December 4, 2023
Texas Senate passes bill to increase funding for school safety
The Texas Senate has passed a bill that would increase funding for school safety in public schools. The bill, known as Senate Bill 5, would provide an additional $400m to the Texas Education Agency to distribute among schools. This is in addition to the $1.1bn already set aside for school safety grants. The bill would also increase the amount of direct funding that schools receive for safety improvements. If the bill becomes law, new school safety investments from the state since last year would reach about $2.5bn. However, it is unclear whether schools will actually receive the funds as lawmakers are running out of time to pass legislation. The bill now needs final approval from the House, which has its own similar bill stuck in a Senate committee. Passing the bill may be challenging due to strained relationships between the House and the Senate.
December 1, 2023
Rural students face persistent access barriers
Students attending rural schools across the United States have less access to school psychologists and counselors than their nonrural peers. According to research from the National Rural Education Association, they may also face other educational, mental, and physical well-being barriers impacting rural areas. Rural schools and students “often seem invisible” because lawmakers may not fully understand the challenges they encounter, despite there being 9.5m students attending public schools in rural areas. The report also highlights areas of progress, including increased diversity of rural students and a slightly higher graduation rate than their nonrural peers. Read more
November 30, 2023
Schools to receive free rapid COVID-19 tests
School districts across the country will soon be able to order free rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government. The initiative aims to provide millions of tests to schools as COVID cases are expected to peak in the winter months. This is the first time that 19,000 school districts will have direct access to tests from a federal stockpile. Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response within the Department of Health and Human Services, states that the tests can be used by schools as they see fit, including sharing them with students, staff, and family members. Read more
November 29, 2023
Austin ISD to build 500-unit housing complex for educators
Austin ISD has signed a contract with NRP Group to develop a 500-unit housing complex for local educators. The complex, located on the site of the Anita Ferrales Coy Facility, aims to provide affordable housing for teachers and school staff in Austin. The district plans to prioritize teachers and staff for the housing units, at least half of which will be affordable. The exact number and placement of the units are yet to be determined. The district also plans to construct a new building for the Alternative Learning Center on the Coy site. The housing construction is expected to begin in summer 2025. This project is part of the district’s larger initiative to repurpose old elementary school sites. In addition, the district has partnered with United Way for Greater Austin to create an affordable child care facility at the old Pease Elementary School. The district aims to address the challenge of attracting and retaining staff by providing housing and child care solutions. Read more
November 28, 2023
Ed Dept calls on more states to develop innovative assessments
The federal Department of Education has updated guidance for a federal program that encourages innovative and high-quality assessment design practices. In an effort to improve student assessments, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has written to state education leaders, state assessment directors, and state Title I directors to stress that the department is eliminating the cap on the number of states that can participate in the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA), which is a program that allows states to pilot new assessment approaches. The letter notes that student assessment results may differ between existing state assessments and assessments developed under the IADA. The guidance is broadly intended to provide every state with “running room” to pilot assessment innovation. The department hopes testing changes will inform instruction, interventions, professional development, and resource planning in addition to bolstering grade-level mastery three years after the pandemic began impacting learning. Read more
November 27, 2023
Federal education funds secured through February
Federal funding for education will continue at the fiscal year 2023 level at least through February 2, according to an agreement by Congress. Regarding the entire federal budget, Congress reached a budget deal in June to level-fund nondefense programs, including early childhood and K-12 education, but lawmakers have not been able to agree on specific appropriations. The continuing resolution approved by both the House and Senate avoided a government shutdown, but there’s frustration from parents and early childhood education providers that additional money for child care was not made available. Read more
November 26, 2023
Laws restricting pronouns for students spark concern
Laws enacted in at least 10 states prohibit or restrict students from using pronouns or names that don’t match their sex assigned at birth. These laws have sparked fear and confusion among transgender students and teachers. Supporters argue that parents should have a say in their children’s pronoun usage, while opponents believe these laws further marginalize transgender and nonbinary students. Mental health experts and advocates warn that requiring parental consent or notification of pronouns can put trans students at risk. Some teachers are finding ways to defy the restrictions, but many fear the consequences. The lack of guidance on compliance with the new laws adds to the confusion. Teachers’ groups express concerns about the administrative burdens and confusion caused by these laws. Lawsuits have been filed in Kentucky and Indiana challenging the constitutionality of these laws. Read more
November 25, 2023
Lake Travis ISD proposes new library policy to increase parental involvement
Lake Travis ISD has put forward a new library policy aimed at increasing parental involvement. The proposed policy seeks to engage parents in their children’s education by encouraging them to participate in library activities. The policy has sparked debate among educators and parents. Some see it as a positive step towards fostering a stronger connection between parents and schools, while others have concerns about potential limitations on access to library resources. The district hopes that by involving parents in library policy, they can create a more inclusive and collaborative learning environment. Read more
November 22, 2023
Murky future for vouchers in Texas
Following a pivotal Texas House vote that likely has halted progression on school voucher legislation, it’s unclear what next steps, if any, there are when it comes to one of Governor Greg Abbott’s top legislative priorities.
On Friday, the Texas House took its most direct vote on the issue, with representatives voting 84-63 to strip a voucher program out of an expansive education bill.
Both chambers quickly gaveled in and out on Tuesday, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. The current, fourth special session can go until Dec. 6, but some lawmakers have appeared to already signal uninterest in returning to Austin unless it’s for debate on major legislation. The session has also overlapped with the candidate filing period for the March primaries, which started Nov. 11 and goes through Dec. 11. During this time, lawmakers are usually carving out political plans assessing what elected offices become open as others opt not to pursue reelection. Read more
November 21, 2023
Texas rejects science textbooks over climate change
The Texas State Board of Education has voted to block science lessons published by eight companies from appearing on an influential statewide list of textbook providers, citing problems with the way they depicted climate change and evolution. Some of the 15 elected board members raised issues with a book from publisher Discovery Education because it discussed how the U.S. isn’t energy independent and lags behind other nations in oil reserves. During an initial discussion on the textbooks before the vote, Republican members of the board expressed a desire for some materials to depict both the scientific theory of evolution and the Bible story of creationism. Others said some textbooks cast the oil-and-gas industry in a bad light, which could have negative repercussions on the energy-heavy state’s economy.
November 20, 2023
Austin ISD faces difficult position with TEA
The agreement between Austin ISD and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) puts the district in a difficult position, with many exacting requirements that must be satisfied to avoid TEA taking over the district’s special education services. The Lone Star Governance model, which focuses on student outcomes measured by standardized tests, is a key requirement. Ashley Paz, an LSG coach trained by former TEA deputy commissioner A.J. Crabill, has been hired to coach AISD’s board members. The training sessions have been described as uncomfortable, with participants asked to admit their failures. Some suspect TEA’s intervention is laying the groundwork for privatization of public schools. Austin ISD’s monitorship is set to last two years, but recent experience in Round Rock ISD shows that ending a monitorship can be messy. Relatedly, it looks like there will be a new, permanent superintendent at Austin ISD by early December, and it’ll likely be Matias Segura, the current interim super.
November 18, 2023
TSTA applauds House members who stood up for public schools with anti-voucher vote
TSTA applauds the House members, Democrats and Republicans, who stood up for their public schools today by voting to strip a costly voucher provision from House Bill 1. This should be a clear signal to Gov. Abbott to end his efforts to bully these legislators into doing something they clearly don’t want to do — spend tax dollars on unregulated private schools when their neighborhood public schools, the centers of their local communities — are underfunded. Read full release
November 17, 2023
School voucher bill to reach Texas House floor for potentially pivotal vote
According to legislative records, it’s possible that a school voucher bill has never made it to the floor of the Texas House. Historically the lower chamber has been averse to passing such legislation, with arguments hinging on how integral public schools are to smaller local communities.
But today, the Texas House appears poised to vote on House Bill 1, a $7 billion education proposal that would create education savings accounts. The savings accounts would be a voucher-like program that would allow parents to use taxpayer funds to pay for alternatives to public schools. Inside the bill are billions of dollars worth of new funding for public schools, likely to help entice lawmakers on the fence about school vouchers.
Opponents argue money for education savings accounts could be better spent going straight toward public schools, while school voucher proponents have argued that such a program would help empower parents to make the right educational decisions for their children. Watch the Texas House livestream
November 16, 2023
Rural students face educational challenges
More students in the United States attend rural schools than the 100 largest school districts combined. However, rural students lack access to school psychologists and counselors, broadband internet, and school transportation. Read more
November 14, 2023
HB 1 is a bad deal for Texas students
First, a taxpayer funded voucher would devastate public schools, which are in desperate need of the investment that Abbott is proposing to spend on unaccountable private entities. Everywhere these voucher schemes have been tried, taxpayers end up on the hook for ballooning demands for public funding, and there’s no reason to believe HB 1 would be any different.
Furthermore, the inadequacy of the public school funding and educator pay provisions of the bill would make the whole proposition a non-starter even if vouchers were off the table. The basic allotment to school districts needs an infusion of funding that would cover the $1000 per student shortfall that inflationary pressures have cost schools since 2019. HB 1 does not do that.
Please use this form to let your representative know that vouchers are bad for Texas students, and that you oppose HB 1 even without the voucher provision.
November 10, 2023
Voucher bill gets a hearing, skepticism remains high in House
On Thursday, a House bill on school vouchers finally received a hearing in the lower chamber, a crucial step that will decide whether the proposal gets a full vote after remaining stagnant in the previous special session.
But voucher opponents in the House remained critical of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top legislative priority — and ultimately expressed frustration with the governor’s insistence to tie public education funding with a voucher program. Read more
November 9, 2023
Voter approval rate for school maintenance and construction costs rebounds
At least 50% of the bond proposals put on the ballot in Texas passed. A decrease in voter approval is attributed to a 2019 state law that required school districts to label bond elections as “tax increases.” However, this year’s election saw a turnaround in some places, with voters approving over $400m for school maintenance in Ector County for example. Despite some opposition, voters recognized the need for investment in schools. This year’s election results reflect a desire to improve school facilities and address the rising number of students enrolling in districts. Read more
November 7, 2023
As long as the governor continues to bully lawmakers to pass vouchers, TSTA will fight back
We are angry that Gov. Abbott has called another special session and continues to bully House members to cave to his demands for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers. Abbott continues to pander to wealthy political contributors and school privatization groups, while voucher opponents in the Legislature are trying to protect their neighborhood public schools.
Although the governor has added public school funding and teacher pay to the next session’s agenda, we know his top priority remains the creation of a voucher program that would soon divert billions of dollars from under-funded school districts to subsidize private school tuition for well-to-do families and enrich owners of unregulated private schools.
As long as the governor keeps wasting millions of tax dollars on voucher special sessions, TSTA and our allies continue fighting back because vouchers would be even more wasteful. Texas taxpayers and their public schools can’t afford them. We will oppose any bill in the new session that includes a voucher program.
November 6, 2023
Time is running out for the third session
With just two days left in the third special legislative session, it is increasingly unlikely that Texas lawmakers will agree to pass school voucher legislation or any additional bills related to border security before sine die.
On Sunday afternoon, the Texas Senate gaveled in and out until Tuesday, the last day of the 30-day session, without passing any legislation. Senators had been set to discuss House Bill 4, which would create a state crime to enter the state illegally from Mexico and would allow police officers to detain and transport that person to a port of entry and order them to return to Mexico, even if they’re not a Mexican citizen.
Lawyers have said HB 4 is unconstitutional since the federal government has sole jurisdiction over immigration matters. Critics of the bill have also raised concerns that it could lead to officers mistakenly arresting U.S. citizens who live in border towns if they don’t immediately have proof of citizenship.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick criticized HB 4 in a statement last week, calling it a “Texas-sized-catch-and-release-bill,” arguing that it would allow immigrants who cross the border illegally to become repeat offenders.
Lawmakers have also been unable to agree on a voucher program, which would allow families to use taxpayer dollars on private school education. The House has still not moved on a Senate proposal for such a program.
On Friday, Rep. Brad Buckley released a revised voucher plan that would allow for a significant funding increase for public schools and academic accountability measures for students participating in the proposed voucher program, two of the biggest requests from voucher opponents.
The new legislation would make every Texas student eligible to apply for education savings accounts. Children accepted into the program would have to take a standardized test; if they have failing grades for two years in a row, they would be kicked out of the program.
Buckley said he would file his new bill in an upcoming special session, which Gov. Greg Abbott is widely expected to announce soon. Read more
November 4, 2023
Republicans opposing Wi-Fi on school buses
The federal government’s plan to bring Wi-Fi to school buses is drawing objections from Republicans, who argue that the cost isn’t worth the effort and will only enable unsupervised kids to spend more time on social media. The FCC has issued a ruling allowing E-Rate program funding to be used for Wi-Fi on school buses starting in 2024. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel believes that providing Wi-Fi on school buses can turn ride time into connected time for homework. The plan has faced opposition from Republicans who argue that it goes beyond the scope of the E-Rate program and will not improve learning outcomes. Senator Ted Cruz has introduced a bill to prohibit social media on E-Rate supported devices and networks. Read more
November 3, 2023
Dark money nonprofit with ties to Texas billionaire works to defeat Midland school bond
Public policy groups associated with Texas billionaire Tim Dunn have helped to ensure that tax hike language is attached to every school bond ballot measure in the state. This is regardless of the bond measure’s actual impact on local taxes.
Most recently, Dunn has relied on that language to cast doubt on a bond in his hometown of Midland, where residents will vote on a $1.4 billion bond package, the largest in its history.
The dark-money organization Move Midland, whose leaders have ties to Dunn’s Midland oil and gas company, has become a vocal opponent against the bond. But Dunn also founded a private Christian school in the city, which some argue is a conflict of interest.
Midland ISD has said the bond won’t raise tax rates because new rates adopted in September were set lower than the previous year, and also include the bond’s impact.
Dunn’s vested interests have caught the attention of residents throughout Midland. His oil companies control mineral properties that, combined, owed more than $1.3 million in estimated property taxes to the school district for 2023. Dunn and his family also own five-million-dollar homes where property taxes go to Midland ISD.
November 2, 2023
Abbott’s school voucher deal fails in House
Governor Greg Abbott’s deal to advance school vouchers has failed in the House, with less than a week before the Legislature adjourns. The House has not taken any action on the governor’s priority legislation, and the special session is set to end soon. Despite Abbott’s optimism, no voucher bill has materialized in the lower chamber.
This lack of progress all but guarantees a fourth special session, as Abbott had previously vowed. The governor’s inability to sway Republicans who opposed vouchers in the past has hindered the passage of the bill. The House’s inaction mirrors what happened the previous day, when Abbott announced an agreement on vouchers with House Speaker Dade Phelan’s team, only for the speaker and Republican holdouts to deny the existence of such a deal.
