Tag Archives: primary election

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 1, 2017

Here’s your Labor Day weekend edition of ATPE’s education news wrap-up:



17-18_web_HurricaneHarveyAs millions are dealing with the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Harvey, ATPE wants to help educators find resources they need. Check out our new Hurricane Harvey Resources page on atpe.org, which will be updated as additional information becomes available to us. There you’ll find information from the Texas Education Agency (TEA), as well as answers to questions such as how to file for unemployment benefits or how school closures might affect an educator’s paycheck. TEA has also published a Hurricane Harvey resources page with information geared toward school district administrators, parents, and others affected by the storm.

ATPE advises those wishing to help hurricane victims to support reputable relief organizations, such as those listed on our resource page and in this blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins. For a related and inspiring read, check out this article also by Mark, who is a native of Southeast Texas and writes about his hometown’s resiliency.

 


TRS logoThe board of trustees of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) has been meeting today in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter is attending the meeting and has provided a preliminary report for our blog, which will be updated as needed upon the conclusion of the meeting. Topics of discussion today include rules for 403(b) providers and changes to the TRS-Care program for retirees in light of additional money appropriated during the special session.

 


Today is your last chance to share feedback with TEA on its draft state ESSA plan. As we have reported here on Teach the Vote, the deadline for public input was extended on account of Hurricane Harvey, and all comments must be submitted to TEA by email by 5 pm today. Click here to read more from ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann about the state’s draft plan for compliance with the federal education law, or read ATPE’s formal comments on the draft plan here.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-78479954With the 2018 primary elections only a few months away, ATPE is urging educators to make a plan to vote for pro-public education candidates. We are members of the Texas Educators Vote coalition aimed at increasing voter turnout among the education community.

One project of the coalition has been to encourage school boards around the state to adopt a resolution in support of creating a culture of voting in their schools. Read more about the effort in this blog post, and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates coming soon to our website with information on candidates and officeholders.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-92037734The ATPE staff wishes everyone a restful Labor Day holiday and our best wishes for all those recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

 


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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 17, 2016

These are stories making news this week in the Texas education world:


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) board is meeting this week and tackling some difficult decisions about funding active and retired educators’ healthcare needs. Inadequate funding from the legislature over a period of many years has created a looming problem that must be solved. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson is attending the meetings this week and has provided a summary of the changes that are in store for TRS members. Click here to check out Josh’s latest blog post on TRS developments.


ThinkstockPhotos-481431733As we have been reporting on Teach the Vote recently, there were some very close races in the May 24 primary election runoffs that resulted in recounts. In House District 54, a recount was sought in the race to succeed Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen), the popular chairman of the House Public Education Committee who did not seek re-election. Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) on runoff election night by 43 votes. Yesterday, we learned that the recount request by Ruiz has confirmed Mayor Cosper to be the winner of the Republican nomination. Cosper, who was endorsed by the outgoing Aycock and by Texas Parent PAC in the primary, will next face Democrat Sandra Blankenship in the general election in November.

We reported earlier this month on another recount in which Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) lost to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) in House District 128. With recounts completed, attention turns now to the general election. Keep up with Teach the Vote in the coming months for information about contested races for the Legislature and State Board of Education in November.

 


Monty Exter

Monty Exter

Earlier this week, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability held yet another work session to try to reach consensus on recommendations for the 85th Legislature. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter provided an update on this week’s meeting and has been reporting on some of the issues that commission members are grappling to address. Testing concerns have been of particular interest to many commission members, education stakeholders, and the media, especially in light of several glitches that plagued this year’s administration of the STAAR tests to students. Meanwhile, State Board of Education (SBOE) members are also encouraging the public to share their feedback on testing and accountability. Click here to read more about the SBOE public survey that is open through June 30.

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann contributed a blog update this week on the meetings held by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) last week. The board held both a work session to explore the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs) and trends in educator certification, along with its regular board meeting on Friday, June 10. Read Kate’s latest blog post to learn more about the actions taken by the board and some significant agenda items that were postponed.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-100251374Next week, ATPE staff and state officers will be in the nation’s capital advocating for federal education priorities. They will be meeting with members of Texas’s congressional delegation to urge action on Social Security legislation, discussing policy issues with U.S. Department of Education officials, and attending a hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for updates from our team in Washington, DC.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 10, 2016

These are stories making news this week in the Texas education world:


SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) has been meeting this week with possible changes to educator preparation and certification rules on the agenda. On Thursday, the board held a work session to consider the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs), the educator preparation experience through both traditional and alternative EPPs, national trends, and other matters relating to educator preparation and certification.

