Tag Archives: salaries

From The Texas Tribune: Hey, Texplainer: Does the Texas lottery fully fund public education?

A Texas Lottery display in Austin on April 3, 2017. Photo by John Jordan

A Texas Lottery display in Austin on April 3, 2017.
Photo by John Jordan

Today’s Texplainer is inspired by a question from Texas Tribune reader Lynne Springer. Send us your questions about Texas politics and policy by emailing texplainer@texastribune.org or through texastribune.org/texplainer. 

Hey, Texplainer: The lottery is supposed to fund education — that was stated at the get-go. Why is lottery money being used for other things?

When they were trying to sell the lottery to voters more than 25 years ago, political candidates left many Texans with the impression that 100 percent of the money earned from the lottery would go toward education and that the lottery might generate enough money to pay for all public education.

Neither is true.

Through a constitutional amendment, voters approved the creation of the Texas Lottery in November 1991. Between 1992 and 1997, $4 million from lottery ticket sales and unclaimed prizes went toward the state’s general revenue fund — meaning it could be used for any state expense.

It wasn’t until after 1997 that Texas schools became a specific beneficiary of the money.

The breakdown of how that money is distributed now looks like this, according to the Texas Lottery Commission website:

  • 63 percent is paid to lottery winners
  • 27.1 percent funds Texas education through the Foundation School Fund
  • 5.4 percent goes toward retailer commissions
  • 4 percent goes to the lottery for administrative costs
  • The remainder, about 0.4 percent, funds the Veterans Assistance Program and other state programs

The commission announced in September 2016 that it had earned more than $5 billion in sales for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

“This is the first time in our history that we have generated more than $5 billion in sales,” Gary Grief, the lottery’s executive director, said in a news release. “We are excited to celebrate the extraordinary growth we have achieved and proud to make our largest contributions ever to both Texas public schools and veterans’ programs.”

Of that $5 billion, roughly $1.3 billion was allotted to the Foundation School Fund, which is administered by the Texas Education Agency. The money is used for expenses such as teacher salaries, bilingual education and special education. TEA officials said the Foundation School Program should be thought of “as a huge pot of money” with lottery revenue being just one contributor to the pot.

In 2015, the Legislature budgeted $48.4 billion in state funds for public education over two years, which included $2.4 billion that the lottery contributed to the state’s foundation school account.

According to the Texas Lottery’s website, the lottery has contributed $20 billion to the Foundation School Fund since 1997. But TEA officials say there’s no telling which Texas school districts receive lottery funding.

The bottom line: The money earned by the Texas Lottery has never been fully dedicated to Texas education. Since 1997, a percentage of lottery revenue has gone toward funding the state’s public schools, but not all of it.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/07/07/hey-texplainer-does-lottery-fully-fund-public-education/.

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About that proposed pay raise…

Falling US MoneyGov. Greg Abbott surprised many in the education community on Tuesday when he stated what is old hat for us, but seldom admitted by fiscal hawks: “Teacher pay is too low.”

The governor followed that with a call to add a $1,000 teacher pay raise to this summer’s special session.


Only the state is not going to pay for it.

In fact, the governor claimed such a raise “can easily be achieved by passing laws that reprioritize how schools spend money, and we can do that without taxpayers spending a penny more.” In other words: An unfunded mandate.

Well, at least we can appreciate the sentiment. Or perhaps we could, had the governor not followed that empty promise with a more disturbing one: To pass a laundry list of bills aimed at stripping teachers of their rights and redirecting even more resources from Texas school children – at a time when schools and teachers are being asked to do more with less.

Let’s quickly recap how lawmakers spent our money in this most recent legislative session.

Despite ATPE-supported attempts by leaders in the Texas House of Representatives to increase public education funding across the board, the final budget negotiated with the Senate actually decreased the overall amount of state spending on public schools by about $1.1 billion, forcing districts to rely on rising local property tax collections just to maintain current funding levels. The decision by Senate leadership to scuttle the House’s school finance legislation also means some schools are likely to close as existing funding streams expire.

Within this budget, Gov. Greg Abbott requested that lawmakers designate $236 million for “high-quality” pre-K programs, without providing any additional money to do so. This will basically force districts to cut money from other parts of their own budgets; whether that means from teacher payroll, band instruments, or football pads, it will be up to districts to decide. Now the governor has proposed using the same approach to generate a raise of $1,000 for teachers over the course of a year.

