Category Archives: SBOE

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 23, 2017

The weekend is here, and it’s time for your wrap-up of education news from ATPE:


ThinkstockPhotos-462761867We’re less than a month away from a 30-day special session ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott. Passing sunset legislation to keep a handful of agencies from going out of business during the interim will be the first order a business, after attempts to pass such a bill during the regular session fell victim to a battle of wills over ideological issues. Gov. Abbott has laid out 19 additional issues for lawmakers to consider during the special session, with signs that even more topics could be added to the agenda as we move closer to the start date. The governor’s wish list, featuring a number of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s questionable “priorities” from the regular session, includes regulating local school bathroom policies, funding private school vouchers, mandating that school districts come up with their own funds for a teacher pay raise, tinkering with teachers’ employment and due process rights, and prohibiting educators from using payroll deduction for their voluntary membership dues to professional associations like ATPE.

Aside from the need to deal with the agency sunset matters that were allowed to falter during the regular session, the governor’s declaring this particular score of issues as being “extraordinary” and urgent enough to warrant spending a million dollars of the taxpayers’ money to debate is a decision that has left many scratching their heads. Arguably the most important priority that did not get addressed during the regular session was school finance reform, but that issue has barely registered as a blip on the governor’s special session radar. Abbott made it clear during his recent press conference that he intends merely for the legislature to appoint a commission to study the issue over the next two years. Many lawmakers, especially in the House, have indicated that they do not share the governor’s views on the urgency of spending another month arguing about such petty concerns as how local bathroom policies are written and how educators spend their own hard-earned money.

Gary Godsey

Gary Godsey

ATPE weighed in on the merits of the special session plans this week in an opinion piece written by Executive Director Gary Godsey and published by The Texas Tribune on its TribTalk website. Godsey explained that the founders of our state government gave governors the ability to call special sessions “under ‘extraordinary occasions.’ Examples noted in the Texas Constitution are the presence of a public enemy or a need to appoint presidential electors. Nowhere does it mention attacking teachers, schools, or political enemies merely to score points heading into the next election cycle.” Read the full piece republished on our blog here.

17_web_Spotlight_AdvocacyCentral_1With the renewed attacks on public schools and hardworking educators that are anticipated in the new few weeks, it is important for educators to stay engaged and share their input with legislators. ATPE members are encouraged to visit Advocacy Central to send messages to their own lawmakers about protecting educators’ rights, properly funding the needs of our public (not private) education system, and preserving local control. The special session will convene on July 18.

 


The State Board of Education hears from education commissioner Mike Morath at the board's June 2017 meeting.

The SBOE hears from Commissioner Mike Morath at the board’s June 2017 meeting.

The State Board of Education (SBOE) has been meeting this week in Austin, and ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins has been in attendance to report on all the action.

As Mark reported for our blog on Tuesday, the board began its meeting hearing from Commissioner of Education Mike Morath and learning about legislative revisions to the state’s “A through F” accountability system and the recent roll-out of new STAAR report cards by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Much of the SBOE’s work this week has been centered around revisions to the curriculum standards for English and Spanish language arts and reading. The board also looked at its process for TEKS revisions, as Mark described on Wednesday. Appointing board members to serve on a new Long-Range Plan Steering Committee was also on the agenda this week. On Thursday, Mark reported that SBOE committees took a closer look at education bills passed by the 85th Texas Legislature this year and considered impacts on the Permanent School Fund. It was also reported this week that the fund surpassed its investment benchmarks and hit the $32 billion mark for the first time.

For a wrap-up of this week’s SBOE action, check out Mark’s latest blog post here.

 


ATPE State President Julleen Bottoms and Vice President Carl Garner in Washington, DC

ATPE State President Julleen Bottoms and Vice President Carl Garner in Washington, DC

This week, a group of ATPE leaders and staff traveled to Washington, DC to discuss federal education concerns. ATPE State President Julleen Bottoms and Vice President Carl Garner were joined by Executive Director Gary Godsey and ATPE lobbyists Kate Kuhlmann and Monty Exter. David Pore, ATPE’s Washington-based lobbyist, arranged meetings for the team with several key officials in the nation’s capital.

The team had a jam-packed schedule of more than 20 meetings this week, visiting with both the U.S. House and Senate committees that cover K-12 education issues, staff of the U.S. Department of Education, and a sizable chunk of the Texas congressional delegation. ATPE’s representatives primarily focused the discussions on three issue areas: the repeal and replacement of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that limits many educators’ access to Social Security benefits; implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); and troubling signs that the country’s new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is pushing for privatization of the public education system.

ATPE's Monty Exter, Carl Garner, and Gary Godsey meet with U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady in June 2017.

ATPE’s Monty Exter, Carl Garner, and Gary Godsey meet with U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady in June 2017.

One of the first meetings our team conducted this week was with Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the chair of the powerful U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Brady has been working with ATPE and other stakeholder groups on a bill that will repeal the current WEP and replace it with a much fairer system. During the meeting, he told ATPE Vice Present Carl Garner that he is looking forward to reintroducing his legislation and that when he does so, he expects it to move through Congress quickly.

