Tag Archives: President Obama

Federal Update: Obama education regulations likely to be repealed

medwt16002Two Obama administration rules involving teacher preparation and accountability are in the process of being scrapped. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block recently finalized regulations involving teacher preparation and accountability, and the U.S. Senate did the same this week. The resolution to repeal the rules is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for final approval.

The teacher preparation rules were released in October after years of delay due to significant opposition from some stakeholders. The final version did include revisions to temper concerns, but the original proposal remained largely intact. The accountability rules were a piece of the much bigger set of regulations implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and involved a much more contentious debate on the Senate floor. The Senate narrowly passed the repeal measure. (Eight Democrats joined Republicans in voting the repeal the teacher preparation rules, but no Democrats voted to dismantle the accountability rules and one Republican joined them in opposition.)

Proponents of scrapping the regulations say the rules represent federal overreach and fail to convey the intent of Congress. Critics of the repeal believe strong standards are needed in order to hold teacher preparation programs and schools accountable. President Trump is widely expected to sign the rule repeals.

Interestingly, the Congressional Review Act prohibits agencies from issuing new rules in “substantially the same form” without Congress passing a new law that explicitly allows them to do so. While the teacher preparation rules could be readdressed in a more timely manner, since Congress is due to rewrite the Higher Education Act, a new law pertaining to accountability is likely years out.

In the meantime, states will have to rely on statutory language of ESSA to remain compliant under the law. The timing of the effort to do away with these administrative rules interpreting ESSA has created some ambiguity for states that are currently in the process of developing their required state plans for implementing the federal law. Some states have already announced that they will proceed with ESSA state plans that were being developed in alignment with the regulations previously put out by the Obama administration, even though those regulations may no longer be in effect going forward.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Jan. 20, 2017

Here are education news highlights for this Inauguration Day edition of our wrap-up:


 

President Donald J. Trump took the oath of office today on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Immediately upon being sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, Trump gave a rather nontraditional inauguration speech more reminiscent of his days on the campaign trail, painting a bleak picture of the current state of U.S. economic affairs and vowing to help America “win again.” On education, Trump made reference to “an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.” Media pundits were quick to respond that measures such as graduation rates have generally shown improvement despite the fact that a majority of states have decreased their education spending in recent years.

The inauguration festivities this weekend cap off a busy week in Washington, where Trump’s cabinet picks have been undergoing confirmation hearings on the hill. Former Texas governor Rick Perry, nominated to head the U.S. Department of Energy, fielded questions yesterday during a low-key and noncontroversial session with the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is expected to face little resistance to his confirmation. The same cannot be said of Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department (ED). Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos failed to temper growing fears at her confirmation hearing earlier this week. The hearing was held late Tuesday in the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. While HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) praised her nomination and his Republican colleagues on the committee seemed in step with advancing her nomination as early as next week, Democrats expressed serious concerns.

As reported by ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann in her full report of this week’s hearing, the questions DeVos refused to answer, or in some cases couldn’t answer, are getting the most attention. She failed to promise to preserve funding for public schools and expressed confusion over the nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Not surprisingly, she also dug in hard on her support for vouchers, refusing to tie apples-to-apples accountability and reporting requirements to public money sent to schools outside of the traditional public school system.

A mandatory ethics review on DeVos was also released today. The review identified 102 potential financial conflicts of interest, from which she has agreed to disassociate. Senators will have until Tuesday to look over information on these conflicts of interest; the committee’s vote is expected to be held that day. Look for more from Kate on the vote and the ethics review next week.

Following the hearing, concerns about DeVos grew outside of the Capitol as well, and the expressed dissatisfaction for her nomination grew significantly on social media. Texans can call or write their senators to register their disapproval for DeVos’s nomination. ATPE members, log in to Advocacy Central to access contact information for Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) if you’d like to send a quick message to your senators about Betsy DeVos.

 


U.S. Dept of Education LogoThe U.S. Education Department (ED) wrapped up its final days under the Obama administration this week. As we have been reporting on Teach the Vote, it is the department expected to be headed up soon by billionaire Betsy DeVos, who despite nationwide opposition from the education community has ample Republican support to achieve more than the votes needed for Senate confirmation. In the meantime, though, there will be a very temporary change in leadership at ED. It was announced this week that Phil Rosenfelt, the deputy general counsel for ED, will be the acting secretary between the end of Secretary John King’s term as of today, and the confirmation of ED’s next secretary.

In his final week of work, Secretary King oversaw the issuance of two new non-binding guidance documents (find those here and here) and withdrawal of the controversial proposed rule on “supplement, not supplant.” The latter is a piece of federal law that requires states to show that federal money is only used to bolster a state’s education budget, not replacing any dollars that would otherwise be dedicated to education. ED’s interpretation of the law as it was slightly altered under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) altered the way states must demonstrate compliance. While the department compromised on many elements of the original proposal as it progressed through the rulemaking process, the latest version still garnered considerable disagreement among stakeholders. Most expected the rule to face elimination under the Trump administration. The department explained that it simply ran out of time under the current administration.

 


Earlier this week, Texas Senate and House leaders shared details on their respective plans for writing the state budget to cover the next two years. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter shared highlights of the two proposals in a blog post earlier this week. The Senate Finance Committee, chaired once again by Sen. Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound), will commence hearings on its budget bill, Senate Bill (SB) 1, next week. The committee is slated to begin taking testimony Tuesday on Article III, the portion of the budget that covers public education, and ATPE’s Exter will be there to share our input. Watch for more coverage of the budget hearings next week on Teach the Vote.

Dollar fanThe House budget proposal calls for spending a bit more money on public education than the Senate’s version, and leaders on the House side have even expressed interest in looking to the state’s Economic Stabilization (“Rainy Day”) Fund for additional resources this session. The House plan includes contingency language that would authorize an extra $1.5 billion for public education if the 85th Legislature passes a school finance bill that reduces recapture and improves equity. As ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins writes for our blog today, increasing the state’s share of education funding is the key to lowering property tax burdens at the local level, and that is expected to be a prominent talking point during Tuesday’s budget hearing.

