017. http://www.neafoundation.org/pages/global-learning-fellowship


January 23, 2017

Public school advocates tell lawmakers to stop pursuing misguided school voucher schemes

The Coalition for Public Schools, which includes TSTA, has issued the following press release: Today, parents, respected national education experts, and public school advocates nationally called on the Texas Legislature to focus its efforts on providing support for our neighborhood public schools instead of funneling public tax dollars to repackaged private school voucher schemes with little or no accountability for how our tax dollars are spent.

Speaking at a symposium that brought state and national education experts to the Texas Capitol, the advocates warned that no matter the mechanism or what it’s called, any diversion of public funds to private schools is still a voucher.

"A rose by another name is still as sweet. A voucher by another name is still a thorn in the side of taxpayers whose tax dollars would be diverted from the public trust to private schools with little or no accountability,” said Charles Luke, coordinator of the Coalition. 

“There is only one state education budget, and Texans cannot afford to pay for two systems of education -- one for 93 percent of our children who attend public schools, and another to provide an entitlement to a few affluent families that want to send their kids to a private school."

This year, the special interests pushing for school privatization have tried to rebrand voucher proposals as “education savings accounts” or “tax credit scholarships” in an effort to sway public opinion. 

“Vouchers are not democratic and threaten equity, in that private schools are not compelled to accept all students,” said Luis Huerta, associate professor of education and public policy at Columbia University. “Vouchers are really more about a school’s ability to choose its students, and not about parent choice.”  

Contrary to the myth spread by Betsy DeVos, Dan Patrick, and privatization proponents who resist accountability standards for private schools that receive public tax dollars, voucher schools do not, on average, perform better academically than neighborhood public schools. 

Texas legislators have filed voucher proposals in every legislative session since 1995, but all of them have failed to become law.


January 23, 2017

Senate postpones DeVos vote until Jan. 31

From the Washington Post: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions has postponed the vote on Trump’s education pick Betsy DeVos, hours after receiving the completed ethics review for the Michigan billionaire.

The committee vote, originally scheduled to take place Tuesday, has been rescheduled for Jan. 31 at 10 a.m., according to a statement from the HELP committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). The announcement arrived after the Office of Government Ethics, an agency that examines nominees’ financial disclosures and resolves potential conflicts of interest, released its long-awaited report Friday. Alexander said he wants to give each Senator on the committee time to review the documents. more


January 20, 2017

No matter who occupies White House, educators continue fight for students

Donald J. Trump today became the nation’s 45th president. 

“Educators believe America is a country where all students have the right to a public education that helps them reach their full potential. Americans expect Donald Trump to govern for all Americans — not just the wealthy billionaires or those who agree with him. But the past serves as prologue for the future, and hateful rhetoric has defined Trump since he launched his bid for the White House,"  NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

“No matter who is in the White House, nothing will deter us from our mission of ensuring that all students, regardless of ZIP code, have the opportunity for a great public school education. We know the Trump-DeVos agenda is wrong for our students, and the 3 million members of the National Education Association will continue to fight and push for investing in strategies that we know lead to student success," she said


January 19, 2017

DeVos hearing adds to concerns about nomination

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee held a hearing this week on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education that added to concerns supporters of public education have about the nomination.

If confirmed, DeVos would become the first secretary of education without experience with public schools. Instead, DeVos has spent decades working to dismantle and privatize public education. Her lack of experience and antipathy toward public education was evident in both her opening statement and her failure to respond to many of the questions put to her.

  • Despite being a key architect of Detroit's charter school system, which has been described as one of the biggest school reform disasters in the country, DeVos could not say what she might have learned from the failures there that would inform her decision making as secretary of education. 
  • DeVos suggested that states should have a right to determine whether schools receiving federal funds should be subject to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal civil rights law.  
  • DeVos refused to agree that all schools receiving federal funds should be held to the same standards of accountability.
  • DeVos appeared not to understand the distinction between growth and proficiency as measures of student learning.
  • DeVos appeared unaware of federal regulations governing for-profit institutions of higher education, and when informed of them, refused to commit to enforcing them.
  • DeVos refused to commit to upholding regulations that protect students from sexual assault.

NEA President Lily Eskelson García emphasized NEA's opposition to DeVos in a statement released Tuesday: "For decades, instead of supporting public schools, she has led efforts in her home state of Michigan and across the country to dismantle and privatize public education. She is a staunch advocate of giving taxpayer-funded vouchers, with no strings attached, to parents who send their children to private schools. She supports for-profit public charter schools while opposing policies to hold them accountable to taxpayers for their performance. In the end, unfortunately, it's the students who pay the price for her failed policies."


January 19, 2017

TEA data shows neighborhood public schools perform better than charter schools

Every year the Texas Education Agency releases the “snapshot” of the prior school year’s academic and financial performance for ISDs and charter schools. These are the facts from the 2014-15 school year (the most recently released report – released last week). Read more

Reminder: Sister marches in Texas

If you can't make it to Washington for the Women's March, more than 600 “sister marches” will be held in cities across America. For information on marches in Texas – there were 17 at last count – go to https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters.

DeVos nomination: keep calling!

Please keep calling your U.S. senators and demand they vote against Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as education secretary, 855-882-6229.

Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said – and refused to say – at her confirmation hearing

NEA president: DeVos dangerously unqualified

DeVos open to defunding public schools

DeVos refuses to answer question on protecting students with disabilities


January 18, 2017

Are you following the DeVos coverage?

Urge your senator to vote against Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's unqualified pick for U.S. education secretary. See Jan. 9 post here or go to TSTA's Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/texasstateteachersassociation.


January 18, 2017

TEA launches #IAmTXEd to spotlight Texas educator success stories

#IAmTXEd, a new social media campaign launched today by the Texas Education Agency, will share the success stories of Texas teachers in the classroom via TEA’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

TEA has solicited submissions from school districts and plans to publish stories from every region of the state. To see submissions and to learn more about the #IAmTXEd campaign, visit TEA on social media. For questions regarding the campaign or to submit a story, please email IAmTXEd@tea.texas.gov.


January 17, 2017

School board candidates begin filing tomorrow

Candidate filing for the May 6 school board elections begins tomorrow, January 18, and ends February 17.  A complete timeline for the May and November elections is online.

 


January 17, 2017

H-E-B’s Charles Butt pledges $100 million to train school leaders

H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt has pledged to invest $100 million in the creation of a training and leadership development center in Austin for school district leaders from across Texas. Read more.


January 13, 2017

Quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right."

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate...Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

TSTA offices will be closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day. 


    January 12, 2017

    Women’s March on Washington

    Next week, Donald Trump will become President. On Saturday, January 21, educators from across the country will protest his policies and treatment of minorities, women, and those less fortunate at the Women’s March on Washington. Marchers will gather at the intersection of Independence Avenue & Third Street SW, near the U.S. Capitol, at 10:00 a.m. NEA members and their families are welcome to stop by NEA Headquarters between 7:30-9:00 a.m. before heading down to the mall for light refreshments, signs, and a pre-loaded Metro card to get to and from the march (available on a first come, first serve basis while supplies last).

    The Women’s March will feature nationally recognized advocates, artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and others. For more information, please visit www.womensmarch.com. Contact Kari Coppersmith at kcoppersmith@nea.org if you have any questions.

    If you can't make it to Washington, sister marches will be held in cities across America. For information on marches in Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Denton, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio, go to https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters.


    January 11, 2017

    ESP Conference registration now open

    The 2017 national NEA Education Support Professionals Conference is March 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. Registration is now open! 


    January 10, 2017

    DeVos hearing postponement gives us more time to call

    The Betsy DeVos nomination hearing has been postponed until 1/17. The upshot: more time to make the case she is not qualified because she has no public education experience. Don't delay. Tell your U.S. senators to vote NO on DeVos for Education Secretary, 1-855-882-6229.


    January 9, 2017

    DeVos hearing set for Wednesday

    On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will consider Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education -- Betsy DeVos, the billionaire who has been called a "four-star general in the privatization movement."  

    A lobbyist and political donor, DeVos has no experience in education. She never attended public school, did not send her children to public school, and has not served as a teacher, school administrator, or school board member.

    She has used millions of her own money to support for-profit charters and private-school voucher programs that divert taxpayer dollars away from public schools.

    Related links:

    Take action: Tell Betsy DeVos why public schools are worth fighting for

    Open letter: Commit to student success

    4 reasons Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education spells bad news for students

    Teachers unions mount campaign against Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education pick

    The DeVos Family: meet the super-wealthy right-wingers working with the religious right to kill public education


    January 5, 2017

    Content for new educators

    NEA Today has content available online for new educators and more is forthcoming. They have a series of blogs and videos available as well. Just a reminder: We also provide a survival guide, tips, and useful links in the new educator section of the TSTA website.


    January 5, 2017

    State review panel nominations for Proclamation 2018

    Texas Education Agency’s Division of Instructional Materials needs assistance from teachers and others interested in reviewing instructional materials that are submitted in response to Proclamation 2018, which was issued by the State Board of Education (SBOE) at its November 2016 meeting. Proclamation 2018 calls for instructional materials covering ethnic studies including, but not limited to, African American, Mexican American, Asian American, and Native American studies to be used in the course Special Topics in Social Studies. The materials are scheduled to be reviewed during the summer of 2017, adopted by the SBOE in November 2017, and available for use beginning in the 2018–2019 school year. Nomination forms for those interested in serving on the state review panels for Proclamation 2018 are available in the Instructional Materials section of the website. Please submit nomination forms to TEA by 5:00 p.m. CDT on Friday, March 31, 2017. If you have any questions, please contact TEA at (512) 463-9601 or review.adoption@tea.texas.gov.


    January 4, 2017

    K-12 classroom resources for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

    Help students put Dr. King's life, his impact on the Civil Rights Movement, and his significance to American culture and history in perspective with these K-12 resources. This collection includes background information, lesson plans, activities, videos, and printables. 


    January 3, 2017

    6 steps to boost your advocacy for students and public schools in 2017

    It’s time to take stock of what’s important to us, what is worth speaking out about and protecting. Whether it’s health care, nutrition and safe communities or ensuring every student has a caring, qualified teacher and education support professionals, a well-rounded curriculum and inviting classes small enough for one-on-one attention, we are deeply committed to the success of every student. Here are six ways to stand up for students and public schools.


    December 19, 2016

    Apply for USDE School Ambassador Fellowship before Jan. 23

    The U. S. Department of Education School Ambassador Fellowship is a paid position that supports the Department's mission by employing a cadre of outstanding educators to contribute their classroom and school expertise to the national education dialogue and in turn facilitate discussions with educators across the country. For the Fellows, the program adds greater knowledge of educational policy and leadership to their toolkits, allowing them to further contribute to solutions at all levels for long intractable challenges in education.


    December 14, 2016

    Educators across the nation give back for the holidays

    Throughout the year, spreading goodwill, cheer, and charity is all in a day’s work for members of the NEA. But during the holidays, members seem to step it up a notch by volunteering at food banks and clothing drives, writing checks to charities, and reaching into their pockets to buy toys for children in need. more


    December 14, 2016

    Children in special education need real solutions

    A growing number of parents and editorial boards are demanding real solutions for special education problems, and so is TSTA. The U.S. Department of Education and Texas Education Agency are holding “listening sessions” this week in select locations. You can also post a comment online through Jan. 6.   

    Angry parents in Houston and Dallas turn out at forums, demanding end to special education target   

    Students learning English shut out most by Texas special ed cap  

    Special ed metrics need public input  

    Gov. Abbott clueless on special ed needs 

    Neglected special education kids are the victims of elections  


    December 13, 2016

    Apply to be a PBS Digital Innovator

    PBS Digital Innovators set the bar for thoughtful tech integration in the classroom. These pre-K-12 educators are not defined by the gadgets they use, but by the unique way they approach education. Their bold and enthusiastic perspective sets them apart as changemakers, and unlocks new worlds for their students. Apply now!


    December 12, 2016

    Special education case at Supreme Court could prove costly for districts

    The Supreme Court review of a battle between the parents of an autistic child and his Colorado school district could help raise the standards of education for some of the more than 6 million disabled schoolchildren across the United States. But it could also prove expensive for already cash-strapped school districts. more


    December 9, 2016

    TRS Pension, Health Care Briefing Materials

    TRS Pension, Health Care briefing materials provide updates, detailed information regarding the status of the TRS defined benefit pension fund and the TRS Care and ActiveCare health care plans.


    December 8, 2016

    School voucher issue tops legislative priority list, but will it pass this session?

    TSTA President Noel Candelaria discusses TSTA's viewpoint on vouchers in this story on KSTX San Antonio. 


    December 8, 2016

    2015–2016 Texas School Report Cards available on TEA website

    The 2015–16 School Report Cards (SRC) are now available on the Texas Education Agency website. They include the following information for each campus in Texas:


    • 2016 state academic accountability rating
    • Campus distinction designations
    • Attendance rates
    • Enrollment figures
    • Dropout rates
    • Class size averages
    • State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) results
    • ACT/SAT results
    • Per-student financial expenditures

    These campus reports, required by the Texas Legislature and prepared by the Texas Education Agency, will be sent to the parent or guardian of every child enrolled in a Texas public school by local school districts.
 
To search and view information on specific campuses from the 2015–16 School Report Cards, visit the Texas Education Agency website.


    December 7, 2016

    TSTA member featured in NEA Member Benefits video

    TSTA member Winifred Jackson appears in this video, which promotes the NEA Member Benefits programs.


    December 6, 2016

    Outstanding Educator Award and Student Essay Contest

    The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission (THGC) supports educators who teach about the Holocaust and/or the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Sudan (Darfur), and the Middle East (ISIS).

    In 2017, THGC will award $1000 to one such educator. The deadline for submission is 5:00 p.m. CST March 1, 2017; the winner will be notified in May. Read more.

    The same group sponsors a student essay contest to focus attention on the traveling exhibit “State of Deception,” which looks at how the Nazis used propaganda as a tool and is now at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Learn more here.


    December 5, 2016

    What can you do to help your students through the new education law?

    Last year, Congress replaced the disastrous test-driven No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law with ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), putting big responsibility in the hands of educators like you. You have the power to shape state and local laws that will directly effect what’s going on in your classroom and school communities.

    Make sure your students get the high-quality education they deserve! Tune into NEA's webinar series to learn what others doing and get valuable tips and tools to get involved in ESSA in your state. "Educators and families working together on the new education law" is offered on Tuesday, December 13. Read more.


    December 5, 2016

    TSTA staff member receives award

    During a recent National Staff Association for the Improvement of Instruction (NSAII) conference in Savannah, one of TSTA’s staff members was recognized. Teaching & Learning Specialist Bryan Weatherford received a first place award for Issues Development for his work around T-TESS. Congratulations, Bryan!


    December 5, 2016

    NEA Global Fellowship Opportunity, 2018

    The NEA Foundation recognizes that in order for students to prepare for the global age, the educator must first be equipped with the knowledge, skills and disposition needed to teach in the global age. By participating in the Global Learning Fellowship program, educators have an opportunity to lead the profession by acquiring the necessary skills to integrate global competence into their daily classroom instruction, advance pedagogy in their school/district, prepare students to thrive in the flattened global age, and thus contribute to the closing of the global achievement gap. Past fellowship experiences included Lima and Cusco, Peru (2015 and 2016); Beijing and Xi’an (2014), Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (2013). TSTA member and National Teacher of the Year, Shanna Peeples, was a 2016 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow. Application window: 01 December 2016 to 28 February 2017. To learn more: http://www.neafoundation.org/pages/global-learning-fellowship.


    December 2, 2016

    TRS-Care and ActiveCare

    On December 1st and 2nd, 2016, the TRS Board of Trustees’ quarterly meeting was dominated by a discussion of TRS-Care and ActiveCare. TRS projects that Care will encounter a shortfall of between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion during the next biennium.

    The Board discussed the recently released interim report from the Joint Committee on TRS Health Benefits. All of the proposals in the report contained higher premiums, higher out-of-pocket maximums, and reduced benefits.

    For TRS-Care, the report suggests the legislature look at two options. In both options, TRS would provide one level of coverage for all Medicare-eligible retirees, including a Medicare Advantage Plan. The no-cost plan option would be eliminated.

    For non-Medicare eligible retirees, the report suggested TRS offer either a Health Reimbursement Account (“HRA”) plan or a high deductible plan. In the HRA plan, a retiree would be given $400 per month to shop for insurance on the exchange. For most individuals, this amount would not cover the full amount of a purchased plan. The high deductible plan would be designed to be similar to Care 1.

    Regarding ActiveCare, the report suggested TRS offer one level of coverage, similar to ActiveCare 1-HD. That plan would only be available to local school districts with 1,000 or fewer employees. Districts with more than 1,000 employees would be responsible for obtaining coverage for their employees. Districts that are eligible to participate in the new program would be offered a one-time opt-out provision, with no option to return.

    The suggestions in the report provide a troubling starting point for the legislative action, because there is no mention of increased funding for Care and ActiveCare. Without such funding, the legislature would be choosing to ignore the health care needs of many retired and educators who can ill afford to cover these costs themselves. At this date, no bills have been filed to alter either plan, but we expect that to change in the near future.

    TSTA will fight to preserve affordable quality health care for both retired and active educators. It is critical that you contact your state senator and representative on this important issue. Your elected officials need direction, and they need to hear from you now!

    Legislative spending limit could shortchange education funding

    Two important committees met this week to establish important financial thresholds for the next Legislative session.  The Joint Select Committee voted to set the floor for the Economic Stabilization Fund also known as the Rainy Day Fund at $7.5 Billion for the next biennium. The Rainy Day Fund currently holds $10.1 Billion and the maximum amount that can be held in the fund over the next biennium will be over $16 Billion if Texas economy prospers.  The access to funds available over the floor is anticipated for future transportation costs.

    The Legislative Budget Board also met to set the spending limit for the next biennium budget for the state.  The limit set is just under $99.8 Billion in general revenue based on 8% growth in the Texas economy. This figure will fail to meet all the demands of Texas and its students.


    December 1, 2016

    Feds, TEA to tour Texas following special education investigation

    From the Texas Tribune: Following a report from the Houston Chronicle that the state education agency had been purposely keeping the special education rate capped at 8.5 percent, the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday it would send representatives to tour Texas and take comment from school community members on special education. 


    November 28, 2016

    How to navigate a post-truth world

    “In the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, I've been reflecting on what it means to live in a post-truth world,” TSTA member Sara Stevenson, a middle school librarian in Austin, writes in the Texas Tribune Nov. 28.  “I was shocked to read several accounts, explaining that a majority of Americans receive their news via Facebook. "Trending stories" are highlighted in the right-hand margin of your Facebook page and serve as clickbait. Since Facebook has already determined your political bias, these stories — selected by algorithms, not people — play into each user's biases and fears.”


    November 23, 2016

    Trump plans to name anti-public education billionaire as Secretary of Education

    The Trump administration announced today its plan to nominate Betsy DeVos, best known for her anti-public education campaigns, for the position of Secretary of Education.

    According to the AP, “The 58-year-old DeVos is a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman. Her husband, Dick, is an heir to the Amway fortune and a former company president.”

    DeVos chairs the American Federation for Children. Here’s how their website opens: “The American Federation for Children is breaking down barriers to educational choice by creating an education revolution that empowers parents to choose the best educational environment for their children, so all children, especially low-income children, have access to a quality education.” 

    “Every day, educators use their voice to advocate for every student to reach his or her full potential. We believe that the chance for the success of a child should not depend on winning a charter lottery, being accepted by a private school, or living in the right ZIP code. We have, and will continue, to fight for all students to have a great public school in their community and the opportunity to succeed no matter their backgrounds or circumstances," NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said.

    “Betsy DeVos has consistently worked against these values, and her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education. By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities," she added. Read the NEA news release here.


    November 22, 2016

    TSTA on Trump's 100-Day Plan

    From Capital Tonight: On Tuesday’s show, we broke down President-elect Trump's 100 day plan. Will Trump actually do what he promised on the campaign trail? Plus, a Texas judge blocked a new overtime rule backed by the Obama Administration. We told you how the ruling could affect your bank account. And Clay Robison from the Texas State Teachers Association joined us to talk education policy under Trump, and what role it could play in the upcoming Legislative session. 


    November 18, 2016

    TSTA seeks genuine educator involvement in state ESSA planning

    Yesterday, TSTA President Noel Candelaria delivered a letter to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath outlining our concerns about ESSA implementation in Texas.

    The passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was an important victory for those of us who believe the best education policy is made at the local and state level. Most importantly, ESSA includes a critical provision that directs states and local school boards to give educators, parents and community leaders an ongoing and meaningful voice in developing and implementing education policy. 

    Recently, the Texas Education Agency launched an online survey that the agency says “will provide an opportunity for anyone to share views on how the state should implement provisions of ESSA.” We have encouraged our TSTA members to participate, but this online survey in no way satisfies the kind of ongoing educator involvement in state and local policy decisions that ESSA requires. In fact, the survey asks respondents to rate which ESSA provisions are most important, and “educator involvement” was one of many choices participants could mark. Educator involvement is not just an item to be scored against other priorities. It is a fundamental directive.

    ESSA passed almost a year ago, and TSTA is concerned that we have not yet been contacted by TEA regarding the development of the state’s ESSA implementation plan. We are aware of other stakeholders with similar concerns. We believe educators and parents who work with students every day have a better sense of what is needed to improve academic performance than those who never set foot in a classroom. We look forward to bringing our perspective to the development and implementation of education policy under ESSA.


    November 18, 2016

    State Board of Education Report

    Accountability System transition moves into high gear

    In his remarks to the SBOE, Commissioner Morath announced that a draft will be submitted in January to the legislature with a hypothetical preliminary run of how accountability ratings based on the A-F accountability rating system may look, which goes into effect in August of 2018 (2017-18 school year ratings).  The ratings will only cover Domains 1-4 since Domain 5 is a district-supplied indicator.

    Offensive Mexican-American Studies Textbook rejected

    In a unanimous vote, SBOE rejected the highly offensive and deeply flawed textbook “Mexican American Heritage.”  The textbook was “developed” by a publishing company operated by former SBOE member and right-wing activist Cynthia Dunbar.  The textbook generated much controversy and following a lengthy hearing on Tuesday, the Committee of the Full-Board voted 14-0 not to recommend the adoption of the textbook and, at its official meeting, SBOE unanimously rejected it.

    Per Capita Distribution from Available School Fund increased

    The SBOE approved the the percentage distribution from the Permeant School Fund (PSF) for fiscal years 2018-19.  The board voted to set the rate at 3.7%, just 0.2% below the maximum allowable contribution.  This translates into an approximately 11% increase for the biennium.  Of this amount, 50% goes to school districts as a per capita rate distribution from the Available School Fund and the other 50% is distributed annually to schools for the purchase of instructional materials.  The increase in the per capita distribution is approximately $22 per student from $196 to $218.

    TEA Legislative Appropriation Request seeks to expand internet connectivity

    TEA’s Legislative Appropriation Request (LAR) includes an exceptional item maximizes the use of Texas taxpayer dollars by giving school districts access to up to $225 million in federal funds to build their Internet connectivity infrastructure. In order to use technology to improve student outcomes, campuses need high-speed Internet access. HB 1926 (83rd Legislature) required the Public School Network Capabilities Study. The study revealed that 74 percent of campuses were below target Internet connectivity requirements.

    This exceptional item would help facilitate the widespread implementation of high-speed fiber-optic connectivity to schools in Texas, especially those in rural communities. Specifically, if the Legislature authorizes this exceptional item, it will help Texas school districts access up to $225 million in federal funds. This 9-to-1 funding multiplier is substantial. Importantly, this is a one-time federal funding opportunity and TEA does not expect funding to continue beyond FY 2018.

    SBOE Legislative Recommendations

    Following a convoluted process, which itself sparked more controversy, SBOE adopted eight items for its legislative recommendations for the 85th legislative session, which begins on January 10, 2017.  The eight items selected are:

    • Expand the SBOE authority to review and approve instructional materials beyond 50% of TEKS coverage, factual errors. and applicable physical specifications.
    • Allocate funds to SBOE to support the creation and implementation of a long-range plan as required by TEC 7.102(c).  
    • Ensure sufficient legislative appropriations to increase staffing at TEA, particularly in the curriculum division, to provide adequate personnel to oversee and support the TEKS review and implementation process and the textbook adoption process.
    • Protect the public education funds/services too adequately identify and serve the needs of all special education students.   
    • Remove the limitations on the agency to undertake on-site monitoring of school districts and charter districts and provide funding to carry out on-site monitoring.
    • Conserve public free schools (including charter districts) and prohibit public dollars from going to private schools or parent/guardians.  
    • Improve student privacy data by: (1) providing resources to the agency to ensure the agency data systems maintain and improve student data privacy, 2) passing requirements for publishers and third party suppliers to ensure student data privacy and 3) enacting student data privacy guidelines for local districts that include a requirement for local district to adopt a plan to protect student data privacy. 
    • Support the Commissioner’s request for E-Rate support funding for high-speed internet infrastructure for classroom connectivity to improve student access to online resources for all Texas students. 

    Beyond The Above

    There was a lot of discussion (and angst) by SBOE members about the relationship and authority of SBOE with State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC).  Currently, SBOE can either take no action or reject rules adopted by the SBEC or it can reject them, which sends the rules back to SBEC to start all over again, which can take as long as six months before they get back to SBOE.  SBOE would like something equivalent to a line item veto where they could strike parts of rules they don’t like without striking the entire rule.  This, however, requires legislative action. This discussion ensued over action on rules governing educator prep programs (EPPs) and the proposed accountability process for the them.

     — Bryan Weatherford, M. Ed                                                          


    November 18, 2016

    Publishers given second chance to submit ethnic studies materials

    TEA news release: The State Board of Education today approved 492 new instructional material products for use in Texas public schools beginning next fall but decided not to include a Mexican American studies textbook, as well as seven career and technical education submissions. (See Nov. 16 for background.)

    The approved materials will be available for use in courses covering career and technical education, languages other than English, and Algebraic Reasoning.

    Only one product was submitted for use in an elective course called Special Topics in Social Studies. The board did not approve Mexican American Heritage published by Momentum Instruction, LLC. The book drew extensive public criticism during two public hearings.

    “The board is committed to making sure our students receive historically accurate materials in the telling of your story,” Donna Bahorich, chair of the board, told Hispanic Texans who attended the instructional materials public hearing.  “Everyone deserves to have their story told in a fair and accurate matter.”

    Because of the board’s decision not to adopt Mexican American Heritage, leaving no state-adopted materials for a course focused on Mexican American studies, the board took the unusual step of calling for publishers to submit ethnic studies materials for Special Topics in Social Studies again next year. They did this by adding Special Topics to Proclamation 2018, a document that is basically a call for bids.

    Any materials submitted under Proclamation 2018 would be reviewed and considered for adoption next year. 

    Some districts have offered courses in Mexican American studies and other ethnic studies topics for more than a decade but they have offered them under a broader course called Special Topics in Social Studies or Independent Study in English. Teachers have previously compiled their own instructional materials from a variety of sources because state-adopted material was not available.

    Products approved by the board today will be available for use in Texas classrooms beginning in fall 2017. Under current Texas law, districts and charter schools may use their instructional materials allotment to purchase materials that have not been approved by the board but those materials still must cover the state’s curriculum standards called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.

    Along with Mexican American Heritage, the board did not adopt seven products submitted by publisher Red and Black Books LLC for use in a variety of career and technical education courses.


    November 18, 2016

    Groups call on Trump to denounce hate-fueled acts

    NEA today joined civil rights, faith leaders, and other advocates to ask President-Elect Donald Trump to leverage his position to call for an end to the recent wave of racist, bigoted, and violent incidents and rhetoric that have taken place since his election.

    NEA and more than 100 groups signed a letter urging Mr. Trump to call for an end to the acts of harassment, vandalism, property destruction, and in some cases, assault, that have intensified over the past several days, some of which took place in public schools and on college campuses. http://www.nea.org/home/69288.htm   


    November 18, 2016

    How to respond to incidents of racism, bullying and hate in schools

    Here are some steps you can take to respond to incidents of hateful words, actions and images and make sure your students feel welcome, supported and valued. http://neatoday.org/safeschools


    November 17, 2016

    Significant T-TESS win for teachers

    A recent hearing decision by the Commissioner prohibits districts from using T-TESS as a means to punish teachers for taking allowable leave. In his ruling on Melinda Houston v. Point Isabel ISD, the Commissioner made the following conclusion: “Under Texas Education Code 22.003(a), a school district may not adopt a policy that makes taking leave difficult and may not distinguish between worthy and unworthy reasons for taking leave.” 

