Home » News Center » Education news
banner

Education news

May 21, 2019

Principles to guide Austin school closures

Principles that will guide how to tackle school closures have been adopted by Austin ISD trustees. District leaders have said the goals are aimed at taking a districtwide approach toward closures and to ensure schools aren’t consolidated primarily because they have low enrollment. Furthermore, the principles also ensure students have equitable access to academic programs and families continue to have the ability to choose other school programs across the district. Read more

DeVos used personal emails for work

Betsy DeVos used her personal email accounts for official business in “limited” cases, according to an internal investigation, leaving the Education Secretary open to criticism. The Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General surveyed DeVos and 51 other political appointees “to determine whether the officials and the Secretary received the Department’s records management training and used their personal email and/or messaging accounts to conduct government business.” Read more


May 17, 2019

Cruz calls on Congress to make schools safer

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has introduced two bills aimed at protecting students in the classroom from danger. During a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, one year on from the Santa Fe High School shooting that saw 10 people killed and 13 others injured, Sen. Cruz said the “unspeakable act of evil” not only shook the Santa Fe community, but Texas and the entire country. The School Security Enhancement Act would allow school districts to apply for grants that would provide funding for things like metal detectors, bulletproofing doors and windows, and provide more training to school police officers. He also introduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act, which aims to strengthen the nation’s criminal background system and provide stronger laws to prosecute felons who try to buy guns.


May 15, 2019

Stabilizing the TRS pension fund

In this video, retired teacher Donna Haschke, a former TSTA president, tells why it is important that the state pay for the cost of stabilizing the TRS pension fund and providing a much-needed 13th check for retirees. Donna refers to House Bill 9, which now is the House version of Senate Bill 12. Watch video


May 8, 2019

Comparison of Senate and House versions of HB3

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the Senate and House versions of HB3, the school finance bill. It was prepared by Raise Your Hand Texas. A conference committee will try to negotiate the differences and write a final version of the bill.


May 7, 2019

Uncertainty remains over school finance bill

The Texas Senate has approved a bill to overhaul public school finance, but without utilising an increased sales tax to lower school district property taxes. The Senate voted 26-2 in favour of House Bill 3 on Monday, which under the version passed by the upper chamber would increase student funding, give teachers and librarians a $5,000 pay raise, fund full-day pre-K for low-income students, and lower tax bills. However the Senate opted to remove provisions from HB 3 that could have made reductions to property taxes contingent upon an increase to the state sales tax. The House and Senate still have to negotiate significant differences over the bill, including how to actually fund teacher pay raises and property tax relief. Read more

Feds heading to Texas to monitor special education

As part of the ongoing review into how the state violated federal education law by failing to provide students with disabilities with a proper education, officials from the U.S. Department of Education will monitor how six Texas school districts are educating students with disabilities this week. Feds will monitor progress at schools in Houston ISD, Laredo ISD, Everman ISD, Comal ISD, Spring Branch ISD and Lubbock ISD, after Texas determined last year that all of those school districts, except Comal ISD, are in need of some assistance or intervention in their special education programs. Read more


April 25, 2019

New TRS-ActiveCare mobile app

The new TRS Health App provides everything you need in one place related to your TRS-ActiveCare medical and pharmacy benefits offered through Aetna and CVS Caremark.By downloading the TRS Health App you will have access to: ID cards, benefit information, health and wellness information, and key TRS health related contacts. Read more


April 24, 2019

Registry of school employees bill passed

The Texas Senate has passed a bill that would require the state to create a registry of people, maintained by the Texas Education Agency, who should not be hired by public or private schools. Senate Bill 1256 would result in a list of people who the agency determined had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a student, committed a serious crime against another person or engaged in other prohibited misconduct, and is aimed at preventing teachers from going to one school to another. It will cost the state about $900,000 over the next two years to create and update.


April 17, 2019

Organized advocacy scores another victory —
Del Valle employees get pay raises

The Del Valle Education Association and its #FightFor15 campaign were rewarded – and so were all other Del Valle employees – when the school board on Tuesday night approved a new, minimum salary of $16 an hour for bus drivers and $15 an hour for all other support staff. The board also approved across-the-board raises for all school employees, calculated on 3 percent of the district’s mid-point salary, effective with the 2019-20 school year. And bilingual teachers got a $4,500 stipend.

The raises will be in addition to any pay increases provided by the Legislature.
DVEA President Katrina Van Houten, a math teacher, called the raises “crucial to school employees and their families.” Some of the district’s support staffers, living in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas (Austin) in the country, have been earning as little as $10 an hour, hardly a livable wage.

First Vice President Shea Smith, an RTI teacher, said the raises “will help Del Valle ISD attract and retain some of the best and most-dedicated teachers and support staff in Central Texas, and our students will benefit.”

“We expect and deserve professional salaries,” added Second Vice President Michelle Cardenas, a pre-K teacher. “We hope the Legislature adds to these raises for all school employees throughout Texas and also provides some overdue relief from our rising health insurance premiums, which continue to erode our paychecks.”


April 15, 2019

Texas Senate passes bill to expand protections for private-schools

A bill expanding protections for private-school students from student-teacher misconduct has been unanimously passed in the Senate. It closes loopholes in the Education Code that allow educators who engaged in inappropriate student-teacher relationships to resign from public schools and return to teaching in private schools. It will give private school administrators access to reports of misconduct while also placing stricter guidelines for administrators to follow if misconduct does occur. Also, if the educator chooses to resign before a full investigation into their actions is completed, administrators are required to submit any evidence collected to the State Board.


April 12, 2019

Property tax reform proposals stall

Property tax reform efforts stalled in the both the House and the Senate yesterday. Efforts to make progress were stymied by issues including how school districts should fit into broader property tax reform, and how much their property tax revenue should be allowed to grow annually without the approval of voters. At present, the figure is capped at 2.5%. In the months before the legislative session began, Abbott proposed capping individual districts’ property tax revenue increases at 2.5% and having the state make up the extra funding they were entitled to – which critics said would lead to an inequitable school district funding system. The House and Senate both adjourned for the day without taking up the high-priority legislation. Read more


April 11, 2019

Legislature examines bills tackling STAAR

The Legislature is currently considering a series of bills that would scale back and re-evaluate the STAAR testing regime. One of the bills on the slate, HB 4242, would require independent groups of educators to vet the assessments for “readability,” or the ease with which passages can be read and understood. It would drop the penalties associated with the 2018-19 STAAR, which Texas students are taking this month and next, and require the STAAR in subsequent years not to be administered if the tests fail to meet readability standards. Supporters of HB 4242 said that if the STAAR is too advanced, students who score low on the test and their teachers are being painted as failures when they’re not. Read more


April 8, 2019

Tell Congress to stop denying public servants Social Security benefits they have earned

The Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 141/S. 521) would fully repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that unfairly deprive 2.5 million Americans of the Social Security benefits they have earned-educators, police officers, firefighters, and other employees of state and local governments who dedicate their lives to public service. The GPO reduces the Social Security spousal or survivor benefits of people not covered by Social Security themselves. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefits of people who work in jobs covered by Social Security and jobs NOT covered by Social Security-for example, educators who take part-time jobs to make ends meet. Click here and tell your representatives to cosponsor and support the Social Security Fairness Act.

Texas may owe U.S. for short-changing special education

Texas education officials, who had previously thought they owed the federal government $33 million for illegally decreasing funding for kids with disabilities, now estimate that they owe $223 million, almost a quarter of the state’s annual special education budget. The original figure represented how much the state reduced its special education budget by in 2012; however, under a new formula, Texas may owe additional penalties for cuts in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The Texas Education Agency said Friday that it is discussing solutions with the federal government and the Legislature. Read more

Trump administration withholding critical student loan data

Twenty-one state attorneys general have signed a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to end a recent decision to withhold student loan information from their offices and other law enforcement agencies. At issue is the raft of data on student loan accounts held by the private companies the Education Department pays to service its $1.4 trillion portfolio of education debt; the firms used to provide state and federal authorities records on repayment plans, correspondence with borrowers, internal memos and other information to aid investigations. A year ago, the Trump administration issued guidance telling state regulators to back off those student loan servicing companies, arguing that only the federal government has the authority to oversee its contractors. Read more

Texas School Scores $1,000 Athletics Grants from California Casualty

Student-athletes at Estacado High School in Lubbock will benefit from a $1,000 2019 California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant, which will help provide a much-needed pitching machine for the baseball team.

Estacado High is one of 64 public middle schools and high schools in 32 states awarded a total of $67,000 to aid sports programs affected by tight budgets.

The grant is named for California Casualty Chairman Emeritus Tom Brown, an avid sportsman who has observed that lessons learned on athletic fields – teamwork, confidence and sportsmanship – translate to the classroom and beyond.

Since its inception in 2011, more than $738,000 has been awarded to some 630 schools across the nation.