 


The first major private school voucher legislation was filed this week. Senate Bill (SB) 542 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, and its companion House Bill (HB) 1184 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac, are a rehash of the tax credit scholarship legislation filed last session by Bettencourt, Bohac, and others. The tax credits for funding scholarships to be used at private schools are one of several varieties of private school voucher that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and like-minded senators have been pushing for multiple sessions. While a related voucher bill did pass the Senate in 2015 with significant assistance from the lieutenant governor, Bettencourt and others pushing for privatization found little appetite for vouchers in the House.

ATPE circulated this letter to lawmakers in 2015 opposing similar, though not identical, tax credit voucher bills in the 84th session. ATPE continues to oppose this and all forms of voucher legislation during the 85th legislative session and urges lawmakers in both chambers to do the same this year. For a preview of what is likely to the session’s other primary voucher vehicle, Education Savings Accounts, check out ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter’s recent blog post, ESAs: A Bad Deal for Students in Need.

CPS square logoRelated: The anti-voucher Coalition for Public Schools, of which ATPE is a member, will hold a legislative briefing and press conference on Monday, Jan. 23. A pro-voucher rally sponsored by Texans for Education Opportunity, Aspire Texas, and other groups is happening Tuesday at the capitol in connection with National School Choice Week.

 


Sen. Larry Taylor

Sen. Larry Taylor

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced his Senate committee assignments for the 85th Legislature this week. There were few changes from last session in terms of committee leadership, with Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) continuing to oversee the Senate Education Committee and Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) again chairing the Senate Finance Committee that will write the state’s budget. Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) stays on as chair of the Senate State Affairs Committee, where her bill to take away educators’ right to payroll deduction for their association dues is expected to be heard.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) will no longer serve on the Senate Education Committee, having been tapped instead to chair the Senate Committee on Administration. She is one of three senators from last session’s education committee roster being replaced; also gone are Sens. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) and Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso). The new senators joining the education committee this year are Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), Brian Hughes (R-Mineola), and Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio). These appointments reflect the lieutenant governor’s decision to change the Republican-Democratic split on the committee from 7-4 back in 2015 to its new party breakdown of 8-3. Patrick also stacked the committee with several supporters of privatization, hoping to clear a path for his priority voucher legislation to move quickly through the Senate.

For more on the Senate committee announcement and a link to the full roster, check out this week’s blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann. House committee assignments have not yet been released.

 


17_web_Spotlight_ATC_RegistrationOpenFinally, ATPE members are reminded to register for ATPE at the Capitol, our upcoming political involvement training and lobby day event in March. This is the best chance for educators to learn more about the high-profile education bills being deliberated this session with presentations from ATPE’s lobbyists and legislative leaders like Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor. Best of all, ATPE members will be empowered to add their voices to the debate, meeting with their lawmakers face-to-face on Monday, March 6, at the Texas State Capitol. The registration deadline is Feb. 3, and complete details for ATPE at the Capitol are available on our website here.

Federal Update: ED releases long delayed teacher preparation rules

U.S. Dept of Education LogoThe U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released a final set of regulations that lay out federal stipulations for states’ teacher preparation programs. The rules have seen delays since 2014, when an initial iteration was released. That initial proposal garnered significant input, and while some revisions are included in the newest version, the original proposal remains largely intact.

Under the newly released regulations, states will be required to develop a rating system aimed at evaluating the success of its teacher preparation programs. One piece of that rating system must analyze how programs’ teachers perform based on a measure of student academic achievement. This was a highly controversial piece retained from the original proposal, which was heavily-reliant on student test scores, but the newer version does provide flexibility with regard to how states determine student success. Ultimately, if programs don’t perform well on the state’s rating system, states will be required to cut off access to federal grants aimed at supporting teachers who teach in high-need certification areas and in low-income schools (or TEACH grants).

Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised HandsThe rating system must also include the job placement data, retention rates, and feedback of programs’ graduates as well as the feedback from their graduates’ employers. Initial reactions to the final version of the regulations have been mixed. While some support the higher accountability to which programs will be held, others have concerns with the unintended consequences that could result, such as the effect a measure of student achievement could have on the support available for teachers going into high needs schools.

As we shared last week, Texas is at the end of a process to revamp its educator preparation accountability system. Much of what Texas has and is in the process of implementing is in line with the standards to be enforced by ED under its new regulations. One missing piece, however, is the inclusion of student achievement. While such a measure is included in Texas law and rules governing educator preparation programs (EPPs), to date, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been unable to find a valid way to measure student outcomes. TEA has, however, included a student growth measure in its new teacher evaluation system, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). The new system is in its first year of implementation statewide, but the measure of student growth piece is still in the pilot phase. ATPE and other organizations have filed legal challenges based in part on the inclusion of value-added modeling (VAM) as a element of the T-TESS model. The final commissioner’s rules for T-TESS outline four ways in which schools may assess student growth for purposes of teacher evaluations; VAM, which many consider to be an unfair and unreliable statistical calculation for this purpose, is one of the four options. Despite the pending litigation, the student growth piece of T-TESS  is set to take effect statewide next school year. With the new federal rules for EPPs calling on states to look specifically at the performance of students taught by those programs, it seems likely that Texas will at least consider further extension of the same questionable VAM methodology for EPP accountability.


For related content, read the perspectives of Kate Walsh with the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). She highlights her thoughts on the new regulations, including why she doesn’t disagree with ED’s decision to omit the previously required use of student test scores or VAM.