The state’s underfunding of public education has already had a pretty devastating effect on teachers’ healthcare. While ATPE effectively advocated for increased funding for TRS-Care, lawmakers chose to only increase that funding enough to avoid shutting the system down completely. The result is a restructured TRS-Care plan that reduces benefits and raises premiums. Lawmakers’ decision not to provide adequate funding will also result in an average rate increase of 8.1 percent for those enrolled in TRS-ActiveCare plans.

Let’s not forget that this is the same budget that found $800 million to spend on border security, despite President Trump’s promises to ramp up federal involvement along the Rio Grande.

Now Gov. Abbott intends to hold a 30-day special session at a cost of around $1 million in taxpayer money to pass a long list of bills that were either unnecessary or too controversial to pass during the previous five months of the regular session. This includes legislation that would make it easier for districts to fire teachers, plus the anti-teacher payroll deduction legislation and private school vouchers for students with special needs.

ATPE has fought and continues to fight for educators to be paid what they deserve. That means a pay raise that is fully funded by the state legislature. Without any funding for the governor’s offer to raise teacher pay – and with that offer having been waved in front of a grab bag of other offensive legislation – we cannot help but feel trepidation about his proposal.

17_web_Spotlight_AdvocacyCentral_1Now more than ever, Texas educators must be vigilant. We now know that this special session is shaping up to be an all-out assault on teachers and public education by the governor and lieutenant governor. We urge ATPE members to be active through ATPE’s Advocacy Central and let your legislators know you will stand up for your rights and those of your students.

Press release: ATPE weighs in on completion of 84th legislative session

Today, ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey issued the following remarks to the media about the end of the 84th regular legislative session:

“For the education community, legislative sessions in Texas–at least in recent years–are when we find ourselves defending the great work that is being done in our schools and fighting off harmful attempts to deregulate and defund the programs that help students, devalue the education profession, and detour state resources for the benefit of private entities and vendors. The 84th was no exception, with some in the legislature choosing to focus their energy on pushing forward vouchers, proposals to convert public schools to privately managed charters with little accountability to local parents and voters, bills lowering the minimum wage for teachers, and vindictive attempts to pass a payroll deduction ban with no public benefit aimed only at discouraging educators from being politically active.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed at the capitol. We were able to defeat harmful legislation while making progress in areas of genuine need for public education. We helped pass bills to further reduce the emphasis on standardized tests and the high stakes those tests have imposed on our students and staff; we enhanced the funding and quality of early education; we secured additional money to help cover retired educators’ rising healthcare costs; and we prioritized students’ well-being through nutritional support programs, suicide prevention, and a host of other health and safety measures.

It was not a perfect session for public education. The legislature failed to address our broken school finance system, left billions of dollars on the table that could have been used to shore up underfunded schools, and made a few changes we hoped to avoid, such as moving to a system of labeling schools with ‘A through F’ grades. However, we believe those choices will eventually be corrected, and in the meantime, we are thankful for the lawmakers and legislative leaders who stood up for public education. In a session that had the potential to fling public education backward, the small steps forward that were taken have enormous significance.

Despite the attempts of some to use politics to drown out the voices of pro-public education voters, ATPE believes that the majority of the members of the 84th Legislature acted in the best interest of their districts’ schools, students, and school staffs. We are grateful for their dedication to our cause and the progress that was made.”

Download ATPE’s June 2 press release here.

Legislative Update: Senate committee tackles teacher pay and pre-K, graduation bill heads to governor’s desk, anti-suicide bill gains support

Today the Senate Education Committee is hearing House Bill (HB) 4 by Rep. Dan Huberty, a bill to increase funding to pre-kindergarten programs that implement certain quality control measures. ATPE supports HB 4, which Chairman Larry Taylor (R) says he expects the committee to vote on later today. The bill represents one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s legislative priorities but has been at the center of recent tensions among state leaders after a panel advising Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) blasted the bill and referred to public schools as “Godless.” (For related content, check out this week’s op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman by Charles Johnson of Pastors for Texas Children responding to the group’s remarks about the pre-K bill and criticizing the Senate’s passage of several “bills designed specifically to demoralize teachers.”)