SBEC is holding its regular board meeting today, and the agenda includes anticipated rule changes for the criteria to enter an EPP, as well as the ways that EPPs are held accountable. Another agenda item calls for a new format for the Core Subjects EC-6 certification exam. TEA staff has recommended removing one of the five domains currently covered by the test to focus on the core subjects of English Language Arts and Reading, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. SBEC will also discuss possible changes to the Educators’ Code of Ethics and disciplinary rules, which will encompass tweaks to existing rules against inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann is attending both of the SBEC meetings this week and will provide a full report for Teach the Vote.

Related content: SBEC’s review of educator disciplinary rules comes at a time when there is great media interest in stories about educators engaging in inappropriate relationships with students. Recent interim legislative hearings have also drawn attention to the issue. This week, ATPE Media Relations Specialist Stephanie Jacksis spoke to both KVUE News in Austin and Fox29 in San Antonio about the problem and ways teachers can separate their personal and professional use of social media.

 


Josh Sanderson

We’ve been writing about the Texas Supreme Court’s recent decision on school finance and how some lawmakers are looking at ways to tweak the funding system in light of the court’s finding that the system barely meets constitutional standards. Last week, ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson was a special guest on Time Warner Cable’s Capital Tonight program talking about the challenges inherent in the current school funding system. This week, Josh also spoke to KVUE News about a related topic: comparing how schools spend the money they receive. A new website established by former state Comptroller Susan Combs seeks to provide Texans with tools to do just that, but much of the school performance data on the website is focused on student test scores. Watch video of Josh’s interview with KVUE’s Mark Wiggins here.

 


Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundWe reported last week on some of the recounts that have been sought following the May 24 primary runoff elections. First, Rep. Wayne Smith‘s (R-Baytown) recount request was not fruitful, as the recount confirmed his loss to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) by only about two dozen votes. This week, we await updates in another recount underway in House District 54 for the seat being vacated by current House Public Education Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen). In that race, Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) on runoff election night by 43 votes. We’ll bring you the results of that recount as soon as they are announced. Follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for the latest developments.

 


Do you work in a school district that is pursuing a designation as a District of Innovation (DOI)? Keep in mind that ATPE has a resource page to help educators and parents learn about the new DOI law, which allows certain acceptably-rated districts to exempt themselves from various state laws. Many districts in Texas are already taking steps to create and adopt innovation plans. The exemptions most commonly claimed so far include the school start date law – with districts looking to start the school year earlier in August – along with requirements for the assignment of certified teachers, class-size limits in elementary grades, and teacher evaluation requirements. Visit ATPE’s newly updated DOI resource page to learn more and read examples of some districts that are using the DOI statute to avail themselves of exemptions from these and other laws.

 


Monday, June 13, is shaping up to be a busy day. First, the House Pensions Committee is holding an interim meeting in Houston. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson will be there and will provide updates next week on the retirement matters discussed. Also on Monday, the Texas Education Agency will hold a public hearing on proposed rule changes for the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS). Last but not least, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability has scheduled a final work session to develop its recommendations to the 85th Legislature. The commission’s gathering is an add-on meeting not originally planned, but as ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter reported recently on our blog, commission members have struggled to reach consensus on a number of issues related to testing and accountability measures. Watch for updates next week on the commission’s deliberations.


16_Web_SummitSpotlightDon’t forget to register for the ATPE Summit, taking place July 20-22 in Austin, where you can earn valuable professional development credits and learn more about hot issues affecting public education. Learn more at ATPESummit.org

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 3, 2016

Happy Friday! Here are some of this week’s blog highlights from Teach the Vote:

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

On our blog this week, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann writes about ongoing efforts to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Washington. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has proposed new federal rules to implement certain accountability aspects of the law, which would require states to respond by implementing their corresponding accountability systems in the 2017-18 school year. ATPE has also written to ED Secretary John King offering input on testing and educator quality issues affected by ESSA. Read Kate’s blog post to learn more.

A delegation of ATPE state officers and staff members will be traveling to D.C. this month for meetings with the Texas congressional delegation and ED officials. Talks will focus not only on ESSA implementation but also on the continuing efforts to address Social Security reform and the unfair Windfall Elimination Provision through Congressman Kevin Brady’s (R-TX) ETPSA bill.

 


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

In the wake of a disappointing ruling from the Texas Supreme Court that our state’s school finance system is constitutional, education stakeholders are wondering if there will be any impetus for lawmakers to take steps to improve the flawed system next session. This week, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) called for two House committees to add new interim charges to their agenda this year in an effort to keep school finance at the forefront of legislative planning for 2017. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson wrote about the new interim charges on our blog this week, noting that insufficient school funding leads to “immense pressure on local taxpayers, classroom teachers, and students.”

