Category Archives: Election

From Texas Educators Vote: Creating a culture of voting

ThinkstockPhotos-485333274_VoteThe following post is an update from the Texas Educators Vote coalition that was emailed to superintendents in districts who are members of the Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS). ATPE is a member of the Texas Educators Vote coalition.  

Texas Educators Vote Update for August 31, 2017

We know that many of you are focused on recovering from the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, and we stand ready to support you. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to escape the destruction, we are hopeful that you have started the process of getting staff and students registered to vote.

You may know that one of our partners is the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). Last year, their attorneys worked with us to create a “Culture of Voting Resolution” that can be adopted by school boards to support their district’s efforts to create a culture of voting and increase civic engagement.

One of my favorite lines in the short document reads:
“WHEREAS, public education and the educated citizenry created by public education are the greatest safeguards to the State of Texas and the continuation of a free society; and the institution of public education is best protected by a robust and informed electorate;”

This resolution, once adopted, shields you as superintendents from potential pushback from citizens who may not be interested in encouraging all eligible Texans to vote. It is an important message of support from the school board and it demonstrates a commitment to the basic principles of our democracy.

It is possible that your district has already adopted this resolution, which was included in the August 2016 Regulations Resource Manual – Update 52. If you aren’t sure if your district has done so, why don’t you recommend the board adopt the resolution now to show their strong support for creating a culture of voting in your school district?

We encourage you to present the TASB Culture of Voting Resolution at your September board meeting, so get it on the agenda now! You can find the resolution here: http://texaseducatorsvote.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/TASB-Culture-of-Voting.pdf

Please let us know when your board has signed the resolution by emailing
Laura Yeager and/or Barry Haenisch. We will compile a list of districts that have signed the resolution.

We are currently updating the Texas Educators Vote website to make it as simple, useful, and interactive as possible. The updated site will enable people to sign the “Educator’s Oath to Vote” online so you won’t have to make copies or collect them this year during your kickoff event (that we will explain in more detail in an upcoming email). You may want to share the “Oath” with board members when you present the resolution.

Here is a link to the updated Oath. It simply states:
I am a Texas educator and I commit to vote in
the March primary and the November general elections.

I will vote in support of public education in the
interest of the more than 5 million Texas school children.

Step by step, we will create a robust and informed electorate, which is perhaps the most important goal of public education. Many thanks for your continued hard work to educate all children and by so doing, strengthen the great state of Texas.

Sincerely,

Laura Yeager
TACS Governmental Affairs
Director, Texas Educators Vote

 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Nov. 11, 2016

Here is your Veterans Day edition of our weekly wrap-up, featuring post-election news and more from this week:

 


Election resultsThe 2016 election came to a close this week. At the national level, voters chose the presidential candidate who is expected to bring change to Washington, but in Texas, things look pretty similar to how they looked going into the last legislative session. There were only a handful of Texas House seats where the incumbent or incumbent party lost reelection, and no seats altered in the Senate, leaving the balance of power in the Texas Legislature largely the same. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter provided more analysis on the outcome of the election state-wide here.

A state election story that the education community and policymakers were watching on election night dealt with the outcome of a school finance measure on some Houston voters’ ballots. The measure asked voters to authorize or not authorize the city’s first recapture payment under a provision in Texas school finance law commonly referred to as “Robin Hood.” Voters ultimately decided to not authorize the $162 billion payment, which would have been used to equalize funding for property-poor districts throughout the state. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins has more on this complex decision made by Houston voters and the effects it could have on the upcoming legislative session.

ThinkstockPhotos-523002181_IVotedAt the federal level, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann penned some initial thoughts on how public education will fare under a Trump presidency here. While his broad plans for education are still fairly uncertain, President-elect Trump has made it clear that he will push for a national voucher program for Title I funds and will seek to significantly reduce the role the federal government plays in education. He also appears to be in the same camp as education reformers. In fact, it was reported late this week that two education reformers working for the American Federation for Children confirmed that they have been contacted by President-elect Trump’s transition team regarding their interest in the Secretary of Education post. The American Federation for Children, which supports school choice, advised President-elect Trump during his candidacy.

