Education News

March 27, 2020

Update on the HoD cancellation

Following the board’s decision to cancel the House of Delegates meeting in El Paso out of concern for the health, safety and well-being of our members, TSTA will soon be sending more details about registration for voting. The important business of the HoD, including elections, will be conducted in a secure, timely fashion. Also, please be on the lookout for details about virtual events coming soon!

Meanwhile, stay healthy during this coronavirus outbreak. Keep consulting our resources page, -what-you-should-know/ which is being frequently updated with the latest information on the pandemic, its effect on our public schools, some distance learning resources and what you can do to keep yourself and your family safe.

Senate passes coronavirus relief bill that includes $13.5 billion for public schools

The measure, which the House may vote on tomorrow (Friday), also includes $14.25 billion for higher education and additional billions for nutrition, childcare and early education programs.

Here are more details:

Detailed analysis from NEA

Senate passes coronavirus bill with $13.5 billion for schools, Devos waiver power

Even during the pandemic, please complete your census form

Households around the nation have started to receive invitations to go online to fill out the 2020 census form along with a unique ID for each household. Years of work has gone into preparing for this high-stakes count in Texas, and we can’t let the coronavirus derail it. Although census field operations have been suspended until April, you can still fill out your online form. Read more

March 26, 2020

DeVos halts collection of defaulted federal student loans

The Education Department is putting a stop to collecting on defaulted federal student loans amid the coronavirus pandemic and ordering private collection firms to stop pursuing borrowers until further notice. The department plans to make the policy retroactive to March 13, the day President Donald Trump declared a national emergency. Read more

March 25, 2020

TEA has waived required teacher appraisals for the year, but…

Districts may still evaluate a teacher and determine an appraisal and appraisal rating based on completed aspects of the process and can also can use this appraisal in making a decision to renew or not renew a contract. Teachers could still respond to, appeal or challenge an appraisal.

Despite the coronavirus emergency, TEA is not waiving teacher certification renewals because, the agency says, they can be done online. For more TEA guidance on teacher and staff issues, please check this link.

Department of Education urges districts to continue educating students with disabilities

The agency said it “does not want to stand in the way of good faith efforts to educate students online.” In a communication to states and districts, it added: “The Department stands ready to offer guidance, technical assistance and information on any available flexibility, within the confines of the law, to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities, continue receiving excellent education during this difficult time.” Read more

March 24, 2020

TSTA board cancels HOD in El Paso

Out of concern for the health and safety of our members during the coronavirus outbreak, the TSTA board has canceled the House of Delegates meeting, which had been scheduled for April 24-25 in El Paso. President Noel Candelaria will provide more details, including how elections and other essential business will be conducted, in Thursday’s Briefing.

“The safety and well-being of our members is of paramount importance,” the board said in a resolution adopted last night.

The resolution also noted governmental emergency prohibitions against large gatherings in an effort to control the spread of the virus and the COVID-19 disease it causes.

The president has signed the first coronavirus package, but much more is needed

The bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which President Trump signed last week, provides free coronavirus testing and paid sick and emergency leave for some workers. It also strengthens unemployment insurance, food initiatives and federal support for Medicaid. Read more

March 23, 2020

Federal requirements for standardized testing waived

President Donald Trump has announced that his administration is waiving federal requirements for standardized testing for K-12 students, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement echoes statements from the Department of Education, which detailed the procedure for waiving standardized testing in a news release earlier Friday. Schools affected by closures due to the coronavirus can forgo the typically required standardized testing, the release said. Read more

Sweeping powers on education law waivers for DeVos

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Thursday would see Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos granted wide-ranging powers to waive the main federal law for public schools as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. “National emergency educational waivers” from the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the Higher Education Act and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act would be affected, while states, districts, Indian tribes, and colleges and universities would be able to submit waiver requests with Secretary DeVos given 15 days to approve or reject these. This follows President Trump’s signing of a coronavirus aid package earlier in the week addressing student nutrition and paid leave for employees during school closures. Read more

The Education World Wants a Coronavirus Stimulus. What Would Help the Most?

As schools have shut down across America, the nation’s education community is beginning to pressure Washington for stimulus funding to help weather the coronavirus pandemic. But what could and should a K-12 stimulus actually look like? Read more

March 20, 2020

Governor Abbott and TEA Announce Texas Students MealFinder Map

In a press release dated March 18, 2020, Governor Abbott and the Texas Education Agency announced a collaboration with school districts to develop a Texas Students MealFinder Map, which will allow Texas parents to locate campuses serving meals in their neighborhoods. The searchable online map, set to launch on Friday, March 20, will be available on both the TEA website and on will include the address of each facility, along with days and times that meals will be served.

March 19, 2020

Message to our TSTA family from President Noel Candelaria

In these very difficult and challenging times, I want to reach out to our #TeamTSTA family as union brothers and sisters and assure you that your officers and staff members are here to assist you. Read complete message

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 363–40, the NEA-supported Families First Coronavirus Response Act, HR 6201, on March 14. The Senate passed it 90 – 8 on March 18. It is a good initial step, along with the $8 billion passed earlier this month, to help during this crisis. NEA is urging Congress to take additional steps after passage of HR 6201. Read more

BREAKING NEWS: Health official declares public health disaster in Texas

The commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, declared a public health disaster in Texas as the state attempts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. And Gov. Greg Abbott issued sweeping changes on public gathering, including updated statewide regulations for bars and restaurants. Read more

TEA to meet with superintendents on continuing school closures

School district superintendents will today join in a conference call with the Texas Education Agency to discuss school closures in the state. San Patricio County Department of Public Health (SPCDPH) Medical Director Dr. James Mobley said the call aims to allow superintendents to share details of conditions in their districts, and plot out a possible path ahead regarding the extension of existing closures. Read more

March 18, 2020

With STAAR tests waived due to COVID-19, districts to decide promotions, graduations

The governor has eliminated STAAR test requirements for the school year and individual school districts will have the discretion to determine if students graduate or move up a grade level. Normally, such decisions are tied to student performance on the state assessments. Read more

CDC releases updated guidance for K-12 schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released updated guidance K-12 administrators can use to determine mitigation strategies based on the extent of community transmission of COVID-19 and confirmed cases of the disease in schools. Read more

March 17, 2020

Schools close across nation, learning moves online

The continued spread of the coronavirus pandemic has seen millions of US students switch to remote learning as schools across the nation shut their doors. This has led to an unprecedented effort by educational authorities to establish new, effective ways of maintaining teaching, partly by using educational technology on a scale never before witnessed. Remote learning app Seesaw, as well as live chats via Google Classroom, among others, are being used as some 35 states have so far mandated that all schools close. The ACT and SAT tests’ next nationwide examinations are also being postponed or canceled. The shutdown is likely to have major and long-lasting implications for the country’s K-12 education system such as how students who count on school for breakfast and lunch will continue receiving those meals, and how students will keep up with their coursework at home. Read more

March 16, 2020

STAAR testing canceled for 2019-20 school year

Students across Texas will not have to be expected to take the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, the Texas Education Agency announced Monday. This decisions comes shortly after school districts across the state have closed for the next few weeks in response to the growing spread of the new coronavirus. Read more

DeVos releases new resources for educators during coronavirus outbreak

US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued new resources that will assist education leaders in protecting student privacy and ensuring students with disabilities continue to receive services required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the event of school closures due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The Education Department also released important information for K-12 educators on flexibilities the Department could grant when it comes to the accountability standards required by law under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Read more

March 13, 2020

TSTA: Support staffers need to be paid while schools are closed during the coronavirus outbreak

The Texas State Teachers Association today urged school districts that have closed schools or anticipate closing schools because of the coronavirus risk to take steps to ensure that non‐professional support staffers, who are not on contracts, continue to get paid. Read press release

Sixteen charter school applications survive first round, 12 don’t

The Texas Education Agency reported that 16 of 28 new charter applications for the 2021-22 school year have advanced to take the next step in the approval process. Twelve applicants failed because they did not provide complete applications. Read more

TEA extends deadline to file for waivers to full-day pre-K requirement

The Texas Education Agency has extended the deadline for school districts and charters to file for waivers to opt out of the full-day pre-kindergarten requirement under House Bill 3 to April 6. The original deadline was March 6. Under HB3, districts and charter schools that already had high-quality half-day pre-K programs in place before the new law are required to extend pre-K to a full-day or file for an exemption from TEA. You can find more information here.