Under the directive this week from Speaker Straus, the House Appropriations and Public Education Committees are jointly being asked to study the following:

  • Current law requires the elimination on September 1, 2017, of Additional State Aid for Tax Relief (ASATR), which was intended to offset the cost of tax-rate compressions enacted in 2006. Review how this loss of funding would impact school districts.
  • Study the use of local property taxes to fund public education and its effects on educational quality and on Texas taxpayers. Specifically, recommend ways to reverse the increasing reliance on recapture payments to fund public education statewide.

On the Texas Senate side, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) responded to the new House interim charges by issuing a statement emphasizing his focus on education reform priorities, which include private school vouchers. Advocating a reform package deal, Patrick wrote, “Everyone knows education policy reform and school finance reform must go hand in hand.”

Read more about the school finance interim studies in Josh’s blog post from yesterday.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-470725623_voteThere is news out today regarding last week’s primary runoff elections, including a few contests that were close enough to result in calls for recounts.

As we reported following the May 24 runoff election night, Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) lost his election to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) by a mere 23 votes. That prompted a request for a recount, which Harris County election officials completed today, confirming Cain as the winner of the runoff for House District 128. Meanwhile, another recount request is still pending in House District 54, where Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) in the Republican primary runoff by a margin of only 43 votes. We’ll bring you the results of that recount when it’s completed.

Related: The Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS) shared a voting update today with fellow members of the Texas Educators Vote coalition, including ATPE. In the update, TACS’s Laura Yeager writes about the low turnout in the recent runoff elections as well as how much some groups spent to try to defeat pro-public education candidates this year. Laura writes, “A recent article in the Quorum Report stated that education reformers spent $3.2 million to defeat pro-public education candidates, including those that support Speaker Joe Straus. While educators generally don’t have millions of dollars to throw into elections, they do have upwards of 700,000 votes, which can and should carry as much weight as pure dollars. We are grateful for the culture of voting that has been developing across the state, and we will need to continue to cultivate it for the general election and in years to come. Only when all educators use their hard earned right and privilege of voting, will we be able to fight the vast amount of money being poured into elections by education reformers that lines the pockets of business and slowly kills public education as it is imagined in the Texas Constitution.” We agree wholeheartedly with Laura’s assessment, and we hope that Texas educators’ participation in the 2016 elections will be enough to counter the privatization and other dangerous reform proposals that are certain to arise in the 2017 legislative session.


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is gearing up to make significant changes to educator preparation and certification rules over the new few months. First, on Thursday, June 9, the board will convene for a work session to consider the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs), the educator preparation experience through both traditional and alternative EPPs, national trends, and other matters relating to educator preparation and certification. No public testimony will be taken on Thursday, but SBEC will hold its regular board meeting on Friday, June 10. View the agenda here, which includes anticipated rule changes for the criteria to enter an EPP and the accountability system for EPPs. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on SBEC rulemaking actions from ATPE’s lobby team.

On Monday, June 13, the House Pensions Committee is holding an interim meeting in Houston, TX; the Texas Education Agency is conducting a public hearing on proposed changes to rules for the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS); and the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability is holding yet another work session to develop its recommendations to the 85th Legislature. We’ll have updates on these and other events affecting public education on our blog.

16_Web_SummitSpotlightHave you registered for the ATPE Summit, taking place at the Austin Convention Center, July 20-22? This year’s summit will feature professional development and leadership training sessions, including advocacy updates from the ATPE lobby team; an opportunity for ATPE members to shape our organization’s legislative program and bylaws; plus plenty of other lively, informative, and entertaining activities. Learn more at ATPESummit.org

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 27, 2016

The week was dominated by big election news. Read the latest from ATPE and Teach the Vote:

 


American voting pins

The May 24 primary runoff election included some high-profile races of special interest to the education community.

