Education News

November 18, 2021

DOE opens inquiries into Carroll ISD

The US Department of Education is investigating three complaints of discrimination against students in the Carroll Independent School District. The district has recently attracted national attention for several of its decisions regarding the handling of school programs, books and curricula on race, gender and sexuality. Read more

November 5, 2021

Doing serious harm to the institution of public education, all for political gain

First, voting rights came under attack by the political powers that be in Texas, and now, another crucial element of our democracy – public education – has become a major target. The attack on public education began in earnest with the enactment of the so-called critical race theory law to whitewash the teaching of racism and discourage classroom discussions of other issues that make many conservative voters uncomfortable. Read blog 

October 26, 2021

TSTA member selected as Bilingual Teacher of the Year

Luz Alvarez-Sims, a fourth grade teacher in Austin at Travis Heights Elementary, was named the 2021 Bilingual Education Teacher of the Year by the Texas Association for Bilingual Education. Alvarez-Sims, a 14-year veteran, began by teaching bilingual classes in middle school for six years then moved to teach fourth-grade, which is where she’s stayed since. Read more 

TSTA: Rep Krause’s letter smacks of a witch hunt

TSTA President Ovidia Molina made the following statement: Rep. Krause’s letter demanding that school superintendents provide him with lists of books dealing with certain subjects on their school bookshelves is disturbing and political overreach into the classroom. Read more

October 22, 2021

TSTA member is the new Texas Teacher of the Year

Ramon Benavides, a biology teacher from Ysleta ISD in El Paso and member of the Ysleta Teachers Association, was named the 2022 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year. He also was chosen to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition, which also gives him the title of 2022 Texas Teacher of the Year. Read more 

October 21, 2021

White House details COVID vaccination plans for 5-11 year-olds

The White House has released details of its plan to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, pending US Food and Drug Administration authorization in the next few weeks. The plan includes smaller doses, more-flexible supplies, and efforts to provide children’s vaccines at locations families trust, such as schools, pediatrician’s offices, and community health providers. Authorization of the smaller doses will open up eligibility to about 28 million children who were previously too young to be vaccinated. Read more 

October 20, 2021

NEA Foundation Announces 2022 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence Recipients

The NEA Foundation is honoring educators for community-building and outstanding achievements during a challenging year through the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence. One of the award winners is Adriana Abundis Alonso, a TSTA member and a master educator at Sidney Lanier High School in San Antonio. To learn more about the 2022 awardees, visit the NEA Foundation website.

Read press release

October 19, 2021

Texas passes sports ban for transgender students

Lawmakers in Texas passed a bill Sunday that bans transgender public-school students from competing in interscholastic sports leagues that are designated for a gender other than the one listed on their birth certificates. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill, after adding it to the agenda of a special legislative session intended to address redistricting. Read more 

October 18, 2021

Where was Governor Abbott when Holocaust denial became an issue in Carroll ISD?

Governor Abbott was silent when a school administrator in Carroll ISD, overreacting to the new, so-called “critical race theory” law that Abbott signed. The administrator told teachers to put books with “opposing” views of the Holocaust – books by Holocaust deniers – in their classroom libraries. Read blog 

October 15, 2021

NEA and TSTA respond to Texas school district official advising educators to offer books with an “opposing” perspective when discussing the Holocaust in public schools

NBC News reported that Carroll ISD, advised teachers during a training that they should provide books with an “opposing” view when discussing the Holocaust. The training took place several days after a parent pressured the Carroll school board into disciplining a teacher for using a book the parent found offensive. Read press release 

October 12, 2021

Vulnerable children are left to suffer 

Don Huffines, who is challenging Governor Abbott in next year’s Republican primary, may have stooped to a new low, bordering on cruelty, when he attacked the important, sometimes life-saving services the state has provided LGBTQ youth in foster care. Read blog

October 6, 2021

TSTA statement on Timberview school shooting

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released a statement today on the shooting at Timberview High School in Arlington. Four people were reported injured, including a 15-year-old boy in critical condition, in the latest outbreak of gun violence at a school. As always, we offer our thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families and the Mansfield ISD community. Read news release 

Keeping the Promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Thousands of educators from across the country have taken action to demand that the US Department of Education fix the broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. We have been heard: The US Department of Education has announced they are overhauling the PSLF program. Join the events below to learn what these reforms mean for you and how we can continue to advocate for affordable higher education for all.

You are invited to join a special telephone town hall with Secretary Cardona, Under Secretary James Kvaal, NEA President Becky Pringle, and AFT President Randi Weingarten to learn what the PSLF reforms will mean for you. The event will be today, October 6, at 6:15 p.m. ET.

On Thursday, October 7, at 7:00 p.m. ET join student debt experts at the NEA for a Q&A on the PSLF reforms and an inside look at what is next for the student debt movement. Ask NEA your questions during our PSLF briefing. NEA experts are ready to answer your questions about the PSLF reforms. Join us to explore how these updates affect the larger movement around student debt cancellation. Read more 

October 5, 2021

Civics education hasn’t failed us; well-educated politicians have

Some prominent people continue to blame an alleged failure of civics education in our schools for the partisan gridlock and turmoil that is increasingly paralyzing our federal government and spreading to many states, including Texas, as well. That is not the main problem though. Read blog 

September 27, 2021

Virtual charters are getting a windfall, students are getting shortchanged

Virtual charter schools claim to specialize in education, but mostly they specialize in making profits with our tax dollars, and the pandemic is proving to be a windfall for them. Or, as one virtual charter executive put it, a “lasting tail wind.” Read blog

September 22, 2021

TSTA supports federal investigation of Texas mask policy

TSTA applauds the federal investigation of the dangerous impact that Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates poses for students with disabilities, who are particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. All of our students, school employees and their communities are at risk. Barely a month into the new school year, the number of COVID cases reported in Texas schools has almost exceeded the number for all of last year. Read news release 

September 21, 2021

Pfizer says COVID vaccine safe for elementary-age kids

Pfizer announced on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children aged five to 11, and that it will be seeking authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this age group by the end of the month. For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose, a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages five to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults. Pfizer said it studied the lower dose in 2,268 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids. Read more 

September 20, 2021

The redistricting starts today

In theory, the 2021 cycle of redistricting is about revising district boundaries to evenly distribute Texas’ fast-growing population and ensure voters have fair representation. But with the mapmaking in the hands of politicians, and their individual electoral survival at stake, it has also become an exercise in political rigging. That exercise will formally begin today when the Legislature convenes for a special legislative session to redraw the state’s maps for Congress, the Texas House and Senate and the State Board of Education to account for a decade’s worth of growth recorded in the 2020 census. Read more

September 17, 2021

District judge blocks Round Rock mask mandate

A state district judge in Williamson County has temporarily blocked Round Rock ISD from enforcing its mask mandate, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who sued the school district. In a tweet Thursday night, Paxton’s office declared “Another WIN!” in its legal fight against school districts that have defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders banning schools from requiring masks. Paxton sued Round Rock along with Elgin and other school districts with mask mandates last Friday. Read more 

September 15, 2021

Texas sues nine more school districts over mask mandates

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has announced another wave of lawsuits against school districts over their masking policies, but one of them says it doesn’t even require face coverings. Midway ISD is among nine that Paxton announced on Tuesday that he is suing for allegedly defying Abbott’s executive order banning public schools and local governments from enacting local mask mandates. However, the district says it has been unable convince the attorney general’s office that it has no such mandate in place. Under Midway’s virus protocol, campuses can issue 10-day “mask directives” that encourage mask-wearing on the premises if virus transmission reaches a certain level, but doesn’t require it. In addition to Midway, Paxton announced lawsuits against Diboll, Honey Grove, La Vega, Longview, Lufkin, McGregor, Paris and Waco, on top of the six districts he announced action against last week. Read more

September 14, 2021

White House launches Hispanic education initiative

President Joe Biden signed an executive order intended to coordinate efforts across the federal government to improve educational and economic outcomes for Hispanics on the eve of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will serve as chairman of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics; it will focus on policies that address “systemic causes” of challenges faced by students, improve their access to high-quality teachers, and address racial disparities in education funding, among other issues.  Read more 

George W. Bush is no historian, but he knows something about terrorists, foreign and domestic

Is it too much of a stretch to fear that someday, if Trumpism continues to control the GOP, that similar ideological efforts will be made to require teachers to describe the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters as patriotic defenders of the American way of life? Read blog 

September 13, 2021

FDA vaccine chief hopeful younger kids can get shots this year

The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief said Friday the agency will rapidly evaluate COVID-19 vaccinations for younger children as soon as it gets the needed data. Dr. Peter Marks said he is “very, very hopeful” that vaccinations for five- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end, and possibly sooner, with Pfizer expected to release study results at the end of the month. Read more 

September 10, 2021

Ed Dept announces grants to support districts facing state penalties over masks

The US Department of Education has launched Project SAFE (Supporting America’s Families and Educators), a grant program established to support districts penalized by states over COVID-19 prevention strategies. The program is expected to use Education Department funding provided by the Every Student Succeeds Act under Title IV, Part F, School Safety National Activities for applicable districts where funding has been withheld by state leaders.

“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a release. “We stand with the dedicated educators doing the right thing to protect their school communities, and this program will allow them to continue that critical work of keeping students safe.” Read more

September 8, 2021

Two Texas teachers die, and a small town rethinks masks

Masks are now mandatory for students and staff in the Connally Independent School District, on the outskirts of Waco. The decision, made late last week, followed the two teacher deaths and a surge of cases in the community. Read more

September 1, 2021

Texas Senate sends virtual learning bill to the governor

Less than a week before the special session ends, Texas lawmakers sent a bill to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk that would expand and fund virtual learning, but would exclude students who failed their STAAR exams. Opponents of the long-term establishment of virtual learning say that students learn best in classrooms and cite declining standardized test scores last school year, especially in districts that had most of their instruction online. Read more 

August 31, 2021

Texas House cuts students who failed STAAR tests out of virtual education funding

Students who failed their STAAR exams and racked up lots of unexcused absences could be excluded from virtual learning programs under a legislative proposal approved by the Texas House. For schools to get funding for virtual students, the students must have passed all their STAAR exams or equivalent assessments the previous year, earned a C grade or higher in foundation curriculum courses and have no more than 10% unexcused absences the previous year. Read more 

August 30, 2021

Judges back schools in mask mandate lawsuits

State judges in Florida and Texas on Friday sided with school districts, ruling that those states’ governors exceeded their authority in barring officials from introducing mask mandates in schools. In Texas, District Judge Catherine A. Mauzy ruled that challengers are likely to prevail on their claims against Gov. Greg Abbott, who “is not authorized to declare by executive fiat that school districts are prohibited from requiring individuals to wear face coverings.” Read more 

August 13, 2021

NEA announces support for vaccination or testing for educators

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, has offered its support to policies that would require all teachers to get vaccinated against COVID or submit to regular testing. “It is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe,” NEA president Becky Pringle said in a statement. Read more

August 12, 2021

Cardona raises COVID policy concerns with Governor Abbott

Miguel Cardona, US Secretary of Education, said he’s spoken with Abbott and shared his opinion on Texas’ COVID-19 policies. Cardona sat down for a virtual webinar with the National Press Foundation on Wednesday to discuss several topics related to the start of school. Abbott has repeatedly said that he encourages personal responsibility and does not believe governmental entities should force Texans to wear a mask. Read more 

August 11, 2021

Judge grants temporary block on school mask mandate ban

A Texas judge on Tuesday approved a temporary restraining order preventing the enforcement of Governor Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in schools, just hours after leaders from San Antonio and Bexar County filed a challenge. Bexar County Civil District Court Judge Toni Arteaga approved the order following an hourlong hearing Tuesday, allowing county and city school officials to require masks in public schools until an additional decision is made on Abbott’s executive order on Monday. Read more 

August 9, 2021

TSTA applauds Dallas ISD for defying governor and requiring masks in schools

TSTA applauds the Dallas Independent School District for putting the health and safety of its students, employees and local community first and requiring mask use in its schools. We urge other school districts to join Dallas ISD and ignore Gov. Abbott’s politically motivated order prohibiting mask mandates. Read press release 

August 6, 2021

How Educators and School Staff Can Talk About COVID-19 Vaccine

We know that the way to end the pandemic is by having as many people as possible choose to get vaccinated. Join this virtual training on Tuesday, August 10 at 6:00 p.m., EDT. Educators and school staff can help students and their caregivers find credible vaccine information and get the facts to respond to misinformation. Read more and RSVP 

TEA releases new COVID-19 public health guidelines

The Texas Education Agency has released new health guidelines for public schools, offering districts across the state some much-sought flexibility amid rising infections that have area parents and staff nervous about the start of school in the coming weeks. The new guidance now allows up to 20 days of remote instruction to be counted as attendance for funding purposes. Schools can apply for a waiver for additional distance learning time if needed in certain circumstances. The guidelines also require districts to bar students who test positive or are sick with COVID from attending class in person. Read more 

August 5, 2021

Texas lawmaker asks AG to consider constitutionality of critical race theory

A Republican lawmaker is asking the Texas attorney general to issue an opinion on whether “anti-racist” teachings in public schools, universities and state agencies are unconstitutional. Such an interpretation could potentially influence efforts by schools, police departments and other public agencies to address racism, unconscious bias and inequities in their systems. Rep. James White, the only Black Republican House member, sent a letter this week to Attorney General Ken Paxton asking him to weigh in on the ongoing political battle over the idea of critical race theory – an academic framework that probes the way policies and laws uphold systemic racism. Read more 

August 3, 2021

Kickstart your new school year with a professional support webinar

NEA Teacher Quality is presenting a series of webinars to support our members as they prepare for this new, post-pandemic school year. The kickoff webinar in on August 9! Read more and register

July 30, 2021

President Biden calls for full school reopenings in fall

President Joe Biden has called for all schools to open this fall for in-person learning. He pointed to funding through the $1.9T American Rescue Plan from March that allowed schools to implement improved ventilation systems, and he noted teachers were prioritized through the Department of Education when COVID-19 shots first became widely available in the spring, with almost 90% of educators and school staff now vaccinated. “We can and we must open schools this fall, full-time,” he said. “It’s better for our children’s mental and emotional well being, and we can’t afford another year out of the classroom. Every school should be open, and we’re giving them the tools to be able to do so safely.” Read more

July 28, 2021

CDC recommends universal masking in schools

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the highly transmissible Delta variant, recommended Tuesday that K-12 schools adopt universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status. The move marks a change from CDC guidance in May that said vaccinated people no longer needed to mask or physically distance in most indoor and outdoor settings.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this change is “not a welcomed piece of news” and “was not a decision that was taken lightly,” noting only 30% of children 12-17 are currently fully vaccinated. The new recommendations say children do not need to mask when they head outdoors for recess or physical education, for example, unless they will be standing in a crowd for long periods of time. That also puts the health agency in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics, which last week recommended that everyone over the age of two wear masks in school.

