Texas’ third called special session has begun
In theory, the 2021 cycle of redistricting is about revising district boundaries to evenly distribute Texas’ fast-growing population and ensure voters have fair representation. But with the mapmaking in the hands of politicians, and their individual electoral survival at stake, it has also become an exercise in political rigging. That exercise will formally begin when the Legislature convenes for a special legislative session to redraw the state’s maps for Congress, the Texas House and Senate and the State Board of Education to account for a decade’s worth of growth recorded in the 2020 census.
The Texas Legislature’s third special session of 2021 is intended to focus on redistricting, however, nothing prevents the governor from adding additional legislative priorities to the agenda. Keep an eye out for TSTA legislative action alerts to keep on top of issues impacting public education at the Capitol.
Let our communities decide how to keep our students safe
Nobody loves wearing a mask, but in the face of lackluster vaccination rates and absent a vaccine for children under 12, masks are the next best thing to protect the most vulnerable among us from the deadly and rampant delta variant of COVID-19. But in a continuation of politically motivated dictates in response to the pandemic, Governor Abbott has forbidden school districts and local health officials from making the hard choices that can help keep our students safe in schools. Together we have the power to demand that mask requirements be subject to local control so that communities have the flexibility to respond to outbreaks.
We agree that mask wearing is a distant second to vaccination in protecting against COVID infection, but absent a vaccine for children under 12, a mask will have to do, as the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.
Contact Governor Abbott today to urge him to rescind his shortsighted blanket prohibition on mask mandates. This is a decision best left to the communities and districts most impacted by the pandemic.
Texas students deserve to learn the truth about our history
As educators and public education allies, we know that students who learn about the past from teachers and materials that teach the truth about the most desperate and uncomfortable aspects of our history have the best chance of creating a more equal and inclusive future. We all want our kids to be prepared to confront hard truths with integrity.
But the legislators who push bills like SB 3 do a disservice to our students. They are seeking to remove lessons that meaningfully engage in civics, history, social studies and current events to academically disadvantage students in Texas, and to block kids from learning about our shared stories of confronting injustice and building a more perfect union. It’s no accident that the same legislators who seek to silence the voices of our past are also attempting to silence our voices today and the future voices of our students by restricting our ability to vote.
We know that we can’t avoid or lie our way through our challenges; we must find age-appropriate ways to tell the truth about our past and present to prepare our kids to create a better future. Joining together, we can demand that our schools have the resources to provide our students with well-trained and supported teachers and a curriculum that helps them reckon with and reshape our nation.
Governor Greg Abbott Announces Special Session Date
Governor Greg Abbott announced that he will convene a special legislative session on July 8, 2021, agenda items will be announced prior to the convening of the special session. Abbott has already said that he plans to ask state lawmakers to work on two priority elections and bail bills that died in the final hours of the regular legislative session after House Democrats walked out of the chamber.
87th Legislature resources
Check out our resource page to learn more about TSTA’s stance on the public education topics the Legislature took up this most recent session.
ActiveCare will now include four PPO options: the new ActiveCare Primary, ActiveCare HD (formerly 1-HD), ActiveCare Primary + (formerly Select) and ActiveCare 2, which is closed to new enrollees. There also will be three HMOs covering some regions of the state. The TRS board approved provider changes in February and the new premiums at its meeting last Friday.
Depending on your selected plan and coverage options (individual, family, etc.), some members will see reductions in your premiums, and others will see increases. The size of the contribution your school district makes to your insurance premium also will be a factor. You can compare the new premiums and previous premiums by plan and coverage option here.
The new premiums and other changes will go into effect Sept. 1 for the 2020-21 school year.
TRS Chief Healthcare Officer Katrina Daniels said the reengineered ActiveCare plans and structural changes were based on school district and member feedback collected over the past year. She said changes were made possible by savings realized through negotiating a new vendor contract. Based on the feedback, Daniel said, the new plans will eliminate regional boundaries and offer statewide or nationwide networks as well as provide lower individual deductibles for family plans so the plan begins to pay for each participant’s medical costs faster.
During its February meeting, the board approved one of the largest health care procurements ever undertaken by TRS, awarding the TRS-ActiveCare contract to Blue Cross Blue Shield.
New election dates
The May 26 primary election runoffs will be delayed until July in response to the growing outbreak of the new coronavirus in Texas under an order signed by Governor Greg Abbott.
Abbott signed the postponement under the emergency powers of his previous statewide disaster declaration. Dozens of runoffs are ongoing for party nominations to congressional and local offices. The most prominent is the contest between former Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar and state Sen. Royce West of Dallas for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
The primary runoff elections are now scheduled for July 14; early voting will begin July 6.
The election to replace retiring state Sen. Kirk Watson (District 14), an Austin Democrat leaving office at the end of April, has also been moved to July 14, although in this election early voting will begin June 29.
The governor also issued a proclamation to allow municipalities to delay local elections scheduled for May 2 until November. Notably, individual municipalities will still have to act to postpone their elections, though Abbott “strongly encouraged” local election officials to take advantage of the waivers and reschedule their elections.
Be a convention delegate for your presidential candidate
The political party conventions are important parts of the presidential nominating process where delegates also participate in writing party platforms. Educator delegates can ensure that strong support of public education, educators and students remain key issues during this election year.