Overall the visiting ATPE team reported that they received a very positive reception to our message during their many visits with lawmakers and staff. Executive Director Gary Godsey called it the most productive trip to Washington he’s taken since joining the organization. For more highlights of the Washington trip, check out ATPE’s Facebook page.

ATPE's Monty Exter, Kate Kuhlmann, Julleen Bottoms, Gary Godsey, and Carl Garner in Washington, DC, in June 2017

ATPE’s Monty Exter, Kate Kuhlmann, Julleen Bottoms, Gary Godsey, and Carl Garner in Washington, DC, in June 2017

 


 

 

SBOE completes ELAR/SLAR TEKS review

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met Friday to conclude its June meeting. The 15-member body kicked off the day by approving a list of consent items approved earlier in the week, including sweeping changes to the TEKS review process and the appointment of three board members to the Long-Range Plan Steering Committee. Member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) successfully offered an amendment to ensure that at least one person nominated by each of the ten remaining SBOE members will be appointed to the committee.

State Board of Education meeting June 23, 2017.

State Board of Education meeting June 23, 2017.

The board then moved on to consider a handful of open-enrollment charter school applications awaiting final approval. The five schools were Bridgeway Preparatory Academy in Dallas, which plans to focus on students with special needs, Etoile Academy Charter School in Houston, Legacy School of Sport Sciences in the Woodlands, which plans to focus on non-athletic careers in sports, Valor Public Schools in Austin, and Yellowstone College Preparatory in Houston.

It’s important to note that the board has the statutory authority to veto charter applications if members have concerns, and it is the only point in the life cycle of a charter in which representatives elected by Texas citizens have a say in the process. This power preserves the democratic process and ensures taxpayers have at least a small say regarding taxpayer-supported charter schools.

Members asked pointed questions Friday to ascertain the goals and capabilities of each applicant, including ties by the founders of Valor Public Schools to Arizona-based charter school chain Great Hearts Academies. The SBOE vetoed an expansion of Great Hearts in 2014 over concerns that the chain catered to a less diverse, more affluent student population and failed to make proper notifications for its Texas project. Member Lawrence Allen (D-Houston) prodded Yellowstone, which plans to open in Houston’s Third Ward, to assure the board that the charter would primarily serve students who currently reside in the historically low-income community, as opposed to “importing” students from wealthier communities. The board approved all five charters on Friday’s agenda.

The board then approved on final adoption the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for high school English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR), Spanish Language Arts and Reading (SLAR) and English as a Second Language (ESL). The rules recommend an implementation date of the 2020-2021 school year. Members also approved two new innovative courses: Making Connections III, Making Connections IV.

The board will next meet September 12 through 15.

SBOE reviews bills related to permanent school fund

The State Board of Education (SBOE) broke into committees Thursday, and the Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund took a look at legislation passed by the 85th Texas Legislature.

State Board of Education Committee on School Finance/PSF meeting June 22, 2017.

State Board of Education Committee on School Finance/PSF meeting June 22, 2017.

Effective September 1, 2017, House Bill (HB) 89 prohibits state agency contracts with and investments in companies that boycott Israel. The state comptroller is currently compiling a list of companies that could fall under this category. Agencies would be required to submit a report by January 1 of each year to the legislature and the office of attorney general. This affects the SBOE due to the board’s role in overseeing investments of the Permanent School Fund (PSF).

Committee chair David Bradley (R-Beaumont) asked whether HB 89 would require the board to scrub hedge fund portfolios. Staff advised that in such cases, the board may not necessarily be required to divest. Staff suggested the board may not be required to comply with HB 89 in the event that doing so would violate the board’s fiduciary responsibility.

Similarly, Senate Bill (SB) 253 relates to companies that engage in business in Sudan or Iran or with terrorist organizations. This legislation does not specifically name SBOE or the PSF, so staff advised that the board is likely unaffected.

SB 1480 phases in a higher capacity for charter schools to access the Bond Guarantee Program (BGP), which guarantees bonds for public and charter schools by backing them with the PSF. This enables public and charter schools to access better interest rates. The total capacity available to charters was $1 billion on January 1, 2017. SB 1480 will increase the total capacity to $5.4 billion over five years, increasing by about 20 percent, roughly $800 million, each year. The SBOE will have to determine the exact percentage of increase each year, beginning in September.

The committee also approved changing the definition of tax collections used to calculate state aid for ad valorem tax credits. Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff recommended the change to conform the rules to align with statute. Instead of the current process in which a refund is issued after taxes are collected, the tax credit will be excluded from collection.

The board will conclude its June meeting on Friday.

SBOE considers big changes to TEKS review

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met Wednesday to begin a work session on the schedule for review and revision of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the processes for review and streamlining of the TEKS, and the review and adoption cycle for instructional materials aligned to revised TEKS.

State Board of Education meeting June 21, 2017.

State Board of Education meeting June 21, 2017.