Tornado victims in Tennessee need our help

Tornadoes ripped through Nashville, Mt. Juliet and Putnam County, Tenn. last week, killing more than two dozen people, injuring others and destroying or damaging many homes, schools and other facilities. Some of the victims are members of TSTA’s sister organization, the Tennessee Education Association, their families and their students. Read more

March 12, 2020

It is spring break for educators and students, but not for the coronavirus

Just as Texas students, their families and educators are either enjoying spring break or preparing for spring break, the coronavirus threat has intensified in Texas.  Many universities, including some in Texas, have either converted to online instruction or are considering that option, and at least two Texas school districts have temporarily halted classes because of possible coronavirus risks. Read more

March 11, 2020

Zaffirini back on Senate education committees

State Senator Judith Zaffirini is back on the Texas Senate’s two standing education committees replacing state Senator Kirk Watson on the Committee on Education and the Committee on Higher Education. An educator with 13 years of teaching experience, including at college and university levels, Zaffirini has been on both of the Senate education committees before. Read more

Lawmakers urged to allocate coronavirus resources

Texas lawmakers at the House Committee on Public Health heard from health experts and physicians Tuesday who expressed concerns about the need for more resources to combat the spread of coronavirus. Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, for his part, said school districts are largely in charge of determining closures and stressed that guidance has been issued encouraging districts to first consult with their local health authorities before any closures are confirmed. Read more

March 10, 2020

Shepherd ISD takeover blocked

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled late last night to temporarily stop the Texas Education Agency’s planned Shepherd ISD takeover. State officials planned Monday night to swear in a TEA-appointed board of managers that would take control of hiring, budgeting and operations — a penalty for years of poor academic performance in two schools. Rick Hartley, who was ousted as superintendent last Friday, stays on for now at least. Read more

March 9, 2020

TEA confirms another district takeover

The Texas Education Agency has announced a new appointed board and a new superintendent for Shepherd ISD, in East Texas, after singling out two of its schools that had failed to perform well for several years. While the Houston ISD takeover remains tied up in court, no such roadblocks existed preventing the SISD takeover after its elementary and intermediate schools failed to meet state academic standards for five years. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has appointed Jason Hewitt, the director of the Texas Education Agency’s Special Investigations Unit, as superintendent over the district, replacing Rick Hartley, who had headed SISD for just over three years. The district will hold a special board meeting this evening to seat its new board of managers. Read more

Feds aware of coronavirus-related Asian discrimination in schools

The Federal Department of Education has alerted school officials nationwide to allegations that Asian students have been discriminated against over fears of the coronavirus. The department’s Office for Civil Rights underlined an increase in news reports regarding stereotyping, harassment and bullying directed at people believed to be of Asian descent, including students, unfairly tying them to the coronavirus because of its origin in China, and asserted that school districts are required to address such incidents under civil-rights laws. Read more

March 6, 2020

Senator John Whitmire requests attorney general’s opinion and state audit of TRS investment in real estate

The request followed last week’s Senate Finance Committee hearing in which Whitmire and other senators ripped into the Teacher Retirement System for leasing expensive office space in downtown Austin. Following an angry public outcry from retired educators as well as lawmakers, TRS now will sublease that space and extend its existing lease for the investment management division at another downtown location. Read more

DeVos grilled on proposed education budget

Betsy DeVos has been grilled by Senate Democrats on the Education Secretary’s budget at a subcommittee hearing. The proposed budget would cut the federal education spending by more than $6 billion, a decrease of more than 8.5%. DeVos claimed that the new $19.4 billion block grant program would “unleash new innovation at the state and local level, and continue to expand proven reforms, including public charter schools, magnet schools and student-weighted funding.” Read more

March 4, 2020

Biden, Sanders emerge as Democratic front-runners after Super Tuesday; TSTA scores big in legislative, other endorsementse

See TSTA’s breakdown on Super Tuesday, the day Texas and 13 other states cast ballots. Read more

March 3, 2020

Texas AG seeking to expedite Houston takeover

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has urged the Third Court of Appeals to lift the temporary injunction preventing the Texas Education Agency from replacing the Houston ISD board of trustees. A Travis County court judge granted a request by HISD trustees, who had asked the court to delay the takeover until the case could be argued. A hearing is set for June. Read more

March 2, 2020

Texas braced for coronavirus outbreak

Officials in Texas are working to remain prepared for a potential major outbreak of the pneumonia-like coronovirus, known as COVID-19, which experts have warned is now moving into “the next phase.” Though there are only ten patients officially confirmed with the coronavirus in Texas, officials at school districts are monitoring the situation closely. Read more

Today is Read Across America Day

March is National Reading Month and Women’s History Month. There is a lot to read about, and NEA has many resources to help you, including suggested titles to read with your students. Read more

February 28, 2020

TRS switches medical benefits administrators for active employees and retirees

During its first meeting of the year, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees voted to switch administrators for its medical benefits programs for active educators and retirees. TRS will end its contracts with Aetna and Humana. Effective Sept. 1 of this year, BlueCross BlueShield of Texas will begin administering TRS-ActiveCare for active employees. Beginning next Jan. 1, BlueCross BlueShield will take over TRS-Care Standard for non-Medicare retirees, and United Healthcare will begin administering Medicare Advantage. Read more

Senate Finance Committee rips into TRS over Indeed Tower lease

As expected, the Senate Finance Committee in a public hearing this week (Feb. 25) ripped into Teacher Retirement System administrators for signing a multi-million-dollar lease on a posh, downtown Austin high-rise, igniting a firestorm of outrage from retired educators on very modest pensions who angrily questioned TRS’ priorities. TRS backed off the lease last week, announcing it will sublease the Indeed Tower space, where rent would have started at $326,000 or more per month, and instead will keep its investment management division in its existing leased location at 816 Congress Ave. in Austin and extend that lease for seven years. Read more

February 26, 2020

Senate Finance Committee rips into TRS over Indeed Tower lease

 As expected, the Senate Finance Committee in a public hearing this week (Feb. 25) ripped into Teacher Retirement System administrators for signing a multi-million-dollar lease on a posh, downtown Austin high-rise, igniting a firestorm of outrage from retired educators on very modest pensions who angrily questioned TRS’ priorities. Read more

Schools should prepare for coronavirus outbreaks

Federal health officials are urging the public to prepare for the “inevitable” spread of the coronavirus within the United States, escalating warnings about a growing threat from the virus to Americans’ everyday lives. Cities and towns should plan for “social distancing measures,” like dividing school classes into smaller groups of students or closing schools altogether, making use of internet-based schooling. The first step schools should consider is establishing a process for determining whether students are contracting the virus and a system for reporting updates to health officials. Read more

February 24, 2020

TRS timeline for healthcare contracts

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) has released it’s communications plan for the timeline for healthcare contracts. Read more

February 21, 2020

Texans favor increased taxes for education funding

Six in 10 Texans are willing to support higher taxes to better fund local schools, according to a fresh poll by advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas. Respondents said a lack of money or financial support for public schools is the top issue facing their local public schools, followed by bullying and a lack of discipline and children’s behavior. The poll included an oversampling of K-12 school parents and has a 3.6-percentage point margin of error. Some 70% of respondents to the inaugural statewide poll of Texans’ attitudes toward public education complained that teacher pay is too low, while 62% prefer a political candidate who supporters higher school funding over a candidate who wants to hold funding steady. Read more

February 20, 2020

Texans trust teachers: RYHT publishes poll

Raise Your Hand Texas has published their inaugural statewide poll of Texans’ attitudes toward public education and educators. They found that Texans express strong support for teachers and significant concerns about challenges facing the profession.