“The Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grants benefit students and communities, and California Casualty is proud to support that effort,” said Lisa Almeida, Assistant Vice President. Serving educators since 1951, California Casualty has other giving initiatives to help schools that include a $7,500 School Lounge Makeover®, www.schoolloungemakeover.com; $250 Music and Arts Grants, www.calcasmusicartsgrant.com, and $200 Help Your Classroom grants, www.calcas.com/help-your-classroom.  


April 5, 2019

Retired teachers could get an extra check

Proposals currently in the Texas House and Senate could lead to the state’s retired teachers receiving one-off bonus payments. The measures would also shore up the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, which currently has an unfunded liability of $46.2 billion. The Senate plan would give retirees a check of up to $500, while boosting pension contributions by the state, active teachers and some school districts. House Bill 9 would give them a one-time check of up to $2,400. It would gradually raise the state’s contribution to the Teacher Retirement System from 6.8% to 8.8% of active teacher payroll, which would cost an estimated $765.7 million in the 2022-2023 state budget. Read more


April 3, 2019

Texas House votes in favor of raises for teachers, support staff

The Texas House on Wednesday approved a provision pitched by Democrats that would require school districts to give all school employees pay raises using some of the extra money districts receive from a comprehensive school finance bill.

That provision, filed by House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, appears to serve as an attempt to compromise on an issue that quickly became a fault line between the House and Senate on how to spend money on schools. Until Wednesday, Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has said he would prefer to give school districts flexibility on how to use additional funding and that he does not favor a key Senate proposal for $5,000 teacher pay raises.

Read more

House to mull school finance bill

The Texas House will today consider House Bill 3, the comprehensive school finance bill that would spend $9bn over the next two years, along with over 90 other "bolt on" improvements. HB3 would spend $6.7bn on public education and $2.7 billion on property tax relief over the next two years.

Among the several amendments, the House will consider cutting school district's tax rates even more, increasing funding for special education students, restoring a special pot of money set aside for gifted and talented programs, establishing a school safety allotment in the formulas, and automatically adjusting for inflation each year the base amount of money school districts get per student. Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, has also proposed five amendments that would give classroom teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses across-the-board $3,000 to $5,000 raises, while Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, has proposed an unpopular amendment, among teacher groups at least, which would give teachers additional pay based on their relative performance — merit pay.

Austin ISD would get $1,759 more per student under the bill, more than any other Central Texas school district, due to its recapture payment falling by $194 million in 2020. Read more


April 2, 2019

Districts could receive major increase

School districts in Central Texas could receive $1,800 more per student next year under legislation being considered in the Texas House. Lawmakers have received estimates on how school districts would be affected by the legislation, House Bill 3, which would cost the state $9 billion over the next two years, $2.7 billion of which would go toward reducing property taxes. HB 3 gives school districts a huge bump by tweaking various elements of the school finance formula, with the most important change affecting the base amount of money each school district would receive. The bill would increase the basic allotment from $5,140 to $6,030 per student. Districts would also receive more money to expand their prekindergarten programs from half day to full day. Read more

More teachers leaving their jobs mid-year

State education officials have said that at least 220 teachers have left their jobs mid-school year, breaking their contracts. Poor school management and an emphasis on standardized testing are two major complaints that spur teachers to leave. One in 10 teachers quit teaching in Texas schools after their first year, according to state records. Five years after earning their teaching certificate, three in 10 teachers are either no longer in the profession or have left the state. While the number of teachers leaving mid-year is up, the vast majority of teache rs stay on the job throughout the year. However, this year’s spike of teachers breaking their contracts is a 40% increase over last year, when the state opened 131 cases of teacher abandonment. Texas opened 198 cases in the 2015-16 school year.


April 1, 2019

STAAR Reading Tests Are Not on Grade Level

Eight different readability formulas showed the test’s reading portions are at a higher level of difficulty than appropriate for the grades they’re assessing. The study reaffirms that for the most part reading tests given to students in grades 3–8 are at a level of difficulty at least one year above grade level. Read more

Districts could be barred from suspending homeless students

School districts would be barred from suspending students who are homeless under Senate Bill 1001. Instead, districts would be directed to use other disciplinary methods like in-school suspension when dealing with those students.

Read more


March 29, 2019

House and Senate outline similar school funding plans

The Texas Senate’s budget-writing committee has approved adding billions more dollars for public education and property tax reform to the upper chamber's base spending plan, bringing the total to $9 billion aligning with the Texas House. The Senate proposal calls for $4 billion to boost teacher and librarian pay, $2.3 billion for a school finance overhaul, and $2.7 billion for property tax relief. While the two chambers are in agreement with regard to property tax relief, they differ on how much to spend on pay raises for teachers and other school district employees. The Senate wants $5,000 across-the-board salary increases for teachers and librarians, while the House wants districts to use the discretionary cash to decide on staff compensation for themselves. In both chambers' budget packages, retired teachers would receive a "13th check," their first inflation adjustment in several years. Read more

Trump pledges to fund the Special Olympics

The federal government will continue to fund the Special Olympics, President Trump has announced, telling reporters at the White House, “The Special Olympics will be funded.” The announcement appeared to reverse the previously proposed elimination of approximately $18 million in government funding for the games, which had first appeared in the 2020 budget of the Department of Education. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggled to defend the cuts during congressional hearings this week, where she told senators the cuts represented only a fraction of the “tough choices” the department had to make about funding. Read more


March 28, 2019

TEA delays special education fix

The Texas Education Agency does not expect to be able to adequately educate kids with disabilities until June 2020. Last May, state education officials submitted an application for federal funding saying they would comply with all federal requirements by this January, a timeline that now appears to have been extended by a year and a half. Read more


March 27, 2019

House considering school safety improvements

The Texas House Public Education Committee considered over 30 bills aimed at making the state's public schools safer on Tuesday, including measures that would put more armed personnel on campuses and give districts money for sweeping security changes. Read more

Devos defends education spending cuts

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has defended proposed cuts to education programs, including the elimination of $18 million to support Special Olympics. While proposing to add $60 million more to charter school funding and create a tax credit for individual and companies that donate to scholarships for private schools, DeVos' proposal would cut more than $7 billion from Education Department funding. Read more


March 25, 2019

Public school endowment faces overhaul

A wide range of reforms for Texas’ public school endowment has been proposed by lawmakers. One bipartisan bill would restore the State Board of Education’s control over nearly all of the investments for the $44bn Texas Permanent School Fund, reverting to the way it was before a 2001 law change. Meanwhile, another would allow the School Land Board, which now controls about $10bn of the endowment, to double the amount it can send annually directly to schools—up to $600m. An investigation conducted by the Houston Chronicle found that last year, the fund distributed just 2.8% of its value—roughly half the share paid out by many endowments. If it had paid out 5% of a four-year average market value, as many endowments try to, Texas schools would have received $720m more in 2018. According to the investigation, based on more than 100 public records requests, thousands of pages of records and interviews with current and former endowment employees, a series of law changes since 2001 have radically reshaped the structure of the fund, impacting its performance and the amount of money it sends to schools.

Read more


March 22, 2019

New Bill targets Texas charter school admissions

State Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) has authored a bill that would prohibit charter schools from denying admission to students based on their disciplinary history, arguing that being able to do so gives them an unfair advantage over public schools. If charter schools are going to get 100 percent state money being publicly funded, then they need to take all kids. Charter school officials, who say they are given flexibility by the state to be more innovative in their classrooms, say they don't have the facilities to handle students with chronic disciplinary problems. Read more


Texas gets an ‘F’ for school drinking water lead levels

Texas was one of 22 states that received an “F” for lead contamination, which has been found in at least 784 schools since 2017. State Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) recently introduced a bill regulating lead levels in drinking water. Research has shown prolonged exposure to lead can have serious health effects, particularly in brain development among children. Read more


March 21, 2019

Most Texas voters want an across‐the‐board teacher pay raise

According to a bipartisan poll conducted for TSTA, most Texas voters say raising teacher pay is the top priority among education issues for the Legislature to address this year, and they believe lawmakers should provide and fund an across-the-board raise for all teachers rather than leave the responsibility to local school districts. Read more

Bill requiring civics exam for graduation passed

The Texas House has passed a bill that will include a civics test in the graduation requirements for public high school students. HB 1244 would prohibit a student from receiving his or her high school diploma until the student has passed the civics test by answering at least 70% of questions correctly. There are concerns that the public-school curriculum and the end-of-course test for U.S. history fail to cover critical issues of historical importance and that high school graduates are becoming less proficient in basic civics.


