Tag Archives: rally

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

We’re entering a busy weekend at the Texas Capitol, and here’s what you need to know from the ATPE lobby team:


 


ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testifies in Senate Education Committee on July 21, 2017

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testifies in Senate Education Committee on July 21, 2017

The Texas Senate is speeding through more than a dozen hearings this weekend on bills pertaining to the governor’s newly expanded special session call. This morning, the Senate Education Committee convened a hearing on Senate Bill 2, providing in part for private school vouchers for students with special needs. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified against the bill along with numerous other education advocates, parents, and even students.

The committee plans this afternoon to hear a second bill to create a commission to study school finance between now and the next regular session of the legislature. Also today, the Senate Committee on State Affairs has been hearing bills that would restrict school district policies on usage of bathrooms.

Additional hearings are scheduled for tomorrow and Sunday at which ATPE will be testifying. These include a hearing tomorrow on teacher pay and a Sunday afternoon hearing on bills to take away educators’ rights to use payroll deduction for their voluntary association membership dues.

Read more about the hearings and ways you can share your voice with legislators by checking out yesterday’s blog post from ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Canaday. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on these hearings and follow us on Twitter for the very latest news.

 


Rally attendeesMore than a thousand educators braved the Texas heat on Monday to attend a rally at the State Capitol hosted by Texans for Public Education and co-sponsored by ATPE. Read highlights and view pictures from the rally in this blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins and also check out ATPE’s extended coverage on Facebook and YouTube.

Another Capitol rally is scheduled for tomorrow. The March for Public Education, an event taking place in states around the country, begins at 11:10 a.m. in downtown Austin.

If you’ve been unable to make it to Austin for these rallies, you can still exercise your voice and help influence the decisions being made inside the Capitol. Take it from ATPE’s Ginger Franks, a former special education teacher and past state president of our association, who urged fellow educators to call their legislators about the bills being considered right now. “Please make the calls,” said Franks. “The rallies are great but we must also make the calls. The calls are a must if you want your voice heard!!”

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ATPE members can easily call, email, or post messages to their elected officials using our tools at Advocacy Central.

 


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced this week the launch of a new reading initiative called Texas Readers. The initiative offers professional development for teachers and additional tools for elementary schools to use in enhancing reading instruction for young students. “Reading will always be the foundation that determines success in the classroom for every child at every grade level,” wrote Commissioner of Education Mike Morath on his blog about the new project.

 


 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: March 24, 2017

It’s time for our weekly wrap-up of education news from ATPE’s Governmental Relations team:


This week the Senate Education Committee approved a sweeping voucher bill that would provide corporate tax credits to help fund private education and allow parents to receive public tax dollars to be used for private or home school expenses. Senate Bill (SB) 3 by Committee Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) is one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s top three priorities for the 85th Legislature to pass.

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testifies before the Senate Education Committee

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testifying

On Tuesday, March 21, the committee spent 10 hours listening to witnesses on both sides of the voucher debate. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified against SB 3. Read more about the hearing and our testimony in this week’s blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann. The SB 3 hearing had originally been scheduled for the previous week during which many public school educators and students would have been on spring break. Fearing that a larger contingency of pro-public education witnesses would come to the hearing to testify against SB 3, the hearing was postponed to this Tuesday instead.

The Senate Education Committee met again Thursday, March 23, to vote on pending bills, including SB 3. Chairman Taylor shared a new committee substitute version of the bill, which modified the language in an effort to reduce the bill’s massive fiscal note. The new version tightens up qualifications for some providers of education services such as tutoring that could be funded via the bill; removes automatic funding increases for the corporate tax credits, and changes the Education Savings Account (ESA) program to give parents access to an online payment portal instead of a debit card. While the switch to an online portal could make it less likely for parents to use ESA funds for illegitimate purposes, it also creates a potential new hurdle for rural or low-income parents with limited internet access. The committee voted to send the new substitute version of SB 3 to the full Senate by a vote of 7 to 3.

Sens. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), Royce West (D-Dallas), and Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) voted against SB 3 after expressing concerns about the voucher bill. Sen. West pressed representatives of the Legislative Budget Board for details on the bill’s negative fiscal impact to the state. Sen. Seliger observed that SB 3 would most likely have the largest fiscal note of any bill approved by a Senate committee other than the Finance committee, which hears budget bills. Seliger went on to raise alarms about the lack of accountability provisions for private entities that would benefit from the voucher money and the likelihood that SB 3 would lead to state funds being spent on indoctrinating students through religious institutions.