The Senate committee will also hear Senate Bill (SB) 1303 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D), a bill calling for teachers to receive a $4,000 pay raise. Read ATPE’s press statement in support of SB 1303. Teacher salaries have been a hot topic for debate this session, as two high-profile bills to do away with the state minimum salary schedule for teachers are languishing over on the House side.

Other bills on today’s Senate Education Committee agenda include SB 625 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D) on prohibiting the use of tasers against public school students, SB 1004 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R) regarding certain dual-credit courses offered by junior colleges in the Harris County area, and SB 1058 also by Sen. Hinojosa on superintendents’ requirement to report information about educators in their districts who engage in certain misconduct. The committee may vote out other bills that are pending and have already been heard when it reconvenes later today.

Following a motorcycle accident that necessitated surgery, Sen. Kel Seliger (R) returned to the Senate this week in time to see his SB 149 sent on its way to the governor’s desk. The bill allows for the creation of individual graduation committees to determine if certain students should graduate high school despite having failed a mandatory STAAR test. The Senate voted yesterday, April 29, to concur in amendments added to the bill by the House of Representatives. The final Senate vote on the ATPE-supported bill was 29 to 2, with Sens. Kelly Hancock (R) and Charles Schwertner (R) voting against the motion. SB 149 now awaits the governor’s signature.

A bill to do away with educators’ ability to use payroll deduction to pay dues to educator associations and for other conveniences remained on the Senate’s calendar, but did not get called up for a floor debate today. The bill is SB 1968 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R). Additionally, Sen. Larry Taylor’s virtual voucher bill, SB 894, was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar earlier this week but then removed. Senators appear to be having second thoughts about the bill’s hefty fiscal note and lack of accountability measures. ATPE has opposed both measures.

The House Public Education Committee held another nine-hour meeting on Tuesday, April 28, during which numerous bills were put to a vote. The committee heard lengthy debate on SB 6 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), the bill calling for “A through F” accountability grades to be assigned to public school campuses in lieu of existing accountability ratings. Most education groups offered testimony against the bill, including ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter who described SB 6 as worthless and emphasized the need to “dig down deeper than the indices” to make real changes to the accountability system before merely tinkering with labels. He added that “oversimplification in the name of transparency” would be “unproductive” for public school students. Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R) surprised some members of the committee by announcing that he was incorporating the “A through F” campus ratings into his accountability overhaul, HB 2804, which the committee then voted out favorably on a 7 to 4 vote. Aycock was later quoted as saying, “I’m personally willing to swallow ‘A through F’ if we get a better accountability system out of it.”

The committee also approved a duo of controversial bills that ATPE and similar education groups opposed based on concerns about privatizing the management of public schools and exempting them from state education laws. One bill is HB 1536 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D) calling for the establishment of a statewide Opportunity School District for low-performing schools, which passed on a vote of 9 to 2. The other bill is a substitute version of HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) relating to local control school districts. Deshotel’s bill changes the existing home rule charter district law to make it easier for districts to opt out of state regulations; HB 1798 made it out of committee on a vote of 8 to 3.

Here are some of the other bills that got a nod of approval from the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday evening:

  • HB 18 by Chairman Aycock relating to college and career readiness training for certain public school counselors.
  • CSHB 1300 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R) relating to the required qualifications of persons admitted to educator preparation programs.
  • CSHB 1842 by Chairman Aycock relating to the assessment of intervention in and sanction of a public school that does not satisfy accreditation criteria.
  • CSHB 2205 by Rep. Myra Crownover (R) relating to educator preparation programs, including the appointment of a member of the State Board for Educator Certification with experience and knowledge of alternative educator preparation programs.
  • CSHB 2566 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) relating to educator preparation programs.
  • CSHB 3347 by Chairman Aycock relating to revocation of a charter for an open-enrollment charter school and procedures for the disposition of property owned by a charter school after revocation or surrender of a charter.
  • CSHB 3987 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) relating to programs in public schools designed to facilitate planning and saving for higher education and facilitate personal financial literacy instruction.

The House Public Education committee also heard but left pending HB 4047 by Rep. Alma Allen (D), a bill that ATPE requested to ensure that charter school employees retain the right to participate in political activities and join educator associations, if they choose.