March 20, 2019

Betsy DeVos Not Giving Up on Vouchers

She still wants to take your money to pay for private school tuition. This was evident last week with the introduction of  something called the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act. Read more


March 19, 2019

Texas House committee supports budget plan

A budget that would spend $115 billion in state funds, including a $9 billion injection of new funds for Texas public schools and property tax relief, has received initial approval from a panel of House budget writers. The budget plan would spend $2 billion from the state’s savings account, known as the Economic Stabilization Fund, which currently holds more than $11 billion. The total two-year budget would spend state, federal and local funds totaling about $250 billion. Read more


March 15, 2019

Texas teacher pay dropping further behind national average

The Texas State Teachers Association said in a press release that updated research by the National Education Association shows the average teacher salary in Texas is dropping farther behind the national average.
Press coverage, Press release 


March 14, 2019

TSTA members among finalists for Trinity University award

Three San Antonio-area members—Evangelina Perez, a pre-K 3 and 4 dual language teacher for Edgewood ISD; Andrea Greimel, a bilingual early childhood teacher in San Antonio ISD; and Cheryl Kindred, an art teacher with Southside ISD—are among the 19 teachers chosen as finalists for the 2018-9 Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

The distinguished educators will be honored and the two recipients of the award will be announced on Friday, March 22, on Trinity’s campus at the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching ceremony, sponsored by the Whataburger Foundation. Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, leader of the Teachers Against Child Detention alliance and organizer of the recent Teach-in for Freedom protest in El Paso, will present a lecture at the ceremony.

The educators were nominated by area school districts for their commitment and passion to education. Award criteria includes outstanding classroom performance, leadership in the school and school district, leadership in the education profession, and outstanding community service.

Senate approves $100m for school security

The Texas Senate has unanimously approved awarding school districts up to $100 million to boost security. Texas lawmakers are striving to help school districts boost security and improve student access to mental health to prevent school violence before it starts. Read more


March 13, 2019

Educators offer views on House Bill 3

During a 12-hour hearing of the House Public Education Committee yesterday, school district officials offered their views on House Bill 3, a school finance bill that would boost funding for students from low-income families, drop property tax rates by at least 4 cents for homeowners, and eliminate or update outdated elements of the state’s complex school finance formula, among other provisions. The Texas State Teachers Association expressed their opposition to the bill’s merit pay provision, which would be tied to student performance on the STAAR test.


March 12, 2019

Texas teachers rally at Capitol

More than a thousand teachers from across Texas descended upon the State Capitol Monday to push for more state education funding and higher teacher pay that isn't linked to students’ performance on state standardized tests. Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said: “Education funding is an emergency in Texas. Thousands of effective teachers are leaving Texas classrooms each year because of the inadequate pay.”

Read more


March 8, 2019

Legislators moving to 'get ahead' of protesting teachers

Lawmakers in at least 25 states are now proposing increasing teacher pay following the raft of recent educator strikes. In Texas, a bill would provide teachers a $5,000 annual salary increase, while Virginia's budget includes a 5% teacher raise and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has approved raising the m inimum teacher salary 13% — to $36,000 over four years.Los Angeles teachers ended their strike in January after coming to an agreement with the school district that included a 6% raise, additional staffing at schools and a reduction in class sizes, while West Virginia, Arizona and North Carolina are among states operating at lower spending levels and where teacher protests took place — which resulted in pay increases for educators of between 5% and 20%. Read more


March 6, 2019

Thousands of teachers, school employees expected for Capitol rally

Several thousand teachers and other school employees from throughout Texas are expected to gather at the state Capitol on Monday, March 11 to demand more funding for public school students, educators and retired educators. Read more 

Texas House raises school funding stakes

The Texas House revealed a monster education overhaul on Tuesday, setting the stage for a three-month debate with the Senate over how much to invest in public schools. The House plan would pump $9 billion extra into education and school tax cuts over the next two years, along with calls for full-day prekindergarten for low-income kids, more money to teach students who don’t speak English at home and more cash for school districts to issue merit raises for teachers and school staff. TSTA press release 


March 5, 2019

STAAR debate reignites

Education Commissioner Mike Morath and school superintendents are expected to back the reliability of STAAR today, amid a long-standing debate that students are being tested on reading material beyond their grade level, causing exam scores to slightly dip in recent years. The question is expected to pit skeptics of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness against Morath’s administration during a hearing in front of the Texas House Public Education Committee. Read more


February 25, 2019

Senate Finance Committee approves teacher pay raise

After hearing compelling testimony from TSTA member Virginia Caldwell of Hutto ISD and other teachers, the Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 3, which would give all classroom teachers an across-the-board $5,000 pay raise. The measure, which now goes to the full Senate, doesn’t include librarians, counselors, nurses and school support staff, and TSTA will continue working to include a pay raise for them as well.

If enacted, SB3 would help us close the $7,300 annual deficit by which the average teacher pay in Texas lags behind the national average.

Caldwell, an ESL middle school teacher, told the committee that she earns more a day as an Uber driver on weekends than she does for each day of teaching, despite having eight years of experience in the classroom and a master’s degree. She is one of the 39 percent of Texas teachers who have to take extra jobs during the school year to meet their families’ budgetary needs.


February 22, 2019

House Democrats call for $14.5 billion boost for education

Texas House Democrats announced Thursday a $14.5 billion plan to improve public education in Texas by paying teachers and other school staff more, bolstering school safety and offering full-day prekindergarten, among other measures. The Texas Kids First Plan will also increase per-student funding and lower the amount property-wealthy districts pay to the state to support property-poor districts. Rather than a single omnibus bill, Democrats say their platform is spread across dozens of bills that they're backing — some of which have yet to be filed. A key element of the platform would allocate $3.8 billion for teachers and support staff, including raises and increased contributions to health care costs, stabilizing the Teacher Retirement System and issuing teachers $500 stipends for classroom supplies. The Texas State Teachers Association applauded the proposal but said it would only support a permanent, across-the-board pay raise funded by the state, rather than raises based on performance. Read more


February 21, 2019

House Democratic Caucus addresses important educational priorities

Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, issued a statement on educational priorities. Read press release

House Public Education Committee hears bill to limit pre-K class sizes, other measures

On Feb. 19, the House Public Education Committee held its first hearings on filed bills, including House Bill 55 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez to limit prekindergarten class sizes. The measure, which was left pending by the committee, would require one certified teacher or teacher’s aide for a class of fewer than 16 students and for larger classes, it would set a student-teacher ratio of 11-1.

The committee also heard Gonzalez’ House Bill 111 that would require additional training of school personnel to identify sexual abuse and sex trafficking. The committee also heard Gonzalez’ House Bill 116 that would significantly expand training requirements for school personnel who work with students with disabilities. Representative Gonzalez also laid out House Bill 108 to establish a pilot program for digital portfolio assessments and House Bill 120 to extend the exemption from the state assessment of bilingual students from one year to two. Witnesses, including a representative of the Texas Education Agency, voiced concerns about postponing the assessment due to restrictions in federal law. The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) registered in support of these bills.

House Bill 102 by Representative Bernal would create a mentor program allotment and modify current program parameters, including a requirement for mentor teachers to make a two-year commitment. TSTA registered on this bill with concerns about the requirement for mentor teachers to make a two-year commitment when most teachers work under one-year contracts. TSTA registered in support of Representative Bernal’s bill to create an endorsement for students who are enrolled in special education programs.

The Committee also heard House Bill 187 by Representative Reynolds that is bracketed to Fort Bend ISD and would require the district to change the way it elects its school board to provide for geographic representation. Representative Eric Johnson laid out House Bill 65 that would require districts to report on out-of-school suspensions, and Representative Martinez laid out House Bill 109 to correct a drafting error from legislation passed last session to include charter schools in the prohibition from operating on Memorial Day. Representative Hinojosa laid out House Bill 128 that would require school districts to notify parents of the availability of their student’s physical fitness assessment. TSTA registered in support of all of these bills.

The only bill TSTA registered against was House Bill 134 by Representative Swanson related to the structuring of ballots for bond proposals because it creates inefficiencies and could impede the passage of bonds for much need facility repairs and expansions.

All bills were left pending.


February 14, 2019

Rainy Day Fund discussed as possible way to shore up TRS Pension Fund

The issue of giving retired educators a long-overdue cost of living adjustment (COLA) was discussed before the Senate Finance Committee this week. Teacher Retirement System Executive Director Brian Guthrie indicated the Legislature will have to find a way to boost funding for the TRS Pension Fund by an additional $1.6 billion in order to achieve 31 years of funded liabilities, a minimum requirement before TRS trustees can consider a COLA.

Most retirees have not had a COLA since 2002.

The committee mainly discussed options that would require increasing contributions to the fund from active employees, as well as the state and school districts. But the possibility of making a transfer to the pension fund from the state’s Rainy Day Fund also was discussed. The comptroller has forecast a record $15 billion balance in the Rainy Day Fund by the end of this budget period, which makes further discussions of the Rainy Day Fund likely. TSTA believes it is a revenue source that should be considered as lawmakers draft the next budget over the next few months.