    The Commissioner’s decision found fault with Point Isabel ISD because (1) using teacher evaluation to punish teachers for using allowable leave makes the leave difficult to use, and (2) allowing principals the discretion to consider extenuating circumstances distinguishes between worthy and unworthy reasons for taking leave.


    November 16, 2016

    State board rejects flawed Mexican American studies textbook

    The State Board of Education today voted 14-0 against the adoption of a proposed Mexican American studies textbook that was riddled with factual errors and racial stereotypes.

    The board will take a final vote on the book, “Mexican American Heritage” on Friday. David Bradley was the only board member who missed today’s preliminary vote.

    TSTA President Noel Candelaria, who submitted written testimony against the book’s adoption, applauded the board’s action.

    “We are glad to see that our educational leaders on the state board reached overwhelming agreement that the adoption of a textbook that misrepresents an entire people is irresponsible,” he said. “We look forward to future opportunities to support a responsibly developed ethnic studies curriculum for the students of Texas.”

    Education Austin Vice President Montserrat Garibay called the board’s decision “an uplifting victory for all educators, professors and organizations, but most importantly for our children, who are the future of our country.”

    “This major victory has ignited our hearts and minds to keep advocating for social justice in public education,” she added.


    November 14, 2016

    How are you celebrating American Education Week?

    American Education Week—Nov. 14-18—presents all Americans with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor the individuals who are ensuring that every child receives a quality education. This year's theme is "Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility." Each day is a special celebration:

    • Monday, November 14, 2016: Kickoff Day
    • Tuesday, November 15, 2016: Parents Day
    • Wednesday, November 16, 2016: Education Support Professionals Day
    • Thursday, November 17, 2016: Educator for a Day
    • Friday, November 18, 2016: Substitute Educators Day

    Tools you can use:


    November 14, 2016

    Watch your online purchases

    A reminder from Dee Arnold, TSTA’s information technology manager: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest online shopping days and the "bad guys" are out to get rich with your money. So what to look out for?

    • Be careful when you receive an email or text that says you just received a package from FedEx, UPS, or the US Mail, then asks for personal information. Don't enter anything. Think before you click!

    • Remember to use only credit cards online, never debit cards. The law says you can lose only $50 if you report it right away. It is easier to get your money back if you use a credit card. If someone steals your debit card number online, the thief can take all your money out of your bank account.

    • Never click on email links that appear to be from a vendor. Always key in the address of the website by hand and then enter any discount codes manually.

    • Watch out for pop-up windows that indicate you have a virus or some other issue. These are scams to take control of your computer. Do NOT click on them!

    • Before donating, confirm charities are real at http://www.charitynavigator.org.

    • Be wary of emails with crazy good BUY NOW offers and anything that looks slightly "off."

    • Watch out for emails that claim you are overdue on a bill, or “here are your receipts” when you actually didn’t purchase anything. Again, think before you click!

    • During the holidays, check your card activity daily. When you look at card activity, keep an eye out for "microcharges." Hackers often test cards to see if they are valid by charging small amounts of $1 or $2.

    If you think you might have been scammed, stay calm and call your credit card company.


    November 9, 2016

    TSTA president: voters say it's time to invest, not test

    "Yesterday, voters in competitive Texas House districts rejected candidates who voted to drastically cut public education funding and load down students and teachers with high stakes tests that deprive children of time for real teaching and learning. Support for educators and neighborhood public schools was a key factor in victories by Mary Ann Perez, Victoria Neave, and Philip Cortez," TSTA President Noel Candelaria said in a press statement.

    "In this year’s Republican and Democratic primaries and the general election, candidates who supported public schools consistently defeated candidates who supported vouchers and privatization schemes, a message from voters that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick should heed," he said. "TSTA supported pro-public education candidates from both political parties, and we look forward to working with a bipartisan coalition to provide desperately needed state funding for local schools, put an end to high stakes testing, and meet the needs of every child, not just the few who might attend private schools.

    "When it comes to education, one thing is clear. Texas taxpayers cannot afford to pay for two separate school systems, one public and one private. The voters are saying it’s time to invest, not test," Candelaria said.


    November 9, 2016

    Talking to students after the election

    NEA Today reports that stories are flooding social media from parents whose children are afraid of what the 2016 presidential election results might mean. Read more.


    November 9, 2016

    SBOE to meet Nov. 15-18

    The State Board of Education will meet in Austin Nov. 15-18. Meetings begin at 9 a.m. each day and are streamed live. The public registration period will be open from 8 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, through 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14.

    The full agenda is online; items of interest include:

    Proposed adoption of 500 new instructional materials for the following areas: career and technical education, languages other than English, Special Topics in Social Studies, Algebraic Reasoning and Statistics;

    Revisions to the charter Bond Guarantee Program;

    Updates to educator certification rules; and

    Proposed revisions to the English and Spanish Language Arts and Reading TEKS and science TEKS.


    November 7, 2016

    Can you help?

    From Shelley Potter, president of the San Antonio Alliance: I’m reaching out to ask if you could spread the word about this fund raising for one of our members who is going through a tragic situation. Her daughter was murdered, leaving behind three children, ages, 2, 3, and 4. Our member now has custody of her grandchildren. She was also just told by her doctor that she needs to go on a 3-5 month medical leave, and she is out of leave days, which leaves her without an income. We have connected her with the CLC Labor Liaisons at the United Way, so that they can try to help her connect with services that may be available to provide her some support. Through this online fund raising link, we hope to provide her with some direct support. Please share with people who you think might be interested in helping her out. 


    November 4, 2016

    Ysleta win demonstrates importance of school board elections

    Next May, the Ysleta Teachers Association (YTA) and several other TSTA locals will be endorsing and supporting school board candidates. YTA’s success in May 2015 illustrates why these elections can make a very real difference. 

    After more than a decade, YTA won a landmark victory in October on behalf of educators who were denied a $2,500 pay raise in 2006. More than 100 educators were at the top of the Ysleta ISD pay scale when the legislature mandated an increase for all Texas educators – and YISD restructured its formula for paying teachers. The turning point in this decade-long fight was the May 2015 school board election, in which YTA worked to elect two candidates and reelect another, winning all three positions on the ballot.

    TSTA President Noel Candelaria, who was president of YTA in 2006, said the local association, TSTA, and NEA were relentless in fighting the injustice by filing a grievance, then representing members before the commissioner of education and, later, a court in Austin. But it was their work on behalf of school board candidates that finally made the difference.

    “Our involvement in the political process is no accident. We understand that the power of the people is in the hands of those we elect to public office,” Candelaria said. “We exercised our power to organize our members, parents, and the community to help elect a school board majority that respects and values the voice of the professionals. This board majority understands that you can’t advocate for children in our schools if you don’t also advocate for the adults who work with them every day.” 

    “This was not just about the salary they were due, it was about respecting and honoring a lifelong commitment to our district and every student those educators impacted in their careers,” he added.

    YTA President Arlinda Valencia thanked Board President Shane Haggerty “for being a great advocate for this cause,” Superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre “for using his great leadership skills in attempting to engage all parties,” and board members Connie Woodruff, Mike Rosales, Sotero Ramirez and Ana Duenez for voting for the settlement.


    November 4, 2016

    Congratulations

    ...to TSTA President Noel Candelaria and Texas NEA Director Linda Estrada from Donna TSTA/ NEA. They are the newest members of the NEA Member Benefits Board of Directors. Estrada was elected by the NEA Board of Directors in July, and Candelaria was appointed by NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.


    November 3, 2016

    TEA Finally Adopts Commissioner Rules for HB 1842, Campus Sanctions and Interventions

    During the 2015 legislative session, HB1842 made some important changes to the law related to campus interventions and sanctions. Among the important elements of the bill were the elimination of “reconstitution” and a campus turnaround plan provision that was intended to prevent districts from ignoring a low performing campus.

    TEA filed Adopted Revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 97, Planning and Accountability, Subchapter EE, Accreditation Status, Standards, and Sanctions with the Texas Register; and the adopted amendments, repeals, and new rules update processes and procedures related to campus sanctions and interventions to reflect changes made by House Bill 1842, 84th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 2015 with an effective date of November 17, 2016.

    The most significant changes in the rules relates to the required interventions TEA must make with campuses within the first through fifth years of being designated low performing.

    If a campus's performance is below any standard under Texas Education Code in any given year, the campus shall engage in the Texas Accountability Intervention System (TAIS) continuous improvement process. This requires the commissioner to assign members to a campus intervention team (CIT) to perform certain evaluations to determine root causes of why the campus is not performing satisfactorily.

    If a campus is assigned an unacceptable rating for a second consecutive year, the district must engage in the processes outlined by these rules, and must develop a campus turnaround plan to be approved by the commissioner.

    If a campus is assigned an unacceptable rating for a third or fourth consecutive year, the district must engage in the processes outlined by these rules, and must implement the commissioner-approved campus turnaround plan as dictated by this commissioner rule.

    Finally, if a campus is assigned an unacceptable rating for a fifth consecutive year, the commissioner shall order the appointment of a board of managers to govern the district or closure of the campus.

    To see all steps required for campus sanctions and interventions, please visit the TEA website.


    November 2, 2016

    Add your voice to those calling for rejection of flawed Mexican American Heritage textbook

    The Responsible Ethnic Studies Textbook Coalition, which includes TSTA, is asking for one final push to convince the State Board of Education to #RejectTheText! The SBOE holds its final hearing on the highly innaccurate and deeply offensive Mexican-American studies textbook on Tuesday, Nov. 15, followed by an up or down vote later that week. Here's what you can do:

    1. Come to the Nov. 15 hearing. 

    2. Sign the petition at MASforTexas.org.


    November 2, 2016

    TEA responds to USDOE special education concerns

    The Texas Education Agency today submitted its response to concerns recently expressed by the U.S. Department of Education regarding special education in the state. In a letter sent to Acting Assistant Secretary Sue Swenson, the agency insists it has never set a cap, limit, or policy on the number or percent of students that school districts can, or should, serve in special education.Read TEA's news release or the entire TEA response to the U.S. Department of Education. 


    November 1, 2016

    Teachers: TEA’s special education cuts are hurting our classrooms

    “You feel defeated at times as a teacher because you want to meet every child’s needs and you just can’t,” said Patty Candelaria, a first grade teacher at Langford Elementary school. Read more on Time Warner Cable


    October 28, 2016

    Nominations due for National Teachers Hall of Fame

    Located in Emporia, Kansas, the National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF) has brought attention to the profession primarily through an annual recognition program, which honors five of the nation’s most outstanding teachers each year. TSTA is proud that its president, Noel Candelaria, serves on the NTHF board of trustees. Anyone can nominate an educator, and self-nominations are encouraged. Submit the complete official nomination packet (obtainable online or by calling 800-96-TEACH) by the Jan. 10 postmark deadline or Jan. 12 electronic submission deadline. You can learn more about NTHF at www.nthf.org.


    October 28, 2016

    Texas TEGNA poll: Broad support for eliminating STAAR test

    Texans are overwhelmingly in support of eliminating the standardized STAAR test and allowing school districts to administer their own accountability systems, according to a Texas TEGNA poll released Friday morning. 


    October 27, 2016

    Texas' GOP leaders should move off vouchers, focus on improving public schools

    From a Dallas Morning News editorial: For years, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other state leaders have pushed to permit vouchers, as a way to allow thousands of Texas students in failing schools to attend private schools. 

    Patrick says he will once again ask legislators in next year's session to approve voucher-like programs to give parents the option to leave their public schools. He contends the program would help more parents afford private school.  And he's got some misguided GOP Senate support. Read more.


    October 25, 2016

    Your vote counts!

    Early voting started Monday and will continue through Nov. 4. Click here for a list of TSTA-endorsed candidates and vote for public schools. 


    October 24, 2016

    More evidence that charter schools are the new subprime mortgages

    From Business Insider: We just got even more evidence supporting the theory that charter schools are America's new subprime mortgages. Read more here


    October 24, 2016

    TEA releases final 2015-2016 financial accountability ratings

    The Texas Education Agency today released final financial accountability ratings for more than 1,200 school districts and charters across the state, with 97 percent of all Texas school districts and charters earning a successful final rating for 2015-2016.

    Created by the 77th Texas Legislature in 2001, the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) is designed to encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes. Read more here.


    October 21, 2016

    Limiting children's digital media use

    American Academy of Pediatrics has issued recommendations for controlling use of digital media for kids. They also have a new program and free online tool to help parents plan and execute those limits.


    October 20, 2016

    Nominations for NEA Human & Civil Rights Awards now being accepted

    Exemplary individuals, organizations, and affiliates will be recognized at the NEA Human and Civil Rights Dinner. The 50th anniversary of the gala dinner will be held in Boston on July 1, 2017. Nominators must be NEA members, NEA affiliates, or an NEA caucus. The nomination process is completely automated and online this year at www.nea.org/hcrawards


    October 19, 2016

    4 ways ESSA will change how schools serve ELL students

    The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is at its heart a piece of civil rights legislation. Its whole purpose is to provide federal funds to states and districts to overcome disadvantages faced by students who have traditionally fallen through the cracks or been intentionally ignored.  In the latest rewrite of the law, which turned No Child Left Behind into Every Student Succeeds, there are some key provisions that shift the way schools will have to identify, serve, test and report information about students who do not speak English. Read more here.


    October 18, 2016

    High school graduation rate hits record high of 83.2 percent

    The national high school graduation rate has reached an all-time high of 83.2 percent, according to new data released by the federal government.  read more


    October 18, 2016

    DPS targets drivers around school buses

    The Texas Department of Public Safety has Highway Patrol troopers riding buses and monitoring drivers around school buses this week as they crack down on traffic safety problems. DPS’ action is in conjunction with National School Bus Safety Week which runs through Friday. The troopers will either be on the bus or following it closely looking for drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses. Troopers will also be patrolling where buses pick up and drop off students looking for bad drivers.


    October 18, 2016

    Customized educations on the table for Texas students

    TSTA’s Ed Martin told KXAN, “We simply can’t afford to fund two separate school systems — one public, one private. Our public schools have been struggling in some cases to do a lot more with less,” Martin said the public school system has done “a pretty darn good job” but he fears the choice movement will undermine local school districts. Read and watch here.


    October 17, 2016

    TSTA: School “choice” is about vouchers and under-funding public education

    The Texas State Teachers Association today said the so-called school or parental “choice” movement was a misleading attempt to take tax money from public schools and divert it to private school vouchers and other unproven privatization schemes.

    “This is not about parental choice. It is about enriching operators of private schools or corporate charters,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “You can call it a voucher, an education savings account or ‘choice,’ but that does not disguise the fact that it would create a dual system of funding education, benefitting only a handful of children and taking money from the public schools that will continue to educate the vast majority of Texas  kids.”

    “For most parents, private schools are not a choice because even with a voucher or education savings account, most private schools are simply not affordable,” Candelaria added, as the House Public Education Committee heard testimony on privatization proposals.

    Candelaria said that instead of wasting tax dollars on unproven privatization gimmicks that pick winners and losers, legislators need to invest more resources into public schools to give every student an opportunity to succeed. Texas spends about $2,700 per student below the national average, ranking Texas in the bottom tier of states in its financial commitment to school children. As public school enrollment in Texas increases by about 80,000 students each year, many school districts are still struggling to recover from the $5.4 billion the legislative majority cut from public education in 2011.


    October 17, 2016

    Texas House digging in heels for school voucher fight

    A bipartisan group of state representatives hammered private school choice proponents at a heated legislative hearing on Monday, signaling an enduring uphill battle in the Texas House for proposals that would use taxpayer dollars to help parents send their kids to private or parochial schools, or educate them at home. Read more in the Texas Tribune.


    October 14, 2016

    TSTA members named Texas Teachers of the Year

    Allison Ashley, an elementary bilingual teacher in Austin ISD and member of Education Austin and TSTA, has been named Texas Teacher of the Year for 2017 and will advance to the National Teacher of the Year competition. A second TSTA member, Deborah Campbell, a speech and credit recovery program teacher from San Angelo ISD, was named the 2017 TSTA Secondary Teacher of the Year.

    The announcement was made today at an awards luncheon at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. The program is facilitated by the Texas Association of School Administrators.

    “One of the most powerful things educators can do is model for students a love of learning, an eagerness for and appreciation of feedback, a transparent sharing of goals, and the vulnerability to fail and try again,” said Ashley, who hold a master’s degree in language and literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

    This is Ashley’s seventh year of teaching bilingual education in Austin ISD, where she has taught at Perez and Becker elementary schools. She began her career in the Brownsville and Edinburg school districts in the Rio Grande Valley.

    Campbell has taught in San Angelo ISD her entire 20-year career. She holds a master’s degree in communication systems management from Angelo State University and serves as a rotating communications post-secondary instructor for Park University. She served on a State Board for Educator Certification committee that developed a new exit exam for teacher candidates as well as on a Texas Education Agency committee that wrote standards for teaching speech in Texas.

    “Almost daily, you will find me asking students, ‘Why do you need this diploma? What were you meant to do? How will you use the diploma to get there?’” Campbell said. “If they know the ‘why,’ they will come to school, they will fight through the hardships, and they will value the necessity of their education as a means to a sucessful end. Knowing they will take it further is what drives me to be persistent and persevere.”

    Six finalists were chosen from 40 regional teachers of the year. The two winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges, including educators, community and business leaders, a member of the State Board for Educator Certification, and a member of the State Board of Education.


    October 14, 2016

    North Carolina needs help

    From Mark Jewell, president of North Carolina Association of Educators: “North Carolina has suffered a devastating loss due to historic flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew, which hit our state last weekend. A state of emergency has been declared in more than half of our 100 counties. Massive flooding and water rescues are continuing as conditions deteriorate in many towns. The lingering effects of the storm have claimed 22 lives and many of our students, members, their families and communities have been greatly impacted by the disaster. Blankets, food and water are in dire need.

    “Homes are devastated in areas where it has never flooded and some cities and towns are completely under water. Many of our most impoverished communities have been hit the hardest and most are without flood insurance. A large number of schools have been flooded and some school districts may not be back in session for weeks.

    “NCAE and our Foundation for Public School Children are seeking your support to help provide the basic essentials to the thousands of North Carolinians effected by the storm. Please consider contributing to our NCFPSC disaster relief fund as well as sharing this information with your networks. In North Carolina, our hearts are heavy, but our spirits are unbreakable. Thank you in advance for supporting our students, educators, and communities.”


    October 13, 2016

    Paid opportunity: online coaches for NEA Early Career Learning Labs

    Early Career Learning Labs are a blended learning opportunity that includes both local affiliate-based, face-to-face meetings and online coaching sessions around teacher-identified problems-of-practice. 

    Online Coaches will be responsible for guiding and supporting a small group of Early Career Teachers in learning around their problems-of-practice through a 6-8 week Learning Cycle process. Responsibilities include leading online video conference meetings (e.g. Zoom); leading asynchronous, online conversations; coaching groups of three to five Early Career Teachers around their problems-of-practice; curating high-quality content to share; and attending all virtual NEA trainings and meetings. Online Coaches are expected to work 4-6 hours per week and will be paid $3000 for this pilot school year.

    Qualifications:

    ●      Experience and training as a coach or mentor to teachers

    ●      Experience leading and organizing professional development

    ●      Experience and knowledge of blended and online strategies

    ●      24-7 access to a computer with webcam and audio

    ●      24-7 access to the internet

    ●      Successful experience using online digital tools for communication and collaboration

    ●      Experience using digital tools to connect and learn professionally

    ●      Current NEA member

    Oct. 24 is the application deadline. Initial training is the week of Nov. 14. Apply here


    October 13, 2016

    Austin ISD sees fewer absences with ‘breakfast in the classroom’

    TSTA President Noel Candelaria is featured in this Oct. 12 story on KXAN about breakfast in the classroom.


    October 12, 2016

    Do you know five other people in your school? Ask them to do this.

    When NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia worked in a school cafeteria, resources and training on bullying were scarce. Today we know what works. Ask five educators at your school to pledge to stand up for bullied students, and NEA will send you the tools and resources to improve your school climate.


    October 11, 2016

    Long-term impact of school bullying may be worse than you think

    A recent study of 480 students at four college campuses found that being bullied in school was a stronger predictor of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder than other childhood traumas, including abuse and neglect.

    Download materials from a 2011 event, Creating a Safe and Respectful Environment on Our Nation’s School Buses, to learn how to  create a safe and supportive climate that helps prevent bullying. 


    October 10, 2016

    "Nobel Journeys” free digital textbook

    Free for digital download, "Nobel Journeys" shares stories of 10 Nobel Prize winners. Download the textbook and teachers' guide at http://landing.eftours.com/nobel-journeys-book.


    October 7, 2016

    SBEC Discusses Educator Certification and Preparation Rules

    The State Board for Educator Certification met on Friday, October 7, to discuss rules related to educator preparation programs and disciplinary cases. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath opened the meeting by addressing the Board, and he said his first priority is working to find ways to recruit and retain principals and classroom teachers.  Morath said he wants to streamline the certification process, strengthen guidelines, and improve preparation for teachers before they enter the classroom. He did not provide details about how a streamlined process would improve teacher preparation.

    The testimony on the proposed rules governing Professional Educator Preparation and Certification programs raised questions.  The proposed rules attempt to raise standards for the teaching profession, however concern was expressed that the rules could contribute to additional teacher shortages in key areas, especially with smaller school districts.  

    TEA staff touched on the problem of relating student performance on tests to educator preparation programs, and committed to developing an alternative to  simply using STAAR exams by broadening the approach to all subject and grade levels taught by certified educators. The Board adopted revisions to the chapters of the administrative code relating to Educator Preparation Programs subject to final approval by the State Board of Education.

    The Board also finally approved its disciplinary rules with recommended guidance to TEA staff on penalties for settlement.  The Board’s deference to staff recommendations on suspensions and revocations in certain types of cases brought before the Board appeared to be problematic for some members of the Board, however, the rules as proposed by staff were ultimately approved.  

    Board member Jill Druesedow was elected chair of the Board by acclimation for the interim until the regularly scheduled December elections can be held which will be the last SBEC meeting for the year.


    October 7, 2016

    Texas Medical Association giving away $28,500 in cash prizes

    Three Texas science teachers will each receive $5,000 and an all-expense paid trip to TMA’s annual conference for the presentation ceremony in May 2017 in Houston. Their schools will receive $2,000 to use toward their science classroom curriculum. Second-place winners will each receive a $1,500 award and $1,000 for their classrooms. Details at www.texmed.org/teachers.


    October 6, 2016

    Texas school districts can now apply to receive a grant to implement breakfast in the classroom 

    Texas selected as one of 10 states to receive free nutritious morning meals for local students School districts in Texas can now apply for grant funds from Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom to provide healthy and nutritious morning meals to students in a way that is designed to increase participation in the federally-funded school breakfast program. School districts will be selected based on the number of students that qualify for free or reduced-priced meals, average daily participation in the school breakfast program and district and school-level support.

    The Partners is a consortium of national education and nutrition organizations, including the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation (NAESPF), the NEA Foundation, and the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF). States were selected for the program based on need and the potential for success. Also participating will be Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma  and Utah.  Across these states, the Partners have a goal of increasing access to a nutritious morning meal for 30,000 students.

    Through a $7.5 million grant from the Walmart Foundation, the Partners will work with state affiliates to offer a free breakfast to all students in a school, serving it in classrooms instead of the cafeteria. This effort is designed to improve participation in the federally-funded school breakfast program and boost learning and student health. 

    Although most U.S. schools already participate in the program, some barriers -- including bus schedules, late arrivals to school, pressure to go directly to class and reluctance to be labeled “low-income” -- have resulted in historically low participation rates. Nearly half of low-income children who are eligible for a free or reduced-price breakfast through the federal program are not eating it, according to a 2015 Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) analysis.  

    “We encourage school districts across the state to apply for these grants,” said Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria. “Bringing healthy morning meals into the classroom would have a positive impact on students’ nutrition and learning abilities. Proven benefits of moving breakfast from the cafeteria to the classroom include better attendance records, less tardiness, fewer behavioral and psychological problems, to name a few. These are benefits that Texas students deserve.”   

    Since 2010, 36 school districts in 16 states have been awarded grants by the Partners to implement Breakfast in the Classroom programs. As a result, more than 63,000 students have started their day with a healthy meal.

    Applications are now being accepted in Texas. For more information about the program and eligiblity requirements and to review an application, visit www.BreakfastintheClassroom.org


    October 6, 2016

    Math & science scholars loan repayment program

    The Math and Science Scholars Loan Repayment Program was authorized by the 83rd Texas Legislature and funded two years later. It was created to encourage teachers who demonstrated high academic achievement as math or science majors, to teach math or science in Texas public schools for eight years, the first four at Texas schools that receive federal funding under Title I, Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

    Selected applicants may qualify for up to $5,000 in student loan repayment assistance based on full-time classroom teaching for each completed academic year. Program requirements, the fillable application form, and link to the administrative rules of the program are posted on the program web page. The application deadline is Dec. 15.


    October 6, 2016

    Get funding for your school sports program

    Public high schools and middle schools can score up to $3,000 for their sports departments with a California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant. California Casualty, provider of NEA’s Auto & Home Insurance Program, will award a total of $100,000 in grants of up to $3,000 to offset budget cuts that have affected school athletic programs. Applications must be received by Jan. 15 for 2016-17 consideration. 


    October 5, 2016

    Student essay and video contests

    The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission is sponsoring a student video contest on standing up for others and an essay contest on propaganda. Prizes will be awarded.


    October 4, 2016

    NEA ESP Conference is coming to Dallas!

    The 2017 NEA Education Support Professionals Conference will be March 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. It's the premier professional development opportunity for education support professionals across the nation. The goal of this conference is to enhance the skills and knowledge of ESP members to positively impact student achievement, build community relations, organize members, advocate for educators, build stronger locals, and help our members do their jobs better. The conference offers more than 50 different hands-on workshops over the course of four days. Pre-conference workshop opportunities are offered in topics ranging from social justice, membership recruitment techniques and leadership development to communication skills training, membership empowerment, and creating strategic alliances with other labor organizations. Special pre-conference workshops specifically targeted for emerging and advanced Association leaders are also offered. Watch this page for updates on registration.


    October 4, 2016

    Texas senator wants teens to learn what to do during police stops

    State Sen. John Whitmire, who wants Texas' ninth graders to begin learning about their rights and how to act during traffic stops, said many communities distrust their law enforcement.

    Ninth graders are impressionable and are just getting behind the wheel for the first time, the Houston Democrat said. TSTA comments in this article from KERA News.


    October 3, 2016

    The Trump Effect

    Every four years, teachers in the United States use the presidential election to impart valuable lessons to students about the electoral process, democracy, government, and the responsibilities of citizenship. But for students and teachers alike, this year’s primary season is starkly different from any in recent memory. The results of an online survey conducted by Teaching Tolerance suggest that the campaign is having a profoundly negative effect on children and classrooms.

    It’s producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and in aming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported. Other students have been emboldened by the divisive, often juvenile rhetoric in the campaign. Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment, and intimidation of students whose races, religions, or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail. Read more here.


    October 1, 2016

    October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

    This month, across the world, from New York to New Zealand, thousands of schools, communities, organizations, and individuals will come together to release new resources, campaigns, and efforts aimed at raising awareness for bullying prevention. Find resources here.


    September 30, 2016

    Public Education Funding Teetering on the Cliff

    The House Public Education and House Appropriations Committees met in a joint hearing this week to address critical challenges facing the Texas school funding system, which was found to be in crisis but still “constitutional” in an ill-advised Texas Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. Several panels of experts made up of superintendents, chief financial officers, school board members and education advocates presented testimony on Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR), recapture (Robin Hood) and the Cost of Education Index (CEI), issues that must be addressed along with inadequate state funding levels. 

    Two of the most immediately critical funding issues facing Texas school districts are recapture and the loss of ASATR funding.  Districts from “property wealthy” areas expressed concern of the increasing amounts of local tax dollars must be sent back to the State through recapture to be reallocated to property poor districts that lack the ability to generate sufficient funding through property taxes. Other districts expressed concern over the loss of revenue because of the phasing out of ASATR funding.  There were also a number of districts that testified both funding issues would have an impact. 