Texans express broad levels of trust and confidence in the state’s public school teachers – in significantly higher numbers than national figures. At the same time, they see teachers as undervalued in society. Respondents highlight test pressures, low pay, and discipline as major challenges for teachers. Read more

Struggling K-12 districts caught between rock and hard place

Large parts of the nation are undergoing dramatic demographic shifts due to urbanization, a changing economy, and declining birth rates, though school district lines do not mirror more malleable voting boundaries, which are redrawn every decade. While policymakers blame “stagnant district lines” for the nation’s teacher-shortage crisis, outcome and opportunity gaps between student groups, there remain about 13,500 US school districts in fiscal distress because of rising pension and health-care costs and dwindling tax revenue resulting from drops in student enrollment. Read more

NEA releases candidate guide

The National Education Association released their February 2020 edition of Just the Facts, focused on racial and social justice. This resource includes straightforward information on where the 2020 presidential candidates and NEA stand on specific issues. Read more

February 18, 2020

Teacher Incentive Allotment: Is this another unfair compensation system?

The Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) program passed in HB3 last legislative session is up and running at the Texas Education Agency. Districts in Cohort A are districts that have already captured teacher effectiveness data from the 2018-19 school year. There are only a few of these, including Dallas ISD, which already have so-called merit pay systems in place. Read more

February 13, 2020

Trump-DeVos budget proposal would cut funding for education programs over $6 billion

The cut to education programs would mean likely cuts to critical programs such as Title I, Title II, ELL, full-service community schools, rural education and literacy programs. Read more

February 11, 2020

Rethinking student involvement in lockdown drills

Along with AFT and other advocacy groups, NEA is calling for schools to reassess the use of lockdown drills and if schools do choose to do these drills with students, they shouldn’t be unnecessarily realistic and schools should give plenty of warning. They should be done with age-appropriateness and sensitivity towards children with special needs or those who have experienced trauma. Read more

Trump’s budget proposal would cut school spending

The Federal administration announced on Monday a budget proposal to cut billions of dollars in education aid. The move signals the president’s policy priorities heading into an election year. The proposal aims to cut 7.8% in spending on federal Education Department programs, from $72.8 billion to $66.6 billion, while 29 formula and competitive grant programs, including Title I and the federal charter school program, would be merged into a single block grant to states. Read more

February 10, 2020

Urge your members of Congress to support the Social Security Fairness Act

Nearly two million people dedicated to public service, including many educators, have their Social Security benefits reduced — or lose them entirely. This is due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO).

The Social Security Fairness Act would fully repeal both the GPO and WEP, and the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act would start to fix problems caused by the WEP. Please email your representatives in Congress and tell them to support both these pieces of legislation.

Texas’ teacher pension fund move attracting attention

The $160 billion Teacher Retirement System of Texas’ plans to move into what is billed as Austin’s tallest office tower is attracting attention from all sides — even the lieutenant governor’s office. The $3.9m-a-year lease to occupy three floors in the gleaming downtown building set to open next year is naturally causing concern in the education community. As the organisation manages the benefits for 1.6 million current and former teachers and school employees, both houses of the state legislature have set up hearings to examine the lease, while the retirement system’s own board will appraise the fallout at a two-day meeting starting February 20. Read more

State board hears testimony on science curriculum updates

The State Board of Education heard testimony from women’s health professionals underscoring the need for a more comprehensive “abstinence plus” health curriculum in Texas schools. Science practitioners and curriculum experts testified in support of using “A Framework for Texas Science Education” to guide workgroups in the revision of the state’s science TEKS. Testimony cited the framework’s potential value to the workgroups specifically in the areas of robust STEM standards, which currently are not included in the science TEKS.

February 6, 2020

African American studies course receives preliminary approval from State Board of Education

The proposed high school course now will be subject to public comment from March 6 to April 10 and be considered for final approval at the board’s April 17 meeting. Texas would become the fifth state to approve a state-level African American Studies course, and the course would become the second ethnic studies course to be approved by the board. It approved a one-credit elective course in Mexican American studies in 2018.

The African American Studies course, based on a course created by Dallas ISD, will offer a broad overview of the history and culture of African Americans and cover topics such as history, citizenship, culture, economics, science, technology, geography and politics.

Trump proposes a bad old idea in State of the Union: vouchers; Betsy DeVos has to go

In Trump’s proposal (a longtime goal of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos), the vouchers take the form of $5 billion a year in federal tax credits that would fund scholarships to private and religious schools. Every dollar of tax credit would be a tax dollar not available for spending on public schools or other public needs. Read more

February 5, 2020

Trump pushes school choice in State of the Union

In the State of the Union address President Donald Trump touched on both school choice and private scholarship tax credit programs which TSTA strongly opposes. Highlighting 18 states, including Florida and Ohio, that have already passed similar tax credit incentives, the President called on Congress to pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunities Act. The Education Freedom Scholarships program, which Betsy DeVos has been pushing, would give $5 billion in annual federal tax credits for businesses and individuals who voluntarily donate to organizations providing private school scholarships.

Read TSTA’s statement on Trump’s voucher plan
Washington Post article

Schools responding to coronavirus

Increasing numbers of school districts have canceled Chinese student exchange programs to alleviate concerns over the coronavirus. Though there have been just 11 cases confirmed in the United States so far, the virus has spread from Wuhan, China, sickening about 17,400 people across the globe and killing at least 362. Austin ISD officials have begun screening student and staff members for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus amid the growing threat posed by the respiratory illness, district officials have confirmed. Read more 

February 4, 2020

Castro announces State of the Union guest

Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) announced his guest to this year’s State of the Union Address, TSTA member María Rocha who is a dual language teacher and San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel member from San Antonio, in her sixth year of teaching. She is one of the 2,000+ Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) teachers in the state of Texas. Castro is currently Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees. Read more

TEA releases 2019 Annual Report

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has released the 2019 Annual Report. This report provides a general overview of performance data for Texas schools and students and how TEA’s strategic priorities will support the state’s collective goal of having at least 60% of Texans ages 25-34 either certified or degreed by 2030. The state’s priorities are to recruit and retain quality teachers and leaders, to strengthen the foundation of reading and math, better connect high school to career and college, and to improve low-performing schools. Read report

January 31, 2020

Longview ISD exceeds charter enrollment limit

TSTA has filed a suit in the state district court in Gregg County, seeking a declaratory judgment that Longview ISD’s granting of multiple charter school applications should be declared null and void. The suit declares they violate a state law limiting charter enrollment to 15 percent of a district’s total enrollment of the previous school year.  The total Longview enrollment for the 2018-19 school year was 8,457 students. Six campuses with a combined enrollment of 2,908 students during 2018-19 have been converted to charters. Read more

Attorney general offers election “advice” for educators

You may recall that two years ago Attorney General Ken Paxton tried to intimidate teachers and other educators from voting by making them think that political activity by school district employees was somehow illegal. Paxton is part of the Dan Patrick/Donald Trump political clique that wants educators to keep their mouths shut, stay at home on Election Day and let people like Patrick, Trump and Betsy DeVos decide education policy. Read more

Ed Department approves TEA’s teacher shortage area; loan forgiveness

The US Department of Education has approved the state-level shortage areas that help administrators support the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers and see TEA approved loan forgiveness programs. Read more