 


The State Board of Education holds its next regular meeting starting on Tuesday, Nov. 15. The full agenda can be viewed here for the four-day meeting running through next Friday. It will be the last meeting for two of the board’s members who did not seek re-election this year: Martha Dominguez (D) and Thomas Ratliff (R). ATPE thanks them both for their service.

On Tuesday the board will decide on the amount of money it will move from the Permanent School Fund to the Available School Fund, making it available for the legislature to appropriate to the instructional materials allotment. They will also continue to discuss the board’s long range plan for education and the board’s upcoming legislative priorities. On Wednesday the board will hear from the Commissioner of Education at 9 a.m., and then the board will discuss a range of curriculum items for the remainder of the day. Those will include revision of the ELAR TEKS, continued monitoring and feedback of the new Math TEKS, and the streamlining of the Science TEKS. On Thursday, the board will break into subcommittees. Of particular note the Committee on School Initiatives will consider ratifying six chapters of amended SBEC regulations, which cover educator preparation, educator certification, and educator disciplinary rules.

Anyone wishing to sign up to testify on one of these topics can do so here. If you would like to turn in written testimony, please feel free to contact the ATPE lobby team for further assistance. Stay tuned next week for updates on the SBOE’s actions.

 


U.S. Dept of Education LogoThis week was the final opportunity to submit comments on the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) rule proposal pertaining to a federal funding provision under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The provision, referred to as “supplement, not supplant,” is aimed at ensuring Title I schools receive their fair share of state and federal funding. While “supplement, not supplant” is nothing new to federal education law, the language did change slightly under ESSA, and as we have reported, ED’s interpretation of that new language is controversial.

Many comments submitted raise concern over how the rule proposal would realistically affect states and districts, but some express support for rules they believe will help ensure the highest-need and most undeserved students get the resources they deserve. Congressional Republicans again expressed their concern over the rule proposal’s “broad and inaccurate conclusions” with regard to Congress’s intent, this time in a letter signed by 25 Republican Members of Congress, including the education committee chairs in both chambers. The Democratic education committee leaders submitted their own letter, expressing concern over some unintended consequences, but calling the proposal a “step in the right direction.” The concern is not a totally partisan one, however; last week a bipartisan Congressional letter was sent to President Obama regarding the undue state burdens created by the provision and ED’s poor interpretation of Congressional intent. Read more about that letter and ED’s rule proposal in this informative article published by the the Washington Post.

One yet-to-be-determined affect of the election, is how President-elect Trump will approach ESSA regulations made by the Obama administration. It’s safe to predict that these regulations pertaining to “supplement, not supplant,” if finalized, would be altered, at the very least.

Related: You still have one week left to share input with the Texas Education Agency on how our state should implement ESSA-related policies at the state level. TEA’s ESSA Public Input Survey remains open through 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18.

 


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) shared information this week on the call for nominations for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Administered by the National Science Foundation in conjunction with the White House, the PAEMST is the highest honor for math and science teachers in the country.

A student and teacher working together in a classroomTeachers of grades 7-12 math or science, including computer science, will be recognized in all 50 states. Some high school CTE and tech apps teachers are also eligible to apply. The nomination deadline is April 1, 2017, and applications are due by May 1, 2017. Eligible teachers who submit a completed application will earn 25 continuing professional education (CPE) credit hours, too.

Recipients of the award receive $10,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C. to be formally recognized. Additional information on PAEMST eligibility criteria and the award process can be found here.

 


Thank you, Veterans, for your service to our country!

Houston throws down gauntlet on school finance reform

I lived in Houston for ten years.

It’s where I finished high school, graduated from college, and began my first career as a fuzzy-cheeked radio broadcaster. It’s where I gleefully watched my alma mater, the Houston Cougars, win a C-USA title, my beloved Astros make their World Series debut, and the Rockets come devastatingly close to a championship season after season. It’s a fantastically diverse and dynamic city; yet to many Houstonians, it seems that no matter what Houston does, few outside its boundaries ever seem to notice.

Now a vote on a relatively obscure proposition on Tuesday’s ballot has arrested the attention of many lawmakers in Austin.