    One major concern involved a discussion about a portion of recaptured local school funds being diverted to general revenue for non-education purposes instead of being invested back in our public schools, a practice that could trigger a new round of legal action against the state. 

    Committee members agreed that the antiquated school funding system will ultimately contribute to budget deficits for many Texas school districts due to severely limited local funding options and inadequate state funding. Both committee chairs, who are serving their last terms in the House, called for an increase in the basic allotment for per pupil funding and corrections in funding formulas, but once again, some state leaders are expected to call for tax cuts, privatization and other policies that hinder improvements in school funding. TSTA will continue pushing for a long term, reliable funding source that is essential to bring Texas school funding up to par to replace a system that now lags $2,700 per pupil below that national average. 


    September 28, 2016

    Morath to LBB: 60% of Texas students economically disadvantaged

    On Tuesday, Commissioner Mike Morath presented Texas Education Agency’s budget requests for next session to the Legislative Budget Board. The most significant information he shared was that Texas now has a student population that is 60 percent economically disadvantaged, which is 20 percent higher than 20 years ago. Even in light of this, TEA has been asked to reduce the education budget by 4 percent. Morath outlined its exceptional items, which include funding for math innovation zone, HB 4 pre-kindergarten, and campus turn around work, and more funds for investigating inappropriate relationships between teachers and students.  

    Some of the most significant testimony came from school funding specialists Moak Casey & Associates: “We were pleased to see that the joint leadership 4 percent base reduction instructions excluded the Foundation School Program. However, the current law funding formulas result in a decrease of $2.1 billion in all funds for the FSP, which actually works out to be a 4.9 percent reduction in state support for public education," they said. "A review of the method of finance behind that appropriation reveals that funding from state tax sources would actually decrease by about $3.5 billion, a reduction of more than 9 percent. Of particular note is the 22 percent decrease in funding for the state’s facilities programs, the Instructional Facilities Allotment and the Existing Debt Allotment. These reductions are occurring because of the state's continued reliance on a local property tax for a majority of the funding for public education, a practice that has been criticized by the Supreme Court in previous opinions on the constitutionality of the school finance system, including its recent opinion in the Texas Taxpayer lawsuit.” 

    In the upcoming election, school funding should be a priority, but it is taking an even lower priority than ever. However the election comes out, TSTA will continue to fight for adequate funding for public education.


    September 26, 2016

    TRS Report: Contact Your Legislators Now! 

    Last Thursday and Friday, September 22 and 23, the Teacher Retirement System held its quarterly board meeting. The most important issues now facing TRS are the underfunding of Care and ActiveCare, but this Board meeting was devoted to TRS investment matters and the TRS agency’s technology upgrade. 

    Obviously, the health of the investment fund is an important matter because a healthy fund argues against potential efforts by a few legislators to eliminate the TRS defined benefit retirement system. For the second quarter, the TRS investment portfolio had a 1.6% rate of return (very slightly below its benchmark by 0.2%). The trust fund grew from $128.2 billion to $129.4 billion.

    Regarding Care and ActiveCare, the legislature has not yet signaled how they plan to address the funding crisis for these critical health care programs. It is very important for you to contact your state representative and state senator before the session as well as during the session when bills affecting Care and ActiveCare are filed next session. Our message is simple: it’s time for the state to do its part to provide affordable, quality health care for both retired and active educators. 

    We will keep you informed when more information becomes available on the future of Care and ActiveCare.

    School district profiles now available online

    Snapshot is an online overview of public education in Texas for a particular school year. In addition to state-level information, it gives 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.

    View the information from the 2015 Snapshot: School District Profiles (or for previous years); for additional performance results for all Texas public school districts and campuses, visit the TEA Texas Performance Reporting System (TPRS).


    September 21, 2016

    Limited connectivity this Friday

    The TSTA headquarters office will be experiencing limited connectivity this Friday, September 24, as we transition to our new location. Our email server will be down and we will not have access to our fax lines. Help Center Voicemail will be monitored. If you need to contact the Help Center, please contact 1-877-ASK-TSTA. We apologize for this inconvenience and expect to be back up and running on Monday, September 27.


    September 21, 2016

    Sign up for Minority & Women's Leadership Training

    The 2016-2017 Minority Leadership and Women’s Leadership Training Program Conference—West (West states include NEA’s Midwest, Pacific, and West regions) will be held Friday, December 9 – Sunday, December 11, 2016, at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, 1380 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego, California 92101; Phone: (619) 291-2900.

    The MLT and WLT Leadership Conference West will prepare early career educators and emerging leaders to be powerful advocates for their students, their profession, and their Association. The hands-on training curriculum teaches participants foundational leadership skills, the logistics of running for elected office, and how to advocate for student-centered policies and social justice issues that impact their schools and communities.Registration for the MLT & WLT Conference will be done electronically using Cvent, NEA’s on-line registration program and will launch FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2016 and close FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2016. Please see conference details and registration link when site goes live Friday, October 14, 2016 at the Human and Civil Rights website: www.nea.org/hcr. On-site registration will also be available.

    Registration—$195 made online by credit card or mailed by check to NEA prior to the conferences. A full non-refundable registration payment must be postmarked by FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2016, for registration. The checks should be addressed to: National Education Association, Attention: Ebadullah Ebadi, 1201 16th Street, NW, Suite 410 - Washington, DC 20036.

    Hotel Accommodations—$169 plus 12.695% state tax (subject to change) for single or double occupancy. The triple rate is $189.00 and quadruple rate is $209.00 plus the 12.695% state tax at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. All housing expenses for NEA non-funded participants are the responsibility of the local, individual, or state. An early departure fee of $100 will apply if a participant checks out prior to the confirmed checkout date, except in cases of personal emergency. The hotel reservation deadline is FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2016.


    September 20, 2016

    TSTA: 49,000 Texas teachers could lose jobs under Trump plan

    The Texas State Teachers Association expressed alarm over a new analysis showing that as many as 490,000 teachers in the United States, including as many as 49,000 in Texas, could lose their jobs under Donald Trump’s plan to make major cuts in federal education spending. The study, conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, concludes that more than 760,000 students in Texas alone could lose funding for critical education programs.

    The study is based on Trump’s vow to eliminate or drastically shrink the U.S. Department of Education and its programs for low-income, disabled and millions of other students, including financial assistance for college students.

    “Trump once remarked that he loved the poorly educated,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said. “The sad reality is that we would have many more poorly educated people if he was elected president and Congress approved his plan to cripple important services that educate millions of children and young people.”

    “The potential consequences of Trump’s so-called ‘education plan’ should be a much greater concern to voters than the swagger, divisiveness and name-calling that seem to dominate his campaign,” Candelaria added.

    “It is no coincidence that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is Trump’s campaign chair in Texas,” Candelaria noted. “Both are bad news for school children and educators.  Trump’s plan could cost Texas schools $5.7 billion a year, and as a state senator, Patrick voted in 2011 to cut $5.4 billion from the Texas public education budget, cuts that have never been fully restored.”

    According to the study, about $70 billion in federal education funds could be lost each year under a Trump presidency, including $5.7 billion in Texas. Here are a few potential impacts on specific programs:

    Five million American children with disabilities could lose $12.7 billion each year for special education programs. Texas children could lose $1.1 billion of that in a state where special education has already been shortchanged.

    Some $700 million used by states to help educate 5 million English language learners would be cut, including as much as $108 million in Texas.

    Nine million low-income students throughout the country could lose $15 billion of Title 1 funding each year.

    Eight million students a year throughout the U.S. would lose Pell grants for college.

    For more details, click on this link.


    September 19, 2016

    How do we stop the exodus of minority teachers?

    Minority teachers are being driven out of schools by poor working conditions at rates higher than their non-minority colleagues, which only undermines years of recruitment efforts that have targeted minority teachers.

    To read more:  http://hechingerreport.org/stop-exodus-minority-teachers/

    To read the brief:  https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Minority_Teacher_Recruitment_Employment_Retention%20_BRIEF.pdf


    September 16, 2016

    Senate State Affairs Committee Considers Payroll Dues Deduction Ban

    Last Wednesday, September 14, the Senate State Affairs Committee met to consider prohibiting the deduction of union and employee association dues by state and local governments and school boards. Such legislation was sponsored by State Affairs Chair Joan Huffman (R-Houston) last session and it passed the Senate but failed in the House. 

    TSTA was invited to present testimony on a panel along with the Firefighters union and two proponents of the plan who represented business associations. Pflugerville Educators Association President August Plock testified on behalf of TSTA and pointed out that teachers and other employees should be free to choose where they want to send their money in a safe and secure process that costs the taxpayers nothing, also noting that dues money may not be used for political purposes and union membership in Texas is entirely voluntary. Education Austin member Traci Dunlap also testified. Both August and Traci were excellent witnesses and effectively rebutted the arguments made by proponents of this proposal. 

    In fact, a representative of the National Federation of Independent Business aggressively and emotionally laughably claimed that payroll deduction by public employees could weaken the clout business has in the Texas Capitol, while citing alleged abuses by private employee unions that have nothing to do with payroll deduction. In response to questions by Senator Zaffirini (D-Laredo), the NFIB witness also conceded that payroll deduction was done at little or no cost to taxpayers, and that she had no argument with police, firefighters, teachers or prison guards – the very people who would be denied payroll deduction by the legislation she supports.

    TSTA will strongly oppose this legislation in next year’s session. 


    September 16, 2016

    SBOE considers flawed, misguided textbook

    The State Board of Education met all week on a variety of issues, including math and science curriculum, Personal Financial Literacy course work, and review of Educator Preparation Program rules adopted by the State Board for Educator Certification. However, the most contentious issue heard by the Board involved a proposal to adopt a factually and culturally flawed Mexican American studies textbook. 

    TSTA President Noel Candelaria submitted testimony in opposition to the adoption of this textbook.

     “This (Hispanic) culture and its many important contributions to the Texas we know today have been misrepresented in the woefully misguided ‘textbook’ being considered by this Board for adoption, a book inappropriately titled Mexican American Heritage.  Hundreds of scholars have identified a litany of factual errors and inaccurate racial stereotypes that would harmfully misinform and prejudice students about a culture that is woven into the very fabric of Texas. This book doesn’t belong in our classrooms, because Texas students of all races and ethnicities should accurately understand the role the Hispanic culture and all cultures have played in enriching our wonderfully diverse state. I strongly and emphatically urge the board to reject its proposed adoption.”

    Passages in the proposed textbook include egregious stereotypes, including:

    “Mexicans were stereotypically viewed as lazy.” 

    “Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day’s work so vigorously. There was a cultural attitude of ‘mañana,’ or ‘tomorrow,’ when it came to high-gear production.”

    The Board is expected to vote on the textbook adoption in November. Please contact your SBOE member and ask for a no vote on this flawed textbook.

    The SBOE also heard from Ray Bohlin of Probe Ministries, a creationist activist who has served as a research fellow for the evolution-denying Discovery Institute. Bohlin was well-received by some SBOE members, and they could attempt another sneak attack on science. Stay tuned.  


    September 15, 2016

    Senate Education Committee Discusses Vouchers, “Educational Savings Accounts” (ESAs)

    On Wednesday, September 14, the Senate Committee on Education met to discuss vouchers, innovations districts, and changing days of instruction to minutes of instruction. 

    The vast majority of the committee was devoted to providing privatization advocates a favorable forum as invited witnesses to present their arguments in support of “education savings accounts” (ESAs) – a euphemism for vouchers, only worse.  TSTA and other ESA opponents were forced to wait several hours to testify in opposition, long after the press had left. However, we did participate in a successful Monday press conference.

    ESAs are now the law in only one handful of states, and they face serious constitutional problems. Typically, an ESA would allow the state to give a parent a debit card with funds that equal 90% of per pupil funding for that child (WADA). The parent could use it to pay tuition at a private or parochial school, for home schooling expenses and supplies, etc.

    We believe such an ESA scheme would violate the Texas Constitution and, if used by every private or home schooled student, would literally take billions from the state education budget that is desperately needs to fund neighborhood public schools that are already strapped due to woefully inadequate education funding.

    Any effort to limit access to ESAs to a selected group of parents and students (to reduce costs) would also face a constitutional challenge when all Texas students are constitutionally guaranteed access to free system of public schools, which is similar to a challenge currently before the Nevada Supreme Court after that state adopted an ESA law. 

    TSTA appeared and testified in opposition to vouchers/ESAs, stating:

    Today we saw an example of an education savings account program that many on this committee wish to emulate– a program that has been mired in a constitutionality battle since its passage by the Nevada legislature. 

    How much has Nevada spent defending that suit? How much would Texas be willing to waste defending an unconstitutional ESA program while we are still $2,700 behind the national average in per pupil spending?

    The point is simple: the Texas Legislature is starving our public schools and shaming them for not being healthy enough.

    The Texas Supreme Court said that our school finance system barely passes constitutional muster. TSTA urges this body to fix our school finance system and stop entertaining repeated requests to siphon more money from our community schools.


    September 14, 2016

    TSTA opposes vouchers, other schemes that steal from public schools

    The Texas State Teachers Association today reaffirmed its opposition to vouchers and similar schemes – including education savings accounts and tax credit scholarships -- for diverting tax dollars from neighborhood public schools to private schools.

    “I don’t care what you call it or how you try to disguise it, a voucher is a voucher is a voucher. It would steal tax money from the vast majority of children who will continue to be educated in under-funded public schools so that a select few students can spend it on private school tuition,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

    “If ‘choice’ were really the issue, senators would be talking about supporting our public schools, because public schools offer more career choices and educational programs than private schools. For most parents, private schools are not a choice because even with a voucher, most private schools are simply not affordable,” Candelaria noted.

    “Whatever name they come up with next, when private school operators try to get their hands on public tax dollars, they are looking to take billions of already inadequate education funds away from our neighborhood schools to serve their economic interests, not our students,” he added. 

    Candelaria said that legislators, instead of chasing unproven privatization schemes, need to invest more resources into public schools to give every student an opportunity to succeed. Texas spends about $2,700 per student below the national average, ranking Texas in the bottom tier of states in its financial commitment to school children. As public school enrollment in Texas increases by about 80,000 students each year, many school districts are still struggling to recover from the $5.4 billion the legislative majority slashed from public education in 2011.


    September 13, 2016

    TSTA urges state board to reject inaccurate, harmful textbook

    TSTA President Noel Candelaria urged the State Board of Education to reject a proposed textbook, Mexican American Heritage, which misrepresents and demeans the cultural contributions of more than half of Texas’ 5.2 million public school students.

    “Scholars have identified a litany of factual errors and inaccurate racial stereotypes that would harmfully misinform and prejudice students about a culture that is woven into the very fabric of Texas,” Candelaria said in written testimony submitted to the board. “This book doesn’t belong in our classrooms, because Texas students of all races and ethnicities should accurately understand the role the Hispanic culture and all cultures have played in enriching our wonderfully diverse state.”

    Candelaria said the book presents a narrative that his father, a legal immigrant from Mexico, and his family wouldn’t recognize. As a child growing up in El Paso, Candelaria said, he witnessed firsthand his father’s strong work ethic, commitment to public service and the devotion that he demonstrated daily for his family.

    “I am proud of my Hispanic heritage because it is also an American heritage. Both embrace the qualities of hard work, public service and strong family values,” Candelaria said.

    He added: “I grew up with these qualities. My children are growing up with these qualities. I don’t want them or any other Texas school child—of any culture, ethnicity or language—being made to feel that they are less important or less valued than any other member of this melting pot that we so proudly call the United States of America.”

    Candelaria's testimony

    Testimony of Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, on proposed adoption of Mexican American Heritage, submitted to the State Board of Education, September 13, 2016:

    Madam chairwoman and members of the State Board of Education, I am Noel Candelaria, a special education teacher from Ysleta ISD and the president of the Texas State Teachers Association. I am a native Texan, born and raised in El Paso. I also share a culture with more than half of Texas’ 5.2 million public school students, a Hispanic culture that is essentially American in the way it values family, hard work and public service.

    This culture and its many important contributions to the Texas we know today have been misrepresented in the woefully misguided “textbook” being considered by this Board for adoption, a book inappropriately titled Mexican American Heritage.  Hundreds of scholars have identified a litany of factual errors and inaccurate racial stereotypes that would harmfully misinform and prejudice students about a culture that is woven into the very fabric of Texas. This book doesn’t belong in our classrooms, because Texas students of all races and ethnicities should accurately understand the role the Hispanic culture and all cultures have played in enriching our wonderfully diverse state. I strongly and emphatically urge the board to reject its proposed adoption.

    The book presents a narrative that members of my family, beginning with my father, Roberto Candelaria, wouldn’t recognize. Consider passages in the book such as these:

    “Mexicans were stereotypically viewed as lazy.” 

    “Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day’s work so vigorously. There was a cultural attitude of ‘mañana,’ or ‘tomorrow,’ when it came to high-gear production.”

    My father didn’t invent the hard work ethic, but he tried his best to perfect it. He worked six days a week as I was growing up, making hand-crafted shoes for hundreds of customers, including people who needed special, custom-made footwear to be able to walk. Even today, at age 67, he is still doing the work he loves to do.

    My father was born in Mexico, came to the United States when he was 12 or 13 and became a legal resident with a Green Card. He instilled the work ethic in me when I was still very young. As a kid, I shined shoes in the shop where he worked. I grew up wanting to follow my father’s example and help other people, which is why I became a school teacher.

    Roberto Candelaria never has been a slacker, one of the broad mischaracterizations of Hispanics portrayed in this alleged textbook. He was—and is—a proud family man working hard to help his family realize the American dream, as are countless other Hispanic parents throughout this country.

    On most days, my father worked too late to get home in time for dinner, but Wednesday afternoons were special because that was his time off. My siblings and I looked forward to his picking us up from school, having dinner with the entire family and then sharing his favorite pastime—baseball. After dinner, he would load his pickup with baseball gear and take us and friends to the park to play ball.

    My father is proud to be an American. When he was 18, a legal resident, but not a citizen, he tried to enlist in the military during the Vietnam War but was turned down because his English wasn’t good enough. The patriotism of Hispanic Texans is legendary, from Medal of Honor winners to the GIs in the trenches. Millions of Hispanics, both immigrants and native born, have proudly served in our nation’s armed forces to ensure the future for generations to come, and many have sacrificed their lives for the values that many Americans have come to take for granted. 

    Many other Hispanics have served—and are serving—in law enforcement throughout our state and country. They include many members of my wife’s family.

    This book, Mexican American Heritage, in broad, erroneous generalizations, characterizes Hispanic workers as lazy and Hispanic civil rights activists as destructive. That is an insult to me, my family and millions of Hispanics throughout this country.

    In Ysleta ISD, I was proud to teach at Cesar Chavez Academy, an alternative campus, where students were in great need of positive role models, such as the man for whom the school was named. Cesar Chavez was neither lazy nor destructive. Cesar Chavez is best known for fighting for the rights of Hispanic farmworkers, but his principles were American principles.

    Unfortunately, many of my students didn’t even know who Cesar Chavez was because his contributions had been misrepresented, downplayed or ignored in many textbooks. So, the first assignment I handed my students each year was to learn who Cesar Chavez was and what he had done to earn his place in history.

    I am proud of my Hispanic heritage because it is also an American heritage. Both embrace the qualities of hard work, public service and strong family values. I grew up with these qualities. My children are growing up with these qualities. I don’t want them or any other Texas school child—of any culture, ethnicity or language—being made to feel that they are less important or less valued than any other member of this melting pot that we so proudly call the United States of America.

    Thank you.


    September 7, 2016

    Coming up next week...


    Tuesday, September 13: State Board of Education takes testimony on a controversial proposed textbook full of historical inaccuracies that besmirch the important contributions Hispanics have made to our state.

    Wednesday, September 14: The Senate State Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on payroll deduction of union dues. The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on various forms of school privatization (vouchers, education savings accounts, etc.). 

    Helping children connect with oral health resources and services

    Smile Connect is a free online resource designed to help educators easily connect their students with oral health resources and services in their community. https://www.smileconnect.org


    September 6, 2016

    Three Tips to Connect Your Students With School

    Positive school climate happens when students share responsibility in developing and maintaining a warm and supportive environment. 

    • You strengthen connections with your students when you make a conscious effort to get to know the good things about them and then acknowledge their achievements outside of your class. 
    • Take time to listen to your students. This conveys respect for them, may provide feedback that helps you become a better teacher.  Seek out their opinions about how they perceive your class and how they think they’re doing. Find out from them what support they may need that they aren’t getting and see how you can incorporate this into your classroom culture.
    • Students connected to their school environment are more likely to have better academic achievement, including higher grades and test scores, have better school attendance, and stay in school longer.

    Click here for more information.


    August 25, 2016

    TSTA: One-third of teachers moonlight to support families

    Almost a third of teachers (31 percent) responding to a TSTA survey hold outside jobs during the school year to support themselves and their families. The extra jobs are in addition to the 17 hours the respondents said they spend on average each week outside the classroom on teaching-related tasks, such as grading papers and preparing lesson plans.Read more here.


    August 23, 2016

    Austin member named Texas Teacher of Year finalist

    Allison Ashley, a teacher at Becker Elementary in Austin ISD and a member of Education Austin and TSTA, is one of six finalists for 2017 Texas Teacher of the Year, the Texas Association of School Administrators announced.

    The other two finalists for Elementary Teacher of the Year are Julie Garza of Edinburg CISD and LaGay Pittenger of Belton ISD. The three finalists for Secondary Teacher of the Year are Deborah Campbell of San Angelo ISD, Calvin Lambert of Uvalde CISD, and Sarah Macha of New Caney ISD.

    The six were selected by a panel of educator judges from among 40 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year – one elementary and one secondary teacher from each of Texas’ 20 Education Service Center regions.

    The six finalists will be invited to Austin in October for interviews by education, community, and business leaders, who will select two state-level winners – the Elementary Teacher of the Year and the Secondary Teacher of the Year.

    In 2015, Texas Teacher of the Year Shanna Peoples of Amarillo ISD, another TSTA member, was selected the National Teacher of the Year.

    TEA announces ETS liquidated damages

    AUSTIN – Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced today that the Texas Education Agency will assess Educational Testing Services (ETS) – the company responsible for the statewide delivery and administration of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) – with liquidated damages in the amount of $5.7 million dollars and directed ETS to invest $15 million for a total of $20.7 million. Read more


    August 17, 2016

    Help for our Louisiana colleagues

    Being part of the NEA family means coming together in good times and in bad. Right now, it is the worst of times for students, families, and our members in Louisiana.

    The southern part of the state is undergoing historic flooding. At least six people have died and thousands have been forced from their homes. More than 20,000 residents have been rescued over the past few days and more than 10,000 are in shelters, mostly in the Baton Rouge area. Unfortunately, most of the affected families did not have flood insurance because their homes were not considered to be in high-risk areas that would have required the insurance.

    Several of the state’s parishes have been declared disaster areas, and more are likely to be soon. Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), has been communicating regularly with members and is asking them to let the association know of their communities’ needs so they can offer as much support as possible.

    Anyone who would like to help can use this secure web site to make donations to LAE members and schools in need. All donations will be directed through LAE and routed to those most in need.

    The Senate Education Committee met on Tuesday, August 16

    and heard from TEA Commissioner Mike Morath in response to an interim charge relating to the examination of current school board governance policies and practices and proposed recommendations that could improve the focus, attitudes, and outcomes of Texas school boards, districts, and students. The committee was asked to existing board training requirements for public schools and make suggestions to education school board trustees of policies that could achieve better student outcomes, particularly within the framework set for low-performing schools in House Bill 1842 (HB1842)(84R).

    The Commissioners comments focused on the number of low performing schools and campuses that seem to move in and out of an “Improvement Required” (IR) rating due to a lack of continued resources to support the campuses needing improvement.  The Commissioner stated the 104 campuses currently designated as IR would be considered D and F campuses under the new A-F campus rating system, but the commissioner has yet to set the cut points for those campus grades.

    The Committee also considered interim charges related to monitoring the implementation of legislation intended to build a high-quality pre-kindergarten grant program and legislation to raise standards of teacher preparation programs and establish a more consistent, high-quality accountability system.

    TEA staff testified regarding the Pre-K grant program and stressed the importance of quality early childhood education.  However, TEA was only able to fund $774 dollars per student under the Pre-K grants instead of the $1,500 as anticipated by the budget passed last session.  Staff stressed this was due to the number of grant applications made by districts for the funding, indicating to the Committee the inadequate amount of pre-K funding.  However, instead of strengthening pre-K, some members of the Committee would like to scrap the program altogether.

    The Committee also heard from TEA staff and witnesses regarding the importance of strengthening laws related to educator preparation programs in Texas.  No real recommendations were offered or discussed by the Committee; however, mentoring and residency programs were offered as ways to better prepare future teachers for the classroom.

    The Senate Education Committee will meet again on September 13 and 14, 2016. -- report from Portia Bosse


    August 15, 2016

    TEA releases STAAR assessments, accountability ratings

    The Texas Education Agency today released the spring 2016 STAAR assessments and the 2016 accountability ratings. See the agency's news releases page.


    August 13, 2016

    TSTA State committees meet

    TSTA's state committees are meeting this weekend in Austin. Those committees are Legislative, Education Support Professionals, Compliance, and Credentials, Bylaws, and Elections. Photos are on our Flickr page.


    August 8, 2016

    Celebrating superheroes 

    NEA Member Benefits celebrates the millions of Superhero Educators across America! Meet three NEA members who go above and beyond to help their students and communities.


    August 2, 2016

    Get ready for the new school year: sign up for NEA edCommunities!

    NEA edCommunities is a social website that connects educators, parents, and community members so they can share ideas and resources to improve student success. It is free and open to all. Register now to see all the possibilities. You can join existing groups and start your own groups! A new training video has been posted to help you if you are having trouble; the password is TSTA2015. 


    July 29, 2016

    NEA Today: TSTA VP, Pasadena member on racist stereotypes in textbooks

    If formally approved, “Mexican American Heritage” by Valerie Angle and Jaime Riddle, it is safe to say, won’t be a fixture in Augustin Loredo’s social studies classroom. Read more here.

    • Sign the Texas Freedom Network’s petition on ‘Mexican American Heritage’ 

    July 28, 2016

    Candelaria interview on testing

    Watch TSTA President Candelaria's interview with TWCNews regarding next generation assessments and getting rid of STAAR to return real teaching and learning to the classroom. 


    Send your hero video to Kennedy Space Center

    How do you define "hero"? That's the focus of the new Heroes & Legends attraction, scheduled to open at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Nov. 11. You can submit a video about a hero that has inspired you for possible inclusion. Selected videos will be featured alongside NASA’s astronauts and celebrity ambassadors. Deadline for entry is Aug. 29.


    July 27, 2016

    Commission apparently backs off recommendation to eliminate STAAR

    Today, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability adopted recommendations that will be sent to the governor and the legislature for their consideration in next year’s legislative session. The draft of the commission’s recommendations can be found here. The final report should be posted soon, but ultimately, the decision on these issues rests with the legislature.

    The commission’s draft report included a recommendation that the legislature should replace the STAAR test with “an individualized, integrated system of multiple assessments using computerized adaptive testing and instruction that are administered throughout the school year to measure individual student performance and growth.” The stated purpose of this new testing regime would be “to provide useful, real-time feedback to educators, parents, and students.”

    After discussing this recommendation at the start of the meeting, the commission apparently reversed itself and did not adopt the language about replacing STAAR, while keeping the language recommending “multiple computerized adaptive testing.”  

    After meeting for five hours, the commission took only one formal vote, the adoption of the entire report. Proposed changes were considered in informal conversations that resulted in “consensus,” but we won’t know precisely what was approved until we see the final report in writing.

    TSTA President Noel Candelaria had this to say about the testing proposal: “Parents, educators, and students might welcome the news that the STAAR test could be scrapped, but only if that really means the elimination of high stakes standardized testing, value added models, and other measurements that have nothing to do with real teaching and learning. 

    “In the past, the state has eliminated the TAAS test and the TAKS test, only to replace them with a different high stakes test, and we must not make that kind of mistake again.