January 30, 2020

TSTA urges more transparency in charter process

In response to recommendations made by TSTA alongside 15 other statewide organizations, there were substantial changes made to the Generation 25 application that did serve to increase transparency. First and foremost, it is important to ensure that the charter application process is fully transparent. TSTA believes that there is ample room for growth because partial transparency in the application process is insufficient in relieving the stress imposed on public schools by charter growth. Read TSTA testimony to the SBOE

Educators concerned for immigrant children following SCOTUS ruling

In a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court allowed a Trump administration rule to take effect that will deny green cards to immigrants who partake in public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing aid. The decision lifts a preliminary injunction by a federal district judge in New York City that had blocked the implementation of the rule nationwide pending further court proceedings. Some educators have been concerned that the “public charge” rule will put the health and well-being of millions of immigrant children at risk and impose new burdens on school districts. Read more

January 29, 2020

TSTA endorses Ruben Cortez for the Texas Senate, District 27

The Texas State Teachers Association announced today that it has endorsed Ruben Cortez, who opposes spending tax dollars to privatize public schools, for the state Senate in District 27. Read press release

TEA to consider adopting Dallas ISD’s African American Studies course

The Texas Board of Education will vote Friday on standards for districts to offer Dallas ISD’s African American Studies course as an elective social studies class for high school students. While discussing amendments to the standards, the board mostly offered minor edits, but some members raised questions about the scope of the course, which cautious members fear could present a “watered-down” history. If the amendments are approved, the course will remain on track to become Texas’ second ethnic studies course, following the Mexican American Studies course which gained statewide approval in 2018. Read more

UN warns of global education crisis

The United Nations (UN) has warned of an alarming global crisis in education, with just 49% of children completing secondary education. About 770 million adults are illiterate, most of whom are women. Read more

January 28, 2020

House asserts importance of Holocaust education

The House has overwhelmingly agreed to pass a bill to create a Holocaust Education Assistance Program Fund which will allocate $10 million over five years to assist the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in providing materials to teachers to educate students in an effort to combat the rising number of anti-Semitic instances and acts of violence. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the effort, arguing it’s a step in the right direction in fighting back against the “epidemic of anti-Semitism and bigotry” and preventing future hate crimes.  Read more

January 27, 2020

Don’t forget: Help us fight the science deniers

The State Board of Education (SBOE) this year will overhaul curriculum standards that guide what Texas public school students are taught in their science classrooms. Science deniers don’t want to teach the truth about climate change, one of the most serious challenges facing our world today. TSTA is helping the Texas Freedom Network make sure that the SBOE understands that science can’t be denied or ignored, and here is what you can do. Read more

Secret Service school safety training arrives in Texas

Texas law enforcement officers gathered in Austin last week to participate in a school safety workshop conducted by the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, which in November published an analysis of targeted school violence. Nationwide, all but two of the attacks studied happened in public schools and about three-quarters of the attacks were at high schools, while nine were at middle schools. Only 6% ended with law enforcement intervention, including from school resource officers, and the report also asserted that there is no single profile for a school shooter. Secret Service representatives said the National Threat Assessment Center has now completed more than 500 trainings across the country to a total audience of more than 160,000 people. Read more

January 24, 2020

US Supreme Court case could expand voucher programs

The nation’s high court this week heard oral arguments in the case, Espinoza versus Montana Department of Revenue which could expand school privatization across the country. It could undermine constitutional provisions in 37 states that prevent tax money from flowing to private religious schools. Read more

School finance bill aims to promote access to higher education

Education leaders met Thursday to discuss how colleges, universities and public schools will implement equity through methods such as requiring financial aid applications and funding lower-income school districts. Mike Morath, Texas Education Agency commissioner, presented a report about House Bill 3, which allocated $634 billion to education in Texas, to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board at their quarterly meeting. The bill allocates funds to pay for standardized testing and requires high school seniors starting in 2021 to fill out state and federal financial aid applications. The bill pays high schools for every graduate enrolled in the military or a higher education institution. The state will award an outcome bonus of $3,000 to school districts for every high school graduate who enrolls in a higher education institution and $5,000 for economically disadvantaged students, Morath said. Read more

Deadline for School Bell entries is approaching

TSTA’s annual School Bell Awards recognize and honor members of the news media for their reporting of issues important to public schools and educators. If you read or watched any news stories during 2019 that you think merit a School Bell, please find a link or email Clay Robison in Public Affairs with a description of the story and which media outlet — newspaper or TV or radio station — carried it.

Or, you can email this entry form to Clay Robison. The deadline for entries covering 2019 is Jan. 31.

January 23, 2020

Supreme Court Seems Ready to Lift Limits on State Aid to Religious Schools

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed poised to rule that states may not exclude religious schools from state programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. seemed to be searching for a limiting principle, one that would allow the scholarships but stop short of requiring state support for religious education in other contexts. Read more

January 21, 2020

Dallas teachers turn to Texas Supreme Court in pay dispute

NEA-Dallas says Dallas ISD’s merit-based evaluation system amounts to pay cuts for many and has asked the Texas Supreme Court to force the state’s education commissioner to rehear the group’s grievance. NEA-Dallas officials contend that teachers who did not receive salary bumps based on their evaluation “scorecard” essentially suffered pay cuts because the costs of health insurance went up. And teachers don’t know what their salary will be until after the start of a new school year because of the lag time in evaluating STAAR data released at the end of the spring semester. The lag in when the scorecards are released violates interpretations of state law that requires teachers to be notified of pay reductions no less than 45 days before the start of the school year so they can make other employment plans if they choose.

USDA amends school lunch rules

The US Department of Agriculture on Friday announced two new proposals that would give school nutrition professionals “more flexibility” in what they serve to students. USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps proposed new rules for the Food and Nutrition Service that would allow schools to cut the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfasts while giving them license to sell more pizza, burgers and fries to students. The agency is responsible for administering nutritional programs that feed nearly 30 million students at 99,000 schools. For lunches, the proposals would allow schools to offer potatoes as a vegetable every day and gives them the flexibility to provide things such as pizza and burgers as a la carte items that students may choose over more nutritious full meals. Read more

January 17, 2020

TSTA opposes more proposed rules that could increase the authority of charters in SB1882 partnerships

Senate Bill 1882 is a 2017 law that encourages school districts to partner with outside entities, including charters, in the operation of struggling campuses. These partnerships are growing in Texas because districts that participate in them receive extra state funding. TSTA is concerned because, as allowed by the state education commissioner, these partnerships can sacrifice important educational standards for students and endanger contractual rights of school employees. Read more

Help us fight the science deniers

The State Board of Education (SBOE) this year will overhaul curriculum standards that guide what Texas public school students are taught in their science classrooms. Science deniers don’t want to teach the truth about climate change, one of the most serious challenges facing our world today. TSTA is helping the Texas Freedom Network make sure that the SBOE understands that science can’t be denied or ignored, and here is what you can do. Read more

January 16, 2020

TSTA testifies against proposed rules that would make it easier for charters to expand

The rules, proposed by Education Commissioner Mike Morath, would significantly increase opportunities for charter school chains to expand in Texas, at a potential cost of hundreds of millions of additional dollars to taxpayers and public school districts. Read more

January 15, 2019

Teachers concerned over new fast-track charter rules

Amid ongoing concerns among teachers and public school advocates, Texas education officials are rewriting the rules for how new charter schools are approved in order to speed up the process. The Texas Education Agency solicited comments at a hearing in Austin this week on proposed changes that would create a new scoring system to fast-track expansion of the highest-performing charters, while prohibiting the lowest-rated ones from opening new schools. A coalition of advocacy groups and teachers associations argued that letting some charters open new schools almost automatically would eventually burden the state financially and siphon taxpayer money and students from traditional school districts.