ThinkstockPhotos-481431733On Tuesday, Houston voters decided not to authorize the city’s first recapture payment of $162 billion, part of a roughly $1 billion obligation over the next four years. Under the state’s school finance equalization formula, referred to as “Robin Hood” by some, school districts that are considered “property-wealthy” must return some of the money collected from their local property taxes to the state, which in turn delivers that money to poor districts that lack the tax base necessary to support healthy schools. Ironically, some of those property-wealthy districts still enroll high numbers of students from families living in poverty. Houston ISD officials argue that instead of sending away the funds, their district needs that money instead to educate a high proportion of low-income students in their own district.

It’s a predicament endured for years by Austin ISD, another property-wealthy district that serves a high proportion of economically disadvantaged children, yet is expected to pay more than $400 million in recapture this year. The number of Texas districts paying recapture stands at 250 and rising, and it is a major reason many districts are lobbying the 85th Texas Legislature to reform the school finance system when it convenes in January.

But things are complicated.ThinkstockPhotos-185034697_gavelcash

In response to a lawsuit filed by more than 600 school districts, the Texas Supreme Court in May ruled that the state’s school finance system met the minimum requirements under the Texas Constitution. While the final opinion from Justice Don Willett urged lawmakers to fix a “Byzantine” and “undeniably imperfect” system, it removed the threat of a court mandate to do so.

Houston’s new Mayor Sylvester Turner is no stranger to the Texas Legislature. The long-time state representative and former vice-chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee spearheaded a campaign urging Houston voters living within HISD boundaries to reject authorization of the recapture payment this election and force a standoff — gambling that state legislators will be spurred into action by voters and constituents in Texas’s largest school district publicly rejecting the state’s school finance system.

It’s a big gambit.

After Houston voters on Tuesday declined to authorize the recapture payment, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath notified HISD trustees early Wednesday that under the law, $18.2 billion in taxable property needed to meet the recapture amount will be detached from the district and annexed to one or more property-poor districts.

So will the ruckus raised in Houston Tuesday ring in the ears of important folks beyond Space City’s orbit?

Falling US MoneyThe question of whether the move will increase pressure on lawmakers to initiate a long and complicated school finance overhaul is a big unknown. The recapture amount owed by Houston is dwarfed by Austin’s, yet lawmakers have thus far been unmoved by AISD’s many pleas for change. While some House leaders have expressed interest in reform, a requested four percent across-the-board reduction in state agency spending will complicate things significantly.

ATPE has long advocated for meaningful school finance reforms to make the system more responsive to our students’ needs, as illustrated by our member-adopted legislative program, which includes the following:

ATPE supports a public education funding system that is equitable and adequate to provide every student an equal opportunity to receive an exemplary public education. ATPE also supports any form of state revenue enhancement and tax restructuring that accomplishes this goal, empowers the state to be the primary source of funding, and creates a more stable funding structure for our schools. We strongly support efforts to increase funding levels to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and changing population and to increase funding equity for all students.

Ultimately, school finance reform could come by degrees, and meaningful progress could be made this session. I expect calls for legislation to update the decades-old Cost of Education Index (COI) and the similarly vintage transportation allotment, as well as a bill by state Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) that would amend the Texas Constitution to require the state to shoulder at least half the cost of public education. We’ll be keeping an eye out for you. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote and ATPE.org for updates.

State election results recap

Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundElection Day 2016 was historic. Nationally, yesterday’s contest may have been considered a change election, but here at home in Texas there were few alterations in the balance of power. Only a small handful of incumbents or incumbent parties lost their elections yesterday. Those included one judicial race and five house races.

In the Texas State House, Democratic challenger Victoria Neave beat incumbent Rep. Kenneth Sheets (R-Dallas) in House District 107 by half a percentage point. In House District 117, Democratic challenger Philip Cortez re-won the seat he lost to Rep. Rick Galindo (R-San Antonio) two years ago. Democratic challenger Mary Ann Perez did the same in House District 144, winning back the seat she previously lost to Rep. Gilbert Pena (R-Pasadena) in 2014.