TSTA is calling on Governor Abbott to urge him to rescind his shortsighted blanket prohibition on mask mandates he ordered in mid-May. This is a decision best left to the communities and districts most impacted by the pandemic.

July 27, 2021

TSTA calls on Abbott to allow school districts to require masks when students go back to school

The Texas State Teachers Association calls on Governor Greg Abbott to withdraw his prohibition on mask mandates and allow individual school districts to require mask use in their facilities if local officials believe masks will help protect the health of their communities as schools reopen for the fall semester. Read full statement

July 26, 2021

Austin schools to offer virtual learning for kindergarten through 6th grade

Austin ISD will offer a virtual option for students in kindergarten through sixth grade this fall, district officials told staff in an email Monday afternoon. The goal is still to have the “bulk” of students take advantage of “face-to-face learning,” but the district wanted to add the virtual option in response to community concerns, said Anthony Mays, the district’s chief officer of schools. He said the virtual option “will be for a limited number of students that may not be eligible for the COVID vaccine.” Further details will be released by the end of the week. Austin is the second Central Texas school district to add a last-minute virtual option after previously canceling online classes due to a lack of state funding. Last Thursday, the Round Rock school district announced it will offer a virtual option for the fall semester “to allow time for vaccine approval for children under 12.”

July 20, 2021

Texas judge orders stop to granting of new DACA applications

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the DACA program, which allows certain immigrants to temporarily avoid deportation and receive renewable work permits, is illegal. He ordered the Biden administration to stop granting new applications. The ruling stems from a 2018 lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and eight other states against the federal argument. Read more

July 19, 2021

Relief for retired educators a hostage to governor’s efforts to dumb down Texas

Governor Greg Abbott claims he wants to help retired educators by putting an extra pension check on the special session’s agenda, but he would have more credibility with the education community were he not so intent on dumbing down Texas. Many retired educators are suffering financially. The average Teacher Retirement System annuitant receives just $2,118 per month, and 31 percent of them receive less than $1,000. Read blog

July 16, 2021

Anti-critical race theory bill heads to Senate

Texas teachers and students denounced a more strict anti-critical race theory bill as censorship and anti-civics education at a Senate committee hearing yesterday. The special session proposal builds off a bill Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last month that seeks to ban critical race theory from the classroom. Read more

July 13, 2021

Racism, not teaching about it, produces trauma

The right-wing campaign to suppress what children are taught about racism and limit efforts to promote diversity in our public schools was a topic of discussion at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s gathering in Dallas, and truth was an optional agenda item. Read blog

July 12, 2021

State lawmakers file new critical race theory bills for special session

Texas lawmakers have filed at least three bills targeting how racism, current events and the country’s founding principles are taught in K-12 schools. This includes a senate bill that would strip out upcoming requirements that students learn white supremacy is morally wrong and study particular writings by women and people of color. Senate Bill 3 features more changes than two House bills that have been filed for the special legislative session that began Thursday. The legislation comes after Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill from this year’s regular legislative session that restricts how current events and America’s history of racism can be taught in Texas schools. Read more

July 9, 2021

NEA statement concerning the CDC’s updated school guidance for the fall

NEA President Becky Pringle released the following statement in response to the Center for Disease Control’s new guidance for school openings in the fall: “As the National Education Association has consistently said, there is no substitute for in-person learning, and we look forward to all students returning to school in the fall. The CDC’s latest guidance provides an important roadmap for reducing the risk of COVID-19 in schools. And it is up to all of us in communities across the country to make it possible for all school buildings to be fully open, to stay open, and for all students, staff, and families to remain healthy.” Read full statement

July 8, 2021

Special session convenes today; agenda includes several education issues

A voter suppression bill, which TSTA opposes, is the main reason Governor Greg Abbott called the session, but on Wednesday, the governor added several other items, including education-related bills, to the session’s call, or agenda.

One education issue, as we anticipated, will be another effort to suppress how educators can teach about the role of racism in our history and culture. Ignoring opposition from TSTA and other education and community groups, the Legislature enacted HB3979 in the regular session to address this issue. It is not clear what else Abbott wants lawmakers to do, but we suspect he will seek revisions to the new law to make it even worse.

In addition to imposing restrictions on classroom discussions about racism and other controversial events, HB3979, which goes into effect Sept. 1, will prohibit teachers from awarding students’ course credits for participating in many political or advocacy activities. These restrictions threaten to interfere with the development of critical thinking skills so important to a student’s future success.

This attack on education, which also is being waged in many other states, is a coordinated effort by the right-wing to divide communities along racial lines for political purposes. TSTA will continue to fight for honesty in education.

On a more positive note, the governor also added a 13th check for retired educators to the session’s agenda, after similar proposals died during the regular session. A 13th check would give some relief to retirees on limited incomes, but a long-overdue cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, would be better.

Here are other education-related issues the governor has directed lawmakers to consider in the special session:

  • Legislation similar to SB1109 from the regular session, which would require middle and high schools to provide age-appropriate instruction about dating violence, domestic violence and child abuse. SB1109 was approved with strong bipartisan support, but Abbott vetoed it because it did not include a provision allowing parents to opt their children out of this instruction. He asked lawmakers to pass the bill again with the opt-out provision.
  • Legislation identical to SB29 from the regular session, which would prohibit transgender students from participating in school sports on teams matching the gender with which they now identify. They would have to compete on teams matching their sex identification at birth. This controversial bill died during the regular session.
  • Property tax relief, which could have an impact on school district budgets.

July 7, 2021

Feds release remaining stimulus funds to Texas

Earlier this year, the US Department of Education released two thirds of the funding provided to state education agencies through the American Rescue Plan, the third round of federal stimulus funding intended to aid in pandemic recovery. The final third of the funding was contingent on detailed plans from the states on how they are using and plan to use ARP funds to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the needs of students, including by equitably expanding opportunities for students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas is part of the the first cohort of seven state plans to be approved by the DoE, clearing the way for more than $4 billion in additional funding to flow to the state. Texas indicated to the DoE that it plans to use the funding to address the academic impact of lost instructional time for Texas students, and plans to offer high-dosage tutoring, high-quality instructional materials, and job-embedded professional learning to help address the academic impact of lost instructional time. Read more

July 6, 2021

Going back to school

Remote learning won’t be an option for many parents in the fall, as the Texas Education Agency pushes districts toward returning to in-person learning citing data showing that it leads to better learning outcomes than remote instruction. But the return to in-person learning is not a simple transition for some parents — particularly parents of students of color — after a year in which they say their children reaped some benefits from remote-only learning.

As of January, about 56% of Texas students had returned to on-campus instruction, including 75% of white students, about 53% of Black students, 49% of Hispanic students and 31% of Asian students. Experts say it’s necessary to consider the intersection of circumstances that could lead to such rates. Read more

June 30, 2021

Pandemic ‘widened in-person learning disparities,’ CDC warns

New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the pandemic widened disparities in full-time, in-person learning between white and minority students. While in-person learning increased for all school children in 2021, it increased the most for white students. In-person learning increased to 74.6% for whites from January 2021 to April 2021, to 63.4% for blacks, 58.9% for Hispanics, and 56.9% for all other races. Though the study had a number of limitations, including sampling primarily from larger school districts, researchers found that students in the South had the highest rate of in-person learning, on average, at 62.5%. Read more

June 23, 2021

Special session announced

A special section of the Texas Legislature will start July 8, Governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday. Abbott’s office has not said what legislative priorities will be included on the special session agenda, only that such items “will be announced prior to the convening of the special session.”

But Abbott previously said he plans to ask state lawmakers to work on two elections and bail bills that died late on the last day legislators were in session, after House Democrats walked out of the chamber. More recently, Abbott said the agenda will also include further restricting the teaching of critical race theory in Texas public schools, which refers to an academic discipline that explores the role racism plays in institutions and structures of governance. Read more

June 22, 2021

More school superintendents opting to step down

More and more school superintendents are leaving their posts, far more than in a typical year, a result of the extraordinary challenges of keeping kids learning after schools closed in spring 2020 and serving as crisis managers for months on end while dealing with pandemic pressures on their own families.

The turnover this year has been unprecedented, superintendents say, with the usual job responsibilities and tensions exacerbated by crisis management and debates with communities and school boards over when and how to reopen schools during the pandemic. Conflicts over equity and education that addressed racial issues also boiled over, with superintendents often feeling the brunt of the disputes. Read more

June 18, 2021

HB3979 was enacted to whitewash racism, not address critical race theory

Critical race theory is not the reason the legislative majority enacted HB3979, the new anti-education law, despite what Governor Greg Abbott and the law’s other supporters claim. The law’s real purpose is broader and more sinister. Read blog

June 17, 2021

Biden administration declares that Title IX protects transgender students

The rights of transgender and gay students are protected at school by Title IX, the Department of Education said Wednesday, reversing previous guidance that said those students were not protected by any federal laws. The department said that its new position comes out of its interpretation of a landmark Supreme Court decision a year ago in Bostock v. Clayton County, which extended protections in the Civil Rights Act against discrimination in the workplace to gay and transgender Americans. “The Supreme Court has upheld the right for LGBTQ+ people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination — and our LGBTQ+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement. I’m proud to have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination,” he added. The new guidance is particularly important for students in places where state-level protections for transgender youth don’t exist, said Christy Mallory, legal director at the University of California-Los Angeles’ Williams Institute, which conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy. Read more

June 16, 2021

Texas Gov signs ‘anti-critical race theory’ bill into law

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law a bill that prescribes how teachers can talk about current events and America’s history of racism in the classroom. His signature makes Texas one of a handful of states across the country that have passed such legislation, which aims to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in K-12 public school classrooms. Teachers can’t be “compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs,” according to the new law. Teachers also aren’t allowed to give credit for students to participate in lobbying or public policy internships. Rep. Steve Toth, the bill’s author, said the legislation was necessary “at a time when racial tensions are at a boiling point,” adding that “we don’t need to burden our kids with guilt for racial crimes they had nothing to do with.”

“This will stifle the teaching of huge, important facts about history, which still affect much of our life today,” said Clay Robison, spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association. “Teachers and students need and deserve the whole truth about our history, our culture and what our problems are.”

Governors in Idaho and Tennessee have signed similar bills into law with more than a dozen other states considering legislation. Read more

June 15, 2021

Texas Supreme Court orders commissioner to hear NEA-Dallas’ grievance over Dallas ISD teacher appraisal system

Education Commissioner Mike Morath has been ordered to hear a grievance, which he earlier dismissed, brought by teachers against Dallas ISD over the district’s teacher appraisal system, the Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI). Both the school district and the commissioner had dismissed the grievance, contending wrongly that the teachers had missed a district-imposed deadline for filing it. Their dismissals were upheld by a state district court. The Third Court of Appeals in Austin delivered a mixed opinion. Read press release

June 9, 2021

Giving lip service to patriotism

Governor Greg Abbott chose June 7, the day after the 77th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, to sign a law creating the “1836 project” to promote what he calls “patriotic education.” The new law, HB2497, creates a nine-person committee that will be charged with increasing awareness of the state’s history, including its independence from Mexico (hence the 1836 modifier), and advising the governor on how the “core principles” of Texas’ founding “enrich the lives of its residents.” Read blog

June 8, 2021

Spring Branch announces summer teacher pay hike

Spring Branch ISD teachers began summer school this week with a 20 percent pay increase, an incentive to attract educators to campuses to help offset learning losses for more than 3,000 students. The district is focusing heavily on their youngest students, SBISD Superintendent Jennifer Blaine said in a statement, with about 750 pre-K and kindergarten English language learners expected for the Special Language Academy. Read more

June 4, 2021

Central Texas districts cancel fall online classes

At least two Central Texas school districts are discontinuing online classes in the fall, after a bill to continue funding remote learning programs failed in the closing hours of the legislative session. Acting Round Rock Superintendent Daniel Presley said the district had counted on House Bill 1468 to offer a virtual option for families with health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the district announced Thursday it is planning for a “full return to in-person, face-to-face instruction and activities.” The Hays school district also is scrapping plans for a virtual learning option, district spokesman Tim Savoy said in a statement.

