Home » News Center » Education news
banner

Education news

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.


August 31, 2018

Arizona Education Association calls for national #RedForEd day Sept. 4

The Arizona Supreme Court decided to block a ballot initiative that would have secured much needed education funding for Arizona's crumbling schools. In protest of this decision, and in solidarity with our Arizona colleagues, TSTA is participating in a national #RedForEd day on Tuesday, September 4. Wear #RedForEd with us and post your photos on your social media pages using the hashtag #RedForED to show your support.

Read more

Event page


August 30, 2018

  • TSTA sues TEA and commissioner for charter school overreach

The Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers union, argue in the suit that Morath exceeded his authority in releasing schools seeking partnerships from existing state regulations — harming teachers who benefit from those rights. They are set to hold a news conference at the Texas Capitol today.

Read more


August 29, 2018

  • Austin ISD schools named for Confederate figures will be renamed

Five Austin ISD campuses will be renamed this semester following a Board of Trustees vote this February. AISD has asked the naming committees at each school, made up of teachers, students and community members, to submit their top three choices for new names so the board can vote on them in October. The name changes would go into effect in the 2019-20 school year.

Read more


August 28, 2018

  • Americans express broad support for higher teacher pay

In the wake of activism by teachers across the country, an overwhelming 78 percent of public school parents say they would support teachers in their own communities if they went on strike for higher pay. Two-thirds of Americans say teacher salaries are too low, and very few Americans--just 6 percent of all adults--say teacher salaries are too high.

Read more


August 27, 2018

  • Detained migrant kids to enroll in San Benito CISD

Despite disagreements over who is responsible for funding, San Benito CISD educators are onsite at two Southwest Key detention centers to serve the educational needs of nearly 500 immigrant minors who either crossed the border on their own or were separated from their families. TEA has informed the district that it believes the federal government should pay the costs for educating the children, while SBCISD maintains that the students are enrolled as regular pupils, and therefore the state's responsibility.

Read more


August 20, 2018

  • TRS to issue membership cards, launch new phone system

This fall, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas plans to issue unique membership identification cards that include information that will be helpful when contacting TRS’ Telephone Counseling Center and using the agency’s automated telephone system or speaking with a Benefit Counselor. The card will include the participant name and unique Participant Identification Number printed on the front of the card. The back of the card will feature important information about TRS’ operating hours and toll-free numbers. The card will not serve as a substitute for your health insurance card. For questions related to your new TRS Membership Card, please call 1-844-203-5280.

Along with issuing this card, TRS is launching a new automated telephone system in September. Here’s what to expect:

  • When you call TRS, please be ready to provide personal information such as your PID (found on your membership card), social security number, and date of birth.
  • If you call from a telephone number that is currently on file with TRS, you will be able to easily authenticate your identity by providing your social security number.
  • If you call from a telephone number that is not currently on file with TRS, you will be asked to provide personal information, including your PID, to authenticate your identity.
  • There will no longer be a need to set up and maintain a Personal Identification Number.

August 16, 2018

  • California Teachers Association accepting donations for disaster relief fund

In response to the fires raging across California, CTA is accepting grant applications for those members who have experienced displacement or catastrophic damage to their homes or property. The fund is also accepting donations if you would like to contribute to our fellow NEA educators. Please send a check made out to:

CTA Disaster Relief Fund
1705 Murchison Drive
Burlingame, CA 94010


August 15, 2018

  • A-F letter grades posted for school districts

TSTA believes this is an incomplete and misleading way to rate schools because the grades are based largely on STAAR test scores. But the Texas Education Agency, acting under a new law, posted its first letter grades for school districts today. Click below to find out what grade your school district was given. TSTA President Noel Candelaria issued a statement to the news media pointing out how elected state officials are using the new A-F grading system to blame school children and educators for their own failures to adequately fund public schools.

The Afterschool Meal Program, also known as the Child and Adult Care Food Program, allows high-poverty schools that participate in afterschool enrichment programs to serve full, nutritious meals to all students. This means students who do sports, arts or other activities after school can get a free meal in the early evening.

To learn about the basics of the Afterschool Meal Program as well as tips and tricks for establishing successful programs, join the Center for Public Policy Priorities' Afterschool Meals Matter Webinar on Thursday, August 16 at 12:00pm CT.


August 14, 2018

  • Schools and students still dealing with effects of Harvey

As students across southeast Texas prepare to head back to the stability of a regimented school day, many in the area are still living in small trailers, stuffed into rooms with aunts, uncles and grandparents while their parents argue with insurance providers and desperately hunt for contractors who won’t rip them off.

Read more


August 8, 2018

  • TSTA testimony to House Public Education Committee

Texas needs teachers. With a turnover rate of approximately 16% and student enrollment growing by an estimated 40,000 annually, the increasing demand for teachers is evident. As we prepare our students for success in a global economy and for jobs and careers that may not yet exist, the need for a well-skilled, professional teaching force is necessary. In order to recruit and retain quality teachers, the following characteristics must define the profession:

  • Rigorous preparation and certification;
  • Comprehensive induction and mentoring programs;
  • Increasing engagement in decision-making; and
  • Compensation levels that demonstrate the value and prestige of teachers and the profession.

For many teachers, though, the following is their reality: skyrocketing health care premiums continue to eat away at any salary increases they may receive, and to provide for their students, teachers commonly incur out-of-pocket expenses for supplies and food. On average, teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money to ensure students have the resources to participate in learning, let alone be successful. Many Texas teachers go out of their way to ensure that students have books to read at home, coats to wear when it is cold, shoes to protect their feet, and food to eat as more of our children experience the hardship of food insecurity. As a result, nearly 40% of teachers take extra jobs outside the classroom to meet family budgets, according to a survey commissioned by TSTA.

In 1979, the National Commission of Excellence in Education recommended that salaries for teachers should be professionally competitive, market sensitive, and performance based. Now, almost 40 years later, Texas has done little to make teacher salaries professionally competitive or market sensitive and has flirted with a series of failed merit pay schemes. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Development, teachers in the United States earn about 67% of what other professionals with a four-year degree make; the ratio is similar for Texas as a whole, and worse in some parts of the state. Texas teacher salaries are not market sensitive, as the state has attempted to resolve the teacher shortage crisis by relaxing entry requirements into the profession rather than creating and sustaining a salary structure that makes teaching an attractive profession for high school and college students to pursue. In this 40-year time span, Texas has implemented four failed experiments with performance-based pay:

  • Career Ladder
  • Governor’s Educator Excellence Grant
  • District Awards for Teaching Excellence
  • Educator Excellence Innovation Program

Professionally Competitive Salaries

In 2014, the Texas Education Agency created the Professional Employee Salary Report in response to HB 2012, which was passed during the 83rd legislative session. Many of you on the committee are familiar with this report, which provided analyses based on comparisons of:

  • Teacher salaries by years of experience by county;
  • Teacher salaries with other professions with similar entry requirements;
  • Teacher salaries with other professions using the American Community Survey Comparable Wage Index (CWI); and
  • Teacher salaries with other professions using the CWI sorted by county.

The average salary at the time for a teacher with zero years of experience was $35,636, increasing to $54,015 after 25 years of experience. More significantly, the legislation required a comparison of teacher salaries with other professions requiring a bachelor’s degree and some form of licensure or certification. The findings identified a discrepancy of 37% between teachers and other similarly situated professions in the Houston area, 58% in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area, 28% in the Austin area, 23% in Dallas, 16% in Fort Worth, and 4% and 5% in El Paso and San Antonio respectively. This is based on 2012 data.

By 2017, based on data from the U. S. Department of Labor’s Salary and Wage Comparison, the discrepancies had ballooned:

DistrictSimilarly-Situated ProfessionsTeachingDiscrepancy
Beaumont/Pt. Arthur$81,072$48,140-68.4%
Houston$101,286$62,543-61.9%
Austin$88,386$55,076-60.5%
Dallas$93,244$60,507-54.1%
Lubbock$71,065$46,631-52.4%
Fort Worth$84,604$59,007-43.4%
San Antonio$81,602$57,606-41.7%
El Paso$75,288$58,907-19.7%
McAllen/Edinburg$65,939$56,983-13.6%

In today’s economy, school districts are not just competing with other school districts to attract and retain the best and the brightest as teachers; they are also competing against the private sector for the same pool of talent. Increasing numbers of college graduates do not consider teaching a viable career option given poor starting salaries, the limited income arc over the course of a career, and the lack of autonomy and respect enjoyed across the profession. Although starting salaries are improving, in most urban and suburban areas, the gap between novice and experienced teachers is narrowing. This narrowing of the salary range is driven by salary increases based on midpoints and averages which ensure that career teachers do not see salary increases comparable to those of younger teachers who are more likely to leave the profession.