If vouchers fail, Abbott has threatened to support primary challengers to anti-voucher Republican House members. Read more
November 1, 2023
Home schooling numbers appear to be soaring
Home schooling has become the nation’s fastest-growing form of education, a Washington Post analysis shows. The dramatic rise in home schooling at the onset of the pandemic has largely sustained itself through the 2022-23 academic year, defying predictions that most families would return to schools. The Post was able to collect reliable data from 32 states and the District of Columbia, representing more than 60% of the country’s school-age population. The resulting analysis, which includes home-school registration figures for nearly 7,000 individual school districts, is the most detailed look to date at an unprecedented period of growth in American home schooling.
Home schooling’s surging popularity crosses every measurable line of politics, geography and demographics. Despite claims that the home-schooling boom is a result of failing public schools, the Post found no correlation between school district quality, as measured by standardized test scores, and home-schooling growth. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2019 there were 1.5m kids being home-schooled in the United States. This was the last official federal estimate. Read more
October 31, 2023
TSTA will not sacrifice the future of public education for taxpayer-funded vouchers
Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement:
We are glad Gov. Abbott has expanded the call of the special session to school finance because our public schools need a significant boost in funding and our woefully under-paid teachers and school support staff need raises. But let me be clear: We will continue to oppose a school funding or educator pay bill that includes an “education savings account” or any other voucher plan spending taxpayer dollars on private schools, regardless of how limited that voucher plan may be.
As the experiences of existing voucher states tell us, initial limits placed on voucher plans are soon lifted, and taxpayers are paying billions of dollars on private school costs for selected families, at the expense of under-funded public schools.
We cannot and will not accept a school finance or educator pay plan now that sacrifices the future of public education in Texas.
The governor also has made it clear that his priorities are not the public schools, teachers and students of Texas. His priorities are still determined by wealthy political donors who want to privatize public education. We continue to call on House members of both parties to reject the governor’s bullying tactics and keep fighting for their public schools, which is their constitutional responsibility.
Biden administration urges schools to carry naloxone
Overdose deaths among teens have been increasing, prompting the Biden administration to call on schools to purchase and carry the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote a joint letter urging every school in the United States to have naloxone available. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, for over-the-counter use. Naloxone works by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain and restoring breathing. Read more
October 30, 2023
After-school meal participation declining
Though after-school meal participation remained steady throughout the pandemic’s disruptions to school operations, momentum has since slowed down. After-school programs served 1.42m children in October 2019, 1.45m in October 2020, 1.49m in October 2021, but just 1.15m in October 2022, according to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). On an average weekday in October 2022, over 1.6m low-income children missed their opportunity to eat an after-school meal because the meals weren’t served at all. That equates to $116.5m missed in federal reimbursements, according to FRAC, an advocate for expanding the Afterschool Meal Program. To increase access to after-school meals, FRAC recommends Congress lower the area eligibility requirements to allow more communities to participate. There’s also a need to raise federal funding for after-school programs and to streamline the Afterschool Meal Program and Summer Food Service Program so sponsors don’t have to duplicate administrative hurdles, FRAC says. Read more
October 27, 2023
Temporary injunction secured in lawsuit against Morath
A coalition of school districts has been granted a temporary injunction in their lawsuit against Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath. The districts, including Dallas ISD, sued Morath to stop him from implementing new standards that they argue will lower performance ratings for many districts and campuses. The A-F school accountability system in Texas evaluates every district across the state, providing families with information on how their local campuses are performing. The ratings can influence home-buying decisions and enrollment in the public school system. The lawsuit alleges that Morath did not provide districts with enough notice about the measures and procedures that would apply to their next set of scores. Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde even warned that the district could see a record number of D and F ratings if the revised formula is implemented. The TEA plans to appeal the decision. A trial is set for February 12.
October 26, 2023
Private schools pose limited options for disabled students
The proposed voucher bills in Texas could put accessibility at risk for disabled students enrolled in public special education programs. Private schools that offer special education for disabled students have strict conditions and are clustered in metropolitan areas. There are only 67 of these schools in total, with a majority concentrated in urban areas. Many of these schools have limits on the types of disabilities they can accommodate and have high tuition fees. The current public special education system in Texas could be seen as lacking, and the state has struggled to comply with federal requirements. Vouchers may provide some solutions for families in metropolitan areas, but there are concerns about transparency and accountability in private schools. Vouchers are not a comprehensive solution and leave many issues untouched. Read more
October 25, 2023
New pediatric clinic coming to Fort Worth elementary
A Fort Worth elementary school is set to become the site of a new pediatric clinic under a partnership with the University of North Texas Health Science Center. The Fort Worth Independent School District’s board approved the partnership, allowing the medical school to provide care at Eastern Hills Elementary. The clinic will offer mental and behavioral health care in the coming months and comprehensive medical care next spring. The partnership will have medical providers from UNTHSC staffing the clinic, while the district will maintain the space. Read more
October 23, 2023
Texas House and Senate at odds over how to boost future funding for a school voucher program
The Texas House and Senate are at odds over how much discretion to give state leaders in funding a private-school voucher program. It’s the latest flashpoint in an ongoing battle between the two chambers over whether the state should help schoolchildren pay for a private education.
A key difference between Republican proposals in each chamber lies in whether to allow state leaders to grow the program by sweeping money from other agencies without the approval of the Texas Legislature.
The school voucher program put forward by the House, House Bill 1, states that Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislative Budget Board cannot use the board’s budget authority to boost the amount of tax dollars for the bill’s education savings accounts. Because of the Legislative Budget Board’s “budget execution” power, it can shift money around without legislative action.
The House’s bill says state funding for an education savings account program must come only from dollars already appropriated during this year’s regular session— up to $500 million for the biennium from the general revenue fund, which comes from state tax dollars.
But the Senate’s bill would let state leaders grow the program by taking money from other agencies without the Legislature’s approval. Their bill, Senate Bill 1, explicitly allows budget “transfers” to fund the program at any point before lawmakers meet for the next regular session in 2025.
If there is enough interest in the Senate’s savings account program, the bill could conceivably use the entire $500 million in its first year, which could trigger a potential $1 billion commitment every two years if it continued at that level.
Neither bill, at this point, projects the actual costs of the program beyond its first year. Read more
October 22, 2023
Brownsville ISD begins process to hire new superintendent
Brownsville ISD has started the process of hiring a new superintendent. The announcement comes after the McAllen ISD named BISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez as the lone finalist for its superintendent position. The 21-day waiting period before contract negotiations can begin with Gutierrez has been initiated. BISD Board President Jessica B. Gonzalez expressed gratitude for Gutierrez’s leadership and his role in achieving an “A” rating for the district. The board will hold a special meeting to discuss the next steps in hiring an interim superintendent and deciding on the search process. Read more
October 21, 2023
Houston ISD seeing significant enrollment decline
More than half of Houston ISD campuses have seen a decline in student enrollment this year, resulting in a loss of at least $62m in state funding. The district has experienced a decline in enrollment for several years, with 32,500 fewer students compared to pre-pandemic levels. Other school districts, such as San Antonio and Plano, are also considering closing campuses due to the drop in students. While Houston ISD has reassured parents and educators that there are no immediate plans to close schools, the district has acknowledged that closures may be possible in the future. The enrollment decline is attributed to the pandemic, charter schools, and declining birth rates. Some HISD campuses have seen significant drops in enrollment, with Las Americas Middle School experiencing a 68% decline and Shadowbriar Elementary School seeing a 37% decline. The district is now exploring options such as converting underpopulated campuses into centers for newcomers or early childhood centers. Read more
October 20, 2023
Team TSTA member named Texas Teacher of the Year
Taniece Thompson-Smith, a fifth-grade science teacher at Abilene ISD’s Stafford Elementary and Education Abilene member, was named the 2024 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year. Thompson-Smith was chosen to represent the state as Texas Teacher of the Year in the National Teacher of the Year competition, making her official title Texas Teacher of the Year.
Naveen Cunha, eighth-grade Robotics teacher at Stephen F. Austin Middle School in Bryan ISD, was named the 2024 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year.
The announcements were made during an awards ceremony in Round Rock, Texas, October 20. Both state-level winners will receive a cash award and a commemorative trophy.
Also honored during the luncheon were the Regional Teachers of the Year and the finalists for Texas Teacher of the Year: Schrundagale Griffith, Foster Middle School, Longview ISD; Cynthia Hopkins, Harold C. Kaffie Middle School, Corpus Christi ISD; Isela Russell, Wellington Elementary School, Lewisville ISD; and McKinney Education Association member Genesis Yougas, Lawson Early Childhood School, McKinney ISD.
Texas bill proposes education savings accounts for students
A sweeping bill filed late Thursday in Texas proposes the creation of education savings accounts (ESAs) for a limited number of students, with the potential for it to double in the following year. The bill, introduced by Rep. Brad Buckley, would limit ESAs to 25,000 students in the next school year, with priority given to students with disabilities or those living in poverty. The ESAs would be worth 75% of the state’s average per-student funding. The bill also includes increased formula funding for public schools, higher salaries for educators, and incentives for teacher preparation and certification. However, the bill faces uncertainty in the House, where rural Republicans have previously opposed voucher-like proposals. The bill differs from the Senate’s proposal, which has already passed, and would provide families with access to $8,000 for private-school tuition or $1,000 for homeschooling. The ESAs would be funded by $500m from the state’s general revenue. Read more
October 19, 2023
Amarillo ISD votes on resolution against Senate Bill 1
Amarillo Independent School District has voted to adopt a resolution opposing Senate Bill 1, which aims to implement a school choice program in Texas. AISD is concerned that this program would divert funding away from public schools and towards schools that do not have the same accountability standards. The district is already facing low enrollment rates and has discussed the possibility of consolidating elementary schools. Coyle Corder, AISD Board President, emphasized the need for equal funding, accountability, and entrance standards in any new system. He also noted that Texas currently ranks in the bottom 4% in funding per student in the United States. Read more
October 18, 2023
TSTA: Governor Abbott doesn’t listen to educators; he bullies educators, families and legislators for vouchers
If Governor Abbott listened to educators — the real education experts — he would be demanding and ensuring that the Legislature substantially increase funding for our under-funded public schools, and he would demand and ensure that lawmakers provide raises for our under-paid teachers and school support staff…Period.
He wouldn’t be trying to tie those necessities to vouchers.
But Abbott doesn’t listen to educators. His actions thus far tell you that he doesn’t listen or respect Texas educators, our students or their families. Read the full comment
October 17, 2023
‘Grow your own’ school librarians
The number of certified school librarians in the United States has been decreasing, with a loss of over 10,000 positions between 1999 and 2016. Around 30% of students now lack full-time school librarians. Recruiting new school librarians is challenging due to the stringent requirements, including a master’s degree in library science. However, the Charleston County School District in South Carolina has successfully reversed its teacher-librarian vacancy rate by implementing a “grow-your-own” program. This program, in partnership with a local university, offers incentives such as free tuition and flexible programming. The district reports zero teacher-librarian vacancies and improved academic achievement among students. Read more
October 16, 2023
Federal LGBTQ+ workplace protections could impact schools
Federal proposed guidance protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from harassment and discrimination in the workplace could come into direct conflict with state and local policies on pronoun use and facility access for transgender school employees. At least nine states prohibit transgender people from using bathrooms and other facilities like locker rooms in K-12 schools, according to the Movement Advancement Project, which tracks policies on LGBTQ+ related issues. The guidance, proposed earlier this month by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, would consider intentional and repeated misgendering, as well as denial of bathroom access or other facilities, as sex-based discrimination. Under this policy, schools and other employers that bar transgender employees from bathrooms aligning with their gender identities or don’t recognize an employee’s preferred pronouns would be considered to be discriminatory and in violation of federal sex- and gender-based harassment protections. Read more
October 15, 2023
Schools are cracking down on cellphone use in classrooms
Educators have found creative ways to separate students from their phones, such as requiring students to leave their backpacks and phones at the front of the room. More schools across the country are also restricting students’ smartphone use to address concerns about academic performance and mental well-being. District leaders and principals have reported positive outcomes since implementing no-phone policies, including increased student engagement and reduced discipline problems. Schools are ensuring cellphone bans are effective by taking opinions from students, parents, and staff into account and enforcing the policies consistently. Read more
October 12, 2023
Chronic absenteeism rates have doubled in recent years
The proportion of students attending schools with high or extreme rates of chronic absenteeism has more than doubled, from 26% in 2017-18 to 66% in 2021-22, according to a report by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and Attendance Works. The analysis of federal data highlights the impact of pandemic-era surges in absences on students, even those with strong attendance. Read more
October 10, 2023
Most E-rate participants want greater supports from FCC funds
The majority of schools and libraries participating in the federal E-rate program continue to report a need for cybersecurity support provided by the Federal Communications Commission funds. The 13th annual E-rate survey, released this week by Funds For Learning, indicates that less than half (48%) of participants feel that their library or school currently budgets for cybersecurity products and services on an annual basis. Additionally, 93% of participants agree or strongly agree that the E-rate program should include “support for comprehensive network security solutions.” As the FCC considers ways to include cybersecurity in the program, most participating schools and libraries said cybersecurity measures, such as next-generation firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, content or malware filtering, and domain name system security should also qualify for E-rate funding. Other findings from the Funds For Learning survey indicate ongoing signs the homework gap is closing, though still a prominent issue for most schools and libraries. Read more
October 6, 2023
It’s time to get ready to rally! Join us in Austin tomorrow
Help us show the governor and legislators that Texans don’t want vouchers for private schools but do want more funding for their public schools and raises for teachers and school support staff. Come and bring your family and friends to the “Boot vOUCHers” rally on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. on the south lawn of the state Capitol. The more people who attend, the louder our message.
Make your voice heard! RSVP here. Please share this information and link widely with your community, colleagues, family and friends and urge them to come to Austin with you.
October 5, 2023
Special session on vouchers will begin Monday; make your voice heard — attend the anti-voucher rally on Saturday in Austin!
Governor Abbott revealed the session’s opening date in a letter to legislative leaders, but as of this morning he still had not publicly issued the proclamation officially calling the session and laying out the issues he wants legislators to consider. We know vouchers will be on the agenda because he has been saying that for a long time. But we don’t know if he will include more funding for public schools and educator pay raises as well. The state has the money. The comptroller’s updated revenue estimate shows $18 billion remaining from the record $33 billion surplus with which lawmakers began the year, and there is almost $24 billion in the emergency Rainy Day Fund.
TSTA remains determined to convince legislators to kill vouchers in whatever form they are offered this session. Instead of wasting tax dollars on vouchers, lawmakers must increase funding for public schools and for educator pay raises. Average per-student funding for Texas schools is more than $4,000 below the national average, and Texas teachers are paid more than $7,700 less than their peers are nationally. Education funding must not be diverted to taxpayer-paid vouchers.
