Today is April 1, but we’re not fooling when we tell you it was a busy week at the Texas State Capitol. ATPE’s lobby team has the latest news affecting public education:
ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended several hearings on Wednesday where the topics of discussion included the state’s budget and the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). Of particular interest was how to fund TRS-Care, which is facing a considerable shortfall heading into the next legislative session. ATPE was among several education groups to testify about the healthcare funding needs of our state’s active and retired educators. Read Josh’s blog post from yesterday to learn more.
The Senate Education and Higher Education Committees held a joint interim hearing this week on teacher pipeline issues and the ongoing implementation of 2013’s House Bill 5, which overhauled the state’s graduation requirements and accountability system. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided testimony to the committee. Read her blog post this week to learn more about the hearing on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, some students experienced significant issues while taking the online version of the STAAR test. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter reports that upon returning to the system after having left it for a variety of reasons, students found that the work they had already completed on the test was gone. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) quickly released a public statement from Commissioner Mike Morath on Tuesday acknowledging the problem and the fact that it was unacceptable of both the agency and ETS, the state testing vendor, to allow such an issue to have occurred.
On Wednesday, TEA released another statement providing some technical instructions from ETS. Of particular note, the agency also stated in bold typeface, “For students who were not able to complete an online test because of the technology issues related to the STAAR online testing platform, districts are not required to have the students complete the test(s) and should feel under no obligation to do so.” The technical difficulties with the online STAAR testing come on the heels of existing criticism over test administrators’ being require to clock students’ break times during the test and growing concerns about the STAAR tests being unfair to students in special education programs.
If you’re planning to submit public comments on the Commissioner of Education’s proposed rules for the state’s new recommended appraisal system for principals, your deadline is Monday, April 4. Click here to view the proposed rules for T-PESS, which would take effect during the 2016-17 school year.
The commissioner has also proposed brand new rules for “Innovation Districts” authorized under last session’s House Bill 1842. The new law allows certain acceptably performing school districts to propose local innovation plans and receive exemptions from various state regulations. Public comments on those rules will be accepted through May 2. Click here to learn more.
Rules implementing a new pre-Kindergarten grant program have now been finalized. Click here to view the commissioner’s adopted rules, including responses to comments submitted by ATPE and other stakeholders after the rules were proposed.
Next week we expect to see the official filing of a new rule proposal from the commissioner to guide the implementation of last year’s Senate Bill 507 requiring video surveillance cameras in certain special education settings. Commissioner Morath has already asked the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to provide an opinion on some questions that are considered open to differing interpretations based on the language of the bill. These include clarifying the specific settings in which the video surveillance is required and who may obtain access to the video footage. That request for an OAG opinion remains pending.
ATPE also expects to share an announcement soon about the release of adopted commissioner’s rules implementing the new T-TESS recommended appraisal system for teachers. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.
On the agenda for next week, the State Board of Education will be meeting in Austin starting Tuesday, April 5. View its agenda and find links for watching live streams of the hearing on the TEA website here. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter will be in attendance and will provide updates for Teach the Vote. Also next week, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) holds its meetings Thurday and Friday, April 7-8. View the TRS agenda and other materials here, and watch for updates from ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson. Negotiated rulemaking on the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) also continues next week in Washington, D.C.
Finally, join us in celebrating ATPE’s 36th birthday today!