Childers Senate Ed 04-28-15Also on Tuesday of this week, the Senate Education Committee heard SB 1169 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R) relating to suicide prevention training for educators. The bill is very similar to HB 2186, which ATPE urged Rep. Byron Cook to file on behalf of our member, Coach Kevin Childers, who lost his son Jonathan to suicide two years ago. The Childers family was on hand Tuesday to testify in support of SB 1169, which the committee passed on a vote of 6 to zero.

The Senate Education Committee also voted to send to the floor SB 507 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D). The controversial bill would require schools to video-tape classrooms upon the request of a parent of a student with special needs. Video would have to be kept on file by the school district for at least a year, and the bill would cost millions to be implemented statewide. It is worth noting that school districts already have the ability to videotape classroom  interactions, and several of them already do so.

Ina_MinjarezFinally, ATPE congratulates Rep. Ina Minjarez, who was officially sworn in this afternoon as a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Following a string of special elections, today’s ceremony marks the first time this session that the 84th Legislature has been full. San Antonio’s Minjarez won a special election to fill the unexpired term of former representative and now Sen. Jose Menendez, who gave up his HD 124 House seat in order to run for the Senate.

The latest on teacher salary bills: ATPE refutes claims by reform group and urges opposition

ATPE recently sent communications to all legislators to refute misleading claims made by a politically-connected reform group about bills that would eliminate the state’s minimum salary schedule for teachers. SB 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and HB 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown) are both pending in the Texas House. SB 893 passed the full Senate but has not yet been heard by a House committee. HB 2543 was heard by the House Public Education Committee but has so far been left pending, thanks to growing opposition to the bill.

Texans for Education Reform (TER) has been the main entity pushing for passage of these two pieces of legislation, along with several other bills that are part of a divisive reform package favored by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R). In addition to fighting for SB 893 and HB 2543 to change teacher pay and evaluations, TER’s legislative agenda includes other bills that ATPE has opposed calling for “A through F” grading of public school campuses (SB 6 and its House companion bills, HB 2109 and HB 2176); expanding and speeding up parent trigger laws making public schools more susceptible to private management (SB 14 and HB 1727); amending the state’s home rule charter district laws to facilitate creation of less regulated “local control school districts” (SB 1012 and HB 1798); creating a statewide Opportunity School District subject to private alternative management for the state’s lowest performing schools (SB 895HB 1536, and SB 669); and spending state money to expand home-schooled and private school students’ access to the state’s Virtual School Network (SB 894).

With so many in the education community opposing these bills, you may wonder who is behind the effort to take away educators’ rights, eliminate quality control measures for schools, and open the door for privatization and vouchers. TER was formed by a group of wealthy business leaders previously involved in tort reform efforts, and its founders include former Sen. Florence Shapiro, who joined the group upon her retirement from the Texas Legislature and her chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee. For the current legislative session, according to reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, TER has employed 22 lobbyists at a reported cost of between $830,000 to more than $1.6 million to help advance its controversial legislative agenda.

While TER’s legislative package has enjoyed support in Texas’s ultra-conservative Senate under Patrick’s leadership, the TER-backed bills have faced stiffer opposition in the House, leading to more aggressive lobbying efforts by the reform group. In an April 14th press release that was widely disseminated, TER claimed that SB 893 and HB 2543 would do nothing to impact the minimum salary schedule and would not lead to appraisals incorporating STAAR test results. ATPE sent a response to legislators pointing out the fallacies of the TER claims and highlighting specific sections of the bills that call for repealing teachers’ portion of the minimum salary schedule and creating a state-mandated framework for personnel decisions based in large part on student performance data.

Read ATPE’s message to legislators on “The Truth about SB 893 and HB 2543.”

ATPE urges members to keep calling their state representatives about these bills, which would facilitate district-level pay cuts for many experienced educators, remove important salary protections in state law that drive teacher retention, and do irreversible harm to teachers’ morale, leading many high-quality, veteran educators to consider retiring early from the profession. Visit our Officeholders page to find out who represents you in the Texas House, or click here to access contact information for all 150 state representatives.

Legislative Update: Budget news, House passes grad committees bill, Senate committee hears “Tim Tebow” bill, and more

Conference committees have been named for House Bill (HB) 1, the state’s budget bill. On the House side, the bill’s author and Appropriations Committee Chairman John Otto (R) will be joined by Reps. Sylvester Turner (D), Trent Ashby (R), Larry Gonzales (R), and Sarah Davis (R). Senate conferees include Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson (R) and Sens. Joan Huffman (R), Lois Kolkhorst (R), Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D), and Charles Schwertner (R).