U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King and President Obama have stood by the administration’s new regulations and are joined by those who support stronger regulations for teacher preparation in the United States, but the rules have received criticism from congressional leaders and other stakeholders. As all of this plays out, two things create some uncertainty: 1) regardless of who is elected, it is relatively unknown how a new president would implement these regulations, and 2) Congress has been toying with reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which has a questionable likelihood but would entail fresh laws that could render these new teacher preparation regulations meaningless. Plus, the price tag of implementing these regulations would be high for states (latest estimates from the administration indicate $27 million per year for the next 10 years). Bottom line, the final version of the regulations released today might not be the end of the road. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for more.

From The Texas Tribune: Allegations of Fearmongering in Education Board Runoff

by Kiah Collier, The Texas Tribune
May 17, 2016

Mary Lou Bruner and Keven Ellis are hoping to represent District 9 on the State Board of Education. Northeast Texas voters will pick between the two Republicans in a May 24 runoff election. Whoever wins the nomination will face Democrat Amanda Rudolph in November.

Mary Lou Bruner and Keven Ellis are hoping to represent District 9 on the State Board of Education. Northeast Texas voters will pick between the two Republicans in a May 24 runoff election. Whoever wins the nomination will face Democrat Amanda Rudolph in November.

CANTON — Today’s schoolchildren favor socialism over the free market. Common Core educational standards — banned in Texas — have crept into the classroom. And Texas schools should “teach the knowledge and skills that made the United States the leader of the world,” including cursive, phonics and multiplication tables.

State Board of Education hopeful Mary Lou Bruner’s fear-inducing, back-to-basics talking points have not changed much during a GOP runoff campaign that began after she nearly won a three-way primary to represent northeast Texas on the panel that sets state curriculum and adopts textbooks.

Neither, though, have Keven Ellis’.

Despite finishing a distant second to Bruner in the March 1 primary, when GOP voters demonstrated a strong preference for far-right candidates, Ellis has deliberately stuck to his policy-focused message: He wants to support educators by working with them rather than against them, narrow a curriculum he describes as “a mile wide and an inch deep” and overhaul the current standardized testing regime. That is, when he’s not urging voters to ignore Bruner’s message of alarm.

“You will hear her say that children belong to the parents and not the government — and of course they do — but she has also said that if your children go to school saying things like ‘abortion is wrong’ and they don’t believe in global warming, they could get a visit from the school administrator” and put themselves at risk of being taken away by Child Protective Services, Ellis said earlier this month during a sparsely attended GOP runoff forum in the East Texas town of Canton.

Ellis, a 45-year-old Lufkin chiropractor, who has served for three years on the local school board and is now its president, added that the Texas Legislature has already banned Common Core, and the state curriculum still includes cursive, phonics and multiplication tables.

“It’s all about inciting fear,” he said. “Please see through this.”  

Bruner, a conservative activist who worked in East Texas schools for 36 years as a teacher, counselor and educational diagnostician before retiring in 2009, said there’s plenty of reasons to be afraid of “elites in the federal government that are trying to give us a one-size-fits-all, top-down education system.”

“If that is fearmongering, I wish people had spoken out harder and heavier in Germany before Hitler took over,” she said. “We should be scared when they want to take away from us what our government was built upon and totally revamp it and make it like the socialist and communist countries of the world.”

The 69-year-old from Mineola, who won 48 percent of the March primary vote to Ellis’ 31 percent, also bashed reporters for fixating on her conspiracy theory-laden Facebook posts during the primary campaign. Now mostly hidden from public view, they contended that President Obama worked as a gay prostitute in his youth to pay for a drug habit and that the Democratic Party was behind President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

“They always want to smear my name and start with that before they ask me what I want to do on the State Board of Education,” she said, adding in an interview that “I’m really sick and tired of the way they’ve treated me.”

The GOP forum in Canton was one of just a handful of events during the nearly three-month runoff campaign where both candidates were present. Several local conservative groups, which have overwhelmingly backed Bruner, have not invited Ellis to meet with them or speak at their events, according to Ellis and local activists. One of the groups, though, is currently reconsidering its endorsement of Bruner after she made several inaccurate statements in a speech to East Texas superintendents. 

“That is counter to what we should be about,” said Dwayne “Doc” Collins, a Canton activist who founded five local Tea Party groups and organized the forum. The 70-year-old veterinarian said he’s “going to have to break with a lot of my fellow Tea Partiers” to support Ellis.

Ellis “has a lot of positive things he could bring to the state school board,” said Collins, who has known Bruner for years. “He would be quite a bit more cooperative … less confrontational.”

If that is fear-mongering, I wish people had spoken out harder and heavier in Germany before Hitler took over.— Mary Lou Bruner, Republican candidate for State Board of Education

 

But many who attended the forum said it was the first time they had even heard of Ellis or knew there was another candidate in the race besides Bruner. Several said they were leaning toward Bruner after hearing from both candidates because she spoke to their concerns — namely Common Core — and demonstrated conviction.

“She was boisterous. She didn’t back down,” said Patrick Wilson, a retiree who now works as a substitute teacher in Canton.

“She’s my gal,” Jon Smith, another local retiree, told The Texas Tribune at the forum. “She wants to get rid of the Common Core that’s starting.”

Almost every other state has adopted Common Core, the K-12 educational standards championed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State Officers — and incentivized when the Obama administration tied their adoption to federal grant eligibility. But Texas’ GOP leaders have rejected the standards for a perceived liberal bias, and the Legislature passed a bill in 2013 banning their adoption or use.

Ellis says he is also opposed to Common Core but described it in an interview as a “non-issue” despite the fact that it’s clearly a concern among his would-be constituents.

Meanwhile, he’s hoping Bruner’s “outlandish comments” will help his cause.

Inaccurate statistics Bruner cited earlier this month during a speech to Region 7 superintendents — including the percentage of students enrolled in special education and the number of substitute teachers working in Lufkin schools — have gotten her in hot water with the influential East Texas Tea Party group Grassroots America — We the People, which endorsed Bruner in the primary.