There are currently two Texas House seats in which a former Democratic incumbent stepped down during the current term of office, necessitating a special election this year that resulted in Democrats’ losing those seats. Somewhat predictably, however, those losses turned out to be temporary, with Democratic candidates taking back those seats as a result of yesterday’s election. Rep. John Lujan (R-San Antonio) won a special election in January 2016 after former Rep. Joe Farias (D-San Antonio) resigned in House District 118; but before getting a chance to serve during a legislative session, Lujan was defeated yesterday by Tomas Uresti (D), who is the brother of incumbent Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio). Similarly, House District 120 was vacated earlier this year by former Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio), and the special election to fill the remainder of her current term was won by Laura Thompson, an independent candidate. Thompson was defeated yesterday by Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D), who will take over the seat in January.

Outside of the races mentioned above there were no party shifts. Even in the several races where there was no incumbent running due to either the former legislator retiring or being defeated in the primary, the new legislator elected yesterday hails from the same party as the former or soon-to-be-former legislator.

All incumbent State Board of Education (SBOE) members won re-election yesterday, too. Two open SBOE seats were won by Georgina Perez (D) in District 1 and Keven Ellis (R) in District 9.

For those interested, here are the complete 2016 election results for those Texas House, Senate, and SBOE races that featured two major party candidates.

Education under Trump: vouchers and uncertainty

 

In the wake of Election Day 2016, many are wondering what lies ahead for public education in the United States. Education under the Donald Trump presidency remains fairly uncertain. He offered few education policy details during his presidential campaign. However, the billionaire business mogul and President-elect seems, at least preliminarily, in step with one public education camp: school reformers.

Trump’s election night acceptance speech included a quick promise to “fix” America’s schools, and his thin education policy proposal issued a few months ahead of the election committed to prioritizing a $20 billion federal voucher program. According to the vision he laid out on his campaign website, he will “immediately add an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice,” by reprioritizing yet-to-be-identified existing federal funds.

President-Elect Trump’s proposed vision will allow federal funding to follow children to the public or private school of their parents’ choosing. His plan will also “favor states that have private school choice, magnet schools and charter laws,” which could become the most consequential piece for Texas, a state where voucher proponents have been defeated by public school advocates thus far but need no additional incentive to push their controversial agenda.

Outside of his strong support for vouchers and other nods to school reform, Trump’s policy agenda for prekindergarten-12th grade education is debatable and unclear. We do know he will look to aggressively scale back the federal role in education. He has also spoken out against Common Core, but federal law already prevents the mandate of any single set of standards; also, Texas state law prevents the implementation of any national curriculum here.

U.S. Congress

The make-up of Congress will remain the same with Republicans controlling both chambers, at least in Trump’s first two years as president. In the Senate, we can expect little change in the Senate education committee. Both its chairman,Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and its ranking member, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), are likely to continue service in their expected roles. While three contentious Senate races in Colorado, North Carolina, and Illinois could have more significantly affected the make-up of the committee, only one committee member lost reelection: Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

On the House side, a shake-up in Republican education committee leadership is ahead. Retiring Chairman John Kline (R-MN) is likely to be replaced by current committee member Virginia Foxx (R-NC). The committee’s Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) is expected to retain his title.

Republican control in Congress mixed with the party’s expected top education leaders creates a path for federal vouchers. Both Alexander and Foxx have been proponents of vouchers in the past, with Alexander even proposing plans of his own. Still, such proposals weren’t included in the latest rewrite of the federal education law, now termed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), because they didn’t have enough support in the Senate to reach the required threshold.

U.S. Dept of Education LogoU.S. Department of Education

Trump has said he will reduce the role the federal government plays in public education, having gone as far as to say he may cut the Department of Education (ED). While that is a mostly unlikely scenario considering it would require a vote from Congress, scaling it back significantly has a better chance of prevailing. This has long been a talking point for many conservatives, and plenty in Congress have expressed support for such a move. The Trump campaign has signaled that the department would serve only to dole out funding and that he would eliminate divisions deemed unnecessary.

Predictions regarding Trump’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Education have been all over the place, but most lists contain the name of Dr. Ben Carson. Carson is a neurosurgeon by trade and was one of Trump’s Republican presidential primary opponents. Trump has praised Carson’s education policy views, calling education policy “his strength.” Carson maintained a strong presence on the Trump campaign trail following the primary.