The bipartisan bill would have authorized public schools, including charters, to count students in remote learning programs as part of enrollment, which is used to determine public school funding. However, it fell short of final approval on Sunday night, when House Democrats walked out of the Capitol to kill the divisive Republican voting bill ahead of a midnight deadline to pass legislation. Austin school district officials had expressed support for the legislation, and said they were still reviewing the implications of its demise. Alejandro Delgado, the district’s new executive director of student enrollment and advocacy, said the district had been working on a “really rigorous virtual option” and would seek a waiver to continue virtual learning if made available by the Texas Education Agency.

June 3, 2021

New state law allows seniors to graduate in spite of STAAR results

High school seniors who have struggled to pass their STAAR tests can now petition to graduate. House Bill 999 allows a senior who failed any of the required STAAR exams to petition an individual graduation committee, showing alternative work deserving of graduation. The legislation temporarily expands the petition option for current high school seniors because of learning difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Normally, only a high school senior who failed up to two of the five end-of-course tests but passed all classes and fulfilled other requirements could petition to graduate. Each failed exam requires a separate petition to a committee, made up of the student’s teacher, the lead instructor for the subject, the principal and parents, and the committee must give unanimous approval for the student to graduate.

June 1, 2021

Texas bill limiting teaching of historic racism heading to governor

On Friday night, state senators revived a bill that would limit how Texas teachers can talk about current events and America’s history of racism in the classroom, hours after it appeared to have been jettisoned. House Bill 3979 originated in the House, but the Senate substantially changed it earlier this month. Those changes included stripping out more than two dozen requirements that students study the writings or stories of multiple women and people of color. When the bill went back before the House on Friday, state Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) raised a procedural violation, arguing that some changes from the Senate were not relevant to the bill. His point of order was sustained, appearing to block the bill in the final days of the Legislature. However, the language of the legislation was later amended, bringing the measure back into play. The bill says teachers cannot be compelled to discuss current events, and must explore various view points without giving deference to either side. Many educators and education advocacy groups had opposed the bill, saying it limits honest conversations about race and racism in American society.

May 24, 2021

Public safety, democracy at risk as legislative session winds to a close

Public health and safety, education and the protection of democracy are three of the basic responsibilities of our system of state and local government. But the governor, the lieutenant governor and their allies in the Legislature are tossing those responsibilities out the window. Read blog

May 20, 2021

Texas must spend the remaining $7 billion in federal education stimulus funds to increase school budgets

As the legislative session winds to a close, uncertainty remains over the remaining federal stimulus funds, about $7 billion, earmarked for public education in Texas. House and Senate conferees, it has been reported, have reached agreement on a new state budget that removes all legislative oversight over how those funds are to be spent and gives that responsibility to the governor.  Read press release

May 19, 2021

Students have a right to learn an accurate account of history

TSTA believes that denying our students the benefit of a meaningful engagement with civics, history, social studies and current events does nothing to prepare them for the academic rigor of higher education or for life in a complex society. Our best hope of furthering our goals for a more equal and inclusive future lie with students who have a clear-eyed and accurate understanding of our past.

Tell your Texas senator to vote no on HB 3979. Doing so shows support for Texas teachers and ensures that our students will be academically prepared to succeed in higher education and in life.

May 18, 2021

The commissioner of education must follow the law, not dictate it

The Texas House will soon be debating Senate Bill 1365, which attempts to rewrite the state’s accountability rules so that the Texas Education Agency can circumvent inconvenient court rulings in its attempts to take over school districts and their locally elected boards.

The bill removes the guardrails protecting elected school boards from jurisdictional overreach by the appointed commissioner of education, bestowing “final and unappealable” power to a single unelected official and offering no recourse in the courts for communities to appeal.

Write to your Texas representative today to say we believe SB 1365 creates a monumental conflict of interest by allowing the appointed commissioner of education to create and implement his own rules for evaluating our schools and also bestowing the power to assume control over any district that doesn’t measure up to those rules.

Please voice your opposition to SB 1365. The commissioner of education should be compelled to follow state law, and our courts must retain the authority to assure that he does so.

TSTA: Abbott’s ban on masks in schools premature

The Texas State Teachers Association believes Gov. Greg Abbott’s order ending all masking requirements in Texas public schools, effective June 4, is premature. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that schools require masks and social distancing for the remainder of the school year because many students have not been vaccinated and will not complete their two-dose regimen of Pfizer vaccines until well into the summer. Read press release

TFA to Gov: Allow higher ed to continue mask requirements

The Texas Faculty Association urges Gov. Greg Abbott to reconsider his order ending mask requirements in government facilities, including universities. We urge him to allow colleges and universities to continue requiring masks, at least until a larger number of Texans are vaccinated against the coronavirus. Read press release

May 11, 2021

TSTA, faculty group urge conferees to invest in higher ed to free up more stimulus funds

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar has added more than $3 billion to the biennial revenue estimate for the upcoming budget period. The Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas Faculty Association urge budget conferees on Senate Bill 1 to use part of that additional revenue to add $1.2 billion to the higher education budget. Doing so would meet the federal government’s “maintenance of effort” requirement for releasing the remaining stimulus funds for Texas public schools, about $6.7 billion. Read full statement

May 10, 2021

Texas Democrat revives trans athlete bill

Democratic state Rep Harold Dutton on Friday revived and helped advance a bill that would restrict transgender students from participating in school sports, in what appears to be a retaliatory effort directed at members of his own party for sinking one of his bills. Senate Bill 29, the subject of fierce criticism from Mr. Dutton’s fellow Democrats, would require the University Interscholastic League to force students to play on the sports teams based on their biological sex instead of their gender identity. Read more

May 5, 2021

Voter suppression bill a desperate attempt at political survival

The Texas State Teachers Association opposes House Bill 6, the voter suppression bill that the Texas House of Representatives is expected to debate tomorrow. This bill undermines the democratic process for which people have died, it perpetuates the lie of “widespread voter fraud” and it sends the wrong message to Texas’ school children, who have been taught from the earliest grades to value the right to vote. Read full press statement

Districts must include education allies in stimulus funds planning

Texas school districts are required to engage in “meaningful consultation” with stakeholders, including “educators, school staff, and their unions,” when applying for their share of the American Rescue Plan stimulus funds Texas has finally made available. #TeamTSTA has developed a template you can use to inform your district that it must include stakeholder engagement and opportunity for public comment when developing its plan for the allocation of ARP ESSER funds.

Pfizer vaccine for 12-15-year olds could be approved next week

President Joe Biden has announced a new phase in his administration’s push to vaccinate the nation against COVID-19 that includes a focus on children as young as 12. Although no vaccine is currently authorized in the United States for people under 16, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve Pfizer’s request to amend its emergency use authorization to include adolescents ages 12 to 15 as early as next week. Read more

Let social studies teachers teach all the facts, including the sins of Texas, past and present

The war over American and Texas history and how it should be taught is expanding – in the nation’s capital as well as in Texas and other states. On one side are political spin and lies. On the other side are education and facts. Read blog

May 3, 2021

Tell educators they are extra special too

Teacher Appreciation Week is always a special time for educators, but it is extra special now, at the end of a school year when Texas teachers and their support staff have heroically met the needs of their students during a most difficult time with unprecedented challenges. These educators are heroes. Like never before, they deserve this special week and day of recognition. Tomorrow, May 4, is Teacher Appreciation Day. Read press release

April 30, 2021

Every kid deserves to go to school and be themselves

The Texas House’s State Affairs committee on Thursday took up Texas’ CROWN Act, a bill from Dallas Democratic Representative Rhetta Bowers that would prohibit discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyle associated with race in the state. The CROWN Act – Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair – comes as part of a national movement with 10 other states having passed their own CROWN legislation and several others working to do the same. Bowers told the committee it is important to note that the bill does not aim to create a new “protected class” or encourage frivolous lawsuits and is of no cost to the state. The proposal awaits a committee vote. Read more

April 28, 2021

TSTA members’ efforts to get federal stimulus funds to districts starting to pay off for school children

The Texas State Teachers Association is pleased that our members’ demands are beginning to pay off for Texas school children and applaud state officials for releasing $11.2 billion of the federal stimulus money earmarked for public education in Texas. Now, we urge the state to consult with educators and do whatever is necessary to free up the remainder of the stimulus money that the federal government has allocated to Texas schools and release it to school districts. The total was $17.9 billion. Read press release

April 26, 2021

Texas falls farther behind most states in two key indicators of education funding

Despite increased education funding from House Bill 3, the 2019 school finance law, Texas this year fell farther behind the national average in two key indicators, per-student spending and teacher pay, the National Education Association’s latest report on state-by-state education spending shows. Read press release

April 23, 2021

TSTA applauds House anti-voucher vote and amendment requiring Legislature to spend federal stimulus funds

Once again private school vouchers were rejected and two key amendments passed to the budget to govern the state’s allocation of almost $18 billion in federal stimulus funds for public education. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez’s amendment was adopted to require the federal funds to be appropriated to supplement state education spending, as Congress intended, not to replace it. Also adopted was Rep. Geanie Morrison’s amendment to require the entire Legislature to appropriate stimulus funds and not leave the decision to the governor or a small group of lawmakers. Read press release

April 19, 2021

School year ending as it began: Student and educator safety not the highest priority for state officials

As the 2020-21 school year draws to a close, what has been obvious since last August remains unchanged: the safety of students and educators has not been a high enough priority for state officials. Read blog

April 12, 2021

White House discretionary funding request includes billions for education

President Joe Biden’s funding request includes discretionary funding proposals only, while the President’s forthcoming Budget will include major, complementary mandatory investments and tax reforms. It proposes a $36.5 billion investment in Title I grants, a $20 billion increase from the 2021 enacted level, to provide historically under-resourced schools with the funding needed to deliver a high-quality education to all of their students. Read more

April 6, 2021

Another reason STAAR testing during a pandemic is absurd

Even in normal years, the STAAR testing regime is a waste of classroom time and taxpayer dollars. During a pandemic, it is absurd to require students to take a test that doesn’t count and won’t accurately measure the learning loss that state officials claim it will. Read full press statement

TSTA: Educators are angry at the Senate’s failure to appropriate federal education stimulus money; school kids need the extra resources

Texas educators are angry that the Senate has refused to include any of the almost $18 billion in federal stimulus money earmarked for public education in Texas in its version of the new state budget. Our school kids need these additional resources, especially at a time when our public schools are dealing with the most critical and expensive emergency of our lifetimes. Read full press statement

March 31, 2021

TSTA suspects legislative scheme to ignore federal directives for stimulus funds, including much‐needed education money

The Texas State Teachers Association suspects the proposed Board on Administration of Federal Funds is little more than a ploy by state leaders to ignore the intentions of President Biden and the congressional majority when it enacted billions of dollars in federal stimulus aid for Texas. This includes $12.4 billion earmarked for public education, in the American Rescue Plan. Another $5.5 billion in federal money for public education was allocated to Texas under the last COVID stimulus bill enacted in December when Donald Trump was still president, and it remains unspent.

Read press release

March 29, 2021

Do teachers need to disclose their vaccination status?

Education Week speaks to experts about teachers and COVID-19 vaccines. At present, it is not permissible for school or district leaders to require teachers to get vaccinated, as the shots are currently under emergency use authorization. Even after the vaccines have full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, at which point employers could mandate them, they will still have to make exceptions for individuals with certain medical conditions or religious beliefs when imposing any requirements. Read more

States’ calls to cancel standardized testing rejected

On Friday, the Biden administration formally denied requests from Georgia and South Carolina to cancel statewide testing entirely. In its request, Georgia had emphasized that its districts could choose to offer a diagnostic exam, but the department said that was not enough. South Carolina had sought to skip a statewide test in favor of allowing districts to choose their own exam. The department also told Oregon that it could not substitute a survey of students for a standardized test. Read more

March 19, 2021

TSTA calls for Abbott to restore mask mandate for all schools, following change in CDC social distancing guidelines

We are concerned about the CDC’s change from six to three feet for socially distancing guidelines for public schools, especially in districts that have removed their masking requirements for students and employees. We agree with the CDC that students and school staff must be masked, and we call for Gov. Abbott to reinstate his mask mandate, at least for all public schools. Read full press statement.