January 10, 2020

February 3 is the deadline to register to vote in the primaries

Want more resources for your schools, and maybe another pay raise? Just because the Legislature gave a lot of positive attention to educators and public schools last year doesn’t mean the same thing will happen during the 2021 session, which convenes a year from now. Read more

Texas Education Agency unveils Do Not Hire Registry

This is the list, required under House Bill 3, the new school finance law, of educators who can’t be hired by school districts because they have a history of criminal misconduct or they are under investigation for misconduct. You can appeal your name being wrongfully placed on the list, effectively ending your career, but you have a short time period in which to do so. Read more

January 7, 2020

TEA unveils ‘Do Not Hire’ teacher registry

Texas school districts now have a new safeguarding tool to utilize when hiring teachers after the Texas Education Agency unveiled its new “do not hire” registry, created as part of the HB3 school finance reform bill. The registry informs district leaders if an applicant is eligible for hire or if they’re under investigation for any kind of misconduct and, if they are, by law the district cannot hire them. Before this, there was no central database of teacher investigations so school districts may not have revealed things like criminal charges against applicants if they ended in plea deals or settlements and not convictions. Read more

January 6, 2020

TEA expands South San Antonio investigation

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has expanded its 8-month-long investigation into South San Antonio ISD. It will include new allegations against trustees who may have violated the state’s contract procurement process, competitive bidding, awarding and management of contracts. Read more

December 18, 2019

New law provides $3 million a year for mentoring programs

House Bill 3, the new school finance law, created the mentoring program allotment (MPA), an optional funding source of $3 million a year that districts will be able to access in order to support the quality induction of beginning teachers. Districts that meet the application requirements outlined in TEC 21.458 will be eligible to receive $1,800 per new teacher. Read more

December 17, 2019

NEA hails huge win for students

On December 17, 2019 the National Education Association hailed a huge, bipartisan win for students as the US House of Representatives approved a major increase in education funding, while rejecting the Trump/DeVos administration’s proposed cuts and privatization schemes.  Now, it is imperative for the Senate and president to do their job and ensure these critical investments in our public schools and students get over the finish line and are signed into law. Read more

House Bill 3 changes K-2 diagnostic tools

Before HB3, the law charged the commissioner with adopting a list of reading instruments from which school districts could choose to diagnose student reading development. Of these, only two were required to include multidimensional assessment tools. Read more

Schools increase efforts to stamp out vaping

Schools across Texas are ramping up efforts to stop students vaping. In North Texas’ Coppell ISD, “vape-detecting technology” — sensors akin to smoke alarms — are placed in secret locations on campuses. In other Texas school districts, students must sign out to use the bathroom during class, and drug-sniffing dogs are patrolling campuses. This summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began investigating severe lung injuries and deaths in otherwise healthy people tied to vaping. More than 2,400 people have been hospitalized and at least 52 people have died as of last week. Texas accounted for more than 200 injuries and one death. Read more

TEA updates new requirements on reading practices

The Texas Education Agency this week released an update on the House Bill 3 requirements for reading practices. These requirements include:

  • The Science of Teaching Reading Exam, which is a new certification requirement for all teachers in grades pre-K — 6
  • Reading Standards for Kindergarten – 3rd Grade.

You can find more information about these requirements on a new TEA website dedicated to reading practices, along with an HB3 Reading Practices Updates webinar. The agency also has released a noncompetitive grant available to all Education Service Centers that want to become reading academies authorized providers. School districts also may apply to be authorized providers through a competitive application process. Eligible entities may visit the reading practices web page to access the application and submit a Notice of Intent to Apply.

December 16, 2019

SBEC selects new officers, agrees to rewrite proposed rule changes following TSTA’s comments

In its final meeting of the year, the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) unanimously selected the board’s next chair, vice chair, and secretary. The board also voted on proposed amendments to TAC Ch. 249, Disciplinary Proceedings, Sanctions, and Contested Cases, Subchapter B, Enforcement Actions and Guidelines. In response to comments submitted by TSTA on 249.12 and 249.15, with which TEA agreed, the agency staff recommended striking the proposed changes and rewriting them with input from TSTA and other stakeholders. Read more

New report says millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on charters

Some 232 proposed charter schools in Texas were awarded grants from the US Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program between 2006-2014. At least 72 (or 31 percent) of those charters have been closed or never opened at all, according to a new report by the Network for Public Education. The calculated waste of taxpayers’ money was $23,941,606. Read more

TRS board authorizes negotiations for new headquarters

The Teacher Retirement System’s trustees on Friday unanimously passed a resolution authorizing Executive Director Brian Guthrie to enter into negotiations for long-term planning of a new TRS headquarters. TRS has outgrown its facilities at 1000 Red River in downtown Austin, representatives for the system say. Read more

December 12, 2019

Most defrauded students’ financial relief applications rejected

The Education Department’s first batch of notifications to around 17,000 student loan borrowers who applied to have their debt forgiven after being defrauded by for-profit colleges will reject 95% of them. Those labeled ineligible include more than 6,314 letters going to borrowers who enrolled in Corinthian Colleges, the now-defunct for-profit giant that misrepresented job placement and expected salaries for graduates of its programs. The first batch includes just 852 approvals. Read more

December 11, 2019

Report challenges Austin school closures

Austin ISD’s school closure plan for Pease, Brooke, Metz and Sims elementaries perpetuates “longstanding policies of racial and economic segregation, targeting vulnerable and historically underserved communities,” according to a report by the district’s chief equity officer. “The proposed closures as drafted would extend the district’s more-than-hundred-year history of racial and economic segregation and once again place the burden on the same communities in East Austin,” Stephanie Hawley’s report says. Her paper makes several suggestions for the district, including a third-party equity assessment districtwide, including on bond projects of the past decade, and the development of a multi-year, aggressive plan for measurable goals for enrollment and student success. Read more

December 10, 2019

Half a billion wasted on charters

Over 35% of charter schools funded by the federal Charter School Program between 2006 and 2014 either never opened or have since been closed down, according to a new report entitled Asleep At The Wheel. The report reviewed records of nearly 5,000 schools, costing taxpayers more than half a billion dollars. The state with the most charter schools that never opened was Michigan, home to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, while California was second with 61 schools that failed to open but collectively received $8.36 million. Read more

December 9, 2019

Science TEKS review work group applications being accepted

The State Board of Education will soon begin the review and revision of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science. The SBOE’s TEKS review and revision process calls for multiple, separate work groups to make recommendations to the SBOE for revisions to the current standards. Read more

December 6, 2019

Taking a closer look at the latest STAAR readability study

The University of Texas Austin Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk released part one of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) readability study. The independent study was mandated by House Bill 3, the new school finance law, after several reports, including one conducted by Texas A&M researchers, argued that STAAR test items were above the reading level of the students being tested. Read more

School finance, pay raises, charters and pensions among House committee interim studies

Under House Bill 3, the House Public Education Committee is studying the new school finance law, including an examination of pay raises districts have given teachers and staff and the “various approaches adopted to differentiate these salary increases according to experience.” Read more

Deadlines approaching for TEA innovative course approval

The Texas Administrative Code allows school districts to offer innovative courses to enable students to master knowledge, skills and competencies not included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The approval of the local board of trustees is required in order for school districts to offer state-approved innovative courses and deadlines are coming up. Read more

December 5, 2019

View NEA interviews with presidential candidates

The National Education Association has moved into the next phase of its presidential primary recommendation process with the release of the first 2020 presidential candidate interviews with President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. Lily asked the candidates questions from NEA members about the challenges facing students, educators and public schools across the country. More candidate interviews will be released as they are filmed. Read more

DeVos proposes spinning off federal student loans

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has suggested that the Federal Student Aid office, an arm of the Education Department she called an “untamed beast” in “distress,” should operate as a stand-alone entity run by a professional, expert and apolitical board of governors. “Congress never set up the U.S. Department of Education to be a bank, nor did it define the secretary of Education as the nation’s ‘top banker,’” Mrs DeVos told thousands of college financial aid professionals gathered for the department’s annual conference. “But that’s effectively what Congress expects based on its policies.” Mrs DeVos’s proposal would require congressional action, a heavy lift in the current political climate. Read more