The Smith County-based group has asked her to “produce her sources” and is “reconsidering” its endorsement, Executive Director JoAnn Fleming said in a text message. The group has also said it doesn’t agree with Bruner’s Facebook posts.

While some of the figures cited in the speech, captured in a cellphone video and circulated online in recent weeks, may have been wrong, Bruner said, “Everything I said is basically true,” including that schools are struggling with teacher shortages and so have to use substitutes.  

“Let me tell you what, the superintendents are not all Republicans,” Bruner said. “Many of them are Democrats, and they have an agenda.”

Bruner confirmed she has not received any endorsements from Texas superintendents. More than 70 of them have endorsed Ellis in the race, as well as statewide teacher groups and the Texas Parent PAC. Ellis also has received endorsements from state Rep. Trent Ashby of Lufkin and outgoing House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, both of whom are key members of the more moderate bloc of Republicans in the Texas House aligned with Speaker Joe Straus

Whoever prevails in next week’s runoff will face Democrat Amanda Rudolph in the November general election. Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said he doesn’t expect Bruner’s comments to hurt her much.

Ultraconservative GOP runoff voters are “going to focus on the bigger picture of going back to basics — having schools that reflect their values and looking to keep Common Core out of Texas,” Jones said. “Perhaps they wouldn’t say that Obama was a former prostitute financing his drug habit, but they do not have a favorable opinion of President Obama and therefore aren’t going to be turned off by that statement.”

 


Disclosure: Rice University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2016/05/17/sboe-race-candidates-stick-their-message/.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 13, 2016

On this Friday the 13th, we report on the Texas Supreme Court’s school finance ruling and other major education stories from this week. Here’s your weekly recap:

 


ThinkstockPhotos-185034697_gavelcashThe Texas Supreme Court issued its highly-anticipated ruling today on the state’s school finance system, upholding that it meets the minimum standards for constitutionality while acknowledging the system is imperfect. The supreme court’s decision reverses a 2014 decision by the district court, which ruled aspects of the school finance system unconstitutional after numerous school districts across the state had sued the state on the grounds that the method of funding public schools in Texas is inadequate and inequitable. While the court declined to recommend specific changes, it did assert that the system is “undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement” and placed the burden to fix the system on the legislature. Read more about the decision and ATPE’s perspective in today’s blog post by ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Canaday.


Voting begins next week for Republican and Democratic primary elections that resulted in a runoff! In areas throughout the state, voters will have the opportunity to participate in runoff elections for legislative and State Board of Education (SBOE) seats. It’s important to remember that the majority of elections in Texas are decided during the primary process, and your vote in this election is key to electing a candidate that will support your students and career.

Early voting begins Monday, May 16, and runs through Friday, May 20. The runoff election day is Tuesday, May 24. Find out whether there is a runoff election taking place in your area and review some fast facts about the election (such as who is eligible to vote in a runoff and which forms of identification satisfy the voter ID requirements in Texas) in our blog post from earlier this week. Visit our 2016 Races page to research the candidates in your area before visiting the polls!

Related Content: May is a busy month for elections! The May 7 local and special elections wrapped up last weekend, and ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson posted a recap of those results.


As political rhetoric heats up over designating restrooms for use by transgender individuals, school districts are now finding themselves in the center of a national debate. Today, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued a joint letter offering guidance to school officials on interpreting the requirements of federal law, as it pertains to restroom policies. The correspondence was intended to summarize school districts’ obligations regarding transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that are operated with federal funds. The letter contributed to an ongoing firestorm over transgender restroom policies, including right here in Texas where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) unsuccessfully called for a school superintendent’s resignation this week over the same issue.

In a statement to the media today, ATPE cited safety concerns as a foremost consideration. “Our main goal is to keep students and teachers safe,” ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey said. We also noted that ATPE strongly supports local control in policy decisions such as these, and we encourage districts to consider whether their local policies are in compliance with federal civil rights laws. “As the state’s largest educator group, we hope that all school districts weighing changes to their policies, including any decisions that might expose them to lawsuits, will consult with their legal counsel beforehand and make rational decisions based on sound legal advice, rather than politics or emotion,” said ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey.

 


The House Public Education Committee held an interim hearing on Wednesday of this week, and ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended and wrote the following report on the meeting:

ThinkstockPhotos-135648941_phoneWeb-connected technology: best thing ever or dangerous tool being used to groom and molest schoolchildren? If you attended the most recent House Public Education hearing you would have gotten the distinct impression that the answer to both questions was yes. The committee took up two disparate interim charges that were joined at the issue of use of connected technology.

The first interim charge taken up by the committee this week called for the following: “Review current policies and rules to protect students from inappropriate teacher-student relationships. Examine efforts by the Texas Education Agency, school districts, law enforcement and the courts to investigate and prosecute educators for criminal conduct. Recommend needed improvements to promote student safety, including examining current criminal penalties, superintendent reporting requirements, teacher certification sanctions and the documentation provided in school district separation agreements. Review school employee training and educational efforts to promote student safety.”

The witnesses, and consequently the committee, spent most of their time on how to respond to instances of sexual abuse or other inappropriate relationships. A few suggestions discussed on Wednesday included limiting internal investigation by school districts and increasing requirements and incentives for external reporting and investigation; plus granting the Texas Education Agency (TEA) additional access to documents, sometimes of questionable value. A series of questions from one of the committee members did highlight that all of TEA’s open cases dealing with inappropriate relationships in a given year involve less than one-tenth of one percent of the total number of educators, and only about a third of the open cases result in sanctions. Unfortunately, the hearing focused very little on the scope of the problem or more importantly on a full discussion of factors that have led to and could be addressed to prevent issues before they arise. There were somewhat general comments made about of technologies such as Facebook and smartphones facilitating inappropriate behavior and general comments made about student education. However, more discussion and research is warranted on those topics and on the role of rigorous, high-quality educator preparation, administrator training, staff placement, and rampant educator churn and how these factors could impact a reduction in inappropriate employee-student relationships and the educational environment as a whole.