The only Democrat on the committee who voted for SB 3 was the vice-chairman, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville). He was joined by Chairman Taylor and Sens. Van Taylor (R-Plano), Bob Hall (R-Canton), Don Huffines (R-Dallas), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), and Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston). Sen. Donna Campbell (R-San Antonio) was not present during the committee’s vote.

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It is not clear whether there are enough votes in the Senate to bring SB 3 up for a floor vote in the near future, which requires three-fifths of senators present to agree to hear the bill. We encourage ATPE members to keep contacting their senators about opposing SB 3 and other bad bills such as the legislation to eliminate educators’ right to use payroll deduction. Find sample messages and other communication tools at Advocacy Central.

Related: Other bills getting a favorable vote from the Senate Education Committee yesterday were SB 579 by Sen. Van Taylor regarding the use of epi-pens in private schools, SB 826 by Chairman Larry Taylor dealing with the sequencing of high school math and English courses, and a committee substitute to SB 490 by Sen. Lucio that requires districts to report the number of school counselors providing counseling services at a campus.

 


While the Senate Education Committee devoted its attention this week almost entirely to the private school voucher bill, the House Public Education Committee and its Subcommittee on Educator Quality heard a number of bills this week dealing with issues such as testing and accountability,  educator misconduct, and improving school finance.

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ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins testifying

First, the subcommittee met on Monday, March 20, to hear bills pertaining to educator misconduct, certification, and the benefits of mentoring for new teachers. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified at the hearing and penned a blog post this week summarizing the discussions. The subcommittee will meet again on Monday, March 27, to hear additional bills on educator misconduct, including SB 7 that has already passed the Senate.

On Tuesday, March 21, the full House Public Education Committee conducted a hearing that was almost as long as the Senate’s voucher hearing, but the House committee discussed some two dozen bills, most relating to state standardized testing and how schools are rated under our accountability system. Chairman Dan Huberty’s (R-Kingwood) House Bill (HB) 22 was the most high-profile bill heard, and ATPE testified for the bill. Check out this blog post from Mark Wiggins for complete details on the hearing, including a list of smaller bills that were voted out favorably.

Next week, the House Public Education Committee is turning its attention to charter schools with a hearing Tuesday, March 28, mostly on bills pertaining to funding, facilities, and authorization of charters. The committee will also hear additional testimony on Chairman Huberty’s school finance reform bill, HB 21, for which a committee substitute is expected to be released next week. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote next week for updates.

 


Save Texas Schools rally 2017Tomorrow, March 25, is the Save Texas Schools rally at the Texas State Capitol. Supporters of public education are encouraged to attend the event that starts at 10 a.m. and will feature appearances by legislators, remarks by Superintendent John Kuhn who also spoke during ATPE at the Capitol, and student performances. Visit savetxschools.org for more information.

 


This week the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved SB 1, the state budget bill. The full Senate is expected to debate the budget on the floor next Tuesday. For details on the Senate’s proposal for funding state services during the next two years, read this week’s blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-455285291_gavelIn national news this week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a landmark ruling in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, which focused attention on how school districts must accommodate students with disabilities under federal law. The lawsuit was brought by the family of a student with autism who felt that the public school’s individualized education program (IEP) did not meet the student’s needs and wanted funding for private education instead. At issue was the extent to which an IEP must produce educational benefits for the student in order for the school district to be considered compliant with the law.

The unanimous SCOTUS ruling is expected to spur school districts to do more for students with disabilities, but the decision was also newsworthy because of the fact that it overturns prior lower court rulings, including one 10th Circuit appellate decision written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, now going through U.S. Senate confirmation for a seat on the nation’s highest court.

ATPE will have more on the ruling and what it means for special education programs in public schools next week on our blog.

 


Don’t forget to following us on Twitter for the latest updates!