Other names being floated have included Williamson M. Evers, a research fellow at the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution and former ED staffer under Secretary Margaret Spellings and President George W. Bush; Gerard Robinson, former commissioner of education for Florida; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; and Carl Paladino, a businessman and Buffalo, NY school board member. All are familiar faces at the Trump campaign.

The Every Student Succeeds Act

So how would a smaller ED, new secretary, and a Trump presidency affect the country’s new education law? Good question. Trump has been no fan of President Obama’s agenda, and with controversial rulemaking coming out of the new law he signed, there could certainly be an opportunity for anything from revisions to abolishment. The former is the more likely scenario, since the law’s congressional architects remain in key positions in Congress, and revisions to controversial “supplement, not supplant” rule language proposed by the Obama administration are likely. Such revisions would receive little push-back now from a Republican-controlled Congress. President-elect Trump and his Secretary of Education will also be tasked with approving state’s ESSA plans, pending a major upheaval of the law.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote and ATPE.org for updates on changes to the federal education landscape.

It’s Election Day! Go vote before 7 p.m.

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ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey

ATPE’s state officers and staff remind you to get out and vote today if you missed the early voting period. Most polls close at 7 p.m. and you can find a list of your local polling places here.

Public education needs your support as an active and engaged voter. Make your vote count today!

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ATPE State Secretary Byron Hildebrand

ATPE State Treasurer Tonja Gray casts her vote in the 2016 general election!

ATPE State Treasurer Tonja Gray

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ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins

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ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter

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ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

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ATPE Political Involvement Coordinator Edwin Ortiz

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Nov. 4, 2016

It’s the last week in review before Tuesday’s monumental election. Read more of this week’s education news:

 


MontyVote_WEBFinally, the long-awaited general election is less than four days away on Tuesday, Nov. 8. It goes without saying that this Election Day is an important one, but we’ll take a moment to again remind you of how much is at stake for public education and encourage you to get out and vote if you haven’t already. Earlier today on our blog, ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter weighed in on the importance of “exercising” the right to vote as often as possible.

Today, Nov. 4, marks the last day for early voting in Texas. Most early voting polls will close at 7 p.m. tonight. It’s also the last chance for ATPE members to get in on our “I voted” selfie photo contest. Visit the ATPE Facebook page for details on our early voting contest in which three randomly selected winners will receive a Target gift card for sharing their early voting selfie.

Additional resources for those who’ve not yet voted:

  • Through the Texas Secretary of State’s Am I Registered website, you can obtain a customized list of polling places and verify your voter registration. Also check out VoteTexas.gov for additional information on voting.
  • Vote411.org is a national website hosted by the League of Women Voters that provides sample ballots, candidate information, and more.
  • Here on Teach the Vote, learn more about your candidates for the Texas legislature and State Board of Education on our 2016 Races page. Candidate profiles include survey responses, endorsement information, and incumbents’ voting records.
  • If you have a government-issued photo ID, be sure to take it with you to the polls! Those who do not have an identification card have other options thanks to recent court decisions. Learn more here.
  • Compare the Presidential candidates’ views on education issues in this feature from the national publication Education Week.
  • Read about Texas candidates who’ve earned the endorsement of the pro-public education advocacy group Texas Parent PAC here.
  • Still looking for ways to address the election in your classroom? Read these tips from ATPE member Kim Grosenbacher. Also, check out ATPE State Past President Cory Colby’s insights in this article from The Texas Tribune.
  • Read the latest voting update from the Texas Educators Vote coalition on efforts to create a culture of voting in Texas public schools this year, and check out the many other resources from the coalition on their website here. We especially like seeing the election countdown!

 


Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) held a conference call yesterday to update educators on his efforts to address the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), a federal Social Security offset that reduces the amount of retirement benefits that many educators and other public employees may receive. In his own words, Congressman Brady told educators on the call that he’s “been working on this issue for decades” because he believes it is unfair that public servants do not receive “equal treatment” and are penalized by the WEP. Brady filed H.R. 711, known as the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA), to replace the WEP with a more equitable formula for calculating Social Security benefits.

committee-sealIn July, the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, which Congressman Brady chairs, was set to vote on H.R. 711, but the vote was delayed after a few national employee groups opposed and tried to amend the bill. Since that time, the congressman and his staff have continued to meet with stakeholders to address their concerns and have requested additional actuarial data from the Social Security Administration. Brady shared with educators participating in yesterday’s call his commitment to keep working to pass the ETPSA this year and refile the bill in the next Congress in 2017 if necessary.