The committee’s second charge for the day was as follows: “Examine the accessibility to broadband services for schools, libraries, and institutions of higher education. Study the feasibility and affordability of providing scalable broadband to schools and other public institutions. Research federal and state funding opportunities to support increased access to broadband. Review innovative efforts by school districts to integrate technology in the classroom. Explore ways to enhance high-tech digital learning opportunities in the classroom to improve student achievement and fulfill future workforce demands.”

In addition to invited testimony on broadband infrastructure and cost issues, the committee heard from a panel on blended and differentiated learning. The committee also took public testimony from superintendents, Chief Technology Officers, and a group of students. Much of the public testimony centered on the need for additional technology funding and problems with the instructional materials allotment.

Video of the full hearing can be viewed here.


Commissioner of Education Mike Morath has proposed rules to implement a law passed in 2015 requiring video surveillance of certain classrooms serving students in special education programs. Earlier this week, ATPE submitted written comments on the proposed rules, which can be viewed here. The Texas Education Agency is also set to hold a public hearing on the rules next Thursday, May 19.


TRS logoThe TRS board of trustees is meeting today with two new members and ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson is following the action and has provided this update:

John Elliot, a real estate attorney in Austin, and Greg Gibson, the superintendent of Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City School District, were appointed by Governor Abbott earlier this month. The governor’s announcement of new trustees also included the reappointment of board member Christopher Moss. All were welcomed with daunting decisions regarding retiree health care.

The board is expected to be briefed by TRS staff today on a cash flow problem facing TRS-Care, the health insurance program offered to public education retirees. TRS has indicated that while they project there to be enough funding to make it through the remainder of the states’ two-year budget cycle, they have a cash flow issue that is causing short-term funding deficiencies. The TRS board may be required to make changes to the retiree health plan to accommodate the funding Issue, including increasing retiree out of pocket costs, increasing deductibles, or changing plan design, among other options. There is also the possibility that the TRS board makes no changes to TRS-Care and defers to the Texas Legislature.

The board is expected to take this issue up again at its June board meeting and action could be taken at that time. ATPE will be working with the board and TRS staff to help mitigate any potential negative impacts to retirees. Stay tuned for more information on this issue and others from Teach the Vote!

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

Happy Friday! Here’s a recap of this week’s news:


The March 1 Texas primary elections were historic in many ways. Some closely watched races resulted in narrow margins of victory and even prompted recounts and further analysis of the ballots in some instances.

Hugh Shine has prevailed in a recount for Texas's House District 55 seat.

Hugh Shine prevails in recount for Texas’s House District 55 seat.

In House District 55, incumbent Rep. Molly White (R) faced a tough challenge by Hugh Shine (R), who was endorsed by Texas Parent PAC. Shine defeated White in the Republican primary election on March 1, but White asked for a recount. As reported this week, Shine remained the winner by a margin of 104 votes upon completion of the recount, and White conceded her loss to him. Shine will become the new state representative for the central Texas district since there are no Democratic, third-party, or independent candidates on the ballot in November.

Meanwhile, in the closely watched race to succeed Sen. Kevin Eltife (R) in Senate District 1, there is still no answer as to which candidate will earn the second place spot and a right to compete in a runoff against front-runner Bryan Hughes (R). It was initially reported that David Simpson (R) edged out James K. “Red” Brown (R) for second place by only 13 votes, but officials have been busy this week counting all the votes, including provisional ballots and military ballots often submitted by mail from members of the armed services who reside in the district but are currently stationed outside the country. Our friends at The Texas Tribune reported yesterday that Simpson and Brown “traded places intermittently throughout the week as results from provisional ballots across the district’s 16 counties came in. At various points on Thursday, each candidate appeared to have won by a handful of votes as they contended for a chance to face state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, in a runoff to replace retiring state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler. Once official canvassed results are finalized, the third-place candidate will have the opportunity to request a recount.” Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on this extremely close race.

Check out last week’s blog post to read more results from the March 1 primaries and previews of major runoffs. Visit the 2016 Races pages to view runoff candidates’ voting records, responses to the ATPE candidate survey, and additional information.

 


ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann contributed the following update on education-related developments in the nation’s capital this week.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) met Wednesday, March 9, to consider the nomination of Dr. John King to serve as Secretary of Education. Dr. King is currently functioning as the acting secretary after serving as the Deputy Education Secretary at the Department of Education (ED) under Secretary Arne Duncan. After being nominated by President Obama to fill the post, the HELP committee convened a confirmation hearing on the nomination in late February where King was asked to weigh in on issues of importance to public education.

In its markup this week, the HELP committee voted 16-6 to advance King’s nomination to the full Senate. In his closing comments, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he hoped the Senate would promptly confirm Dr. King, highlighting the need for accountable leadership as ED works to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The six no votes came from Republican members of the committee, but Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also expressed hesitation. She said she would not be able to support Dr. King’s nomination in the full Senate until she gets answers to her policy questions on student loans and for-profit colleges.

In related news, Dr. King continued his Capitol Hill budget tour this week. King testified Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. We reported late last month that he testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. King is making the rounds to defend President Obama’s FY 2017 budget proposal.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-152142396_preschoolThe Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently posted proposed new commissioner’s rules to implement a major pre-Kindergarten grant program pursuant to Rep. Dan Huberty’s (R-Kingwood) House Bill (HB) 4 that passed in 2015. Under the program, school districts and charter schools that implement certain quality standards for curriculum, teacher qualifications, academic performance, and family engagement may apply for grant funding starting in 2016. The commissioner is required to propose and adopt rules to determine parameters for the grants. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter contributed the following additional information about the rulemaking process that is underway now:

ATPE submitted formal written input on the proposed rules earlier this week. Our comments addressed funding, flexibility, standards, and reporting. First, we suggested adding some simple procedures to give grantees a better sense of certainty on funding levels for budgeting purposes. We called for additional flexibility in choosing or creating instruments to assess the progress of pre-K students. We praised the agency for upholding high standards for pre-K teachers while requesting clarification that grantees can use their grant dollars to help educators meet those higher standards. Finally, we cautioned against making the same mistakes on overemphasis of accountability measures, particularly those driven by standardized assessment data, that have plagued middle and upper grade levels for years, if not decades.