Staff began by outlining a new TEKS review process. The current process can be viewed on the TEA website. Instead of a separate streamlining process and revision process, the agency proposed combining both into a single process that allows board members the option to decide whether each set of TEKS requires a full revision, revision based on current standards or something else. This would allow the board to set a formal charge stating its intent regarding each TEKS under review.

TEKS Review and Revision Process

Staff provided a flow chart to illustrate the process, which would begin with TEA collecting information via survey from educators regarding student expectations. This is similar to how TEA began the most recent streamlining of science TEKS. The agency would conduct a briefing or set of briefings for interested stakeholders to allow for earlier feedback.

The board would identify content advisors with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, who have demonstrated expertise in the subject area in which he or she is being appointed, and has either taught or worked in such field. The board discussed appointing up to seven advisors, plus two advisors recommended by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), for a total of nine. Board members suggested the higher education advisors could be selected from a list of candidates provided by THECB. Content advisors would be involved in the process at many more points than in the current process.

The agency would post an open application for work group participants. Instead of a single work group from start to finish, the agency suggested appointing a series of smaller work groups, which would be assigned a certain task over a certain period of time. Work groups would include representation from all SBOE members, and would include educators, parents and business leaders. The work groups would be refreshed over time from a pool of applicants approved by the board, with participants rolled off to be replaced by new participants on a staggered schedule that would replace half the group at a time. Each participant would be able to participate in two face-to-face meetings.

Member Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) noted that roughly 500 educators applied to review the English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) TEKS, and many had to be turned down because of the limited number of work group positions. Board chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) said the new process would allow for many more participants over the life cycle of the TEKS review.

Work products would be updated to the TEA website after each work group cycle. Staff said this will result in more documents made available to the public, which will provide more opportunities to track the process and offer feedback. Staff suggested moving the public hearings to the discussion and first reading meetings, which would be earlier in the process, in the hopes of encouraging public feedback sooner and reducing the amount of amendments later in the process. Content advisors would review public comments during the 30-day public comment period and present recommendations to the board. The goal is to eliminate meetings that stretch late into the night, resulting in members feeling rushed to vote on language they may not have fully digested.

The board indicated that in the event a board member misses a deadline to approve or reject work group applicants from his or her district, the staff may draw upon applicants as though they’ve been approved. The board also indicated it is favorable to continuing to pay content advisors a $2,000 stipend and reimburse them for travel.

“This is a big deal. This is a big change,” Bahorich said, recognizing staff for their work in compiling framework for the new process. The board approved the changes at the end of Wednesday’s meeting.

The board also discussed the TEKS review schedule. Because of the large number of career and technical education (CTE) courses, staff recommended the board consider CTE on its own cycle, taking up one to three career clusters at a time. Since instructional materials for social studies are not currently in danger of aging out, staff recommended the board simply streamline the social studies TEKS beginning in the fall and postpone a full revision to 2023. This would enable the board to tackle a more pressing need to revise the science TEKS.

After breaking for lunch, the board reviewed development of TEKS for new high school courses. Development has been completed for courses on personal financial literacy, CTE personal financial literacy, computer programming languages, applied Algebra II, non-AP statistics, financial accounting, DC circuits and digital fundamentals.

The board recommended expediting the development of TEKS for courses on interaction with law enforcement and cybersecurity, which were mandated by legislation passed by the 85th Texas Legislature. Staff estimated both could be completed in 2018. The board approved a priority list of pending courses scheduled for development, including non-AP calculus and Mexican-American studies scheduled for 2019, and comparative literature and world geography/world history for 2020. The board had initially expressed uncertainty over whether to develop TEKS for a course on Mexican-American studies, which is one of several currently approved innovative courses. Innovative courses can be offered by districts without the need for new TEKS. There must be TEKS before textbooks are solicited through the proclamation process, since new textbooks are judged against the TEKS for each specific course.

Finally, the board elected members Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo), Tom Maynard (R-Florence), and Georgina Cecilia Perez (D-El Paso) to join member Cargill and chair Bahorich on the Long-Range Plan Steering Committee. The first meeting of the steering committee will be immediately prior to the board’s September meeting. Subsequent meetings will go into “deep dives” on education issues. The committee will draft priorities, then draft strategies for those priorities. The committee will then compile a full report which will be submitted to the board.

The 18-member committee will also include one appointee each from TEA, THECB, and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), and ten members of the public. Shortly after Friday’s SBOE meeting, TEA will post a Long-Range Plan Steering Committee application similar to those used for TEKS work groups, which will be active through July. Board members not on the committee will each nominate three people from the applicant pool to serve on the committee. Of those 30, the five SBOE members on the committee will choose the final ten nominees to join them on the committee, as well as alternates.

SBOE begins June meeting with A-F update

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met Tuesday for its June session, during which the 15 members will continue work on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) and Spanish Language Arts and Reading (SLAR) and English as a Second Language (ESL). The board is also scheduled to discuss changes to the TEKS review schedule and appoint members to a Long-Range Plan Steering Committee.

The State Board of Education hears from education commissioner Mike Morath at the board's June 2017 meeting.