Make your voice heard on this issue! Come and bring your family and friends to the “Boot vOUCHers” rally on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. on the south lawn of the state Capitol. Help us show the governor and legislators that Texans don’t want vouchers for private schools but want more funding for their public schools and raises for teachers and school support staff. The more people who attend, the louder our message.
Make your voice heard! RSVP here. Please share this information and link widely with your community, colleagues, family and friends and urge them to come to Austin with you.
October 4, 2023
Overtime pay expansion could impact school districts
School districts may be required to provide overtime pay to more employees under a proposed federal rule. The rule, open for public comment until November 7th, would raise the minimum salary threshold for worker exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This could lead to additional expenses for school districts, along with additional requirements to track and document employee work hours. Employees like school nurses, athletic trainers, and librarians who were previously exempt from overtime requirements may now qualify under the new rule. National education organizations have requested more time to review and comment on the rule, as it will have a massive impact on the economy and millions of workers. The Biden administration’s proposal is similar to a 2016 rule by the Obama administration that was struck down before taking effect. The Labor Department estimates that 3.4m currently exempt workers across all industries would qualify for overtime pay under the new rule. Read more
October 3, 2023
Support for Houston ISD’s Spanish speakers has dwindled under state-appointed leader, parents say
More than a month since the Houston Independent School District started its first school year under state supervision and state-appointed superintendent Mike Miles, complaints have been piling up among Spanish-speaking families, who say they haven’t been receiving the support they need. Read more
October 2, 2023
Abbott announces new special session, likely focused on vouchers
Governor Greg Abbott has notified the Texas Legislature that a third special session will begin on October 9. Abbott’s letter to state lawmakers did not indicate the focus of this special session, but the governor has said repeatedly it would focus on public education, including the issues of school vouchers and public school funding. Read more
October 1, 2023
Brownsville becomes certified childhood vaccine provider
Brownsville ISD in Texas has been certified as a childhood vaccine provider, allowing them to administer required childhood immunizations at school. The district plans to hold clinics across the district to provide childhood immunizations, COVID-19 vaccinations, boosters, and flu vaccines. The immunizations are free under the Texas Vaccines for Children program. Previously, parents had to schedule doctor’s appointments for their children to receive the shots. BISD became a COVID-19 vaccine provider during the pandemic and aims to have healthier kids and minimize absences. The district has about 37,000 students and each school has a nurse who will notify parents about the clinics. Read more
September 29, 2023
Teacher pay penalty quadruples
In what should be a surprise to no one, teacher pay gets a failing grade in this country. Teacher pay is at its lowest level since 1960 and the pay penalty got worse in 2022. On average, last year teachers made 26.4% less than their peers with similar education. In fact, since 1996, the pay penalty for teachers—the gap between the weekly wages of teachers and college graduates working in other professions has more than quadrupled from 6.1 % to 26.4%.
Here’s what the teacher pay penalty means in dollars and cents:
- Today on average, teachers earn 73.6 cents for every dollar that their peers in other professions earn. In 1996, teachers made 93.9 cents for every dollar their peers in other fields made.
- Accounting for inflation, teacher weekly wages decreased by $128 from 2021 to 2022, from $1,457 to $1,329 (in 2022 dollars).
September 27, 2023
Texans prioritize teacher salaries and school funding
A new poll by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) reveals that Texans prioritize teacher salaries and funding for public schools. Seventy-three percent of Texans consider increasing teacher salaries extremely or very important, while 68% prioritize additional funding for public schools. More than half of all voters (56%) said they are aware of the Legislature’s recent efforts to create a voucher program. Of those, 50% said what they have seen, read, or heard about vouchers has made them less likely to support the program. Only 34% said they are more likely to support vouchers. Opposition against vouchers has increased across party lines and among different communities. The poll, conducted by Perception Insight, surveyed 800 registered voters in June. Among the respondents, 48% reported voting for Republicans, 35% preferred Democrats, and 17% voted independently.
September 26, 2023
Federal Government Shutdown: What it means
The House MAGA GOP is barreling toward a government shutdown on October 1, rolling out an extreme stopgap bill that is surely dead on arrival in the Senate. Government shutdowns are damaging to our families, public servants and the economy that we all depend on. These disruptions also hurt NEA members, like the educators who teach and support the children of our military families. Federal Education Association members will continue working during a shutdown, but they won’t be paid until the House GOP finds the courage and common sense to resolve this impasse. Students, parents and our members need stability and education investments, not more drama or draconian cuts. Contact your legislators
September 25, 2023
Texas lawmakers will have new money going into special session on education, comptroller says
When Texas lawmakers meet next month for a special session on funding public education, they will have more money available to them to spend than they anticipated when they passed the state’s $321.3 billion budget earlier this year, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said Friday.
The rise in state revenue, driven largely by increasing insurance premiums, means there will be new funding opportunities to invest more money in public education, Hegar said, adding that he hoped the Legislature would focus some of the new money on teacher pay raises. Read more
September 23, 2023
Another study underlines rise in book bans
The number of bans and restrictions in the U.S. rose 33% in the last school year, according to a report by PEN America. The report found that 1,263 books were permanently removed from U.S. school libraries and classrooms, quadrupling from the previous year. The increase is even more alarming when considering only the books permanently removed. Efforts to ban books are being “supercharged” by coordinated pressure campaigns and punitive state laws. Recent polling meanwhile shows that a majority of Americans oppose book bans. The bans disproportionately came from Florida, which accounted for over 40% of the book bans. States like Texas, Missouri, and Utah also contributed to the majority of the bans. Read more
September 22, 2023
Whatever you call it, a voucher is a voucher
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a big driver of Governor Greg Abbott’s voucher mania, is now claiming that an educational savings account (or ESA), the form of voucher that Abbott and the Senate tried to ram through the regular legislative session last spring, is not a voucher.
Anything that takes tax dollars to pay for private education expenses is a voucher. Period.
September 20, 2023
Governor pushes for school vouchers, threatens political consequences
Governor Greg Abbott has announced a special session on “school choice” legislation, warning lawmakers of political consequences if they obstruct the passage of publicly subsidized school vouchers. He stated that the session will begin next month and emphasized that the legislation will be pursued either through the special session or after the election. The governor’s remarks indicate an escalation of pressure on Texas House Republicans who have been blocking the proposal. Abbott expressed determination to pass the school choice proposal, which allows parents to use taxpayer funds to enroll their children in private schools, even though a coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans in the House has consistently opposed the idea. Read more
September 19, 2023
More districts join lawsuit against Texas Education Agency
More school districts are pushing back against the Texas Education Agency over changes in the TEA’s accountability ratings. More than 50 districts across the state are already part of a lawsuit that says the revisions to the report cards were not properly communicated to districts ahead of time so that they could prepare. On Monday, Hays, Prosper, Red Oak, and Richardson joined the lawsuit, which aims to prevent TEA from releasing scores that use the newest metrics. The districts argue that the new methods will dramatically decrease campus and district scores statewide. Read more
September 18, 2023
Austin parents want TEA deal rejected
Parents in Austin ISD are calling for the rejection of the Texas Education Agency’s proposed deal to fix the district’s special education crisis. The deal requires AISD to accept a monitor appointed by TEA, adopt a “Lone Star governance” model for board meetings, dedicate 50% of meetings to “student outcomes,” and complete evaluations of students seeking special education services by January 31. Read more
September 15, 2023
Texas voters concerned about future opportunities for children
A recent Texas Voter Poll conducted by Baselice & Associates for Texas 2036 reveals that nearly half of Texas voters believe that children today will have less opportunity to succeed than prior generations. This represents a 17-point increase from the previous poll. The poll also shows that 65% of Texas voters are concerned about the state’s future, with 96% agreeing that a strong public education system is important. Read more
September 14, 2023
Chronic absenteeism contributes to decline in test scores
Widespread increases in chronic absenteeism between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years are large enough that they could have substantially contributed to declines in post-pandemic test scores, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. The agency, which advises the president on economic policy based on data and research, partnered with the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to analyze latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which saw steep and worrisome declines in both math and reading for 4th and 8th graders. Read more
September 13, 2023
TEA delays school ratings as districts raise concerns
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has announced a delay in the release of its annual school ratings due to scoring changes that could negatively impact schools. The agency was due to release the ratings on September 28th, but now expects them to be released next month. The delay comes after months of complaints from school officials who believe the new accountability system would result in unfair drops in their ratings. TEA said it needs to make adjustments to account for changes in students’ academic performance after the pandemic. Read more
September 12, 2023
Masks are back on the table as COVID-19 fears resurface
A rise in COVID-19 cases and the approach of fall, when other respiratory illnesses start to spread, has revived discussion of how best to protect students and workers. Several schools across the country have restored temporary masking mandates or suspended classes in recent weeks because of COVID-19. School leaders want to boost attendance rates this year and are hesitant to implement any COVID-19 mitigation measures that would keep students home. Read more
September 11, 2023
TEA proposes alternative teacher appraisal
to TTESS Domain I
The proposed Alternate Domain I appraisal instrument was developed for the specific purpose of evaluating teachers who are using the “high quality instructional materials” that are being promoted by the education commissioner under a new state law. It would be used to appraise teachers on their ability to follow the scripts that come with these new materials.
A TSTA representative, along with teachers and administrators from districts that were piloting the new materials, served on the committee that developed this new alternative. TEA adopted some of the panel’s recommendations but ignored our feedback that the new system should not confine teachers to just following a script or using the canned curriculum.
TSTA and the committee believe new appraisals should allow an appraiser to recognize and give high points to a teacher who uses high-quality instructional materials even if the presentation isn’t exactly what is suggested by the curriculum. We also believe that better teaching (the highest two ratings of accomplished and distinguished) would more likely be adapting to the needs of students and not just following a script.
The School Year has Started Off Hot
Experts expect extreme summer heat to be more intense and last well past the prime summer months, which could lead to more challenging starts to the school year. Read more
September 8, 2023
Texas’ political environment driving faculty to leave, survey finds
After legislators passed laws banning diversity initiatives and targeting tenure at state universities, more than a quarter of the 1,900 Texas professors surveyed by faculty associations said they plan to look for positions out of state. Read more
September 7, 2023
TSTA and TSTA-Retired kick off campaign promoting Prop 9, the COLA amendment on the Nov ballot
Voter approval of this constitutional amendment is necessary for the TRS retirees’ cost-of-living adjustment approved by the Legislature last spring to go into effect. This financial relief is essential for retirees, many of whom have never received a COLA, are not eligible for Social Security and are struggling to make ends meet on modest TRS pensions.
No public school retiree since Sept. 1, 2004, has ever received a cost-of-living adjustment, while inflation has eroded their ability to purchase basic needs. Unlike Social Security, the TRS pension does not provide automatic COLAs. They must be approved by the Legislature, and this is the first one the Legislature has approved in years. Read more
September 6, 2023
Fort Worth ISD scales back Saturday learning program
A Fort Worth ISD program called Saturday Learning Quest has helped students regain ground in reading and math, according to district figures. However, with federal funding for pandemic recovery efforts set to run out, the district is scaling back the program and targeting it at the highest-needs campuses. The program, which offers extra instructional time in reading and math, as well as enrichment activities, has shown positive results for students who attended nine or more sessions. Read more
September 5, 2023
TSTA members are finalists for Teacher of the Year honors
Two of the three finalists for 2024 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year are TSTA members — Taniece Thompson-Smith, a fifth-grade science teacher in Abilene ISD, and Genesis Yougas, a pre-K Head Start teacher in McKinney ISD.
The annual Teacher of the Year competition, which also includes three finalists for Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year, is conducted by the Texas Association of School Administrators. The winners will be announced at an Oct. 20 awards ceremony in Round Rock.
Thompson-Smith, a member of Education Abilene, teaches at Abilene ISD’s Stafford Elementary, where she has been for the past two years of her 14-year career in education. She is a military spouse, who has taught in more than seven school districts across the U.S., Jamaica and Japan. She collaborates with community members and experts in the science field to design science-based experiential learning opportunities. She believes “each encounter with children must be transformational and awake a sense of curiosity or thirst for knowledge that only education can quench.”
Yougas, a member of the McKinney Education Association, has taught for the past three years at McKinney ISD’s Lawson Early Childhood School. She secured a grant through the McKinney Education Foundation in 2021 for inclusive play equipment. “As a teacher of a student with spina bifida, I saw a problem with accessible play equipment for children with disabilities,” she said. “Through this grant, I was able to secure inclusive play equipment for my campus that is available to all kids, including those who use walkers or have other health impairments…The small moments of pure joy bring teachable moments that allow students to feel safe, loved and connected.”
All the finalists were selected from the 40 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year.
September 1, 2023
Federal judge bars Texas from enforcing book rating law
A federal judge said Thursday he will stop a new Texas law purportedly aimed at keeping sexually explicit materials off of school library shelves on the eve of the law going into effect, according to state attorneys and lawyers for a group who sued over the proposal.
District Judge Alan D. Albright indicated during a hearing that he will grant a temporary injunction sought by a group of book groups and sellers, including two Texas bookstores, who sued the state over House Bill 900 in July, the group’s lawyers said in a statement. Albright will issue a written order in one to two weeks; in the meantime, the state cannot enforce the law, according to the statement. Read more
August 31, 2023
School safety, tutoring and hair: These are some of the new education laws that go into effect this year
Lawmakers failed to pass legislation on school vouchers or teacher raises this year, but they approved other education-related laws like an $800 million investment in high-quality instructional materials and new rules for students found vaping or using marijuana. Read more
August 30, 2023
Texas eighth graders will soon be required to learn about climate change — but not without a showdown over textbooks
Starting next year, Texas will require eighth graders to learn about climate change as part of a science curriculum overhaul from the State Board of Education. It’s not clear though which textbooks they will use. A Tuesday meeting shed light that the board could make the choice along partisan lines. The board plans to adopt instructional materials in November. Any Texas resident can submit written comments on the materials before Oct. 30.
August 29, 2023
Legal battle looms over Texas school library book law
Days before the effective date for a law that would significantly change how school districts acquire books for their libraries, book sellers and state agencies await a legal decision that could stop the new rule in its tracks. A U.S. district judge heard arguments Monday from lawyers for several Texas book sellers who have asked for a legal pause to House Bill 900, a new law that limits books with sexual content in school libraries.
The lawyers for the bookshops argued that the newly mandated rating system created an expensive, impossible burden for businesses, while state attorneys insisted the law wouldn’t infringe on the vendors’ rights. Read more
August 28, 2023
Texas ban on transition-related care for kids to go into effect despite legal fight
A Texas law banning transgender youth from accessing puberty blockers and hormone therapy will go into effect next week after the state attorney general’s office filed to block a judge’s temporary injunction against the legislation.