Read ATPE’s full comments on the proposed pre-K rules here.

 


Don’t forget to set your clocks forward this weekend!

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From The Texas Tribune: Outspoken Education Board Candidate Headed to Runoff

by Kiah Collier, The Texas Tribune
March 1, 2016

Right to Left, Top to Bottom: Georgina Perez, Dakota Carter, Mary Lou Bruner, Joe Fierro, Jr., Jasmine L. Jenkins, Keven M. Ellis

Top row, left to right: Georgina Perez, Dakota Carter, Mary Lou Bruner. Bottom row, left to right: Joe Fierro, Jr., Jasmine L. Jenkins, Keven M. Ellis.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.

An East Texas Republican who once claimed President Obama used to be a gay prostitute appears headed for a May 24 primary runoff in the race to represent District 9 on the State Board of Education.

And at least one political scientist believes Mary Lou Bruner could fare even better there than she did on Tuesday.

The 68-year-old retired schoolteacher, who garnered national attention during the campaign because of her over-the-top Facebook posts, was near the 50 percent mark early Wednesday morning in her three-person GOP primary race.

She appears poised for a runoff with Lufkin chiropractor and school board president Keven Ellis, who raised and spent more money than Bruner during the campaign but trailed her by 17 percentage points with 95 percent of precincts reporting. (Bruner had secured about 48 percent of the vote to Ellis’ 31 percent.)

The third candidate in the race, Hank Hering, a friend of Bruner’s, was running third early Wednesday morning. (Bruner told the Tribune she would’ve endorsed Hering in the race if she hadn’t run.)

While runoffs can be toss-ups regardless of what happens in the regular election, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said Bruner will probably have an edge in May because the movement conservatives backing her are more likely to show up to vote than the more moderate Republicans who are backing Ellis.

Ellis describes himself as a conservative Republican, but — with endorsements from Republicans like outgoing House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen — was seen as the establishment candidate in the race. That has been a difficult label to overcome for candidates up and down the ballot this election cycle with voters showing overwhelmingly preference for outside-the-box over run-of-the-mill.

If Bruner clinches the party nomination, it all but ensures she will win in November, as District 9 is considered safe for Republicans. Whoever prevails in the District 9 GOP primary race will face Democrat Amanda Rudolph, a secondary education professor at Sam Houston State University who is unopposed in her primary.

Observers say her election would reignite the divisiveness on the 15-member education board, which is in charge of crafting curriculum and textbooks for the state’s more than 5 million public schoolchildren. The panel has become more harmonious in recent years as the cadre of fervent right-wing conservative conservatives who used to dominate the board has diminished, with some members retiring or being voted out.

One of those members lost to the current District 9 representative, Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, one of the board’s more moderate Republican members who decided not to seek re-election.

Observers also have predicted an increase in divisiveness if Democrat Georgina Perez represents District 1 on the education board, which she will after her primary win Tuesday.

Perez, 41, avoided a runoff in the three-person primary race. Finishing behind her were Joe Fierro Jr., a longtime Army soldier, and Lynn Oliver, a retired public school teacher who now lectures in the Department of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

There is no Republican running for District 1.

In District 6, Democrats Jasmine L. Jenkins and R. Dakota Carter are headed for a runoff.

Carter, 28, is a child and adolescent psychiatry resident at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Jenkins, 32, is a former bilingual fourth-grade teacher who now works for a tutoring and test preparation company in Houston.

Whoever prevails will face Republican board chairwoman Donna Bahorich in November. She has no primary opponent.

Neither do five other board members up for re-election — Tom MaynardBarbara CargillMarty RowleySue Melton-Malone and Ken Mercer — although some will face Libertarian and Green Party challengers in November.


Disclosure: Rice University has been a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2016/03/01/state-board-races-head-to-runoff/.

A week of education-related hearings in Washington, D.C.

ThinkstockPhotos-492905119-USCapIt was a busy week for education in Washington, D.C., as Congress held four hearings on a variety of topics. Two of those hearings were dedicated to oversight as the Department of Education (ED) implements the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), another was focused on President Obama’s education budget proposal, and a final hearing concentrated on the confirmation of current acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King as Secretary of Education.

ESSA Implementation

The Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) kicked the week off on Tuesday with a hearing entitled, “ESSA Implementation in States and School Districts: Perspectives from Education Leaders.” Seven invited witnesses delivered testimony on the topic. The witness list included a governor, two superintendents, two think tank representatives, and two teacher union representatives. All panelists welcomed the new law, specifically with regard to more state-controlled decision making, and expressed the importance of quality regulations delivered under an appropriate timeline.

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated that the Committee wants states to have plans ready by July 1, 2017, and one panelist hoped that initial regulations would be finalized by this coming fall. While most panelists agreed with the need for rapid response to the law, there was some concern that moving too quickly could mean states will merely tinker with current systems as opposed to taking the time to really rethink the systems in place. The importance of teacher involvement in the implementation process was also discussed. Watch the full Senate committee hearing here.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce also held a hearing dedicated to ESSA implementation. The hearing took place Thursday morning and was entitled “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Upholding the Letter and Intent of the Every Student Succeeds Act.” This is the second ESSA oversight hearing held by the House (read more about the first hearing here). Acting Secretary King was the only witness at the hearing yesterday morning.