March 18, 2021

Bill would mandate districts to provide school nurses

State Representative Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) has filed a bill this legislative session to require all districts to employ at least one full-time nurse per school – and also keep a ratio of at least one full-time nurse for every 750 students enrolled. Similar bills have failed in previous sessions, however Thierry hopes the coronavirus pandemic has shown the scope and importance of school nurses’ jobs. Read full press statement

March 15, 2021

Legislature should use federal stimulus money to increase public education budget, not replace state funding

About six in 10 likely Texas voters believe public schools need more funding on top of what they received two years ago, and they say the federal stimulus funding allocated to Texas is the best way to provide that, according to a poll commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association.

“Voters agree with educators that these federal funds were earmarked for school kids, not to help the Legislature balance the next state budget by replacing state education dollars,” TSTA President Ovidia Molina said. Read press statement

March 12, 2021

Congress approves American Rescue Plan

The US House this week gave final passage to the American Rescue Plan, the COVID relief bill championed by President Biden, which includes nearly $170 billion for public education nationwide. The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill includes $15.7 billion for public K-12 and higher education in Texas. Biden is expected to sign the legislation tomorrow. Read more

March 10, 2021

ARP passes

Congress today passed a historic economic relief package, the American Rescue Plan, which will provide critical funding to help alleviate suffering felt by millions of Americans. Read press statement

March 4, 2021

Hold harmless decision on school funding may have a catch

We believe the hold-harmless decision issued by Governor Greg Abbott and other state leaders could be a positive step in funding for our public schools, but there may be a catch. For districts to receive full funding for the remainder of the spring semester, regardless of attendance losses, they will have to “maintain or increase current levels of on-campus attendance.” Read press release

March 3, 2021

Biden acted, while Abbott failed educators on vaccines

The Texas State Teachers Association applauds President Biden for acting where Governor Abbott had failed in ordering all school employees and childcare workers to receive priority for COVID-19 vaccines. Read press release

March 2, 2021

Don’t let your guard down, governor, educators and voters still want safe schools and vaccine priority for school employees

Like the governor, we believe we are making progress against the COVID‐19 pandemic, but we are not there yet. Far from it. The COVID numbers have been coming down, but there were still 1,637 new confirmed cases of COVID in Texas yesterday and 59 deaths. Gov. Abbott needs to quit obeying his political impulses and listen to the health experts, who are warning that it is too soon to let our guard down without risking potentially disastrous consequences. Read press release

Miguel Cardona confirmed as Education Secretary

The Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona to serve as education secretary Monday, on a bipartisan 64-33 vote. The son of Puerto Rican parents, he grew up in public housing in Meriden, Conn., and attended public schools throughout his life. He started as a struggling English-language learner and went on to become an elementary-school teacher, an award-winning principal, an assistant superintendent in that school system and Connecticut’s first Latino commissioner of education. He will be sworn in this morning by Vice President Kamala Harris. Read more

March 1, 2021

TSTA poll shows overwhelming support for teacher priority for COVID vaccines

Texas voters overwhelmingly across demographic and partisan groups think that Texas should designate public school teachers as essential workers and give them priority for vaccinations against COVID-19, a bipartisan poll commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association shows. Read more.

February 28, 2021

NEA updates disaster relief fund with more counties

Effective February 19, 2021, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program (DRP) in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for the incident period of February 11, 2021 and continuing.

The DRP will be effective for all counties included in President Joe Biden’s major disaster declaration. More than 100 Texas counties are covered by the declaration, which allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to also start distributing assistance. For a list of covered counties please visit

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.

A specially designed DRP Web page at provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members.

If you are interested in pursuing relief through the DRP, please contact your NEA Member Benefits Affiliate Relations Specialist, who will serve as your liaison during disaster recovery and provide important data and information that will benefit your Affiliate and your members.

If you have any questions about the Disaster Relief Program or assistance available, please contact Kimberley Adams, Director of Affiliate Relations & Communications, at or 301-527-6243.

February 22, 2021

What is the difference between faux STAAR accountability and real accountability? Abbott may be about to find out

Accountability is a word that Texas politicians don’t often like to accept but love to preach. As preached and practiced in the Texas political system, there are two versions of accountability, one faux and the other real. Read blog

February 14, 2021

More than 1000 employees have left Killeen ISD during pandemic

A total of 1,061 employees — 39% of whom were teachers — have left the Killeen Independent School District since March 2020, the month Governor Greg Abbott temporarily forced the closure of all Texas school districts. Read more

February 5, 2021

Schools must keep identification statuses this year

The Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education has released a document informing states that schools must keep their identification statuses from 2019-20 for the 2020-21 school year. Any school with the status of comprehensive support and improvement, targeted support and improvement, or additional targeted support and improvement will keep that identification status this year. The Department of Education is providing flexibilities for certain accountability and school identification requirements, but it maintained that assessment, accountability, school identification, and reporting requirements under Title I are not waived for the 2020-21 school year. Read more

February 3, 2021

Calls mount to strike Marjorie Taylor Greene from House Education Committee

The two largest teachers’ unions in the United States released a joint statement on Tuesday calling for the removal of Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from the House Education Committee. In a letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers argue that Ms. Greene lacks the “judgment, empathy or wisdom” to have responsibility over learning environments, as demonstrated by her associations with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Read more

February 1, 2021

TEA says students must take STAAR tests on campus

There will be no online alternative for STARR testing for parents who don’t want to send their children back to school over COVID-19 concerns. The Texas Education Agency announced Friday that students will have to take the standardized tests in person under the supervision of a test administrator. School districts can set up sites outside of their schools where they can ensure equitable access and maintain test security. Read more

January 28, 2021

Texas House Speaker supports ‘hold-harmless’ funding for school districts

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said yesterday that he supports a move that to allow the state’s school districts receive millions of dollars in funding. Schools could lose millions because of enrollment drops and absenteeism caused by the pandemic, as state funding is tied to student attendance. Soon, administrators may need to make up those funding losses by pulling money from reserves or, worse, cutting staff. Phelan, along with more than half of the Texas House, have been outspoken in support of extending the hold-harmless period through the end of the current school year, as school leaders have requested. Read more

January 25, 2021

Biden boosts food benefits for children

An executive order signed by President Joe Biden on Friday aims to address food insecurity caused by the pandemic by extending a federal nutrition program and focusing resources on children who have missed meals due to closed schools. It directs the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider issuing new guidance to allow states to increase emergency benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that Congress has approved but have not been made available to those in need due to the pandemic. It also asks the USDA to issue guidance increasing Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) payments by 15% in order to “increase access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures.” Read more

January 22, 2021

Biden rolls out new strategy to reopen schools

On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden set out details for how his administration plans to get the country’s public school system back up and running for in-person learning. The 200-page federal plan, and executive orders he signed Thursday, call for “sustained and coordinated” efforts with the cooperation of states and new resources, guidance, and data for schools as they continue to respond to the pandemic. Read more

January 21, 2021

Pause on federal student loan payments extended

The US Department of Education announced Wednesday that it would extend the suspension of federal student loan payments through September 30 and keep the interest rate at 0%. “Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families. They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table,” the Department said in a statement. Read more.

January 20, 2021

College Board is scrapping SAT’s essay and subject tests

The College Board is eliminating the optional essay component of the SAT, and will no longer offer subject tests in US history, languages and math, among other topics, as the pandemic accelerates a push for changes in college admissions. The decision doesn’t affect the main SAT. The organization, which administers the college entrance exam in addition to several other tests, including Advanced Placement exams, said the coronavirus crisis has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students.” Read more.

January 14, 2021

Legislative session convenes

With restricted access to a heavily guarded state Capitol, the biennial session of the Texas Legislature convened Tuesday, with the House, as expected, overwhelmingly electing Representative Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, as its new speaker.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has made the revenue outlook tighter than it was two years ago, when lawmakers increased funding for public schools by several billion dollars, both Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, said public education will be a top priority again this year.

January 11, 2021

Districts must not be penalized for ending in-person instruction until educators are vaccinated

The Texas State Teachers Association is disappointed that Governor Greg Abbott has not added school employees to the COVID-19 vaccination priority list, and we continue to urge him to do so.

Meanwhile, we encourage every school employee who is 65 or older or who has underlying health conditions to take the COVID vaccine, if their physicians approve. But our public schools and students will not be safe from this pandemic until every educator who wants a vaccine can get one, and it may be some months before Texas has enough vaccine doses to cover all educators and other high-risk groups. Read more.

Legislature must provide virtual testimony option

As the Texas Legislature prepares to convene during a deadly pandemic, the Texas State Teachers Association calls on legislators to provide an option for virtual testimony for all committee hearings. The lawmaking process must remain accessible to all members of the public, including those who need or prefer the safety of participating remotely. Read more.

January 8, 2021

Betsy DeVos resigns as Education Secretary

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos submitted her resignation in a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying she would step down over the rampage at the Capitol. Although she went on to praise the President for championing her school choice agenda, she lamented: “Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us. They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired yesterday. Read more.

NEA’s statement on the resignation of Betsy DeVos

January 7, 2021

Talking to kids about the attack on the capitol

Wednesday’s violence at the United States Capitol is an attack on our country and on our democratic institutions and most children are aware of more than we realize. Our nation has never witnessed an event like this in recent history and it’s difficult to make sense of the confusing, frightening scenes, let alone explain the situation to our children. But what is most important to remember and to tell kids is that the brave people who are helping will eventually bring order and peace. Read more

January 4, 2021

Plans to introduce weekly COVID testing at all schools

President-elect Joe Biden is weighing a multibillion-dollar plan for fully reopening schools that would hinge on testing all students, teachers and staff for COVID-19 at least once a week, with the cost covered by the federal government. Transition officials are still trying to determine the exact price for regular testing in the nation’s schools, with one person close to the deliberations putting the cost at between $8 billion and $10 billion over an initial three-month period. Mr Biden has pledged to reopen the majority of schools within his first 100 days in office, amid growing concerns about the educational and mental health toll that months of remote learning has taken on a generation of students. Read more

New Texas bill would compel schools to rehire teachers who quit due to COVID

Teachers that quit their jobs due to COVID-19 concerns would get the chance to return to their old desks with benefits and all if a newly filed bill in the Texas Legislature is passed into laws. COVID-wary teachers driven from the job by the virus would be entitled to return to the same pay and benefits under the bill. Read more

December 22, 2020

Allow schools to end in-person instruction until every educator who wants a vaccine can get one

The Texas State Teachers Association encourages every school employee who is 65 or older or who has underlying health conditions to take the COVID vaccine, if their physicians approve. But our public schools and students will not be safe until every educator who wants a vaccine can get one. Read more

December 15, 2020

TSTA calls on governor to extend “hold harmless”

The Texas State Teachers Association is one of 23 public education organizations and allies to petition Governor Abbott to extend the “hold harmless” period through the end of the school year. The hold harmless extension would guarantee school district funding at previous school year levels regardless of current year attendance. Read the letter.

December 14, 2020

TSTA adds new resources to COVID info page

Three new issue resources have been added to the TSTA COVID information page. Visit page here.

Cleaning and Disinfecting in the COVID-19 Era provides information and resources to help affiliates address common cleaning and disinfection concerns as schools and campuses return to in-person; NEA Issue Guidance: COVID-19 and Educator Workload addresses overall workload issues, identifies specific workload, offers key considerations, and discusses processes for addressing workload-related challenges; and NEA Issue Guidance: COVID-19 and the Workday provides strategies that locals can use to help educators limit the constant pressures expanding their workdays.

December 10, 2020

Don’t use STAAR to add more stress

The Texas Education Agency has suspended the A-F school accountability rating system for this school year, but TEA didn’t go far enough, TSTA once again calls on the agency and the governor to also cancel STAAR testing for any purpose. They already have decided STAAR scores won’t count toward student promotions this year but still insist on using it to try to measure student growth or learning loss during the pandemic. Read press release

December 9, 2020

TRS extends COVID benefits

At its quarterly meeting, TRS announced that it will be extending its COVID-19 related benefits for TRS Active-Care Standard & TRS–ActiveCare through March 31st of next year. Members will not have to pay for coverage for telemedicine, any COVID-19-related diagnostic testing, or COVID-19 related inpatient treatment. Agency staff indicated that going forward, the extension of these benefits will be decided on a quarterly basis. Chief Healthcare Officer Katrina Daniel stated that updates on COVID-19 related benefit expansion for TRS-Care Medicare Advantage are forthcoming.

December 7, 2020

Call to CDC to prioritize school staff for COVID vaccine

An alliance of labor organizations and trade groups representing teachers, principals and support staff is pressuring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prioritize access to a coronavirus vaccine for public school employees. The groups implored the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in a joint letter to bump them to the top of the list, just after health care workers. Read more

December 4, 2020

Ordering students to campuses for end-of-course exams is dangerous

Just as health experts are warning that the COVID-19 pandemic is entering a particularly dangerous phase, Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency are ordering thousands of students to return to their campuses before the winter break to take supervised end-of-course exams required for high school graduation. These include many students whose parents have decided, in the interest of their families’ safety, to keep their children home all semester for virtual learning. Read more

December 3, 2020

TRS video: Understanding your member statement

As you know, your annual statement is one of the most important documents you receive from the Teacher Retirement System. It includes valuable information about your membership, which will help you plan for your retirement. Grab your most-recent annual statement and follow along as this video explains it section by section. Watch here.