Market Sensitive Salaries

If teachers are indeed the most critical in-school factor for student success and future outcomes, then why are they not recognized as such? In a 20-year time span between 1995 and 2015, the gap between the weekly salaries of teachers and comparable professionals increased from 1.8% to 17%. Tragically, this teacher penalty has impacted career teachers more than novice teachers. Thus, those who choose teaching as a career are often hit with a trifecta of low salaries while working; stagnant pensions when retired; and burdensome health care costs for both premiums and benefits.

As mentioned in the beginning, the need for teachers is ever-expanding. Even though estimates of student enrollment growth have slowed, Texas is still expecting to increase enrollment by about 40,000 students annually. This is the equivalent of adding another Ysleta ISD each year, a district which has almost 3,000 teacher full-time equivalents. Furthermore, our teacher turnover rate is approximately 16%, which means more than 50,000 or so teachers teaching in 2016-17 did not return to their districts in 2017-18. This creates an inordinate demand for teachers.

The response to this need has been to weaken professional entry requirements and increase entry-level salaries. Although this has been the practice for most all of this century, our need for teachers continues to expand. The on-going practice of “front-loading” salary increases suggests the limited opportunity for financial gains, which can undermine the long-term commitment to teaching as a career. As a result, teachers are leaving the profession. According to our estimates, which are based on TEA’s Turnover Ratios and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, teacher turnover costs Texas schools and districts over $1 billion.

Since 2003-04, the gap in the average base salary for a beginning teacher and a veteran teacher with twenty or more years of experience has decreased by 21%, from $17,809 to $14,714. During this same time, the gap between the average base salary for a teacher and school administration has increased by almost 18% and the gap between the average base salary for teachers and central administration has increased by almost $50,000. The same is true when compared with other professional staff, where the gap in average base salaries has increased by more than 21%.

In short, teaching is no longer a desirable profession. According to Linda Darling-Hammond, recent surveys of college-bound students indicate that only 5% were interested in pursuing teaching as a career. A student with a STEM degree can walk from the baccalaureate stage into a position with an average salary of $60,000 or more according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2018 Winter Survey. If that same student walked into a teaching career, he or she would work more than half-of their career before achieving that salary level and, in some instances, possibly retire before doing so.

Performance-Based Compensation

Every performance-based compensation system Texas has attempted has failed. A common reason for this failure is the lack of sustainable funding to support these programs. It is insufficient for a new teacher compensation system to be affordable only in the short term. It must also be sustainable over time. Also, incentive programs aren’t effective if teachers do not believe that state and district officials will actually deliver earned financial rewards as promised.

Unpredictable state funding, in particular, has given teachers reason to be skeptical. California, for example, implemented two statewide performance-pay plans and numerous other financial incentives for teachers that were subsequently dismantled when the state economy weakened. Both Texas and Florida considered cutting funds for alternative teacher compensation plans in 2007 to pay for across-the-board teacher pay raises or to help balance the state budget.

Performance-based pay plans have fallen victim to the budget axe wielded by policy and decision-makers in part because states and districts frequently underestimate overall costs of alternative compensation plans as well as the numbers of teachers and schools that will qualify for awards, as evidenced by the impact of the Texas Educator Excellence Grant (TEEG).

  • The TEEG program provided grants to local school districts for the purpose of rewarding teachers in high-poverty schools that demonstrated the highest levels of student achievement or improvement. The state required that 75 percent of the grant funds be distributed to teachers and recommended that schools offer bonuses of $3,000 to $10,000 so that they are meaningful.
  • When more teachers than expected qualified for performance awards in one Texas school district, in 2007, school board trustees simply decided to give less money to each teacher. No individual teacher received more than $1,777, and some teachers received as little as $451.
  • Evidence indicates that providing smaller-than-recommended performance awards was a fairly common practice during the first year that the Texas Educator Excellence Grant program was in place. An independent study of the program found that the average maximum bonus that districts across the state intended to pay teachers in 2007 was $2,263.

Another reason performance-based plans are unsuccessful is that they just do not lead to the desired outcomes. In the first major performance-based pay program in Tennessee, researchers found incentives had no effect on student achievement. This aligns with other studies on the effect of these programs. In a study of more than 200 schools in New York City, researchers found no evidence that teacher incentives increased student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor did they find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, they found that teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. A study of Nashville’s “Project on Incentives in Teaching” (POINT) found that even large incentives ($15,000), based solely on test scores, did not significantly increase student achievement. Similarly, a study of an incentive program implemented by Round Rock ISD found no effect on student test scores. Incentive programs, more often than not, have little impact on behavior and practices because they more reflect punishments than motivators.

Performance-based compensation also fails because there are many factors beyond a teacher’s control that influence student performance just as much or more than any teacher will. Factors such as lack of parental involvement, poverty, and learning disabilities offer real hindrances to learning are often nearly impossible to overcome.

Lastly, there is no objective means by which it works. Students are not randomly assigned to teachers’ classrooms and teachers are not randomly assigned to schools. Every campus has a political climate and a clique. Furthermore, a mediocre teacher will be perceived as more effective in a classroom of high-achieving students than a strong teacher in a classroom of struggling students.

Texas has been buoyed by an economy many have dubbed the Texas Miracle. However, this miracle has left behind the almost 400,000 teachers entrusted with preparing the next generation of doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and others who will drive the Texas economy as a majority of us in this room live out our golden years. As this committee and the Legislature consider issues of compensation, performance-based or otherwise, please keep in mind that compensation is ultimately about the value placed on a profession.


August 2, 2018

  • Texas schools failing to register students to vote

The vast majority of Texas high schools are not complying with a state law that requires them to supply voter registration forms to students at least twice a year, according to a new study. An analysis of data conducted by the Texas Civil Rights Project found that only around a third of Texas’ 2,600 high schools with 20 or more seniors requested voter registration forms from the Secretary of State, according to an analysis conducted by the Texas Civil Rights Project. The study also found that 82 out of 232 Texas counties, or 35%, did not have a single high school request a voter registration form. State law mandates that students are offered registration forms by their high schools at least twice a year. Read more


July 27, 2018

  • TRS lowers investment return to 7.25 percent;
    Legislature will consider changes in member contributions

Today, the TRS Board of Trustees discussed the assumed rate of return for investments for the Pension Trust Fund. For the past few decades, the assumed rate of return has been 8%, and TRS has largely met that target.

TRS is required by law to conduct an experience study every five years. The purpose of an experience study is to determine if actual behavior, plan provisions, and investment returns matched assumptions, or if adjustments are necessary. Significant changes in the global economic outlook over the last three years warranted examining TRS’ experience sooner that the five-year deadline. The study determined that while most of the assumptions were accurate, the investment return assumption needed to be adjusted. As such, the actuaries recommended that TRS lower the assumed rate of return from 8% to either 7.25% or 7.5%. The Board voted to lower the assumed rate of return to 7.25%. Lowering the assumed rate of return to 7.25% means that, unless contribution rates increase by 1.82%, 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.

Because TRS lowered the assumed rate of return, during the next legislative session, TRS will ask the Legislature to increase contribution rates. Currently the contribution rates are 6.8% for the state, 7.7% for active employees, and 1.5% for ISDs. TRS stated that it will ask the Legislature for between a 1.5% and 2.0% contribution rate increase, which would bring down the funding period and the unfunded liability. The Legislature would then decide whether to increase contribution rates, and, if so, how that increase will be distributed among employees, ISDs, and the state. Monthly annuity payments will not be changed because of a lower assumed rate of return. The Board of Trustees does not have the authority to lower annuity payments for current or future retirees – that authority rests with the Texas Legislature. The Legislature, however, does not have the option of issuing a cost of living increase until the funding period drops below 31 years.


July 26, 2018

  • Appellate court rules in favor of TSTA member, overturning commissioner

Dehann Riou held a continuing contract with North East Independent School District (NEISD). When the school district proposed to terminate Ms. Riou’s employment, TSTA represented her before the school board and the Commissioner of Education. After the Commissioner of Education upheld the school board’s decision, TSTA appealed and the Bexar County District Court ruled that Ms. Riou should be reinstated with back pay and benefits. The Commissioner and NEISD appealed the district court’s ruling to the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio.