Texas lawmakers passed the ban during this year’s legislative session. Families of trans kids and doctors sued the state in July, hoping to block the law and arguing that the ban strips parents of their rights to make medical decisions for their children.
On Friday, state district court Judge Maria Cantú Hexsel issued a temporary injunction, which would have prevented the law from going into effect. But the Texas’ attorney general’s office responded by filing an appeal with the Texas Supreme Court.
The move automatically pauses Cantú Hexsel’s injunction and will allow the law to go into effect Sept. 1. Read more
August 25, 2023
Texas districts struggle with property valuation discrepancies
For decades, Texas school districts have faced financial issues due to discrepancies in property valuations. When state and county appraisers disagree, districts can end up with significant budget shortfalls. This issue is particularly affecting rural districts, where property values are often underestimated.
The Texas comptroller’s office has been double-checking property valuations to ensure fair distribution of state funding, but this has led to unintended consequences for districts like Alpine ISD. These districts receive less state funding because the comptroller’s office believes local property taxes will cover a larger portion of their budget, but they can only levy taxes based on lower property value estimates.
As a result, districts are struggling to balance their budgets and facing operational challenges. Lawmakers attempted to address the issue through a school finance proposal, but it ultimately failed. The situation is dire for districts like Alpine, Fort Davis ISD, and Orange Grove ISD, which are running out of money and unable to provide necessary resources for students and teachers.
The upcoming special session on education provides an opportunity for lawmakers to address these funding gaps and ensure equitable distribution of state funds. Read more
August 24, 2023
Texas chaplains oppose law allowing religious chaplains in schools
Opponents of a new law in Texas allowing unlicensed religious chaplains in schools have expressed concerns about the injection of Christianity into the public school system. Over 100 Texas chaplains have signed an open letter urging school districts not to allow the chaplains, describing the law as “harmful” to students. The law, which will be enacted on September 1, allows individual school districts to employ or accept chaplains as volunteers to provide support for students. Read more
August 23, 2023
Pflugerville ISD joins lawsuit against Texas Education Association
Pflugerville ISD has joined a coalition of school districts in Texas suing the Texas Education Association (TEA) over changes to its accountability ratings system. The rating change would raise the bar for measuring college, career, and military readiness, which some district officials argue could harm the reputation of public schools. Superintendent Doug Killian criticized the timing of the rating system reset, calling it unfair to staff and students. Joining the lawsuit could cost the district between $6,500 and $21,000. Previously, districts could receive an A rating if 60% of students were deemed ready for college or a career, but the TEA plans to increase that threshold to 88%. The changes have raised concerns among 250 Texas school districts, who fear a significant drop in state-rated scores for high schools. Read more
August 22, 2023
PragerU expands reach into Texas schools
PragerU, a conservative media outlet, plans to expand its reach into Texas public schools, but state education officials have stated that the nonprofit has not been approved as a vendor. PragerU offers alternative educational videos that have been criticized for whitewashing history and promoting misleading narratives. While Florida recently approved the use of PragerU videos in classrooms, Texas education officials claim they have not voted on the matter. Read more
August 21, 2023
Medicaid ‘unwinding’ explained for families in school toolkit
A new toolkit for school administrators issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this month asserts that school districts are in a “unique position” to help children and their families retain their Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program benefits as the programs transition from pandemic-era automatic renewals. K-12 and early childhood educators, administrators, staff and parent-teacher associations can help families be aware of the change in public health policy through letters, robocalls, text messages, social media and other communications, the toolkit says. Read more
August 20, 2023
Only ‘modest gains’ seen from summer school programs
A new study on summer school’s impact on student learning during the pandemic reveals that while math scores improved for students who attended summer school in 2022, there were no improvements in reading. The study, considered the most comprehensive analysis to date, suggests that catch-up efforts are paying off to some extent but may not be enough to fully recover students to their pre-pandemic trajectories. The gains made in summer school were modest, and with only a fraction of students attending, it had a limited impact on overall learning loss. Read more
August 19, 2023
Houston ISD leads Texas with $166m special ed funding shortfall
Houston ISD spent $166m more on special education than it received in state funding between 2020 and 2022, the largest budget gap of any Texas district, according to data from the Texas Education Agency. In all, nearly half of the state’s roughly 1,200 public school districts and charter school organizations spent more on special education than the state gave them. Besides Houston, larger districts were among those with the biggest deficits, including Dallas ISD, Northside ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Katy ISD and Austin ISD. The total deficit across all districts in the 2021-22 school year was about $2.3bn. Read more
August 18, 2023
Frisco ISD claims exception to new armed officer law
Frisco ISD’s board has claimed a good cause exception from a new state law that requires armed officers on each campus during school hours, citing a lack of available qualified officers. The law, which goes into effect on September 1st, allows school boards to claim an exception due to funding or personnel shortages. Read more
August 17, 2023
Despite post-pandemic improvements, STAAR scores show Texas students are still struggling with math and reading
Although standardized test scores among Texas students have improved since the pandemic, more than half of Texas public school students are still struggling with math and reading, according to newly released data on spring test scores. Read more
August 16, 2023
Updating school nutrition standards could save thousands of lives
As the US Department of Agriculture considers final rules to gradually tighten school nutrition guidance, a recent study has found that updating K-12 nutrition standards for added sugars, sodium and whole grain would improve children’s diets, blood pressure and body mass index. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, if schools implemented new nutrition standards aligned with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the change would “modestly reduce” the amount of added sugars and sodium children eat, while also increasing their whole grain consumption. The study also found that 10,600 deaths per year tied to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer could be prevented in the long term if school meal standards matched current national dietary guidelines. On top of that, the study claims, the move would save $19.3bn in annual health care costs in adulthood. Read more
August 14, 2023
School cafeterias under increasing pressure
Schools across the country are being pushed to hike the cost of breakfasts and lunches for kids this fall. On top of rising inflation and the end of the short-lived boost in additional federal subsidies for every school meal, the federal government could soon force schools to serve healthier meals with less salt and sugar, which could make them even more expensive to prepare and serve. Many who work to serve kids meals say it’s a noble pursuit “at odds with reality” based on the already challenging financial climate. Read more
August 13, 2023
Houston ISD’s state accountability rating expected to drop
Houston ISD’s state accountability rating is likely to drop this year after the Texas Education Agency (TEA) overhauls how it evaluates campuses. The new updates make it harder for schools to earn a higher grade by raising the bar to achieve top scores in certain fields and implementing other changes to the scoring methodology. State-installed HISD superintendent Mike Miles stated that the district’s overall letter grade would decrease from a B to a C if the new criteria were applied to last year’s data. More than half of high schools would also see a decreased letter grade under the new criteria. The changes include raising the threshold for college, career, and military readiness scores, which will affect schools’ rankings. Miles plans to decrease the number of schools awarded a D or F rating and raise the rating by a grade for struggling campuses. HISD will also focus on increasing the percentage of graduates attending college and updating Career and Technical Education programs. Read more
August 11, 2023
Students missing school at alarming rates
Nationwide, students have been absent at record rates since schools reopened after COVID-forced closures. More than a quarter of students missed at least 10% of the 2021-22 school year, making them chronically absent. An estimated 6.5m additional students became chronically absent, with absences more prevalent among Latino, Black, and low-income students. Chronic absenteeism has devastating long-term consequences, hindering learning and increasing the risk of dropping out. Read more
August 9, 2023
Texas book ban just days away
Through the passage of HB 900, as of September 1, book vendors servicing public schools are now required to submit a list of library materials with a rating system indicating “sexually relevant” or “sexually explicit” content to the Texas Education Agency by April 1, 2024. We are closely following the lawsuit filed by booksellers and First Amendment advocates seeking to overturn the book ban. In the meantime, here is an explainer and timeline on the new law.
August 8, 2023
Legal tussle over first publicly-funded religious charter school could have wider consequences
A legal battle is underway in Oklahoma over the approval of St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Catholic School, the first publicly-funded religious charter school in the country. The school, set to go online in 2024, is already facing legal challenges as the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee has filed a lawsuit to block taxpayer funds from being used. The controversy raises questions about the separation of church and state in public education. Read more
August 7, 2023
Houston ISD might drop to a C-rated district this year — the state is mostly to blame
Upcoming changes to the state’s academic accountability system will result in lower grades for districts across the state, Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles warned last week. Houston ISD’s school ratings will take a hit this year, with their overall grade potentially falling from a B to a C, Miles said. Read more
August 4, 2023
UHCL mentoring collaborative tackles teacher shortage
Being an educator can be a challenging and thankless job. And the high percentage of teachers considering leaving the profession within their first five years raises concerns.
The Texas Association of School Boards reports that low pay and underfunding are among the reasons, but the feeling of being undervalued and unsupported is also a major factor.
In response to the shortage of teachers and to provide a solution to these issues, professors in the College of Education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) have devised a mentoring collaborative to offer progressive and responsive support to new teachers. Read more
August 3, 2023
Texas A&M University settles $1m lawsuit with Black journalism professor
Texas A&M University has reached a $1m settlement with Kathleen McElroy, a Black journalism professor, following a botched attempt to hire her. The university admitted to making mistakes during the hiring process and apologized to Ms. McElroy. Initially, Texas A&M had welcomed McElroy, a former New York Times editor, to revive the school’s journalism department. Ms. McElroy told the Texas Tribune last month that soon after her hiring, she learned of emerging internal pushback from then-unidentified individuals over her past work to improve diversity and inclusion in newsrooms. Read more
August 2, 2023
Houston ISD seeks waiver to hire non-certified teachers
Houston ISD is seeking a waiver from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to hire non-certified teachers. The district aims to fill teaching roles despite the lack of necessary certifications. With over 800 teachers resigning from March to July 2023, HISD is facing a significant shortage. The TEA waiver would allow the district to bring in individuals without teacher certifications to address the gaps. Michelle Williams, a teacher with the Houston Education Association, suggests the district should call for retired teachers and utilize Superintendent Mike Miles’s staff instead. Read more
August 1, 2023
Equity concerns shadow rising special education student numbers
The number of students in special education in the United States has doubled over the past four decades, reaching more than seven million in the 2021-22 school year. These students now make up 15% of the K-12 student population, nearly double what it was in the late 1970s. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires all students with disabilities to receive free appropriate public education. However, while the number of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) has increased, special education teacher shortages have also grown, putting a strain on services. Read more
July 31, 2023
Del Valle Schools to spend more than $1m on armed officers
The Del Valle School District will spend more than $1m to hire 10 employees, including armed officers and a security coordinator, to comply with a new state law. House Bill 3 requires school districts to assign an armed officer to every campus. The district already employs 12 armed security officers, but the new law necessitates additional hires. While the district will receive some state funding, it is estimated to be far less than the amount needed. The district plans to use its general revenue to fulfill the law’s requirements. The board members expressed concerns about the law’s implementation and emphasized the importance of hiring quality employees. The new law was prompted by a school shooting in 2022. Failure to comply with the law could result in the Texas Education Agency assigning a conservator to oversee the district. Read more
July 30, 2023
HISD’s Miles will convert some libraries into discipline areas, eliminate librarians
The Houston school district will eliminate librarians and media specialists from 85 schools and convert the former library spaces into “team centers,” where students who misbehave will be sent to watch lessons virtually and others can work alone or in groups for differentiated instruction. It’s the latest in reforms launched by Texas Education Agency-appointed Superintendent Mike Miles. Read more
July 26, 2023
Booksellers sue to stop Texas law restricting ‘sexually explicit’ content
A coalition of Texas bookstores and national bookseller associations filed suit on Tuesday over House Bill 900, which aims to ban sexually explicit material from school libraries. Plaintiffs in the suit include two Texas bookstores, Austin’s BookPeople and West Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, as well as the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. They are suing defendants Martha Wong, chair of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission; Keven Ellis, chair of the Texas State Board of Education; and Mike Morath, commissioner of the Texas Education Agency. Read more
July 25, 2023
Texas A&M suspended professor accused of criticizing Dan Patrick in lecture
The professor, an expert on the opioids crisis, was placed on paid administrative leave and investigated, raising questions about the extent of political interference in higher education, particularly in health-related matters. Read more
July 20, 2023
DOE review will forgive debt of some borrowers
About 64,000 Texas borrowers will have their federal student loans forgiven following a US Department of Education review that identified “administrative failures” and 804,000 borrowers whose loans were taken more than two decades ago and should’ve been canceled. Read more
July 19, 2023
Brazosport implements teacher apprenticeship program
Last August Brazosport ISD launched a unique “teacher apprenticeship” program that allows aspiring teachers to earn a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification, at no cost to themselves. In return, the teachers have to work in the district for at least three years. The plan includes a paid residency program in which apprentices are paired with a teacher mentor and work with them in a classroom for a full school year. Read more
July 17, 2023
Republicans propose big cuts to Title 1 funding
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives want to dramatically cut funding for Title I, the long-running federal program that sends money to schools based on the number of children from low-income families that they serve. A bill advanced by a Republican-controlled House subcommittee seeks to cut Title I grants by 80% or nearly $15bn. Read more
July 12, 2023
Bill introduced to fully fund special education
US Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and US Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) have now formally introduced the IDEA Full Funding Act. This legislation would ensure Congress fulfills its commitment to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA, the federal government committed to pay 40% of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. read more
July 11, 2023
NEA’s annual representative assembly examined
During the National Education Association’s annual representative assembly, educators debated and voted on measures that will shape the future of the teachers’ union. The assembly also approved the union’s budget, which reflects a membership decline. The NEA expects a 1.2% decrease in full-time equivalent members in the upcoming fiscal year. The decline is driven by reductions in teachers and education support professionals. read more
July 10, 2023
Texas schools battling to pay teacher raises
Texas lawmakers ended this year’s regular legislative session without giving public schools any money for employee raises — so school districts are finding ways to give their workers modest raises, even if it means digging into their savings accounts. Read more
July 7, 2023
New student loan repayment plan could bring savings
As Texans with college loans are expected to begin or resume making payments later this year in October, other changes are planned for this summer that can help reduce monthly payments, stop interest accruals and forgive debts after 10 to 25 years.
Here’s what you need to know about the updated federal income-driven loan repayment program:
- The revamped program, now coined the Saving on a Valuable Education plan, or SAVE, will set monthly payments as a percentage of the borrower’s income, rather than the amount owed.
- Under the plan, a single undergraduate borrower earning $60,000 a year, would have a discretionary income of about $27,195. The borrower would use 5% of that amount, $1,360, to pay back their loan, making their monthly payment $113. If this amount doesn’t cover the interest they owe each month, their total debt wouldn’t decrease but wouldn’t increase either. If the loan isn’t fully repaid in 20 years, the remainder would be canceled.