    “Teachers have always tested to measure how our students are progressing throughout the school year. It’s time to free teachers to teach students to learn much more than how to take a test. Getting rid of STAAR could be a small step in that direction, but only if we replace it with a diagnostic testing system that is designed to improve curriculum and instruction to benefit our students.”

    Background from earlier today: Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability meets

    House Bill 2804 established the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. The commission will submit a report to the governor and legislature that recommends statutory changes to improve the state’s systems of student assessment and public school accountability by September 1. Watch the meeting live and learn more here.


    Question about possible changes in the school lunch program

    A member asks: Does anyone know if the rumor that only Title 1 Eligible School Districts will be able to receive monies from the School Lunch Program is true? School lunch is going away? Something a couple of Republicans on the Agricultural Committee supposedly were discussing.

    TSTA's Teaching and Learning Specialist Bryan Weatherford has the answer: H.R. 5003 – the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act – would raise the threshold from 40% to 60% of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).  Under the CEP schools are able to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students if the school or school district is in an area of high poverty.  The current threshold is 40% and the bill, if passed and enacted, would raise it to 60%. 

    According to the CBPP, this would severely restrict schools’ eligibility for community eligibility, an option within the national school lunch/breakfast program allowing high-poverty schools to provide meals at no charge to all students.  If this bill becomes law, 7,022 schools now using the CEP to simplify their meal programs and improve access for low-income students could have to reinstate applications and return to monitoring eligibility in the lunch line within two years and these schools serve nearly 3.4 million students.  Another 11,647 schools that quality for CEP and have not yet adopted it could lose their eligibility as well.

    Latest action on H.R. 5003 was this:  Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 20 - 14.  The bill has been referred to Education and Workforce and the Budget Committees in the House.  As of today, there are no related bill pending.

    First few weeks as a new teacher: 3 things I wish I had known

    The start of the year provides an opportunity for students to participate in “on- the-job” training. Like new employees, students must be made aware of essential survival skills that will ensure they can climb our classes’ ladder of academic achievement. New teachers can avoid stress, self-doubt, and confusion simply by implementing a few essentials right from the start. Read more in NEA Today.


    July 26, 2016

    Stop factual errors and racial stereotypes in textbooks

    A broad coalition of scholars and advocates has cited serious problems with a textbook, Mexican American Heritage, proposed for adoption by the State Board of Education for Hispanic studies classes. We do not want this book in our classrooms. Please sign the Texas Freedom Network’s petition and urge the board to reject this book, which was published by a former extremist member of the board, who has no academic background in Hispanic studies.

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen García addresses DNC convention

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, who leads the nation’s largest union with 3 million members, addressed the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last night. The following are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

    “Muy buenas tardes, compañeros y companeras. What an honor to be here representing the nearly three million educators of the National Education Association.

    “My story isn’t so different from my students’ stories: My mom is an immigrant. My dad served in the Army. My parents worked hard so that their six kids could have a chance to get ahead. And they were so proud when I became a teacher.   

    “But today, too many students in our classrooms feel like they won’t get the chance I got, especially those from immigrant families. They tell us they’re afraid that their parents might be taken away, that they might be deported for not having the right piece of paper.

    “Hillary Clinton believes families should be together. She believes in our DREAMers. She believes educators should be focused on education—not deportation.

    “Donald Trump sees things…differently. My mom says that if you can’t say something nice about somebody, at least make it funny. But I can’t make this funny. Donald Trump sees immigrants as criminals, drug dealers, rapists. He’d round up families and deport them. He’d build a wall.

    “We’re better than that. Our kids deserve better than that.

    “Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to divide people with walls of hate. She wants to build bridges to a better future for all. That’s why America’s educators are with her! We will do everything in our power to build a bridge to a future where Hillary Clinton is our president!"

    Watch her speech at http://educationvotes.nea.org/2016/07/25/nea-president-speaks-dnc-tonight.


    July 25, 2016

    NEA president to speak at DNC tonight

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia will be speaking on education and immigration tonight at the Democratic National Convention; the tentative time is 6 p.m. Watch the speech live here. 


    July 22, 2016

    NEA and VEA presidents comment on Clinton’s selection of running mate

    National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García and Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber today offered a statement regarding Hillary Clinton’s pick of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. more


    July 21, 2016

    Donald Trump Jr convention speech

    "The other party gave us public schools that far too often fail our students, especially those who have no options. Growing up, my siblings and I we were truly fortunate to have choices and options that others don’t have. We want all Americans to have those same opportunities," Donald Trump Jr said this week at the Republican National Convention. "Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class, now they’re stalled on the ground floor. They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students. You know why other countries do better on K through 12? They let parents choose where to send their own children to school. That’s called competition. It’s called the free market. And it’s what the other party fears." more


    July 20, 2016

    New survey shows widespread discontent with STAAR

    Most Texans don’t want a state standardized test for public school students anymore, particularly if it penalizes teachers and students for poor performance on the tests.

    The findings are from an online public survey about the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) and how the state uses the test results to hold students, teachers and school districts accountable. More than 27,000 students, parents, educators, business leaders and others responded to the survey, which State Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Bahorich spearheaded. more


    July 19, 2016

    'Goddamn! What is more important than education?'

    Now that he’s retired, Judge John Dietz, the judge who found Texas’ school finance system unconstitutional, has a few things to say in this interview with the Texas Observer.


    July 15, 2016

    NEA president comments on Trump’s running mate

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen García spoke out today on Donald Trump’s selection of Gov. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, as his vice presidential running mate.

    “Donald Trump had a choice to make with his pick for running mate: to unite rather than divide our country," she said. "Unfortunately, Trump’s pick of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate indicates that he is bent on tearing us apart with divisive rhetoric, dangerous ideas, and bad choices." 


    July 14, 2016

    Ad: Trump a bad role model for our children

    A new ad from the Clinton campaign uses clips of Donald Trump at his worst. 


    Who is Mike Pence?

    Donald Trump’s VP pick, Gov. Mike Pence, has a long history of championing school vouchers & charter schools. Read more here.
    See also this report from the NEA affiliate in Indiana.

    STAAR results up, TEA says

    From Texas Education Agency: After four years of seeing little change, the 2016 results for the STAAR for grades 3-8 are on the rise. Thirteen of the 17 assessments showed gains – some as much as nine percentage points – when compared to 2015 passing standards. 


    July 13, 2016

    Homes for Texas Heroes offers teachers down payment assistance

    Learn about home buyer assistance available from the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.  

    Start the new school year strong

    Get your back-to-school resources from NEA Member Benefits, including:

    • Classroom organization project ideas
    • Expert classroom management advice
    • Proven work-life balance tips
    • Educator savings on back-to-school essentials

    Go to the NEA Member Benefits website now.


    July 12, 2016

    Take action on ESSA!

    New draft regulations of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) were issued by the U.S. Department of Education in May. Educators, parents, and other community members have until August 1 to make our serious concerns heard and make sure this new law becomes the game changer it promised to be. We need you to urge the Department of Education to promote equity and to not exclude educator and community voices. Our students deserve better!


    July 8, 2016

    National Teacher of the Year addresses NEA delegates

    “I don’t know what drew you to this profession, but for me it was the knowledge that teachers have the transformative power to save lives. We are instruments of inspiration; teachers are that stone of hope for so many students," said National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, an NEA member.  "A profound trust exists between us and our students. We have an enduring presence and make a lasting impact. Teachers are not visitors in the lives of students. You are somebody’s hero, and you don’t even know it. Don’t take that responsibility lightly. We often hear that teachers reserve their best lessons for when they are being observed. Remember that everyday your students are observing you. BE EXEMPLARY…Continue growing, guiding, and loving your students because you may have the next president, supreme court justice, doctor, lawyer, business owner, performer, volunteer, activist, or national teacher of the year sitting in your classroom. Thank you so much, NEA, for uniting members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education and thank you to teachers everywhere.” Read more here.


    July 7, 2016

    U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray earn NEA’s highest honor

    This year, NEA’s Friend of Education award recognizes bipartisan collaboration to pass Every Student Succeeds Act. In the midst of one of the most politically gridlocked eras in Washington, two U.S. senators from opposite sides of the political aisle set aside their differences to successfully champion the passage of a federal education law that touches millions of students, educators, and tens of thousands of public schools.

    The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act marked the end of No Child Left Behind and the beginning of a new era in public education. For their leadership and significant contributions to public education, today, the National Education Association bestowed its highest honor the Friend of Education Award upon Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican, and Washington Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, before more than 7,000 educators gathered at the NEA 95th Representative Assembly (RA) in Washington. Read more here.

    NEA news releases

    All NEA news releases, including the remarks of the NEA President and Executive Director, can be found here.

    TSTA members elected at NEA RA

    NEA-Dallas member Dale Kaiser was elected by acclamation to an administrator at-large position on the NEA Board of Directors, and Kevin Jackson from Judson Education Association, Susan Seaton from San Marcos Educators, and Sheila Walker from NEA-Dallas were elected to the NEA Resolutions Committee.


    July 6, 2016

    Video of Clinton speech

    If you missed Hillary Clinton's speech to the NEA Representative Assembly yesterday, you can watch it now here


    July 5, 2016

    Hillary to educators: “I’m with you”

    In a spirited and energetic speech, former Secretary Hillary Clinton addressed the more than 7,500 delegates at the National Education Association’s 95th Representative Assembly at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this morning. Clinton’s address was among the most rousing speeches she has given thus far in her campaign for the presidency. The presumptive Democratic nominee held no punches in articulating a clear and inspiring vision of opportunity for every student in America, regardless of ZIP code.

    “I want to say, right from the outset, that I’m with you,” said Clinton. “And if I’m fortunate enough to be elected president, educators will have a partner in the White House – and you’ll always have a seat at the table. Because I have this idea that when we’re making decisions about education, we should actually listen to educators. It meant so much to me to know the NEA had my back in the primary. And today, I’m asking for your support in the general election.

    Read more here.


    July 2, 2016

    NEA to honor Austin educators for commitment to immigrant families

    NEA is recognizing Education Austin with its 2016 Human and Civil Rights Award for standing up for the immigrant community and for helping students and families pursue the American dream. Since 1967, NEA has recognized and honored those who have fought – and continue to fight – for human and civil rights. This year, NEA will thank and honor the outstanding work of 13 of America’s social justice heroes at its annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner, a moving and inspiring gala, on July 3 in Washington. 

    NEA will also recognize the 50th anniversary of its merger with the American Teachers Association, which represented black teachers in segregated schools. ATA originally created the Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner, and, as part of the merger, NEA continues this important tradition. 

    “Like the brave visionaries who forever intertwined the NEA and ATA in social justice advocacy 50 years ago, we honor these 13 American human and civil rights heroes because they are doing what we know is right, just, and courageous,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “They are confronting the most controversial and pressing issues facing our country. They are standing up for those who have been knocked down. They are a beacon of light to those left behind. They are making sure the voices of those drowned out by institutional racism, inequality, and disenfranchisement are heard. They motivate us, they inspire us through their deeds and actions, and they embody what is just and right about our world.”  

    This year’s NEA Rosina J. Willis Memorial Award will go to Education Austin for its unwavering commitment to improving the lives of immigrant students and their families. Education Austin is a National Education Association/Texas State Teachers Association local that represents NEA’s commitment to social justice activism and shares the belief that every child deserves the opportunity to learn and thrive no matter their ZIP code. 

    With a $40,000 Minority Community Organizing and Partnerships (MCOP) grant from the NEA, Education Austin has been a dynamic leader, organizing a year-long campaign to inform immigrants about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the executive action taken by President Obama to keep long-term undocumented immigrants from being deported and families from being separated.

    The clinics take place in neighborhood schools, reinforcing the central role that schools play in the lives of our communities. There, clinics help hundreds of students and family members complete DACA paperwork. With the tenacity and commitment of its members, the implementation of the MCOP grant has seen great success. Today, Education Austin and community partners have offered over 35 education forums and eight clinics to help over 235 “Dreamers” apply for the DACA program. 

    Education Austin’s members exemplify passion and dedication with their continued commitment to improving the lives of immigrant families. Despite the recent United States Supreme Court ruling – a setback for immigration advocates – Education Austin has pledged to pursue all political and legal avenues to keep children in school and united with their families. 


    July 1, 2016

    Brownsville social media campaign

    Check out how Association of Brownsville Educators is reaching out to potential members on Facebook! 


    June 28, 2016

    Notice of NEA MB Disaster Relief Program activation for Texas

    This notice is to inform you that, effective June 11, 2016, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program (DRP) in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for incident period May 26, 2016 and affecting seven additional counties: Bastrop, Burleson, Eastland, Lee, Liberty, Stephens, and Tyler. NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs. A specially designed DRP site provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members. 


    June 27, 2016

    Going to the NEA Representative Assembly in Washington, D.C.?

    Preliminary events have already begun. The NEA Student Leadership Conference and NEA Retired Annual Meeting begin Wednesday; Empowered Educators Day is July 3; and a Read Across America celebration will be held during the Washington Nationals game July 2. See the tentative agenda online.


    June 27, 2016

    Key NEA event dates for 2016-17

    American Education Week: November 13-19, 2016

    Education Support Professionals Day: Wednesday, November 16, 2016

    Substitute Educators Day: Friday, November 18, 2016 

    NEA’s Read Across America Day: Thursday, March 2, 2017

    National Teacher Day: Tuesday, May 9, 2017

    Teacher Appreciation Week: May 7-13, 2017


    June 23, 2016

    Supreme Court upholds diversity in Fisher decision

    The U.S. Supreme Court today affirmed that universities may continue to provide students the substantial benefits of learning in an integrated and diverse student body by upholding the admissions program at issue in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

    As argued in the amicus brief submitted by the National Education Association — and joined by the American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrialized Organization, the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union — achieving diversity in public schools and universities remains a compelling government interest. Today, the court agreed in a 4-3 decision. 

    “We are profoundly gratified by the court’s decision in Fisher because the long-term benefits set in motion by programs like the one at the University of Texas, Austin have such a real and profound impact on the way society functions,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Our institutions of higher education need to continue to be able to use such programs, which provide a crucial foundation for achieving true equality throughout our society.”

    The mission of public elementary, secondary and higher education is to instill in all students the values on which our society rests and to provide them all, regardless of race, with the skills and knowledge necessary to realize their full potential. That mission cannot be fulfilled without racially-diverse classrooms. 

    “We do not live in a color-blind society, and race still matters,” said Eskelsen García. “When it comes to public education — whether it’s preschool or graduate school — racial classifications continue to carry great weight. If we’re serious about ensuring every child has access to a great public school, no matter his or her ZIP code, then we must uphold diversity programs because there is no question that they serve a compelling state interest.”

    Research suggests that the impact of integration not only decreases achievement and wage gaps, but it also reduces drop-out rates and increases the likelihood that young people of all races and backgrounds will live in the same communities and work in the same industries. This, in turn, reduces discrimination and, naturally, increases opportunity for people from all backgrounds.

    “This is not made-up, stars in our eyes kind-of stuff,” said Eskelsen García. “There is empirical evidence affirmative action fosters a type of racial harmony that works to combat persistent inequality. The Supreme Court today agreed that institutions of higher education can make the judgment that they will heed that evidence and carefully craft policies that will yield truly diverse student bodies.”


    June 17, 2016

    CCSSO guide strongly promotes stakeholder engagement

    The Council of Chief State School Officers released a guide, Let's Get This Conversation Started: Strategies, Tools, Examples and Resources to Help States Engage with Stakeholders to Develop and Implement their ESSA Plans, that seeks to promote and facilitate the unprecedented stakeholder engagement provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guide was written in consultation with over a dozen national education groups, including NEA.

    ESSA calls upon states and districts to consult and partner with education stakeholders in the development of accountability systems, school interventions, grant priorities, and other important areas. The guide provides a roadmap for states, providing: "detailed guidance on stakeholder engagement strategies; state examples of effective strategies; stakeholder specific tactics; planning templates and tools; a breakdown of stakeholders states are required to engage under each ESSA program; and lists of additional stakeholder engagement resources." 

    In its overview, the guide sees benefits to engagement that extend beyond ESSA implementation: "States can use ESSA stakeholder engagement strategies to get communities excited about statewide education plans and committed to continuous collaboration with state and local leaders to improve student outcomes."


    Senate committee bill would underfund ESSA

    To be operational, education programs authorized under the new elementary and secondary education law require appropriations from Congress. The Senate Appropriations Committee moved first on the FY 2017 budget by passing a bill which would provide funding in the first year of implementation--school year 2017-18. Moving first, however, did not correspond to moving correctly. In short, the committee bill fails to prioritize necessary investments in education. Funding for programs under ESSA is $856 million less (or -3.5%) than what was authorized, $755 million less (or -3.1%) than ED's budget request, and, $259 million less (or -1.1%) than comparable programs in 2016-17. As NEA noted in its letter to the Senate, "[t]o realize the full potential of the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Congress must start down the path of providing adequate resources... [w]e believe this bill falls short of that goal and should serve as an undeniable example of why Congress should again raise the still unrealistic budget caps, beyond even last year's Bipartisan Budget Act." The committee bill will move next to the Senate floor if and when it is scheduled for a vote. The House has not yet taken any action.

    • CCSSO/NEA guide encourages stakeholder engagement
    • Congress is actively considering education funding for FY 2017. Tell Congress to support increased investments in education, with priority given to the formula-funded programs serving the students most in need.


    TSTA Caucus meets

    Great turnout at TSTA Caucus at Texas Democratic Convention to hear candidates discuss education policy and the importance of participation in elections. The Texas Democratic Convention is June 16-18 in San Antonio.


    June 16, 2016

    TSTA: Legislature must give educators relief from rising health insurance costs

    Following still another increase in educator health insurance premiums, TSTA today urged the Legislature to provide some relief by increasing the state’s contribution to school employee health insurance costs.

    The Teacher Retirement System of Texas board on Thursday approved new premiums for TRS-ActiveCare, the state health insurance plan for active school employees, which will increase premiums for some coverage options as much as 12.8 percent. Premiums for ActiveCare-2, one of the more popular plans, will increase by 5 percent.

    “These rate increases amount to a take home pay cut for teachers and other school workers in the TRS system, and it could make it unaffordable for some of our most experienced, highly qualified teachers to remain in the classroom,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

    “Some employees with families will be paying more than $1,500 a month – a huge chunk of their paychecks – for health care, while the state will continue to contribute only $75 a month, an amount that hasn’t been increased since 2002,” Candelaria added. “It’s time for the Legislature to do its fair share to help our educators keep up with ever-increasing health care costs.”

    Candelaria noted that health insurance premiums for some educators have increased more than 300 percent since 2002, while the state contribution has remained static. School districts are required to cover at least $150 per month per employee. Some contribute more, but many don’t.

    The average teacher salary in Texas is less than $52,000, or about $6,300 less than the national average. Many other school employees are paid less.

    Some of the larger school districts have their own health insurance plans, and they also have experienced significant increases in employees’ premiums. The state contributes only $75 a month per employee to those premiums as well.


    June 16, 2016

    Health insurance premiums going up for many educators

    Today the TRS Board of Trustees met to adopt new rates and plan designs for ActiveCare, the HMO plans, and Care. The Board voted to slightly increase out-of-pocket maximums and prescription drug copays for ActiveCare. The premiums for ActiveCare 1HD will not change. Premiums for ActiveCare Select will increase by 2.2% (employee and spouse; and employee and children) and 2.3% (employee only; and employee and family). Premiums for ActiveCare 2 will increase by 5% across the board.

    Regarding the HMOs, the Board voted to slightly increase out-of-pocket maximums and prescription drug copays. In addition, premiums for Allegian will increase between 8.4 and 12.7%. Premiums for FirstCare will increase between 12.2 and 12.8%. Premiums for Scott & White will increase between 5.0 and 5.3%.

    Regarding TRS Care, the Board voted to continue with the current premium structure. In order to not increase premiums, the Board had to increase deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, with some deductibles increasing as much as $2,500 and some out-of-pocket maximums jumping by $3,800. All deductibles and copays will count toward out-of-pocket maximums. Non-Medicare pharmacy copays will also increase slightly.

    Another important change is that, effective January 1, 2017, Medicare-eligible retirees may obtain prescription coverage through Medicare Part D only. Finally, the Board will be changing providers for the Medicare Advantage Plan – choosing Humana instead of continuing with Aetna.

    TSTA encourages you to check out the details for your specific plan in the Benefits Committee Book.


    June 14, 2016

    San Antonio educator to receive prestigious national award

    “Students need deep, rich tasks; they need time to develop their own thinking strategies, time to make connections to the real world, and the opportunity to communicate with each other about their learning,” Susan Lynn Bodet, a math educator at Tejeda Middle School in San Antonio, said. 

    She is one of 43 public educators who will receive the prestigious California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala next February in Washington, DC.

    The California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence are unique: in addition to being recognized for excellence in instructional and professional practice, awardees are nominated by their peers – their NEA state affiliate – for their dedication to the profession, community engagement, professional development, attention to diversity, and advocacy for fellow educators.

    Because the NEA Foundation values both professional development and diversity, awardees are invited to participate in its Global Learning Fellowship. Fellows learn how to prepare their students for a connected and multicultural world in this comprehensive, year-long professional development program, which includes an international field study next June.

    “These outstanding educators are innovators, challengers, and global thinkers,” says Harriet Sanford, NEA Foundation President and CEO. “We are delighted that California Casualty joins us once again in expressing our shared admiration and thanks for their work.”

    “The California Casualty awardees are the architects of our nation’s future,” says Beau Brown, California Casualty CEO. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to honor them with the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence.”

    Of these 43 state awardees, five finalists will be announced at the beginning of the school year and receive $10,000 at the gala. The nation’s top educator will be revealed at the awards Gala on February 10, 2017, and receive an additional $25,000. The awards gala will be livestreamed at neafoundation.org.


    June 14, 2016

    Assessment and Accountability Commission: more tests, without high stakes?

    The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability met Monday to discuss making recommendations for assessments and accountability to the Legislature.  There are 53 proposed recommendations from committee members that have to be finalized by the end of next month for a report due Sept. 1.  The Commission still has a lot of work to do to complete its objective.

    The consensus among commission members is that testing should be limited to career and college readiness standards, however, there was much discussion on how testing should be structured in high school and how to incorporate a writing component throughout grade levels.

    The Commission attempted to address the A through F accountability system first, and determined it needed to address assessment in order to come up with domains to be used in grading Texas schools.  And again, the Commission put much emphasis on how to track growth of a student throughout the school year and from one grade to the next.  Some members believe it would be possible to create a statewide assessment throughout the school year to provide immediate real time feedback to teachers and students.   Members discussed the importance of making these real time exams diagnostic in nature without the high stakes attached for grade advancement or graduation.  Discussion also included using SAT and ACT as alternative assessments in High School to evaluate a student’s career or college readiness. 

    In short, more testing is being considered, but the commission has yet to determine how to magically decouple these tests from high stakes accountability. The meeting scheduled for July will have more concrete drafted proposals for the Commission to review and submit in its report.  -- report by Portia Bosse


    June 14, 2016

    State Board of Education seeks public input on testing

    The State Board of Education has issued a survey to seek public input about the state’s current assessment and accountability programs and gather suggestions for future program development. The survey, which is also available in Spanish, will be open online to all Texans through June 30.

    From October 2015 to March 2016, SBOE members held nine Community Conversations meetings around the state, meeting with more than 500 citizens to gather comments about the state’s student assessment and accountability systems. The online survey addresses the issues raised during the community meetings and allows for additional input from educators, parents, business people and students. more


    June 13, 2016

    Resources for dealing with violence

    Sharing a few online resources that may be helpful, in response to the tragedy in Orlando:


    June 13, 2016

    Notice of NEA MB Disaster Relief Program Activation for Texas

    This notice is to inform you that, effective June 11, 2016, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program (DRP) in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for incident period May 26, 2016 and affecting the following counties: Austin, Brazoria, Brazos, Fort Bend, Grimes, Hidalgo, Hood, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Travis, Waller, and Washington. 

    NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs.

    A specially designed DRP Web page provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members. 


    June 10, 2016

    STAAR results won't be used for 5th and 8th grade promotion

    From the Austin American Statesman: State standardized test results will not be used to determine whether fifth- and eighth-graders are promoted to the next grade, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath told school administrators Friday. He also cancelled the June 21-22 fifth and eighth-grade retest.

    “As a result of ongoing reporting issues with our testing vendor, we will be removing student consequences attached to STAAR testing for grades 5 and 8 for the remainder of the 2015-16 assessment cycle. We are also modifying the requirements for SSI and the reporting requirements for Confidential Student Reports (CSR),” Morath said.


    June 8, 2016

    Donna TSTA/NEA wins due process

    After a three year battle, Donna TSTA scored a huge win for employees with the passage of a due process policy that will make sure at-will employees can no longer be fired without just cause or reassigned without reason.

    “We are at-will employees and we can get terminated for no reason at all,” Celestino Tamez told the Monitor newspaper before the Donna school board vote. “We never know if we are going to have a job the following year. They can just replace us with somebody else from one day to another.”

    “We don’t have a contract, but this due-process guarantees that our at-will employees will not get fired or moved without justifiable reasons,” Donna TSTA/NEA President Linda Estrada said in the same article. “In other words we are trying to get politics out of the way and have people come to work without thinking ‘Is today the day I am going to get fired? Because they know I’m supporting so and so.’”

    TSTA recently won passage of a similar policy in McAllen ISD and is working to get due process policies adopted throughout the region and the state.

    Coverage:

    June 5, 2016

    TSTA Communications wins awards

    The national association for NEA state communicators has honored TSTA Communications with six awards -- three first place awards, for our Grading Texas blog, Advocate magazine, and "best special publication" (postcards produced for elections), and three awards of distinction, for website (tsta.org), feature story (It's Time for Legislators to Take Care of Our Kids, scroll to page 10), and government and political affairs (2016 primary direct mail program).


    May 31, 2016

    Commissioner Morath sends charter school decisions to SBOE

    From TEA: Commissioner of Education Mike Morath today advised members of the State Board of Education of his decision to grant three Generation Twenty-One charters. Those approved by the Commissioner include:

    • Athlos Academy of Texas (Denton)
    • Compass Rose Academy (San Antonio)
    • Goodwater Montessori School (Georgetown)

    Under Senate Bill 2 (passed during the 83rd Texas Legislature in 2013), the Commissioner grants new open-enrollment charters in Texas and must notify the SBOE of those he approves. The State Board of Education can veto any new charter approved by the Commissioner. The State Board is expected to discuss the Commissioner’s decisions and take any action – if necessary – during its meetings in Austin on July 20-22.

    Generation Twenty-One applicants took part in the public applicant interviews on May 10-11 in Austin. Project Vida was invited to take part in the public applicant interviews, but withdrew from consideration for a Generation Twenty-One charter. To learn more about open-enrollment charter schools in Texas and the application process, visit the TEA website at http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Charter_Schools.


    May 27, 2016

    Commission considers testing

    The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability met in Austin this week to try to reach consensus on recommendations to the legislature and governor for a new testing and accountability system in Texas public schools.

    You may recall that when the commission was appointed, TSTA objected because none of its members were educators currently working with students in the classroom. Nonetheless, commission members did a lot of talking about developing a system that is “best for teachers.”

    The commission is considering approximately 50 recommendations, ranging from:

    making test scores 80 percent of a campus and/or district's accountability rating (a proposal put forward by a businesswoman);

    changing from one high stakes test per year to multiple tests to show progress throughout the year (the commissioner’s idea);

    using ACT and SAT exams to determine college readiness; and

    replacing the shallow, punitive, high stakes testing regime with diagnostic testing, project based learning, and other methods that measure the depth of learning (recommended by parent groups and some superintendents).

    The commission has yet to reach consensus on any proposal and continues to struggle with the level of responsibility expected from teachers, administrators, and students. Its next meeting will be in June, with the exact date to be announced. -- report by Portia Bosse, TSTA Government Relations Specialist


    May 27, 2016

    Longtime TSTA leader elected to Hays CISD School Board

    Esperanza Orosco, past president of Hays Educators Association (HEA), was chosen to serve on the Hays CISD school board by almost two-thirds of voters on May 7.  

    She was endorsed by HEA, which was successful in engaging members in support of her campaign. TSTA PAC worked with the local to develop and target mail, campaign literature, and phone calls on Esperanza’s behalf. 