The Republican primary runoff for SBOE District 9, where incumbent Thomas Ratliff (R) did not seek re-election, became one of the most anticipated contests in Texas but garnered attention from the media here and around the country. Outspoken and controversial candidate Mary Lou Bruner, who had been the front-runner in the March 1 primary and almost escaped a runoff, was defeated Tuesday night by Dr. Keven Ellis. Between the two elections, Bruner had angered many educators within and even outside the northeast Texas district with questionable claims about school conditions there and an apparent refusal to fact-check or correct her misstatements. At least one Tea Party group that endorsed Bruner early on withdrew its support for her, while educators rallied around Ellis, who had been endorsed by the pro-public education group Texas Parent PAC, to help him secure the win. Other closely watched races this week included Republican primary runoffs in Texas Senate Districts 1 and 24, where voters chose Tea Party-backed candidates Bryan Hughes and Dawn Buckingham, respectively, over their Texas Parent PAC-endorsed opponents David Simpson and Susan King

With extremely low voter turnout, several Texas House runoffs produced slim margins of victory, and at least two of those races are headed for a recount. Check out our blog for more from The Texas Tribune on anticipated recounts in House Districts 128 and 54. Candidates have until June 6 to decide if they will seek a recount. HD 128, a seat currently held by Rep. Wayne Smith (R), was one of the runoffs Tuesday night in which incumbent legislators were ousted by more conservative challengers; Rep. Doug Miller (R) in HD 73, another Texas Parent PAC-endorsed candidate, is the other incumbent who lost his runoff on Tuesday in a winner-take-all race where there are no candidates from other parties seeking the seat this November.

For a complete list of Tuesday’s outcomes in state legislative and SBOE runoffs, read our runoff election recap blog post from Wednesday.

 


Monty Exter

Monty Exter

On Wednesday, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability held another meeting in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended the commission’s day-long work session. The inability to reach consensus yet on a number of questions relating to how Texas tests students is causing the commission to add another meeting in June to its schedule. Read Monty’s blog post from this morning to learn more about the ongoing deliberations of the commission.

 


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

With the dust settling on the Texas Supreme Court’s school finance ruling, many are wondering what, if anything, lawmakers will do to change the funding system that justices described as “Byzantine” and “undeniably imperfect.”  This week, ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson appeared on Time Warner Cable’s Capitol Tonight program to talk about school finance. Josh explained ways in which past budget cuts, that were never fully restored, have affected classrooms and noted that per-pupil funding has not kept up with rising standards for students, schools, and teachers over the years. Check out video of the episode here.

 


Girl (3-5 years) riding tricycle with USA flag along path, low sectionEnjoy the Memorial Day weekend!

Celebrate the end of the school year!

Stay safe if you’re hitting the road!

From The Texas Tribune: State Rep. Wayne Smith Now Wants Recount in House District 128 Runoff

 
State Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, faced off with lawyer Briscoe Cain in the May 2016 GOP primary runoff for House District 128.

State Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, faced off with lawyer Briscoe Cain in the May 2016 GOP primary runoff for House District 128.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement from Briscoe Cain.

In a reversal, state Rep. Wayne Smith is now pursuing a recount in his narrow loss in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff. 

Deer Park attorney Briscoe Cain beat Smith, a longtime incumbent from Baytown, by 23 votes in the runoff. As soon as the outcome became clear in House District 128, Smith conceded the race, and his campaign confirmed the next morning that he was not interested in a recount. 

But in a statement issued Thursday night, Smith indicated he had changed his mind.

“After much thought and careful consideration, I have decided to move forward with a recount,” Smith said. “Whenever a race is this close, the option for a recount must be considered. In the past two days, I have been overwhelmed by friends and supporters who have encouraged this option.”

Cain issued a statement welcoming the recount. “I’m honored with the support my district gave me on May 24th and look forward to the recount,” he said.

Smith is not alone in pursuing a recount of a Republican primary runoff from Tuesday. He joins Killeen optometrist Austin Ruiz, who lost to Killeen Mayor Scott Cosper by 43 votes in House District 54.

The deadline for requesting a recount of a runoff that was held Tuesday is 5 p.m. June 6, according to an advisory issued Wednesday by the secretary of state’s office.


This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2016/05/26/wayne-smith-now-wants-recount-hd128-runoff/.

Primary runoff election results shape outlook for public education in Texas

ThinkstockPhotos-481431733Last night marked the likely end of primary election season in Texas, unless there are requests for recounts of runoff election returns in a few close races. The primaries hold high significance in Texas, where most elected offices are filled through the primary and not the general election. This is due to the fact that district maps are drawn in a manner that favors one political party over others. Some races will only attract candidates from one political party, meaning that the entire contest will be decided through the primary process with no other candidates on the ballot in November. A number of other races draw candidates from multiple parties, but the dominant party will still have a major advantage in November due to the composition of the district, making it more likely that the primary election will be where voters pick the ultimate winner.

ThinkstockPhotos-523002181_IVotedThe Texas primary elections on March 1 resulted in 22 runoff contests that were decided last night. In some, only a fraction of a percentage point separated the candidates. Turnout was predictably low, with some House races garnering only 3,000 to 5,000 total votes in the runoff.