The conference committee’s task is to work out differences between the two chambers on how to fund the state’s obligations for the next two years. There is a significant difference in how the two budget proposals approach public education and tax relief, or as ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter described it this week to Austin’s KVUE News, “a huge divide.”

The Texas House of Representatives gave its final approval to Senate Bill (SB) 149, an ATPE-supported bill that enables high school seniors who’ve failed certain STAAR tests to maintain a pathway to graduation with the appointment of individual graduation committees. The House amended and then voted yesterday to approve the grad committees bill on third reading by a vote of 125-9.

Those voting against SB 149 in the House yesterday were Reps. Greg Bonnen (R); Cindy Burkett (R); Tony Dale (R); Jodie Laubenberg (R); Debbie Riddle (R); Mike Schofield (R); Matt Shaheen (R); Tony Tinderholt (R); and Scott Turner (R). However, the official House Journal recording the day’s proceedings reflects that a number of representatives asked for their votes to be changed, as follows: Reps. Angie Chen Button (R), Doug Miller (R), and Dennis Paul (R) all stated that they intended to vote against SB 149 but were shown as voting for the bill; while Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R) stated that while he was shown as voting against the bill, he actually intended to vote for SB 149. Additionally, Reps. Geanie Morrison (R) and Elliott Naishtat (D) both were absent from the floor at the time of the vote, but noted afterward that they would have voted for SB 149; Rep. Bill Zedler (R), also absent at the time of the vote, stated that he would have voted against SB 149. Obviously, none of those changes would have impacted the final outcome of the vote.

We reported Tuesday on the House’s vote earlier this week to approve SB 149 on second reading after adding several amendments. SB 149 now is back on the Senate’s floor calendar, giving senators an opportunity to decide whether to accept the House’s amendments or appoint a conference committee to settle differences between the two versions of the bill. (Senators previously passed their own version of SB 149 by a vote of 28-2.)

The Texas Senate Education Committee met today to hear several pieces of legislation, including yet another private school voucher bill and a measure to allow home-schooled students to participate in UIL activities. SB 1178 by Sen. Don Huffines (R) as filed would set up a private school voucher program using “education savings accounts.” State funds would be placed into the savings accounts for families to access and use for private school or home school expenses. The committee is considering a substitute version of the bill calling for a study of the potential use of education savings accounts.

Another bill heard today was SB 2046 by Sen. Van Taylor (R), being advertised as a measure to provide “equal opportunity” for home-schooled students to participate in UIL. Supporters of SB 2046 have referred to the legislation as the “Tim Tebow bill,” named after the NFL quarterback who was home-schooled prior to becoming a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida. Taylor’s bill requires school districts to enable local home-schooled students to participate in UIL activities at the public school. SB 2046 requires parents of the home-schooled students to attest that their children have met certain academic eligibility requirements. The bill has the support of the Texas Home School Coalition, but some home-school proponents actually testified against the bill this morning, saying they did not want home-schooled students to be forced to take standardized tests as a condition of participating in UIL activities and did not want the state government regulating their educational environment. ATPE opposed the bill based on long-standing positions in our member-written Legislative Program that oppose the selective participation of home-schooled students in public school activities, especially when they are not held to the same academic standards as their public school student peers. Taylor’s bill does not require home-schooled students to take and pass STAAR tests. SB 2046 was left pending. As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann told Austin’s KXAN News this evening, the bill would not provide “an equal playing field” for home-schooled and public school students.

The Senate Education Committee took action on some pending bills both today and yesterday during an impromptu “desk” meeting. The bills approved by the committee include SB 894 by Chairman Larry Taylor, which is a virtual voucher bill that ATPE opposes. The vote was 6-2. Also voted out favorably by the committee was a new version of SB 669, by Sen. Royce West (D), calling for the creation of an Opportunity School District for certain low-performing schools. Chairman Larry Taylor (R), who filed similar legislation to create an OSD, announced his intent to sign on to West’s bill as a co-author. The committee approved CSSB 669 by a vote of 6-1. Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) voted against the measure, while Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) asked to be marked as “present not voting” because she had not yet had an opportunity to review the substitute language.