- Borrowers with a federal direct loan would be allowed to apply. Federal direct loans are a loan provided directly by the U.S. Department of Education and include Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans.
Other repayment alternatives include the Pay As You Earn plan (PAYE), the Income-Based Repayment plan (IBR), and the Income-Contingent Repayment plan (ICR). Each plan differs in who can apply, the monthly payment calculation and loan forgiveness terms. Read more
July 6, 2023
Austin ISD to install solar panels at 16 more schools
Austin ISD is on track to install solar panels on 16 more schools thanks to a $14.95m grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Austin is the only school district in Texas that was chosen to receive a grant from the department as part of its Renew America’s Schools program. It has already implemented solar rooftop panels at 14 of its facilities—13 schools and the Performing Arts Center. AISD officials said each of those panels is capable of producing 2 megawatts of energy—enough to power 230 homes. Read more
July 5, 2023
Book vendors uncomfortable with Texas schoolbook law
Book vendors selling to Texas public schools, ranging from national sellers like Amazon to local bookstores with eight employees, must now rate all the books they sell based on sexual content, according to new legislation signed into law last month. The law’s primary author, Republican Texas State Rep. Jared Patterson, said the law aims to ensure that school libraries do not carry sexually explicit content. However, the job of rating the books falls on book vendors. Read more
July 3, 2023
New efforts to forgive student loans launched following Supreme Court decision
The US Supreme Court has struck down the Biden administration’s plan to eliminate as much as $20,000 in federal student debt for millions of borrowers. The forgiveness plan would have wiped away an estimated $430bn in loans from the government’s books. Once payments resume, the typical student-loan payment will be between $210 and $314 a month, according to Wells Fargo. Overall, more than 40m borrowers would have qualified for loan forgiveness through a required application. Biden said he would launch a new effort to forgive student loans on a large scale using a different legal authority than the one that the Supreme Court blocked. The wider Biden administration meanwhile has undertaken an overhaul of how borrowers pay off their loans, revamping income-based repayment programs and rewriting accountability regulations for for-profit schools. Read more
July 2, 2023
TEA to release new scores with widespread changes
The Texas Education Agency is set to release new scores with widespread changes, including a more difficult metric for assessing college, career, or military readiness. District leaders are concerned that the new formula will give the impression that schools are worse, even if their performance remains the same or improves. The changes could lead to erroneous conclusions when analyzing letter grades between the 2022 and 2023 school years. To address this, TEA will publish “what if” scores for 2022 alongside the 2023 grades. A major change is coming for the high school evaluations, with the standard for college, career, and military readiness being raised from 60% to 88%. Read more
July 1, 2023
Supreme Court rejects Biden student loan forgiveness plan
The Supreme Court on Friday said President Biden does not have authority for his roughly $400 billion dollar to forgive student loan debt, the latest blow from a Supreme Court that has been dismissive of this administration’s bold claims of power.
The vote was 6 to 3 along ideological lines, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for the court’s dominant conservatives. Read more
June 30, 2023
SCOTUS votes to restrict race-based affirmative action in college admissions
The Supreme Court has held that admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina that relied in part on racial considerations violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The votes split along ideological grounds, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for the conservative members in the majority, and the liberals dissenting. Roberts said the admissions programs at Harvard and UNC “lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points.” He also stressed that “nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement after the ruling: “I want to send a message to all aspiring students, especially Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and other students from underserved communities: we see you and we need you. Do not let this ruling deter you from pursuing your educational potential. Our colleges and our country itself cannot thrive and compete in the 21st century without your talent, ingenuity, perseverance, and ambition.” Read more
June 29, 2023
Texas Senate advances tax relief proposal with teacher pay raises
The Texas Senate advanced a tax relief proposal on the first day of the Legislature’s second special session, detailing an increase to the homestead exemption and pay raises for teachers. The House and Senate have been at odds over property tax relief, with the Senate pushing for increases to the homestead exemption and the House advocating for reducing the cap on annual property appraisal increases. An amendment to Senate Bill 1 would give a $2,000 pay increase to urban district teachers and a $6,000 increase to rural area teachers over the next two years. The proposal was unanimously approved by all 31 senators. Despite the unity in the Senate, an agreement on property taxes between both chambers remains unclear. Additionally, voters would need to approve an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow for the homestead exemption and teacher pay raise in November. It’s unclear when the full House will take up the bill; the House next meets on Friday but is expected to quickly adjourn until July 5th. Read more
June 28, 2023
Katy ISD halts all library book purchases
Katy ISD has frozen purchases of new library books and will place incoming books in storage, following a directive by the board of trustees. On Monday, Superintendent Ken Gregorski was handed the new mandate, and told that the only books exempt from the decision are those destined for the district’s newest schools, which will open for the first time this year, in order for the schools to have a library. Newly elected trustee Morgan Calhoun said she’s seen books in elementary schools that “support sexually alternative lifestyles.” However, other members questioned the legality and practicality of the move. “We’ve spent our taxpayer money on those resources,” trustee Rebecca Fox said, “and a lot of children like to read current and recent books.” Read more
June 27, 2023
As demand for skilled workers rises in Texas, work-based educational programs see a resurgence
College and career programs are a lot more varied than they used to be. In a state that’s aiming for 60% of Texans ages 25 to 64 to have a certificate or degree by 2030, there’s been a new focus on equity, marking a notable difference on what kind of programs are pushed.
Now, attention is being turned to career and technical education. Higher education leaders are moving to create shorter and earlier education programs that meet industry standards. The rise in career and technical education programs can partially be attributed to industries and jobs requiring specialized licenses or credentials, even if it’s not a college degree. Read more
June 26, 2023
San Antonio ISD urged to let families have final say on school closures
A coalition of groups representing teachers, parents, students, and neighborhoods in San Antonio has demanded that the public have the final say over which schools are closed during a new project to “rightsize” facilities. The coalition argued that closing or consolidating schools would lead to destabilizing effects in the community and should only be used as a last resort. The district’s timeline for making a decision doesn’t allow for adequate input from families and students, according to the coalition. Read more
June 25, 2023
‘Unprecedented push’ towards school mental health improvements
Schools and colleges are undertaking an unprecedented effort to recruit and retain more school mental health providers. Since December, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded $286m to 264 grantees in nearly every state to boost the training and hiring of school mental health professionals, particularly those from marginalized racial and ethnic backgrounds. The agency estimates that the infusion of cash will prepare more than 14,000 new providers. Schools also spent an estimated $2bn in federal pandemic recovery dollars to hire mental health professionals – an investment that helped increase the number of social workers by nearly 50%, and the number of school counselors and psychologists by 10%, according to the Education Department. Read more
June 24, 2023
Other states could follow Texas in allowing chaplains in schools
A new law in Texas allows chaplains to provide counseling to students in public schools, as part of a broader effort to expand the role of religion in education. The law has attracted national scrutiny and might be challenged in court. The measure fills a critical need by bringing in faith-based reinforcements to shore up a severe shortage of counselors and social workers. However, many licensed mental health counselors and their allies in the legislature warned that the measure will result in substandard care for students at a time when many young people are struggling with mental health issues. Texas appears to be the first state to enact a chaplain bill, and its success might spawn imitators in other states. Read more
June 23, 2023
Abbott signs bill to create higher education portal
Governor Greg Abbott has signed House Bill 2920, which will create a portal for families to easily view the cost and potential earnings of degree and certificate programs at Texas’ public higher education institutions. The portal will also include the median student loan debt in college and university programs. And the “Know Before You Go” bill will quantify the state’s workforce needs and the “most valuable” programs in the state, including the annual starting wage information and educational requirements for the top 25 highest demand jobs in the state. Read more
June 22, 2023
Texas education board OKs conservative-backed charter school’s Houston campus request
The Texas State Board of Education voted Wednesday for Heritage Classical Academy to move forward with a planned campus in Northwest Houston, opening the door for the controversial charter school to begin expanding in the state after three failed applications.
The vote was preliminary and the board will need to ratify it once more during its Friday session. Since the board only controls a network’s initial approval, a final vote backing Heritage on Friday would allow the network to later petition the Texas Education Agency to expand with more campuses across the state. The Board of Education’s members are elected, while the agency’s leaders are political appointees. Read more
June 21, 2023
Houston ISD’s new super wants to use the same controversial approach he tried in Dallas schools
Houston Independent School District’s new state-appointed superintendent, Mike Miles, is looking to implement reforms in the state-led district following a stint leading Dallas ISD that was mired in scandals.
Back in March, the Texas Education Agency announced that Houston ISD would be placed under state control, citing years of poor academic outcomes at Phillis Wheatley High School and allegations of misconduct against school board members.
After a successful stint at a small school district in Colorado, Miles arrived in Dallas in 2012. The Dallas Morning News reported his time at the district “brought disruption and controversy.” Notably, Miles introduced a program within the district that gave teachers huge pay bonuses if they boosted standardized test scores. However, little improvements were seen from the program and once funding dried up, teachers left because they weren’t getting paid the same. Read more
June 20, 2023
Texas sues Ed Department over Title IX interpretation
The state of Texas has filed a lawsuit over the US Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX protecting LGBTQ+ students, adding to the resistance promised by Republican leaders even before the administration proposed its new rule last June. In its lawsuit, Texas’ Office of the Attorney General says the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX, a civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs receiving federal funding, “seeks to radically transform educational institutions” by impacting “living facilities, locker rooms, and showers, in addition to bathrooms, at schools across the country.” Saying the administration’s stance that Title IX protections cover sexual orientation and gender identity is a misinterpretation, the state seeks to stop LGBTQ+ protections under Title IX from being enforced in Texas. Read more
June 18, 2023
School lunch program improvements reduced childhood obesity
Changes to the national school lunch program in the last decade that reduced sodium and fat content in school meals and required more fruits and vegetables could have reduced children’s likelihood of becoming overweight, according to a new research paper. Researchers evaluated data on the quality of school meals between 1991 and 2010, before the Obama administration’s tighter nutrition standards took effect, then tracked a nationally representative group of children from when they entered kindergarten in 2010 and completed 5th grade in 2016, controlling for children who already entered kindergarten overweight. After the nutrition standards changed, they found, students who ate school lunches were no more likely to be overweight than students who brought their food from home. Read more
June 17, 2023
Houston ISD board meeting sparks frustration among attendees
The newly-appointed board of Houston ISD has restricted access to the main boardroom, requiring many people to watch from an overflow space. The move to limit boardroom access followed a contentious meeting last week, during which some members of the public heckled and booed board members. Read more
June 16, 2023
Illinois bans book bans
Illinois has become the first state to prohibit book bans in its public schools and libraries. The law directs public libraries in the state to adopt or write their own versions of a library bill of rights such as the American Library Association’s, which asserts that “Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” The law, which takes effect next year, was the state’s response to a sharp rise in book-banning efforts across the country. Read more
June 14, 2023
School clinics prove their worth
On-campus health clinics are attracting new attention. Nationwide, nearly 2,600 health centers operated out of schools in 2017, the most recent year with available data, which is more than twice the number that existed two decades earlier. Some 6.3m students in more than 10,000 schools had access to the centers, according to the School-Based Health Alliance. Read more
June 13, 2023
Texas bans ‘sexually explicit’ books in schools
Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill that prohibits “sexually explicit material” in public school libraries. House Bill 900 requires the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to create mandatory standards for school libraries, while book vendors will be responsible for rating library materials as “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant.” Books with the latter label could be available to students with parental approval. Read more
June 12, 2023
Ed Dept announces grant opportunities to address workforce challenges
The Department of Education has announced the availability of more than $368m in new grant opportunities through the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program and the Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Incentive program that advance investments in teacher recruitment and retention. The investments specifically prioritize promoting educator diversity and career advancement and leadership opportunities for effective educators tied to increased compensation. Read more
June 9, 2023
Another court ruling on DACA is expected today
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, who were young immigrants when the program started but are now adults, are worried about their futures in anticipation of yet another legal ruling on the program. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled the program illegal in 2021 and is again presiding over the case after his initial ruling was appealed then affirmed by a higher court. The expectation that Hanen will rule the program illegal once more creates added uncertainty for those affected and sets up another long battle about the program’s validity — a case that could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, where DACA survived a 5-4 ruling in front of a more liberal panel of justices in 2019. Read more
June 8, 2023
Austin ISD hopes for lower oversight than TEA planned
The Texas Education Agency has installed a “conservatorship” in Houston ISD and announced plans to do something similar with Austin ISD, citing the district’s failure to provide special education services to students. AISD officials hope to convince TEA to appoint a monitor instead of a conservator. The crux of AISD’s problem is the evaluation process, which determines which students receive special education services. That process slowed during the COVID pandemic, as more than half of the district’s evaluators left their positions. The district is adding more evaluators and aims to reduce the backlog to zero by the end of 2025. The recent legislative session did not help the district’s cause, as a plan to send $5B to public schools died after Senate Republicans attached a voucher system. Read more
June 7, 2023
Humble ISD proposes increased starting salary for teachers
Humble ISD officials have proposed an increase in starting teacher salaries for the 2023-24 school year, with two possible compensation plans depending on the outcome of the 88th Texas Legislature. The first plan would cost an estimated $12.1m and include a 3% general increase, while the second plan would cost an estimated $15.7m and include a 4% general increase. The starting salary for teachers would be $63,700 or $64,000, respectively. Officials increased the district’s starting teacher salary to $62,100 for the 2022-23 school year to stay competitive with neighboring districts. The proposed increase would make HISD the third-highest starting salary in Texas and the highest among the five largest school districts in the state. Other district professions would also see salary increases under the proposal. The district’s 2023-24 budget will be formally adopted in June. Read more
June 6, 2023
Litigation expected as schools tussle with social media companies
About 40 school districts nationwide are suing social media companies over claims that their apps are addictive, damaging to students’ mental health, and causing adverse impacts on schools and other government resources. Many of the lawsuits, which were originally filed in a variety of court jurisdictions, were consolidated into one 281-page multi-district litigation claim filed March 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The consolidated lawsuit, known as the Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Products Liability Litigation, was filed against Meta Platforms Inc., which operates Facebook and Instagram, as well as the companies behind Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube. Read more
June 5, 2023
Houston Education Association: HISD teachers are ready to work with Superintendent Miles, but more state funding is essential
Houston ISD teachers are ready to work with the new superintendent, Mike Miles, to continue the student improvement that had begun before the state takeover. But Supt. Miles also must work with educators, not bully them as he often did when he was superintendent of Dallas ISD. Read the full statement
Education spared as Biden signs debt ceiling deal
President Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 into law on Saturday, ending for now the threat of a default on the nation’s debt. The U.S. Senate had on Friday passed the bipartisan legislation that flat-funds federal education spending for fiscal 2024. The agreement also limits nondefense spending, including education, to a 1% increase in fiscal 2025. Read more
June 4, 2023
Texas Teachers of Tomorrow remains on probation
Texas Teachers of Tomorrow, the largest teacher preparation program in Texas, remains on probation after failing to prove to state education officials that they had corrected long-standing operational problems. The Texas Education Agency recommended revoking the company’s accreditation, citing its failure to meet the conditions of an improvement plan. Read more
June 3, 2023
Collaborative solutions needed to support girls’ mental health crisis
The 74 looks at how girls, especially girls of color and LGBTQ+ youth, are the most impacted by the mental health crisis in schools. Educators, parents, and policymakers need to listen to the most marginalized girls and accept their input in creating systems and environments of belonging, according to Girls Leadership co-CEOs Simone Marean and Takai Tyler, who are calling for collaborative solutions that incorporate administrators, parents, coaches, and other education professionals, and that are ultimately led by girls. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 56% of girls in grades 7 to 12 have experienced sexual harassment, which is the number one reason that girls don’t feel connected at school. Read more
June 2, 2023
Houston ISD employees must reapply for jobs
Newly-installed Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles has announced that employees at nearly 30 schools will have to reapply for their jobs as part of his “New Education System” plan. Miles is starting with 29 schools and undertaking what he calls “wholescale, systemic reform.” He’s raising teacher compensation at those 29 schools to a record $96,000 a year. Employees who aren’t re-hired will go to other HISD schools, and soon, he says, all district employee pay will be tied to student performance. Miles has promised not to close any schools in his first year but said closures are likely after that. Organizations are planning to protest next week at the district’s first meeting with Miles and the nine-member board of managers that are replacing the elected HISD board of trustees. Read more
June 1, 2023
For higher education in Texas, this year’s session was a mixed bag of interference and investment
During this year’s regular legislative session, Texas lawmakers made huge investments in higher education. They gave millions of dollars in funds to community colleges and created new endowments for public universities. But lawmakers also banned diversity, equity and inclusion offices and gave themselves more control over university faculty tenure. Read more
May 31, 2023
Gamesmanship in the Legislature as special session commences
Yesterday, both the House and Senate each passed its version of the tax relief bill, HB 1 and SB 1 with accompanying constitutional amendments, and the House passed its border security bill and then immediately adjourned sine die. Before adjourning the House made it clear that it was the only chamber to pass bills meeting the requirements of the Governor’s special session call, and because the Senate brought in other issues, the House would not be hearing those bills.