While members did ask King about specific issues pertaining to the new law, Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) kicked off the meeting with comments and questioning on the federal government’s role under ESSA. He specifically pointed to comments made by former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan late last year that seemed to imply ED was already looking for ways around some of the new law’s restrictions that limit the department from intervening in states’ policies. King understood the limitations but also assured members that ED would adequately enforce the civil rights aspects of the law. Watch the full House committee hearing here.

Related content: ED released a fairly extensive document today that addresses frequently asked questions pertaining to ESSA. The FAQ document can be viewed here.

Dr. John King’s Confirmation as Secretary of Education

Since Arne Duncan stepped down from his post as the nation’s top education official, one of his previous top advisers, Dr. John King, has served as acting U.S. Secretary of Education. Following a few months on the job, President Obama decided to put forth the acting secretary as his nominee to officially replace Duncan. Such a nomination requires the approval of the U.S. Senate. The process of confirming acting Secretary King began Thursday with a Senate confirmation hearing in the Senate Committee on HELP.

King was asked to weigh in on some issues of major importance to the education community.

  • On ESSA, King said they have begun the negotiated rulemaking process on several pieces of the law and are listening to stakeholders. On the importance of maintaining the civil rights legacy of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), he said that with the added flexibility under ESSA at the state level, states would have the opportunity to focus on increasing equity.
  • On teacher shortages, King said there is an opportunity to reset our conversations around the teaching profession. He recognized that states have their own specific issues with regard to teacher shortages. He acknowledged that compensation is often low and student growth is quickly rising in many areas.
  • On teacher evaluation, King agreed with Chairman Alexander that evaluation systems are to be designed and implemented at the state level, but he pointed to equity plans and federal Title II dollars that can help states build effective evaluation systems and provide equitable access to teachers.
  • On testing, King said that while test participation is important, it is also important to ensure all tests are necessary and beneficial. He believes thoughtfulness on the part of state leaders and flexibility under the new law will give states the opportunity to address the overemphasis on testing. He pointed to new guidance ED has already released on using state and federal funds to review state’s testing regimes and better understand what is appropriate.
  • On vouchers, King stated that he does not personally believe that programs like the DC voucher program cannot be scaled to a larger level as a solution for creating greater and more equitable access to education. Chairman Alexander acknowledged that Congress was unable to pass voucher and school choice amendments, and he asked that King respect that the body failed to come to a consensus.
  • On charters, King said the key is highlighting innovative practices and scaling up strong charter-management organizations.
  • On Common Core, which he oversaw the implementation of in New York state, King promised to adhere to the spirit of the ESSA law and not intervene with state’s standards adoption.

Dr. King formerly served at ED as the Deputy Education Secretary under Duncan. Prior to joining ED, he was the commissioner of New York state public schools, founded a Boston charter school called Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, and worked as managing director for a charter management organization. He began his education career as a high school social studies teacher.

The HELP committee will meet to vote on his confirmation on March 9.

 

President Obama’s Budget

Acting Secretary King was also on the Hill Wednesday, this time to defend the president’s budget request for ED. The request is a 1.9 percent increase over the 2016 appropriation, requesting $69.4 billion dollars. King told lawmakers on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that the K-12 portion of the proposal prioritizes equity and the teaching profession. Chairman John Kline (R-MN), however, was concerned that the proposal flatlines programs like the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

Other Republicans expressed concern that the proposal would cause budget deficits to rise over the long term. The proposal seeks to considerably expand preschool education; Republican members pointed to the hefty price tag associated, while Democrats defended the expanded programs. King also pointed to high graduation rates and waning drop-out rates across the country saying that the budget seeks to build on progress.

Policies centered on the teaching profession were a hot topic of discussion. Acting Secretary King pointed to a billion dollar proposal called “RESPECT: Best Job in the World.” According to ED, the competitive grant program funds could be used to create advancement opportunities for teachers, provide teachers with flexibility to focus on professional development, or improve working conditions. The program would be focused on supporting “comprehensive, locally-developed, teacher-led efforts in our highest-needs schools.”

The president’s budget proposal faces a long and unlikely road to passage.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Dec. 11, 2015

It’s been a gigantic week for education news. Here are this week’s developments:


 

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), previously known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has written about on our blog throughout the process, the compromise ESSA bill passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 85 to 12. It similarly sailed through the House last week by a vote of 359 to 64. While the ESSA is far from perfect, the passage of the bill is viewed as a victory by ATPE and most education groups, who have waited years for reauthorization, a repeal of unworkable NCLB provisions, and a move away from federal policies and waivers that overemphasized standardized testing and one-size-fits-all approaches to teaching.

Now, the hard work of implementation will begin, and there are many unanswered questions about how the enactment of ESSA will affect Texas education laws and policies. Pre-existing ESEA waivers will become null and void by mid-2016, but what exactly does that mean for Texas? One of the more immediate concerns is what may become of T-TESS, the Texas Education Agency’s new teacher evaluation system that was crafted in large measure to satisfy the requirements of the state’s ESEA waiver. Draft commissioner’s rules to implement T-TESS as early as next month were just released this week; a public comment period will begin today and run through Jan. 11, 2016. We encourage ATPE members to view the draft rules and share feedback with TEA.

JC

Jennifer Canaday

Read more about the ESSA and what it means for Texas in yesterday’s blog post by ATPE Governmental Relations Manager Jennifer Canaday, and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates as implementation begins.