Unquestionably, one of the most watched races of the night for members of the education community was in State Board of Education (SBOE) District 9, where controversial candidate Mary Lou Bruner (R) had a commanding lead after the March 1 primary election. Despite her background as a former educator, Bruner angered many in the education community in recent weeks with fact-challenged claims about the state of public education and conditions in local schools, not to mention a host of other outrageous remarks that garnered national media interest.

Keven Ellis

Keven Ellis

Second-place finisher Keven Ellis (R), buoyed by educators determined to keep Bruner off the board, successfully made up enough ground to sail past Bruner with 59.2 percent of the vote, compared to her 40.8 percent. There will be two more candidates on the ballot in November, but the district leans Republican giving Ellis a strong position going into the general election.

Here are the results in other races of particular interest to the education community:

Carter

Dakota Carter

SBOE District 6: Dakota Carter (D) prevailed over Jasmine Jenkins in this Democratic primary race in Harris County. Carter will next face Donna Bahorich (R), the current chair of the SBOE, and a couple of independent/third-party candidates in a November general election contest.

Senate District 1: In this open race to succeed outgoing Sen. Keven Eltife (R), the winner last night was current Rep. Bryan Hughes (R), who prevailed over fellow Rep. David Simpson (R) to gain the promotion to the upper chamber. No other candidates have filed for a place on the ballot in November, making Hughes the senator-elect.

Senate District 24: In another open race created by the expected retirement of Sen. Troy Fraser (R), the winner last night was eye surgeon Dawn Buckingham (R), who defeated Rep. Susan King (R) for the Republican nomination. Buckingham will face a Democratic opponent in November.

House District 5: In another northeast Texas contest, this open House seat (created by Rep. Bryan Hughes’s ascension to the Senate) goes to Cole Hefner (R). He defeated Jay Misenheimer (R) last night, and there is no other candidate in this race.

Bailes

Ernest Bailes

House District 18: Ernest Bailes (R) easily defeated Keith Strahan for this open seat that has been held by Rep. John Otto (R), who did not seek re-election. There is still an independent/third-party candidate in the race in November, but the district favors the Republican nominee Bailes.

House District 27: In one of the few Democratic party runoffs last night, Rep. Ron Reynolds (D) defeated challenger Angelique Bartholomew (D) to get his party’s nod for re-election. Reynolds must still face a Republican challenger in November.

Holland

Justin Holland

House District 33: In one of the closer contests of the night, the winner was Justin Holland (R) over John Keating (R) by a difference of 99 votes for the Republican nomination. A handful of other candidates remain on the ballot for November. Incumbent Rep. Scott Turner (R), who had previously challenged Rep. Joe Straus (R) unsuccessfully to try to become Speaker of the House, opted not to run for re-election this year.

House District 54: Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) for the Republican nomination in this district, where current House Public Education Committee chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) is not seeking re-election. Only 43 votes separated the two candidates at the end of last night’s runoff, however. There is also a Democratic candidate on the ballot in November.

House District 64: In the Denton area’s open race to succeed outgoing Rep. Myra Crownover (R), last night’s winner for the Republican nomination was Lynn Stucky (R), who prevailed over Read King (R). Stucky will face a Democratic opponent in November.

House District 73: In one of last night’s two big upsets, four-term Rep. Doug Miller (R) was defeated by challenger and Tea Party favorite Kyle Biedermann (R) in this winner-take-all race in the New Braunfels area.

House District 120: This is one of two races in which local voters have been fatigued by campaigns for both a special election and the regular 2016 elections within the same district. This San Antonio-area seat was vacated by former Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon earlier this year. In a special election on May 7, a different set of candidates vied for the right to serve out the remainder of McClendon’s term this year; Independent candidate Laura Thompson and Democrat Lou Miller were the top vote-getters in that special election and are headed to a runoff on Aug. 2 (with early voting July 25-29). The winner of that special election runoff will only get to serve a few months before being replaced by the winner of the seat in last night’s primary election runoff. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D) received the most votes last night, defeating Mario Salas (D), meaning that she will be assume this House seat for a full term starting in January.

Cain

Briscoe Cain

House District 128: This race produced another upset of an incumbent House chairman, after Rep. Wayne Smith (R) was very narrowly defeated by challenger Briscoe Cain (R). A mere 23 votes separated the two candidates by night’s end. There is a Libertarian candidate running in the November general election.