TSTA argued that the Commissioner erred by applying a “good cause per se” standard of proof to her case instead of the statutory definition for good cause, which is the “failure to meet the accepted standards of conduct for the profession as generally recognized and applied in similarly situated school districts in this state.”

NEISD did not present sufficient evidence as required by statute. The Commissioner’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court ruled in TSTA and Riou’s favor.

TSTA believes that employment decisions should be decided in an atmosphere of objectivity. It is TSTA’s position that the burden of proof requirement that is codified in the Texas Education Code is important to ensuring that objectivity.


July 24, 2018

  • TSTA’s testimony to the committee on Violence in Schools and School Security

Take Meaningful Action on Gun Violence Prevention

TSTA supports the Red Flag proposal because it will make it easier for judges to order firearms removed from the hands of dangerous people, including people with mental issues, domestic violence abusers, etc. Our kids and communities deserve common sense laws that protect our safety—and that starts with ensuring that guns don’t end up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. We believe that everyone who wants to purchase a firearm should go through a background check, regardless of where they are purchasing the weapon.

We believe assault weapons and high capacity magazines are weapons of war that belong only in the hands of our military and law enforcement officers. We believe in “amnesty days” to allow Americans to turn in these types of weapons of war to law enforcement — no questions asked. Finally, we believe that gun trafficking ought to be a federal crime with harsh penalties.

Increase Access to Mental Health Services

We need to dramatically expand our focus on mental health. Proper diagnosis can and often starts in our schools, yet there is a huge shortage of school counselors, school social workers and school psychologists in public education.

We need more school-based health centers that diagnose and treat mental health disorders. It’s also important that access to mental health services is a mandatory part of all healthcare coverage. Legislators must close loopholes that allow state and local governments to opt out of providing mental health care as stipulated by the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996.

Provide a Safe and Secure Learning Environment for All Students

Our school facilities must be equipped with an updated structural and technological support foundation to help protect students and educators from danger. We must invest in school personnel to provide diagnostic and counseling services, such as counselors, school psychologists and nurses.

Our educators need professional development about bullying, mental and behavioral health, cultural competence, appropriate classroom management, and safety. And students need more exposure to peer mediation programs, diversity and inclusion curriculum or programs, and character education in order to minimize conflict and harmful behavior. And we must redouble our efforts to address the bullying epidemic in our schools. We believe if we put a stop to bullying before it starts, fewer teens and young adults will become desperate and resort to violence.


July 18, 2018

  • More funding required to address school violence

In a hearing today, the Senate Select Committee on Violence in Public Schools and School Security focused on identifying students with mental health issues in the hope that intervention would thwart these students from harming themselves and others.

The hearing offered no new information. Multiple experts testified that Texas public schools do not have the resources to identify students with mental health issues. Our public schools need funding to hire more counselors and mental health professionals. Texas ISDs also need funding to offer services to students who are found to be in need of counseling. Currently, school counselors do not spend much of their time counseling children. Instead, counselors serve as testing monitors and are required to fill other roles assigned by their principals.

Once again, we are reminded that Texas has failed to adequately fund its public schools. Unfortunately, under these circumstances, under-funding leads to self-harm, violence against others, and incarceration. It’s time for the Texas Legislature to protect all public school students. Such a decision should not be difficult to make, but for some reason, the legislative majority can’t see the light.


July 17, 2018

  • TSTA member Tara Bordeaux receives another honor

Tara Bordeaux, the 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year, has added a new honor to her resume.  She is one of 46 public school educators throughout the country who will receive the prestigious California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala next February in Washington, D.C.

Bordeaux, a member of Education Austin and audio-video production teacher at Lanier Early College High School, was nominated for the honor by TSTA for her dedication to the profession, community engagement, professional development, attention to diversity and advocacy for fellow educators.

Bordeaux and her fellow honorees “are keeping the promise of public education by creating learning opportunities for their students that are relevant and rigorous. They advocate for each other, the profession and public education,” said Harriet Sanford, NEA Foundation President and CEO.

“We are glad to have the chance to show our respect and appreciation for the work of public school educators each year,” added California Casualty CEO Beau Brown.
Of the 46 state awardees, five finalists will be announced at the beginning of the school year and receive $10,000 at the Feb. 8 gala. The nation’s top educator will be announced at the gala and receive an additional $25,000.

  • Widespread parental opposition to arming teachers, survey finds

Asked to choose between two potential ways of addressing school safety - 76% of all adults and 71% of parents of school-age children preferred mental-health services for students over armed guards in schools, according to a poll by professional education association PDK International, which also revealed that just one in four parents are confident that sufficient security exists at their child’s school to prevent a shooting attack. Separately, a poll by Phi Delta Kappa International, another professional organization for educators, has revealed that one in three U.S. parents fears for their child's safety while at school – the highest level of concern in two decades. Joshua Starr, its chief executive, said: "The conversation that's happening at the policy and the political level may not jibe with what parents want to see happen in their schools to make sure their kids are safe." Washington Post U.S. News & World Report


July 10, 2018

  • NEA President Lily Eskelsen García's statement on Kavanaugh’s nomination

“President Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and their wealthy and powerful allies envision an America where public schools lose public funding to private, religious and for-profit schools, and educators lose their ability to advocate for themselves and their students. This is a world where affordable, quality health care is reserved for the few who can afford it. These ideologies have been at the core of the Trump administration’s playbook, and the majority of Americans continue to reject them. Yet, if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, Trump’s agenda would be more than a temporary departure from our ideals and values.

“The Supreme Court has already gone far enough in becoming a rubber stamp for President Trump’s political agenda, and Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination threatens a generational transformation of our government that will entrench laws favoring the wealthy and powerful. Just this past term, the Supreme Court, in 5-4 decisions, ruled against workers’ rights and strong unions, upheld the discriminatory Muslim travel ban, and allowed racial discrimination in the drawing of legislative districts.

“Judge Kavanaugh has long demonstrated that he will not be a fair-minded constitutionalist who will fight for equality and justice for all. In fact, before being nominated, he was vetted and approved by the Heritage Foundation — a corporate-funded organization that seeks to end the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid; strives to weaken workers’ rights and to silence their voices in the workplaces; and advocates to replace our public schools with vouchers that funnel public funding to private religious schools. The Heritage Foundation approved Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination because he could be trusted to advance their plans.

“This is exactly why Judge Kavanaugh can’t be trusted to protect the interests of students and educators. He praised rulings and legal theories that justify allowing public money being funneled into religious institutions; and he has predicted that a future Supreme Court would uphold school vouchers that go to private religious schools. He has contorted the law and facts to side with companies against workers and unions, while also consistently voting to reverse rulings that protect workers’ safety, privacy, and rights to organize and bargain collectively; he has said that key provisions of the Affordable Care Act should be declared unconstitutional.
“Americans deserve a Supreme Court nominee who will apply the law fairly for all and not favor corporations, the wealthy and the powerful; Judge Kavanaugh is not such a nominee. We oppose this nomination and urge all senators to do the same.”


July 3, 2018

  • Education Department reportedly to rescind affirmative action guidance

Education Department has turned its back on our most vulnerable, at-risk students. The Trump administration is rescinding guidance to colleges and universities on how they can use race in admissions decisions to promote diversity, according to news media reports. Read more


June 28, 2018

  • Effect of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision on TSTA and Texas

Yesterday's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME is the culmination of a long-term effort by right wing forces to strike at the public sector unions that are at the heart of America's resurgent labor movement.

This anti-worker, anti-middle-class decision will have far-reaching negative effects in many states. Although the long-term assault on the labor movement will impact all of us, Janus will have no immediate direct effect on TSTA or our brother and sister public sector unions in Texas.

The decision targets "fair share" or agency fee arrangements in workplaces with collective bargaining agreements. Agency fee is an amount that can be charged non-members of the union to support the costs of negotiating and enforcing collective bargaining agreements from which the non-members benefit. Since Texas does not permit either collective bargaining for employees in public education or agency fee arrangements, TSTA and other public sector unions in Texas will see no direct effect from the ruling.

That's not to say that TSTA won't respond directly and forcefully to this terrible decision. The Janus ruling is an assault on the right of working people in America to organize and fight for economic fairness and justice.

As our NEA President, Lily Eskelson Garcia, wrote in her statement following the announcement: “Today’s radical decision by the Supreme Court is a blatant slap in the face for educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers and all public servants who make our communities strong and safe. We are living in a system that is rigged to benefit special interests and billionaires, all at the expense of working people. Those behind this case know that unions amplify workers’ voices and transform their words into powerful and collective action. Even though the Supreme Court sided with corporate CEOs and billionaires over working Americans, unions will continue to be the best vehicle on the path to the middle class.”