Of particular importance to the chairman is passing a reform measure that will help both current and future retirees. “Many have given up hope that it can be solved, but I’m not one of them,” Brady emphasized. “We’re so close in my opinion, but we’ve still got some serious work to do going forward,” said the chairman to educators and other stakeholders on the conference call on Nov. 3.

Educators affected by the WEP are encouraged to share their own stories and examples of how the unfair law is hurting them. Chairman Brady urged educators to keep sending their stories via email to WEP.feedback@mail.house.gov so that he and other backers of the ETPSA can “make the case to the broader Congress” about the urgent need for WEP reform.

ATPE has joined with a coalition of employee and retiree associations from across the country, including the Texas Retired Teachers Association, working alongside Chairman Brady to increase educators’ Social Security benefits and neutralize the negative consequences of the WEP. The congressman told yesterday’s conference call participants, “It’s absolutely critical that we have a strong, unified coalition” in order to achieve successful legislation to reform the WEP.

ATPE state officers and staff members met with Chairman Brady last month in Washington to discuss the ETPSA.

ATPE state officers and staff members met with Chairman Brady in Washington to discuss the ETPSA.

Among those representing educators on the call was ATPE’s federal lobbyist David Pore, who thanked Chairman Brady for his tireless efforts on behalf of our members and others affected by the WEP. Brady similarly thanked ATPE, TRTA, and others for “staying at the table” as negotiations have continued on the legislation. We at ATPE are very thankful for Chairman Brady’s perseverance and the hard work of his staff. Keep sending in your WEP input, and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on this very important legislation.

 


Several press releases came out of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) this week. TEA responded to allegations that it has forced districts to meet an arbitrary cap on enrolling students in special education programs. The agency also released several announcements pertaining to school accountability and interventions. Read full details in this blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.

 


Kuhlmann SBEC testimony Aug 2016The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) recently revised its rules pertaining to educator preparation and certification in Texas. As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reported earlier this week, the rule changes affect preparation, program requirements, pathways to certification, and more. The rules also seek to raise the quality of training all teachers receive before going into the classroom, something that ATPE regularly fights for on behalf of all Texas educators. ATPE recognizes that teachers deserve strong training prior to entering the classroom, because the expectations are high and the work isn’t easy once they’re in it full time. Read Kate’s full story to learn more about ATPE’s position and the changes made to the rules, including changes in rules governing the educational aide certificate.

 


Go vote today or on Tuesday! Every vote matters!

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Did you “exercise” today on this last day of early voting?

Record numbers of voters have turned out to the polls during early voting. Despite that, there is little doubt that many potential voters have been turned off by the extreme partisan rancor of this election. It’s understandable that some might consider simply staying home this election. We urge them to reconsider!

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The single most important aspect to a healthy democracy is participation. That’s why ATPE has been steadfastly working with Texas Educators Vote, a coalition of education advocates, to encourage educators to vote and help create a culture of voting in the Texas education community.

There is wisdom in the phrase “exercising your right to vote.” A healthy democracy requires a strong active electorate. The only way to foster such an electorate is for each of us to vote every chance we get, to view voting not as an option but as an American imperative. When we don’t vote, we instead allow our electoral muscles to atrophy and the results aren’t positive. The electorate becomes smaller and those on the edges of the political spectrum both left and right gain an outsized voice in selecting candidates. Those candidates, who go on to become office holders, in turn tend to feel less accountable to the majority of their constituents who didn’t participate in electing them. They are instead much more likely to concern themselves with big money special interests and those voters whom they perceive as controlling the primary selection process but who may not share the view of the majority of Texans.

Kate_Vote_WEBAs with exercising any muscle, you are unlikely to see major improvements after going to the gym one time. The same can be said about voting. You may not feel that voting this time, in this election will change much; but when more of us vote every time in every election it will begin to make a big difference, both in the makeup of our elected officials and in the way we interact with them.