December 2, 2020

TSTA calls on governor to fully fund districts

The Texas State Teachers Association today called on Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency to quit forcing school districts, at the risk of losing funding, to keep buildings open during the COVID-19 pandemic. TSTA also urged the governor and TEA to keep districts fully funded, at last year’s levels, despite attendance losses over which the districts have no control during this health emergency. Read more

November 30, 2020

Comptroller delivers sunnier than expected revenue forecast

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s economic and revenue update to the Legislative Budget Board did not provide the specific number that will be available for the next two-year budget cycle, which runs from September 2021 through August 2023, but he did state that legislative budget writers will have more money to work with in the upcoming legislative session than was originally expected over the summer. Read more

November 20, 2020

TEA allows more virtual learning days for schools with COVID outbreaks and staffing shortages

The Texas Education Agency has issued new guidelines allowing schools to change to virtual learning if there are staffing shortages because of COVID-19 outbreaks that make in-person teaching difficult. In these cases, the change lets schools provide virtual learning for as long as 14 days. That’s a change from the previous allowance of five days and applies to individual schools only, not entire districts. Read more

November 19, 2020

Civil rights group releases LGBTQ guidance for educators

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, released Advocating for LGBTQ Students with Disabilities, a powerful new resource that provides educators and parents an overview of the rights of LGBTQ students with disabilities, as well as actionable recommendations on how to best support them. It includes a blueprint for successfully developing an Individualized Education Program for special services or a 504 plan for academic accommodations for LGBTQ students with disabilities.

The resource was developed in collaboration with legal and education experts at the National Education Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Read more

November 18, 2020

TSTA applauds legislators seeking STAAR cancellation

TSTA applauds and supports the efforts of 68 members of the Texas House, both Republicans and Democrats, who have called on the state education commissioner to seek the necessary federal waivers to cancel STAAR testing for this school year. Read more

November 17, 2020

TRS offers guidance for those joining Medicare soon

If you are becoming eligible for Medicare soon, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas is offering a new quarterly webinar called “TRS-Care Medicare & You” to help you understand the Medicare enrollment process and benefits available to you through the TRS-Care plans. Learn more

November 12, 2020

Virtual learning must remain an option, say physicians

The Texas Medical Association and the Texas Pediatric Society believe it is a mistake for school districts to discontinue virtual learning and require in-person instruction for all students and the Texas State Teachers Association agrees.

TSTA will go a step further and demand that Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency take control and require all school districts to continue virtual learning as an option for the remainder of the school year without any loss of funding. Districts that already have ended virtual learning must be ordered to reinstate it. Read more

November 10, 2020

TSTA member wins Humanities Texas Outstanding Teaching Award

Adrian Reyna, a US history teacher at Longfellow Middle School in San Antonio, a TSTA member and vice president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, has been selected as one of 16 recipients of a 2020 Humanities Texas Outstanding Teaching Award. Humanities Texas presents annual statewide awards to encourage excellence in teaching and recognize Texas classroom teachers who have made exemplary contributions in teaching, curriculum development and extracurricular programming.

Reyna is the recipient of the Julius Glickman Educational Leadership Award, which recognizes teachers who demonstrate exceptional leadership in the educational field. He is a founding member of PODER, a social justice caucus within the San Antonio Alliance that works to ensure culturally relevant pedagogy and conducts training for teachers and immigrant families. More than 700 teachers from across the state were nominated for this year’s awards. During the 2020–21 school year, each winning teacher will receive $5,000 and an additional $1,000 for his or her school to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. Read more

November 9, 2020

Massive shifts for K-12 policy on the horizon

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to pursue an ambitious agenda for K-12 election that will depend on both cooperation from Congress, and his administration’s ability to address the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on students and schools. During the campaign Mr Biden outlined an education policy platform that has a number of possible implications for K-12 schools, including increased teacher pay, stricter Title IX rules, more Title I funding, additional coronavirus response and more. Read more

October 29, 2020

Even with raises, teacher pay in Texas still falls short

Texas teachers finally received long overdue pay raises from the Legislature in 2019 but the only reason it happened is because teachers and other school employees turned out in large numbers in the 2018 elections. They unseated a dozen anti‐education members from the Texas House and two from the state Senate and replaced them with education friendly legislators. Read press release

Early voting ends tomorrow; Election Day is Tuesday; Vote Education First!

The election season is nearing an end, but there still is plenty of time to cast your vote, and the old cliché is true. Every vote does count, and your vote may be more meaningful than ever this year, when our country is suffering from a leadership crisis in the middle of a pandemic and the future of public education is on the line. Read more

October 28, 2020

Special education funds allocated

The Texas Education Agency and Governor Greg Abbott’s office have partnered to set aside funds for families using special education services. TEA Deputy Commissioner Matt Montano said that the new Supplemental Special Education Services program is for families with children who have significant cognitive disabilities and those with the most complex special education needs most negatively impacted by remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more

October 27, 2020

Educators file grievance over North East ISD reopening

The Texas State Teachers Association has filed a grievance with North East ISD on behalf of its affiliate, the North East Education Association, for directing teachers and support staff to return to campuses to work in the unsafe conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Press release
Exhibit A–Employee Complaint
Exhibit A Attachment

October 26, 2020

Join the early voting parade; MJ Hegar, the public education candidate, coming on strong in Senate race

Record numbers of Texans, including TSTA members, already have voted, and people like US Senator John Cornyn are nervous. Cornyn, a Trump lapdog for the past four years, is now trying to distance himself from the president because MJ Hegar, TSTA’s endorsed candidate, is coming on strong. Read more

October 20, 2020

Elected officials take care of their pensions while neglecting educators

If Texas voters elect MJ Hegar to the United States Senate to replace John Cornyn, the deposed senator would have an early start on financial security in retirement. Even while receiving his $174,000 Senate pay, he already has been collecting state retirement payments worth more than the average teacher salary. Read blog

October 16, 2020

Join the Text Out the Vote Day of Action on Saturday

Tomorrow, NEA will host a member-to-member Text Out the Vote Day of Action in an effort to encourage early or mail voting. From 11:30-2 p.m. Central time, we will be texting members. There will be speakers throughout the day, including congressional candidate Gina Ortiz Jones at 1:45, and between speakers there will be music and raffles as members stay on the zoom call and continue to text. Read more

October 1, 2020

TSTA calls on the state to extend the virtual learning option statewide

TEA issued new guidelines allowing districts in several counties with high rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations, including the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo, to seek waivers for four additional weeks of virtual learning. TSTA has called on the state to extend the option for exclusive online learning to every school district in the state until at least the winter break without a funding penalty. Read more

September 30, 2020

State must fix the school COVID tracker and provide infection data for every district and campus

TSTA President Ovidia Molina released a statement regarding the state policies on teachers, school employees and students returning to classrooms before it is safe for them to do so during this pandemic. The state officials who are putting them in harm’s way can’t even keep track of how many COVID‐19 infections have been reported in all the school districts, much less in individual campuses. This information is critical for educators, their students and parents, and the state’s failure to accurately provide it is inexcusable. Read press release

With IDEA charter expansion, commissioner expands raid on taxpayers

The IDEA charter chain, which already takes a half-billion-dollar-a-year bite from Texas taxpayers, was given permission by Commissioner Mike Morath to expand its raid on state and local school budgets for additional millions.

It is time for Morath to stop promoting out-of-control corporate charter operators and start regulating them. Instead, the commissioner has approved 12 new IDEA campuses and increased its enrollment cap by 15,000 students, at the expense of existing public schools, which already are struggling with strained budgets from the COVID-19 pandemic. IDEA already operates about 90 campuses in Texas. Read press release

September 24, 2020

Texas school coronavirus cases rising

Even though national data shows early evidence that reopening schools may not be as risky as many feared the number of Texas students testing positive for the coronavirus has risen as more districts reopen schools. According to state data released Wednesday there are 1,212 new confirmed coronavirus cases among Texas students and 660 new cases among teachers and staff for the week ending September 20, and in total an estimated 3,445 Texas students and 2,850 staff members have tested positive since the school year began. Read more

September 18, 2020

First district infection numbers in; nearly 5000 ill since start of semester

More than 2,300 of Texas public school students who have returned to school in person since the beginning of this academic year have reported testing positive for COVID-19, according to a dashboard the state released Thursday in a first effort to publicly track the way the pandemic is impacting public schools. The data also show that 2,175 school employees who have come back to school in person reported testing positive for COVID-19. Read more

September 17, 2020

TSTA launches new micro-credential portal

Lifelong professional learning is essential in education, and in an effort to make it easier for all educators to access these opportunities the National Education Association has developed NEA Micro-credentials, and TSTA has launched its own Texas-branded portal. Read more

September 16, 2020

TSTA sues San Antonio ISD, education commissioner over Democracy Prep charter takeover

TSTA has sued San Antonio ISD and state Education Commissioner Mike Morath over the commissioner’s decision in 2018 allowing SAISD to turn over operations of Stewart Elementary School to Democracy Prep. This is a New York-based charter school chain. Read press release

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in state district court in Austin.

Proposed LGBTQ lessons rejected by board

Advocates for LGBTQ rights are pushing back against the Texas Board of Education’s recent rejection of a proposed curriculum to teach middle school and high school students about gender identity and sexual orientation. Last week, the board rejected a batch of proposed curriculum changes that would see students required to learn about the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation as well as a proposal to teach middle schoolers about consent. Read more

September 15, 2020

TSTA files grievance over unsafe COVID-19 policies, practices in Killeen ISD

The Texas State Teachers Association today filed a grievance with Killeen ISD on behalf of its affiliate, the Killeen Educators Association, whose teacher and paraprofessional members have been forced to work in unsafe conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more

Trump and DeVos push school choice

President Donald Trump is hoping to leverage parents’ education concerns into newfound support for school choice policies. If public schools fail to open, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos say parents should get a cut of the district’s federal funding to send their children to private schools or for home schooling, learning pods or other options that have arisen during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more

COVID-19 school closures could cost US economy $14 trillion

The loss of academic learning due to schools closing to stem the spread of the coronavirus could cost the US economy between $14 trillion and $28 trillion if they remain closed for in-person learning much longer, according to a new study. Read more

September 14, 2020

TSTA members report violations of COVID safety guidelines

During the two weeks since many school districts began reopening campuses to students, TSTA members have reported hundreds of violations of COVID-19 safety guidelines, reinforcing TSTA’s concerns about the safety of school employees, students and their families. Read more

September 11, 2020

SBOE charter decision inflicts more damage on public schools

The State Board of Education dealt a blow to Texas school children and taxpayers with its approval of five new unneeded charter school applications that we can ill-afford, particularly during a pandemic-driven financial crisis. There were no groundswells of local community support for these schools. The only noticeable support came from the charter applicants and operators eager to continue poaching students and tax dollars from the state and under-funded school districts. Read more

September 8, 2020

Governor overemphasizes size of likely pay raises under new selective teacher program

Gov. Greg Abbott is overselling a new selective pay program for a handful of teachers at a time when all Texas teachers are finding their professional abilities challenged and thousands are risking their health to return to classrooms while the coronavirus remains an ever‐present danger. Read more

September 1, 2020

Trump demands “patriotic education” in US schools

President Donald Trump said Monday that the nation must restore “patriotic education” in schools as a way to calm unrest in cities and counter “lies” about racism in the United States. Trump blamed violent protests in Portland, Ore., and other cities in recent months on “left-wing indoctrination” in schools and universities, while accusing his Democratic presidential challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, of giving “moral aid and comfort” to vandals. Read more

August 31, 2020

Schools must file weekly COVID-19 reports

The Texas Education Agency will from September 8 require school districts to file weekly reports on new COVID-19 cases among students, teachers and staff. The reports must include any student, teacher or staff member who participates in any on-campus activity and has been confirmed to have a COVID-19 infection, whether the cases were contracted on or off campus, and whether the entire campus closed as a result. The TEA and Department of State Health Services will collaborate on collecting and updating the data, which will be published statewide and sorted by district. Read more

August 25, 2020

COVID-19 school reopening battles move to the courts

A number of lawsuits across the United States are to be heard regarding the reopening of schools with some plaintiffs seeking to keep campuses closed amid orders from state officials to open them. Other cases present the flip side, with parents suing to open public or private schools in states where the governor has ordered school buildings to remain closed. In Florida, the state’s largest teachers’ unions are seeking to block an emergency order by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that requires most school districts to open “brick and mortar” schools five days a week by the end of August or else face a reduction of state funding. Read more

August 21, 2020

Digital divide in Texas is wide but can be corrected, TSTA study confirms

Overall digital access for Texas students is worse than in the country as a whole, but the biggest victims are low-income, rural and minority students, a study commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association found. Read more