House District 139: This is another district in which voters went to the polls twice this month within the same district. After Houston mayor Sylvester Turner gave up this seat, a special election was held May 7, resulting in a win for Jarvis Johnson (D) to serve out the remainder of Turner’s unexpired term. Last night, Johnson also defeated Kimberly Willis (D) to take over the seat for a full term beginning in January. Fewer than 3,000 votes were cast in this Democratic party runoff. No other candidates have filed to run for the seat in November.

Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundATPE reminds voters that regardless of which primary you participated in this spring, you can vote for any candidate in the general election on Nov. 8, 2016. For instance, if you vote in the Republican primary, you are not bound to vote for the Republican candidates in the general election; you can still vote for Democratic, third-party, or independent candidates come November. Many ballots cast in the general election will include votes for candidates from a mixture of parties. The important thing is to VOTE! When educators vote, educators win!

Educators are urged to go vote in Tuesday’s runoffs

Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundMany Texans have an opportunity tomorrow to cast votes in runoff elections that will help decide the future of public education. Several high-profile races are on runoff ballots tomorrow for seats on the State Board of Education and in the Texas Legislature. Turnout is expected to be very low, which creates an opportunity for the education community to be a deciding force in these elections simply by using the power of numbers to turn out voters to the polls.

The Texas Educators Vote coalition, of which ATPE is a member, is also urging eligible Texas educators to vote in tomorrow’s runoff election. In a message to other coalition members, the Texas Association of Community Schools wrote this morning that educators should “think how much easier it would be to get our schools funding, meaningful assessments, and shorter deeper TEKS if we elected people who are ready to fight on behalf of students, educators, and public schools as a whole.” View the full coalition message to educators here.

These are the runoffs taking place this Tuesday, with links to the candidates’ profiles:

SBOE District 6: Jasmine Jenkins (D) vs. Dakota Carter (D)
SBOE District 9: Keven Ellis (R) vs. Mary Lou Bruner (R)
Senate District 1: David Simpson (R) vs. Bryan Hughes (R)
Senate District 24: Susan King (R) vs. Dawn Buckingham (R)
House District 5: Jay Misenheimer (R) vs. Cole Hefner (R)
House District 18: Ernest Bailes (R) vs. Keith Strahan (R)
House District 27: Ron Reynolds (D) vs. Angelique Bartholomew (D)
House District 33: Justin Holland (R) vs. John Keating (R)
House District 54: Scott Cosper (R) vs. Austin Ruiz (R)
House District 64: Lynn Stucky (R) vs. Read King (R)
House District 73: Doug Miller (R) vs. Kyle Biedermann (R)
House District 120: Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D) vs. Mario Salas (D)
House District 128: Wayne Smith (R) vs. Briscoe Cain (R)
House District 139: Kimberly Willis (D) vs. Jarvis Johnson (D)

To find your election day polling location, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s ”My Voter Page” and enter your information.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 20, 2016

Important runoffs are happening in some parts of the state. We’ve got your election news and more in this week’s wrap-up:


Early vote pic from EAToday, May 20, is the last day to vote early in primary runoffs for Republican and Democratic races in which no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the votes on March 1. Polls close at 7 p.m. tonight. Several legislative and State Board of Education (SBOE) seats are up for grabs on Tuesday’s runoff election day.

Read our early voting blog post for a list of districts that have runoffs, tips on where to find your polling places, and more. Don’t forget to check out the runoff candidates’ profiles, including voting records and survey responses, using our 2016 Races search page.


Hotly contested runoffs capture attention of voters, political action committees, and media

Whether or not you live in SBOE District 9, chances are you’ve heard about the high-profile runoff contest taking place in that northeast corner of Texas. In the open seat to replace Thomas Ratliff (R), who is not seeking re-election, candidates Mary Lou Bruner and Dr. Keven Ellis are vying for the Republican nomination. Bruner attracted early attention from local and national media with her Facebook claims (as reported by The Texas Tribune and others) that President Obama had been a gay prostitute and drug addict. Those early Facebook posts have since been shielded from public view, but candidate Bruner has continued to shock voters with questionable assertions about public schools, including accusations about the number of substitutes holding teaching positions in a local school district and the percentage of students in special education.  Earlier this week we republished a story from The Texas Tribune about a meeting with area school superintendents who challenged Bruner on her dubious claims.

Following that meeting, an influential Tea Party group announced this week that it was retracting its earlier endorsement of Bruner. Grassroots America – We the People said in a statement, “We are all disappointed to have to take the strong measure of withdrawing our endorsement for a candidate. Since the institution of this organization in 2009, we have never had to take such an action; however, this organization requires accountability and personal responsibility from the candidates it endorses…. Unfortunately, once we viewed the raw, unedited video of Mrs. Bruner speaking to Region 7 Superintendents on May 4th and read her written statement, we had no choice but to start the process of reconsidering the endorsement.”