This radical decision sends our economy in the wrong direction. But it is also a rallying point. We will require that elected leaders and candidates do everything in their power to support our right to unite in unions and build more power for all working people. We will demand that our elected officials stand for a Supreme Court that believes in justice for working people and not just for billionaires and corporations. Above all, we will organize, campaign, and go to the polls this November to see to it that these demands are met. TSTA understands that "an injury to one is an injury to all" and that this attack on collective bargaining and fair share states is an attack on all of us. Vote Education First means voting to stand up for our public schools and the right to a powerful, organized voice for the people who work in them.


June 27, 2018

  • America needs unions now more than ever as Supreme Court rigs economy against workers

The following statement was issued by leaders and members of NEA, AFSCME, SEIU and AFT following the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against working people and in favor of billionaire CEOs and corporate interests in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, holding that requiring fair-share fees in the public sector violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.

As millions of American workers recommit to their unions and launch new organizing drives and as support for labor unions has risen to its highest level in years, it is shameful that the billionaire CEOs and corporate special interests behind this case have succeeded in manipulating the highest court in the land to do their bidding. This case was nothing more than a blatant political attack to further rig our economy and democracy against everyday Americans in favor of the wealthy and powerful.

Read more


June 26, 2018

  • Teacher stress costs your schools more than you think

Teachers need the right support to deliver high-quality instruction, and a new study finds that teachers who do not have access to the proper resources have higher job-related stress that negatively impacts student achievement.

High levels of job-related stress affect 93 percent of teachers, and classrooms with highly stressed teachers usually have the poorest student outcomes, including lower grades and frequent behavior problems.

read more 

read research


June 25, 2018

  • Nearly 5,000 unaccompanied migrant kids still in Texas shelters

Many of the thousands of children separated from their parents at the southern border under the Trump administration’s paused “zero tolerance” policy went to one of Texas’ 31 state-licensed facilities. There were nearly 5,000 children in the shelters on June 21, which is close to their capacity, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.


June 21, 2018

  • NEA president to join rally in Texas

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García will attend this Sunday's Voto Latino action in protest of the Trump administration's cruel and capricious policy of family detention for refugees crossing our borders seeking asylum in the US.

Voto Latino is hosting an action in Tornillo, Texas, the site of the first tent city to house migrant children, at 9 AM MT on Sunday, June 24, 2018.

In addition to this action, we encourage people to call Congress to demand an end to family detention and donate to the organizations at stopseparation.org.

Despite Trump's recent backpedaling with regard to his policy to separate children from their parents, there is no clear path for reuniting the children who have already been separated. And in place of the family separation policy, the administration is now favoring one that detains whole families, ignoring the success of policies that used ankle monitoring to keep families out of detention while they were waiting their day in court to present their asylum cases.


June 20, 2018

  • Immigrant children still need educational services

Trump is still going to be locking up thousands of immigrants along the border whose only "crime" is seeking a better life. This will include thousands of children who will need educational services. What are Trump and Gov. Abbott going to do about that?


June 19, 2018

  • Limit on charter schools proposed

Dallas City Council members have received a request from Dallas ISD trustee Joyce Foreman to limit the number of charter schools in the city. Speaking at a council committee meeting, Foreman delivered a briefing that shows 14% of 233,687 school age children in Dallas now attend charter schools, taking away per pupil state funding that could go to the public school district. read more


June 18, 2018

  • Student hackings highlight weak K-12 cybersecurity

A spate of incidents involving students hacking their schools' networks and software programs is again highlighting the weak cybersecurity practices in K-12 education. From California to New Jersey, teenagers have allegedly improperly accessed student-information systems, online learning programs, and college-counseling software in at least 10 states this school year. Often, their motivation was to change grades. read more 


June 13, 2018

  • SBOE report: What’s in a name – progress toward the
    inclusion of Mexican American Studies in the TEKS

After five years of contentious debate and another name change, the State Board of Education (SBOE) gave preliminary approval for a new high school Social Studies course to be called “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies.” After public comment, the SBOE will take a vote on final approval, probably at its September meeting. Initially, the board majority had approved a title, “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent,” which was denounced by members of the Mexican American community, who asserted, rightly so, that it did not reflect the content of a course focusing on Mexican American studies.

Once it receives final approval, the course will be available for offering during the 2019-20 school year and will earn one credit.
 
School safety takes center stage
In remarks to the SBOE and in a letter to school districts, Commissioner Morath outlined steps that he said districts can take now to increase campus safety:

  • Increase police support.  In schools where that is not an option, Morath suggested, as did Gov. Abbott, an expansion of the School Marshal program for arming teachers and other school employees. TSTA supports more armed police officers and has called for the state to increase funding for security. But TSTA opposes arming teachers and other non-security school employees.
  • Secret Service Report. This report on school safety came out in the aftermath of Columbine and speaks to very practical steps to encourage an ethos of “if you see something say something” so people can connect the dots and alert authorities to potential threats. A similar program is up and running in the Lubbock area, and this increases safety and, with its focus on mental health, also helps reduce suicides. This type of program should be in place in all our schools, but we have to support it logistically. Morath also commented that even though this report has been in existence almost 20 years, it has received little attention.
  • Law Enforcement Coordination. The Hays County Sheriff’s Department has all its deputies stop at a school every day (if they’re passing by, to have lunch, do some paperwork, etc.), and it increases the appearance of random law enforcement. It has a positive effect on school safety and improves the relationship between students and the law enforcement community, and it can be done without sacrificing law enforcement posture.
  • Develop and promote extensive school safety training resources,  such as alerts, active school shooting safety responses and use Texas School Safety Resource Center materials.
  • Money.  School districts will receive an additional $62 million for school safety that will be linked to ESSA funding. But it will take additional millions of dollars to pay for Gov. Abbott’s school security proposals.

Support for Santa Fe
Santa Fe ISD has received a grant of $1 million from the U. S. Department of Education for support and reconciliation in the aftermath of the shooting at Santa Fe High School.

Per Capita Rate distribution range set
SBOE established a distribution range from the Permanent School Fund for fiscal years 2020 and 2010 of 2.38% to 4.01%. The actual distribution will be set by the SBOE at its meeting in September and will be influenced by the contribution, if any, from the General Land Office.

Students, Peace Officers, and a couple of hours
The Legislature in 2017 enacted Senate Bill 30, which requires instruction for students in Grades 9-12 in proper interaction with Peace Officers. This is transcripted instruction, which means it will be reflected on students’ transcripts. School districts have the authority to decide the grade level and content area where this instruction will take place. Students are required to have the instruction only once while in high school.


June 11, 2018

  • Texas Senate committee discusses school safety after Santa Fe shooting

The Texas Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools & School Security met today to discuss school safety in the wake of the May shooting at a high school in Santa Fe that left 10 dead and 13 injured.

The meeting comes after Gov. Greg Abbott hosted a series of roundtable discussions the week after the shooting. Then, on May 30, he unveiled a 40-page plan that covered school safety, mental health screening and a few narrow proposals regulating gun usage. Read TSTA President Noel Candelaria's response to Abbott's plan.

On the committee's list of items to discuss are ways to design schools to reduce threats, proposals to increase security at schools — including arming school personnel — and possible "red-flag" laws that would allow judges to temporarily seize a person's firearms if they're considered an imminent threat.


June 6, 2018

  • TEA announces hurricane waiver criteria for state accountability

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath announced that campuses, school districts and open-enrollment charter schools directly affected by Hurricane Harvey will be eligible for special evaluation in this year's state accountability system, if they meet specific criteria. Click to download the Hurricane Harvey provision of the Accountability Manual


June 4, 2018

  • San Antonio Alliance statement on judge’s ruling in SAISD, Democracy Prep case

Shelley Potter, president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, released a statement on Judge Pozza’s order in the Alliance’s lawsuit against San Antonio ISD. Press release


June 3, 2018

  • TRS trustee nomination site is live

TRS is now accepting nominations for eligible members to qualify as candidates for the election of the Public School District Employee position on the TRS Board of Trustees. The term begins as early as Sept. 1, 2019 and ends Aug. 31, 2025.