    Orozco has been an articulate, outspoken champion of public education for many years, and as TSTA local president from 2006-12, she spearheaded a number of successful organizing campaigns in Hays on issues that included a living wage for ESPs, teacher contract language, teacher contract renewal timelines, and a Hays County Day of Action to protest the education cuts of 2011. 


    May 26, 2016

    'Racist,' 'unbelievably offensive' textbook considered for Texas classrooms

    From News 4 San Antonio: The Texas State Board of Education is vetting "Mexican American Heritage" for possible use in new courses in Texas public schools. State Sen. José Menéndez (D-District 26) called some of the passages "unbelievably offensive," including this one: "Chicanos, on the other hand, adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society." http://news4sanantonio.com/news/local/racist-unbelievably-offensive-textbook-considered-for-texas-classrooms


    May 25, 2016

    SBOE candidate who called Obama a "gay prostitute" loses runoff

    From KHOU: Mary Lou Bruner, who made national headlines for Facebook posts in which she called President Obama a male prostitute, lost a Republican runoff election Tuesday for a spot on the State Board of Education. TSTA endorsed her opponent. http://www.khou.com/news/local/texas/ed-board-candidate-who-called-obama-a-gay-prostitute-loses-runoff/214501774


    May 24, 2016

    Summer Advocate now online

    The summer 2016 edition of the TSTA Advocate magazine is now posted. 


    May 24, 2016

    Turkey follows through with complaint against Harmony

    From the Texas Tribune: An international law firm working for the Republic of Turkey has filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency against Houston-based Harmony Public Schools, accusing the state’s largest charter network of illegal hiring, employment and bidding practices and of funneling money to an entity the Turkish president has accused of trying to overthrow the government. https://www.texastribune.org/2016/05/24/turkey-follows-through-complaint-against-harmony


    May 16, 2016

    TRS Board health care discussion

    Last Friday, May 13, the TRS Board of Trustees held a meeting to discuss the challenging issues facing Care and ActiveCare. TRS staff and the Board discussed options that could lead to plan cost savings for FY 2017, including revenue generation such as premium increases, plan design changes, and changes in access to providers. The Board also discussed options for cost reduction, such as network limits and enhanced management. read more


    May 13, 2016

    TSTA: Supreme Court ruling wrong for our kids

    Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria issued the following statement regarding the Texas Supreme Court’s determination that the Texas school finance system “meets minimum constitutional requirements.”

    Read press release: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/SupremeCourtRuling-wrong.pdf


    May 11, 2016

    Free workshop on teaching the Holocaust and genocides

    The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission is offering “Do Not Say They Cannot Hear Us,” an interdisciplinary workshop on teaching the Holocaust and genocides.A free, one-day, live workshop, it is designed for public and private school educators in social studies and/or language arts for grades 5-12. It will introduce relevant TEKS; provide an overview of relevant vocabularies and histories; explore contemporary issues in historiography, literary/artistic representation, and pedagogical approaches; and showcase resources with Texas connections. Educators in attendance will be first to gain access to the THGC’s free, password-protected digital library of film and textual materials. Register at http://thgc.texas.gov/about/educator-workshop-registration. The class will run from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., with lunch provided.


    May 10, 2016

    Are you a fourth-grade educator?

    You can get free passes to national parks for your students. These passes give them free access to all national parks, lands, and waters through August 31, 2016. https://www.everykidinapark.gov/get-your-pass/educator


    May 9, 2016

    NEA MB Disaster Relief Program Activation

    This notice is to inform you that, effective May 4, 2016, NEA Member Benefits has ativated its Disaster Relief Program (DRP) in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for incident period April 17, 2016 to April 24, 2016 and affecting four additional counties: Austin, Colorado, Waller, and Wharton. NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs.

    A specially designed DRP Web page at www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members. 


    May 6, 2016

    Please take the Moonlighting and Morale survey 

    For the past 35 years, TSTA and Sam Houston State University have cooperated on a survey that has provided very important information to legislators and other policy makers. Please take the time to fill out the 2016 Teacher Moonlighting and Morale survey by clicking here.


    May 6, 2016

    TSTA: New figures show Texas falling farther behind in commitment to education 

    Texas is falling farther behind the national average in the amount of financial resources it spends to educate our children, according to the latest annual rankings of the states compiled by the National Education Association (NEA). http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/TexasFartherBehind.pdf

    May 3, 2016

    Texas Democrats recognize Teacher Appreciation Day

    The Texas Democratic Party issued the following news release today: On National Teacher Appreciation Day, Texas Democrats applaud our state’s finest teachers and acknowledge the crucial role they play in making sure every student gets a fair shot and receives a quality education.

    Texas Democrats believe that a family’s financial circumstances should not dictate a student’s potential. We know that having an effective teacher is the most important in-school factor for student success. According to the Texas Tribune, “the average teacher in Texas makes about $49,000 a year — about $8,000 below the national average.”

    Unfortunately, Tea Party Republicans in our state’s legislature have placed education on the chopping block, time and time again. From cutting student financial aid to neglecting our neighborhood schools, Republicans have asked educators and our children to do more with less.

    Texas Democrats know that our schools should be fully funded. Period. It is time to fix Texas’ broken school finance system, so our children receive a quality education.  

    On National Teacher Appreciation Day and during National Teacher Appreciation Week, let us ensure our educators know how much we value their service in the classroom, how much we appreciate all they do for our students and families, and how thankful we are for their contributions to our national progress.

    Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal Perkins issued the following statement: “Today, Texas Democrats thank our teachers for all they do for our children and our state. We know that teachers are the key to unlocking the potential of Texas’ future. Our children and the Texas economy depends on their dedicated work. Every single one of us remembers that one great teacher that went above and beyond to make sure we got ahead. Now, it’s time we make sure they know we are there for them. We must pay teachers like the future of our country is in their hands. Because it is.”


    April 26, 2016

    BOGO at Chipotle for Teacher Appreciation Day May 3

    Teachers, faculty, and school staff who show a valid school ID at Chipotle Mexican Grill on May 3 can take advantage of a special buy-one-get-one-free promotion for Teacher Appreciation Day. All eligible people can receive a free burrito, burrito bowl, salad, or order of tacos with the purchase of another menu item. The promotion is valid at all U.S. Chipotle locations from 3:00 p.m. to close, local time.

    “Teachers are constantly working to cultivate a better world in the classroom and the same goes for our company,” said Chris Arnold, communications director at Chipotle. “Teachers help shape the young minds of their students, planting the seeds of knowledge that will grow forever, and that is something we are happy to recognize and celebrate.”

    The promotion is valid for educators and staff at all levels, including pre-school, elementary, middle/high school, and university, who present valid identification recognizing them as staff or support on May 3. This promotion is available for in-restaurant orders only and is not valid for online, mobile, fax or catering. Limit one free menu item per teacher customer. For more information, please visit Chipotle.com/teacherappreciation.


    April 26, 2016

    Notice of NEA MB Disaster Relief Program Activation

    Effective April 25, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program (DRP) in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for incident period April 17, 2016 to April 25, 2016 and affecting Fayette, Grimes, Harris, and Parker counties.

    NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs.

    A specially designed DRP Web page at www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members.


    April 26, 2016

    ESSA Cheat Sheet: what's in the new testing regulations?

    School districts, state chiefs, advocates, and the U.S. Department of Education now have a better idea of how testing will work under the brand-new Every Student Succeeds Act. And it only took eight days of eye-glazing-and-occasionally-contentious debate, known inside the Beltway as "negotiated rulemaking."
    A committee of educators, advocates, and experts charged with hashing out rules for ESSA wasn't able to reach agreement on something called supplement-not-supplant (a wonky spending provision), but they did come to accord on a number of important testing issues, including for English-language learners, and students in special education.

    To read more:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2016/04/every_student_succeeds_act_exp.html?cmp=eml-eb-content-testing%2004262016


    April 25, 2016

    TSTA: Districts of Innovation must justify their waivers from state educational standards

    The Texas State Teachers Association today urged Education Commissioner Mike Morath to insist that school districts are fully transparent with parents, employees and taxpayers when they seek exemptions from important state educational standards.

    The commissioner is considering rules to implement HB1842, enacted during the 2015 legislative session, which allows school districts to apply for recognition as Districts of Innovation, a status that would allow districts to exempt themselves from many requirements of state law. HB1842 requires a district seeking a District of Innovation designation to identify the specific state requirements from which it seeks exemptions and why those exemptions are necessary to improve the district’s performance.

    “When adopting District of Innovation plans, school districts are supposed to explain how exemptions from specific state requirements would benefit their students,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “Parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve to know exactly what their school board members are doing -- whether they are voting for a budget, considering local policy or adopting a District of Innovation plan.”

    “Districts of Innovation are not supposed to allow districts to simply cut corners on important educational and employee standards or keep their employees and the public in the dark about their plans,” Candelaria added.

    Some of the requirements from which a District of Innovation can be exempted include the teacher minimum salary schedule, teacher planning and preparation time, some student disciplinary rules and some parental rights, including access to teaching materials.


    April 22, 2016

    Reminder: Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2-6

    NEA’s 2016 Teacher Appreciation Week poster, web banners and buttons, Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram images and more are available for downloading at www.nea.org/teacherday.


    April 20, 2016

    TSTA sues education commissioner over teacher evaluations

    The Texas State Teachers Association today filed a lawsuit against Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, seeking to invalidate an element of a new teacher evaluation plan that violates state law.

    The suit, filed in state district court in Travis County, asks for a declaratory judgment to block implementation of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS), which is scheduled to go into effect July 1. Morath approved T-TESS to replace the Professional Development Appraisal System (PDAS) as the state-recommended teacher appraisal system.

    The commissioner’s T-TESS rule would require school districts to base at least 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on “student growth measures,” which could include so-called value added measures (VAM). A VAM model is typically based on a complicated formula that compares actual student test scores to the scores predicted by a mathematical target based on the standardized test scores of similar student populations.

    TSTA contends 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.” But a VAM model is not “observable” and is not even available to teachers and others who wish to understand the basis for their evaluations. 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.

    “Commissioner Morath’s appraisal system clearly violates state law because he doesn’t have the authority to substitute a confusing, test-based statistical formula for the work teachers and students actually do in their classrooms,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said. “Teachers are not robots, and their performance should be evaluated by an easily understood, transparent system that helps them perfect their job performance. Let’s be clear. Educators’ compensation and jobs are potentially on the line here, and their work must be evaluated fairly – and legally.”

    Candelaria added, “Tying teacher evaluations to test scores will raise the stakes on STAAR testing even higher for children who already are over-tested, much to the anger of a growing number of Texas parents who understand real education is more than a test score.”

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


    April 19, 2016

    State budget preview: Will some of the $10 billion in Rainy Day Fund go to public schools?

    The House Appropriations Committee met today to discuss interim hearing items dealing with oil and gas revenues and the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) in an effort to get prepared for drafting a budget in the next legislative session.  Chairman John Otto, R-Dayton, started the meeting by sharing a letter from Speaker Joe Straus directed to the committee members, directing their attention to what the speaker sees as the top three budgetary concerns for next session.  The first issue he identified relates to the foster care system and the additional resources needed to better protect Texas children.  The second and third issues identified are the school finance litigation ruling and its potential impact to the budget and TRS care and the significant shortfall in paying future costs associated with insurance for our teachers, school personnel and retired.

    The Comptroller of Public Accounts addressed the Committee today and indicated there is a $4 Billion surplus available next session to pay for the supplemental budget bill which essentially fills the gap left in the second year of the current biennium to pays up costs not funded by the budget.  He also indicated that the Rainy Day Fund currently has over $9 Billion and is expected to have over $10 Billion at the start of next session.  The Comptroller stressed that it is okay to spend these funds on one time expenditures to keep a balanced budget and meet demands rather than keeping the funds intact every session.  He also cautioned these funds should not be spent every session and only when necessary.  Later in the hearing, Chairman Otto expressed concern that declining oil and gas revenue could have an impact on the ability of the Rainy Day Fund to replenish and deficits created through expenditures of this nature.

    When asked, the Comptroller would not commit to a cost associated with the school finance litigation due to his belief that there are a varied number of rulings that could come down from the Supreme Court of Texas.  Very little discussion was focused on this issue, however, it is expected that a ruling will come down before the end of the year. -- Report from Portia Bosse


    April 19, 2016

    TEA announces 16 new early college high school designations

    Early college high schools are innovative high schools that allow students least likely to attend college an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and either an associate degree or at least 60 college credit hours toward a baccalaureate degree. Under this model, an ECHS provides dual credit at no cost to students; offers rigorous instruction and accelerated courses; provides academic and social support services to help students succeed; increases college readiness; and reduces barriers to college access. 


    April 18, 2016

    Take three minutes to watch this video

    It’s the story of Dawn, a formerly homeless student who is now at Harvard, thanks to the love and support of the teachers and support professionals at her public school in North Carolina.


    April 18, 2016

    Lake Jackson teacher wins NEA Foundation Grant 

    Ioana Agut of Lake Jackson won a $5,000 Student Achievement Grant from the NEA Foundation! She is creating a lending library of calculators for entry-level math courses to help student retention and graduation rates. The next deadline for applications is June 1. http://www.neafoundation.org


    April 14, 2016

    NEA president: Vergara v. State of California decision reversed

    Today the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles reversed the lower court’s decision Vergara v. State of California, and reaffirmed that California’s system for attracting and retaining quality teachers is consistent with the state constitution. 

    The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

    “Today was a win for our educators, our schools and most importantly, our students.

    “Now we must return to working on real solutions to ensure all of our students succeed.  Only when teachers, school boards, and administrators work together can we ensure that there is a great public school for every student.

    “The Vergara v. State of California lawsuit was an example of using our court system for political goals. The unanimous three-judge panel's opinion states it clearly.  The plaintiffs' case--instead of addressing and proposing solutions to the real problems--focused on the wrong issues, proposed the wrong solutions, and used the wrong legal process. It was not about helping students and has become a divisive distraction from the real work needed to improve student success.

    “Ensuring that every student gets a good education is a critical goal but one that can’t be solved with stripping our teachers of their rights. Today was a win for our educators, our schools and most importantly, our students.”

    For the decision visit http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B258589.PDF. Find out more at www.cta.org/vergara.


    April 14, 2016

    Commissioner adopts new T-TESS evaluation system

    Education Commissioner Mike Morath has adopted a new teacher evaluation system (T-TESS) to replace PDAS. The commissioner did not make significant changes in the proposal initially made by his predecessor, Michael Williams, and he didn’t make any changes recommended by TSTA.

    TSTA had expressed a number of concerns to TEA regarding the proposed T-TESS rule, which the commissioner chose to ignore, including:

    As adopted, T-TESS will require at least 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student growth measures, which could include “value added measures” (VAM) based on a comparison of student test scores to “expected” test scores developed by outside consultants.

    The requirements for observations under T-TESS fall woefully short of best practices and could become subjective, punitive snapshots instead of a genuine effort to provide meaningful professional development.

    A local school district can choose to develop its own evaluation systems, provided the local plan follows T-TESS guidelines such as the 20% student growth requirement and observation guidelines. A local plan must also be developed by using the site based decision making process. The only way a local district can avoid these provisions involves exempting itself from such provisions through the District of Innovation process.

    TSTA will be developing appropriate policy proposals and actions in response to T-TESS provisions that should be challenged or changed to provide a better evaluation and professional development system. In the meantime, we will continue conducting T-TESS training for locals upon request.


    April 14, 2016

    Education commissioner announces senior leadership team

    The deputy commissioners will be responsible for overseeing key functions of the Texas Education Agency. In addition, senior leadership team members will focus the agency on Commissioner Morath’s priorities of true customer service to school systems, as well as the delivery of effective programs that lead to successful student outcomes and educator support. Read more of the press release here.  


    April 13, 2016

    Committee hears TSTA testimony on TRS ActiveCare

    On Wednesday, April 13, the Joint Interim Committee on TRS Health Benefit Plans met to discuss TRS ActiveCare. It is clear that ActiveCare is not sustainable in its current form. The committee asked to hear from stakeholders regarding the state and future of ActiveCare.

    TSTA appeared as invited testimony and laid out its members’ concerns, stating:

    “For many years, ActiveCare has had an affordability issue. When the legislature passed the law creating ActiveCare, employees contributed 30% of their health care premiums. Today, employees contribute almost 70% of their premiums. Employee contributions for ActiveCare-2 premiums have risen 332% over the last ten years. For a teacher to cover her or his entire family under ActiveCare-2, the monthly premium is $1521 per month – over $18,000 per year. Starting in September, premiums are projected to increase another 17%.

    “Health care costs are driving teachers out of the profession. Teacher salaries in Texas already lag roughly $7,000 below the national average. When below average salaries are coupled with staggering health care costs, we get a system that fails to provide financial security for its employees - one that could be devastating. The legislature’s failure to address this issue for 15 years legislature has created a system that is neither financially sound nor fiscally conservative. The legislature’s inaction is a slap in the face to the hard working, dedicated professionals that are the heart of our public education system. The legislature can and must do better. We look forward to working with you to design a better health care system for school employees.”

    TSTA also suggested that the discussion on ActiveCare was incomplete without insurance and pharmacy entities in the room. Senators Huffman and Nelson agreed that the companies driving up health care costs need to be at the table, and stated that there will be a hearing at which those companies will be compelled to appear.

    Senator suggests replacing educators on TRS board

    Also on Wednesday, the Senate Committee on State Affairs held a hearing at which TRS was invited to testify. At that hearing, Senator Schwertner expressed concern that the TRS board included members without expertise in the financial industry. Specifically, Senator Schwertner would like to replace the board seats currently occupied by stakeholders: the two active teachers; one retiree; and one higher education employee.

    Stay tuned for more interim hearings on TRS.


    April 12, 2016

    Thank a teacher

    Join NEA and the National PTA in saying “Thank You” by sharing one of the following on social media during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-6:

    • A picture of yourself with your favorite teacher, past or present;
    • A picture of your child with his or her teacher;
    • A picture of yourself holding a piece of paper with a simple message saying thank you to a teacher and why you’re thanking him or her.

    Be sure to use the hashtag #ThankATeacher when sharing.

    Teacher Appreciation Week artwork

    NEA’s 2016 Teacher Appreciation Week poster, web banners and buttons, Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram images and more are available for downloading at www.nea.org/teacherday. Additional resources for the May 2-6 celebration are available from National PTA at www.pta.org.


    April 11, 2016

    Photos from TSTA's weekend in El Paso


    April 9, 2016

    TSTA House of Delegates

    Here is the speech TSTA President Noel Candelaria gave to the House of Delegates April 9. He encouraged delegates to ask their school boards to pass a resolution pledging to follow the ESSA requirement that stakeholders be involved in policy making, through site based committees. “This demand is simple and straightforward: honor the provisions of state and federal law that recognize the fact that we are the experts,” Candelaria said. (Sample resolution at tsta.org/ESSA-need-to-know.)

    The 137th annual House of Delegates met at the El Paso Convention Center. Several legislators addressed delegates: Sen. Jose Rodriguez, Reps. Mary Gonzalez and Joe Moody, and Rep.-elect Lina Ortega. The following received awards:

    • Ermalee Boice Instructional Advocacy Award: Susan Lynn Bodet, North East Education Association
    • Ronnie Ray ESP of the Year for 2015-16: Yvonne "Bonnie" Najera, Socorro Education Association
    • Friend of Education: Junior League of Lubbock
    • Pride in Communications: Killeen Educators Association, Association of Brownsville Educators, Lubbock Educators Association, Cy-Fair TSTA/NEA
    Earning School Bell Awards for outstanding work by the media were El Paso Times, Texas Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Amarillo Globe-News, Killeen Daily Herald, KXAN-TV, and KVIA-TV.
    Membership awards went to our local associations in Pflugerville, Austin, Laredo, Southside, San Antonio, Beaumont, Pasadena, Edgewood, Ysleta, San Marcos, Ector County, Donna, Alief, Del Valle, Arlington, Aldine, Harlingen, Cy-Fair, Amarillo, Hays, Lufkin, Judson, North East, Pt. Arthur, Brownsville, Harlandale, Southwest, Socorro, and Lubbock.
    Receiving recognition at the regional level were All-Star ARs Yvonne Salcido, Ysleta; Glorimar Yace, Cy-Fair, and Laurell Jernigan, Longview; Leaders for Tomorrow Jose Villalobos, Ysleta, and Laurell Jernigan, Longview; and ESPs of the Year Rene Rivera, Donna; Maria Hernandez, Ysleta; Cornell Sutton, Austin; Deborah England, Amarillo; Richard Martin, Cy-Fair; and Laurell Jernigan, Longview.


    April 7, 2016

    Math, reading academies for Texas teachers to begin this summer

    The Texas Education Agency has shared details with school districts and charters on the launch of new statewide reading and math academies this summer. A major education initiative of Gov. Greg Abbott, the academies will provide high-quality, face-to-face professional development to elementary-level public school teachers.


    April 6, 2016

    New TEA official changed name after leaving Kansas City school board

    Airick Leonard West is a departing member of the Kansas City School Board, a young community activist, and former board president who helped improve the persistently struggling district. AJ Crabill is the new, yet-to-be-announced deputy commissioner of governance at the Texas Education Agency. Also, they're the same guy. more


    April 1, 2016

    Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability meets

    The Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability convened its third meeting this month to discuss the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and its relationship to state testing and accountability.  To review the presentation made to the Commission by American Institutes for Research, go here.

    After the ESSA review, the commission members broke out into subgroups to discuss testing measures and accountability framework possibilities.  It appears members of the commission are divided, some preferring to modify the current system while others want less reliance on the high stakes standardized tests currently implemented in Texas.  This discussion was timely from the standpoint of Texas students conducting STAAR exams this week around the state.

    The next commission meeting will be held on April 20 with invited testimony regarding the current system of testing used in Texas and in other states. There will also be an opportunity to testify on the controversial A through F rating system, which passed last session but will not go into effect until the 2017-18 school year.

    Diego Bernal goes back to school

    State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123) is on a mission to visit every school in his district before the next legislative session. He’s going without staff, without media, and without a program. He’s not shaking hands, or even delivering speeches to inspire kids. The legislator has one goal: to listen to teachers, principals, and superintendents as they tell him what they need in order to bring out the best performance in their schools. On April 2, from 10-11:30 a.m., Bernal will share what he has learned so far in a community discussion at 5 Points Local, 1017 N. Flores St. Read more here.


    March 31, 2016

    Senate Finance Committee report: defined benefit plan under attack

    On Wednesday, March 30, the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss state debt. As a part of that discussion, various state pension systems were reviewed, including the Teacher Retirement System. TRS Deputy Executive Director Ken Welch discussed the TRS pension trust fund with the committee.

    Currently, the funding rate of the pension trust fund is just over the important 80% threshold, and the amortization period is at 33.3 years. This data shows that the fund is a healthy, strong and respected.

    TRS assumes an annual rate of return of 8% for its investments, an assumption determined by TRS actuaries and adopted by the board. Earlier this year, TRS completed a periodic review based on investment data that indicated the 8% assumption is solid, as it has been since the late 1980’s.

    Despite evidence demonstrating the accuracy and health of TRS management of the defined benefit fund, Senator Bettencourt claimed the 8% assumption is foolish, noting the current state of the market, and failing to acknowledge that TRS makes assumptions about a defined benefit plan based on long-term investment strategies, not the frequent ups and downs of the market. Sen. Bettencourt would like to lower the assumption by statute. Senator Schwertner agreed that the 8% assumption was foolish. Both Senators stated their objective to turn the defined benefit plan into a defined contribution plan.

    Senator Huffman pointed out that changing the assumption from 8% to 6% would devastate the fund – making the unfunded liability of the fund skyrocket. Apparently, that is exactly what Bettencourt wants to do, because a devastated fund would provide the opportunity to change the fund into a defined contribution plan managed by outside investment managers who could reap profit in the process.  

    Senators Huffman and West rebuked the Bettencourt idea about changing the assumption by statute – noting that all evidence shows the fund to be strong, and the assumed rate of return to be accurate.  In the face of the evidence, Senator Kolkhorst said she still believes the fund needs to be shored up. 

    This hearing indicates that the next session the Senate could be one in which facts are disregarded and reality is suspended. -- report from John Grey

    Joint interim committee on TRS health benefit plans: TRS Care faces financial challenge

    The House-Senate Joint Committee also met on March 30 to hear a report and take testimony on TRS Care. TRS staff laid out its familiar study that presented the following options to help stabilize TRS Care:

    1. Pre-fund the long term liability;

    2. Fund on a pay-as-you-go basis through FY2021 with various options for increased contribution rates and plan design changes;

    3. Fund on a pay-as-you-go basis through FY2027 with various options for increased contribution rates;

    4. Retiree pays full cost for optional coverage;

    5. Require purchase of Medicare Part B; mandatory participation in Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans; otherwise must enroll in TRS-Care 1;

    6. Fixed contribution rate or Care 1 for non-Medicare retirees;

    7. Create a single consumer directed plan design for non-Medicare enrollees; and

    8. Combine Care and ActiveCare.

    TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie made clear that TRS Care has a funding issue, and that the above options, with the exception of pre-funding the plan, are only band aids, and a long-term solution needs to be found.

    TSTA was invited to present testimony, stating:

    “Active teachers not only pay for their own health care, they also subsidize the health care of retirees. Health care costs have skyrocketed over the last decade, and current teachers have borne that expense, with no help from the state, and they cannot afford to pay more for retirees’ health care.

    “A retired teacher lives on a pension of around $2,000 per month. Retirees cannot afford to either pay more for their health care or accept a reduction in benefits within the plan. Retired teachers disproportionately need and utilize the health care system. Asking them to give more is an unworkable solution.

    “The reason TRS Care is underfunded is because the legislature foolishly tied its contribution to the payroll of active teachers, which has failed to keep pace with health care cost inflation. The legislature could have addressed this situation at any point over the last 30 years, yet it refused to be fiscally responsible to the detriment of active and retired teachers. The only acceptable option is for the state to start paying for its mistake.”

    Some committee members suggested that retirees and active educators should “share the pain” in order to stabilize the plan. All the education associations said the state needs to accept its responsibility to support TRS Care, noting the active and retired educators have already been sharing the pain. .

    The Joint Interim Committee to Study TRS Health Benefit Plans meets next on April 13 to discuss the affordability issue of TRS ActiveCare. -- report from John Grey


    March 30, 2016

    STAAR retest not required, TEA says

    “For students who were not able to complete an online test because of the technology issues related to the STAAR online testing platform, districts are not required to have the students complete the test(s) and should feel under no obligation to do so,” Texas Education Agency has told school districts. Read more about the online testing fiasco here.


    March 29, 2016

    Supreme Court reaffirms collective bargaining in landmark case

    The U.S. Supreme Court today delivered its decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, affirming that public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining. The 4-4 decision leaves intact the sound law of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that has been working for nearly four decades. At issue in Friedrichs was whether non-union members could share the wages, benefits and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share for the cost of those negotiations. 


    March 29, 2016

    Nominations open for NEA social justice activist

    Do you know an educator who demonstrates the ability to lead, organize, and engage educators, parents and the community to advocate on social justice issues? Nominations are open for NEA’s 2016 Social Justice Activist Award until April 15. The winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to attend and address both the NEA Representative Assembly and the Joint Conference on the Concerns of Minorities and Women.  


    March 28, 2016

    Disaster relief expanded

    Effective March 19, 2016, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program (DRP) in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for the incident period of March 7, 2016 and affecting six additional counties: Erath, Gregg, Harrison, Hood, Marion and Parker. 

    NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs.

    A specially designed DRP Web page at www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members. 


    March 21, 2016

    Contact your member of Congress about Social Security bill

    This Tuesday, March 22, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on HB711, legislation filed by committee chair Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to address the repeal of unfair Social Security penalties that penalize and reduce Social Security benefits earned by educators and other public employees. NEA is fully engaged on this issue. 

    To contact your member of Congress, go to http://www.nea.org/home/61524.htm, scroll down and click on the Take Action button. 


    March 18, 2016

    NEA Member Benefits: here to help

    NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster on Feb. 9 for incident period Dec. 26 to Jan. 21, affecting the following Texas counties: Borden, Cass, Collingsworth, Cottle, Crosby, Delta, Donley, Fisher, Floyd, Foard, Franklin, Haskell, Hockley, Jones, Knox, Leon, Motley, Nolan, Scurry, Shackelford, Stonewall, Terry, Trinity, Walker, Wheeler and Wilbarger. (Update, 3/21/16: Jasper, Newton, and Orange Counties have been added for incident period March 7.)

    NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs. 


    March 18, 2016

    Photos from the NEA ESP Conference!

    We have photos from NEA’s Kevin Lock of guest speaker Chelsea Clinton, TSTA Vice President Ovidia Molina, Texas ESP of the Year Bonnie Soria Najera, and NEA Directors Linda Estrada and Angela Davis at the Orlando event. 


    March 15, 2016

    Education Austin wins NEA award

    Education Austin has been selected to receive the National Education Association’s 2016 Rosena J. Willis Memorial Award (Local Affiliate).

    This award is presented to an affiliate that involves NEA members in advocacy for minority students and families, minority parent involvement in schools, and minority community outreach. 

    Each year NEA officers, our Board of Directors, leaders from all 50 states, members, partners, staff, and guests gather to present the NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards at an elegant dinner and program held during our Annual Representative Assembly.  At that time, we honor individuals and organizations like yours who have contributed to the human and civil rights goals and aspirations of Americans across the nation.

    The 2016 Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner will take place on the evening of July 3, 2016, in the Ballroom of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC.  For more information on the NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards, visit our website atwww.nea.org/hcrawards.


    March 10, 2016

    Art from your heart

    The Blue Ribbon Task Force is hosting a poster design contest to encourage child abuse awareness.

    Deadline is March 23. 


    March 9, 2016

    Media from NEA’s Read Across America 2016 kick-off event in Dallas

    Herbert Marcus Elementary hosted NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and her Dr. Seuss character friends on Feb. 26. Media here:

    Photos 

    The NEA.org story  

    Video 

    The multimedia compilation aka Storify


    March 8, 2016

    Eastside Memorial High School teacher wins inaugural Rather Prize

    TSTA member Sanford Jeames, coordinator of health science programs at Eastside Memorial High School in Austin, won the inaugural $10,000 Rather Prize, awarded to the best idea to improve education in Texas. Jeames’ STEP Up Challenge (Student Training and Enrichment Project) will help prepare students to attend college and pursue majors and careers that are underrepresented in minority populations. The project will partner with two- and four-year colleges, community agencies and companies for internships and apprenticeships. 


    March 8, 2016

    TSTA/NEA leaders speak at SXSWedu

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and TSTA member and National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples were among the speakers at SXSWedu in Austin this week. Garcia was on a panel about Recruiting and Retaining Teachers, while Peeples and two former students spoke about The Power of Student Voice in Today’s Classroom


    March 7, 2016

    Leaders attend Berlin summit

    NEA President Garcia and Education Austin Vice President Montserrat Garibay participated in the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Berlin last week. Since its first meeting in 2011 in New York City, the ISTP has become an important forum for the exchange of effective teacher policies and practice, bringing together government officials and teacher organizations from high-performing and rapidly improving school systems. 


    March 3, 2016

    Teacher of the Year entries now accepted

    Nominations are open, and the application has been posted, for the 2017 Texas Teacher of the Year Awards program. District-nominated Teacher of the Year applications are due to the appropriate ESC by June 8. 


    March 2, 2016

    NEA's Read Across America tour begins in Dallas

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia — accompanied by the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, and Thing 2 — kicked off NEA's Reading Tour in Celebration of Read Across America 2016 at Herbert Marcus Elementary School in Dallas. Read Across America is a year round effort to inspire children to become lifelong readers.


    February 27, 2016

    National Teacher of the Year addresses TSTA Student Program Convention

    TSTA Student Program, TSTA's group for college students, met in Austin at the Omni Southpark this week. National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples was the featured speaker at tonight's banquet. See photos on our Flickr page and listen to her speak about her experiences!


    February 26, 2016

    TRS Board holds training meeting

    The TRS Board of Trustees held a three-day meeting in Richardson, Texas, starting on Wednesday, February 24. The meeting served largely as a training session for the board on the inner workings of TRS, fiduciary duties, and market conditions and issues.

    The Board adopted two important resolutions. First, the Board voted to continue with Aetna as the health plan administrator of TRS Care. In the event contract negotiations with Aetna are unsuccessful, TRS will pursue a contract with United Healthcare for the administration of TRS Care.

    The Board also adopted a resolution standardizing the surcharge rate passed on to employers when a district hires a retiree in a return to work situation. The surcharge is for a retiree already participating in TRS Care. Previously, TRS used a complicated formula to determine the surcharge rate for each employee. Under the adopted resolution, TRS will use a standard surcharge rate of $535 per retiree per month, starting on September 1, 2016. The standard surcharge rate is the approximate average previously charged by TRS under their formula, and is due to a change in statute.

    Finally, as of February 23, 2016, the pension trust fund was valued at $124 billion, down from $128 billion on August 31, 2015.

    The Board meets next on April 7 & 8, 2016. -- Report from John Grey


    February 25, 2016

    Oh, the places they'll go

    Between Feb. 26 and March 4, NEA leaders will travel to six cities to provide resources to schools in need and honor Dr. Seuss for NEA's annual Read Across America celebration. Dallas is the first stop! Watch for NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 at Marcus Elementary, starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow!


    February 24, 2016

    Next Generation commission discusses student assessments

    The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, formed by legislative authority last year, met in Austin this week to discuss student assessments.  The Commission is charged with developing and making recommendations for a new system of student assessment and public school accountability to address the purpose of an accountability system and the role tests play in that system.  The new assessment system is meant to provide actionable information for a parent or person standing in a parental relation to a student, an educator and the public to support learning activities; recognize application of skills and knowledge; measure student educational growth toward mastery; and value critical thinking.  

    The new Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, Mike Morath, was invited to testify before the Commission. Morath’s main point of his testimony is to develop a system of testing which occurs throughout the school year to allow educators to have a constant feedback loop on the progress of the educator’s students. This series of mini tests throughout the year was presented as a diagnostic strategy by the commissioner. Morath was quoted as saying, “The idea of using a continuous, but low-touch formative assessment throughout the course of the year and then building a summative picture from that has a great deal of merit in my mind.” Morath did acknowledge, “ when you start looking at the state mandating one specific approach in every classroom, it becomes problematic.”

    This approach could have devastating consequences to the high stakes nature of testing that parents, students, administrators and teachers have been fighting against for decades.  Using testing for diagnostic purposes is the only way a standardized approach should be used, however, it should be up to the local district and the individual classroom teacher to determine what diagnostic testing approach to take.  The commission meets again on Wednesday, March 23. -- report from Portia Bosse


    February 24, 2016

    Nominations now open for SBOE Heroes for Children Award

    The State Board of Education is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Heroes for Children Award, which recognizes public school volunteers who are strong advocates for Texas schoolchildren. Volunteers may be nominated by individuals or by organizations. Educational employees, elected government officials, and organizations are not eligible to be nominated. The nomination form is available on the Texas Education Agency website


    February 23, 2016

    Books Across America Grants: apply by April 29

    NEA’s Read Across America and the NEA Foundation will make 100 $1,000 awards to public schools serving economically disadvantaged students to purchase diverse books for school libraries. The 2016 NEA’s Books Across America Library Books Awards are made possible by a contribution by The Weinstein Company and Walden Media in connection to their film The Giver, based on the popular young adult novel by Lois Lowry. NEA members are currently able to apply for these grants by going to nea.org/readacross from now until April 29, 2016.  Grants will be announced by May 15 on neafoundation.org.


    February 22, 2016

    NEA’s Read Across America Day 2016

    The 19th annual NEA’s Read Across America Day takes place March 2. NEA is teaming up with Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Random House to celebrate the debut of Dr. Seuss’ “What Pet Should I Get,” a recently discovered manuscript. Working with partners and NEA members, NEA will encourage schools and organizations throughout the country to feature this popular book to their RAA Day celebrations. http://bit.ly/y8RGp4

    The “Cat-a-Van Reading Tour” kicks off Friday, Feb. 26 in Dallas. NEA leaders will embark on a six-city, cross country reading tour to spread important messages about reading and literacy, as well as provide reading resources to schools in need. 


    February 18, 2016

    Texas Gateway launches

    The Texas Gateway (www.texasgateway.org), a free online resource library for educators and parents provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), has launched.

    The Texas Gateway not only builds upon the success of TEA’s online learning community Project Share but also expands access to resources—such as videos, interactives, formative assessments, professional development courses, and other classroom support materials—designed to strengthen classroom instruction to help every student succeed.

    It provides open access to instructional resources that align with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the state standards that describe what students should know and be able to do at every grade level. A majority of the current resources focus on middle school and high school subjects in English language arts and reading, math, science, and social studies. Each resource contains a lesson or series of lessons that introduce a new idea or skill and then give the learner opportunities to practice and apply what he or she has learned.

    While Project Share relied heavily on the use of usernames and passwords, the Texas Gateway does not. Visitors to the Gateway are able to search and use resources by grade level, subject, TEKS, and keywords. Upon identifying resources that may be helpful in supporting students, parents and teachers can voluntarily create and manage personal accounts to save lists of resources. The saved lists can then be easily shared with other teachers, parents, and students.

    Educators may also search and self-enroll in online professional development courses. Read more at www.texasgateway.org.


    February 16, 2016

    Paraeducator professional development opportunity

    Registration is now open for the National Resource Center for Paraeducators Conference which is taking place April 1-3 in Oak Brook, IL (suburb of Chicago). This premier professional development opportunity for paraeducators features a variety of sessions that will help paraeducators improve their professional practice, foster effective paraeducator/teacher/administrator teams, and understand how the new Every Student Succeeds Act impacts their careers. Paraeducators, teachers, administrators and others from across the United States can attend. NEA members and non-members attend. This conference is open to the public and has content for paraeducators of all types, years of experience, etc.


    February 12, 2016

    House Public Ed looks at middle school and high performing students

    This week, the House Public Education Committee convened its first hearing since interim charges were issued by the Speaker of the House. The first charge addressed was to review the state's current education policies and initiatives regarding middle grades and make recommendations to ensure a comprehensive, research-based state strategy for preparing those students for high school retention, success, and postsecondary readiness. This review should include an examination of school-based strategies and best practices that encourage at-risk youth to finish school. 

    Invited testimony indicates that 1 in 5 students fail to graduate high school on time and that students at risk could be identified during their middle school years. The community schools model was brought up as a solution.

    The second charge was to review current public education programs that address the needs of high performing students, including: 

    • Identifying the adequacy of current programs statewide and exploring additional means to promote high quality programs. 
    • Studying ways to increase the recognition of higher performing students on test-based and non-test based measures. 
    • Examining whether the current and proposed state accountability systems adequately promote districts’ addressing the needs of students across the performance spectrum, including those students significantly outperforming their peers, and recommending whether the academic performance of high achieving students should be specifically addressed as a separate indicator in the accountability system. 

    Texas Education Agency staff testified about resources available at the state level for high performing students, and said the state plan guides gifted education for all students K-12. Additionally, the Texas Performance Standards Project targets gifted students, but could be used in any classroom to increase student engagement in the curriculum. 

    Review a list of all the interim charges at http://www.house.state.tx.us/_media/pdf/interim-charges-84th.pdf. -- report from Portia Bosse


    February 12, 2016

    State Board for Educator Certification meets

    The State Board for Educator Certification met in Austin for its February meeting to finalize rules relating to its process for handling disciplinary cases under Chapter 249, to implement rules on number of opportunities for taking certification exams, and the waiver process once an applicant hits the limit.  

    Final rules were approved to create more specific penalty guidelines for Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff to follow in settling or prosecuting educator discipline cases. In addition, the proposed amendments sets out the process that SBEC will use when the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) dismisses and remands a case in accordance with Texas Government Code, §2001.058(d-1), as amended by House Bill (HB) 2154, 84th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 2015, after a respondent fails to appear for a contested case hearing.  The State Board of Education will review this rule at its next meeting. 

    SBEC also discussed 19 TAC Chapter 230, Professional Educator Preparation and Certification, Subchapter C, Assessment of Educators. The proposed amendments discussed complies with the requirement from the 84th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 2015, to enforce a limit of five attempts on any certification examination, unless the SBEC approves an additional attempt based on an individual's demonstration of good cause.  SBEC did not adopt rules at this meeting and simply discussed the waiver options to exceed the limit passed by the Legislature.  However, the statute still pre-empts an applicant from exceeding five times going forward and TEA will enforce this limit by law.

    The proposed rule sets out reasons for a waiver as follows:

    1. the candidate's highest score on an examination is within one conditional standard error of measurement (CSEM) of passing and the candidate has completed 50 clock-hours of educational activities. CSEMs will be published annually on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website;

    2. the candidate's highest score on an examination is within two CSEMs of passing and the candidate has completed 100 clock-hours of educational activities;

    3. the candidate's highest score on an examination is within three CSEMs of passing and the candidate has completed 150 clock-hours of educational activities;

    4. the candidate's highest score on an examination is not within three CSEMs of passing and the candidate has completed 200 clock-hours of educational activities; and

    5. if the candidate needs a waiver for more than one of the individual core subject examinations that are part of the overall examination required for the issuance of a Core Subjects certificate, the candidate has completed the number of clock-hours of educational activities required for each individual core subject examination. -- report from Portia Bosse


    February 11, 2016

    TSTA partners with Project Paradigm  

    The Paradigm Challenge is an annual competition for youth ages 7-18 that inspires innovation in addressing important social issues. May 1 is the deadline.  


    February 11, 2016

    Watch the NEA Foundation Gala live on Feb. 12

    On Friday, more than 850 people will gather in Washington, D.C., to honor 42 award-winning public school educators at the NEA Foundation's annual Salute to Excellence in Education Gala


    February 10, 2016

    TSTA participates in National Summit on Teacher Leadership

    Texas was selected as one of 19 states to participate in the first National Summit on Teacher Leadership this month. 

    WHAT IS THE SUMMIT?

    It’s the collaboration of four leading education groups – NEA, Council of Chief State School Officers, U.S. Department of Education, and American Federation of Teachers – who brought some of the best and brightest to Washington, D.C. to empower more educators to lead their professions and turn ideas into action. 

    WHAT TOOK PLACE?

    “This is a national-level conversation on the importance of teacher leadership,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria, who led the Texas team, said. “It is an important part of a commitment made by four U.S. education organizations to bring key state-level educational stakeholders and practicing classroom teacher leaders together.” 

    Teachers, state superintendents, and union representatives shared ideas, best practices, and examples of existing teacher-leadership efforts. They also identified common challenges and created concrete, actionable teacher leadership plans to address those challenges back home.

    HOW CAN I LEARN MORE?

    NEA Today posted an article about the summit and we have posted photos.


    February 9, 2016

    NEA President: Budget rightly shines spotlight on education, students

    Educators remain concerned about impact of budget on implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act

    President Barack Obama today released the final budget of his administration for fiscal year 2017. The president’s budget is the first since the congressional passage of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). “We believe that essentially flat-funding the main programs aimed at helping the students most in need will undermine the promise of ESSA to provide opportunity for all students,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a released statement.

    February 8, 2016

    Join the community conversation in Dallas, Fort Worth, Brownsville

    State Board of Education Chair Donna Bahorich invites you to participate in a Community Conversation to discuss the Next Generation Assessments and Accountability for Texas Public Schools.

    The Board hopes to include a variety of parents, educators, and business leadersin the discussions. Though you may wear many "hats" as a parent, educator, and business leader, they are asking you to choose to wear one hat for the activities at the meeting. You will choose either the  EDUCATOR, PARENT/COMMUNITY MEMBER, or BUSINESS LEADER caucus group at registration. Results will be gathered by caucus group. There is limited seating for each ticket type, wiith a maximum of 200 on a first come, first serve basis. An RSVP is required to participate.

    The Purpose: The 2015 legislature established the creation of an appointed Next Generation Commission on Assessments and Accountability composed of 15 members to submit a report of recommendations for the 2017 legislative session. As part of the State Board of Education's contribution on the Commission, the chair, fellow Board members and a variety of community leaders are hosting a series of face to face and online “Community Conversations” in order to engage greater participation surrounding these important topics. 

    Commission Task: The Commission will develop recommendations to address the purpose of a state accountability system and the role of student assessment; opportunities to assess students that provide actionable information, support learning activities, recognize the application of skills and knowledge, measure growth and mastery, and critical thinking. Commission recommendations will also address alignment of state performance standards with college and career readiness; policy changes to enable student progress; policy changes necessary to meet state goals, as well as policy changes that are community based, promote parent and community involvement, and reflect unique community needs.

    Brownsville Feb 11th @ 9:30 am

    Ft Worth Feb 16th @ 6 pm

    Dallas Feb 17th @ 6 pm


    February 4, 2016

    Update your TSTA app

    Our app is now compatible with iOS 9 devices. Download free from the Apple Store to stay up to date with news updates and push notifications!


    February 3, 2016

    Senate democrats meet with stakeholders to address student debt & college affordability

    Watch it live at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYF5mg_-DNw


    February 2, 2016

    Obama wants more girls, kids of color to learn computer science

    The White House has a new plan to get students involved in the important subject. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/computer-science-for-all_us_56abe38be4b00b033aaf3689


    February 1, 2016

    Black History Month lessons & resources

    To help you integrate Black History Month into your classroom, we offer a selection of lesson plans that cover a variety subjects and that can be adapted to fit multiple grade levels. http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/black-history-month.htm#.VrIlXR_bNRc.twitter


    January 29, 2016

    NEA, Michigan affiliate help Flint with water crisis; taking contributions

    From Michigan Education Association: As you have no doubt heard, we have a lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan. Obviously, this affects our students and our members.  Due to intense national interest, we wanted to give you a brief update.

    MEA has distributed free home water testing kits to every MEA member in good standing who lives in one of the affected areas in Flint.  Within the next few days, water testing kits will be going out to all our retired members who live in the affected areas of Flint.

    Last October, we reached out to NEA Healthy Futures, who worked with Britta to provide filters and water to the Flint community for several months now.

    Our health insurance trust, MESSA,  will  be sponsoring a number of educational events concerning the long term effects of lead poisoning and the education support that will be required long-term.

    Our locals have been donating busloads of water, socks, gloves, mittens. and school supplies. Frankly, the schools have had so many water donations they cannot store  all the water.  Mittens, gloves, coats and school supplies are a greater need as this is a very economically depressed community.

    Next week, at our statewide bargaining conference, Lilly Eskelsen-Garcia will be speaking. As a part of her visit, she will be meeting with Flint leaders and "Dr. Mona," the pediatrician who was tenacious in blowing the whistle on what was happening to the Flint water supply.

    The most helpful thing locals and members who wish to help can do is to send tax-deductible charitable donations. This is a 501 (c) 3.  They can designate their funds by noting "Flint" on the check.

    MEA Classroom Support Fund
    Michigan Education Association
    P.O. Box 2573
    1350 East Kendale Blvd.
    East Lansing, MI 48823


    January 28, 2016

    Remembering the Challenger

    On Jan. 28, 1986, at 11:39 a.m., people across the country watched in horror as the space shuttle Challenger exploded over the Atlantic Ocean, killing everyone on board. It remains one of the worst accidents of the American space program. One of the crew members was NEA member Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire high school teacher.


    January 25, 2016

    Vote now for the Rather Prize winner

    The Rather Prize offers $10,000 for the best idea to improve Texas education. Ten finalists have been selected from Northwest ISD, Klein ISD/Dallas ISD, South Texas College, Austin ISD, North East ISD, Round Rock ISD, Dallas ISD, Friendswood, Ford Bend ISD, and Dallas Baptist University. Vote for your favorite idea online; on Twitter using #RatherPrizeIdea with your preferred idea number (e.g. #RatherPrizeIdea11); or via email to help@ratherprize.org.


    January 25, 2016

    Presidential election dates

    A chart of important dates — primaries, caucuses, debates, conventions — in the 2016 presidential election. 


    January 23, 2016

    State committees meeting

    Today, TSTA state committees are meeting in Austin. See photos of all 10 state standing committees on our Flickr site.


    January 14, 2016

    Nominate a student hero

    The State Board of Education is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Student Heroes Award; the award recognizes Texas public school students in prekindergarten through high school who do outstanding things to benefit their fellow Texas students. The deadline for nominations is March 11. http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Awards/Student_Heroes


    January 13, 2016

    Educators share President Obama’s vision for America

    President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union Address to the nation before a joint session of Congress last night. "The president’s vision rightly reflects educators’ inherent can-do optimism and our strong belief that the road to economic prosperity begins with a nation that provides more opportunity for all students regardless of ZIP code," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

    Read her full statement here:

    “We applaud President Barack Obama for presenting a bold vision for America that continues to build on his historic and consequential presidency. We are encouraged by his sense of possibility of a brighter future for our country. The president’s vision rightly reflects educators’ inherent can-do optimism and our strong belief that the road to economic prosperity begins with a nation that provides more opportunity for all students regardless of ZIP code.

    “While much has been accomplished in the past seven years, the stakes are still high for working families as they continue to work harder and harder just to make ends meet. President Obama understands that in order to put more opportunity within reach of more families we need to build on the progress already made, expand the middle class, and close the persistent disparity gap. This will give more families a leg up to move into more solid economic footing.

    “As the president enters his last year in office, we urge him to continue to put students and families before politics. We encourage him to stay the course and to rise above partisan politics as he and Congress did with the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It took bipartisan cooperation, leadership, and hard work to get the job done with the passage of ESSA. This was an important step forward in ushering in a new era for public education and to provide every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

    “We believe what President Obama outlined tonight is spot on and makes common sense. We join the president in calling on policymakers to set aside their differences and work in a bipartisan manner to address the pressing issues facing our country. We need to make college more affordable so that our students aren’t burdened by student loan debt, fix our nation’s broken immigration system, and protect our students, educators, and communities from further harm, pain and needless gun violence.

    “Success, boundless opportunities and the American Dream are within reach of our kids. With a president, families, and a nation of educators who believe in them, our kids will have a stronger country and brighter future. Now we move forward knowing that with a shared, positive vision for America, collaboration, and hard work, the best is yet to come. We look forward to working with Congress and President Obama to help enact an opportunity agenda that works for all.” 


    January 11, 2016

    TSTA: Teacher evaluations should encourage professional development, not punish educators

    TSTA today urged Education Commissioner Mike Morath to design a teacher evaluation system that encourages professional development to help teachers and students achieve instead of punishing teachers over test scores.

    “The goal of teacher appraisals should be creating a first-class learning environment for Texas’ 5.2 million public school children, not a ‘gotcha’ game designed to single out teachers for punishment,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

    “Educators welcome evaluations and constructive guidance on how to master their teaching skills. Their students benefit when those evaluations are conducted fairly and based on a range of indicators of student progress and are not tied to a student’s ability to take a designated test,” he added.

    Candelaria commented as the Texas Education Agency accepted public comments on T-TESS, the new teacher evaluation proposal drafted under former Education Commissioner Michael Williams. Under the T-TESS proposal, at least 20 percent – perhaps more – of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on STAAR test scores.

    Candelaria pointed out that T-TESS was drafted in an effort to satisfy an outdated waiver requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act, which Congress recently repealed. In its place, and with strong bipartisan support, Congress enacted the Every Student Succeeds Act, which encourages states and school districts to reduce the importance of high-stakes testing. The new law also prohibits the U.S. Secretary of Education from mandating that teachers be evaluated based on test scores.

    “TSTA urges Commissioner Morath and TEA to comply with the spirit of the Every Student Succeeds Act and eliminate STAAR test scores from the teacher evaluation model,” Candelaria said. “Education is a continuous, collaborative process, and an individual teacher’s contribution to a student’s success in any given year cannot be fairly measured by the student’s ability to pass a set of standardized tests.”

    Some alternatives to STAAR test scores could include high school graduation and college admission rates, success in pre-AP courses, improvements in English language proficiency and other indicators of student progress.


    January 11, 2016

    Critics say something's off with Texas' very low special education enrollment numbers

    Four years ago, the Houston Chronicle detailed a statistical mystery in Texas public schools: Special education students were disappearing. More accurately, the percentage of students receiving special education services was dropping sharply. Read more in the Texas Observer.


    January 9, 2016

    We’re onto the phony education reformers

    The education counter-narrative is that public schools are not as much the perpetrators of failure as they are victims of resource deprivation, inequity in the system and undermining forces driven by corruption and greed. In other words, it wasn’t schools that needed to be made more accountable; it was the failed leadership of those in the business and government establishment that needed more accountability. Read more in Salon


    January 8, 2016

    'Bill of Rights' for schools echoes Abbott's constitution proposals

    Texas State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff gave Gov. Greg Abbott a lesson in parody late Friday, issuing a "Public School Parent Bill of Rights" that mimicked Abbott's  proposals for overhauling the U.S. Constitution. Read more in the Houston Chronicle


    January 8, 2016

    Patrick vows to push tax credit scholarships

    Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Thursday he will press Texas lawmakers next year to pass a bill helping public school students from all economic backgrounds transfer to private or religious schools at state expense.

    “What we have in Texas is an epidemic of failing state leaders, including the lieutenant governor, when it comes to adequately and fairly paying for public education,” TSTA’s Clay Robison told the Dallas Morning News.


    January 8, 2016

    Another poor report on Texas school funding

    A new scorecard by Education Week gives Texas a grade of “D” on school finance. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick would make it worse by dusting off his old privatization schemes, beginning with another run at vouchers; read more in Grading Texas

    Children's Policy Conference to be in Austin

    The Texas Children’s Policy Conference Feb. 24 in Austin will include sessions on pre-k, mental health in schools, and other subjects of interest to TSTA members. Details at www.txchildren.org/conference


    January 7, 2016

    Zoos argue for right to ban weapons

    Private businesses, amusement parks, and educational institutions can ban weapons if they choose under new open carry laws, but zoos — frequent destinations for school field trips — often don’t fall into any of those categories, the Texas Tribune reports. 

    “Given the mission of the zoo and the presence of hundreds of thousands of children on its campus, it is clear that guns and zoos simply do not mix,” a spokesperson for the Houston Zoo told the Tribune. 

    Zoos in Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth argue that their programs meet the definition of educational institutions — and they have been threatened with possible fines. Read more at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/01/07/texas-zoos-struggle-limiting-guns....

    NEA Student Program accepting applications for CREATE Grants

    CREATE Grants are for chapter and/or statewide community service projects that enhance public education; increase advocacy and outreach to communities; support younger educators involvement in the Association; and support the development of innovative approaches to engagement. The application deadline is Feb. 16. 


    January 6, 2016

    3 things Morath should do to demonstrate commitment

    As our new state education commissioner, Mike Morath must work with educators and parents to advocate for what is best for all of Texas’ 5.2 million school children. TSTA’s Clay Robison outlines three things Morath can do to show he truly is committed to supporting educators and giving every student an opportunity at success. 


    January 4, 2016

    Morath takes office as Commissioner of Education

    Mike Morath was administered the oath of office today in Austin to become the new state Commissioner of Education; as such, he heads the Texas Education Agency, which oversees pre-kindergarten through high school education for approximately five million students enrolled in both traditional public schools and charter schools.

    Morath served on the Dallas ISD board of trustees for more than four years; to see how that went, read Clay Robison's Dec. 15 blog, "New Education Commissioner Tied to Testing." (Update: a new Grading Texas blog about Morath was posted Jan. 6.)

    Additional background from the TEA news release: Morath graduated from Garland High School in Garland ISD and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, summa cum laude, from George Washington University. He says his priorities include supporting educators throughout the state, transitioning the state’s accountability system to an A-F framework, and improving the overall efficiency of TEA.

    Morath succeeds outgoing Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. Williams served in the position for more than three years. The Commissioner of Education is a gubernatorial appointment and serves at the pleasure of the Governor. Commissioner Morath’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation during the next legislative session in 2017.

    NEA Member Benefits expands area for recovery assistance

    NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster Nov. 25 affecting five additional counties: Bosque, Hill, Jasper, Newton, and Walker.

    See the original post below, on Nov. 30. NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs. Visit www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm for details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members. 