December 4, 2019

Texas ethnic studies curriculum likely to be expanded

After introducing a Mexican American studies class, Texas could add an African American studies course to its curriculum, with the course outline developed by Dallas ISD educators. This comes as more states implement ethnic studies curricula as part of a drive to create greater inclusivity and diversity in education. If approved, it could be taught as early as fall 2020. Read more

December 3, 2019

State-ordered study finds STAAR not too hard for young readers

A study produced by the University of Texas and published yesterday found that the state’s STAAR tests are not too advanced for the grade levels of the students taking the tests. Monday’s report, the first of a two-part study, analyzed three things for standardized tests that third through eighth graders take: the difficulty of the reading and writing tests’ passages, the difficulty of questions and answers on all tests across five subjects, and the tests’ alignment to what the state expects students of each grade to learn. Researchers concluded that the vast majority of passages in the 2019 reading and writing exams fell within or below the test’s grade level, and that most of the tests and their questions aligned with what the state expects students to learn in each subject. The second half of the study will analyze the spring 2020 STAAR exams. Read more

December 2, 2019

States move to add Native American history to curricula

A recent report by the National Congress of American Indians found that 87% of state history standards include no mention of Native American history after 1900, while 27 states don’t mention Native Americans in their K-12 curriculum. However, 90% of states surveyed reported that they are working to improve the quality of, and access to, Native American education curriculum, and a majority of states indicated that Native American education is already included in their content standards, although far fewer require it be taught in public schools. Read more

November 25, 2019

TEA ordered to compensate fired director

The US Department of Education has ordered the Texas Education Agency to compensate its former special education director Laurie Kash more than $200,000 in damages for illegally firing her. She appealed to the Department claiming that the TEA had illegally awarded a no-bid contract to a company to analyze private records of students receiving special education services and one day later was fired, with state officials alleging that employees at a former job had filed a civil lawsuit against her for covering up child sexual abuse. The Department said that the TEA failed to prove it would have fired her without her whistleblower complaint and ordered compensatory damages, including attorney’s fees, of $202,711.20. The TEA described the ruling as “extremely disappointing” and said it would appeal the case. Read more

November 22, 2019

Notes from SBOE

At its last meeting of the year, held last week in Austin, the State Board of Education received several updates from Commissioner of Education Mike Morath. Morath led a discussion on HB 3906 calling for changes to the STARR test, passed this last legislative session. Also discussed was HB 3906, a study is underway for the readability of STAAR test based on concerns that its questions are written at reading levels above the grade level tested. Read more

November 21, 2019

Texas is still reckoning with Special Education challenges

Since federal regulators ordered the state to rescind its de facto cap on special education services in 2018, Texas has been scrambling to ensure that all kids with special needs are identified. Already, TEA has seen the number of students tested for special ed services soar but is now facing a new challenge: not enough licensed school psychologists to keep up with demand. Read more

November 19, 2019

Charters lag behind in struggle to fix special education

Students face delays and poor access to special education services and the special education gap between traditional public schools and charter schools is widening at a time when all Texas schools are supposed to be making major improvements. Over the last three years, Texas charter schools have increased their share of special needs children by about half a percentage point. In comparison, traditional districts — which already served more children with disabilities — have grown their portion at double that rate. Read more

November 18, 2019

Celebrate American Education Week this week along with ESP day on Wednesday

This will present all Americans with a great opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. Read more

Educators weigh in as Supreme Court considers Dreamers’ case

Many educators from around the country, including members of NEA and TSTA, were in Washington last Tuesday for the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The court is expected to issue a ruling next year, deciding the future of several hundred thousand immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Read more

Student debt relief documents to be turned over

The Trump administration will provide House Education and Labor Committee documents detailing the Education Department’s handling of student debt relief claims. The request, issued under threat of a subpoena, centers on the administration’s adherence to a 1995 law, known as borrower defense to repayment, which protects students who are defrauded by their colleges. Hundreds of thousands of people who attended primarily for-profit colleges have applied for debt forgiveness under the law but have yet to learn whether their claims will be approved. Read more

November 15, 2019

Sunset Advisory Commission conducting stakeholder survey on TRS

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) is undergoing Sunset review as directed by the Legislature in the Texas Sunset Act and we are asking that you participate. The Sunset Advisory Commission is evaluating TRS’ operations and will make recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve the agency’s effectiveness, efficiency, fairness and accountability. Read more

November 14, 2019

SBOE moves plans for African American Studies forward

On Wednesday, the SBOE heard public testimony from students, educators and stakeholders in favor of implementing an African American Studies course. Over the next several months, the board will create curriculum standards for the course based on an existing class in the Dallas Independent School District, and is expected to take a final vote in April. Read more

New state law weakens oversight of teacher 403(b) investments

A new law, HB2820, which went into effect September 1, will require Texas teachers to keep a closer eye on their 403(b) investment products and, maybe, seek more professional investment guidance. That’s because the new law eliminated the requirement for financial firms to register 403(b) products with the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and removed a requirement for TRS to impose a cap on product expenses.  Read more

November 10, 2019

Tell senators to VOTE NO on DeVos ally nominated as appellate judge

The Senate is expected to vote early this week on Steven Menashi’s nomination to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit—a position in which he could do even more harm than he already has. Just days ago, the New York Times confirmed that as acting general counsel under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, he helped devise an illegal scheme that deprived thousands of students of debt relief and violated federal privacy laws—a scam that earned DeVos a contempt of court citation and $100,000 fine. Menashi also helped presidential adviser Stephen Miller develop the administration’s disastrous immigration policies.

Send your senators a message to VOTE NO when Menashi’s nomination comes to the floor.

November 8, 2019

Sunset Survey on the Teacher Retirement System of Texas

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS’) mission, operations, and performance are undergoing Sunset review as directed by the Texas Legislature in the Texas Sunset Act. The Sunset Advisory Commission is evaluating TRS’ operations and will make recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve the agency’s effectiveness, efficiency, fairness, and accountability.

Please complete the Sunset survey by Friday, November 22. Completing the survey should take about 7 minutes.

NAEP scores look better when adjusted for demographics

When the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for 2019, were announced last week, it was not that average math and reading scores for Texas fourth graders had increased by three points and one point, respectively, from 2017. Texas eighth graders saw their math and reading scores drop from 2017, and it was noted that statewide reading performance in both fourth and eighth grade in Texas remained below the national average. Read more

NEA and TSTA applaud the College Affordability Act

In Washington, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott has introduced the College Affordability Act, comprehensive legislation to reauthorize and improve the Higher Education Act.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said the bill “begins to turn the tide toward making high-quality higher education affordable for all students, improves the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program designed to help educators pay off their student debt and supports our country’s HBCUs and minority-serving institutions.”

Here is more information on the legislation.

November 7, 2019

Texas schools set to receive funding

Voters have approved a measure changing the way the state’s public school endowment distributes money that could see Texas schools receive hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding. The constitutional amendment is the latest in a string of reforms that lawmakers pushed for this spring amid revelations of mismanagement of the state’s $44 billion Permanent School Fund. Under the measure, the land board will now be able to send up to $600 million per year directly to schools, doubling its current cap. Schools received $1.24 billion in 2018. Read more

November 6, 2019

State to take over Houston ISD by replacing school board and superintendent

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath informed Houston Independent School District leaders that he plans to replace their elected school board with an appointed board of managers to “prevent imminent and substantial harm to the welfare of the district’s students.” Read more

Voters approve Proposition 4, but TSTA scores some victories

Trying to kill Proposition 4 on the constitutional amendments ballot was always an uphill battle because of longstanding opposition in Texas to a state income tax, and in the end the proposal was adopted, 76 percent to 24 percent, in Tuesday’s election. On a positive note, Proposition 7, which was endorsed by TSTA, was approved, 73 percent to 27 percent.