 

Legislative Update: ESEA reauthorization news, idling voucher and salary bills, special election and rally reminders

Congress took a major step forward in the effort to reauthorize the long overdue Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is commonly referred to as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Yesterday, April 16, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) unanimously approved a bipartisan compromise bill called the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA). A total of 87 committee amendments were filed, with 29 of them adopted and incorporated into the bill. The ECAA must still pass the full Senate, which could happn as early as May. In the meantime, the rare 22-0 committee vote sends a strong signal to the U.S. House, where prior attempts to pass a reauthorization bill have faltered amid partisan disagreements. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann will have a full analysis of the bill as amended that will be posted soon here on Teach the Vote.


A high-profile bill to create a massive private school voucher program in Texas has not yet been brought up for a vote on the Senate floor, despite sitting on the Senate Intent Calendar for several days now. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has identified the bill, Senate Bill (SB) 4, as a top education priority. SB 4 is being carried by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the Senate Education Committee. The bill sets up a  “back door” voucher by using state funds to give a franchise tax credit to businesses that donate money to private, state-sanctioned “educational assistance organizations.” The 25 non-profit organizations pre-selected to act as those educational assistance organizations would then provide scholarships for eligible students to attend private or parochial schools.

SB 4 would cause local public school districts to lose revenue, and the costs of the state program would likely swell as existing private or home-schooled students avail themselves of the state-funded scholarships. ATPE members are strongly urged to contact their legislators – especially in the Senate – to express opposition to SB 4. Visit our Officeholders page to find out who represents you in the Senate, and click here to access additional information and talking points on ATPE’s opposition to SB 4.


ATPE members are also encouraged to keep contacting their state representatives and asking them to oppose HB 2543 and SB 893, two bills that would eliminate the state’s current minimum salary schedule for teachers. These bills remain pending in the Texas House, where opposition to them is growing. Read more about the bills here.

As always, you can keep up with major education bills moving through the 84th Legislature that relate to ATPE’s priorities by visiting our Issues page. The Issues page, which is updated each legislative day, contains background information on each legislative priority with a list of major bills and their current status. Be sure also to follow @TeachtheVote and our ATPE Lobby Team on Twitter, for additional reporting of all the education news from the state capitol.


The State Board of Education (SBOE) also met this week. Its work included approving two new math courses to satisfy high school graduation requirements, agreeing on new curriculum standards for Career and Technical Education courses, discussing high-school equivalency examinations, and adopting findings of an Ad Hoc Committee on the Long-Range Plan for Public Education. The ad hoc committee is being disbanded, and SBOE’s Committee on School Initiatives will take over long-range planning responsibility going forward. Read more on the Texas Education Agency’s website.


Vote imageEducators in San Antonio’s House District 124 are reminded of the importance to go vote in the special election runoff to select their new state representative. Today is the last day of early voting, and Tuesday, April 21, is runoff election day.

The candidates vying to replace Jose Menendez, who was recently elected to the Texas Senate in another special election, are Democrats Ina Minjarez and Delicia Herrera. View their candidate profiles to learn more about their backgrounds and positions on education issues here.


The Save Texas Schools rally is taking place tomorrow at the State Capitol from 10 a.m. to noon. Educators are encouraged to attend and show their support for public schools. Click here to learn more about the event.

Attend the Save Texas Schools rally tomorrow at the capitol

ATPE encourages members and public education supporters to attend the Save Texas Schools rally at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m to noon.

STS April 18th Rally Poster

Save Texas Schools is a nonpartisan coalition of parents, students, educators, business leaders, community groups, and faith organizations advocating on behalf of public education. The coalition’s goals include urging the legislature to prioritize funding for public schools, limit standardized testing, and oppose privatization. Its partner organizations include all four of the state’s major teacher groups, PTA, TAMSA, and many more.

Tomorrow’s rally will feature guest speakers, student performances, and appearances by legislators. Visit www.savetxschools.org for additional information about bus transportation from various parts of the state, parking, and other last-minute details. Here are other ways to engage:

Legislative Update: From school finance to suicide prevention, a slew of bills set for hearings this week

The House Public Education Committee has moved up its usual meeting time to allow for more bills to be heard on a single day. Starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow, April 14, the committee will consider 19 bills, including Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock’s (R-Killeen) school finance overhaul, HB 1759. Originally filed as a placeholder bill, Aycock revealed details of his school finance plan last week and will hear public testimony on the bill this week.

Other legislation on tomorrow’s agenda include bills by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) promoting the use of a Community Schools Model to turnaround struggling schools, along with a less favorable bill by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) calling for alternative management of certain low-performing schools through a statewide Opportunity School District. The Senate Education Committee already heard and took action on some of the same proposals last week, as we reported previously on our blog.