The State Board of Education hears from education commissioner Mike Morath at the board’s June 2017 meeting.

Tuesday began with an update from Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner Mike Morath, who reported the spring testing cycle was completed with satisfactory results. After encountering issues with scoring and test delivery in 2016, Morath stated, “All the problems with last year were resolved.”

A result of testing this year and a one-year effort to redesign the Confidential Student Report (CSR) is the new STAAR report card. The new report card goes beyond numerical results to include more information, context and terms that are easier to understand. More information on the new STAAR report card can be found on the TEA website.

The commissioner also provided a brief summary of changes to the “A through F” accountability system passed during the regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature as part of House Bill (HB) 22. The legislature compressed the system to three domains: Student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps.

The student achievement domain will primarily rely on test data to calculate student performance. Under the school progress domain, the same test data will be used to determine how much students gain year over year and how schools compare to other schools with similar levels of poverty. The closing the gaps domain will focus on identifying whether certain student groups are struggling, relative to the campus. The student achievement and school progress domains will be combined for a single “best of” score, which will be weighted against the closing the gaps domain to calculate the overall or “summative” score.

The agency will focus on outreach to stakeholders through December, and the first district-level ratings under the new system will be issued in August 2018. At that time, campus-level ratings will still be either “met standard” or “improvement required.” All campuses are scheduled to receive a “what if” report using the A through F system on January 1, 2019. Official campus-level A through F ratings will be issued in August 2019, at which time a local accountability plan framework will also be rolled out.

Districts using a local accountability plan must continue to use the three state domains, but may add as many additional domains as they like and come up with an independent formula for calculating a summative score. Only schools that have not scored a “D” or an “F” will be able to participate, and local accountability plans will be vetted through a “peer-review” process.

Under HB 22, attendance rates have been removed from the accountability system, fixing problem identifying by many elementary and middle schools. A task force has been commissioned to look at incorporating extracurricular activities, which is expected to be a five-year process.

Member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) asked about the effects of Senate Bill (SB) 1784, which promotes the use of “open-source instructional materials.” These materials are currently licensed through the state procurement process, which already includes accessibility requirements. Morath said the agency plans to make the process more similar to the proclamation process used by the SBOE for textbook vendors.

The board received an update from TEA staff on other bills passed during the legislative session. The agency is currently tasked with implementing 145 pieces of legislation passed by lawmakers of the 85th Texas Legislature.

The board proposed eight legislative recommendations, of which five were successfully carried out. Lawmakers expanded SBOE authority over approving instructional materials to consider suitability for subject and grade level, with an additional requirement that it be reviewed by academic experts. Member David Bradley (R-Beaumont) noted that the legislature provided no guidance regarding the definition of “suitability” and “expert,” though staff pointed out that a definition of expert already exists in agency rule.

The legislature did not allocate any funds for the long-range plan, nor did it appropriate money to increase TEA staffing in the curriculum division, which oversees and supports TEKS review and implementation. The legislature did approve a $5 million rider for data privacy and other items, as well as a $25 million rider to allow districts to access federal matching funds for the E-Rate Infrastructure Program.

Lawmakers passed SB 160, which prohibits the agency from adopting or implementing a performance indicator in any agency monitoring system that solely measure the number or percentage of students who receive special education services. This legislation was passed as a result of an investigative series by the Houston Chronicle that uncovered a de facto cap on special education enrollment.

Finally, the board recommended lawmakers conserve public free schools and prohibit public dollars from going to private schools or parents/guardians. Despite attempts by the Texas Senate to pass a voucher bill, the Texas House stood strong and prevented the passage of any private school voucher legislation. However, Gov. Greg Abbott has announced he will include vouchers on the call for a July special session. Noting that voucher proponents had focused on special needs vouchers during the regular session, Member Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo) asked what a special needs voucher would look like. Staff indicated the governor specifically mentioned HB 1335 by state Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton).

The board spent the latter half of Tuesday resuming their work on ELAR/SLAR and ELL high school TEKS. On Wednesday, the board is scheduled to discuss the broader TEKS review schedule.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 21, 2017

Here’s a look at this week’s education news highlights from the ATPE lobby team:


Falling US MoneyThe Texas House of Representatives this week passed a comprehensive school finance bill, House Bill (HB) 21 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), who chairs the House Public Education Committee. HB 21 is the House’s opening salvo in what the bill’s author calls a multi-session school finance reform effort. The bill is now on its way to the Senate where it is expected to receive a less than certain reception.

HB 21 picked up 10 floor amendments over the course of more than four hours of debate on Wednesday evening. The bill was approved on second reading by a vote of 134 to 16, and then the House passed HB 21 the following day on third reading by a vote of 132 to 15. Stay tuned later this week for a blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter describing the details of the bill as approved by the House.

The next steps will be for HB 21 to be accepted by the Senate and referred to the Senate Education Committee, where we hope that Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) will schedule it for a public hearing. Taylor’s committee heard his own school finance bill this week, Senate Bill (SB) 2145. A hearing on HB 21 would likely include a discussion of the differences and merits of the two school finance plans.