May 31, 2018

  • TASA official advises parents to look beyond STAAR

A Texas Association of School Administrators official has cautioned against using STAAR results to gauge individual students' learning. Eric Simpston, Director of Learning and Leadership Services for TASA, wrote in the Texas Tribune, "ETS, the company that conducts the test for the state, and Pearson before it, did not design STAAR to measure student learning or the level of a student’s mastery of a specific subject area. It is designed to compare student groups from across the state. The erroneous assertion that a parent, or a teacher for that matter, can use the data from state testing to make diagnostic claims about a student’s individual educational needs is harmful to students and leads to misinformed instructional decisions."


May 24, 2018

  • STAAR testing failures lead to response from TEA

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath released a statement outlining three responses to the widespread issues students faced during April and May's STAAR testing.

  • Test results for students impacted by online testing issues will be taken into account in this year’s campus and district accountability ratings;
  • State passing requirements for 5th and 8th grade students impacted by online testing issues will be waived; and
  • Liquidated damages in the amount of $100,000 will be assessed against ETS (the company responsible for the statewide delivery and administration of STAAR).

Although the financial penalty against ETS is likely only a drop in the bucket of the taxpayer cost of administering the STAAR, TSTA is heartened to see that students will not be penalized for the outages and lockouts they experienced while taking this high-stakes test.


May 23, 2018

  • Support for the Sante Fe community

If you are interested in providing support services or donations for the community affected by the terrible events at Santa Fe High School, a form has been setup at http://santafeupdates.com/donations/ to help organize the huge outpouring of support Santa Fe ISD has received.

  • TSTA pro-public education endorsed candidates win big in runoff elections

TSTA endorsed and won in four out of five key Republican primary runoff elections last night, races in which public school advocates were pitted against Empower Texans, the heavily funded organization attempting to elect pro-voucher advocates to the Texas House. TSTA and the public education community have sent a clear message that the Legislature cannot be bought and that Texans care about their public schools.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY WINS
HD 4
Keith Bell 58.89%
Stuart Spitzer 41.10%
HD 8
Cody Harris 56.96%
Thomas McNutt 43.03%
HD 62
Reggie Smith 71.19%
Brent Lawson 28.80%
HD 121
Steve Allison 57.46%
Matt Beebe 42.53%

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY LOSS
HD 54
Brad Buckley 58.25%
Scott Cosper 41.74%

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY LOSSES
HD 37
Alex Dominguez 56.71%
Rene Oliveira 43.28%
HD 45
Rebecca Bell-Metereau 48.57%
Erin Zwiener 51.42%

The TSTA endorsed candidates who lost in the Democratic primary runoffs above were beaten by candidates who should be friendly to public education, and the one Republican primary runoff loss last night sends a former school board member to the general election in November.

The big statewide runoff election was for the Democratic nomination in the governor’s race, and Lupe Valdez came out victorious over Andrew White with 53.05% of the vote. Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, will go head to head with Greg Abbott in November.

In Austin, two Democratic runoff elections were in the spotlight. Sheryl Cole (HD 46) won with 50.88% and is assured victory in November, and Vikki Goodwin (HD 47) won with 57.99% and will compete to unseat Republican Paul Workman. In the Texas Senate District 17, Democrat Rita Lucido won with 58% and will face Republican incumbent Joan Huffman.

The Congressional races in Democratic runoffs were numerous, and some of the races TSTA watched could be competitive in November. Mary Jennings “MJ’ Hegar won with 62%, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher won with 67%, Joseph Kosper won with almost 58%, Gina Ortiz Jones won with almost 68%, Julie Oliver won with 52%, and Collin Allred won with 69%.

TSTA congratulates all the successful candidates we supported in the runoff elections, but the real winners are our public school students and public education. VOTE EDUCATION FIRST in November!


May 18, 2018

  • Santa Fe Response

Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the victims in today’s shooting at Santa Fe High School, and the members and staff of the Texas State Teachers Association and the National Education Association stand ready to assist the Santa Fe community in any way we can. 


May 16, 2018

  • Foundation to host public education conference

The Holdsworth Center, a public school training foundation started by H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt, is planning an inaugural leadership event titled ElevatEd: Education & the Economy in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area on June 4. Ask questions of inspiring speakers while networking with experts in education, business, and the nonprofit sector. Your registration fee will be waived by using the promo code “TSTA.” Join the conversation and register today.


May 10, 2018

  • The new voucher frontier: military families

In March 2018, Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) and Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act of 2018 (H.R. 5199 / S. 2517). The bill would use funds designated for the federal Impact Aid program to pay for a new Education Savings Account program for military-connected students. ESAs are simply another form of private school voucher.

The very constituents that supporters of this bill claim will benefit from the ESA, however, actually oppose the bill. The National Military Family Association, the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools and the Military Officers Association of America have all voiced opposition to this proposal. As explained by NAFIS and NMFA, “The proposal is a bad deal for military families – and a disaster for local public school districts charged with educating our nation’s children.”

In Texas, Copperas Cove ISD is already feeling the financial pinch of reduced federal Impact Aid, the funding designed to replace property tax income when a significant portion of a district's boundaries include untaxed federal land. The ESA proposal would further deplete Impact Aid funding, as the legislators propose to use those monies to fund the vouchers.


May 9, 2018

  • House Pensions Committee to meet in Dallas

On Thursday, May 10th, the House Committee on Pensions will meet to discuss TRS ActiveCare, TRS Care, and the health of the Pension Trust Fund. Most likely, TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie will discuss changing the assumed rate of return for investments for the Pension Trust Fund. For the past few decades, the assumed rate of return has been 8%, and TRS has largely met that target. TRS is required by law to conduct an experience study every five years. The purpose of an experience study is to determine if actual behavior, plan provisions, and investment returns matched assumptions, or if adjustments are necessary. Significant changes in the global economic outlook over the last three years warranted examining TRS’ experience sooner that the five-year deadline. The study determined that while most of the assumptions were accurate, the investment return assumption needed to be adjusted. As such, the actuaries recommended that TRS lower the assumed rate of return from 8% to either 7.25% or 7.5%. The TRS Board will vote on a new assumed rate of return at its July Board meeting.

Most important, monthly annuity payments will not be changed because of a lower assumed rate of return. The Board of Trustees does not have the authority to lower annuity payments for current or future retirees – that authority rests with the Texas Legislature.


May 7, 2018

  • TSTA member honored by H-E-B

Andrea Garza, a high school teacher in United ISD and Laredo/United member, was among eight educators honored at the 17th annual H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards on Sunday, May 6. Garza received an award in the Leadership category, which honors teachers with 10 to 20 years in the classroom. Winners receive $10,000 for themselves and a $10,000 grant for their school.


May 6, 2018

  • TSTA locals win big in school board elections across Texas!

There were some big wins last night where TSTA locals engaged and got active in key school board elections across Texas. Hard work and persistence paid off. Together, we can change the future.

Hays Educators Association/TSTA conducted a complex and targeted campaign for Will McManus running for the at-large trustee position. McManus came out victorious with 58% of the vote last night.

Lubbock Educators Association/TSTA worked for and supported Ben Webb for District 3 trustee position winning that race with 55% of the vote.

San Marcos Educators Association/TSTA won both school board trustee races for which it supported, John W. McGlothlin and Anne Halsey received the most votes for the two at-large positions up for election. McGlothlin received 42% and Halsey received 47% of the votes cast.

Dallas ISD School Board, District 9, will be headed to the run-off in June with Bernadette Nutall, the NEA-Dallas-endorsed candidate in that race, receiving 31% of the vote, against Justin Henry, with 47% of the vote. There were a total of four candidates running for that seat.

Congratulations to all TSTA locals involved in May school board elections! Being active in your local political process makes you all winners!!!


May 2, 2018

  • When teachers can’t afford to live where they work

In some of the nation's hottest real estate markets, school districts are trying new tactics to help employees cover the spiraling costs of renting or buying a home. Housing costs are a concern not just for rookie teachers and other lower-salaried employees but also for principals and other district leaders—a pressure that is forcing school systems to think up new ways and partnerships to meet their workers' needs. Read more


April 30, 2018

  • Feds release Civil Rights Data Survey

The US Department of Education released its 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection last week, updating the most comprehensive database there is on opportunity gaps, discipline disparities, and other civil rights issues for more than 50.6 million students in nearly every K-12 public school in the country.

The main focus of initial reaction was on the deep and continuing racial gaps, in both discipline and access to the advanced academic courses students need to graduate prepared for college and careers.