Related content: ATPE has been featured in several media stories about the passage of the ESSA. Here are just a couple of recent samples:

  • ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter was quoted in this article in the Houston Chronicle.
  • Exter will also be featured on a live call-in radio show with 710am KURV News Talk Radio this afternoon starting at 4:10 p.m. in the Rio Grande Valley.
  • Click here to watch Round Rock ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe and ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann, who were interviewed for a story by Austin’s KEYE-TV on Dec. 10.
Stephanie_Stoebe

Stephanie Stoebe


The Senate Education Committee held its first interim committee hearing on Monday. The agenda included two interim charges related to charter schools and inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

The committee first heard from the Texas Education Agency on changes to charter school accountability laws after the passage of Senate Bill 2 (2013). That legislation authored by then-Senator Dan Patrick made it easier for charters to expand with agency approval, but also gave TEA the authority to close poor-performing charters more rapidly. The committee also discussed at length the disposition of charter school property after a charter has been revoked. For many years, charter school proponents have lobbied the legislature for facilities funding, complaining that charter holders do not have the ability that school districts have to win voter approval for bonds. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified to the committee that it is difficult to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons between charter schools and traditional school districts. He suggested that the legislature and TEA should take a closer look at per-pupil funding from all available sources, including private foundations that heavily support charter schools.

Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

The Senate Education Committee has also been charged with looking at inappropriate teacher-student relationships, related disciplinary measures, and ways to prevent them “through training and education of school employees.” The committee heard again from TEA staff, as well as from a criminal prosecutor and others whose testimony focused primarily on efforts to collect evidence in investigations of inappropriate relationships. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified that the education community has been working collectively to address the problem, and she urged the legislatures and policymakers to focus on prevention strategies.

To view archived video of the Dec. 7 hearing, click here.


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees met Monday in Richardson, Texas to address an issue that has occurred with the administration of TRS-ActiveCare. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson, who attended the meeting, reports that Aetna and its contracted third-party administrator, WellSystems, have experienced serious issues with enrollment and billing with ActiveCare. Many school districts have contacted TRS and Aetna regarding billing discrepancies and employees who were not properly enrolled. TRS staff and Aetna have worked to remedy these issues since they came to light in September, however some districts continue to experience problems. According to Sanderson, the TRS board agreed to allow Aetna and TRS staff to continue to work toward a resolution until December 18. If after that time TRS is not satisfied with Aetna’s response to the issue, TRS has the option to issue a new request for proposal to allow other providers the opportunity to administer ActiveCare. ATPE will be providing updates on ActiveCare as they develop.


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting today, Dec. 11. SBEC’s Committee on Educator Discipline also met yesterday afternoon. The full board’s agenda for today included revisiting a controversial proposal to change the requirements for becoming certified as a superintendent in Texas. The revised rule, which ATPE opposed, was struck down by the State Board of Education last month after SBOE members heard testimony from ATPE and other education groups concerned about watering down the certification standards. The SBOE’s veto sent the superintendent certification rule back to SBEC for reconsideration of the issue.

SBEC’s original rule proposal that SBOE rejected contained two pathways to becoming a superintendent. Part (a) was the least controversial aspect of the two parts of the proposal; it related to a recent statutory change calling for the board to allow superintendent candidates to substitute certain managerial experience for academic requirements in the rule. Part (b) of the rule was more objectionable and apparently requested by business stakeholders consulted by SBEC board members; it provided a pathway for individuals with no education-related experience whatsoever to become fully certified superintendents. Today, SBEC responded to the SBOE veto and testimony by removing part (b) from the proposed rule and adopting part (a) only. While neither section retains the requirement for superintendent candidates to hold a principal’s certificate and have prior teaching experience, as ATPE members prefer, the rule as adopted today is an improvement over the original proposal.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified against the rule again today, urging the board to consider the importance of teaching experience for district leaders. She also pointed out that at least one SBOE member, Pat Hardy, had voiced her opinion that the teaching experience requirement ought to be increased, not eliminated. SBEC members and classroom teachers Suzanne McCall and Brad Allard (who is also an ATPE member) voted no on the proposal and spoke out against the rule today; they shared their strong opinions that classroom experience is essential for success in leading a school district. Allard told his fellow board members, “Until you’ve gone through the grind, you’re not going to understand what’s going on at ground level.” However, other board members disagreed with the need for teaching experience. SBEC member Kathryn Everest, a school counselor, argued that schools are businesses and need leaders with business acumen rather than teaching experience. SBEC member Leon Leal, a business owner who supported both parts (a) and (b) of the proposed rule, explained that he viewed the proposal as a way to help school districts that are struggling financially by giving their school boards more flexibility in hiring superintendents. Leal stated, “The education system is broke in a lot of our districts,” and he urged the board to “allow those districts to have options.”

The amended version of the superintendent certification rule as adopted today by SBEC will now head back to the SBOE in January for another review. Other items discussed at today’s SBEC meeting included changes to the rules for admission to an educator preparation program and disciplinary rules for certified educators. ATPE’s Kuhlmann will provide a detailed update on those matters for Teach the Vote next week.TTV

Congress passes ESEA reauthorization, advances measure to President

A view of the east steps of the United States Capitol Building.

This morning, Congress passed a rewrite to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The final measure, designated the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), comes after almost a year of negotiations and more than eight years after the body originally intended to rewrite No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which is what the law was dubbed when it was reauthorized under President George W. Bush in 2001. The measure now advances to President Obama who is expected to sign it into law tomorrow.

The ESSA passed the U.S. Senate by a vote 85 to 12. Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) was among the senators voting in favor of the legislation, while Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) released a statement saying he could not support the measure. The U.S. House of Representatives similarly passed the bill with strong, bipartisan support last week. In the lower chamber, the bill passed 359 to 64 and all but eleven members of the Texas delegation supported the bill (including nine who opposed it and two who did not vote).

After passing both chambers of Congress, the ESSA now advances to President Obama’s desk for his signature. Shortly after passage in the Senate, the White House released a statement advising members of the press that the President will sign the legislation at 10:05 am CST tomorrow, Dec. 10. His remarks and signing of the act can be viewed live at whitehouse.gov/live.

Watch for more information coming soon from Teach the Vote about the groundbreaking new law and how it will impact Texas laws and policies on accountability, testing, educator evaluations, teacher certification, and much more.