 


SBOE logoThe State Board of Education (SBOE) has been meeting this week, also. As ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins wrote for our blog earlier this week, the board’s agenda includes high-profile reviews of some of the state’s curriculum standards, known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

This morning, the board held a final vote on proposed changes to the TEKS for science. The biology portion in particular has been the focus of debate over the discussion of evolution. Board members began the week seeking compromise language that would satisfy scientists as well as those wishing to allow for some discussion of creationism.

The board voted down an amendment this morning by member SBOE Marisa Perez-Diaz (D-San Antonio) that would have instructed teachers to “compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, including scientific explanations for their complexity.” The board then adopted an amendment by SBOE member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) instructing teachers “to compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and compare and contrast scientific explanations for cellular complexity.” SBOE member Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) assured the board that the compromise language still encourages criticism of the theory of evolution.

On revisions to the TEKS for English and Spanish language arts and reading, the board has opted to delay a final vote until May. For more on this week’s SBOE deliberations, check out the latest update from ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins here on our blog.

 


The two legislative committees that oversee education policy for the Texas House and Senate have been busy hearing numerous bills and voting a number of them through for floor consideration.

Yesterday, the Senate Education Committee heard bills that included such topics as charter school authorizations and educator certification. As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reported on our blog, the committee heard both a bill that could restrict the expansion of charter schools in certain areas and a bill that would make it easier for charters to be approved. The committee also considered an educator certification bill that would make it easier for out-of-state teachers to become certified in Texas without necessarily passing an exam.

As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reported on Twitter, the Senate Education Committee also voted yesterday to give favorable approval to several Senate bills, many of which have been changed from their original versions that were filed: SB 653, SB 754, SB 1122, SB 1267, SB 1398, SB 1882, SB 2142, SB 2143, SB 2188, and SB 2270.

The House Public Education Committee held a full hearing for several bills on Tuesday and then met again yesterday for the purpose of voting on pending bills. As ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins wrote for our blog, Tuesday’s agenda included hearing HB 306, known as David’s Law, to prevent cyber-bullying and harassment that encourages youths to commit suicide. ATPE testified in support of the bill, as we similarly supported the Senate version, SB 179, during a prior hearing by the Senate State Affairs Committee. Read Mark’s blog post for more on the bills that were heard and voted upon by the committee on Tuesday. During Thursday’s formal meeting of the same committee, members voted to send 11 additional bills to the full House for consideration. For a list of those bills, check out Mark’s follow-up blog post on Teach the Vote.

Next week, the House Public Education Committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday for consideration of several bills. The agenda includes bills pertaining to testing, instructional materials, pre-K, and Districts of Innovation. ATPE will be there to testify and will provide updates next week on Teach the Vote and on Twitter.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-462761867Both the House and Senate have announced which of their members will serve on a conference committee for the state’s budget bill. The two chambers recently passed competing versions of Senate Bill (SB) 1, which necessitates a conference committee of 10 members to try to iron out the differences and forge a compromise to keep the government in operation for two more years and avoid the need for a special session.

Announced first this week were the Senate conferees for SB 1: Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), along with Sens. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen). On the House side, the conference committee appointees are House Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas (R-Fulshear), plus Reps. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), Sarah Davis (R-Houston), and Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock).

 


Football RefereeAlso this week, the Senate approved a measure known as the Tim Tebow bill, which requires the University Interscholastic League (UIL) to allow the participation of home-schooled students. SB 640 by Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) received the Senate’s approval on Wednesday by a vote of 23 to 8. The bill still has to be considered in the House.

ATPE has opposed SB 640 and similar legislation in previous sessions based on long-standing positions in the ATPE Legislative Program adopted each year by our members. Specifically, ATPE members object to letting home-schooled students participate in extracurricular activities without being held to the same standards as their public school counterparts, such as no pass/no play laws.

2-1_Advocacy_LegislativeProgram_REVISED

Related: The ATPE Legislative Committee will be meeting in Austin this weekend to review the ATPE Legislative Program and make recommendations for any changes to the House of Delegates. Learn more about the ATPE Legislative Program and our member-owned, member-governed philosophy here.

 

 


SBOE quietly approves science TEKS

State Board of Education meeting April 21, 2017.

State Board of Education meeting April 21, 2017.

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met this morning for a final vote on proposed changes to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science. The biology portion in particular has been the focus of debate over the discussion of evolution. Board members began the week seeking compromise language that would satisfy scientists as well as those wishing to allow for some discussion of creationism.

The board voted down an amendment Friday by member Marisa Perez-Diaz (D-San Antonio) that would have instructed teachers to “compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, including scientific explanations for their complexity.” The board then adopted an amendment by member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) instructing teachers “to compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and compare and contrast scientific explanations for cellular complexity.” Member Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) assured the board that the compromise language still encourages criticism of the theory of evolution.

The board also modified its decision from earlier this week regarding the implementation of the science TEKS, voting Friday to order implementation by the 2017-2018 school year, and delaying the effective date to August 27, 2018.