All in all, it was a short-sighted vote promoted by state leaders who are under-funding state government now and were happy to play politics with Texas’ future. Read more

November 4, 2019

Watch out for more SB1882 charter conversions; key deadline coming up

SB1882 is the 2017 law that encourages school districts to turn over struggling campuses to “partners,” such as universities, non-profits or charter chains, to help improve student performance. The first batch of charter conversions resulted in lower accountability ratings for most of the chosen schools, but districts will continue to be tempted to go this route. They get extra state funding and a reprieve from state sanctions. Read more

DeVos threatened with subpoena

House Democrats will consider whether to subpoena Betsy DeVos this month if she refuses to testify before the Education and Labor Committee regarding the continued collection of student loan debt from borrowers defrauded by for-profit Corinthian Colleges, who are now suing the Education Secretary over the matter. The warning marks the second time Devos has been threatened with a subpoena in the last two weeks, both in relation to the secretary’s and Education Department officials’ involvement in for-profit colleges. Read more

November 1, 2019

Texas fourth graders improve NAEP math and reading scores

Texas fourth graders taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math test this year scored an average of 244, a three-point increase over the 241 average for Texas fourth graders in 2017. Their average score on the reading NAEP bumped up one point to 216 from 215 two years ago. Read more

School districts that pay elementary teachers the least

Texas teachers will receive mandated pay raises in the 2019-2020 school year under a new law known as HB 3, which affords schools $6.5 billion in new spending, and requires districts to ensure that at least 30% of the funding is used to provide pay raises for staff. Texas Education Agency records show that Stafford Municipal School District elementary school teachers were paid the lowest average salary. Read more

Testimony on school finance and A-F grading system

At a House Public Education Committee hearing this week, educators and stakeholders testified on challenges involved in carrying out both House Bill 22, enacted in 2017, and House Bill 3, the school finance bill enacted last spring. One complication that has arisen out of implementing HB22 involves excessive ambiguity and complexity about when and how the Texas Education Agency will order campus interventions in the new A-F accountability system. Read more

October 31, 2019

Early voting ends tomorrow; please vote against Prop 4

If you haven’t voted already, please take the time to stop by an early voting location and vote AGAINST Proposition 4 and FOR Proposition 7 on the statewide constitutional amendments ballot. Read more

October 30, 2019

Concerns as math and reading scores fall

Math and reading scores for fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States have fallen since 2017, according to the 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card. Most notable was the score drops in reading, which occurred in 17 states with regard to fourth grade reading and in 31 states for eighth grade reading scores. On average, reading scores declined for fourth graders by 1 point and for eighth graders by 3 points compared to 2017. Read more

October 29, 2019

School finance law causing problems

Several months after a major school finance law rewired how billions of dollars get funneled into hundreds of school districts across the state, educators and state officials are still trying to untangle the threads.

House Bill 3, an $11.6 billion measure, gave school districts more money for employee salaries but at a House Public Education hearing Monday, educators and advocates pointed to problems with the way the law was written that have resulted in unexpected increases or decreases in funding for individual school districts. Read more

October 28, 2019

Extended school year option, another part of House Bill 3

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its latest “HB 3 in 30” video and presentation this week on the implementation of an extended school year option, passed into law as a part of House Bill 3, the new school finance law. The provision, which allows for half-day funding for districts that offer an additional 30 days of instruction for students in pre-K through 5th grade, may have been less prominent than other provisions in the bill, but it is seemingly a big ticket item for TEA. Read more

Gov. Abbott makes new appointments to TRS board

The governor appointed Michael Ball of Argyle and Robert “Rob” Hamilton Walls Jr. of San Antonio to the Teacher Retirement System board and reappointed David Corpus of Humble. Ball is the chief financial officer at Lewisville ISD, Walls is an attorney and private investor and Corpus is Bank Office President of Allegiance Bank. Corpus has been on the TRS board since October 2013.

The new terms for all three appointees will expire Aug. 31, 2025. You can find more information on the appointees here.

October 25, 2019

Meanwhile, in this year’s election, vote against Proposition 4

TSTA urges you to vote against Proposition 4 because it could have a devastating effect on future education funding. Early voting for the Nov. 5 constitutional amendments election will continue through November 1.  Read more

October 24, 2019

Next speaker will be crucial to public education

Dennis Bonnen’s tenure as speaker of the Texas House was all but done once a tape recording confirmed the speaker was willing to make a deal with a right-wing political activist to target some of Bonnen’s fellow House Republicans during next year’s elections. Bonnen scrambled for a while to try to save his political career, but once he lost the trust of his fellow Republican legislators, it was over, and Bonnen made it official this week. He will not seek reelection to his House seat during the 2020 elections. Read more

October 23, 2019

Dallas ISD struggles with tornado aftermath

Dallas school officials are scrambling to find enough buses and drivers to suddenly transport nearly 3,000 more students each day — students whose schools were damaged by an F3 tornado.

Dallas ISD only recently ironed out most of the kinks in its busing system. It’s in just its second year.

But the probable destruction of at least three campuses and temporary closure of a handful of others as a result of Sunday’s storms will strain already limited resources and even require some charter buses to get students to classes once they resume today. Read more

October 22, 2019

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen won’t seek reelection

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, said Tuesday that he will not seek re-election. His decision to not seek another term comes after a secret recording, released by conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, captured Bonnen offering media credentials in exchange for Sullivan targeting “moderate” Republican House members in the 2020 GOP primary. Read more

Special Education reform ordered in Texas

The Texas Education Agency’s “arbitrary, illegal cap on the number of students that schools could deem eligible for special education” has resulted in some 250,000 children a year unable to get schools or districts to acknowledge their needs or provide appropriate instruction, according to advocates. The state has been ordered by the U.S. Education Department to expand access to special education. Read more

Warren would use wealth tax to increase school funding

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a former teacher herself, has pledged to quadruple federal funding for public schools and invest an additional $100 billion over ten years in “excellence grants” to public schools, along with an additional $50 billion to repair and upgrade school buildings. Financed by a wealth tax on net incomes over $50 million, Warren’s plan would boost Title I funding with an additional $450 billion over the next 10 years for pre-K-12 public schools. Read more

October 18, 2019

How districts can apply for blended learning grants

Blended learning is a method of classroom instruction that combines elements of traditional, teacher-led, face-to-face instruction with personalized digital platforms. The stated goal of the methodology is to enable greater opportunities for student differentiation, both because the digital tool is individualized and because this affords teachers more time to work in rotating small groups and one-on-one with students. Read more

TRS Sunset Review welcomes public input

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas is currently undergoing Sunset Review, during which the Sunset Advisory Commission will evaluate the agency’s core functions, processes, and overall performance. Currently, commission staff is on site at TRS assessing the agency’s programs and operations in order to identify areas for improvement. As part of the review, Sunset also seeks public input to identify problems and opportunities for improving the agency. Read more

October 17, 2019

Early voting starts next Monday, October 21; vote against Proposition 4

The presidential election isn’t here yet, but there are some important decisions for voters to make on the November 5 ballot, and early voting will begin Monday. The statewide ballot will include 10 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, including Proposition 4 that, if adopted, could have a devastating effect on future education funding. Read more

Watch out for more SB1882 charter conversions; your school may be next

As a reminder, SB1882 is the 2017 law that encourages school districts to turn over struggling campuses to “partners,” such as universities, non-profits or charter chains, to help improve student performance. The first batch of charter conversions resulted in lower accountability ratings for most of the chosen schools, but districts will continue to be tempted to go this route. They get extra state funding and a reprieve from state sanctions. Read more

Just the Facts

NEA is now providing a monthly report called Just the Facts which is straightforward information on where the 2020 presidential candidates and NEA stand on specific issues. Follow this link for the October 2019 edition of Just the Facts, which is focused on immigration.