With the Senate adjourned until Friday, and still needing to pass its border patrol bill, and the House adjourned sine die, the only move left in this special session is for the Senate to pass the House bills and adjourn. It is unclear what Lt. Governor Dan Patrick will do, but last night in a Twitter feud, the Governor sided with Speaker Dade Phelan and the Lt. Governor called the Governor misinformed.
Patrick believes he is in the right, and the question is, will he pass the House bills and adjourn sine die for the summer, will he pass his bills and run the clock on the special, or will the Senate sine die with no bills going to the Governor and trigger another special session. The other question is, can the House adjourn sine die without the other chambers’ consent. As we continue to watch the drama unfold, one thing has become clear, the Governor probably does not intend to put vouchers on the call until school starts in the fall.
May 30, 2023
Governor calls special session to address property tax
Greg Abbott called an immediate special session Monday night, just hours after lawmakers completed the year’s regular legislative session without passing numerous key bills state leaders had identified as priorities.
Abbott said in a statement the special session officially began at 9 p.m. Monday and will be focused on property tax relief and border security. “Many critical items remain that must be passed,” Abbott said, which he asserts will require multiple special sessions.
Republican lawmakers had identified using a large part of the state’s budget surplus to lower property taxes for Texas homeowners and business owners as a priority, but failed to reach an agreement. It appeared lawmakers were expected to return to work Tuesday, which the leaders of both chambers hinted at in closing Monday.
TSTA is following the special session closely, especially as it pertains to property taxation (and therefore school funding). Be on the lookout for alerts from our Government Relations team for ways to take action as the session progresses.
May 28, 2023
TSTA applauds death of voucher bill, remains angry at state leaders who put vouchers over funding for public schools, teachers and students
The death of the voucher bill is a victory for public education and Texas taxpayers. This voucher plan would have worsened the budgetary problems of under-funded public schools while enriching unregulated private schools with tax dollars.
TSTA applauds Rep. Ken King and the other House members who stood up for public education and against vouchers after the Senate had hijacked House Bill 100, the school funding measure, with vouchers and Senate conferees refused to negotiate.
Had it passed, the voucher portion of that bill would have cost public schools and taxpayers one-half billion dollars over the next two years and billions of additional dollars in the years to follow.
We are still angry that Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick and their allies gave private schools a higher priority than public schools, while wasting an opportunity to use a record $33 billion budget surplus to give underpaid teachers and other school employees meaningful pay raises and increase the classroom resources that public schools need for their students. Read full statement
May 26, 2023
Voucher bill in conference committee
The new voucher bill, what had been the school finance bill before being hijacked by privatizers, is heading to a conference committee. As of Friday morning, only the House has assigned members. Let’s tell these five representatives that the answer is still, “NO” on vouchers!
May 24, 2023
Another day, another voucher scheme in the Texas House
Just before midnight last night, the Texas Senate passed HB 100, the school finance bill which the Chair of Senate Education amended with a voucher. This was a last-ditch effort to force vouchers on the Texas House, which has voiced its opposition through several procedural and substantive votes on the House floor over the course of this session. But we need to hold our House public education friends up and tell them to stay strong against vouchers.
The question ultimately rests on how long the Texas House can play chicken with the Lt. Governor and Governor. So let’s give them the cover they need and take action AGAIN.
May 23, 2023
Texas Senate committee passes revised school funding bill
A substantially altered version of a school funding bill that’s being used as a last-ditch effort to enact a voucher-like program in Texas was approved by the Senate’s education committee Monday. The revised House Bill 100, which passed 9-3 on party lines, is an attempt to avoid a special session after Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to call for one if he didn’t get a school voucher bill he liked.
The Senate’s new version of the bill designates $6,210 per-student spending, increasing the per-student allotment by $50. It also adds an amendment to give families with children enrolled in public schools $8,000 in taxpayer money to put toward private school education. In addition to adding the voucher program, the bill also dedicates $300m to fund special education programs.
The voucher amendment was added late Sunday night after the primary school voucher bill, Senate Bill 8, authored by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), died in the House chamber after missing a crucial deadline to pass out of the House’s public education committee. House Bill 100 now heads to the Senate floor for a vote. Read more
May 22, 2023
Texas Senate passes school safety bill
The Texas Senate on Sunday gave final approval to a priority school safety bill that gives the state more power to compel school districts to create active-shooter plans, requires mental health training for certain employees and puts restrictions on those who carry a gun in school. The proposal requires the Texas School Safety Center — a Texas State University think tank that has been reviewing schools’ safety protocols since the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting — to conduct checks of a school district’s buildings at least once every five years to make sure they are following the state’s safety standards. Read more
May 21, 2023
Uvalde investigation continues
This Wednesday marks one year since a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers inside a fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and the criminal investigation over the hesitant police response is still ongoing. A damning report by Texas lawmakers put nearly 400 officers on the scene from an array of federal, state and local agencies. Read more
May 20, 2023
High-dosage tutoring ‘wins and fails’ shared
At a special event hosted by the National Student Support Accelerator, a Stanford program that shares research and helps schools launch tutoring programs, a group of researchers, school leaders, and tutoring organizations recently discussed the best ways to get high-dosage tutoring to more students and how schools might keep their programs going when federal dollars are gone. Attendees heard that there are several studies expected to be published this summer and fall that could help school districts make their programs more effective. They include two gold-standard experiments looking at whether the tutor’s race or gender affect academic outcomes for students, and another rigorous study looking at whether student group size affects the quality of live virtual tutoring in reading. Read more
May 18, 2023
TEA to share details of Houston ISD takeover today
The Texas Education Agency will outline its Houston ISD takeover plan today, at the final gathering of the district’s elected trustees. This will mark the second TEA presentation at an HISD board meeting. During the first presentation last month, Steve Lecholop, the agency’s deputy commissioner of governance, gave a slideshow presentation and fielded heated questions from trustees. Read more
May 17, 2023
Future of Texas voucher bill unclear as key deadline looms
State Representative Brad Buckley, chair of the House Public Education Committee, has said he currently has no plans to bring the latest version of the Texas Senate’s priority school voucher bill for a full vote, after Greg Abbott threatened to veto it. “It begs the question of — with this threat — is this the legislation to move forward?”, he said. Senate Bill 8, authored by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, significantly rolls back eligibility for the legislation’s proposed voucher program. Read more
May 16, 2023
Abbott threatens to veto pared-down school choice bill, warns of special sessions
Greg Abbott said Sunday that he would veto a toned-down version of a bill to offer school vouchers in Texas and threatened to call legislators back for special sessions if they don’t “expand the scope of school choice” this month. Read more
May 15, 2023
Take action NOW against SB 8, the voucher bill up in House Public Education Today
Texas public schools are under attack, and we need to stand up against out-of-state opportunists looking to defund our local public schools! The committee will be hearing invited testimony only, so public education advocates need to submit comments to the Committee through the Texas House of Representatives website to register our opposition to vouchers in general and this bill in particular.
This link is live NOW! Use the talking points below and share this out to your members, family, friends, and community at large.
SB 8 CREATES THE LARGEST VOUCHER PROGRAM IN THE NATION! KEEP PUBLIC FUNDS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS!
- It diverts much needed funding from our public schools to unaccountable private schools
- It erodes the rights of parents of special needs students and fails to maintain protections under IDEA federal laws
- It does not prioritize parental choice, just a private school’s choice in which students to serve
- It replaces STAAR with a different exam, without deemphasizing standardized tests in our A-F accountability system
- It gives the TEA Commissioner too much authority
May 11, 2023
Texas House blocks attempt to vote on school choice
Texas House members prevented the chamber’s Committee on Public Education from gathering in what many had expected would be an attempt to advance Senate Bill 8, the education savings account or school choice bill. In a 76-65 vote, House members rejected committee Chairman Rep. Brad Buckley’s effort to meet without meeting the three-day posting rule because Buckley said he planned to call a vote on SB 8 without a public hearing. The bill is still alive, however; after the House recessed at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the committee announced it would meet Monday to consider SB 8. Read more
May 10, 2023
Teachers are losing hope that lawmakers will give them a big raise this session
With less than a month left in the legislative session, the odds that teachers will get the kind of raise they say they badly need are rapidly diminishing.
Teachers had hoped this would be the year the Texas Legislature would approve a substantial across-the-board pay raise for them as lawmakers, tasked with deciding how to spend a historic budget surplus, vowed to address the state’s yearslong teacher shortage.
But some of the ambitious proposals to put more money in teachers’ wallets — including a bill that would have given every teacher in Texas a $15,000 raise — never made it out of the House or Senate education committees, which have to give first approval to a bill before it gets a full vote by either chamber. Read more
May 9, 2023
In surprise vote, Texas House committee advances bill to raise minimum age to buy assault rifles
In a previously unscheduled vote, Texas lawmakers on Monday advanced a measure that would raise the age limit for purchasing assault-style weapons.
House Bill 2744 has been pushed by families of victims in last year’s Robb Elementary School shooting, which left 19 students and two teachers dead. They say a higher minimum age would have prevented the mass shooting.
If passed, the legislation would raise the minimum age required to purchase semi-automatic rifles — like the one used in Uvalde — from 18 to 21. Most Texans are currently not allowed to carry handguns before that age. Read more
May 5, 2023
Record number of civil rights complaints filed
The Education Department received a record-breaking number of civil rights complaints last fiscal year, with people filing nearly 19,000 complaints in the nation’s universities, colleges and public schools. The 18,804 complaints entered between October 2021 and September 2022, are the most ever filed in a single fiscal year in the nearly six-decade history of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Read more
May 4, 2023
Tenure-track faculty worry Texas tenure ban would derail their careers
A proposed ban on tenure in Texas has led some of the state’s highest-achieving faculty to reconsider whether Texas is where they should build their careers.
Five thousand teachers in Texas are currently on the around seven-year track to receive tenure. After intense vetting, tenured faculty receive an indefinite contract. But they still must participate in annual performance reviews, as well as a post-tenure review every five to six years.
Tenure gives faculty additional job security so they can pursue long-term, independent research. That could include finding new scientific discoveries, conducting academic studies or writing books. It’s also used as a recruitment tool to attract and keep prestigious scholars, who in turn raise their university’s research acumen and national profile. Read more
May 3, 2023
Protesters evicted from Texas Capitol as clash between LGBTQ residents and GOP leaders escalates
LGBTQ Texans defending transgender kids’ access to transition-related medical treatments that experts consider lifesaving clashed with a state Republican party that opposes all efforts to validate trans identities Tuesday, as state police forcefully booted from the Capitol people protesting a bill that would ban such care.
It was the most dramatic day yet during a legislative session in which Republicans are pushing a slate of bills that could drastically upend how queer people live. It began with LGBTQ Texans, their families and advocates singing outside the House chamber. Hours later, it ended in altercations with law enforcement and scores of protesters being forced from the building after some chanted during legislative proceedings. Read more
May 1, 2023
Wednesday, May 3rd is the Freedom to Learn National Day of Action
NEA is a co-sponsor of this important observance along with a broad coalition and planned activities range from reading a banned book to joining a rally or a sit-in. Please share this event with your members and networks as we focus on defending the truth, protecting the freedom to learn, and strengthening our democracy. Read more
April 27, 2023
Budget conferees have opportunity to spend substantially more on public education, nothing on vouchers
With about four weeks remaining in the legislative session, there are a lot of moving parts and unanswered questions affecting public education funding. Will teachers and support staff get the raises they have earned and deserve? Will retirees get COLAs and more-livable pensions? Will lawmakers waste education dollars on vouchers? Will they short-change public schools, educators and students and spend half of a record $33 billion surplus on temporary property tax relief?
Ten legislators — five senators and five House members — will play a key role in answering those questions. They are the members of the conference committee now writing the final version of the state budget, which all the members of the Senate and the House will be asked to vote on, without further amendments, before the session ends.
The House conferees are Reps. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood; Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint; Jacey Jetton, R-Richmond; Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston; and Armando Walle, D-Houston. The Senate conferees, all Republicans, are Sens. Joan Huffman of Houston, Robert Nichols of Jacksonville, Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, Brandon Creighton of Conroe and Charles Schwertner of Georgetown.