Next, the board passed on making changes to the math TEKS, and proceeded to discussion of English and Spanish Language Arts and Reading (ELAR/SLAR) and English as a Second Language (ESL) TEKS for elementary and middle school. The board decided to postpone consideration on second reading and final adoption to a special meeting to be called by the chair. Chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) explained staff ran short of time due to the simultaneous large-scale TEKS reviews underway, and suggested the minimum eight-member quorum could meet at 8:00 a.m. on May 10 to consider technical clean-ups. Members adopted the ELAR/SLAR and ESL TEKS for high school on first reading, then approved the Proclamation 2019 bid for instructional materials before adjourning. The delay will not affect the proclamation schedule.

State Board of Education takes up science, language arts TEKS

The State Board of Education is meeting this week while the Texas Legislature is session. Across the street from the Capitol inside the Texas Education Agency (TEA) building, the board began its week-long meeting Tuesday morning with public testimony on proposed changes to the science TEKS.

State Board of Education April 2017 meeting.

State Board of Education April 2017 meeting.

Some creationism supporters took issue with the changes proposed after first reading earlier this year. Biology teachers on the curriculum writing committee have proposed changes they explained would streamline the TEKS and focus on grade-level appropriate discussion. Creationism supporters argued Tuesday that the changes watered down criticism of evolution, and asked the board to retain proposed language to require students to “evaluate” various subjects related to evolution. Physics and chemistry teachers also recommended more mundane tweaks to their respective TEKS.

Wednesday began with an update from TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. The commissioner informed the board of upcoming changes to the STAAR confidential student report card (CSR), aimed to make the report more parent-friendly and easy to understand. The report will now contain student lexile levels for the current year and over a student’s academic history. The report will include information for parents regarding how to help improve a child’s reading level, as well as guidance regarding how to maximize the impact of parent-teacher conferences. The agency has also changed terminology to replace the terms for Level I through Level III standards with “does not meet grade level,” “approaching grade level,” “meets grade level,” and “masters grade level.” These changes have already been adopted in rule and will be reflected in report cards due out in June.

Commissioner Morath also announced TEA is readying a new website that will allow parents to see every STAAR question their student was asked, along with what they answered and what other students answered, compared to the correct answer. This website is expected to roll out in mid- to late June. The agency is also working on a separate site for teachers and administrators. The separate website would help teachers and administrators unpack and understand the streamlined English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) TEKS. The site will feature sample assessment questions and is intended to help teachers understand vertical and horizontal alignment of curriculum standards, as well as distinguish the meaning of verbs used in the TEKS insofar as how they affect instruction. The agency plans to activate the site in advance of the school year in which the TEKS are scheduled to go into effect.

The commissioner responded to questions from the board regarding the rollout of the “A through F” accountability standards passed by the Texas Legislature last session. House Bill 22, which would pare down the five domains to three and eliminate the overall grade, has passed out of the House Public Education Committee this session and is expected to be up for debate on the House floor within the next two to three weeks. At this point, Morath indicated he has participated in at least 70 stakeholder meetings regarding rulemaking for the version of A through F currently undergoing implementation. Some changes have been suggested to specific components, such as the calculation of chronic absenteeism at the elementary level and adjustments for children of military families and those who are absent due to illness.

As far as legislative priorities, both the House and Senate budget proposals include $25 million requested by the agency to access matching funds for rural broadband internet. Other priorities for which TEA is seeking funding in either one or both chambers include math innovation zones, high-quality pre-K, additional staff to investigate inappropriate student-teacher relationships, IT support for the Texas Student Data System (TSDS) to facilitate additional automation, cybersecurity enhancements to safeguard student data and funding to allow the STAAR test to be released annually as opposed to every three years.

On Wednesday, the board resumed discussion on second reading of the science TEKS. After hearing testimony the day before, the board unanimously adopted an amendment adding compromise language to a key section of the biology TEKS dealing with evolution. The amendment changed “evaluate” to “examine” scientific explanations for the origin of DNA. The board also adopted an amendment that would delay implementation of the streamlined science TEKS to the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. The board completed discussion of English and Spanish Language Arts and Reading TEKS for elementary and middle school Wednesday evening, approving amendments on second reading before adjourning.

Breaking up into committees Thursday morning, the board’s committee on School Finance and the Permanent School Fund (PSF) heard an update to the bond guarantee program (BGP). As of February 28, roughly $70 billion of the program’s $100 billion capacity had been allocated. After setting aside $5 billion as required, roughly $24 billion remained available to back school bonds with the PSF. Last year, the board voted to increase the multiplier used to calculate the amount available to charter schools, which resulted in increasing that amount from $165 million to $510 million.

Committee chair David Bradley (R-Beaumont) questioned staff regarding HB 3438 by state Rep. Linda Koop (R-Dallas), which would use the PSF to guarantee school lease-purchase agreements through the Texas Public Finance Authority (TPFA). Staff advised that current law likely allows for the PSF to be encumbered to guarantee short-term commercial debt, and debt under this program would likely be cumbersome on the TPFA. The bill was voted out of the House Public Education Committee during a formal hearing Thursday afternoon at the Texas Capitol.