The best way to start forming any habit is to stop thinking about it in future terms and start practicing that habit in the present. The same is true of voting. The best time to begin that mental shift to viewing voting as an American imperative, to begin making voting a habit, is not the next election —it’s this election, and it’s now.

So if you haven’t voted yet, now is the time. Most polls are open today until 7 pm and will be open again from 7 am to 7 pm on Election Day, Tuesday (Nov. 8). As long as you are in line by the time the polls close, you will be allowed to cast your ballot.

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Before you cast your vote, visit the 2016 Races page here on Teach the Vote to view candidate information, then head to the polls and exercise your right.

 

From KUT: Texas Education Groups Encourage More Students, Teachers to Vote

By  & NOV. 1, 2016

Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz chatted with six Reagan Early College High School students as they gathered at the ACC Highland Mall campus’ early voting center on Monday afternoon to cast their ballots on their way to class. The students are among 1,963 young adults in AISD schools that are age 18 or older this month.

“I can say that it’s important to vote, and people are going to say ‘That’s an old guy, right?’” Cruz said to the students. “But, if they hear you saying it, I think it’s a different message. Don’t you think?”

The students, who take classes at ACC through their high school, recorded a video with Cruz while standing outside the polling place to encourage other students their age to go to the polls. The video is part of a concerted effort Cruz’s office has made this fall to educate students at AISD schools about the importance of exercising their right to vote. The superintendent’s office plans to share the video on the AISD Twitter account and Facebook page to reach students in a new way.

“In all of our high schools, we have individuals who help students and families understand about voting. It’s something we’ve done for many years,” Cruz said. “This is to use different mediums that students are used to now. It’s just another approach to get the word out.”

Reagan Early College High School Academic Director, Jesse De La Huerta, says many students find the voting process intimidating

“Every time I talk to students who are becoming of-age to vote, it’s scary. They’re like, ‘What if I don’t know what to do? What about this? What about that?’” De La Huerta said.

Teachers at Reagan quell students’ concerns about voting by answering these questions in government classes at Reagan, De La Huerta says. They enthusiastically accepted the challenge from the superintendent’s office this year to talk more to their students about the importance of voting, he said.

AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz poses with students outside of ACC’s Highland Mall campus during an AISD voter awareness event.
CREDIT MIGUEL GUTIERREZ JR. / KUT

 

But education groups across the state say teachers also need encouragement to vote, and they want school district superintendents to create a culture of voting on campuses – an effort called Texas Educators Vote.

“When people vote, they often have an issue in mind and it’s not usually education,” said Laura Yeager, the director of Texas Educators Vote. “These are educators who vote and then they often get to school and say, ‘Gee, why aren’t they funding our schools?’ and ‘Why am I only teaching testing?’ and ‘Why are all these things happening?’ And we’re trying to link the issue that’s important to them with their vote.”

The group includes the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the Texas Association of School Boards, the Texas Rural Education Association and others. Yeager says she and some others got the idea after the last legislative session.

“We were bemoaning how hard it was to get good public education passed, but we had done a pretty good job stopping some bad legislation,” she said. The idea, Yeager adds, is to educate teachers and hope that education trickles down to students and other school employees.

“We can get them to research and think about who actually supports public education,” she said. “Get them educated, and then encourage the culture of voting for students, educators, bus drivers and custodians and, really, everyone working in Texas public schools. Maybe we’d get to elect people that really did support public schools.”

The group doesn’t endorse any candidates, but encourages teachers to educate themselves on who is running and their views. They also suggest schools provide incentives to teachers to vote through school-wide contests or mini prizes for those who wear an “I Voted” sticker.

“You could go down in history, you could be that person who says later, ‘I voted for the first female,’ if that’s the case, or whatever the case may be,” De La Huerta said.

Last month, Austin School Board trustees approved a resolution to encourage Texas educators to vote.

While this message seems to be inspiring at least some students at Reagan, they may have to do a little digging to figure out how to vote on their own. Celeste Vasquez, one of the students featured in the video, said she used the internet to figure out how to register to vote.

“My government teacher talked to me somewhat about the procedure, but mostly about the importance of voting,” she said. “I pretty much learned how to do all the other stuff on my own through websites. I figured out step by step what I needed to do, one step at a time.”