The fact that another Texas Tea Party group recently chose not only to reject Bruner but even to endorse Dr. Keven Ellis in this race underscores the serious concerns that many have expressed about Bruner’s ability to serve effectively on the SBOE. The publishers of the Texas Tea Party Voter Guide stated that Bruner “has gone too far and is making us all look like idiots. If she gets elected she will do more damage to the conservative movement than anything she might accomplish, so we are supporting Keven Ellis.” Interestingly, Ellis also earned the endorsement of Texas Parent PAC.

Bruner earned 48.4 percent of the vote in the March 1 primary compared to Ellis’s 31.05 percent. However, both candidates were relatively unknown at that time, and media interest in the race has put it on the radar of more voters and education stakeholders throughout the state. With Ellis appearing to capture increasing support from such diverse interests, this race will certainly be one to watch on Tuesday.

Also in the spotlight are runoffs for Senate Districts 1 and 24. SD 1 is an open seat, where incumbent Sen. Kevin Eltife (R) is not seeking re-election. Republican candidates and current state representatives David Simpson and Bryan Hughes are locked in a tight race with dueling endorsements, matching pleas for smaller government, and efforts to appeal to education voters. Simpson received the coveted endorsement of the pro-public education group Texas Parent PAC and is airing radio ads in which he touts his support for school funding and opposition to cuts to the public education budget. Hughes, meanwhile, is the only non-incumbent senator to be formally endorsed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), after Patrick originally stated that he would not get involved in the primary races. Education reform and pro-privatization groups such as the Texas Home School Coalition and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (Empower Texans) have backed Hughes, but he’s also using campaign ads to try to appeal to retired educators by featuring photos of his meetings with local retired teachers. This is a winner-take-all race on Tuesday since no Democrats or third-party candidates have filed to run for the open seat; Tuesday’s winner will take office in January 2017.

SD 24 is another open seat race worth watching on Tuesday night. State representative Susan King (R) and Dr. Dawn Buckingham (R) are vying for this Senate seat currently held by Sen. Troy Fraser (R), who announced plans to retire. This race featured a crowded six-person field in the Republican primary on March 1. King earned 27.25 percent of the vote, while Buckingham brought in 24.76 percent. Expect another close match-up in Tuesday’s runoff for the Republican nomination. The winner will face Democrat Jennie Lou Leeder in November.

A few of Tuesday’s House runoffs are also winner-take-all races, in which the primary winner will face no opposition in November. In HD 5, Republicans Cole Hefner and Jay Misenheimer are in a runoff to determine who will succeed Rep. Bryan Hughes (R). HD 73 features a runoff between Rep. Doug Miller (R) and challenger Kyle Biedermann (R). In HD 120, the winner of the primary runoff between Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D) and Mario Salas (D) will decide who takes this House seat previously held by Ruth Jones McClendon (D) in January 2017; this is despite the fact that another, separate election is taking place this year to determine who fills McClendon’s vacant seat for the remainder of this year. HD 139 is another open seat for which both regular and special elections are taking place in 2016. After a vacancy was left for the House seat of Sylvester Turner (D), now mayor of Houston, Jarvis Johnson (D) won a special election earlier this month to serve out the remainder of Turner’s term, but Johnson faces a runoff on Tuesday against Kimberly Willis (D) for the upcoming full term to begin in January 2017.

Check out profiles of these and other runoff candidates using our 2016 Races search page.


Related: Supreme Court’s school finance ruling highlights importance of 2016 elections

Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

A week has passed since the Texas Supreme Court ruled that our state’s school finance system meets the constitutional minimum standards. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson writes about why your vote is the only thing left to compel legislators to take any action to improve the way we fund our schools. Josh also explains why discussions of two legislative committees this week about the possibility of new spending restrictions are another cause for concern. Check out his latest blog post here.


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

FEDERAL UPDATE

It was a busy week for education in Washington, D.C., as discussions continued over how to implement the nation’s new federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has written an update on ESSA, including the latest debates over the law’s “supplement not supplant” language, as well as new legislation relating to school nutrition. View Kate’s blog post here.

 


RULEMAKING UPDATE

In his first few months on the job, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath has put forth administrative rules pertaining to a number of controversial topics. First, the commissioner finalized rules begun by his predecessor to implement the state’s new recommended teacher appraisal system known as T-TESS. ATPE has filed a legal challenge against the T-TESS rules, arguing that they violate existing state laws, the Texas Constitution, and public policy expectations. That petition has been referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings so that an Administrative Law Judge can decide the merits of ATPE’s case. In the meantime, be sure to check out our T-TESS resource page on ATPE.org to learn more about the new evaluation rules and how they might affect you.