After Thursday’s committee meetings, SBOE’s committee of the full board gathered to take up discussion of the English and Spanish Language Arts and English as a Second Language TEKS for high school on first reading.

SBOE approves preliminary changes to science and language arts curriculum standards

The State Board of Education (SBOE) welcomed two new members this week in its first meeting of 2017. Nonprofit executive Georgina C. Pérez (D-El Paso) and chiropractor Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) were sworn in Tuesday, along with those reelected in November.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) to chair the 15-member body for a term expiring in February 2019. Committees were reshuffled for the new board, with chairs elected from among the members. Sue Melton-Malone (R-Robinson) was reelected as chair of the Committee on Instruction; David Bradley (R-Beaumont) was elected to chair the Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund; and Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) was elected to chair the Committee on School Initiatives.

On Wednesday, Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath updated the board on deadlines for new instruction standards. The commissioner also fielded several questions from board members concerning the rollout of preliminary grades under the new “A through F” accountability system approved by the Texas Legislature in 2015.

Many districts and parents have raised concerns that the system relies too heavily on standardized test results, and creates a superficial and misleading picture of campus and district performance. Official grades will be released in August 2018, and Morath acknowledged, “A lot of work has to go into it between now and then.”

The commissioner cited identifying pathways for career and technical education (CTE) as a particular area of concern under the new system. In an effort to address the concern, the agency recently issued school districts a list of 67 industry certifications that would theoretically count toward “postsecondary readiness” under Domain IV.

Morath said TEA ran at least 40 different models of “A through F” internally, and promised the agency “will continue to gather feedback.” Rules are expected to be finalized by Spring 2018, in order for the first official grades to be released on time.

The board’s agenda this week focused largely on curriculum standards. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for biology once again drew passionate public comment revolving around evolution and creationism.

In November, the board heard from members of teacher committees assigned to streamline the science TEKS. Biology teachers recommended the elimination of four sections that creationism proponents argued removed avenues for discussing alternatives to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The teacher committee argued the sections were either unnecessary, were not grade level appropriate, or took up too much class time.

This week, the board heard public testimony calling for those sections to be maintained in their original forms. Board members voted along party lines to reject three of the teacher committee’s revisions to the biology TEKS. The board will hear more public testimony and take a final vote on the science TEKS when it meets in April.

The board also gave final approval Friday to revised K-8 English Language Arts and Spanish Language Arts TEKS, with final approval set for April. Consideration of revised high school English Language Arts TEKS was postponed until April, which is within the timeframe for new TEKS under the current proclamation schedule for textbooks.

On a final note of interest, the board voted to expand charter schools’ ability to utilize the Bond Guarantee Program (BGP), which allows access to better interest rates by backing loans with the Permanent School Fund (PSF). In November, charter operators argued greater access would allow them to better keep pace with growth. This week, the board heard testimony from municipal securities specialists recommending additional due diligence and regulations for charters in order to protect the PSF.

Capacity is determined by a multiplier currently set at 3.25 times the cost value of the PSF. The board voted to increase that multiplier to 3.5 times the cost value of the PSF, effective March 1, and 3.75 times the cost value of the PSF, effective September 1. The board also added the proviso that “under no circumstances could the capacity of the fund exceed the limits set by federal regulation.” The rule will go into effect 20 days after filing.

 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Jan. 27, 2017

Here are this week’s news highlights and a preview of education-related happenings next week:


office binders draft billAmid all the bills that will be filed for this session, the only one that the 85th Texas Legislature must pass is the state budget for the next two years. Legislative leaders in both the House and Senate last week revealed early plans for a new state budget, but the Senate was quick to convene hearings this week to flesh out the details for its proposal, housed in Senate Bill (SB) 1. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended those hearings and testified Tuesday on behalf of ATPE. Read his blog post to learn more about the budget hearings, along with a joint meeting of the Senate Education Committee and a Senate Finance work group on school finance that took place today. For the latest developments, you can also follow @TeachtheVote or any of our individual lobbyists on Twitter.

 


President Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee the U.S. Education Department (ED) continues to rankle educators and concerned parents nationwide. Betsy DeVos, the Michigan billionaire tapped to become the next Secretary of Education, is now the subject of a deluge of calls and letters to Capitol Hill.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has been writing about the confirmation process, including a confirmation hearing last week before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee that did not go smoothly for DeVos. Many Democrats in the Senate have publicly announced their intentions to vote against confirming DeVos, largely due to concerns about her lack of public education experience, her outspoken advocacy for privatization, and concerns about conflicts of interest revealed during a required ethics review.From all indications, however, DeVos continues to enjoy the support of the Republican majority.

The HELP committee is scheduled to take a vote on DeVos’s nomination on Tuesday, Jan. 31, after which the full Senate will weigh in on her confirmation. ATPE members who would like to communicate with U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) about Betsy DeVos are encouraged to use our simple tools at Advocacy Central (member login is required). Sample phone scripts and email messages are provided for your convenience. Learn more here.