The Texas Democratic Convention will be a pro-forma event hosted virtually, and the Democratic Party plans to delay its National Convention in Milwaukee from July until mid-August to increase the chance that the party can hold an in-person gathering. More information will follow. Here are the steps in becoming a Democratic delegate.
The Texas Republican Convention, which is planned for Houston, will likely occur July 13-18 instead of May 11-16. Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey recommended the change in convention dates. His decision must be approved by the party’s executive committee in April. The Republican National Convention will be in Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 24-27. Here are the steps in the Republican delegate selection process for the state convention. Delegates to the national convention will be chosen at the state convention.
Read the above links first about qualifying for the state conventions and then plan to participate in one of two online information sessions that NEA will be hosting to discuss the role of delegates and how to become one. NEA staff will answer questions and discuss what assistance NEA is willing to offer to members. NEA has developed a guide to help you decide whether being a delegate is right for you, and help you navigate the process.
Pro-public education group hosting candidate forums
Raise Your Hand Texas will be hosting more than 40 non-partisan, public education-focused candidate forums around the state within the next month before the March 3 party primaries. To find a forum near you, use this link. Take advantage of this opportunity to ask candidates for the Legislature or the State Board of Education from your area about their priorities for public schools.
- Texas House candidates to appear at two Collin County forums
- State representatives to discuss public education in Amarillo town hall meeting Thursday
- Thursday candidate forum in Cleburne to be education focused
TSTA issues endorsements in March 3 primary races
These endorsements in legislative, congressional and State Board of Education races include both Democrats and Republicans, and they are based on one issue — the candidates’ views on public education. The election of pro-public education candidates is essential if educators are going to have the political support and resources necessary for student success. Read more
Want to be a delegate to your political party’s state and/or national convention next year?
It is important that educators be delegates to the Democratic and Republican state and national conventions next summer to help ensure that public education is a central issue in the 2020 presidential race and state races. Download TSTA’s flyer to learn more about becoming a delegate to your political party’s state and/or national convention.
Voters approve Proposition 4, but TSTA scores some victories
Trying to kill Proposition 4 on the constitutional amendments ballot was always an uphill battle because of longstanding opposition in Texas to a state income tax, and in the end the proposal was adopted, 76 percent to 24 percent, in Tuesday’s election. On a positive note, Proposition 7, which was endorsed by TSTA, was approved, 73 percent to 27 percent.
All in all, it was a short-sighted vote promoted by state leaders who are under-funding state government now and were happy to play politics with Texas’ future. Read more
TSTA urges votes against Proposition 4 and for Proposition 7
TSTA opposes Proposition 4 because it is anti-education, is unnecessary and, if adopted, will remove a constitutional source of future dedicated funding for public schools. Under Proposition 4, any future attempt to create an income tax would require a new constitutional amendment that would first have to be approved by two-thirds of the Texas House and state Senate, and legislators would not have to use the money on education. They could designate the revenue for any purpose, including tax breaks for wealthy corporations. Read more
Chapter 37 student discipline updates
During its recent session, the Legislature made a number of changes to laws governing student codes of conduct and procedures, and the Texas Education Agency has analyzed these changes in correspondence to school districts. These new laws covered by TEA make changes to Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code that will impact districts in the 2019-20 school year. Read more
HB 3 analysis
School finance and teacher pay commanded a lot of attention during the recent session of the Texas Legislature, but years of neglect weren’t reversed overnight. The end result, House Bill 3, is a mixed bag for educators and their students. It’s also an enormous bag. The bill runs 300 pages and touches on dozens of aspects of public education, including pre-K, dyslexia identification, teacher certification and much more. As TSTA parses this new law we will post our analysis of key provisions here.
TRS legislative wrap-up
The major legislation passed this session impacting TRS, SB 12, is intended to stabilize the pension fund for retirees going forward, and includes a one-time 13th check not to exceed $2,000 to be issued by September 2020 to eligible retirees (those retired on or before December 31, 2018). Read more
86th Legislature wrap-up
You made a difference! TSTA thanks everyone who marched to the polls, rallied at the Capitol, responded to our Action Alerts and contacted their state legislators during the session. Read more
Report from the Capitol
TSTA works hard to monitor the activity of the Legislature and the committees that deliberate the legislation that is critical to public school students and educators.
- May 9 House Floor report
- April 30 House Public Education report
- March 18 testimony to House Appropriations Committee
- March 12 written testimony on House Bill 3
- February 7 House Public Education Committee hears testimony from TEA and school finance commission
- February 5 response to the governor’s State of the State address
- January 30 report on House Public Education committee
6 steps to boost your advocacy for students and public schools
It’s time to take stock of what’s important to us, what is worth speaking out about and protecting. Whether it’s health care, nutrition and safe communities or ensuring every student has a caring, qualified teacher and education support professionals, a well-rounded curriculum and inviting classes small enough for one-on-one attention, we are deeply committed to the success of every student. Here are six ways to stand up for students and public schools.
TRS Pension, Health Care Briefing Materials
TRS Pension, Health Care briefing materials provide updates, detailed information regarding the status of the TRS defined benefit pension fund and the TRS Care and ActiveCare health care plans.
Find out who represents you
Type in your address to find out who represents you in the Texas Senate, Texas House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and State Board of Education.
Contribute to TSTA-PAC
Because TSTA dues money cannot be used to elect public officials, we must count on our members making contributions to our political action committee. Together, we can change the future, and it’s easy to contribute! Become a continuing contributor or make a one-time contribution.