April 26, 2018

  • New A-to-F accountability system

Here is an overview from the Texas Education Agency of the new A-to-F accountability system that goes into effect this year. Districts will be given A-to-F letter grades beginning this August, and campuses will be assigned letter grades in August 2019. See presentation

  • DeVos seeks to add vouchers to defense spending bill

Representatives in Congress recently introduced the Military Education Savings Accounts Act (HR 5199/S. 2517). This legislation would create a private school voucher program for students with an active-duty parent in the military. We expect to see efforts in the next few weeks to attach this bill to must-pass legislation that funds the military. This is uncharted territory in the fight to keep public dollars in public schools. Military groups themselves are opposed to the legislation, and TSTA urges you to contact your House and Senate leaders to oppose HR 5199/S.2517 being amended onto the National Defense Authorization Act.


April 25, 2018

  • Gangster moves

Via the legislative mandate in SB 1882, Texas has now empowered TEA to use gangster moves to force schools into private management. State Commissioner Mike Morath failed to turn Dallas into an all-charter district, and now he is plotting to put more charters wherever he wants, whenever he wants. Read more in the following blogs:

https://cloakinginequity.com/2018/04/23/gangsters-moves-by-tea-in-houston/

https://dianeravitch.net/2018/04/23/texas-disgusting-state-pressure-by-texas-education-agency-on-schools-serving-black-and-brown-students/


April 24, 2018

  • TEA completes work on comprehensive strategic action plan for special education

Following an extensive statewide outreach effort that included more than 100 meetings statewide, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced today that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has posted a final strategic action plan for special education. Read press release


April 23, 2018

  • TSTA: New survey shows how deeply Texas shortchanges students, educators

Per-student funding in Texas is $2,300 less than the national average, and teacher pay has dropped to $7,316 below the national average, the Texas State Teachers Association reported today, citing research by its national affiliate, the National Education Association. Read press release

  • Researcher seeks elementary educator input

University of Southern Mississippi researcher Susan Perry is seeking input from speech-language pathologists and general education elementary teachers for a questionnaire focused on differences in phonological and morphological awareness. The questionnaire does not request or track identifying information of respondents, and responses remain completely anonymous.


April 20, 2018

  • TRS raises ActiveCare rates

On Friday, April 20th, the TRS Board of Trustees met to discuss changing the assumed rate of return for investments for the Pension Trust Fund and to adopt new rates for ActiveCare. Dale Kaiser, NEA Director-At-Large, appeared for TSTA and testified about the premium rate increases for ActiveCare. Kaiser asked the Board to remember the ESPs they knew when they were in school when the Board considers raising insurance premiums later in the day. Kaiser pointed out that under ActiveCare 2, it would cost over $23,000 to cover an entire family for 12 months of coverage – a simply outrageous amount for any public school employee. He urged the Board to protect the public school employees from these rising health care costs.

Next on the agenda was the discussion about the assumed rate of return for investments for the Pension Trust Fund. For the past few decades, the assumed rate of return has been 8%, and TRS has largely met that target.

TRS is required by law to conduct an experience study every five years. The purpose of an experience study is to determine if actual behavior, plan provisions, and investment returns matched assumptions, or if adjustments are necessary. Significant changes in the global economic outlook over the last three years warranted examining TRS’ experience sooner than the five-year deadline. The study determined that while most of the assumptions were accurate, the investment return assumption needed to be adjusted. As such, the actuaries recommended that TRS lower the assumed rate of return from 8% to either 7.25% or 7.5%. The Board, however, could not agree on a lowered percentage, and will, therefore, revisit this subject at its July meeting.

Most important, monthly annuity payments will not be changed because of a lower assumed rate of return. The Board of Trustees does not have the authority to lower annuity payments for current or future retirees – that authority rests with the Texas Legislature. If TRS lowers the assumed rate of return, during the next legislative session, TRS will ask the Legislature to increase contribution rates. Currently, the contribution rates are 6.8% for the state, 7.7% for active employees, and 1.5% for ISDs. TRS stated that it will ask the Legislature for between a 1.5% and 2.0% increase, should the assumed rate of return be lowered. The Legislature would then decide whether to increase contribution rates, and, if so, how that increase will be distributed among employees, ISDs, and the state.

The other impactful agenda item concerned premium increases for TRS ActiveCare. The Board voted to increase premiums as follows:

          • ActiveCare 1-HD will increase 4.4%;
          • ActiveCare Select will increase 5.0%;
          • ActiveCare 2 will increase 9.5%, with no new enrollees allowed; and
          • HMO plans will increase anywhere from 2.9% to 7.8%, depending on the plan.

Each plan will also slightly increase max out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles, co-pays, and some prescriptions. Those changes may be found on the TRS website.

The Board will next meet on July 27, 2018.


April 17, 2018

  • TSTA releases comment on TEA's SPED plan

TSTA released the following comments and concerns about the special education Corrective Action Plan the Texas Education Agency plans to implement.

  • TRS to increase premiums for ActiveCare

The TRS Board of Trustees will vote to raise ActiveCare premiums this Friday. Care rates will not be changed. Preliminary reports on the Board’s action suggest the following:

          • PPO plans will increase 7.1% if TRS doesn’t change benefits.
          • PPO plans will increase 5.7% if benefits are altered.
          • ActiveCare 1 HD premiums will increase 4.4%.
          • ActiveCare Select premiums will increase 5.0%.
          • ActiveCare 2 premiums will increase 9.5%, and no new enrollees will be allowed.

HMO plan premiums will increase anywhere from 2.9% to 7.8%. TSTA will report any more specific information as it becomes available.


April 13, 2018

  • TEA releases survey results, testing snubbed

The Texas Education Agency today released the results of a public survey conducted on behalf of the State Board of Education. The survey found that the top two desired outcomes for public schools are to teach communications, problem-solving, critical thinking and other employability skills and to prepare students to be productive citizens. Notably lacking in the results is a public interest in training our students to be proficient high-stakes standardized test takers. The Board has indicated that the results of the survey are intended to inform their Long-Range Plan for Public Education Steering Committee. TSTA hopes that indeed, as stated by Board Chair Donna Bahorich, "these goals will help the board focus on issues that are a priority to Texans."

April 11, 2018

  • SBOE gives MAS preliminary approval

After hearing hours of passionate and informed testimony in favor of developing Mexican-American Studies curriculum standards, the State Board of Education voted to give preliminary approval to rule language aligned with Houston ISD's existing MAS course. The motion passed with a somewhat puzzling amendment proposed by board member David Bradley which changed the course name to Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent over the strenuous objections of four of his fellow board members.

First reading of the proposed rule will take place in June, the earliest possible date, provided TEA can provide the language in time. The board will then open the proposed rule to public comment. Once the comment period has elapsed, TEA will assemble and assess the feedback and make any relevant changes to the MAS rule language. If all goes well, SBOE will adopt the rule language on second reading at their meeting in September, whereupon the rule will be posted to the Texas Register and take affect shortly thereafter.


April 10, 2018

  • Testing Tuesday

Testing news for Texas came thick and fast on Tuesday, as students began this year's rash of high-stakes STAAR exams.

TEA released details on how it would grade schools based on the STAAR, we're getting the first reports of glitches with the STAAR, and TEA is still mum on what consideration the agency will give to districts ravaged by Hurricane Harvey.

Finally, NEAP released testing results for Texas that shows us falling further behind. Among the findings:

          • In 4th-grade reading, Texas only outperforms four states (Louisiana, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Alaska) and DC and underperforms 41 states, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
          • In 8th-grade reading, Texas outperforms six states (West Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico) and DC and underperforms our dreaded nemesis, California.
          • In reading, Massachusetts outperforms Texas by 21 (4th grade) and 17 (8th grade) points; in math, it outperforms us by eight points (4th grade) and 15 points (8th grade).

Among the data NAEP released are several findings that will come as a surprise to no one who's familiar with our achievement gap problem:

          • White students perform better than Black and Hispanic students in both reading and math;
          • Asian students outperform White students in both reading and math;
          • Students eligible for participation in free or reduced-price lunch do not perform as well as those who are not;
          • In the 8th grade, students whose parents graduated college outperform those whose parents did not;
          • The math gap between male and female students has closed; however, the reading gap between males and females continues (females outperform males); and
          • There continue to be significant achievement gaps between ELL and non-ELL students as well as SpEd and non-SpEd students.

Feeling overwhelmed? Teaching Tolerance has some suggestions for taking care of students and yourself during testing season.


April 9, 2018

  • Teachers still haven't recovered from the recession

In recent weeks, teachers have been protesting, staging walkouts and marches in Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Arizona. Teachers are upset about working conditions, pay and benefits, which in some cases have been stagnant or worsening for years.