Guthrie indicated that once the fund achieves 31 years of funded liabilities, it could take up to two years before the COLAs could be paid without jeopardizing the minimum threshold. The additional funding for the pension is required because TRS trustees, in response to the changing global economy, lowered the fund’s anticipated rate of return on investments.

The Finance Committee also discussed the skyrocketing costs of health insurance premiums for both TRS-Care and TRS-Active Care. TRS-Care will require an infusion of $231 million during the coming biennium in order to remain solvent. Committee members also indicated an interest in some relief for active and retired employees’ health care premiums.


February 13, 2019

Warnings over performance-related pay

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García says that the teacher strike in Denver should serve as a cautionary tale for other districts that want to pay teachers in bonuses and incentives. “There is not one school district in the country that is going to look at Denver and think, ‘Oh, I think I’ll try that.’ No. They should have stopped this and changed this years ago, and they didn’t. And this is the result.” Read more


February 12, 2019

SBOE takes steps to improve charter transparency

Members of the State Board of Education have voted to pursue rules changes that would make the application process for new charter schools more transparent to the public and to local school district officials who are losing tax dollars to charter campuses.

Charter schools took more than $2.2 billion in tax revenue from traditional public schools in Texas last year, and charter chains continue to expand in our state. TSTA believes the SBOE and Texas Education Agency need to revise the charter application process to encourage more public participation. Recommendations include changing posting requirements so that all applications for charter expansions are readily accessible to the public within five days after they are submitted, notices of public meetings conducted by charters are clearly posted and information is provided about the potential fiscal impact of each proposed charter campus.

At the request of member Ruben Cortez, the SBOE voted last week to include review and evaluation of charter amendments in its operating rules, and SBOE members responded favorably to the charter transparency recommendations.

The SBOE acted after TSTA legislative liaison Lisa Dawn-Fisher and representatives of other educator groups explained the key issues and proposed solutions to the board’s Committee on School Initiatives.

SBOE member Barbara Cargill announced that she and SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich have met with TEA staff and the education commissioner to discuss the transparency issue. Cargill read the following statement from the director of the charter school office: “The Commissioner is contemplating the staff and resources necessary to implement changes to the charter school web page that would provide additional transparency for those interested in charter schools.”

TSTA and other educator groups will do more follow-up work with TEA and SBOE.

Finance committee debating education funding

Members of the Senate Finance Committee met on Monday to consider the public education budget. The Senate budget bill, as filed, adds $2.4 billion to cover projected enrollment growth over the next two years, but also $6 billion above that to pay for increased teacher compensation and to offset whatever revenue is lost by any property tax reform measures that become law.
Both of these issues were labelled as "emergencies" by Governor Greg Abbott in his State of the State address last week, and both him and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen have vowed to "fix" the school finance issue this session. Read more

Unions oppose calls to arm teachers

The the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have joined with Everytown for Gun Safety to oppose proposals in Florida and elsewhere to arm teachers and staff. The Florida Legislature is considering allowing school districts to arm volunteer teachers who undergo background checks and training. Read more


February 8, 2019

‘Teach-In For Freedom’ to highlight child detentions

Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, is uniting teachers in a new group called Teachers Against Child Detention - which is currently planning a 10-hour “Teach-In for Freedom” on February 17 in El Paso, Texas, to focus attention on the continued plight of immigrant children held on the border with Mexico. Read more

New bill would require passing citizenship test to graduate high school

A new bill introduced by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), HB 1244, would require every Texas public school student to take a civics test in order to graduate high school. The test would consist of all of the questions on the test administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] as part of the naturalization process. If the bill passes, this act will take effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, and will be applied beginning with students who enter the ninth grade during the 2020-2021 school year. Read more


February 7, 2019

House Public Education Committee hears testimony from TEA and school finance commission

The House Public Education Committee met for two days this week, Tuesday and Wednesday, to hear testimony from the Texas Education Agency, the Legislative Budget Board and the Texas Commission on Public School Finance.
Read full report

Calls for schools to disclose unvaccinated students

Some Texas lawmakers and advocacy groups are calling for parents to be able to find out how many unvaccinated kids are in their children’s schools. Plano, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston, were all recently identified as national hotspots for nonmedical vaccine exemptions in schools. Texas is one of 18 states in the U.S. which allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children because of their philosophical or religious beliefs. Senate Bill 329 would require schools to give their immunization rate to parents who ask for it. Read more


February 5, 2019

Abbott wants to tie teacher raises to incentives; TSTA opposes

During his State of the State address to the Legislature today, Gov. Greg Abbott continue to push for “merit” pay raises for teachers, a short-sighted idea that TSTA will continue to oppose in favor of an across-the-board pay raise. Teachers in Texas are paid, on average, $7,300 less per year than the national average, based on NEA’s latest survey.

Read more


January 31, 2019

Report on House Public Education Committee meeting

The House Public Education Committee held its first meeting of the 86th Legislative session on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. The Committee heard invited testimony from the Commissioner and staff of the Texas Education Agency. Commissioner Mike Morath opened the hearing with an overview of the state of education in Texas. He reported that less than half of kindergarteners start school ready to learn and only 16% of graduating seniors meet college readiness as measured by SAT and ACT scores. The agency’s Legislative Appropriations Request included requests for money for school safety initiatives, including increased mental health supports and the implementation of other best practices for school safety.

Read more

Districts closing for cleaning due to widespread illnesses

Illness and low attendances are causing Texas school districts to close temporarily. Fairfield ISD has closed for the rest of the week to allow widespread deep cleaning of premises, as has Winters ISD and New Summerfield ISD. The Walgreens Flu Index listed the Tyler-Longview area as No. 2 in the nation for flu activity last week. 


January 30, 2019

Rep. White files bill to set ‘teacher salary floor’

Texas Rep. James White has filed a bill asking fellow legislators to support the idea of setting a salary “floor” for school employees in order to address appropriate compensation. When addressing pay, the Texas Education Agency sets a state minimum, which school districts abide by. From there, districts set salary schedules for teachers which specify how much raises are worth, and largely depends on a teacher’s experience. Rep. White’s bill would set a salary “floor” for educators which is tied into the state’s funding formula. He explained that a state standard may benefit teachers in rural districts the most; giving smaller schools in rural areas the ability to offer competitive salary means districts will be able to attract and retain talented educators. Read more

Hundreds out sick in Coppell ISD

More than 300 Coppell Middle School West students are off sick with flu or flu-like symptoms, Coppell ISD has confirmed, some 25% of its students. The district has notified parents of its concerns. The flu claimed more than 150 lives in North Texas last year, including 83 in Dallas County. This season there have been five flu deaths in Dallas County.


January 28, 2019

“Privatization” option for Dallas schools opposed

Parents and community members told trustees Thursday night that Dallas ISD should not surrender control of any campus to an outside partner.
This comes as DISD expressed interest in a new state law that would allow more state funding to flow into schools which become in-district charters run by their own governing boards. Read more

Graduation rate improvements 'stalling'

The U.S. high school graduation rate hit 84.6% in 2017, according to the Department of Education's latest data, only ‘inches’ up from 84.1% in 2016, leaving education professionals concerned that the nation is losing momentum in improving outcomes for pupils. The graduation rates for black, Hispanic and low-income students and students with disabilities, increased by 1 to 2 percentage points, but decreased by 0.5 percentage points for students for whom English is a second language. Read more

Shutdown resolution averts lunches crisis

Resolution of the weekslong partial federal government shutdown averted the growing crisis for the 22 million poor public education students who rely on the federal National School Lunch and breakfast programs for meals. A coalition of education organizations representing school superintendents, principals, school boards, parents, along with the two national teachers unions, had joined to urge Trump and congressional leadership to pass and sign a funding bill for the Department of Agriculture that the House of Representatives passed earlier this month. Read more


January 22, 2019

NEA reacts to tentative agreement reached by UTLA, LAUSD

Students win as national #RedForEd movement sweeps Los Angeles; tentative agreement gives students more librarians, nurses and counselors while reducing class sizes. Read more

Bonnen's education agenda considered

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has revealed that he doesn’t support using student test scores to determine school funding, a recommendation that the Texas Commission on Public School Finance has made to the Legislature. Referring to the Senate’s teacher pay proposal, which would give schools the money to provide a $5,000 pay raise to all full-time teachers, Bonnen has said that the House would aim to provide districts "greater flexibility" with how they spend those funds. Read more


January 17, 2019

SB 3 will still leave Texas teachers below national average

Senate Bill 3 would increase education funding in the state by more than $4 billion, with most of the money going to towards a $5,000 raise to teachers. TSTA President Noel Candelaria praised the proposal, with the caveat that the average Texas teacher pay would still lag below national average. According to data from the National Education Association, Texas teachers are paid $7,300 below the national average.