August 20, 2020

New Trump COVID guidelines for teachers are dangerous

New Trump administration guidance that teachers can be sent into classrooms after being exposed to COVID-19 and without a quarantine period is dangerous to students, educators and their families. The Texas State Teachers Association demands that Gov. Abbott reject these guidelines for classifying teachers as “critical infrastructure workers” in Texas. Read more

August 19, 2020

Commissioner is wrong to approve new charters

At a time when public schools face unprecedented financial challenges from the coronavirus pandemic and state agencies are being asked to cut spending, Education Commissioner Mike Morath has approved eight new charter school applications for Texas. Three are for corporate-style charter chains based outside of Texas. The big question is “why?” Read more

August 17, 2020

Ysleta school nurse from El Paso to address DNC

Michele Beebe, a school nurse in Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, will address the virtual Democratic National Convention tonight on the challenges she is facing during the new normal of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more

August 13, 2020

Biden, Harris “Dream Ticket” for public education

Kamala Harris, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s choice for running mate, has earned an “A” from the National Education Association as a first-term senator from California. She respects educators, has called out Betsy DeVos’ incompetence over reopening schools during the pandemic, has investigated for-profit charters and voted against vouchers, has advocated for increased K-12 funding, supports racial justice and equity and has proposed plans to make college more accessible. Read more

August 11, 2020

Most teachers want to start school year remotely

A poll of teachers carried out by NPR and Ipsos found that most K-12 teachers are concerned about returning to the classroom, with two-thirds wanting to start the year with distance learning in place. Seventy-seven per cent of teachers are worried about their own health, and 78% are concerned about having access to personal protective equipment and cleaning materials. Teachers are also concerned with enforcing safety procedures such as mask-wearing and social distancing, with 49% of teachers polled saying it is “very likely” enforcing social distancing will be difficult. Read more

August 7, 2020

Governor backs AG’s shortsighted school reopening guidance

According to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, local health officials are unable to use their authority to close campuses to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Abbott’s statement is in line with earlier nonbinding guidance released by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Read more

Census updates increase fear of undercount in Texas

On July 21, President Trump released a memo stating that undocumented communities will not be taken into account when apportioning Congressional representation between the states, an attempt to shift political representation away from places with large immigrant communities by defying the census’ constitutional mandate to ensure that each state is represented in proportion to their population. The U.S. Census Bureau also released a statement this week announcing that all counting efforts for the 2020 census will end on September 30, a month earlier than previously announced. Read more

August 4, 2020

Governor, you are responsible

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement regarding reopening schools.

“The governor says he is not responsible for making decisions about reopening schools, and it is the local school board that is responsible. We couldn’t disagree more. The governor needs to stop passing the buck to local school boards on when to reopen and should mandate no district start in-person instruction before Sept. 8 and then only when it is safe to do so. The governor continues to ignore the fact that when schools do start, the Texas Education Agency will require districts to offer in-person instruction to students who request it, putting those students, school employees and families at risk.” Read more

August 3, 2020

SBEC creates COVID carveout for student teachers

The State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) met to discuss special rules regarding COVID-19 and pre-service candidate practicum requirements, including student teaching. The agency proposed that for the 2020-21 school year only, candidates be allowed to complete field-based and clinical experiences in a virtual setting, and that supervisors be allowed to complete formal observations in a virtual setting. As originally drafted, the rule limited observations to synchronous settings, but in response to numerous comments by educator preparation stakeholders the language was amended to include both synchronous and asynchronous virtual settings. The board voted to consider and take appropriate action on adoption. If approved by the State Board of Education in September, this special rule would become effective October 15, 2020. Read more

July 31, 2020

TSTA: State must prohibit school openings before Sept. 8

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement:

“With a pandemic still raging across Texas, the Texas State Teachers Association demands that the state prohibit any school district from beginning classes, in-person or remotely, before Sept. 8.” Read more

July 29, 2020

TSTA: CARES Act funding should be allocated according to statute

TSTA submitted comments regarding the ways in which the US Department of Education is asking states to calculate the share of CARES Act funding that will be distributed to private schools.

The Department of Education is advocating for a formula that would allocate funding to all students attending private schools, regardless of need. Because this calculation is not provided in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and robs our nation’s most underserved students of the resources to which they are entitled, TSTA is arguing that this in violation of the CARES Act statute. Read more

July 28, 2020

TSTA: We trust health experts, not the attorney general, when children’s lives are at stake

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement:

Attorney General Ken Paxton has concluded that local health officials lack the authority to order school buildings closed as a precautionary safety measure to protect students, educators and local communities in the midst of a deadly pandemic that threatens to continue raging across Texas for weeks to come. Read more

July 27, 2020

Governor must suspend STAAR-related accountability, teacher evaluation

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia released the following statement:

“We are glad the governor suspended the promotion requirements for fifth and eighth graders that are tied to STAAR scores for the upcoming school year, but he didn’t go far enough. STAAR testing will still be wasteful and stressful at a time when teachers, students and their parents are stressed out enough over a deadly pandemic. Read more

July 22, 2020

TSTA sues education commissioner over charter rules

The Texas State Teachers Association today sued state Education Commissioner Mike Morath for adopting charter school partnership rules that illegally deprive public school teachers of contractual and other employment rights and allow corporate charter chains to operate in Texas without certified teachers.

July 17, 2020

Schools must reopen when it is safe, not to meet a state deadline

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement on TEA’s new school opening guidelines:

“The state education commissioner has given school districts additional time to reopen school buildings without a financial penalty, but irrelevant deadlines are not what educators and students need. Educators, students and their parents need assurance that school buildings will not be reopened until it is safe to do so. Right now, with the pandemic still raging across Texas, we don’t know when that will be. Read more

July 15, 2020

Governor must act to protect students and educators

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina issued the following statement today:

“We are glad to hear that the state won’t overturn local health officials who have ordered school buildings to remain closed for several more weeks while the pandemic continues to rage across Texas. But Gov. Abbott and the state education commissioner need to quit passing the buck on this crucial issue that affects the health and safety of millions of school children, school employees and their communities. Read more

TSTA welcomes new officers

President Ovidia Molina and Vice President Linda Estrada took office today as the Texas State Teachers Association’s new top leaders, vowing to guide TSTA members safely through the biggest challenges of their educational careers – the COVID-19 pandemic and a reconfiguration of the public school system.

Molina, a former English-as-a-second-language (ESL) and history teacher to middle-schoolers in Alief ISD, has been TSTA’s vice president for the past six years. In her new job, she succeeds Noel Candelaria, who was term-limited after serving as TSTA president for six years and vice president three years before that. Estrada, a former elementary school secretary in Donna ISD, succeeds Molina to become the first education support professional to be elected a state officer of TSTA. Read more

Education coalition announces Ethnic Studies web series

The Ethnic Studies Network of Texas, in collaboration with educators and community leaders throughout Texas, have announced a summer web series focused on teaching African American and Mexican American Studies in Texas schools. Read more

July 14, 2020

More districts plan to start school virtually

As coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, school districts “large and small” are announcing plans to start the year virtually. Due to “skyrocketing” coronavirus infection rates in California, Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school district, announced plans jointly with San Diego Unified on Monday that they would both start the school year with online instruction. Read more

Texas superintendents lead calls for greater reopening flexibility

Superintendents at some of Texas’ largest school districts are pushing back against the planned return to class next month, urging the Texas Education Agency to give local officials greater flexibility to adapt to the growing pandemic. In a letter directed to Governor Greg Abbott, the Texas School Alliance and the Texas Urban Council of Superintendents shared grave concerns regarding funding for school attendance. Read more

July 13, 2020

Pflugerville, Del Valle teachers demand remote learning for start of school year

The Pflugerville Educators Association and the Del Valle Education Association today demanded that their districts provide only remote instruction for the first nine weeks of the new school year without penalizing the districts with funding cuts. Both believe it’s not reasonable to require teachers and other school employees to endanger their health and even their lives by returning to campuses when, in all likelihood, the pandemic will still be very dangerous.
Read press release

July 10, 2020

Federal funding is essential to saving Texas’ public services

The Center for American Progress, the Economic Policy Institute; the National Education Association; and other public sector unions published a fact sheet outlining the effects of COVID-19 and the resulting recession on the Texas economy and prescribing federal funding to shore up essential services. Read more

July 8, 2020

TEA announces guidelines for reopening schools

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has published new public health guidelines for officials to consider when planning the reopening of their schools. Texas public school districts must reopen campuses for in-person instruction in August to continue receiving state funding, unless the governor issues a school closure order or a confirmed case of COVID-19 on an individual campus forces a brief shutdown of the building. Read more

July 7, 2020

TSTA: Slow down and put safety first in school reopenings

The Texas State Teachers Association is calling on Governor Greg Abbott to slow down and put safety first before he allows school districts to begin reopening campuses for the fall semester. The governor reopened everything to early and hospitalizations soared. We can’t afford to let that happen in our schools. Read TSTA’s press release

Oped: High-stakes testing now? Cut STAAR, spend on extra costs of education during the pandemic

Even with all the worries and uncertainties around reopening our schools, state Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced to the State Board of Education that stress-inducing and money-wasting STAAR exams will resume during the upcoming school year. TSTA has a better idea, continue the timeout on STAAR testing. Read more

July 6, 2020

Early voting for party runoffs continues through July 10

You can vote early until July 10 and Election Day will be July 14. TSTA has endorsed three Republican legislative candidates and two Democrats. Read more

Thinking of a “temporary” retirement? Better know the facts first

The possibility of reopening schools in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has some educators thinking about retiring early. Some may be thinking about retiring until the pandemic subsides and then returning to the classroom after a year or two. The Teacher Retirement System cautions, however, that there are no provisions in the law allowing a public educator to retire “temporarily.” Read more

July 1, 2020

Religious schools gain more access to state aid

In what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos described as “a historic victory” for school choice, the Supreme Court has ruled that states must allow religious schools to participate in programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools. This decision opened the door for more public funding of religious education. The court’s 5-to-4 decision in Espinoza v Montana Department of Revenue does not directly affect public schools, but their supporters said they feared it would help divert resources from public to private education. Read more

June 30, 2020

TSTA: Let’s continue the time out on STAAR testing

The state education commissioner has announced that STAAR testing will resume this year and TSTA believes we should continue the time out on STAAR testing. Read press release

Texan considers sexual education standards

Texas education officials considered a new statewide sexual education policy on Monday. From teachers and parents to community advocates, the Board of Education meeting was a conversation about such policy for the first time in 23 years. While currently, Texas’ public schools are not required to teach sexual education, if it is taught then the law requires that schools stress abstinence. The board is expected to make a final decisions by November. Read more

June 29, 2020

Biden proposes full federal funding for special education

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has called for full federal funding of special education. Currently, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, enacted in 1975, guarantees students with disabilities the right to a free public education appropriate to their needs. The law requires that the federal government cover 40% of the cost, and states, counties and school districts pay the remaining 60%. The extra money would give schools leeway in their budgets for other programs, and improve special education offerings in districts that have struggled to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Read more

June 26, 2020

Texas still behind in education funding

Texas still trails many states and the District of Columbia in average teacher pay and the amount of spending per student, according to a new report on state-by-state education spending compiled by the National Education Association (NEA). Read press release

TEA Releases 2020-21 attendance and funding guidelines for new virtual options

The Texas Education Agency has released guidance for the upcoming school year on remote instruction as well as attendance and enrollment requirements for virtual options. Commissioner Mike Morath said schools will receive the same funding for daily attendance for each student who is taught remotely from home as the district would receive for on-campus instruction, provided attendance is recorded in virtual learning platforms. Read more

June 24, 2020

TEA delays school reopening announcement

Texas Education Agency officials delayed an expected announcement of school reopening guidelines Tuesday, though a draft plan indicates a light-handed role in coronavirus prevention measures. A draft document found on the TEA website however shows officials are envisioning imposing few mandatory safety precautions while recommending that staff and students wear masks, sanitize their hands regularly and stay six feet apart where possible. Read more

June 23, 2020

TSTA demands state order mask use on campuses

If schools are going to be forced to reopen prematurely, the Texas State Teachers Association demands that the governor and the education commissioner require every school district to mandate everyone entering a school campus or other workplace — students, teachers, staff, everyone — to wear a mask and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Read more

June 22, 2020

School systems struggle with politics of reopening

School superintendents are grappling with the politics of reopening their campuses with some parents demanding that schools open and then others that are saying, we’re not going to send our kids to school. You have teachers that are saying we’re not going to go back to work. Districts that are saying, with these budget cuts, we’re going to have to lay off teachers. The concern isn’t just for students. Nearly a third of K-12 teachers may be at higher risk for severe illness because they are over 50. Education leaders say all these changes will require additional funding and many decisions are on hold until they know what’s coming. Read more

June 19, 2020

Governor tells lawmakers Texas students will return to school campuses this fall

Texas students will return to public schools in person this fall, Governor Abbott told state lawmakers on Thursday. Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, in a formal statement, said: “It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers, and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall. But there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely, if the parent so chooses.” However, representatives from the Texas State Teachers Association fear that returning to school without proper coronavirus mitigation protocols would place both students and teachers in danger.