This story was produced by KUT in collaboration with the Annette Strauss Institute’s Lebermann Forum. It was originally published by KUT and reprinted with permission. View the original article and listen to audio here.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Oct. 28, 2016

Vote! Vote! Vote!…and catch up on this week’s education news:


GR_VOTE_WEBEarly voting is underway and Teach the Vote has all the information you need to know before going to the polls. The ATPE Governmental Relations team joined ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey at the voting booth earlier this week to cast votes for public education. Join our GR team and cast your ballot today!

Early voting runs through Friday, Nov. 4, and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Voters are turning out to vote in record numbers across Texas; be sure to make plans now to take advantage of the convenience of early voting, which often means shorter lines and helps you avoid last minute scheduling conflicts that could prevent you from casting a vote!

ATPE State Treasurer Tonja Gray casts her vote in the 2016 general election!

ATPE State Treasurer Tonja Gray snaps a selfie after voting in the 2016 general election!

Once you’ve voted, be sure to head over to ATPE’s Facebook page to enter ATPE’s early voting contest. Just snap a selfie with your “I Voted!” sticker and upload your photo in the comments section of the contest post pinned to the top of ATPE’s Facebook page. Three photos will be randomly selected to win a Target gift card.

Don’t forget to visit our 2016 Races page before voting to see where your candidates for the Texas Legislature of State Board of Education stand on public education issues. You might also want to consider the endorsements of an influential parent group, which supports candidates who share the group’s high-quality public education principles.

Already voted? Check out ways you can help ATPE and the Texas Educators Vote coalition in encouraging your colleagues to vote for their students, classrooms, and careers!

 


Piggy bank with glasses and blackboardTeacher retirement was a popular topic this week. On Wednesday, the Texans for Secure Retirement coalition, of which ATPE is a member, conducted its third annual symposium in Austin. ATPE’s newest team member, Lobbyist Mark Wiggins, attended the symposium and reports on it here. The program included projections for the upcoming legislative session by Pension Committee Chair Dan Flynn (R-Van), an analysis of the current political climate from former state representative Vicki Truitt, and presentations on a popular trend: the push for pension reform by Wall Street fund managers and others wanting a piece of the pie. While you’re catching up on the symposium, be sure to learn more about Mark and the great experience he brings to the ATPE team!

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees also met this week. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended and provides a report on the soundness of the fund and plans for the upcoming legislative session here.

 


In a story published this week by the Texas Tribune, Aliyya Swaby reports on the latest development in a state practice involving special education students. The fallout results from a Houston Chronicle investigation that found officials at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) set an arbitrary 8.5 percent cap on the amount of students in Texas that receive special education services. The response to the report has been strong and includes concern from many elected officials. The Tribune reports on a letter sent this week to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. The letter from Speaker Joe Straus calls on the agency to immediately suspend and overhaul the alleged practice.

 


skd282694sdcThe Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its final financial accountability ratings for the state’s public schools in the 2015-16 school year. As we reported when TEA released the preliminary ratings, the vast majority of Texas school districts and charters earned a superior rating under the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST).

The FIRST rating system uses 15 financial indicators to assign the state’s school districts and charter schools a letter grade of A, B, C, or F. A corresponding financial management rating is also assigned: Superior (A), Above Standard Achievement (B), Meets Standard (C), or Substandard Achievement (F). Read more about the final FIRST ratings in TEA’s press release found here.

 


EThe 2015 science scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the assessment used by policymakers to gauge the academic success of our nation’s students, are out this week, and Texas students in the fourth and eighth grade outperformed the national average. Further, when looking at disaggregated data, white, African-American, and Hispanic fourth- and eighth-grade students rank in the top ten nationally. In some cases, they rank as high as second when compared to their peer student populations throughout the country. Commissioner Morath called the strong performance “a reflection of effective teaching and rigorous curriculum seen on Texas campuses every school day.” Read more about NAEP and the strong performance of Texas students and educators in TEA’s press release found here.

The science scores of fourth- and eighth-grade students also show improvement across the nation, with racial and gender achievement gaps shrinking. At the high school level, scores remained stagnant.

 


Head to the voting booth, educators, and take your friends and colleagues with you!