Concern over government shutdown

Though the U.S. Department of Education remains fully-funded throughout, there is concern the shutdown will impact federal administrators and the National School Lunch program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If the shutdown lasts for several months district finances for grants and federal funding may be affected for the coming year.

Read more


January 16, 2019

House and Senate $3 billion apart on education spending

Leaders of the Texas Senate are proposing giving schools $3.7 billion to provide $5,000 pay raises to all full-time classroom teachers. The House proposes to put more than $7 billion in new state funds into public schools. The Senate budget also includes $2.3 billion to pay for property tax relief, if lawmakers agree to pass reforms that decrease the need for the unpopular “Robin Hood” system, which requires property-wealthy school districts to subsidize poorer ones. 


January 14, 2019

Texas may adopt outcomes-based funding

A number of newly elected governors are addressing the issue of school funding in Texas, after a new report by a state commission on school recommended major changes in the system. Educator and public education advocate Carol Burris, writing in the Washington Post on so-called “outcomes-based” school funding, describes it as “ineffective” and claims it “can make inequities worse”, stating: “this Texas version, which is especially bad, will result in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer with funding going to students who need it the least, not the most.” Read more

L.A. teacher negotiations at impasse

Following the failure of negotiations with authorities over the weekend to reach agreement, tens of thousands of teachers in Los Angeles are to go on strike. The district's latest offer included adding nearly 1,200 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians to schools, reducing class sizes by two students, and capping class sizes to between 32 and 39 students, depending on age and curriculum. The offer also included the district's previously proposed 6% salary increase over the first two years of a three-year contract. The teachers' union labelled a new pay offer from the LAUSD as "woefully inadequate." Read more


January 10, 2019

Houston ISD facing tough challenges

HISD trustees have called a Saturday meeting to discuss some of the challenges facing the district, including declining enrollment at small schools, options for closing a projected budget deficit, the growing need for pre-kindergarten seats and preliminary academic performance data. Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said forming a task force to recommend budget cuts, similar to the one created in June 2018 by Austin ISD, which also pays the state's largest "recapture" bill, is "not off the table" and "may be part of the discussion". Read more 


January 8, 2019

Legislature convenes, Dennis Bonnen elected speaker
amid promises of school finance changes

The 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature convened today, with the House unanimously electing Republican Dennis Bonnen of Angleton as the new speaker and Gov. Greg Abbott promising, “We are going to solve school finance reform and property tax reform this session.”

In brief opening remarks to both the House and the Senate, Abbott didn’t spell out how he intended lawmakers to address those issues, so much work remains to be done. Bonnen also has declared school finance a priority, and he announced that the refreshment cups provided for House members will be imprinted with a new slogan: “School finance reform — the time is now.”

Comptroller Glenn Hegar has forecast lawmakers will have additional general revenue with which to work as they address school funding and other needs. Hegar also has projected a record $15 billion balance in the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s savings account.

But school finance “reform” can mean different things to different people. To TSTA it means appropriating more state funds for public education, and we will work toward that goal. Additional state education funding also is the key to property tax relief.

Absent for the session’s opening day was Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was summoned to Washington for a meeting with President Trump. Sen. Jane Nelson opened the Senate session, and senators elected Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, as their new president pro tempore.

The House, under Bonnen’s predecessor, Joe Straus, passed legislation in 2017 to add as much as $1.8 billion to the public education budget, but it was rejected by the Patrick-led Senate.

Among new legislators taking their oaths for the first time today were two pro-public education senators and more than a dozen House members, both Democrats and Republicans, who were elected with TSTA’s support.


January 3, 2019

Our first analysis of the Public School Finance commission's report

In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 21 during its first Called Session of the 85th Legislature. The bill authorized the formation of the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. The stated purpose of the commission was to develop recommendations related to:

  • The purpose of the public school finance system and the relationship between state and local funding.
  • The appropriate levels of tax effort necessary to implement a public school system that complies with the requirements of the Texas Constitution.
  • The policy changes needed to adjust for student demographics and geographic diversity in the state.

The 13-member Commission was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Joe Straus, and State Board of Education Chair Donna Bahorich. The Commission began meeting in January 2018 and continued to meet monthly throughout the year. The final report was released in December 2018. Broadly, the report includes recommendations to change the funding formulas, to change accountability goals, and to provide funding for a pay-for-performance program. Strategies to reduce the state’s reliance on local property tax revenue, both as a source of local funding and as a source of state revenue in the form of recapture, are also addressed.

Major findings:

    • System needs clear, widely understood goals for educational outcomes.
    • School finance system has not kept up with changing demographics of the state.
    • Student outcome shortfalls are evident early in the K-12 system.
    • Low-income students are not accessing federal funds available for post-secondary education.
    • “Summer slide” reduces outcomes for low-income students in all subjects and for high-income students in math and science.
    • Post-secondary completion rates fall far short of state’s goal of having 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-old adults holding a post-secondary credential.
    • Students are not prepared for military service.
    • Districts and campuses with similar demographics have vastly different levels of performance.
    • Teaching workforce experiences high turnover rates and a shrinking pipeline of new educators at the same time the student population is growing.
    • Funding formulas are complicated and outdated.
    • Reliance on property taxes has resulted in high property tax rates (6th highest in the nation).
      • Reliance on recapture as a source of revenue is unsustainable.
      • Overall, the tax burden in Texas is low when compared nationally (5th lowest in the nation).

*Recommendations: Modify Foundation School Program (FSP) funding formulas to “free up” funds.

      • Reallocate $3.5 billion in recurring revenue:
        • Cost-of-education index = $2.9 billion/year
        • Chapter 41 hold harmless recapture reduction = $30 million/year
        • Chapter 41 early agreement credits = $50 million/year
        • Gifted and talented allotment = $165 million/year
        • High school allotment = $400 million/year
      • Shift to current year property values:
        • One-time savings = $1.8 billion

*Recommendations: New or modified funding components

      • Educator effectiveness allotment: provides optional formula-based funding to districts that adopt approved evaluation programs = $200 million/year in 2019–20 growing to $1.0 billion/year by 2029–30
      • Dual language allotment: adds 0.05 weight to existing bilingual allotment = $15-50 million/year
      • Dyslexia weight: creates new weight of 0.1 = $100 million/year (assumes only those currently identified)
      • 3rd grade reading allotment: provides additional funding for students in K through 3rd grade who are low-income or English language learners in return for adhering to specific standards; certain districts would be mandated to participate (Arlington, Austin, Beaumont, Dallas, Conroe, Houston and Fort Worth ISDs) in order to establish benchmarks for performance
      • Extended year incentive program: provides half-day funding for up to 30 additional school days for student pre-K through 5th grade = $50 million/year
      • Compensatory education allotment: change from 0.2 to sliding scale ranging from 0.225 – 0.275 based on the concentration of low-income students on a campus; consider use of alternate measures of income = $1.1 billion/year
      • Transportation funding
        • Base funding on mileage rate of at least $0.80/mile to reduce administrative costs associated with administering linear density formulas = $0/year (revenue-neutral)
        • Provide transportation funding to Chapter 41 districts = $60 million/year
      • Small- and mid-sized district adjustments: recreate as stand-alone allotments to reduce the compounding effects of formulas and increase transparency = $0/year (revenue-neutral)
      • New Instructional Facilities Allotment (NIFA): fully fund current rate of $1,000/student in average daily attendance = $76 million/year
      • Career and technology allotment: include 6th- 8th grade = $20 million/year
      • Basic allotment: increase basic allotment with all “remaining” funds from streamlining outdated formula elements; results in reduction of recapture.
      • Copper penny yield: link copper penny yield to percentage of basic allotment to increase Tier II and reduce recapture; increase yield from $31.95/penny to $43.50/penny to restore yield to 88th percentile = $286 million/year
      • Golden penny yield: decouple yield from Austin ISD and set at percentile of wealth per student = $Undetermined cost/year (depends on yield set)

*Hold districts harmless from declines in per-pupil funding that result from the proposed changes until such time as local taxing actions can be taken

Recommendations: New outcomes-based funding

  • 3rd grade reading outcomes: provides funding of $3,400/low-income student and $1,450/non-low-income student who meet 3rd grade reading proficiency standards = $400 million/year
  • College, career, and military readiness outcomes: provides funding of $5,380/low-income graduating senior and $2,015/non-low-income graduating senior who meets the following criteria = $400 million/year
    • Graduates from high school and does not require post-secondary remediation and either:
      • Enrolls in a post-secondary institution,
      • Graduates high school with an industry-accepted certificate, or
      • Enlists in the military.