 


ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins reports that the State Board of Education (SBOE) will meet next week in Austin, where two new members will be sworn in alongside those reelected in November.

Georgina C. Pérez (D-El Paso) and Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) will be the two new faces on the board. ATPE had a chance to visit with each at an orientation meeting before the holiday break. Pérez is a retired teacher, and has many former students on staff. A lifelong El Paso resident, Pérez runs an organization that builds libraries in poor communities. Ellis is a former school board member, and fills the seat previously held by Thomas Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant). Ellis is an Aggie dad and chiropractor. Both freshmen expressed hope for a productive year on the board.

Donna Bahorich

Donna Bahorich

Members Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio), Donna Bahorich  (R-Houston), Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands), Tom Maynard (R-Florence), Sue Melton-Malone (R-Robinson) and Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo) won reelection to the body. Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed Bahorich to chair the 15-member board. Resuming her role as chair effective February 1, her new term will expire February 1, 2019. The board will elect a vice-chair and secretary and assign committees after Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony.

The board’s agenda next week will include a public hearing and first reading vote on curriculum standards (TEKS) for English and Spanish Language Arts and Reading, as well as a hearing and first reading vote on efforts to streamline the science TEKS. The board will also discuss the schedule and instructional materials to be included in Proclamation 2019.

Any fireworks next week are likely to stem from public testimony on the science TEKS. At the November 2016 meeting, members of the committees assigned to review the TEKS shared their findings and recommendations with the board. Science teachers charged with studying the biology TEKS recommended removing a handful of passages related to evolutionary science over concerns about mastery and grade level appropriateness. Some viewed those passages as encouraging discussion of creationism. At the moment, it’s unclear how the changes in board membership could affect the final vote on the proposed edits.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on next week’s SBOE meetings.

 


NO VOUCHERS

This week saw private school vouchers dominate the discussion in and around the pink dome in Austin.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick addressed private and charter school supporters bused to the Texas Capitol on Tuesday to promote National School Choice Week. The “school choice” verbiage is being used to market a variety of voucher programs this session, most notably education savings accounts (ESAs) and tax credit scholarships.

The anti-voucher Coalition for Public Schools, of which ATPE is a member, hosted a legislative briefing and press conference Monday to break down what’s actually being proposed under the school choice slogan. Voucher programs threaten to remove more resources from a school finance system that is already critically underfunded. According to data compiled by Governing, Texas ranked 42 out of 50 states in per-pupil spending in 2014. The state spent $8,593 per student in 2014 dollars, $2,416 below the national average of $11,009.

As reported last week on our Teach the Vote blog, Senate Bill (SB) 542 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and House Bill (HB) 1184 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) fall into the tax credit scholarship category. Those bills have already been filed, but we’re still awaiting what is expected to be Lt. Gov. Patrick’s signature voucher proposal, likely in the form of an ESA. Senate Bill (SB) 3 has been reserved for the school voucher bill that will be one of Patrick’s top three priorities this session.

The House budget has proposed adding $1.5 billion in public school funding pending meaningful school finance reform, and has shown little appetite for a voucher program that would divert limited public tax dollars to private businesses. On Tuesday, Patrick demanded the House allow an “up or down vote” on vouchers this session. The lieutenant governor could roll out his preferred voucher bill as early as next week. Stay tuned for updates.

 


Today, ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Canaday wrote a blog post for Teach the Vote about the status of a politically motivated effort to ban educators from using payroll deduction for their association dues. The House Committee on State Affairs has released a new report on the issue after studying it during the interim. The report highlights arguments on both sides of the debate and concludes that legislators should carefully consider such input and, in particular, which groups would be affected by a bill to eliminate payroll deduction options.

Bills now pending in the 85th legislative session would prohibit school district employees from using payroll deduction for association dues – even dues paid to groups like ATPE that support the right to work and are not union-affiliated. At the same time, the bills (SB 13 and HB 510) would ensure that other public employees such as police officers and firefighters could continue to pay union dues via payroll deduction. The decision to single out educators while exempting other public employees makes it all the more obvious that the sponsors of these bills are really trying to stifle advocacy efforts within the school community.

17_web_Spotlight_AdvocacyCentral_1Read more about ways you can help protect educators’ right to use payroll deduction in today’s blog post, and if you’re an ATPE member, please be sure to check out our additional resources on the payroll deduction bills and communication tools at Advocacy Central.

 


17_web_Spotlight_ATC_RegistrationOpenThere’s only one week left for ATPE members to sign up for ATPE at the Capitol, happening March 5-6, 2017, at the Renaissance Austin Hotel and the Texas State Capitol. Friday, Feb. 3 is the deadline for housing, registration, and applications for financial incentives. ATPE members won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear from legislative leaders and interact directly with their own lawmakers about the education issues taking center stage this legislative session. Register, view schedule updates, and find all other details here. (ATPE member login is required to access Advocacy Central and the registration page for ATPE at the Capitol. Contact the ATPE state office if you need assistance logging in.)