Also on the agenda for the House Public Education Committee tomorrow is HB 2186 by Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), a bill pertaining to suicide prevention training for certain school district employees. ATPE asked Rep. Cook to carry the bill on the request of one of our members, Coach Kevin Childers from the Fairfield Independent School District.

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Coach Childers lost his teenage son Jonathan to suicide in 2013 and plans to testify in support of HB 2186. The bill aims to modify existing law that requires certain educators and school district employees to be trained in recognizing possible warning signs for suicidal thoughts by students; HB 2186 attempts to ensure that the training occurs on an annual basis. The bill is being referred to as the “Suicide Prevention Training Act in memory of Jonathan Childers.” Click on our infographic to the right to learn more about the teen suicide epidemic and our efforts to help prevent it.


The Senate Education Committee will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow, April 14, to hear bills relating to charter schools and a handful of other matters. View the full agenda with links to the individual bills here. Remember also that you can watch live or archived video of most education committee hearings through Texas Legislature Online.


A private school voucher bill is on the move and headed for a likely floor debate this week or next. ATPE has urged its members to contact their senators about SB 4 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood). Read more about the bill here. Also likely to be considered on the Senate floor this week is the upper chamber’s version of House Bill 1, the state budget.


The House Committee on Ways and Means has a high-profile hearing planned for Tuesday, April 14, too. The committee will take up a number of bills calling for tax cuts. ATPE has joined forces with other groups affiliated with Texas Forward, a revenue coalition that promotes a balanced approach to state budgeting, and is calling on legislators to consider these proposals very cautiously. Many education stakeholders are concerned that the loss of potentially five billion dollars in state revenue through tax cuts this session would greatly reduce the funding available for public schools and other critical needs.


Adding to tomorrow’s busy schedule, watch for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) to mark up its new bipartisan proposal for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. (Central Time) and can be viewed through the committee’s website. Read more about the new “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015” in ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann’s recent blog post.


Later this week, watch for the House Public Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Educator Quality to consider several bills relating to educator preparation and certification. The agenda for the 8 a.m. hearing on Thursday, April 16, includes HB 3494 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble), which is the House companion to SB 892 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), a bill dealing with educator preparation. ATPE originally supported SB 892 as filed, but the Senate version was changed recently to make educator preparation program admission standards and training requirements less rigorous. Read more about SB 892 in one of our recent blog posts here.


STS April 18th Rally Poster

Finish off your week of grassroots advocacy by visiting the State Capitol on Saturday to participate in this year’s Save Texas Schools rally along with other representatives of ATPE and supporters of public schools from around the state. The rally will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on April 18, featuring guest speakers and live music. Visit SaveTXSchools.org to learn more and register to attend the rally.

Public education supporters are also encouraged to help promote the rally this week by tweeting with the hashtag #WhyIRally. Use the hashtag to share your own thoughts on why it’s important to prioritize public education during the 84th legislative session, and Save Texas Schools will retweet you.

Join us TOMORROW for the Save Texas Schools Rally

The Save Texas Schools March and Rally will take place tomorrow, Feb. 23, in Austin.

ATPE will be on hand distributing Teach the Vote T-shirts and materials. We encourage all educators to attend.

Save Texas Schools March and Rally
Texas State Capitol, Austin
Saturday, Feb. 23
11 a.m.—March on Congress Avenue
12 p.m.—Rally at the State Capitol

Public education in Texas is at a crossroads, threatened by underfunding and over-testing. Texas children deserve better! Join thousands of fellow Texans marching on Congress Avenue and standing up at the State Capitol to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Speakers include Perrin-Whitt Superintendent John Kuhn, education analyst Diane Ravitch and former Texas Education Association Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, as well as other education and business leaders, parents, teachers and students.

Let our legislators know that Texas children cannot be left standing outside a courtroom waiting for their future. We need fair funding and significant testing reform now!

The rally is kid and family-friendly. Please encourage your students and their families to take part.

For more information, visit www.savetxschools.org.

To register for the rally and connect with others from your area, visit www.savetxschools.nationbuilder.com/volunteer.

To apply for assistance with bus transportation for your school, visit www.savetxschools.org/request-for-assistance-with-bus-transportation.