Other recommendations:

  • Accountability changes:
    • Eliminate end-of-course exams
    • Require completion of FAFSA or similar financial aid application
    • Allow reconstitution of elementary and middle school campuses with two consecutive years of “F” ratings that places better educators at struggling campuses
    • Modify accountability system to eliminate penalty for districts that help formerly incarcerated individuals obtain their diploma or GED
  • Funding changes:
    • Provide FSP funding for full-day pre-K
    • Allow children of Texas public educators to be eligible for free full-day pre-K
    • Provide technical assistance funds for targeted professional development aimed at blended learning and personalized learning pilots

Texas special education students receive harshest discipline

Analysis of Texas public school data indicates that the state's special education students are likely to receive some of the harshest punishments in the classroom. The Houston Chronicle reports that roughly a tenth of students were listed as special education in the 2016-17 academic period — but they accounted for nearly one-fifth of students who were sent to alternative education programs run by local juvenile justice departments. The Texas Education Agency says it is working to address the issue. Read more


December 19, 2018

School Finance Commission completes report to Legislature

The Texas Public School Finance Commission finished work today on its recommended school finance changes to the Legislature. The preliminary report includes proposals for increased state funding for some programs, a reallocation of funds in other cases and proposals for property tax relief. The report was still subject to some last-minute changes. TSTA will study the final version of the report and provide updates as the Legislature prepares to convene on Jan. 8. Regardless of the commission’s priorities, TSTA will continue to advocate for a significant, overall increase in state funding for public education. See page 5 of the report for an executive summary.


December 18, 2018

TEA discusses removing and replacing Harlandale ISD leaders

A report by the Texas Education Agency has concluded that the Harlandale ISD’s board of trustees should be removed and replaced by a state-appointed board of managers. At a meeting Monday, the board discussed the report’s findings, which harshly criticized the district’s financial practices, called its governance “dysfunctional” and recommended lowering its accreditation. Read more  

Bilingual/ESL programs at Midland ISD

Midland ISD’s bilingual/ESL programs have suffered a drop in standards. The state has given the district’s Bilingual/English-as-a-second-language programs a stage 4 ranking, the worst ranking. This means the district has achieved the worst ranking in 10 of the last 13 years. Read more  

AISD budget cuts

Austin Independent School District is facing a $29 million budget shortfall next year. Among the proposals are closing 12 schools, cutting special education programs, and increasing class sizes. If these cuts are approved, it could eliminate up to 200 jobs. Read more  


December 14,2018

Houston trustees opt against seeking partnership bids

Houston ISD trustees narrowly voted yesterday against pursuing partnerships with private organizations to run long-struggling schools. The district has four schools that must meet academic standards in 2019; should they fail, the Texas Education Agency is legally required to replace HISD’s entire school board and appoint new members, or close still-failing schools. Read more

Department of Education to cancel student loan debt

The Department of Education has said that it will cancel $150 million in student loans connected to for-profit colleges that closed in recent years. The move was made under an Obama-era policy that a federal judge in October essentially forced Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to implement. Read more

North Lamar TSTA holds silent auction

The North Lamar Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) is holding a silent auction with the proceeds going toward scholarships for North Lamar graduating seniors. Read more


December 12, 2018

Sex education linked to sexual assault statistics 

Students who received pre-college sex education that included training in refusing unwanted sexual attention (54%) are half as likely to be assaulted in college, according to researchers at Columbia University, who examined data from a survey of 2,500 students in 2016 as a part of the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation. Read more 


December 11, 2018

House members on school finance commission want more money for public ed

At least two House members of the Commission on Texas Public School Finance, including House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, said they won’t sign any commission report that doesn’t add new money to the state’s school finance system.

They made their comments during a meeting in which the commission reviewed a draft report. Chairman Scott Brister, meanwhile, was reluctant to even describe the current school finance system as insufficiently funded. Brister, a former member of the Texas Supreme Court, also indicated he prefers incentives, such as merit-based teacher pay, over recommending a general increase in school funding.

“I would not be willing to sign a report that will not say we need to spend more money, new money, on public education,” Huberty, R-Houston, said, according to a report in Quorum Report.

Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, said without discussing additional school funding, he will have wasted 11 months on commission business. Real school finance reform, he said, will require several new revenue sources.

Brister was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, who has advocated tight, new limits on property taxes and has suggested additional state education funding may be needed. But Abbott has not proposed a funding source. Property taxes have to be addressed, Brister said, but he pushed back against any suggestion that was his main concern.

The commission, which has an end-of-year deadline for submitting a report to the Legislature, is expected to take a final vote on Dec. 19.

TSTA 2019 Young Artist Contest

The TSTA Art Contest is open to all students in kindergarten through 12th grade attending Texas Public Schools. The theme is "The Heroes Around Me in My Public School." Its purpose is to showcase student talent, recognize students, parents, and teachers and to display prize-winning creations at the TSTA HQ. Winners will be selected by the delegates of the 2019 TSTA House of Delegates in Frisco. Download application


December 10, 2018

Frisco applies to become first dyslexia-training-accredited US school district

Frisco ISD is on course to becoming the first public school district in America to be recognized as an accredited, independent dyslexia therapist training center. FISD is pursuing accreditation in order to train and certify teachers as dyslexia therapists, with nearly 1,000 students across the district enrolled in its dyslexia program. Administrators note that a “shortage of dyslexia training centers” in Texas coupled with Frisco’s significant growth means that student needs would be best met by training teachers in-district. Read more


December 7, 2018

NEA working to ensure education is a priority in federal budget

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) introduced the Keep Our PACT Act into Congress which NEA is supporting. This would create a 10-year mandatory glide path to fully fund both Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that could help ensure education is a priority in the federal budget.

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

“The National Education Association has been steadfast in its mission that that all students deserve early learning opportunities, classes small enough for one-on-one attention, modern tools and textbooks, and community support services. We thank Senator Van Hollen for his leadership and introducing the Keep Our PACT Act that makes student opportunity a federal budget priority, especially when it comes to the targeted investments in education programs designed to help students in poverty, children with disabilities and those who are most in need.

“Voters made it clear that they believe our schools need more resources. Congress always has fallen short on funding Title I and IDEA, but we believe the momentum is building to correct these shortfalls — and this bill proves it. We urge Congress to put students, educators and working families ahead of politics and pass the Keep Our PACT Act because it provides opportunities to all students.”


December 5, 2018

Texas lawmaker claims mandate to fight school vouchers

State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has claimed that the November 6 election results show voters agree with his opposition to private school vouchers. He was one of only two Republicans to vote against private school voucher legislation in the Texas Senate in 2017. Read more  

 
San Antonio ISD working to stem enrollment losses

To stem student outflows to private and charter schools, San Antonio ISD is working to redesign curriculums at several schools to offer more popular programs such as dual language or Montessori. While it’s unclear whether the district's educational experiment is financially sustainable, and district leaders worry that it will be difficult to reach some parents to inform them about these new options, "network principal" Brian Sparks has been awarded more than $1 million in grants as part of a wider effort to overhaul low-performing schools and boost falling enrollment. Read more 


December 4, 2018

White House to launch STEM push

The federal government will launch a five-year strategic plan for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education at the White House today, to encourage students to pursue STEM careers and to increase access to STEM among historically underserved students. White House officials conceded at least one challenge however, the lack of STEM teachers in K-12." Read more 

 
Federal education funding: Which states come off best?

Federal education funding for K-12 is rising compared to where it was two years ago, with Congress paying no heed to attempts by the White House to slash the Education Department’s budget. Education Week takes a look at Education Department data for fiscal 2017 – the last budget Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed – and the fiscal 2019 package that President Donald Trump approved around two months ago, to see which states have come off best. One winner, it says, is California, which is slated to get a Title I funding bump of more than 9%, from just over $1.8 billion in fiscal 2017 to a little over $2 billion in fiscal 2019. Oklahoma has also seen its funding rise, by over 12% to $190 million. Read more 


November 28, 2018

State lawmakers discuss teacher misconduct legislation

In a hearing at the Capitol yesterday, members of the state Senate Education Committee discussed what to do about the increasing numbers of Texas teachers accused of soliciting inappropriate romantic relationships with students. In the fiscal year that ended September 1st, the Texas Education Agency opened 429 cases of improper teacher-student relationships, a 42% rise from the previous year and the 10th straight annual increase. Read more 


November 27, 2018

Board renames 1 of 4 schools with Confederate monikers

The Austin school board Monday night renamed one campus with a Confederate moniker but again delayed a decision to change three other schools named for Confederate figures. Trustees voted 6-1-1 to rename the John T. Allan building, formerly Allan Elementary, for Anita Ferrales Coy, who was principal at Allan and a district administrator. Read more 

How the Government tracks child autism numbers

The U.S. Government estimates that one in every 40 children could be classified as being autistic – a figure arrived at from one of three periodic surveys it uses to assess autism rates. The figure is higher than that reported in a survey earlier this year; however, that survey used a different method to arrive at its conclusions. Because there’s no medical test, “autism spectrum disorder is a particularly challenging condition to track,” government researchers wrote in a report for the Pediatrics journal. The true occurrence of autism likely ranges from about 1 in 59 kids to 1 in 40 kids, researchers say. Read more


November 15, 2018

SBOE adopts legislative priorities

The State Board of Education is addressing more than Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller and Moses this week. Board members, among other actions, also tentatively approved a list of legislative priorities. You also may notice that in his remarks before the board Education Commissioner Mike Morath tried to deny the fact that the school finance budget TEA has submitted to legislators would reduce state education funding by $3.5 billion during the next budget period. But that is exactly what the TEA budget request would do, unless lawmakers change the school finance law. If the law isn’t changed, local property taxpayers will have to make up that $3.5 billion.