TSTA’s news release
Texas Tribune Article

June 18, 2020

TSTA applauds Supreme Court’s DACA decision as “huge blow” for democracy, humanity and decency

TSTA applauds the Supreme Court’s decision protecting the Dreamers. Many are on the front lines, risking their own lives to save the lives of others during this coronavirus pandemic. Read TSTA’s press release

June 17, 2020

TEA outlines ‘calendar adjustment’ scenarios

With the 2020-21 school year likely to be severely disrupted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Texas Education Agency has outlined two school calendar scenarios to help districts adjust for potential learning loss. Projections show the possibility of a year’s worth of progress lost in math for students. Read more

June 15, 2020

TSTA wins court victory protecting teachers’ rights in charter takeovers

A state district judge this week ruled that state Education Commissioner Mike Morath violated the law by writing a rule that allows charter chains to take over struggling public schools without first consulting with teachers and other campus personnel. A summary judgment, agreeing with the Texas State Teachers Association’s arguments that a 2017 law allowing school districts to partner with charter schools in the operation of struggling campuses requires employees at the affected campuses to be consulted in the process. The law, SB1882, gives districts that partner with charters a reprieve from state sanctions over struggling campuses and additional funding. Read TSTA’s press release

Federal coronavirus aid could fall short

School districts in Texas that are expecting a piece of the recently-announced supplemental federal aid under the CARES Act could be left feeling short-changed if the state reduces its share of public school funding. Though the Texas Education Agency has committed to fully fund the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, agency officials plan to tap that 1.2 billion federal aid to do so and there are currently no options for reimbursement for coronavirus-related expenses incurred over the summer or in the fall. Public education advocates argue that the state’s reasoning is faulty because even though students were learning remotely, schools were still spending just as many resources, if not more, to educate them through May. Districts incurred greater costs than anything saved as spending on student meals, laptops, Wi-Fi spots and other technology skyrocketed. It isn’t the intent of those funds to balance district budgets. Read more

June 9, 2020

Calls for districts to disband school police forces

A coalition of social justice groups, including attorneys, educators and youth involved in the juvenile justice system, have written to Houston ISD urging officials to divest from school policing and instead invest in mental health counselors and social workers in schools. While the district’s police force is nationally accredited and responds to more than 80,000 calls a year across more than 300 square miles in greater Houston, HISD’s counseling team doesn’t meet the recommended national staffing ratios. Read more

June 8, 2020

Barriers prohibited on school buses

The Texas Department of Pupil Safety (TDPS) has reminded all state school districts that installing shields or barriers that separate bus drivers from students, or students from each other, remain prohibited under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards regulations. The TDPS guidance also stresses that all manufacturers, distributors, dealers and motor vehicle repair business are prohibited from knowingly making inoperative any FMVSS-required safety systems that are installed on a motor vehicle. Read more

June 6, 2020

TSTA elections

This year, the House of Delegates was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and all statewide TSTA HoD elections were conducted by mail ballot. The following are the final and official results of the TSTA 2020 Elections:

TSTA Vice President
Linda Estrada

NEA Director Place 2
Francisco Dionisio

NEA Director Place 3
Aaron Phillips

ESP At Large
Katrina Moreno

Administrator At Large
Micaela Escobar

June 5, 2020

TRS: A pandemic economic meltdown is a really good time to have a defined benefits pension

The market decline will not affect retirees’ pension payments, they will continue to be disbursed on time. TRS has key advantages built into its portfolio and the TRS investment team has fully transitioned to working from home and has all the resources it needs to be fully operational. Read more

June 3, 2020

We need to make a greater effort on educating children against racism

Everyone is entitled to an equal opportunity at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, including equal justice and economic opportunity, not just in theory but also in practice. A shift in the dialogue on race in our country begins in our classrooms. Read TSTA President Noel Canelaria’s oped.

June 2, 2020

Supers dismiss year-round schooling proposals

Superintendents appear to be dismissing the Texas Education Agency’s call for schools to consider a year-round calendar due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The TEA’s proposed calendar for 2020-2021 projects schools starting on August 3 and ending on June 23, with breaks in November, December, January and March. Read more

June 1, 2020

Schools battling to reopen despite lack of guidance

School districts are finding it difficult to properly plan reopening amid the lack of local and federal guidance over coronavirus. Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, warns that the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to happen – and not having any clear guidelines and direction and orders from the governor and the Texas Education Agency for districts to follow – is causing educators to retire already. Read more

Major concerns over school lunch programs

Nearly half of America’s schoolchildren were on free or reduced lunch before the pandemic and school shutdowns eliminated the revenue that came from other children whose families paid for the meals. At the same time, costs have soared, due to the acquisition of protective equipment for employees, extra cleaning measures, and the introduction of hazard pay for employees. In current emergency feeding programs, children and parents don’t have to prove that they qualify for free meals. That will change in the fall, and with unemployment rates skyrocketing because of the pandemic, it is unclear how much more profound the needs will be. Read more

May 29, 2020

TSTA offering Continuing Professional Education online this summer

TSTA is offering three CPE sessions that will be held virtually and led by Carrie Griffith, our learning and teaching specialist and a former fifth grade teacher, literacy specialist and instructional coach in Austin ISD. Course descriptions and registration information can be found here.

May 26, 2020

TSTA opposes TEA rule promoting STAAR for appraisals

Although House Bill 3 explicitly states that performance standards may not require a district to use an assessment instrument adopted to evaluate teacher performance under the new local optional teacher designation system, TEA’s proposed rule does just that. In written testimony filed with TEA, we pointed out that the proposed rule, as written, would effectively limit districts to choosing STAAR scores — the instrument adopted under Section 39.023 — as the student growth component of their teacher performance evaluations. Other allowable student growth components, including student learning objectives, portfolios and district- or teacher-created assessments, all have been shown in research to more accurately reflect student learning. But district applications choosing these more holistic and researched-backed student growth components would be unjustly disadvantaged and less likely to be approved. TSTA does not believe that this proposed rule honors the prohibition on using high stakes test to measure teacher performance.

Districts discuss possible fall scenarios

With more questions than answers at present, school districts are gearing up for the 2020-21 school year. Longview ISD administrators are championing safety, while Spring Hill ISD Superintendent is preparing for possible pandemic-related disruptions in the school year. Pine Tree ISD is preparing for several scenarios, one being the possibility of an uptick in COVID-19 cases this fall causing school to close for a couple of weeks and the district will get more technology and teachers will get more training for a smooth transition to virtual learning. Sabine ISD is preparing to have regular face-to-face instruction, online learning and a blend of both, as is Gladewater ISD. Highland Park ISD continues to explore and prepare for the possibilities of a total brick-and-mortar scenario, a totally virtual scenario, and hybrid scenarios for the fall. Read more

School districts can begin tapping into $1.29 billion in emergency federal funding in June

Most of the pandemic-relief money, appropriated as part of the CARES Act, will be distributed among school districts on the basis of student poverty rates. The biggest share, $81.7 million, will go to the state’s largest district, Houston ISD. TEA said districts will have flexibility in how to spend the money, but the agency is enforcing a controversial requirement that districts will have to share part of the funding with private school students, regardless of family income, within their boundaries. Read more

May 22, 2020

TSTA demands enforcement of strict safety requirements before school buildings are reopened

If Governor Greg Abbott’s job required him to enter school buildings, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so quick to allow school campuses to be reopened on June 1 for in-person summer school. We don’t know how many school districts plan to do that, but we are demanding that the state and local school districts agree to enforce a detailed list of safety requirements for school campuses before reopening buildings to students and school employees for the summer or the fall semester. Read more

May 20, 2020

June 1 too early to reopen schools; demands enforcement of strict safety requirements

TSTA says that June 1 is too early to reopen school buildings for summer school classes and demanded that the state and local school districts agree to enforce a detailed list of safety requirements for school campuses before reopening buildings to students and school employees. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage across Texas, the health and safety of students, educators and our communities need to remain our first priority. See press release

May 15, 2020

CDC issues guidance for reopening schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published documents on Thursday to provide guidance on how schools, childcare centers and other establishments can begin to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. Schools, childcare centers and camps should not reopen unless they are able to implement coronavirus screening protocols and evaluate employees and children daily for symptoms and potential past exposures to COVID-19. All workplaces should hold off on reopening unless they can protect employees at higher risk for severe illness, including those 65 and older and people of all ages with underlying medical conditions, the CDC asserts, before intensifying cleaning and sanitation, establishing health and safety actions, wearing cloth face coverings and ensuring that social distancing measures are implemented. The documents also advise employers to encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick. Read more

May 14, 2020

Join TODAY’S tele-town hall on how Congress can help our public schools recover from the pandemic; sign up now

Also participating will be US Representative Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. We will discuss what additional steps Congress must take to stabilize education funding (an additional $175 billion appropriation nationwide) and support the safety of students and educators now and when school buildings reopen. And we will discuss what we can do to move Congress. The town hall will begin at 6 p.m., Central time, and 5 p.m., Mountain, today. Register here.

May 13, 2020

How do you feel about mandated professional development? Tell us what you want to change

TSTA has been asked to represent Texas teachers alongside other stakeholders in the review of the existing continuing professional education (CPE) requirements. The Texas Teacher Workforce Committee is looking at current requirements and on behalf of members is offering recommendations about what should be reduced, eliminated or revised. To ensure that your voice is heard, we invite you to complete a survey about which general topics and mandated trainings you find the most and least valuable and why. This survey will take only about 10 minutes of your time and must be completed by May 31.

May 12, 2020

TEA issues guidance on calendar changes for 2020-21

Many districts already are considering significant changes, including an “intersessional calendar,” which would begin the fall semester earlier than normal and end the school year later. This will build in time in the calendar for longer break periods, in case a resurgence of the coronavirus requires new school closures. Read more

Texas to help more families with school meals

In response to the coronavirus crisis, US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced that Texas can operate the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, more commonly known as Pandemic EBT. This allows families to receive additional benefits equal to the value of free or reduced-price meals that their children would normally receive at school. In the 2019-2020 school year, approximately 3.6 million children were eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch in Texas – approximately 67% of kids in participating schools. Read more

May 11, 2020

Statewide push to narrow digital divide

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has announced an initiative called Operation Connectivity to provide all students in the state with high-speed internet connections, along with any other resources they need to connect and communicate online. Working with the Texas Education Agency, Gov. Abbott got the idea from Dallas ISD, where superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa successfully helped to close the digital divide. Read more

May 7, 2020

TEA issues guidance for restricted graduation ceremonies, including outdoor events

The Texas Education Agency announced this week that school districts will have some options for restricted graduation ceremonies, both online and in-person, and subject to restrictions. Districts can conduct completely virtual ceremonies at any time. Read more

May 6, 2020

Ed group warns against virtual school network expansion

The Coalition for Public Schools, which includes more than 40 organizations — including TSTA — representing over three million Texans, addressed concerns about recent suggestions that Texas make sweeping executive and administrative changes to the Texas Virtual Schools Network (TXVSN). In a letter addressed to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath the group outlined several reasons why an expansion of TXVSN is problematic for Texas students, including data revealing that full-time virtual schools do not perform as well as brick-and-mortar schools or schools that employ a blended learning approach. Read the full letter here.

TEA outlines in-person graduation requirements

The Texas Education Agency announced restrictions Tuesday for how school districts can conduct in-person graduation ceremonies for their seniors, limiting them to protect school communities from contracting Covid-19. Announcing the formal guidelines, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said: “Districts can keep their ceremonies completely virtual, celebrate seniors while they drive in a procession, knit pictures of individual seniors into a graduation video or host a socially distanced outdoor ceremony.” Read more

May 5, 2020

Texas supers braced for fall return

While it’s too early to pin down specifics amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, superintendents in Texas are regardless having to consider how public education might look in the fall. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has been holding biweekly phone calls with superintendents across the state to discuss plans but no official decisions have been made. While there are easy to navigate practical requirements to attend to, such as stocking up on Chromebooks and hard-to-find Wi-Fi hotspots, superintendents are also cautiously rolling out information to staff and parents as they weigh the potential health risks of bringing kids back too early. Read more

May 4, 2020

Many teachers at high risk for coronavirus

New data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 29% of traditional public school teachers, 21% of public charter school teachers and 37% of private school teachers are aged 50 or older. This indicates that huge numbers of teachers will be at increased risk of developing COVID-19 when schools reopen. Some 92% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were of people ages 55 and older, as of April 27, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more

SBEC will approve lifetime legacy master teachers; discusses how COVID-19 has impacted educators

After urging by TSTA and an explanation of legislative intent by the House public education chairman, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) will remove the expiration dates from legacy master teacher certificates. Read more

May 1, 2020

Parents Exhibit Deep Support For Teachers Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

As we approach Teacher Appreciation Week, a new poll of parents/guardians shows overwhelming support for the work public school educators are doing during the coronavirus pandemic. The poll includes key findings from 800 parents/guardians of school-aged children in public schools.