One major contributing factor is recession recovery — 29 states, including Texas, have less funding per student now than they did in 2008. And with about 60-65 percent of school funding going to teacher salaries, that's meant pay and benefits cuts and wage stagnation that doesn't take into account years of experience or cost of living increases.

Read more


April 4, 2018

  • Virtual schools & TRS discussed by Senate

TSTA testified at two Senate committee meetings today. In response to the Senate Education Committee's interim charge to consider virtual education, TSTA cited a study by the Rand Corporation and New York University that found that virtual schools tend to attract low performing and at-risk students. But that those students who enroll in full-time virtual schools tend to fall even further behind their peers. Further, even high-performing students who opt for virtual schools do not achieve as much as they would have in a traditional school.

At the Senate State Affairs meeting to address public pension systems in Texas, TSTA emphasized the need to base the state's contribution to ActiveCare on actual healthcare costs, not a fixed dollar amount. The state's contribution has not changed since the program was introduced in 2001, and currently stands at $75 a month per ActiveCare participant. TSTA also highlighted the disparity between TRS and healthcare premiums and benefits for those state employees covered by ERS, arguing that Texas teachers deserve a comparable system.

Read more about the research into virtual schools

Watch recorded committee hearings

  • March for science

On April 21, in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations in Austin, the Texas Freedom Network is sponsoring a rally and march to the south steps of the Texas Capitol in support of sound science.

Click for details and to RSVP for the march.

The theme of this year’s march is “Reclaiming Power” and will touch on aspects of what power means: human power, local power, political power, clean power, and so on.


April 3, 2018

  • TEA accepting comments on draft strategic plan for special education

The Texas Education Agency will accept comments on a comprehensive draft strategic plan for special education through noon on Wednesday, April 18.

Press release

Review the draft strategic plan

Submit your comments on the plan


March 29, 2018

  • Schools struggle to use data to spark improvement

In the era of “continuous improvement,” experts contend that the K-12 education system's current data infrastructure, built in response to the federal No Child Left Behind Law and focused primarily on holding schools accountable, looms as a significant barrier.

Read more


March 26, 2018

  • TSTA addresses teacher compensation and retention at Senate committee

At today’s Senate Committee on Education hearing, TSTA testified to the importance of addressing teacher wage competitiveness in our effort to create a model school system.

Research has proven that the best predictor of student achievement and later success in life is an effective teacher in every classroom. Wage competitiveness speaks to the ability of school districts to attract and retain high-quality teachers.

The latest report of the Organization of Economic Co-Development (OECD) reports that teachers in the United States earn, on average, less than 60 cents for every dollar of a similarly-situated educated professional, which is the lowest relative earning comparison in the world. The average starting salary for a college graduate in the class of 2016 with a degree in electrical engineering was more than the average base salary paid to a teacher with twenty or more years of experience in every single school district in Texas.

One of the most problematic issues districts in Texas face with regard to salary, is the inability of districts to grow teacher salaries over the course of a teacher’s career. Teachers with 20 years of experience will not be making that much more than when they first started their career. The lack of longevity pay in the teaching profession is causing more teachers, approximately 50% of the profession, to leave in the first five years of teaching for other professions. This attrition rate and the rate at which new teachers must be trained based on turnover is costing districts billions of dollars.

Teacher Incentives

TSTA also testified to the ineffectiveness of teacher incentive programs. Research indicates that incentive pay programs yield little if any value. The most comprehensive research on teacher incentive pay (the Fryer Report from New York City) found no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor did it find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior.

This is consistent with research conducted in the metropolitan Nashville public schools, which found there was no significant effect on student achievement. Similarly, a study of the impact of incentive pay in Round Rock ISD found that the intervention had no effect on student test scores in any subject area across the two years of the experiment.

Teacher incentive pay over the last decade has implied a bad connotation for teachers, as it has been associated with pay based on the performance of students on standardized tests. TSTA and other education groups have opposed this type of pay structure since the early 2000s when the Bush Department of Education pushed down federal funds for incentive pay programs. In lieu of “incentive pay” teachers should be paid a living wage with meaningful salary step increases on their salary schedule reflecting pay for years of experience. Any additional pay should come in the form of stipends to reward teachers for teaching in hard to staff campuses, classrooms, and subject areas.

  • Texas' ESSA plan okayed

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has approved Texas’ plan for carrying out the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), state Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced.


March 23, 2018

  • TSTA member to be inducted into Hall of Fame

Connie Bagley, a 39-year educator and dyslexia teacher for San Marcos Consolidated ISD, will be inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in June. Ms. Bagley, a teacher at Crockett Elementary, will be one of the five educators in the 2018 class to be inducted.


March 22, 2018

  • School funding isn't "rocket surgery," quips editorial

The Legislature must direct the Legislative Budget Board to assess the cost of adequately educating Texas children, urges the Houston Chronicle editorial board. Since the cost of a modern education is likely to be more expensive than legislators will want to pay, lawmakers have assembled a distinguished group of commissioners, only to blindfold them by withholding the facts.

Without this key information, these hearings are little more than a setup for a political decision, not one designed to meet the needs of students — or the needs of our state economy.

  • The congressional spending bill is a big win for students and educators

The omnibus spending bill the US Senate will consider tomorrow includes $610 million in additional Head Start funds, among other significant and critical education funding. TSTA and NEA support the bill.


March 20, 2018

  • TEA posts draft strategic plan for special education

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has posted a comprehensive draft strategic plan for special education. The plan, which includes components of a corrective action response that will be sent to the U.S. Department of Education, is available for review and public comment through April 6, 2018. Read more

  • Take TEA teacher survey and earn 10 CPE credits

TEA wants you to rate how well prepared you were at the beginning of the first year of teaching under a standard certificate (not considering training provided by district or campus induction or professional development). The survey is based on Texas teacher standards and contains multiple-choice response options. See survey

  • Educator Certification Examination Retake Limit Change

This is an important update with steps to take for educator prepartion programs regarding candidates who took certification exams before 9-1-15 and have not passed those exams. Read more


March 19, 2018

  • Voters demand more state funding for schools

Based on a voter survey conducted by the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, the overwhelming majority of Texans are sending a very clear message to the governor, legislators and the School Finance Commission: the state share of public education funding must be increased.

The poll data is consistent with the results from polling that the Texas State Teachers Association conducted last year that found Texans believe additional state education funding is needed to provide a quality education for 5.4 million Texas school children and provide real relief for school property taxpayers.


March 14, 2018

  • TASA releases the application for 2019 Teacher of the Year

Texas Teacher of the Year is the highest honor that Texas can bestow upon a teacher. Facilitated by the Texas Association of School Administrators, the Texas Teacher of the Year Program annually recognizes and rewards teachers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching.


March 13, 2018

  • Fiction contest open to middle and high school students

Hosted by the Texas Book Festival and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, the Fresh Ink Fiction Contest encourages creative writing in Texas schools. Middle and high school Texas students are invited to submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length.

Each year the Festival provides a unique theme. This year the theme is “What Really Happened.” Submitted entries are considered in three divisions: grades 7-8; grades 9-10; and grades 11-12 and are judged by Texas Book Festival authors, local educators, and leaders in the publishing industry.


March 12, 2018

  • School finance commission will hear open testimony on March 19

On March 19th in Austin, the public will have a rare chance to testify about the importance of investing in our public schools. The new Texas Commission on Public School Finance will have its first—and possibly only—meeting that is open to public testimony.

The Commission hearing is a rare chance for Texans to speak out in a public forum about the value of public education. We hope parents, educators, students, and other community members will take advantage of this opportunity!

Sign up to testify

Submit written testimony

Watch the webcast


March 5, 2018

  • States Confront New Mandate on School-Spending Transparency

A tricky financial-transparency requirement in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has cranked up tensions among state politicians, school district administrators, and civil rights activists over public understanding of how districts divvy up their money among schools. ESSA requires districts to break out school-level spending by December 2019—a first-time federal requirement. It's a level of detail unknown even to most district superintendents. Read more


February 27, 2018

  • Following the Florida shooting, lawmakers propose legislation

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger joins U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in proposing gun-related legislation in the aftermath of the Florida school shooting that killed 17.

The congresswoman, a Republican representing Fort Worth, wants to establish a $500M grant program that would fund metal detectors for interested schools.

Other pending legislation proposed by the Texas delegation is Senator Cornyn's bill addressing shortcomings in the federal background check database. Others are proposing bills banning bump stocks, one of which was used to kill dozens in Las Vegas, and raising the minimum age for a non-military purchase of AR-15s to 21.