    Texas schools get more leeway on scheduling

    The requirement that students go to class for 180 days has changed to 75,600 instructional minutes. http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/local/counting-the-minutes-texas-schools-get-more-leeway/npw3G 


    December 16, 2015

    TSTA testifies before SBEC Committee on Educator Discipline 

    The State Board for Educator Certification meeting last week included a meeting of the Committee on Educator Discipline to consider and approve rules relating to proposed changes to 19 TAC Chapter 249, Disciplinary Proceedings, Sanctions, and Contested Cases, Subchapter A, General Provisions, §249.5, Purpose; Policy Governing Disciplinary Proceedings; Subchapter B, Enforcement Actions and Guidelines, §249.15, Disciplinary Action by State Board for Educator Certification, and §249.17, Decision-Making Guidelines; and Subchapter D, Hearing Procedures, §249.35, Disposition Prior to Hearing; Default.

    TSTA Governmental Relations Specialist Portia Bosse testified before the Committee on Educator Discipline to identify two areas the committee should reconsider in the proposed rules.  

    The first point addressed the minimum penalties set out for settlement authority by TEA staff. Bosse cautioned the committee to allow staff to have greater flexibility for settlement by not binding staff to minimum penalties.  

    The second point identified in the proposed rules request was a condition for good cause on abandonment of contract cases where the educator can show a clear agreement from the district showing both parties agreed to the abandonment of the contract.

    The new rule revisions will allow TEA staff and/or the commissioner of education to settle disciplinary cases with certified personnel more efficiently and without having to go through SBEC for final approval.


    December 15, 2015

    TSTA: Mike Morath should be replaced with a teacher on new study commission

    The Texas State Teachers Association today asked Governor Greg Abbott to replace Mike Morath with a school teacher on a new commission that will study alternatives to standardized testing. The commission was created by House Bill 2804 last spring, and the Legislature did not include the commissioner of education as a member of the commission.

    The governor on Monday appointed Morath, a Dallas ISD trustee, as the new state education commissioner, only a few weeks after naming him to chair the new Texas Commission on the Next Generation of Assessment and Accountability. That panel is charged with recommending to the next session of the Legislature a possible replacement for the STAAR testing regime.

    “Mike Morath will be involved with this study and many other tasks as the state’s new education commissioner,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “He should step down from the study panel and give the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House an opportunity to correct a critical oversight by appointing a teacher – a real classroom expert – to the commission that will study a more effective way of measuring student success.”

    “No teacher was appointed to the study commission when it initially was named a few weeks ago,” Candelaria pointed out. “A teacher can bring a critical perspective to a panel that is now top-heavy with school board members and administrators. Teachers know we don’t have standardized students and know first-hand the futility of trying to measure their success with standardized tests.”

    http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/20151215MikeMorath.pdf


    December 15, 2015

    Nominations accepted for 2016 presidential awards in math, science

    Nominations for the 2016 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are now being accepted.

    Administered by the National Science Foundation on the behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, PAEMST is the highest recognition a mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. This year, the PAEMST program will honor mathematics and science teachers in kindergarten - grade 6.

    Teachers may be nominated for the award or may sign up to apply themselves. Principals, teachers, parents, or other members of the general public are encouraged to nominate outstanding teachers. Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

    • Teach mathematics or science at kindergarten - grade 6 in a public (including charter) or private school;
    • Teach in one of the 50 states or the 4 U.S. jurisdictions;
    • Hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution;
    • Be a full-time employee of the school or school district as determined by state and district policies and teach at least 50 percent of the time;
    • Have at least 5 years of full-time, K-12 mathematics or science teaching experience prior to the 2014-2015 academic school year;
    • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; and
    • Has not received the PAEMST award at the national level in any prior competition or category.

    To nominate an outstanding teacher or access the application, visit https://www.paemst.org.  The nomination deadline is April 1, 2016, and applications are due by May 1, 2016. In addition, eligible teachers who submit a completed application by the May 1, 2016, application deadline may be awarded 20 continuing professional education (CPE) hours.

    PAEMST recipients receive a presidential citation; a paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities; and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

    The PAEMST program recognizes teachers for their contributions to teaching and learning and their ability to help students make progress in mathematics and science. Awards are given to mathematics and science teachers from each of the 50 states and 4 U.S. jurisdictions. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.


    December 14, 2015

    Governor Abbott appoints Morath as Texas education commissioner

    Governor Greg Abbott today appointed Mike Morath to be the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency. He will oversee the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the state’s 1,200 school districts and charter schools.

    Morath has served on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees since 2011. A press release from the governor's office calls Morath "a change-agent" who led reforms that "helped propel Dallas public schools to achieve greater student and operational outcomes, including helping guide DISD to a new teacher evaluation and compensation system, becoming the first major school system in Texas to pay teachers based on performance rather than seniority."

    What kind of state education commissioner will Mike Morath be? Based on his record as a self-styled “reformer” in Dallas ISD, the best response for an educator right now is to expect the worst and hope you are wrong. Read more in Grading Texas


    December 10, 2015

    A new era begins: Obama signs ESSA into law

    With NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and other educators standing by his desk, President Obama today signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law. "There is nothing more essential to living up to the ideals of this nation than making sure every child is able to achieve their God-given potential," the President said, thanking the people standing next to him on the stage -- one of whom was NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. Watch here and read NEA's news release here.


    December 9, 2015

    Students and educators freed from the chains of NCLB

    This morning, the U.S. Senate passed the Every Student Succeeds Act by a vote of 85-12; the House passed it last week. TSTA President Noel Candelaria released the following statement:

    “Fourteen years ago, the federal No Child Left Behind Act was passed with good intentions, but it became a test and punish system that took the essence of learning out of our classrooms and robbed teachers and students of the time needed for teaching and learning.

    “Today’s final passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a victory for students and educators because it recognizes that we don’t have standardized students and it gives educators and parents a greater voice and more flexibility to prepare our children for a lifetime of success.

    “Parents and educators, not the federal government or self-styled reformers perched in remote think tanks, know what works best for our children and students. The new law returns the focus of education where it belongs – to the classroom – and encourages the states and local school districts to invest the resources needed to provide every student with an opportunity to succeed.”


    December 9, 2015

    Senate Education Committee Report on Charters and Teacher-Student Relationships

    On Monday, December 7, the Senate Committee on Education met to discuss three issues: (1) the disposition of real property when the charter of a charter school is revoked or surrendered; (2) the possibility of providing facilities funding in the future for charter schools; and (3) the issue of preventing inappropriate teacher-student relationships.
    The majority of the hearing focused on the charter school issues, because there was no real opposition to the belief that stamping out inappropriate teacher-student relationships was of the utmost importance.
    The Committee engaged in a highly technical discussion regarding the issue of disposition of real property of certain closed charter schools, but they could not determine how to resolve the problem.
    Under current law, charter schools do not receive facilities funding, however, charter school proponents showed up en masse to ask the state for a blank check to fund their facilities wish list. The majority of the Senators were sympathetic to the plea of the charter operators, but TSTA testified to highlight the following points:
     
    (1) any appropriation for charter facilities funding will be made to the detriment of neighborhood public schools because it is very unlikely that this legislature would enact a new tax to cover the funding of charter facilities; 
    (2) it is insulting to teachers and students for the legislature to consider such a proposal when Texas is so far behind the national average for teacher salaries and per pupil funding; and 
    (3) Texas teachers spend an average of around $1,000 out of their own pockets on classroom supplies each year because funding of our public schools is inadequate.
    The Committee was receptive to TSTA’s testimony, but gave no indication of whether they intend to pursue such a risky agenda.
    Stay tuned for more information on when the Senate Committee will meet again.

    December 7, 2015

    Free webinar Wednesday at noon

    Learn how your community can use the Texas Education Scorecard to identify policies and practices that can move students from their first steps in school on to higher education and a promising career. Register at http://cc.readytalk.com/r/jqzspthnadmo.


    December 4, 2015

    NEA applauds House ESEA reauthorization vote, bill heads to Senate

    On Wednesday, the House approved the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan and bicameral bill to reauthorize ESEA.  The 1,061 page bill was approved by the large margin of 359-64. The vote came after a House and Senate conference committee met to finalize the bill the week before Thanksgiving, approving it by a vote of 39-1. 

    The Senate is expected to take up ESSA next week. Tell your Senator to vote for ESSA, S. 1177. Read more about the bill below.


    December 3, 2015

    House votes to replace No Child Left Behind

    After living for years with the consequences of No Child Left Behind, NEA members waged an unprecedented campaign on behalf of their students for a new law. Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives took what NEA calls "a historic step to usher in a new era in public education" when they approved the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Senate will take it up next week.

    "ESSA empowers educators as trusted professionals to make school and classroom decisions while keeping the focus on students most in need," NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said. "The bill also reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools and, most importantly, decouples high-stakes decision-making and statewide standardized tests so students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach."

    Read: Why educators support the ESSA 


    December 2, 2015

    U.S. House approves bill to create greater opportunity for every student to succeed

    The U.S. House of Representatives today approved S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan and bicameral bill to reauthorize the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Senate is expected to take up ESSA next week.

    Educators and students have lived with the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for years. As a result, NEA members have waged an unprecedented mobilization and advocacy campaign on behalf of the nation’s students to turn the page on the failed NCLB law and to bring in a new federal education law that provides more opportunity for all students. This herculean effort, which NEA launched in earnest in February with its “Get ESEA Right” national campaign, and peaking this past summer when both legislative chambers passed their respective bills, resulted in a bipartisan and bicameral compromise and eventual bill language in late November. 

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement:

    “Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took a historic step to usher in a new era in public education that will ensure every child has equal opportunity to a high quality education regardless of ZIP Code. On behalf of NEA’s three million members, we offer our strong support for the Every Student Succeeds Act. For the first time since No Child Left Behind was enacted nearly 14 years ago, ESSA empowers educators as trusted professionals to make school and classroom decisions while keeping the focus on students most in need. The bill also reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools and, most importantly, decouples high-stakes decision-making and statewide standardized tests so that so students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach. Last, ESSA begins to close the opportunity gaps for students by providing a new accountability system that includes an ‘opportunity dashboard’ with – for the first time – indicators of school success and student support. We applaud the U.S. House for getting the job done and doing what works for students, educators, and public education. We urge the Senate to follow suit and send a bill to the president that gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.” 


    December 2, 2015

    Get up to $3K for your high school sports department

    Public high schools across the nation can score up to $3,000 for their sports departments with a California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant. California Casualty, provider of the NEA® Auto & Home Insurance Program, is providing $100,000 to offset budget cuts that have affected high school athletics. Details and entry forms can be found at www.calcasathleticsgrant.com. Applications must be received by Jan. 15 for 2015/2016 consideration. 


    December 1, 2015

    On Giving Tuesday, support education

    Ms. Roberts had an ingenious idea, a way to empower her students to read, analyze, and perform with confidence. She had everything she needed – engaged parents, excited students, and a team of supportive colleagues – except the funding necessary to begin. So she  applied for an NEA Foundation grant to help her students creatively study British icons living hundreds of years apart – Shakespeare and The Beatles.  

    By participating in a series of collaborative activities, culminating in a school-wide performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set to the music of The Beatles, not only did Robert’s 3rd graders learn that they could read an entire Shakespeare play and understand it, they learned that it could be fun!

    Today, on Giving Tuesday – a global day for giving – we ask that you give back to educators like Roberts, educators who help our students reach their college, career, and life dreams. With your help, we can bring more project ideas to life. https://www.neafoundation.org


    December 1, 2015

    TSTA-Student Program Convention change

    The TSTA Student Program is honored to have National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples as the keynote speaker for the awards banquet of its Feb. 26-28 state convention. She will speak at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. We had previously announced a second speaker, NEA Student Program Chair Chelsey Jo Herring, but she has had a change of plans and will be unable to attend. 


    December 1, 2015

    Nominate an outstanding humanities teacher for an award

    Humanities Texas awards recognize excellence in K-12 humanities teachers. In 2016, 15 winners will receive $5,000, with an additional $500 for their schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. Nominations must be submitted by Friday, Dec. 11. Nominated teachers will then have until Feb. 10 to complete an application.


    November 30, 2015

    NEA president supports the Every Student Succeeds Act

    Today, the U.S. Senate and House conference committee released to the public legislative language of a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for the first time in years. The bill is now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. The House of Representatives is planning to take up ESSA this week. The Senate is expected to follow next week.

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement: “NEA is supportive of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Students have suffered long enough under the broken system of test and punish created by the No Child Left Behind Act. We are encouraged that this new bill will help to create greater opportunity for every student to succeed, regardless of their ZIP code.  

    “In particular, the bill includes student and school supports in state accountability plans to create an opportunity ‘dashboard’; reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools and decouples high-stakes decision making and statewide standardized tests; and ensures that educators’ voices are part of decision making at the federal, state and local levels.

    “We look forward to working with members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to ensure that we produce a final bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.” 


    November 30, 2015

    Disaster relief programs are available from NEAMB

    Effective Nov. 25, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for the incident period Oct. 22 – 31 and affecting the Texas counties of Bastrop, Brazoria, Caldwell, Comal, Galveston, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Liberty, Navarro, Travis, Willacy, and Wilson. 

    NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs. A specially designed DRP Web page at www.neamb.com/disaster-assistance.htm provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members. 


    November 19, 2015

    NEA president encouraged by bipartisan and bicameral approach to fix broken law

    Today, after months of speculation and work, the U.S. Senate and House conference committee jointly approved the staff recommendations as amended to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for the first time in years. The House of Representatives is planning to take up the conference committee recommendation after the Thanksgiving break. The Senate is expected to follow.

    NEA members — educators who have lived with and have been sounding the alarm about the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind — have waged an unprecedented mobilization and advocacy campaign on behalf of the nation’s students to close the chapter on the failed NCLB law and to bring in a new federal education law that provides more opportunity for all students.

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement: “It is time for Congress to usher in a new era in public education that commits America to creating opportunity for all students regardless of background or ZIP code. While we appreciate the bipartisan and bicameral work of Congress to finally replace No Child Left Behind, our work isn’t done." Read more here: http://www.nea.org/home/64601.htm


    November 19, 2015

    2014-15 Texas Academic Performance Reports available on TEA website

    The 2014–15 Texas Academic Performance Reports (TAPR) are now available on the Texas Education Agency website. TAPR provides a wide range of performance information for every public school and district in the state. The campus-level, district-level, regional, and statewide reports combine details of academic performance with financial reports and information about staff, programs, and demographics. TAPR is the successor to the popular Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) report. http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/tapr/2015/index.html


    November 19, 2015

    Education board votes against more fact-checking of Texas textbooks

    From the Austin American-Statesman: The State Board of Education on Wednesday decided, in a split vote, not to add an extra layer of scrutiny to the review of Texas textbooks. Board member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, proposed adding a state review panel that could include college and university scholars assigned specifically to look for factual errors.

    “We need more experts looking at these books and catching factual errors before the fact, not after they’ve made it to the classroom,” he said. “I want to catch it before it affects kids in the classroom.”

    Ratliff’s proposal comes months after the first new social studies textbooks in about a decade made their debut in Texas classrooms. The texts were the subject of a prolonged and partisan battle over what Texas children should be taught about Islam, capitalism and the role of Judeo-Christianity in the country’s founding.

    Most recently, a Houston-area mom complained about a photo caption in a world geography text that referred to slaves brought to the U.S. from Africa as “workers.” Her son had seen it and called it to her attention. After a social media discussion of the gaffe that went viral and drew national attention, the textbook publisher agreed to change the wording. http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/texas-education-board-could-add-extra-layer-of-tex/npQYj


    November 18, 2015

    Texas tests should get harder, ed commissioner says

    From the Houston Chronicle: Outgoing Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams on Wednesday encouraged the state board to continue increasing the difficulty of standardized tests after he steps down at the end of the year. http://www.chron.com/news/education/article/sboe-texas-testing-staar-michael-williams-6640740.php


    November 18, 2015

    Education Scorecard launches

    This new tool from the Center for Public Policy Priorities can help local communities identify policies and practices that can move students from their first steps in their first steps in school on to higher education and a promising career.

    The Texas Education Scorecard does not grade individual schools, colleges, or educators. Instead, the scorecard compares county-level data that highlight five key milestones, or transition points, along the “education pipeline” from Pre-K through college completion. The scorecard also provides data on 12 policy indicators that communities can use to help determine where there may be room for additional improvements.

    It's live today at http://texaseducationscorecard.org.


    November 17, 2015

    EdCommunities: where great minds are inspired

    Free and open to all, the NEA edCommunities for Professional Practice is the place online where educators, school support professionals, and community members join forces to improve student success. A variety of groups address diverse education issues, from Common Core to school bullying, National Board certification to safe and healthy schools, ESP hot issues to flipped classrooms. You can also form a group of your own to advocate and collaborate on an issue near and dear to your heart. http://MyNEA360.org


    November 17, 2015

    Hundreds of amici file 24 briefs with U.S. Supreme Court to support public services, and a strong middle class in Friedrichs v. CTA

    States, governors, cities, school districts, civil rights organizations, academic experts and others warn of threat case poses to working families, public services. http://www.nea.org/home/64551.htm


    November 17, 2015

    Texas board may vote to let academics check school textbooks

    At its meeting this week, the State Board of Education may vote to have outside experts check for factual errors in textbooks used in its public schools, the Austin American Statesman reports. Republican SBOE member Thomas Ratliff is expected to propose that university academics check board-sanctioned books to avoid future mistakes. Approved books currently are scrutinized by citizen review panels whose members are nominated by board members.

    "The problem is you get some political ideologues, like some of my colleagues like to appoint, instead of people who can think for themselves and not be told what to think," Ratliff, from Mount Pleasant in East Texas, told the Statesman. http://www.statesman.com/ap/ap/texas/texas-board-may-vote-to-let-academics-check-school/npN8M/


    November 16, 2015

    American Education Week begins

    American Education Week—Nov. 16-20—presents all Americans with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. This year’s theme is "Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility." Learn more at http://www.nea.org/grants/19823.htm. Here's the daily schedule:

    Monday, November 16: Kickoff Day -- Across the country, schools will celebrate excellence in education by hosting kickoff events and activities.

    Tuesday, November 17: Parents Day -- Schools will invite parents into the classroom for a firsthand look at what the school day is like for their children.

    Wednesday, November 18: Education Support Professionals Day -- Education Support Professionals keep schools running and students safe, healthy and ready to learn. Check out these videos to see how hard ESPs work to serve students in public schools and how committed ESPs are to both their jobs and their communities. 

    Thursday, November 20: Educator for a Day -- Community leaders will be invited to experience the day as educators and experience the challenges of teaching and the needs of students. Learn more about this program through the Educator for a Day Promotional Kit.

    Friday, November 21: Substitute Educators Day -- Substitute educators play a vital role in the maintenance and continuity of daily education. Learn more about these professionals and take a look at resources and tips for substitute educators.


    November 16, 2015

    Applications for H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards due Dec. 6

    Don't forget to fill out your application for a 2016 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award at www.heb.com/education by Dec. 6; you could win a cash prize ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. 

    Last year, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards gave out more than $800,000 in cash prizes, gift cards, and grants. Since its inception in 2002, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards program has awarded over $8 million to Texas educators, schools and districts.

    For additional updates, follow the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards program on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HEBExcellenceinEducationAwards.

    About the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards

    H-E-B launched the Excellence in Education Awards program in cooperation with the Texas Association of School Administrators in 2002 as a positive way to support public education in Texas. It has become the largest monetary program for educators in the state, spotlighting best practices and celebrating the passion and creativity of Texas educators.

    H-E-B asks customers, Partners (employees) and community members to nominate teachers, principals, districts, early childhood facilities and school boards in Texas. Each nominee is sent an invitation to complete an application online and is asked about their professional experiences, educational philosophies and achievements both in and out of the classroom. 

    A team of judges reviews the applications, narrowing the field to semi-finalists. From that pool, five regional judging panels comprised of former winners, administrators, and university and community leaders not affiliated with H-E-B select 40 teacher and principal finalists. Finalists and their schools receive a cash prize of $1,000 to $2,500, depending on category.

    Three separate panels select eight school districts and five early childhood facilities as finalists, awarding $2,500 to $5,000 in cash prizes. Up to five school boards may also be recognized, and awarded $5,000 towards the district they serve. Additionally, one or more school boards may receive a special judge’s award totaling up to $25,000. Site visits are conducted to determine winners.

    Teacher and principal finalists are invited to San Antonio in May to compete on a statewide level for larger cash prizes totaling more than $400,000. A statewide panel of judges, not affiliated with H-E-B, conducts a personal interview with each finalist to select winners.

    Eight winners — two principals and six teachers — will be announced along with two school districts, one large and one small, a public school board and an Early Childhood Facility, at a celebratory dinner on May 13.

    Each winning principal—one elementary school and one high school—will each receive $10,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools. The winning large school district will receive a $100,000 cash prize and the winning small school district will receive $50,000. The winning Early Childhood Facility will receive $25,000 and a school board could be awarded up to $25,000.

    The six winning teachers will include one elementary and one secondary teacher in each of three categories:

    • The Rising Star Award — honors exceptionally promising teachers with less than 10 years of experience. These winners will each receive a $5,000 check for themselves and a $5,000 grant for their schools.
    • The Leadership Award — honors teachers with 10 to 20 years in the classroom. These winners will each receive a $10,000 check for themselves and a $10,000 grant for their schools. 
    • The Lifetime Achievement Award — salutes teachers with more than 20 years of experience. These teachers will each receive $25,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools.

    November 13, 2015

    NEA president welcomes Congressional plans to take next step in ESEA reauthorization

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen García today reacted to published media reports about a tentative deal among House and Senate education leaders to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

    The National Education Association has been engaged in an unprecedented mobilization and advocacy campaign on behalf of its members and the nation’s students for years now to close the chapter on the failed No Child Left Behind law and write a new federal education law that provides more opportunity for all students.

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement:

    “Today we are a step closer to rewriting a federal education law that commits America to the success of every student regardless of ZIP code. While we welcome this progress, our work is not done. We look forward to working with the Congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.” 


    November 13, 2015

    SBOE to meet Nov. 17-20

    The State Board of Education will meet Nov. 17-20. The full agenda is available at http://tea.texas.gov/sboe/agenda/. The Nov. 17 meeting will be livestreamed at http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/.  The meetings on Nov. 18-20 may be watched at http://www.adminmonitor.com/tx/tea/.


    November 12, 2015

    Tell Congress to get ESEA right

    We need your help to carry out a grassroots organizing effort to demand that Congress pass a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) before it adjourns for the year. The House and Senate have passed different versions of the bill, and those differences must be resolved by a conference committee in the next few weeks. Let’s engage, organize, and make sure the Texas congressional delegation hears our voices!

    WHAT DO WE WANT TO SEE IN THE BILL?

    Support for state accountability plans that provide the resources to enable every child to succeed, regardless of zip code?

    More time for students to learn, by reducing the time spent on the high stakes standardized testing that is currently the basis for critical education policy decisions 

    A voice for educators in decision making at the federal, state, and local levels

    WHAT CAN YOU DO?

    Tell Congress it's time to #GetESEARight by emailing, tweeting, or calling 866-331-7233.

    Personalize this “Get ESEA Done” sign, take an individual or group selfie with it, and post it to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. 


    November 11, 2015

    No teachers appointed to new assessments panel

    Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders appointed several school administrators, school board members, and charter school representatives – but no teachers – to a new study commission that will make recommendations to the Legislature for a new assessment and accountability system for public schools.

    Dallas ISD Trustee Mike Morath will chair the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, whose goal is to recommend a replacement for the STAAR regime to the 2017 legislative session.

    http://educationblog.dallasnews.com/2015/11/governor-appoints-dallas-isds-mike-morath-to-lead-commission.html


    November 11, 2015

    Teacher Well-Being, Instructional Practices, and High-Stakes Testing

    The purpose of this study is to understand the impact that State Achievement Tests and recent changes to Curricular Standards have had on teachers, students, and schools. Your participation will help policymakers, administrators, and educators understand the influence of these policies on teacher well-being and instructional practice, ultimately leading to enhanced school climate and improved student outcomes.  http://tinyurl.com/TEXASteachersurvey


    November 6, 2015

    Get your Educators for Hillary car magnet

    All you have to do is sign the Educators for Hillary pledge, create an NEA activitist account, and post to Facebook. http://www.strongpublicschools.org


    October 29, 2015

    Medicare premium dramatically reduced

    On Oct. 15, the Social Security Administration announced that there will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries in 2016. When Medicare beneficiaries don’t receive a COLA, a provision known as “hold harmless” protects 70 percent of beneficiaries from higher Medicare Part B premiums. Unfortunately, 30 percent of seniors and persons with disabilities are not protected. These include new Medicare beneficiaries, public sector retirees not receiving Social Security (those in GPO/WEP offset states), higher income beneficiaries, and low-income beneficiaries who have both Medicare and Medicaid. 

    This news meant that many NEA members were facing a $54 monthly increase to their Part B premiums. NEA used multiple avenues of advocacy and the Medicare Part B premium increase has been dramatically reduced as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. 

    While NEA is pleased to see the looming Medicare Part B premium increase being significantly reduced, they are disappointed that the budget agreement doesn’t extend the “hold harmless” provision to all Social Security beneficiaries. Under the bill, Part B premiums will now increase by $19 per month instead of $54 per month. Many of these beneficiaries live on a fixed income and cannot bear the additional financial burden this increase will cost. These increases are especially unfair to the seniors whose benefits are eliminated or greatly reduced by GPO and WEP.

    TAKE ACTION: Please contact your members of Congress today and urge them to sponsor and support S. 2148 and H.R. 3696 to protect all Medicare beneficiaries from higher Medicare Part B premiums and deductibles.  


    October 25, 2015

    Urge Congress to protect seniors from Medicare cost hike

    Absent Congressional action, millions of seniors—including educators already unfairly impacted by GPO/WEP Social Security offset penalties—will face a 52 percent increase in Medicare Part B premiums. Most other Social Security beneficiaries will be held harmless from the premium increase. NEA is working with labor and retirement security allies to extend the same financial protection to public servants currently hurt by the GPO/WEP penalties. You can help by urging Congress to support S. 2148 by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and H.R. 3696 by Representative Dina Titus (R-NV), which would extend the hold harmless provision to all Medicare beneficiaries. Take action here: http://capwiz.com/nea/issues/alert/?alertid=68282426


    October 23, 2015

    10-22-15 TRS Report

    On October 22, 2015, the TRS Board of Trustees held a town hall meeting on healthcare, focusing on the ever-rising costs facing school employees and retirees. The Board acknowledged that the paychecks of current employees and annuities of retirees remained relatively stagnant while healthcare costs increased dramatically and became more of a burden than a benefit. read more


    October 22, 2015

    Teachers reiterate call for state to step up health care support

    “Texas teachers are once again calling on the state to increase its share of their growing health care costs, after lawmakers this year failed to pass legislation upping the support,” Houston Chronicle reporter Lauren McGaughy writes. 

    ”’After 14 years, how long must we wait for the state to do its fair share to make sure Texas teachers and public school employees have affordable, high quality health care coverage?’ Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria asked Thursday at a special meeting of the Texas Retirement System Board of Trustees.” http://m.chron.com/news/education/article/Teachers-reiterate-call-for-state-to-step-up-6585151.php

    You can watch Noel speak in the archived video at http://trs.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/23f91d2006004357a0370186b89f02651d; scroll to 7:17:3.


    October 22, 2015

    TSTA urges TRS to ask Legislature to double state contribution to educator health care

    TSTA today urged the Teachers Retirement System of Texas to join educators in asking the Legislature to double the state’s $75 monthly contribution to health insurance costs for school employees to $150. The contribution hasn’t been changed since the program was created in 2001.

    “Employee premiums have increased 10 times since 2003 – by as much as 238 percent for some employees – at a time when budget cuts have left Texas teacher pay stagnant, $7,000 below the national average,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said at a TRS town hall meeting on educator health care.

    “Meanwhile, the $75 per month state contribution for school employee health care has not increased – not even by a penny,” he added.

    Depending on the level of coverage, Candelaria said, insurance for an entire family can cost some school employees more than $1,300 per month – more than a mortgage payment for most TSTA members. Consequently, many educators are delaying medical treatment, waiting to start a family or leaving the profession.

    “After 14 years, how long must we wait for the state to do its fair share to make sure Texas teachers and public school employees have affordable, high quality health care coverage?” Candelaria asked. “Will you, the TRS board, join us in asking the Legislature to double the state contribution for educator health care?”