Related: The Hawaii State Board of Education voted this week to remove student test scores from its teacher evaluation system. Hawaii was one of several states that had incorporated student growth measures into a new teacher evaluation system in recent years, partly in order to satisfy criteria for an NCLB waiver. Texas’s T-TESS rules were similarly design to match NCLB waiver conditions that are no longer applicable, which ATPE cited in our requests for Commissioner Morath to revise T-TESS and reconsider the student growth measure language in the rules.

Commissioner Morath has also proposed rules for Districts of Innovation (DOI), implementing 2015 legislation that allows acceptably-rated school districts to claim exemptions from numerous education laws. ATPE has submitted comments on the proposed rules, urging the commissioner to address serious concerns about implications for educators’ and school districts’ immunity protections in school districts that claim entitlement to blanket waivers of all exemptible laws in the Texas Education Code. We’ve got updated information on some of the districts that are pursuing DOI status on our comprehensive DOI resource page on ATPE.org.

Also in the works at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) are rules to implement a 2015 law that requires video surveillance equipment in certain classrooms serving students in special education programs. Yesterday, TEA officials held a public hearing on proposed commissioner’s rules for implementing Senate Bill 507. ATPE previously submitted written comments on the proposed rules, which have not yet been finalized. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on these and other rules as developments occur.

Related: The Texas Tribune hosted an interview with Commissioner Morath on Tuesday. The event was sponsored in part by ATPE. View video from the event here.


Next week, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability meets Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Austin. View the commission’s agenda here. We’ll have more on the meeting next week, along with complete results of Tuesday’s big runoff election day, here on Teach the Vote.

ThinkstockPhotos-485333274_VoteIf you live in a runoff district, don’t forget to go vote early today or vote on Tuesday!

Why even bother to vote?

While listening to a panel at an education summit this morning, I heard a former state legislator repeat what many of us have heard countless times before: “Educators aren’t in the profession for the pay.” As much as most of the professionals working in our schools are there because of a calling to serve, it isn’t an excuse to treat them poorly. For too long, this has been used by lawmakers as a justification for not making the effort necessary to adequately invest in education.

U.S. Census data tell us that on a per student basis, Texas spends less money on public education employee benefits than any other state. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that Texas public school employees pay a larger share of the cost of health insurance than other employees, both public and private, across the country. Like so many other issues that affect your livelihood, these are entirely political issues. Political will, in large part, determines your salary, how much you pay for health insurance, your retirement benefits, whether or not you receive a contract (and the terms of that contract), and nearly every other aspect of your professional career. The only way to change this situation is to educate yourselves as to who supports you and your profession, and then to vote as an education community for those candidates.

Last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that despite its many flaws and room for improvement, the Texas public education system meets the minimum constitutional requirements. The immediate implication of this ruling is that the Texas Legislature has no impetus (with the possible exception of voter dissatisfaction) to make additional investments in or reforms to our public school system. Even though per-student spending in Texas is below 2008 levels, legally speaking if legislators choose to do nothing at all with public schools, they are well within the confines of the law. Aside from those abysmal per-student funding numbers, state contributions to employee health insurance have not increased since 2001 (a contribution of $50 per month per employee), and retiree healthcare has been chronically underfunded to the point where the program will run out of money at the end of 2017 and need nearly $2 billion to survive merely for another two years.

As these very real and pressing issues are occurring, earlier this week both the Texas Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committees held hearings on the possibility of instituting new state spending restrictions that would further curtail the state’s ability to properly manage our infrastructure. Spending guidelines are important, and Texas has long produced conservative, lean budgets. Of the 15 most populous states, Texas is 13th in state tax revenue per capita (and 46th in state tax revenue measured against personal income). One of the reasons we have so effectively limited state tax collections and expenditures is because we have four provisions in our state constitution that restrict state spending; unlike Washington D.C. we do not and cannot deficit spend in Texas. We do not need more restrictions in how state leaders can invest in public education – or roads, water, and public safety.

Our public education system and your health insurance, retirement benefits, and compensation will continue to erode unless the education community gets out to vote for the people who support you. This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue of identifying the candidates who believe in and support our educators and public schools.

Vote imageEarly voting in the 2016 primary runoff election continues through tomorrow, May 20, and runoff election day is May 24. Remember to make use of Teachthevote.org to find out which races are taking place in your district and to get information on the candidates. If you have the opportunity, please do bother to vote; much is at stake!