What they decide will be critical to your pay, your retirement and the resources and learning opportunities your students will have.
April 26, 2023
West Texas A&M faculty condemn university prez after drag show cancellation
Most West Texas A&M faculty have lost confidence in university President Walter Wendler, according to the results of a campuswide vote that came weeks after he canceled a charity campus drag show.
Faculty senate leaders announced the results of the weeklong no-confidence vote Tuesday evening. According to faculty senate president Ashley Pinkham, there were 179 votes to condemn Wendler and 82 against it.
Pinkham said in an email to faculty that some colleagues provided comments with their ballots, which will be tabulated and released in the coming days. Read more
April 25, 2023
Bill would allow state to ban textbooks that discuss gender identity
House Bill 1804, authored by state Representative Terri Leo-Wilson, R-Galveston, would allow the State Board of Education to reject textbooks for students below ninth grade if the textbooks include content on sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual activity. Textbooks could also be rejected if they fail to present U.S. history in a positive light or “encourage lifestyles that deviate from generally accepted standards of society.”
As of Monday afternoon, Leo-Wilson’s bill had been left pending in the House Committee on Public Education. Read more
April 24, 2023
‘Perfect storm brewing’ as low wages, educator shortages grip schools and colleges nationwide
Four new reports examining educator pay and school funding from pre-K through college reveal an alarming trend of decreased educator pay and inadequate investment in public schools and universities as teacher turnover has hit historic levels. The reports, released by the National Education Association, show a perfect storm brewing as educator shortages continue to grip schools nationwide.
NEA’s data reveals only single-digit percentage gains in educator salaries. At the same time, the teacher pay penalty has reached a record high, teacher turnover hit new highs across the United States, and staff salaries haven’t kept up with inflation. The data also points to too many students in schools where decision-makers have driven away quality educators by failing to provide competitive salaries and support and placing extraordinary pressure on individual educators to do more and more with less and less.
April 23, 2023
Soaring numbers of book bans happening nationwide
Free speech organization PEN America has warned that book bans are rising at a rapid pace in school districts around the country. From July to December 2022, PEN found 1,477 cases of books being removed, up from 1,149 during the previous six months. Since the organization began tracking bans in July 2021, it has counted more than 4,000 instances of book removals using news reports, public records requests and publicly available data. Read more
April 21, 2023
San Marcos CISD to hire armed civilians for each elementary school
San Marcos Consolidated ISD school leaders have signed off on hiring armed marshals to protect students in the district’s eight elementary schools. The plan calls for hiring a school marshal – whose identity would be confidential – to serve as a safety officer at each elementary school campus in the district. The marshals’ responsibilities would include patrolling the campuses, performing safety checks and audits, and conducting safety training drills. Read more
April 20, 2023
Texas House advances bill banning ‘sexually explicit’ books in school libraries
The Texas House gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that aims to ban sexually explicit materials from school libraries. House Bill 900, by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), would require vendors to assign a rating to books with sexual content before selling them to school districts. Despite multiple amendments by Democratic lawmakers and floor speeches that lasted over an hour, the Republican-led chamber voted 95-53 on the legislation, deemed a priority by House Speaker Dade Phelan. The bill still needs to get final approval from the House before it makes its way to the Senate. Read more
April 19, 2023
Texas educator Monica Washington inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame
Former high school English teacher Monica Washington from Texarkana, Texas, is one of only five educators nationwide who have been inducted into the 2023 class of the National Teachers Hall of Fame.
Monica inaugurated her career as a teacher in 1998 at an inner-city school in Memphis, Tennessee. After transferring to Texas High School in Texarkana, she taught English and AP English and served as the Department Chair at Texas High School for nine years there. During her career, she has also served as an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) co-ordinator and a REACH co-ordinator on her campus. Over the course of her 20-year career, she has taught grades 7-12. Read more
April 18, 2023
HB 2102 is scheduled for House Public Education Today
HB 2102 (Rep Goldman) will double the time existing charter schools have to open a new charter campus from 18 months to 36 months through the amendment process. The bill does not require charter schools to notify a school district over the entire 3-year time period once they have selected a site for the new campus. School districts only receive a notice when the amendment is initially filed.
Without notice of the address where a charter intends to locate, parents and taxpayers are left in the dark, and school districts can’t plan ahead for the financial impact of enrollment loss. In addition, with a three-year window to open a new charter campus, low-performing charter schools could be allowed to expand.
TAKE ACTION and SUBMIT electronic comment before the hearing is over at https://comments.house.texas.gov/home?c=c400
April 17, 2023
Texas House panel advances bills banning puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender kids
Texas lawmakers are a step closer to banning puberty blockers and hormone therapies for transgender youth after the House Public Health Committee advanced Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 1686 on Friday. The committee voted 6-3 to approve the two bills, and they will now have to get through the Calendars Committee before getting to the House floor. The Senate has already passed a version of the legislation, and a majority of Texas House members have signed on to an earlier version of HB 1686. Read more
April 16, 2023
Texas Senate passes school library bill meant to keep “harmful” materials off shelves
The Texas Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would significantly change the processes and procedures Texas’ school libraries have to follow.
Senate Bill 13, from Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, would let parents receive notice each time their children obtain school library materials, prohibit the acquisition or retention of “harmful” and indecent materials, and create local councils to help districts ensure “community values are reflected in each school library catalog in the district.” Members of the upper chamber approved the bill with a 18-12 vote. It now heads to the House. Read more
April 15, 2023
Texas House OKs bill that would fund community colleges based on their performance
A bill that would dramatically change how Texas funds its community colleges is sailing through the Legislature, receiving its first major stamp of approval Wednesday in the Texas House.
House Bill 8 would fund community colleges primarily based on how many of their students graduate with a degree or certificate or transfer to a four-year university. Currently, schools are largely funded based on the number of hours students spend in a classroom. Read more
Texas House passes CROWN Act, which would ban hairstyle discrimination
The Texas House overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit race-based hair discrimination in schools, workplaces and housing. The lower chamber’s vote took the state one step closer to adopting a law inspired by the experiences of two Black high schoolers near Houston threatened with discipline in the 2019-20 school year if they didn’t cut their locks.
House Bill 567, filed by state Rep. Rhetta Bowers, D-Garland, was voted out of a House committee in late March. An identical Senate bill from state Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, is sitting in the Senate State Affairs Committee but hasn’t yet received a hearing. Representatives approved the bill with a 143-5 vote. Read more
April 14, 2023
Texas Senate passes school library bill
The Texas Senate on Thursday approved SB 13, a bill that would change the processes and procedures Texas’ school libraries have to follow. It would let parents receive notice each time their children obtain school library materials, prohibit the acquisition or retention of “harmful” and indecent materials, and create local councils to help districts ensure “community values are reflected in each school library catalog in the district. Read more
April 13, 2023
State Senate budget leaders approve $308B spending package
Texas Senate budget leaders on Wednesday approved a $308B spending proposal for the next two years that includes an extra $5B in additional money for schools to pay for teacher pay raises and other educational programs, including costs associated with offering parents private school subsidies. It also includes billions of dollars for cost-of-living adjustments for retired teachers, $650M for measures to help schools improve security and $650M to revamp community college funding. Read more
April 12, 2023
Senate approves bill prohibiting professors ‘forcing’ beliefs on college students
The Texas Senate has given preliminary approval to SB 16, a bill that would prohibit a college or university professor from “compelling” a student to adopt certain political beliefs. Read more
April 11, 2023
Voucher Day in Texas House
House Public Education Committee will be hearing several voucher bills of all shapes and sizes including the companion bill to SB 8 TODAY, and we encourage educators, parents, students, and community leaders to come testify against these terrible bills. You can find the hearing notice and list of bills linked here.
PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR WRITTEN COMMENTS ONLINE TO THE COMMITTEE!!!!! You can submit written comments until the hearing is adjourned.
PLEASE SHARE: YOU CAN ALSO SEND YOUR LEGISLATORS A MESSAGE TO VOTE AGAINST VOUCHERS.
April 10, 2023
Black and Latino students more likely to experience policing in schools
A new analysis by the Urban Institute indicates that predominantly Black and Latino schools are more likely to have on-site law enforcement than those with largely white enrollment. The disparity holds true in both high- and low-poverty schools, asserts the report, which combined data from the U.S. Department of Education’s 2017-18 federal Civil Rights Data Collection, which is the most recent data available on school policing, with a separate school-level poverty estimate model developed by Urban Institute researchers. Read more
April 9, 2023
School board members should be paid, academics argue
Dorothy Rohde-Collins, a Ph.D. student in education policy and equity at Saint Louis University and the former president of the Board of Education for Saint Louis Public Schools in St. Louis, Missouri, and J. Cameron Anglum, an assistant professor of education policy and equity at Saint Louis University, argue in favor of paying school board members an appropriate salary. Read more
April 8, 2023
Education data breaches hit record highs
To date, 2021 marked the biggest year for data breaches in education, according to research by cybersecurity and online privacy website Comparitech. Some 771 institutions and nearly 2.6m records were impacted and the now high-profile Illuminate Education data breach, which affected at least 605 institutions, made up a significant portion of that number. The next year, 2022, brought 96 breaches that exposed almost 1.4m records, and so far 2023 has seen 11 breaches with over 3,500 impacted records. Read more
April 7, 2023
TSTA applauds House for approving anti-voucher amendment; calls Senate Bill 8 an assault on public education
We applaud the House members who stood up for public education and voted to adopt the amendment by Representative Abel Herrero to prohibit the expenditure of public funds for private school vouchers of any kind. But with voucher bills still pending, TSTA will continue to fight any effort to take much-needed funding from under-funded public schools in order to enrich private school owners. Read our statement here
April 6, 2023
Texas schools ‘especially vulnerable’ to ESSER expiry
A new report by Education Resource Strategies, a nonprofit consultant that works with school districts on school finance issues, has identified 15 states at a particular disadvantage when the unprecedented surge in federal funding from pandemic relief efforts expires in September 2024. Read more
April 5, 2023
Austin ISD mulls appeal of state oversight
Austin ISD is deciding whether to appeal the Texas Education Agency’s plan to install a management team to oversee the district’s special education department. A union representing AISD employees, Education Austin, has already expressed opposition to the conservatorship. Ken Zarifis, the group’s president, said AISD has had issues with special ed services for a long time, but he believes in the district’s current leadership. “Right now, we have an interim superintendent and a board that we believe will work with us to problem solve for special ed students. Because at the end of the day, our students are the most important priority in this district,” he said. Read more
April 4, 2023
Voters support teacher raises
In a bipartisan poll conducted for TSTA earlier this session, 81 percent of voters said a teacher pay raise was one of their top priorities. This included 53 percent of Republican voters, 52 percent of Republicans in swing districts and 64 percent of rural Republicans.
In the same poll, 65 percent of voters said the pay raise must be statewide across-the-board for all teachers, not for just a few based on STAAR scores. This included 44 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of Republicans in swing districts and 52 percent of rural Republicans. Read more of our statement here
April 3, 2023
TEA to appoint conservators for Austin ISD
The Texas Education Agency on Friday said it will move to appoint conservators to oversee Austin ISD, citing “systemic issues” in the district’s failings in serving students receiving special education. Austin ISD’s board of trustees said in a statement Friday evening that conservators selected by the TEA would work with the district to provide special education services to students with disabilities. The board also said the district has a right to appeal the conservatorship, but did not state whether it would do so. Read more
April 2, 2023
Nationwide push for harsher school discipline as safety fears rise
In a turn toward stricter discipline that reflects mounting fears about school violence and disorder, lawmakers across the country are moving to make it easier to tackle disruptive students. A proposed Texas law would allow teachers to eject disruptive students after a single incident, while a North Carolina proposal would permit long-term suspensions for cursing and dress code violations. A bill advancing through the Florida legislature would empower teachers to remove “disobedient” or “disrespectful” students from their classrooms and to use “reasonable force” to protect themselves and others. Read more
April 1, 2023
NEA opens tornado relief fund for Mississippi
Members, educators, employees and friends who want to help our colleagues in this time of crisis are encouraged to contribute. All donations are distributed to affected NEA State Affiliates for them to distribute to their members through their respective relief programs. NEA Member Benefits will pay any fees imposed by GoFundMe, so 100% of the money raised will go directly to supporting NEA members and their families. Funds will be withdrawn by the NEA Member Benefits Relief Fund and sent to the impacted State Affiliates. Donate here
March 31, 2023
Texas Senate OKs transgender athlete restrictions in college sports
The Texas Senate has approved a proposal to ban transgender college athletes from competing in sports with those who match their gender identity. Senate Bill 15, filed by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston), would require college athletes to compete on teams that align with their sex assigned at birth. Read more
March 30, 2023
Texas House bill calls for armed school employee at every campus
House Bill 3, a school safety proposal to require an armed district employee in every campus in Texas, was taken up by the House Youth Health and Safety Committee this week. The bill, and other similar proposals, were left pending in the committee without a specific date for voting. Read more
Retired Texas teachers closer to long-awaited pay bump
Retired Texas teachers are closing in on a long-awaited cost-of-living raise after a bill was unanimously approved by the state Senate on Wednesday afternoon. Co-authored by all 31 members of the chamber, the bill includes both a cost-of-living adjustment and $7,500 one-time checks to retirees who are older than 75. Those who retired before September 1st 2013 would receive a 4% raise, while those who did so between then and the beginning of last year would receive a 2% raise. Read more
March 29, 2023
Texas Senate education committee advances SB 8
The Texas Senate education committee has voted 10-2 on party lines to advance Senate Bill 8, a proposal that would allow families to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools and restrict classroom lessons on sexual orientation. The measure, which was rejected by Democrats José Menéndez of San Antonio and Morgan LaMantia of South Padre Island, now goes before the Senate for a full vote. Read more
March 28, 2023
Six killed in Nashville school shooting
A former student shot and killed three children and three staff members at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday. The Covenant School is located in the affluent Green Hills neighborhood, just south of downtown Nashville. In addition to the three nine-year-old students, the 28-year-old attacker fatally wounded a custodian, a substitute teacher and the head of school, before being killed by responding officers. Read more
Lawmakers aim to expand federal loan forgiveness for educators
U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), along with U.S. Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) and Jahana Hayes (D-CN), has reintroduced the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act – a piece of legislation that aims to address educator shortages and increase children’s access to a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce by expanding the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. It would see the federal government make monthly federal student loan payments for educators serving in early childhood education programs and high-need public schools and completely forgive any outstanding debt after five years of service. Read more
March 27, 2023
Soaring autism identification rates
One in 36 children was identified as autistic between 2018 and 2020, the most recent period data is available. In 2000, just one in 150 children was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The prevalence among four-year olds jumped 26% between 2018 and 2020, increasing even more in girls than boys, though boys are still about four-times more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls. For the first time, white children were less likely to carry the diagnosis than children of color, according to Andy Shih of the Autism Speaks advocacy group. Read more
March 26, 2023
West Texas A&M University students file free speech lawsuit after president cancels campus drag show
An LGBTQ student group at West Texas A&M University and its two student leaders have filed a lawsuit against university president Walter Wendler, alleging he violated their First Amendment rights when he canceled a planned campus drag show earlier this week because he believed the shows degrade women. Read more
March 25, 2023
LGBTQ groups criticize Texas bill’s broad restrictions on school lessons and activities about sexuality and gender identity
Senate Bill 8 supporters say the legislation protects the rights of parents who don’t want their kids to learn about gender identity and sexual orientation. Critics say it could force schools to ignore the existence of LGBTQ people. Read more
March 24, 2023
House panel advances new budget with teacher pay raises
A key Texas House panel on Thursday gave final approval to a two-year spending plan that includes property tax cuts, border security initiatives and the first pay raises for state employees and teachers in more than a decade. The plan recommends an additional $5 billion for public schools, more funding for higher education, $3 billion to boost mental health services and another $3.5 billion for cost-of-living adjustments for retired teachers, their first in nearly 20 years. Read more
March 23, 2023
School voucher-like program in Texas could initially cost $1bn
The current push by lawmakers for a voucher-like program that could funnel state money to private schools could cost an estimated $1bn a year by 2028, while draining funds from public schools, according to a newly released fiscal note from the state’s Legislative Budget Board. The analysis is the first to place a price tag on a bill prioritized by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Read more
March 22, 2023
Texas bills call for teachers to be given overdose training
A number of bills have been filed by Texas lawmakers that would require teachers to be trained and equipped to treat fentanyl overdoses with Narcan and other overdose medications known as “opioid antagonists,” both on campus and at school-related events. Eight bills calling for some sort of opioid emergency training for school personnel have been filed by Democrats: state. Sen. José Menéndez of San Antonio and state Reps. Philip Cortez of San Antonio, Bobby Guerra of Mission, Jolanda Jones of Houston, Erin Zwiener of Driftwood, Sheryl Cole of Austin; and Rep. James Talarico of Round Rock. Read more
March 21, 2023
Parents disrupt first public Houston ISD takeover meeting
Houston ISD community members were irate Tuesday night as Texas Education Agency officials tried to explain the process of taking over their school district. State officials did not take questions about the effects such a move could have on the district, which is the largest in Texas, but did try to recruit community members to replace the existing school board. Read more
March 16, 2023
House Dems want to tap surplus for public education
Texas House Democrats are proposing to spend much of the state’s record-setting surplus on public education by doling out $15B to boost funding for schools, salaries for teachers and pensions for retirees. The figure is the same that GOP leaders earmarked from the start of this year’s session for school property tax cuts.