    School districts are required to cover at least $150 per month of each employee’s health insurance premium. Some districts contribute more, but many don’t, saddling employees with most of their rising health care costs.

    TSTA believes this also is a fairness issue. The state of Texas covers virtually the entire cost of health care for state employees, while educational employees have seen health care premiums take bigger bites out of their paychecks, year after year.

    Watch the meeting at http://trs.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/23f91d2006004357a0370186b89f02651d and find out how to participate here.


    October 21, 2015

    TSTA president, other educators to discuss crisis in teacher health care

    WHAT: The Teachers Retirement System of Texas will host a town hall discussion of the rising cost of teacher health care and what can be done to address it. Some premiums have increased as much as 238 percent in recent years, sharply reducing the take-home pay of educators already paid almost $7,000 below the national average.

    WHO: Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria will call on the Legislature to increase its contribution to school employee insurance premiums and seek the support of the TRS board. Representatives of other educator groups also will participate.

    WHERE: Teacher Retirement System of Texas headquarters, 1000 Red River St., 4th floor cafeteria.

    WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 22, 2:30 p.m.


    October 21, 2015

    TEA report: school districts implementing House Bill 5

    According to an evaluation study released today by the Texas Education Agency, more than half of all school districts responding to a recent survey reported currently offering students all five endorsements – Multidisciplinary Studies; Business and Industry; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); Arts and Humanities; Public Services – created under House Bill 5 (HB 5).

    Passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature in 2013, HB 5 initiated substantial changes to the curriculum requirements for high school graduation in Texas. The legislation replaced the existing graduation programs with the Foundation High School Program and included the option for students to earn endorsements, a distinguished level of achievement, and performance acknowledgements within the new program.

    Review the complete House Bill 5 Evaluation Report here.


    October 20, 2015

    Health care town hall: how to participate in the interactive Q&A sessions

    During the Teacher Retirement System's town hall meeting Thursday, there will be two interactive Q&A sessions, one on the health care environment and cost trends, and the other specific to TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare. How can you participate?

    If you attend the Austin meeting, you can submit questions on the cards provided or use Facebook or Twitter.

    Webcast audience members can submit questions through:

    • the internet link on the webcast homepage.
    • Twitter at @trsoftexas. For TRS-Care questions, use #trscare. For TRS-ActiveCare questions, use #trsactivecare. For all other questions, use #trstownhall.
    • Facebook by commenting directly to the TRS Health Care Town Hall post.
    TRS will publish FAQs on the TRS website to address questions not answered during the Q&A. Please do not submit questions regarding personal health situations, as those cannot be discussed in this forum. 
    Read more here.

    October 20, 2015

    South Carolina flood relief efforts 

    South Carolina has experienced a historic flood, and although water levels have begun to recede, many people struggle to overcome heart-breaking personal losses and continue to reside in temporary emergency housing. 

    South Carolina Education Association has received numerous phone calls and emails from NEA members, wanting to know how they can help; SCEA believes the best vehicle is United Way


    October 19, 2015

    TSTA represented on T-TESS Steering Committee

    Pflugerville Educators Association President August Plock is serving on the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) Steering Committee For Commissioner Rules Chapter 150. Their first meeting was today; see photos here


    October 19, 2015

    Nominations are in order for five awards

    TSTA needs your help to find social justice activists, outstanding association representatives and upcoming leaders, great local communication efforts, and excellent media coverage of education events and issues. Do you know a person or organization that should be honored?

    • The Social Justice Patriot Award acknowledges professional and human rights activities. The honoree can be a Texas educator, a TSTA local or regional association, or an individual or association that is deemed a friend of education.
    • All-Star ARs are exemplary TSTA association representatives or campus leaders. They engage members at their worksite; encourage volunteerism; help identify new leaders; lead organizing campaigns; assist members with problems; and inform local leaders of issues and concerns at their worksites.
    • Leaders for Tomorrow demonstrate such characteristics as good listening and communication skills, being enthusiastic team players, and assisting with organizing campaigns. 
    • Pride in Communications Awards are presented for outstanding local or regional newsletters or websites. 
    • School Bell Awards recognize outstanding media coverage of education issues and events. This includes newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations, and electronic media. Twelve awards were presented in 2015.

    School Bell Award nominations are due January 31; all others are due at the beginning of March. Please visit tsta.org/news-center/awards-grants for more information. 


    October 17, 2015

    TSTA Committees are in the house!

    TSTA's state committees are meeting this weekend in Austin. See the photos here.


    October 16, 2015

    TEA to reduce length of 2016 STAAR tests

    From TEA: Commissioner of Education Michael Williams today notified school districts and charters that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will reduce the length of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) in grades 3–8 for the 2016 spring administrations.

    “House Bill 743, which was passed by the Legislature earlier this year, requires STAAR assessments be designed so 85 percent of students can complete the grades 3–5 assessments in two hours and 85 percent of students can complete the grades 6–8 assessments in three hours,” said Commissioner Williams. “The steps I’m announcing for the coming school year are merely the first as TEA works to meet the legislative requirements while also balancing the validity and reliability of each assessment.”

    To meet this legislative requirements of HB 743, TEA will take the following actions in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years:

    For 2016 only, TEA will remove all currently-embedded field-test questions for STAAR grades 3–8, which will reduce the length of each assessment by five to eight questions.  

    TEA has also redesigned the 2016 STAAR grades 4 and 7 writing tests so they will be completed in one four-hour administration.

    In addition, Commissioner Williams advised that TEA will also collect detailed data during the spring 2016 test administration on the time it takes students to complete the assessments. That data will then be used to determine how to adjust the STAAR grades 3–8 assessments for spring 2017 testing to more precisely meet the testing time requirements of HB 743.

    To read Commissioner Williams’ letter to school districts, visit http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Correspondence/TAA_Letters/Reduction_of_Number_of_Questions,_State_of_Texas_Assessments_of_Academic_Readiness_%28STAAR®%29_Grades_3–8_Assessments.


    October 15, 2015

    Health care town hall is next week

    Here’s the agenda for the Teacher Retirement System’s Oct. 22 town hall meeting on educator health care. TSTA will participate in the 2:30 p.m. association panel. Remember, you don’t have to be in Austin to watch the proceedings or ask questions. You can participate by email, Twitter, and Facebook as well. Watch for details and instructions on the TRS website, www.trs.state.tx.us.


    October 15, 2015

    Texas education commissioner to resign

    The media is reporting today that state Education Commissioner Michael Williams has informed Gov. Abbott that he will be resigning at the end of the year. Abbott will appoint a successor. Williams was appointed to the education post in 2012 by former Gov. Rick Perry.

    TSTA President Noel Candelaria issued the following statement: “We wish Commissioner Williams well in his future endeavors. The Texas Education Agency faced many challenges under his watch, as the legislative majority slashed the state education budget while excessive standardized testing drew the wrath of parents and educators.

    “The Texas State Teachers Association urges the governor to listen to the vast majority of Texans and appoint a commissioner who will advocate for a greater investment in our public schools and policies that will end punitive standardized testing that robs teachers and students of the time they need for real teaching and learning,” Candelaria said.

    He was quoted in the Texas Tribune article: http://www.texastribune.org/2015/10/15/education-commissioner-williams-resigning-years-en/


    October 14, 2015

    Take the pledge to end student hunger

    Across the country, NEA members just like you are working to do their part to help fight the growing problem of hunger in the classroom. In support of your efforts, Bank of America will make a $1 contribution on your behalf, up to $50,000. Just log in or register to make your click count. Each NEA member can make their click count only once. Proceeds will go to the Challenge to End Student Hunger. http://www.neamb.com/fightstudenthunger.htm


    October 13, 2015

    Teacher wellness and instructional practices survey

    A Philadelphia university is conducting a study of the impact state achievement tests and recent changes to curricular standards have had on teachers, students, and schools. They hope to help policymakers, administrators, and educators understand the influence of these policies on teacher well-being and instructional practice, ultimately leading to enhanced school climate and improved student outcomes. http://tinyurl.com/TEXASteachersurvey


    October 12, 2015

    Cross-Site Convening

    Each fall, more than 200 education leaders join union-district teams from the NEA Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps and Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning initiatives in Washington, DC, to engage in powerful discussions led by nationally renowned thought leaders, and, most importantly, work collaboratively to apply this knowledge to inform their work plans to improve learning conditions and student performance at home. Watch video clips here: http://www.neafoundation.org/pages/cross-site-convening.


    October 7, 2015

    NEA on National Bullying Prevention Month

    Recognizing the enormous physical, emotional, and academic toll that bullying can take on students, the National Education Association, during National Bulling Prevention Month, is ramping up efforts to raise awareness and engage all adults—especially among educators—in stopping bullying whenever or where it occurs and to make the nation’s schools and classrooms safe, bully-free environments for all students. http://www.nea.org/home/64119.htm


    October 6, 2015

    Commissioner proposes revising STAAR phase-in 

    Commissioner of Education Michael Williams today advised school districts and charters of his recommendation to replace the current phase-in schedule for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) student passing standards with a revised approach.

    Under new proposed rules from the Commissioner, the traditional phase-in approach would be replaced with a standard progression approach from 2015–2016 through 2021–2022, the year final standards are scheduled to be in place. In other words, rather than larger jumps to more rigorous performance standards every few years, this progression approach would mean smaller, predictable increases every year through the 2021–2022 school year.

    http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Press_Releases/2015/Commissioner_Williams_announces_STAAR_performance_standards_for_2015-2016_and_beyond


    October 6, 2015

    Candelaria: the cost of increasing standards but not resources

    The standardized tests Texas students take in grades 3-8 will be harder to pass, Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced last weekend at the Texas Association of School Boards Conference. 

    Television station KLBK-13 in Lubbock asked TSTA President Noel Candelaria for his take on the issue.

    “We are setting not only our students up, we’re setting our schools up for failure,” Candelaria said. 

    The state is raising standards for test scores but teachers and schools still aren’t getting the resources they need, he explained. “We are focusing on the symptoms not the cause.” 

    Candelaria said his own daughter didn’t want to start third grade because she knew that’s when statewide testing starts. “No child at any age should feel that way about going to school,” he said. “School should be an opportunity and a place for joy and learning.” Read more here

    The background: On Monday, the Texas Education Agency issued this statement:  "During his appearance at the TASA/TASB conference this weekend, Commissioner Williams confirmed that the STAAR passing standard for the coming school year will increase. The announced move should not have been a surprise to superintendents because the state has been at Level I for the past four years and the Commissioner had already advised several months ago that the state would be moving to the next higher standard." Read more here.


    October 6, 2015

    Teaching math to young children

    This free workshop will provide hands-on experience in applying the evidence‑based recommendations in the Teaching Math to Young Children practice guide produced by the What Works Clearinghouse. The Austin workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 16. http://relsouthwest.sedl.org/bridge_events/2015-11-16_prekmath2/index.html


    October 5, 2015

    NEA joins Harvard-led partnership to transform teaching profession 

    The Transforming Teaching Project, a Harvard Graduate School of Education-based initiative allied with education organizations across the nation, today released a white paper offering a comprehensive analysis of the problems with American teaching and detailing 12 Design Challenges to transform the teaching field.  The white paper, entitled From Quicksand to Solid Ground: Building a Foundation to Support Quality Teaching, and written by Harvard Graduate School of Education associate professor Jal Mehta and his colleagues, argues for the development of a reliable and integrated set of mechanisms—a functioning system—to build teachers’ knowledge, skills, and expertise. The paper’s authors also challenge the education sector to codify current and future research and practical knowledge about quality teaching to improve teacher effectiveness in every classroom and to advance the field of education overall. The paper is the result of a two-year effort to assess the state of the field, drawing on interviews with 60 sector leaders and 25 teachers, and initial pressure testing of ideas with several hundred educators.

    “The quality of a teacher is the most critical school-based factor in student success. But we do not have a reliable system to build teachers knowledge, skills, and expertise,” Mehta said.  “These 12 Design Challenges are critical first steps toward transforming the teaching field into one that is professional, consistently high-quality, rewarding, and revered.”  

    The paper has been endorsed by those seeking to improve and professionalize teaching across the political spectrum. Organizational endorsers include the NEA, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the National Commission for Teaching and America’s Future, Deans for Impact, and Teach Plus. Individual endorsements include Norman Atkins, president of the Relay Graduate School of Education; Orin Gutlerner and Michael Goldstein, founding directors of Match Education; and Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute and professor emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.


    October 3, 2015

    NEA supports Clinton in Democratic primary

    NEA President Lily Eskelsen García announced today that the largest labor union in the country will support Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary for president of the United States.

    “Clinton is a strong leader who will do what is best for America’s students,” Garcia said. “For more than four decades, Clinton has fought to make sure all children have a fair opportunity to succeed regardless of their ZIP code. Clinton will continue to advocate on behalf of students, educators and working families because she understands the road to a stronger U.S. economy starts in America’s public schools.”

    “The teachers and educators of the NEA shape our future,” said Clinton, upon learning of the Association’s support. “By opening new horizons for children, they spark new ideas, innovations, and industries. Our educators are the frontline fighters building a stronger and more prosperous America--and I know it is not an easy job. NEA members work hard every day to provide the education and support our children need to grow and prosper. I know from personal experience that a teacher can make a profound difference in a child's life. My mother had a difficult and painful childhood, and when she didn't have enough to eat, her first-grade teacher noticed--and quietly shared her own lunch. Decades later, I am grateful to that teacher every day.”

    Clinton is committed to giving educators a stronger voice in making a difference for their students. She has a proven record as a supporter of public education and working families that goes back decades, evidenced by her work at the Children’s Defense Fund, as the first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, and, as a U.S. senator, she earned an “A” ranking in NEA’s Congressional Report Card. She also earned NEA’s highest honor, the Friend of Education Award, at its 1999 convention.

    “I’ve stood with educators throughout my career--from my early days working at the Children's Defense Fund to my success creating a new teacher recruitment program in the Senate,” said Clinton. “As President, I will fight to defend workers’ right to organize and unions’ right to bargain collectively, and I will ensure that teachers always have a voice and a seat at the table in making decisions that impact their work. I will fight to raise incomes and to ensure that hardworking Americans can retire with dignity and security. We have to make sure that every family in America doesn’t just survive, but thrives. I’m honored to stand with the National Education Association to support teachers and education support professionals and grow our economy.”

    Clinton will reduce the role of standardized tests in public education because she agrees with educators that no bubble test can measure a student’s curiosity. Teachers need more time to teach and students need more time for learning.

    Read more here: http://www.nea.org/home/64092.htm


    October 2, 2015

    TSTA leaders walked the halls of Congress this week

    ...and visited Texas lawmakers during NEA Super Week. Thanks to Congressman Castro for meeting with our #‎TeamTSTA leaders, TSTA Vice President Ovidia Molina, NEA Director Jessica Powell, and NEA ESP-At Large Karen Barnes.


    October 2, 2015

    TSTA, Killeen presidents speak at meeting on advocating for special needs kids

    Excerpts from an article in the Killeen Daily Herald: About 120 parents, educators and district administrative officials attended a forum on special education Tuesday, hearing from experts on ways to better advocate for special-needs children in and out of the classroom.

    In response to community concerns in the area of special education, the Killeen Daily Herald partnered with Austin-based The Cuddy Law Firm with the goal of educating the community on an often-confusing topic....

    Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, turned the focus away from the district and onto state and federal public education funding disparities. Without proper funding, he said, school districts often cannot properly staff campuses with the qualified educators needed to educate special-needs children.

    “We all have a responsibility to hold each other accountable to ensure that our children — who are the future of our community — have what they need. When we all work together with the child’s best interest at heart, we can do great things for every child.”

    After an in-depth critical look of the school district’s “low-trust behaviors” in response to the special education “crisis,” Killeen Educators Association President Richard Beaule reminded the audience that a vote is often all it takes to create change.

    “To our friends in the community who are here tonight — you are the ultimate deciders of right and wrong. Your tools for doing so are your presence, your voice, and perhaps most importantly, your vote.” http://kdhnews.com/news/education/experts-offer-advice-to-parents-kisd-teachers-administrators/article_b7fa833c-672b-11e5-9a73-2b2fcdbf8232.html


    October 1, 2015

    Oregon Education Association, NEA presidents react to school shooting

    Oregon Education Association President Hanna Vaandering and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García provided the following joint statement in reaction to the tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon:

    “OEA and NEA represent nearly 250 faculty and staff members at Umpqua Community College. What happened there today is unthinkable, and we are simply devastated.  We are still learning details, but dozens of students and at least one of our members, a part time faculty member at the college, were inside the classroom when today’s senseless shooting occurred.  Our hearts ache for the students, faculty, staff, and families at the college, and we extend our deepest sympathies to everyone there, most especially, the victims’ families. Educators are prepared to assist in any way as the Roseburg community, and indeed the entire nation, grieves and copes with this tragedy.”

    NEA Healthy Futures provides The School Crisis Guide, which can be used to both prepare for a crisis of this nature, and respond to the aftermath.


    October 1, 2015

    #TEACHNATGEO list: kindergarten memories

    Teachers and classrooms leave students with memories that last a lifetime. The start of the new school year has National Geographic staffers reminiscing about their first year of school. Share yours! 


    September 29, 2015

    Texas secures conditional ESEA waiver for 2015-2016

    AUSTIN – Commissioner of Education Michael Williams was notified today by the U.S. Department of Education that the department has approved the state’s request for renewal of flexibility from specific provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, through the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

    However, federal officials also stated that the state must meet specific conditions to continue ESEA flexibility beyond 2015-2016, placing Texas on "high-risk status." ESEA flexibility beyond this school year would be dependent on the state meeting specific conditions that would require statewide use of specific teacher and principal evaluation and support systems, as well as utilizing them to inform personnel decisions at the local level.
    Though Commissioner Williams welcomed approval of the waiver, he said the state is not changing its position on allowing local school districts to make decisions on using evaluation systems of their choosing.

    "Throughout the waiver application process, I have made it clear to federal officials that I do not have nor will I ever seek the authority to compel local school districts to use one uniform teacher and principal evaluation system statewide," said Commissioner Williams. "Our state believes strongly in local control of our schools. As a result, we will continue discussing this specific point with the U.S. Department of Education, but they should not expect any shift in Texas’ position."

    According to the approval letter, Texas must demonstrate how the state will ensure all school districts and charters implement teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that meet ESEA requirements, including the use of growth in student learning as a significant factor. Federal education officials also seek a statewide approach to measuring growth in student learning based on state assessments for those teachers of tested grades and subjects. Finally, the U.S. Department of Education expects Texas districts and charters to utilize those teacher and principal evaluations for personnel decisions beginning in 2016-2017.
    Federal officials have given the state until Jan. 15, 2016, to meet the conditions.

    Texas may also request reconsideration of its high-risk status, but must do so by Oct. 9. Commissioner Williams said the state will seek that reconsideration. To date, Texas and South Dakota are the only states in the current round of renewals granted a federal waiver with a high-risk designation.
    Commissioner Williams noted that federal officials are aware that – separate from the waiver process – the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been working with schools districts and the regional Education Service Centers to develop new teacher and principal evaluation and support systems with the intent of offering it as a resource to improve instruction. During the 2014-2015 school year, TEA piloted these systems in 64 school districts and 430 campuses across the state. : As part of the refinement phase, 256 districts and approximately 2,000 campuses statewide are implementing the systems this school year.

    "Statewide rollout of our new state-approved appraisal system would occur in 2016-2017, but would not be mandatory," said Commissioner Williams. "I believe a majority of our school districts representing roughly 85 percent of the state’s student population would make use of these new appraisal systems. However, that choice will be made at the local level, not by the federal government."

    The State of Texas secured a conditional waiver from the U.S. Department of Education in 2013 giving the Texas Education Agency and more than 1,200 school districts and charters relief from certain ESEA provisions. However, the waiver was granted provisionally as USDE reviewed specifics related to new teacher and principal evaluation systems in Texas.

    Under key components of the state’s waiver, Texas schools are no longer designated as having met or made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Instead of federal ratings of designations for all schools in Texas, only the lowest performing 15 percent of schools are identified as Priority or Focus Schools. Those schools are subject to a series of federally-prescribed interventions.

    Additionally, Texas school districts are no longer required to set aside 20 percent of their Title I federal dollars to provide Supplemental Educational Services (SES) for students at low-performing campuses. A district is now free to use those funds on academic intervention programs it deems most effective for its students.

    To view all materials related to the state’s waiver request (including the Sept. 29 letter from the U.S. Department of Education),  visit the Texas Education Agency website at http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Waivers/NCLB-ESEA_Waiver_Information.

    25 Texas schools receive 2015 national Blue Ribbon honors

    AUSTIN – Earlier this year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) nominated more than 20 Texas public schools for national 2015 Blue Ribbon Schools recognition. Founded in 1982, Blue Ribbon Schools is a U.S. Department of Education program that recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at very high levels.

    The U.S. Department of Education announced today that 25 schools nominated by TEA have been awarded Blue Ribbon honors for 2015. The schools in Texas include the following:
     
    •    Aldine ISD – Victory Early College High School
    •    Amarillo ISD – South Lawn Elementary School
    •    Austin ISD – Blackshear Elementary School
    •    Canyon ISD – Canyon Intermediate School
    •    Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD – Country Place Elementary School
    •    Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD – Kent Elementary School
    •    Crawford ISD – Crawford Elementary School
    •    Dallas ISD – Harry Stone Montessori Academy
    •    Dallas ISD – Trinidad Garza Early College High School
    •    El Paso ISD – Lamar Elementary School
    •    Falls City ISD – Falls City Elementary School
    •    Garland ISD – Kimberlin Academy for Excellence
    •    Grandview ISD – Grandview Elementary School
    •    Harper ISD – Harper Middle School
    •    Highland ISD – Highland School
    •    Houston ISD – North Houston Early College High School
    •    Klondike ISD – Klondike ISD
    •    Los Fresnos ISD – Olmito Elementary School
    •    Malakoff ISD – Malakoff Elementary School
    •    McAllen ISD – Achieve Early College High School
    •    Mt. Vernon ISD – Mt. Vernon Intermediate School
    •    Roma ISD – F.J. Scott Elementary School
    •    San Antonio ISD – Young Women’s Leadership Academy
    •    South Texas ISD – South Texas Preparatory Academy
    •    Vega ISD – Vega Elementary School

    “National Blue Ribbon recognition for these campuses is well deserved and reflects the hard work of teachers and students in our communities,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “It is also indicative of the strong education efforts taking place in classrooms throughout our state.”

    All schools were selected as exemplary high performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Each school has an economically disadvantaged population of 25 percent or greater.

    The nominated schools completed a rigorous application process through the U.S. Department of Education. Schools that receive the award are recognized at the Blue Ribbon School conference in Washington, D.C.

    For more information about the national Blue Ribbon Schools program, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/index.html.


    September 25, 2015

    TRS provides more details for Oct. 22 health care meeting

    TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie today announced more details for the Oct. 22  town hall-style meeting on educator health care. The meeting will take place at TRS but will be moved from the board room to the cafeteria to accommodate more people.

    Tentatively, the meeting is supposed to feature a discussion and panels on national health care trends in the morning, with the afternoon session to include panels on TRS-ActiveCare and Care. One afternoon panel will include a TSTA representative discussing the ActiveCare and Care challenges facing our members.
    Questions will be taken from audience members in the room, as well as by email, Twitter, and Facebook. Guthrie will moderate the meeting. TSTA will provide more details as we learn them.

    In a two-day quarterly board meeting that ended today, TRS reported that the Pension Trust fund had a rate of return of -0.001. For the last quarter, the Pension Trust Fund had a rate of return of -0.03. The negative rates of return are due to the recent volatility of the market.


    September 21, 2015

    Nominate someone -- or yourself -- for an H-E-B Award

    H‑E‑B Excellence in Education Awards honor outstanding public school professionals. Nomination deadline is Nov. 1. 


    September 21, 2015

    Help H-E-B collect a million books

    Since 2011, H‑E‑B has donated nearly 3 million books to children in need. Help them collect another million during their book drive Sept. 16- 29. Donate new or gently used children's books at the donation bin in your neighborhood store. https://www.heb.com/static-page/Read-3-Help-Grow-Young-Minds


    September 21, 2015

    Know of a great environmental project?

    Applications for the Texas Environmental Excellence Awards will be accepted through Oct. 9. 


    September 18, 2015

    Nominations due for science teacher awards

    Nominate an outstanding science teacher for Texas Medical Association’s Ernest and Sarah Butler Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. Three Texas science teachers will receive $5,000 each and their schools will receive $2,000; nominations are due Oct. 26.  www.texmed.org/teachers


    September 16, 2015

    TRS news: town hall on health care, new London office

    The Oct. 22 board meeting of the TRS trustees will be a town hall meeting in Austin on the state of educator health care coverage and the challenges facing TRS ActiveCare. Last session, TSTA worked closely with Rep. Cesar Blanco and Sen. Jose Rodriguez in support of their legislation that would have doubled the state contribution for health care coverage from $75 to $150 a month for school employees in the TRS system. Since the session, TSTA and other educator and educational organizations have pressed the TRS Board to seek additional state funds to make that increase possible.

    The town hall, which will include opportunities for you to participate without being physically present, is expected to last the entire day, much like the town hall in Corpus Christi a year and a half ago. TSTA will be participating in one of the panels being assembled for the meeting.

    Here's a video announcing the town hall meeting; scroll to 6:17. Please stay tuned for more details on the Oct. 22 meeting as they come available.

    At the TRS board’s upcoming meeting, Sept. 24-25 in Austin, staff will present a status report on the London office TRS is opening, its first international office, which is expected to increase the number of investment opportunities. http://www.trs.state.tx.us/about/news_releases/trs_opening_london_office.pdf


    September 15, 2015

    Get up to $3K for your high school sports department

    Public high schools across the nation can score up to $3,000 for their sports departments with a California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant. California Casualty, provider of the NEA® Auto & Home Insurance Program, is providing $100,000 to offset budget cuts that have affected high school athletics.  Details and entry forms can be found at www.calcasathleticsgrant.com. Applications must be received by Jan. 15 for 2015/2016 consideration. 


    September 15, 2015

    Seattle school strike talks reach 'tentative agreement'

    Both sides of talks to end a Seattle teachers' strike that has idled the city's 53,000 public school students for nearly a week said on Tuesday that they have reached a "tentative agreement." 


    September 15, 2015

    Grants for bullying, genocide education

    The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission is still accepting applications for its Educator Grant for the 2015-2016 school year. These grants -- of up to $1,000 for up to 10 educators or educational institutions -- can be used towards projects that further civic or social responsibility. Previous grants have helped schools develop anti-bullying campaigns, address local social issues, create genocide education projects, and take field trips to various Texas Holocaust museums. Applications are due by Sept. 30. You can find the application, procedures, and guidelines at http://thgc.texas.gov/grants/educators-grant.


    September 14, 2015

    Striking in Seattle

    This solidarity statement is circulating: "We, the undersigned stand in solidarity with 5,000 striking members of Seattle Education Association (SEA). These brave educators are taking this action in the face of growing privatization, increased standardized testing, and persistent inequality in public schooling. The educators’ demands would improve public schooling for everyone. They are demanding competitive pay, fair evaluations, less standardized testing, and end to systematic racial discrimination in student disciplinary actions. The union also represents school counselors and psychologists, and demands that their caseloads be capped, so that they can give students the individual attention they deserve. SEA is bargaining for quality education for their students, but in more than 20 meetings with the district prior to the strike vote, all of these demands were rejected...."

    Read more and add your name at http://brianpjones.tumblr.com/post/129078492460/solidaritywithseattlestrike.


    September 14, 2015

    Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

    September 15 — October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. You can find lessons, activities, videos, and more at http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/hispanic-heritage-month.html.


    September 12, 2015

    TSTA Board of Directors meets

    Your TSTA Board of Directors is meeting in Austin this weekend. See photos.


    September 10, 2015

    ASCD: It's what you don't say that counts

    One of the most effective questioning strategies that I used in my classroom did not need a professional development workshop, did not have books written about it, and used no high-tech hardware or software. In fact, it was not so much about questioning as it was about what to do after questioning. From the ASCD website


    September 8, 2015

    ESEA on agenda as Congress returns

    Fresh off a five-week summer sabbatical, members of Congress confront a handful of pressing education issues, high among them brokering a path forward for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization, w