Here is a list of other bills that got a nod of approval from the Senate Education Committee in votes that occurred yesterday or today:

  • SB 213 by Sen. Brian Birdwell (R), which is the UIL sunset bill.
  • SB 313 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) calling for a review of the breadth and scope of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
  • SB 471 by Sen. Jose Rodríguez (D) pertaining to Texas Education Agency desk audits of school districts.
  • SB 496 by Sen. Kirk Watson (D) on providing additional funding for optional flexible school day programs.
  • SB 750 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) relating to an allotment for schools buying windstorm and hail insurance.
  • SB 955 by Sen. Charles Schwertner (R) regarding permissible locations of charter schools created by universities.
  • SB 1222 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R) relating to commissioner’s authority to issue subpoenas during an investigation of educator misconduct.
  • SB 1241 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) on establishing innovation zones for certain low-performing schools.
  • SB 1309 by Sen. Jose Menéndez (D) dealing with certification requirements for JROTC instructors.
  • SB 1434 by Sen. Van Taylor (R) allowing time spent in certain off-campus activities to count for purposes of a district’s Average Daily Attendance calculation.
  • SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (R) relating to community schools.
  • SB 1567 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) regarding applicability to certain laws regarding local governments to charter schools.
  • SB 1569 also by Sen. Lucio relating to charter school immunity provisions.
  • SB 1867 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D) omitting certain adult special education students from dropout calculations.
  • SB 1771 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) relating to the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium.
  • SB 1896 also by Sen. Larry Taylor on providing tutoring through the Virtual Schools Network.

Also today, the House Public Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Educator Quality held a brief hearing on a bill relating to teacher certification. HB 1373 by Rep. Helen Giddings (D) attempts to prohibit schools from assigning elementary school students to a first-year teacher or a teacher lacking the proper certification for two or more consecutive years. ATPE supports the bill, which Rep. Giddings has filed repeatedly over the course of several legislative sessions. HB 1373 would apply only to school districts with a student population of at least 5,000, and there is language in the bill permitting waivers to be issued in extenuating circumstances.

Next week, the House Public Education Committee is slated to hear SB 6 by Chairman Larry Taylor (R), which calls for assigning “A through F” accountability grades to school campuses. ATPE opposed the bill in the Senate, where it passed on a vote of 20-10 after being amended. SB 6 is part of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priority education package this session.

Also on the House committee’s agenda next Tuesday, April 28, is HB 4047 by Rep. Alma Allen (D) relating to the extension to open-enrollment charter school employees of certain rights granted to school district employees. The bill would ensure that charter school teachers have the right to join or not join a professional association or union and the right to be politically active in the same manner as teachers at traditional public schools. ATPE requested that the bill be filed.

The House Public Education Committee still has not yet acted on a controversial bill to do away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers. The bill is HB 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R), which has a Senate companion bill, SB 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), also pending on the House side. This bill may be brought up again next week to discuss possible amendments. ATPE members are urged to continue reaching out to their state representatives and asking them to oppose HB 2543 and SB 893. Download or print more information about our opposition to the salary bills here.

Another controversial bill being watched by the education community is SB 1968 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R). The bill, which would prohibit school districts from offering their employees the convenience of payroll deduction for education association dues and other services, could be headed for a Senate floor debate next week. The bill was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar for April 22, then removed from the calendar for April 23, and then subsequently re-positioned on the calendar for Monday, April 27. Read more about how the Senate Intent Calendar works here. Also, view ATPE’s Senate floor letter opposing SB 1968. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on these bills next week.

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.

Updated information on bills to eliminate salary schedule for teachers

Several ATPE members have inquired about the status of bills attempting to eliminate the state minimum salary schedule for teachers. The bills are Senate Bill 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and House Bill 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown). ATPE is opposed to both bills.

SB 893 by Sen. Seliger relates to public school teacher performance appraisals, continuing education, professional development, career advancement, and compensation. The bill was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 19. During that hearing, ATPE testified against the bill. Read more about that hearing here. The Senate Education Committee favorably voted out a substitute version of the bill on March 24. The committee substitute changed language in the bill pertaining to student and teacher performance and attempted to ensure that state standardized tests would not be the only measure of student performance used in a state or district developed teacher appraisal system. However, ATPE believes that the bill still overemphasizes the role of “objective” student performance measures. The full Senate amended and then passed SB 893 on April 7. The vote was 27-4, with Democratic Sens. Rodney Ellis, Eddie Lucio, Jose Menendez, and Royce West opposing the bill. The Senate rejected a floor amendment by Sen. Menendez that attempted to restore the minimum salary schedule for teachers in the bill. SB 893 has been sent to the House for consideration.