These are the tentative items SBOE has included in its Legislative Priorities to go to the next round, which is Friday.

      • Fix the governance structure of the PSF to include the following:
      • A better decision-making process moving forward
      • Address the issue of the $4 billion the SLB has in cash holdings
      • Adopt the motion made at the Sunset Commission today to increase the SLB to five members with members 4 and 5 appointed by the Governor and AG from a list submitted by the SBOE
      • Fix the school funding formula based on recommendations that will be made by the Texas School Finance Commission – this would include adding a Dyslexia weight of 0.1 and creating a dual language weight of 0.15 in addition to the Bilingual Education Allotment
      • Funding support to ensure sufficient appropriations to expand the TEA staff, especially the curriculum division to oversee and support the TEKS review and implementation process as well as textbook adoption.
      • Continue funding the Math and Reading Academies
      • Fund TEA’s two LAR exception items:  (1) Special Education Supports/Compensatory Education for children that did not receive FAPE [this will also be impacted by a 5th Circuit Court decision] and (2) Safe and Healthy Schools Initiative
      • Similar to the above (1) SpEd call center and online portal to assist families of students with special needs in navigating the public school systems and (2) establish a Safe and Healthy Schools Initiative
      • Submitted Instructional Materials must align with 100% of the TEKS
      • Adequately fund the ESCs

The board removed language addressing teacher salaries and retention because other organizations would be promoting them.

Percent Distribution from the Permanent School Fund
The board voted to increase the percent distribution for FY20/21 to 2.9% from its September recommendation of 2.75%. This increases the SBOE distribution from the PSF to the ASF by $110 million to $1.069 billion for each year of the biennium had the rate been set at 2.75%. This is still less than the $1.364 billion for each year of the current biennium. The increase does close the gap with the $500 million needed to cover instructional materials and technology needs.

The impact results in a $10 decrease in the per capita allotment through the ASF to school districts. Chapter 42 districts will feel the brunt of the impact as the distribution from the ASF offsets state Tier 1 funding for the Foundation School Program by an equal amount. It does not have the same impact on Chapter 41 districts, since their FSP state funding is based on the ASF+New Instructional Facilities Allotment+High School Allotment.

Commissioner’s Remarks
Commissioner Morath “clarified” the “erroneous” reports that TEA is cutting funding by $3.5 billion, The reduction is because property taxes are increasing and property taxes are calculated and the local fund assignment is established and everything else is driven by that.

SBOE Long-Range Plan
The SBOE recommended its long-range plan for adoption on Friday following some edits. The most cogent comment was made by Gina Perez (El Paso), who questioned why TEA would be included with the entities encouraging high standards for teacher preparation when it allows charter districts and DOI districts to exempt themselves from those same standards. This was done primarily because the Commissioner writes some of the administrative rules and because the legislature passed the authority to set the passing rates on certification exams from SBEC to the Commissioner.


November 12, 2018

Dennis Bonnen claims speakership

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, said he had a bipartisan majority of 109 House members who have agreed to support him for speaker when the legislative session convenes on Jan. 8. He said his No. 1 priority will be school finance and said the House will take the lead in fixing the state's "broken" school funding system.

He answered only a couple of questions from the media at his Capitol news conference. He said the House will operate in a bipartisan fashion. There will be 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats in the new House, after Democrats gained 12 seats in the recent election.

Bonnen offered no details about how he intends to address school funding. A school finance study commission appointed by the state leadership last year is completing its work and will make recommendations before lawmakers convene.


November 8, 2018

Feds' special education funding penalty upheld

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the U.S. Department of Education was within its rights to try to withhold $33.3m from Texas, the same amount the state decided to cut from its special education grants in 2012, noting a 1997 federal statute which prohibits states from reducing funding for kids with disabilities from year to year. While Texas has not yet publicly indicated whether it will try to appeal the ruling, the court's 13-page opinion questions the state's current system for funding special education - suggesting that it could give Texas reason to "minimize the needs of kids with disabilities in order to save money." Read more


November 6, 2018

What you need to know about new ESL certification rule

The Commissioner of Education has adopted new rules in 19 TAC Chapter 89, Adaptations for Special Populations, rules concerning State Plan for Educating English Learners.

Timeline: The rule took effect on July 18, 2018.
 
What You Need to Know:

      • The change was necessary to bring rule language into compliance with current practices and ESSA.
      • The change removes references to the use of the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) for teachers at the secondary level who teach English Learners (ELs).
      • Bilingual/ESL programs in Texas are opt-in programs; however, EL students who do not participate in a Bilingual/ESL program because of parent refusal are still entitled to instruction in the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS), which outline the English language proficiency level descriptors and student expectations for EL students.
      • Comparable to Section 504, this, too, is a civil rights issue – persons with limited English proficiency must be afforded a meaningful opportunity to participate in programs receiving federal funds, including public education.
      • Although the rule language impacts Bilingual teachers, the greatest impact is on ESL teachers who, depending on the program implemented in the district, may be required to get the ESL Supplemental Certification.
      • The two ESL programs are “content-based” and “pull-out.”
      • Teachers only have five opportunities to pass the ESL or Bilingual Certification Exams.
      • Teachers with a lifetime certificate who get the ESL or Bilingual certification will now have to renew their certificates every five years.

How It Impacts Teachers

      • Teachers who teach English Learners are required to have appropriate certification.
      • “Content-based” ESL programs require teachers in the core content areas (English/Language Arts/Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies) to have ESL certification.
      • “Pull-Out” ESL programs require instruction in English/Language Arts/Reading by (1) an ESL certified teacher or (2) an ELAR Teacher with the ESL Supplemental Certification.
      • Teachers in Bilingual programs who do not have the Bilingual Supplemental certification will need to get it.
      • Each exam costs $116 and the certification application fee is $75.
      • Teachers needing Bilingual certification MUST take two examinations:  the Bilingual Supplemental Exam and the Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test (bot of which cost $116).
      • Examinations must be taken at test preparation centers, some of which are not convenient to our members.

Advise Leaders and Members To:

      • START PLANNING NOW! Allow a 90-day window to complete the certification process so that if the exam(s) is not passed the first time, then there is time to take it a second time.
      • Contact their district certification coordinator to find out (1) what they need to; (2) what supports and services are in place to support teachers impacted by this change; and (3) what the timeline for completion is.
      • Work with the district to make this a Human Resources priority. ESL/Bilingual is a recognized shortage area in Texas so getting rid of teachers who lack the certification may not be a good idea if districts cannot find new teachers who are properly certified.
      • Contact the TSTA Help Center ONLY IF AND WHEN their employment is in jeopardy.

October 26, 2018

TEA releases information on 2018-19 charter partnership approval process

The Texas Education Agency today provided school districts with information regarding the 2018-19 benefits approval process under SB1882. This is the law, enacted by the Legislature in 2017, which gives school districts additional state funds if they find partners, including charters, for struggling campuses.

TEA’s news release includes a link to what TEA calls the Texas Partnership Guide.


October 24, 2018

SAT now most widely-used admission test

The SAT has overtaken the ACT as the nation’s most widely-used college admission test, according to fresh data, with almost 2 million U.S. students in 2018 taking the SAT, compared with 1.91 million taking the ACT. Increased delivery of the SAT on school days has helped fuel the switch -- the ACT had been the more popular route since 2012. Read more

NEA Member Benefits to launch new website

NEA Member Benefits is committed to Making Members’ Lives Better.  To that end, we are excited to announce that we will be launching a new website (NEAMB.COM) on November 1, 2018.  This new website shifts the website experience from descriptions of products and services to a member-centric, emotionally driven expression of the value and benefits for NEA members.


October 23, 2018

Come to a screening of Backpack Full of Cash in San Antonio

Backpack Full of Cash takes an urgently needed look at how charter schools, vouchers and the privatization movement are threatening public schools. 