House Democrats’ four-point education plan would increase public schools’ “basic allotment” funding by $1,340 a student, which would provide teacher pay raises of $7,000 on average this fall, followed the next year by an additional $3,000 bump. The plan also would peg school funding to student enrollment, not attendance, giving schools more financial certainty – and more money. Retired teachers would see a cost-of-living increase. Read more
March 15, 2023
Texas Education Agency will take control of Houston ISD in June
After a prolonged legal battle and weeks of speculation, the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday confirmed it’s removing Houston Independent School District’s democratically elected school board and superintendent, effectively putting the state in charge of its largest school district. Read more
March 14, 2023
Austin ISD employees are burdened by housing costs, survey finds
A district survey shows 73% of employees spend more than 30% of their salary on housing. That figure is significant because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says people are cost-burdened if more than 30% of their income goes toward housing costs, such as rent or mortgage payments. Read more
March 13, 2023
Fort Worth ISD pushed to hire more non-certified special ed teachers
As schools in the Fort Worth area struggle to find enough teachers to cover their special education classrooms, some are increasingly being pushed to turn to non-certified educators hired on an emergency basis. Fort Worth ISD hired nearly three times as many special education teachers on emergency permits ahead of the current school year as compared to the year prior, district records show. Read more
March 12, 2023
Texas’ teacher pension fund shed $500m over fossil fuel law
Texas’ largest biggest pension fund shed more than $500m worth of investments in BlackRock to comply with the new state law meant to punish companies that snub fossil fuels. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas also shed positions in BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse Group, Danske Bank, Nordea Bank, Schroders, Svenska Handelsbanken, Swedbank and UBS Group worth a combined $112m as of last August, records show.
March 11, 2023
Texas families would get $8,000 in tax dollars to send students to private school in sweeping ‘parental rights’ bill backed by lieutenant gov
A sweeping education bill introduced in the Texas Senate late Friday would allow families to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools, establish new opportunities for parents to review instruction material and impose new rules on how gender and sexual orientation is taught in all grades. Read more
March 10, 2023
Texas Senate’s priority bills on higher ed would end tenure, diversity policies
The bills are part of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s list of priorities and, if passed as filed, could have profound impacts on how Texas universities recruit top faculty and other employees. Read more
March 9, 2023
Texas House prioritizes legislation on school security, teacher pipeline
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has announced his support for several education bills this legislative session, highlighting bills addressing campus safety and strengthening the teacher pipeline. One measure, House Bill 13, would require districts to adopt active-shooter preparedness plans. Authored by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian), it would also expand funding for mental health resources. Read more
March 8, 2023
Texas senators file bill to block Houston ISD takeover
State Senators Carol Alvarado, Borris Miles and John Whitmire have filed a bill to soften the law that triggers school district takeovers. State Rep. Alma Allen also filed a companion bill in the House. Read more
March 7, 2023
The TX House has a record number of LGBTQ reps as lawmakers face scores of bills focused on gender and sexuality
The Texas Legislature has nine lawmakers who are openly LGBTQ, all Democrats. At the same time, some Republican lawmakers are pushing a slate of bills aimed at transgender children and how sexuality is discussed in schools. Read more
March 6, 2023
New plan for school safety
New legislation proposed in the Texas Senate would create a safety and security department in the Texas Education Agency and give the education commissioner direct power to compel school districts to establish safety protocols for active-shooter situations. Read more
March 5, 2023
Plurality of Texas voters say they support school voucher-like program
A February survey of 1,200 voters from the University of Texas at Austin has found that a plurality support redirecting tax revenue to help parents pay to school their kids outside the traditional public education system. In all, 46% of voters are in favor of the idea, with 41% against. Gov. Greg Abbott has thrown his weight behind the proposal and is traveling the state to pitch parents on it, particularly in rural communities. Read more
March 4, 2023
Houston ISD braces for possible state takeover
Parents, teachers and retired HISD employees were among the many that came out in support of their district and against a midsemester change of leadership that has been in the works since 2019, when the TEA first announced plans to take over the district after allegations of misconduct by trustees and years of low academic performance at Phillis Wheatley High School — one of the district’s 276 schools. Read more
March 3, 2023
Texas bond debt guarantee program hits limit
Texas’ Permanent School Fund, which has long helped school districts get the lowest possible interest rates on bonds, has reached the $117bn debt limit set by the IRS. Since December, at least 49 school and charter districts that asked the PSF to back their debt were denied due to insufficient capacity, resulting in more than $6.87bn in unguaranteed bonds. Read more
March 2, 2023
TEA takeover of Houston ISD imminent, says Mayor Turner
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday morning that he has been told that the Texas Education Agency plans to take over Houston ISD as early as next week. “I’m talking to legislators, and what they’re saying to me is that the state intends to take over the district, replacing the entire board, replacing the superintendent,” Mr. Turner said at a City Council meeting. “I find that totally alarming.” Read more
March 1, 2023
Supreme Court appears skeptical of Biden’s federal student loan debt plan
In arguments this week, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical of the legalities of President Joe Biden’s plan to slash federal student loan debt burdens, which he initiated via an executive order last year. Some scholars have suggested that Biden’s plan was always on shaky ground legally and have urged the administration to start over, however White House officials remain confident about their case. In all, up to 43m Americans could benefit from Biden’s headline debt relief plan. Read more
February 28, 2023
Crosby ISD votes to become largest Texas district to adopt four-day school week
Crosby ISD leaders voted 4-3 Monday night to become the largest school district in Texas, and first in Harris County, to adopt a four-day instructional week. The new school calendar is a move by the district to attract additional teachers after facing 40 openings at the start of the school year. Read more
February 27, 2023
Solving Texas’ teacher shortage
A yearlong review by a state task force examining Texas’ teacher shortage recommended that lawmakers increase teacher salaries, improve training and commit to respecting educators’ time. The task force, formed last year by Gov. Greg Abbott, also recommended increasing the base funding schools get per student, an idea that has already gained traction in the Texas Legislature during this year’s session. Read more
February 26, 2023
HBCUs play ‘outsize role’ in producing teachers of color
Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) play an outsize role in producing teachers of color in the United States. Of all Black teachers nationwide, almost half are graduates of an HBCU. Meanwhile, just 7% of teachers are Black, compared with 15% of students. Read more
February 25, 2023
Houston-area school districts battling to retain teachers
Amid considerable workforce challenges, school districts in and around Houston are offering stipends, bonuses, and even four-day weeks in attempt to retain teachers. Many Houston area school districts already pay slightly above the state average for teacher salaries, which is nearly $59,000. Read more
February 24, 2023
International Baccalaureate to allow pupils to use ChatGPT
International Baccalaureate, a global qualification body, has said children will be allowed to quote from work generated by the AI chatbot in their essays, as long as they give it credit and do not plagiarize. Read more
February 23, 2023
Region 13 career fair
Please join us for the 2023 Region 13 Education Career Fair on May 4, 2023, from 4:00 – 7:00 pm. This is an opportunity to meet local area recruiters to learn about exciting opportunities in Texas schools! There will be numerous districts from the central Texas region for candidates to meet and possibly interview with. Read more
UT System pauses diversity policies
The University of Texas System’s board of regents said it has put a pause on all new policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion at its 13 university and health campuses. The board has also asked all school leaders to provide a report on their current DEI policies. Read more
February 22, 2023
Education savings accounts profiled
Education savings accounts (ESAs), a fairly new program that started about a decade ago, are essentially taxpayer-supported bank accounts for parents who remove their children from the public education system. Those parents get state money up front to pay for their educational expenses, like private school tuition, online schooling or private tutors. In most cases, the state manages these accounts. Read more
February 21, 2023
In a Central Texas county, high schoolers are jailed on felony charges for vaping what could be legal hemp
Police often can’t tell if a cannabis vape pen is derived from marijuana or legal hemp, like the delta-8 products on display in gas stations across Texas. That doesn’t stop them from making felony arrests in high schools. Read more
February 20, 2023
Districts mull four-day school weeks
After much research and discussion, Galveston ISD this week adopted a calendar that won’t include a four-day week, arguing raises for teachers and some programs could suffer as a result. The district’s calendar committee recommended the district not adopt four-day school weeks for the 2023-2024 school year after polling schools and the community. Read more
February 19, 2023
Federal funding to support student wellness initiatives
The U.S. Department of Education has announced awards of more than $188m across 170 grantees in over 30 states to increase access to school-based mental health services and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals, particularly in regard to high-needs districts. Read more
February 16, 2023
Public schools are about duty; vouchers are about politics and shortsightedness
Following Governor Abbott’s State of the State Address, Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement: Abbott doesn’t seem to understand that the bright Texas future he loves to brag about, including that new $32 billion surplus, owes a lot to the hard work of Texas public schools and public school educators. Businesses and our economy couldn’t operate very long without them. Read more
February 15, 2023
TEA official recorded discussing voucher-like programs with parent
A high-ranking Texas Education Agency official has been recorded advocating for voucher-like programs on behalf of Governor Greg Abbott, and stating that funding to public school districts could decrease if such a policy passes this Legislative session. Read more
February 13, 2023
Help us celebrate Black History Month
Join our social media campaign in celebration of Black History Month. Submit a 60 second video honoring a Black icon or artwork that captures Blackness or Black history through a visual experience. Enter the contest
February 12, 2023
Texas Tech reviews its hiring practices as efforts to promote diversity come under fire
Texas Tech’s review comes as Governor Greg Abbott has instructed state agencies and public universities that “forbidden DEI initiatives” violate federal and state employment discrimination laws. Read more
February 11, 2023
After botched response to Uvalde massacre, Texas senator wants better mass shooting training for public safety entities
State Senator Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, wants to prevent communication breakdowns like the ones that occurred in the botched response to the Uvalde school shooting. Read more
February 9, 2023
House speaker fills key panel with past school voucher opponents
Amid a conservative push for private school vouchers, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on Wednesday made a number of appointments to the House Public Education Committee, with state Representative Brad Buckley (R-Killeen) to chair the panel. He replaces Rep. Harold Dutton, a Houston Democrat who remains on the committee. Read more
February 8, 2023
Texas schools ramp up awareness of fentanyl dangers
Across Texas, school leaders are grappling with how to address fentanyl use among students. Law enforcement officials say the drug is often laced into fake pills, putting unknowing buyers at risk when they seek Percocet or Xanax, for example. The synthetic opioid is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and an amount as small as the tip of a sharpened pencil can be lethal. Read more
February 7, 2023
Much for education in Biden’s State of the Union speech
President Joe Biden emphasized schools’ role in supporting student mental health during his State of the Union address in Washington on February 7th. Rising rates of anxiety and depression among children and teens should be a top concern for the nation, he asserted. Read more
February 6, 2023
TRS divests from investment firms accused of ‘boycotting’ oil and gas industry
The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) has divested part of its massive pension fund from 10 financial firms that the state comptroller singled out for “boycotting” the oil and gas industry. Financial firms in recent years have increased their commitments to environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies that attempt to account for the negative societal costs of investing in companies that worsen climate change, use exploitative labor practices or engage in corporate corruption. However, in 2021 Texas prohibited state funds from contracting with or investing in companies that divest from oil, natural gas and coal companies. Read more
February 5, 2023
Senators indicate openness to changing state education funding formula
During the Senate Finance Committee’s first public education hearing Monday, senators seemed open to reconsidering the core metric used to determine how much money the state gives schools per student, a switch that many school districts say would result in millions in additional funding. Read more
February 3, 2023
State Board of Education eases stance on school choice
The State Board of Education altered its stance on school vouchers on Thursday night, voting to rescind its recommendation from late last year that the Legislature deny any measures to provide public funding for private schools. A few months ago, the 15-member board approved legislative priorities that included a repudiation of voucher-like initiatives, which can give parents public dollars to spend on private school tuition. On Thursday night, the board, with new members taking their positions, voted 8-5 to remove the language opposing vouchers. Read more
February 2, 2023