October 16,  2019

Bill would see free school lunch for all children

A bill that would provide up to three free meals per day to all school children, regardless of family income level, has been introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN). The Universal School Meals Program Act would eliminate any requirement for families to prove they earn less than 185% of the national poverty level in order for students to be eligible for the meals. It would also remove reduced cost school meals, in favor of making free meals available to all students. Studies cited by Sanders and Omar claim that children with access to free school breakfasts have fewer absences and better academic performance, while universal access to free meals is associated with improved student health. Read more

October 14, 2019

TSTA: Proposition 4 repeals dedicated education funding; vote against it

The Texas State Teachers Association announced today that it opposes Proposition 4 on the November 5 constitutional amendments ballot. TSTA is urging everyone who cares about the future of public education in Texas to vote against it. Read press release

Apply for NEA’s Pathways Project today!

The National Education Association has launched the application for the Leaders of Color Pathways Project. Through Pathways, NEA is focusing on members who identify as Hispanic, Latinx, Chicano, Native, Indigenous, American Indian, Black, Asian, Pacific/Islander, Native Alaskan, and or Native Hawaiian. The Pathways project will serve to develop, test, and model strategies to build structural pathways for emerging leaders from historically marginalized racial, ethnic, and cultural communities to access leadership training opportunities.

Pathways is open to emerging leaders, as well as veteran leaders who are interested in serving as peer coaches, but space is limited. The application deadline is November 1, 2019. Click here to learn more and to apply.

October 11, 2019

School boards can no longer limit the number of speakers they hear

Open-government advocates are applauding a new law (HB2840) where school boards can no longer limit the number of speakers they hear. The law now requires school boards and other local governing bodies to allow everyone who wants to weigh in on an item on the body’s agenda to speak before or during the board’s consideration of the issue and before the board votes. Read more

DeVos violated court order to stop collection on some loan debts

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos violated a court order to stop collecting on the debts of some former Corinthian College students and now a judge is weighing sanctions or finding her in contempt of court. At a hearing in San Francisco, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim said: “I feel like there have to be some consequences for the violation of my order 16,000 times.” The Department of Education has said that more than 16,000 borrowers were incorrectly informed that they owed a payment on their debt, according to a September court filing. About 1,800 had their wages garnished and more than 800 were mistakenly subject to adverse credit reporting. Read more

October 10, 2019

TEA releases guidance on Teacher Incentive Allotment

HB 3 establishes an optional Local Teacher Designation System and Teacher Incentive Allotment. TEA has subsequently released details on the implementation of the new designation system and allotment. Read more

Retirees didn’t have much room to splurge with their 13th checks; they need a COLA

Retired educators were more likely to spend the 13th check, which they received in September, on credit card debt (about 3 in 10); medical debt (almost 1 in 4); home repairs (more than 1 in 5); doctor visits (almost 1 in 5); or prescriptions (1 in 6). Those figures were the result of a survey by the Texas Pension Coalition, which includes TSTA. Read more

2020 Charter Application includes several TSTA recommendations

The new 2020 Generation 25 charter application was released by the Texas Education Agency late last week and will be used to determine when and whether applicants seeking to open in August of 2021 will be approved. TSTA, in conjunction with a coalition of partners submitted recommendations to TEA and the SBOE. Read more

October 9, 2019

How to create a positive learning environment

Join Luís-Gustavo Martínez from the NEA Center for Great Public Schools on October 17, at 8 pm ET as he shares tips to help you create a positive learning environment in your classroom. Register here

Students next year can retake sections of the ACT

Starting next year students will be able to retake individual sections of the ACT as opposed to having to re-take the entire exam. From September 2020, in an effort to increase student opportunities for college admission and scholarships. ACT will also begin offering online testing options and allowing students to combine section scores for a “superscore” to send to colleges.This is an effort to save time and money. Read more

October 8, 2019

Disaster relief for victims of Tropical Storm Imelda

Effective October 5, 2019, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for the period of September 17–23, 2019 affecting the Texas counties of Chambers, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, and Orange.

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

Go to for details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members.

TEA missed Marlin monitor’s conviction

A man appointed by the Texas Education Agency recently to help reform the operations of the Marlin ISD had pleaded guilty in 2017 to defrauding the Department of Veterans Affairs of $486,000. He was sentenced at the time to five years of probation and 500 hours of community service for the 2013 theft. Read more

October 7, 2019

Free climate change resources

Increasing public protests over climate change concerns are sparking classroom conversations and underlining the need for schools to incorporate material on climate change in curricula. In some cases, state environmental agencies are collaborating with schools to provide teacher training on lesson plans. Districts can also take advantage of programs and resources already in place, such as Republic Services’ Recycling Simplified Education Program, which recently released K-12 lesson plans that include activities, videos and handouts designed by teachers to span subject areas including math, science and language arts. Read more

October 3, 2019

Teacher Retirement System Considering Big Changes

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) is considering a new approach to health care plans as a means to turn around the declining enrollment numbers in TRS Active Care. Since 2001 the cost of health insurance has continued to rise, causing districts that participate in TRS Active Care to reconsider their participation in the state plan. TRS understands the level of dissatisfaction with Active Care and is looking to make drastic changes, specifically, the system is looking at a never-before-considered option: restructuring Active Care with a potential regional health care plan system, as opposed to the state-wide system. Read more

13th Check Issued

The long awaited 13th check for retired teachers was issued last month and TSTA is proud to have fought for the much-needed benefit. When cutting the checks, the Teacher Retirement System applied the default withholding rate in an effort to get 13th checks issued to its members as quickly as possible. As a result, some members may have seen taxes withdrawn from their checks and some may have not. Either way, your standard deduction will apply come tax season, which will likely differ from what was deducted from the check you received. For more information, see TRS’s FAQ page.

October 2, 2019

TSTA urges votes against Proposition 4 and for Proposition 7

TSTA opposes Proposition 4 because it is anti-education, is unnecessary and, if adopted, will remove a constitutional source of future dedicated funding for public schools. Under Proposition 4, any future attempt to create an income tax would require a new constitutional amendment that would first have to be approved by two-thirds of the Texas House and state Senate, and legislators would not have to use the money on education. They could designate the revenue for any purpose, including tax breaks for wealthy corporations. Read more

TSTA joins effort for real sex education in Texas schools

Next year, the State Board of Education will revise the state’s public school health curriculum standards for the first time in more than 20 years. This process will include proposed changes to sex education standards, which always provoke much political controversy and as a result are woefully deficient. TSTA is a member of a new Teach the Truth Coalition, which will work with the Texas Freedom Network to advocate for the board to adopt a comprehensive and medically accurate sexual education curriculum. Read more

Socorro to add police officers to all elementary campuses

The Socorro ISD Board of Trustees has agreed to approve a recommendation from Superintendent Jose Espinoza to update the job description for SISD police officers – allowing the district to move forward with plans to hire 23 new officers for district elementary schools. There will be police officers at all of our schools, including elementary campuses, to provide an extra layer of security. Read more

October 1, 2019

State’s performance not good enough

Addressing Monday’s State of Public Education luncheon, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said he believes that teaching Texas’ kids is the “hardest work” that he’s ever seen on the planet—but sees the state making important strides in accountability, educational strategy, and teacher pay. The commissioner did not discuss the merits of the state’s new accountability system, which grades districts and campuses on an A-F scale largely on their performance on the state’s standardized test. However, he made it clear that he believes in holding schools accountable by using data—including test scores. While noting the positive trends in a number of various indicators—including pre-K readiness and STAAR scores in 3rd grade reading—Morath admitted that the state’s performance was not good enough. Read more