April 30, 2020

Join today’s webinar for learning your rights to new paid sick and family leave benefits

These benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will be discussed today in a webinar to be conducted by NEA’s Office of General Counsel. Expanded benefits under unemployment insurance programs for workers who have had their hours reduced or have lost employment due to the pandemic will also be discussed in this hour-long event. Read more and signup

April 29, 2020

More public mixing and mingling likely as Governor Abbott loosens health-related restrictions

School buildings remain closed under what Abbott is calling Phase 1 of his “Reopen Texas” plan, but his loosening of restrictions, will result in more mixing and mingling during the current health emergency. The new order will go into effect Friday, following the expiration of his earlier stay-at-home order on Thursday. Read more

School Nurses Join Fight Against Coronavirus

With most school buildings closed, many school nurses have joined their health care colleagues in America’s hospitals to combat the coronavirus crisis. And even more are conducting wellness checks on their students. Here’s a look at how school nurses continue to be on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 27, 2020

Trump suggests schools open before summer

President Donald Trump has suggested that states should “seriously consider” reopening public schools before the end of the academic year. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worked to finalize guidelines for reopening the economy, which for schools included putting students’ desks six feet apart, serving meals in the classroom instead of the cafeteria and closing playgrounds, Francisco Negrón, chief legal officer for the National School Boards Association, warned: “If schools reopen too quickly and end up spreading the coronavirus, schools could be held legally liable.” Read more

April 26, 2020

TEA STEM grant application window open

STEM jobs are expected to increase in Texas by 20% between now and 2027. In order to meet the current and growing statewide demand for STEM knowledge and skills, as well as widening gaps in equity and access to STEM education, TEA is offering competitive grants to support the development and/or expansion of STEM pathways in computer science, cybersecurity, or engineering pathways.

Six to 12 campuses across the state will be selected as Lone Star STEM Academy grant recipients and will pilot programing developed by TEA in partnership with Jobs for the Future and the University of Texas STEM Education.

The application window is currently open until May 18.

For more information, contact the TEA STEM coordinator, Michelle Seedberry at

or visit

April 24, 2020

NEA invites members to national union town hall Saturday

This Saturday, April 25, NEA will join brothers and sisters from unions nationwide for a tele-town hall with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Elizabeth Warren to discuss how we use our collective power to advocate for working people in coronavirus relief legislation. NEA will have an ESP, Vanessa Jimenez, represented as a speaker on this call. Register to join the call

Billions more in coronavirus education aid released

US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made more than $13 billion in emergency relief funds available to state and local education agencies, as part of the CARES Act signed into law by President Donald Trump last month. The money will initially go to states, but at least 90% ultimately must be passed along to school districts via the Title I formula designed to help schools with large shares of students from low-income households. Read more

Governor’s order allows teachers and staff to return to campuses if necessary

Gov. Abbott’s order, GA-16, issued last week, overrides any local shelter-in-place orders that would restrict school employees if they need to return to campus, the attorney general’s office has advised the state education commissioner. Read more

April 21, 2020

National Education Association To Host 2020 Representative Assembly Virtually Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

NEA Board of Directors has voted to hold the 2020 NEA Representative Assembly virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García released the following statement. Read more

SBOE approves African American studies course, cleans up career and technical education rules

Much of last Friday’s State Board of Education meeting involved discussion and final approval of the first statewide course in African American studies, which will be available as a high school elective beginning next fall. For more information on the new course, check last Friday’s Briefing or read the story linked at the bottom of this item.

The board also aligned career and technical education (CTE) graduation requirements with recent legislation and added a new career cluster in energy to align with revised programs of study. Board members also praised Texas educators for continuing to educate their students despite school closures during the coronavirus emergency. Member Sue Melton-Malone of Waco said she was “blown away by Texas teachers.” Here is more information on the meeting.

“A dream come true:” African American studies course gets final approval to be offered across Texas

April 20, 2020

TSTA report on SBoE monthly meeting; submits comments on mentoring rules

The State Board of Education conducted its April meeting online to comply with COVID-19-related shutdowns. Notably, the board approved the state’s first African American studies course, a high-school elective recommended for grades 10-12. Click here for TSTA’s full report on the April meeting.

TSTA’s policy analyst also submitted comments on TEA upcoming consideration of the Teacher Mentoring Allotment rules. TSTA is excited that Texas has committed to supporting quality mentoring programs for beginning teachers. In order to ensure that this allotment adequately reflects legislative intent and is fairly distributed to the benefit of all beginning teachers, TSTA is recommending changes to the proposed rule to make the guidelines less proscriptive and to ensure all districts are entitled to an allotment as determined by a set and predictable formula. Read our full comments here.

April 17, 2020

TSTA applauds Governor Abbott for keeping all school buildings closed during health emergency

Abbott has ordered all school buildings to remain closed for the remainder of the spring semester, a step that the Texas State Teachers Association called on the governor to take on April 1. This finally removes uncertainty for hundreds of Texas communities and, health experts say, will help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Read press release

TRS executive director provides update on pension fund balance

During the TRS meeting, Executive Director Brian Guthrie updated the board on the financial condition of the pension fund and the agency in the midst of the pandemic-driven recession. He said the fund is in a good position, considering the circumstances, with a value of around $150 billion as of this morning (April 17). Guthrie noted that the fund started the fiscal year on Sept. 1 at about $157 billion and reached a market high of $164 billion in February. Although there has been a loss since then, TRS is optimistic the fund will weather the crisis and continue to meet TRS’ obligations to members.

Despite COVID-19 waivers, teachers still can be subject to T-TESS appraisals

Although the governor has waived all annual academic assessment requirements for this school year, Texas teachers still may be subject to T-TESS appraisals and appraisal. Read more

April 15, 2020

Emergency education block grants for governors announced

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday announced the availability of $3 billion in eagerly awaited emergency education relief funding for governors to allocate at their discretion to support schools and colleges hard hit by the coronavirus. Money from The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, part of the CARES Act, will be given out in block grants, meaning that governors are, mostly, free to use it as they see fit. The requirements are relatively short, and the actual paperwork is pretty simple by government standards., with the stated intent of getting the money to states as quickly as possible. Read more

April 14, 2020

TRS trustees will meet virtually this Friday, April 17; discussion of insurance benefits and rates on agenda

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas board meeting will begin at 10 am Central Time (9 am Mountain). You can watch live here. Here is the agenda.

According to agenda items 9 and 10, the board will discuss and consider the selection of HMOs for health plans and may consider new PPO and HMO benefits and rates for TRS-ActiveCare in closed session.

Members of the public may provide public comment by registering first with the board secretary by submitting an email to

You must include your name and topic and register no later than 8:00 a.m., the day of the meeting. But we encourage you to register early.

Abbott’s schools decision due this week

Texas Governor Greg Abbott will make an announcement this week on whether schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year. He previously ordered them closed until May 4. The total of coronavirus cases in Texas has hit at least 13,906, with 287 deaths, according to the latest numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Out of Texas’ 254 counties, 178 are reporting cases. Read more

April 13, 2020

DeVos reaches settlement over stalled student debt relief claims

The Trump administration has agreed to process nearly 170,000 debt cancellation claims within 18 months from borrowers who say they were defrauded by their colleges. The proposed settlement agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in California on Friday, stems from a class-action lawsuit brought against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her agency in June by a group of borrowers awaiting decisions on their applications, some for as long as five years. Read more

National survey tracks impact of coronavirus on teachers

The EdWeek Research Center’s latest national survey of teachers and district leaders has found that student and teacher morale is suffering, declining considerably between March 25 and April 8. Educators say that 76% of students and 66% of teachers are in lower spirits than they were before the crisis. Read more

April 9, 2020

Average teacher pay raise in Texas this year was $2,969

This figure was reported by Texas Education News, drawing from the Texas Education Agency’s PEIMS data and reflects the boost in school funding approved by the Legislature last year in House Bill 3. The Legislature gave school districts guidelines, including instructions to give priority to teachers with five or more years’ experience.

The average includes all teachers in all school districts and charters, so the amount will vary from district to district. The figure of $2,969 amounted to an average increase of 5.5 percent in teacher pay statewide, compared to the 2018-19 school year.

The average raise for all Texas school employees was $2,278, or 4.9 percent.

Sunset staff report: TRS needs to repair its relationship with its members

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission has been conducting a study of how TRS can improve its operations. By chance, the study coincided with the controversy over TRS’ lease of expensive office space in the Indeed Tower in downtown Austin. TRS has backed out of that lease, but it should be no surprise that one of the staff recommendations is for the agency to repair its relationship with its members by focusing on their needs. Read more

April 8, 2020

Summaries of key provisions in the CARES coronavirus relief act

You may already have read about what is in the law but in case you need more detailed information, NEA has provided a series of explanatory papers that will answer many of your questions. Here are links:

Who qualifies for a rebate check from the government

Details of the $30.5 billion Education Stabilization Fund

Relief for student loan borrowers

Unemployment compensation

ESSA waivers

School meals

Betsy DeVos is trying to privatize education again; tell Congress to stop her

The education secretary is using the coronavirus crisis to revive her failed push for vouchers. This time, she is calling them “microgrants,” but the impact would be the same: robbing public schools of funding and diverting tax dollars to private schools. Please contact your members of Congress and tell them to oppose privatization again.

April 7, 2020

Show us what you are doing to keep your communities safe

We would like you to show your colleagues around the state what kinds of emergencies and hardships you are handling. Read more

Betsy DeVos is trying to privatize education again; tell Congress to stop her

The education secretary is using the coronavirus crisis to revive her failed push for vouchers. This time, she is calling them “microgrants,” but the impact would be the same: robbing public schools of funding and diverting tax dollars to private schools. Please contact your members of Congress and tell them to oppose privatization again.

April 6, 2020

Student loan relief webinar

Join NEA for a webinar on what the COVID-19 relief law means to student loan borrowers on April 7, at 2 pm. Recently, Congress enacted the CARES Act, a COVID-19 relief law that includes big changes to federal student loans starting this Friday, April 10, 2020. Read more

Teachers underprepared for remote teaching

The majority of educators were completely underprepared to design remote learning experiences with technology when states and districts started closing schools for COVID-19. In some teacher preparation programs, pre-service teachers are not provided with any opportunities to engage with technology in meaningful ways. Other programs provide a standalone workshop or course about education technology. This has not adequately prepared teachers for the current crisis. Read more

Undocumented students suffering amid coronavirus

The children of immigrant families, who have lower median incomes than those born in the U.S. and more often lack health insurance, are among those hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis. Although the federal stimulus expanded coronavirus testing for uninsured Americans through Medicaid, most immigrants, including those in the country legally, are ineligible. DACA recipients are ineligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid. Read more

AP test to change significantly under coronavirus

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s Advanced Placement (AP) test will be like no other, according to new details released Friday by the College Board. To avoid leaks, the same tests will be given at the same time throughout the nation, from May 11 to May 22. The exams will be taken at home with open books and notes and will last only about 45 minutes, significantly shorter than the standard three- to four-hour duration. The exams can be taken on any device available — computer, tablet or smartphone — or students can write responses by hand and submit a photo via their cellphones. In a survey of 18,000 AP students, 91% said they wanted to take the test. Read more

April 3, 2020

Extended School Closures Jeopardize Special Education

With schools staying closed for at least a few more weeks, parents have had to find ways to make sure their kids still get the education they need, including parents of students with special needs, who are dealing with a different curriculum. Closures pose unique challenge to parents of students with special needs. Read more

Assessment, grading and graduation updates from TEA

With the suspension of STAAR and end-of-course exams for this year, districts have more discretion in grading, promotion and graduation requirements. Each district can adopt its own grading policy, including a delay in grades or the pass/fail option. SAT and ACT exams have been suspended until June, May IB exams will not be administered, AP exams will be modified and administered online and the Texas Schools Success Initiative has been suspended until further notice.

For more detailed information on all these issues, including the use of Individual Graduation Committees, please go to this link.

April 1, 2020

Join TSTA’s campaign to demand the governor protect Texas students, educators and communities

Educators all over Texas are responding valiantly to the needs of students and their neighbors during these difficult and challenging times and Governor Greg Abbott also must do his part.

Read more
TSTA press release

March 31, 2020

White House extends social-distancing guidelines

President Trump has announced an extension of his administration’s social-distancing guidelines for another 30 days through the end of April. The White House had previously announced a 15-day program that instructed all Americans to avoid nonessential travel, sit-down restaurants and gatherings of more than 10 people, among other steps. Governors and mayors nationwide have rolled out their own restrictions, shutting schools and many retail businesses. Meanwhile, seven U.S. states have now closed school for the remainder of the year. Arizona, Alabama, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Virginia and Vermont have all decided to keep campuses closed until later in the year. Read more

March 30, 2020

DeVos floats ‘microgrants’ for students, teachers as coronavirus upends schooling

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said that she will push for legislation offering microgrants to individual students and educators adapting to remote learning. Speaking at a White House briefing on the coronavirus, DeVos said the grants would help “the most disadvantaged students in states or communities where their school system has simply shut down.” Read more

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