HB 2543 by Rep. Farney is the House companion bill also relating to public school teacher performance appraisals, continuing education, professional development, career advancement, and compensation. HB 2543 was identical to SB 893 at the time of filing. The House Public Education Committee heard HB 2543 on Tuesday, April 7, and ATPE testified against it. The bill was left pending while the author considers possible amendments to the bill.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates about both of these bills as developments occur. In the meantime, we encourage ATPE members to keep contacting their state representatives and urging them to oppose these bills as they move through the Texas House. Click here for additional information about SB 893 and HB 2543 to share with your legislators.

Show your support for public schools by voting tomorrow!

Saturday, May 10, is election day for various school board races and school bond proposals. Most polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow. Contact your county elections office or check local newspapers for polling locations in your area if you did not take advantage of early voting.

School board elections are being held in 56 school districts. We urge educators to participate in these elections, since school boards are empowered to make the decisions that affect both day-to-day operations and long-term plans for school districts, their students and their employees. Decisions about educator employment and compensation, graduation requirements, budgets, school schedules, even converting public schools to privately-governed charters—these are all matters that rest largely in the hands of school board trustees.

Many school board candidates are educators, including some ATPE members, while some have no education experience. Make informed choices by researching the candidates in your area to learn where they stand on issues that are most important to you.

In addition, bond elections are taking place in 73 school districts. The Texas Tribune has published a list of the specific school bond proposals on tomorrow’s ballot. Most proposals are intended to help school districts build or renovate facilities, especially in areas with rapid enrollment gains.

Finally, if you live in the Conroe/The Woodlands area, be sure to cast your vote in the Senate District 4 special election. Polling suggests that this race will be a close one. Teach the Vote features profiles of the four candidates in the race:

Turnout is usually very low in school elections, and educators have the power to determine the outcomes in these races simply by showing up. So spread the word, grab a friend and head to the polls tomorrow!

SBEC proposes higher GPA requirement for educator preparation candidates

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met today in Austin and proposed several changes to their administrative rules, which govern the education profession. The board is proposing rewrites to 19 TAC Chapters 227, 228 and 229 relating to educator preparation; some of the rewrites were prompted by the passage of House Bill (HB) 2012 last year.

Ch. 227, which outlines the minimum criteria for admission to an educator preparation program, garnered the most discussion. Board members expressed concern over the minimum GPA requirements and the number of college credit hours required in the content area in which certification is sought. ATPE testified before the board, urging them to consider raising the minimum GPA from 2.5 to 2.75. Although the board has required a 2.5 minimum GPA, with certain exceptions, for several years now, there was no statutory requirement for a minimum GPA until last year.

HB 2012 now requires SBEC to set a minimum GPA for educator certification candidates, which can be as high as 2.75, depending on the board’s discretion. Staff members from the Texas Education Agency recommended, based on stakeholder discussions with educator preparation program directors and principals, that SBEC keep its minimum GPA rule at 2.5. After hearing our testimony  and discussing the issue at length today, the board voted to change the 2.5 GPA requirement to a minimum 2.75. Several board members, including Brad Allard, Kathryn Everest, Christie Pogue and Suzanne McCall, spoke eloquently about the need to take pride in and maintain high standards for the profession.

Under the new proposal, which will come up for a final vote by the board in August after a public comment period, exceptions in the rule will still allow teachers who cannot meet the 2.75 overall GPA to demonstrate a 2.75 GPA in their last 60 semester credit hours and also allow educator preparation programs to continue to waive the GPA requirement for up to ten percent of each cohort.

The proposed increase in the GPA requirement is a victory for ATPE and other groups that have long advocated for higher standards and more selective recruitment of teachers in Texas. Research shows that the U.S. lags in student achievement measures behind other countries that allow only top students to pursue teacher certification. Raising the standards for admission also elevates the prestige of the profession, which may also help to secure better compensation for teachers in the future.

In other business, the board approved relatively minor changes to disciplinary decision-making guidelines, current accountability ratings for educator preparation programs and standards for newly created certificates for grades 6–12 in areas of Business and Finance, Health Science, Marketing, and Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.