Texas needs high quality Pre-K education

The Texas Legislature has been urged by the group ‘Children at Risk’ to commit to offering affordable, subsidized early childhood education to every Pre-K student in the state. President Dr. Bob Sanborn said that the ages of two to four are the time when childern are most open to learning, However, he added that with the cost of simple 'baby sitting' day care now averaging $15,000 a year in San Antonio, or more than one quarter of the average family's entire budget, too many parents can't afford to enroll their child into the lest productive program, let alone into a program which is staffed by trained and certified teachers, and aims to teach children, instead of just warehousing them for eight hours. Dr. Sanborn said: “If our child care doesn't serve those children, doesn't serve that need to learn, then it is a missed opportunity for us, and a missed opportunity for the state of Texas. Read more


October 22, 2018

Early voting starts today! Make sure you’re prepared to vote

Find your polling place. Conveniently, registered and eligible voters may vote at ANY early voting location within their county of residence. Check here to see a list of early voting locations

Make a plan to get to the polls. Put voting on your schedule so you can set aside the time to go. While you’re at it,

Think about anyone you may know who might have trouble getting out to vote. Can you offer to carpool with a friend or neighbor who otherwise might not get to the polls?

Check out our sample ballot tool customized with our endorsed candidates. We select candidates solely on their record and stance on public education, irrespective of party.


October 15, 2018

Lack of funding hurting public schools in Texas

Writing in the Houston Chronicle, David DeMatthews and David S. Knight claim that Texan lawmakers are failing to adequately finance public education, and communities and students are suffering the academic, physical and economic consequences. With a preliminary budget request from the Texas Education Agency projecting a $3.5 billion decline in state funding over the next few years, they call for elected leaders to be held more accountable for making substantial improvements in the next legislative session. Houston Chronicle article


October 11, 2018

How badly Texas funds public education

Ross Ramsey details data published in the Texas legislature's “Fiscal Size-Up: 2018-19 Biennium” report, which tracks what local, state and federal taxpayers have been contributing to public education in Texas over the past decade. Texas is spending 18.9% less per student now ($7,983), in constant dollars with inflation factored out, than it was in 2010 ($9,845), the report reveals, while the state’s share of public education spending has dropped from 37.6% of the total to 35% of the total projected for the 2019 budget. Federal contributions have dropped from 16.4% of the total to 9.5% in 2019, while the local share, part-funded by property taxes, has risen from 46.1% in 2010 to 55.5% now. To keep the state and local shares at about 45% each, Ramsey notes, state lawmakers would have to find $9 billion for the next two-year budget.

Read more 


October 9, 2018

Today is the last day to register to vote!

Get a printable voter registration application here. Your application must be postmarked today. You can also apply in person at your county voter registrar's office. Make certain you can #VoteEducationFirst this November!


October 5, 2018

SBEC adopts TSTA-recommended rule change to Chapter 228.35(c)

When the State Board of Education rejected proposed changes to SBEC rules in Chapter 228, it did so based on testimony from TSTA and the other education organizations. During its testimony, TSTA recommended going back to the original rule change proposed at the March SBEC meeting. At its October 5 meeting, SBEC concurred and agree to the change, which now goes back to SBOE.

SBEC rule changes in 19 TAC Chapter 228, specifically 228.35(c), sought to establish an expedited pathway to certification for Health Science, Marketing, and Trade/Industrial Workforce (T/IW) Training. The rule also allowed providers other than recognized educator preparation programs (EPPs) to this certification training. This changed, which occurred at the May SBEC meeting, represented a significant movement away from legislative intent, which limited it to T/IW programs, limited education preparation programs in this area to EPPS.

The new rule language limits the scope of the rule to on the T/IW training certificate and provides for only SBEC-recognized educator preparation programs to provide the training and preparation.

TSTA opposed this section of Chapter 228 rule at both the SBEC and SBOE meetings for three primary reasons:

      • The proposed language exceeded legislative intent;
      • It expanded the expedited certification to areas that allow holders of the expedited certificate to “test” in to other areas of certification that typically require more preparation; and
      • It expanded authority to provide the training and preparation to providers outside the scope of SBEC supervision and accountability.

October 3, 2018

Maps show how neighborhoods shape children for life

The research has shown that where children live matters deeply in whether they prosper as adults. On Monday the Census Bureau, in collaboration with researchers at Harvard and Brown, published nationwide data that will make it possible to pinpoint — down to the census tract, a level relevant to individual families — where children of all backgrounds have the best shot at getting ahead. Read more

View the Opportunity Atlas


September 26, 2018

Some study commission members oppose more state funding for schools

Today, the Texas Commission on Public School Finance met to discuss the recommendations of the Expenditures Working Group (EWG). The EWG recommended updating multiple weights and allotments, and also suggested a few new weights and allotments. The EWG recommended that the state of Texas increase funding for public education, but that was met with stern disapproval from many on the Commission.

Commissioner Morath testified that property values are up 10% over last year’s values, and suggested that the increase in local revenue means the state can pay less for educating the 5.4 million public school students in Texas. Several Commission members agreed with Morath that local property revenues should be used instead of state revenue to fund public education.

As expected, it appears the Commission will offer no intelligent solutions to the public school finance quagmire that the legislature created.


September 25, 2018

Today is National Voter Registration Day

Now is a good time to make sure you are registered to vote. The voter registration deadline in Texas is Oct. 9.

Am I registered
register to vote


September 21, 2018

TRS board keeps retirees’ premiums for TRS-Care unchanged

The TRS Board of Trustees met today to discuss premiums and plan design for TRS Care for the upcoming plan year. Previously, TRS predicted the Care fund balance would be negative $410 million at the end of 2021. To pay for this negative fund balance, during the last legislative session, the legislature directed TRS to stair-step the premium increases on retirees by $50 per year over the next four years. Since the session, however, TRS was able to negotiate a better rate with Humana, and along with program cost savings, the new projected fund balance at the end of 2021 was projected to drop to negative $238 million. Because of the new numbers, TRS staff was able to recommend to the Board that no changes be made to the Care plan. The Board agreed, and, therefore made no changes to the Care plan, meaning there will be no premium increases, and plan and pharmacy benefits will remain the same as the current year. At earlier Board meetings, TSTA appeared and requested the Board freeze premiums in the Care program due to the hardship that increased premiums would bring to retirees. TSTA is thankful to the Board for listening and responding to our requests. Stay tuned for more TRS updates before the next legislative session.


September 18, 2018

NEA reopens its hurricane relief page for Florence

Today NEA released the following statement from President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

By now, we are all beginning to see the extent of the damage from Hurricane Florence. It has ravaged communities in the Carolinas and Virginia, leaving behind a trail of pain and loss. The huge, slow-moving tropical storm has caused 32 deaths, and additional fatalities are feared as floodwaters fill more streets and homes. Although its hurricane-force winds are gone, catastrophic flooding, widespread power outages, and overall disruption are compounding the hardship.

In the spirit of solidarity and compassion, please visit our Hurricane Resources and Relief web page (nea.org/hurricanerelief) and contribute to the NEA Member Benefits’ Disaster Relief Fund for NEA members. You were so very generous last year after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. I know I can count on the NEA family once again to open your hearts to those in desperate need of our help.

In many communities, our members will need ongoing contributions and support to make it through this difficult time. They need to know we are here for them, and that we share their sorrow and empathize with their pain.

Let us keep all affected members and communities in our thoughts and prayers. Our compassion and generous donations will help restore their hope that tomorrow will be better.

In solidarity, Lily


September 12, 2018

H-E-B accepting nominations for the 2019 Excellence in Education Awards

H-E-B is now accepting nominations for educators to apply for the 2019 H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards. Each year, these awards highlight a variety of educators who go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of their students and communities. Nominations can be submitted online through Oct. 22, 2018.


September 5, 2018

TSTA remarks to House Appropriations Committee

Today, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Education met to hear invited testimony on TRS Care funding. TSTA appeared and testified as follows:

TRS Care has a funding problem. Care funding is linked with active teacher payroll, which has no relation to the cost of health care. TSTA believes the Legislature needs to address this issue during the next session. Basing Care funding on an agreed-upon base level, and then linking Care funding to a health care cost inflation index means funding will automatically rise with increasing health care costs.

Recently, the TRS Board voted to lower the assumed rate of return from 8.0% to 7.25%. Lowering the assumed rate of return to 7.25% means that, unless contribution rates increase by 1.82% ($786 million), the unfunded liability of the fund will jump from $35.5 billion to $45.9 billion, and the funding period will jump from 33 years to 86 years. This is significant because the increased funding period means that retirees could potentially face decades without a cost of living increase, decreasing their buying power, especially in the healthcare market.

This is a multifaceted problem: there is the funding issue with Care, and the Pension Trust Fund is going to need a shot in the arm if our retirees are ever going to receive a much-needed cost of living increase. Although our retirees have access to health care through TRS, if they can’t afford to pay for that health care, that is paramount to not having access to health care. Our retirees are being squeezed on both ends of this issue.

For years, retirees have been asked to do more with less. Our retired teachers deserve better from the State of Texas. TSTA asks that this body look into a viable, permanent solution for TRS Care funding.