Read more


February 26, 2018

  • Remember to nominate your Student Heroes

March 9 is the deadline for submitting nominations for the Student Heroes award, a State Board of Education program that recognizes public school students who voluntarily perform services benefiting their schools or communities. Fifteen students, one from each board district, will be selected for the honor. More information and nomination forms can be found here.


February 20, 2018

  • School finance commission invites public comments

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance has announced that it is soliciting public comments via email at: schoolfinancecommission@tea.texas.gov

The commission has also announced that it will hear public testimony at its March 19 meeting. Upcoming meetings of the commission are scheduled for February 22, March 7, March 19 and April 5.


February 16, 2018

  • TEA extends deadline for special ed survey

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


February 6, 2018

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

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


January 26, 2018

  • TSTA testifies in opposition to proposed TEA charter school rules

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

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


January 25, 2018

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

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


January 23, 2018

  • Can leaders improve the Texas school finance system?

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

Read TSTA's full report here.


January 22, 2018

  • School finance panel to hold first meeting tomorrow

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

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

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


January 16, 2018

  • Show us the money

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

  • Louisiana teacher hopes her arrest will empower others

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

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

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


January 11, 2018

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

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


January 8, 2018

  • NEA releases new suite of early career educator tools

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


January 3, 2018

  • SBOE and SBEC host free teacher recruitment conference

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

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


December 15, 2017

  • UPDATE: TEA ends no-bid special ed contract

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

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

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

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

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

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


December 13, 2017

  • Texas charter school system suffers low graduation rates

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


December 8, 2017

  • SBEC declines to ease superintendent certification standards

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

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

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


December 7, 2017

  • School report cards released

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

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

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

December 5, 2017

  • Special Ed parents protest state sharing private records

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


November 29, 2017

  • SBOE approves first ethnic studies material

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

  • School funding down nationwide, reports CBPP

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


November 27, 2017

  • Independent review lauds San Antonio PreK program

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


November 17, 2017

  • Governor announces appointments to TRS board, names chair

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


November 15, 2017

  • TEA releases 2017 state accountability results

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

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


November 14, 2017

  • Students’ beliefs about their brains drive learning

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

  • American Education Week

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


November 13, 2017

  • Enrollment of students in special ed programs surges

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


  • SBOE to host community meeting in El Paso

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

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

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

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

October 30, 2017

  • Port Arthur Teachers Association distributes Harvey donations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


October 26, 2017

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

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


October 25, 2017

  • Lieutenant Governor releases second set of interim charges

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


October 24, 2017

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

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


October 23, 2017

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

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


October 11, 2017

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

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


September 27, 2017

  • Charters are still lagging behind traditional public schools

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


September 26, 2017

  • Disaster unemployment assistance

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

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

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

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


September 21, 2017

  • TEA releases a suite of Harvey-related communications

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

Procurement guidance for schools affected by Hurricane Harvey

Instructional materials concerns related to Hurricane Harvey

Requirements for campuses operating over capacity because of Hurricane Harvey

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

More TEA correspondence


September 20, 2017

  • Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission conducting educator survey

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

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

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


September 19, 2017

  • TEA releases parent portal access for STAAR

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


September 12, 2017

  • Proposed amendments to the Texas state constitution

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

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


September 8, 2017

  • Save DACA

Background

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

Talking Points

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

August 31, 2017

  • TSTA/NEA activate Hurricane Harvey relief fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • More counties eligible for hurricane aid

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

  • NEA Member Benefits partner responds to Hurricane Harvey

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

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


August 28, 2017

  • NEA help available for Harvey victims

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

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


August 28, 2017

  • TRS releases generic medication list

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


August 16, 2017

  • TSTA Special Session Wrap Up—August 16, 2017

The first and hopefully only special session is over!

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

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

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

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

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

TRS Care funding approved

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

SB7, payroll dues deduction ban, defeated in the House

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

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

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

Gutted HB21 school finance bill approved and sent to the governor

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

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

“Bathroom bill” dies in the House

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

Abbott’s, Patrick’s most harmful missed opportunity 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


August 16, 2017

  • TRS Care

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


August 15, 2017

  • 2017 Accountability Ratings

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

  • TSTA Special Session Update—August 15, 2017

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

Act on Action Alerts now before special session ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comptroller increases revenue estimate

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

Vouchers

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

What You Can Do

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

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

August 14, 2017

  • TSTA Special Session Update — August 14, 2017

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

Act on Action Alerts now before special session ends

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

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

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

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

Vouchers

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

Payroll Due Deduction Ban: another end run thwarted

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

What You Can Do 

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

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

August 11, 2017

  • TSTA Special Session Update — August 11, 2017

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

Keep your emails and calls coming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vouchers

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

TRS Care 

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

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

Teacher Pay

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

Payroll Dues Deduction Ban: still no action in the House

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

What You Can Do 

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

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

August 10, 2017

  • TEA releases schedule for implementation of A-F grading system

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


August 4, 2017

  • TSTA Special Session Update — August 4, 2017

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

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

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

Special session action moves to the more deliberate House this week

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

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

School finance

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

Vouchers

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

TRS Care 

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

Teacher pay

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

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

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

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

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

Other bills TSTA supported in the House Public Education Committee.

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

What you can do 

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

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

July 28, 2017

  • TSTA Special Session Update – July 27, 2017

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

Thanks for responding to Action Alerts and patch through call requests

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

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

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

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

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

School Finance/Vouchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SB7 – Payroll Deduction Ban

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

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

What You Can Do

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

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

July 24, 2017

  • TSTA Special Session Update – July 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

SB2 - Vouchers

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

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

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

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

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

SB7 – Payroll Deduction Ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TSTA supports these bills.

School finance

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

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

What You Can Do

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

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

July 21, 2017

  • Texas Special Session Update – July 21, 2017

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

Please respond to Action Alerts and patch through call requests

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

Your calls, emails and voices can make a difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real teacher pay raise bills filed

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

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

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

What You Can Do

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

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

July 19, 2017

  • TSTA member wins California Casualty teaching excellence award

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

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

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

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

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

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


July 10, 2017

  • Texas Special Session Preview – July 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 5, 2017

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

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

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


July 3, 2017

  • TSTA represents at the NEA Annual Meeting

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


June 29, 2017

  • Texas teachers see challenges ahead

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


June 29, 2017

  • Congratulations to Selena Valdez!

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

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


June 28, 2017

  • Submit an idea for the Teacher Leadership Summit in Austin

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


June 27, 2017

  • Retired members meet in Boston

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


June 22, 2017

  • NEA delegates heading to Boston

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


June 21, 2017

  • STAAR report card is updated

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


June 14, 2017

  • TSTA Emerging Leaders Institute

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

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

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


June 6, 2017

  • Governor Calls Special Session for July 18 

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

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

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

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

• A voucher for some special education students; and

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

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

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

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

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


May 30, 2017

  • Legislature adjourns sine die, special session likely

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Budget: Senate majority kills additional school funding

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

  • Accountability: A-F system retained, test reduction nixed

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

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

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

  • Special education

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

  • TRS Care and ActiveCare

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

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

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

  • Fate of Dallas County Schools hinges on November referendum

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

  • Virtual schools bill defeated

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

  • University admissions

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

  • Sanctuary cities could impact students and school safe zones

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

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

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

  • Inappropriate student-teacher relationships

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

  • For more information…

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


May 24, 2017

  • Texas Legislative Session Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


May 23, 2017

  • TSTA Legislative Session Update 

Payroll deduction and voucher bills defeated, but we remain vigilant

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

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

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

  • Will we have to deal with a special session? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Budget agreement reached; awaiting details

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

  • HB3976, TRS Care bill, approved by full Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


May 20, 2017

  • Texas Legislative Session Update: You made a difference!

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

  • Will a special session be necessary?

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

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

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

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

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

  • Budget agreement could be close

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • HB3976, TRS Care bill, awaiting action by full Senate

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

  • SB1751 is dead – good news for TRS defined benefit pension

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


May 18, 2017

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

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

  • Budget agreement predicted

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

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

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

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

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

  • SB13, payroll deduction ban, is not expected to pass

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

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

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

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

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

  • HB3976, TRS Care bill, awaiting action by full Senate

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

  • SB1751 is dying – good news for TRS defined benefit pension

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

  • House Public Education Committee Report

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

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

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

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

  • End-of-session process reminders

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

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


May 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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