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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Dec. 8, 2023

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 12/08/2023

The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments. 

SPECIAL SESSION: The fourth special session of the 88th Legislature ended Tuesday with a final unsuccessful attempt to pass a teacher pay raise and provide more school funding. As recapped by ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave in this blog post, Rep. Steve Allison (R–San Antonio) made a parliamentary inquiry at the back mic aimed at setting up a scenario where the House would bypass the committee process to take up Senate Bill (SB) 2 and SB 6 on the House floor. SB 2 was a voucher-less school finance bill that contained a pay raise, and SB 6 addressed issues related to a legal challenge delaying implementation of the 14 constitutional amendments passed by voters in November, including a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retired educators. Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) told Allison he would not be recognized for such a motion (though it's included in House rules) and adjourned the House sine die. The Senate adjourned sine die shortly after, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) held a scathing press conference about Phelan’s leadership style. Patrick also stated that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) does not plan to call the Legislature back for a fifth special session—something Abbott has previously threatened to do.

2024 PRIMARIES: The candidate filing deadline for the 2024 Texas primary election is 6 p.m. Dec. 11. As reported by The Texas Tribune, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is focusing his private school voucher efforts on the primary election by actively endorsing opponents of those Republican incumbents who voted for the Raney amendment that killed voucher efforts during the fourth special session. It is critical that educators continue their strong anti-voucher advocacy as we head into the primaries by supporting and voting for pro-public education candidates. 

TRS: The highlight of the two-day Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees meeting was the reporting of the annual actuarial evaluation. The valuation showed an increase to the unfunded liability and funding period and a decrease in funded ratio. These negative trends were based on a combination of larger-than-average increases in active teacher pay and lower-than-assumed investment returns over the past two years. Texas continues to be 50th out of 50 states in terms of state/employer contribution rates to its teacher retirement system. This puts significant additional stress on the system and its reliance on investment returns.  

The report also included notes on the $5 billion paid out to retirees in September, at which time approximately 177,000 retirees received a one-time payment of $7,500 and 108,000 retirees received a payment of $2,400. Also, detailed was the 2%/4%/6% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) set to go into effect in January. Neither the one-time payment nor the COLA are projected to impact the fund’s actuarial soundness because they were both fully funded.  

The COLA was also in the news this week due to a lawsuit being filed by individuals seeking to dispute the validity of the recent constitutional election. Because the election had not been certified at the time the suit was filed, there was initially concern that implementation of the passed amendments, including those providing for the TRS COLA and property tax reduction, would be delayed, perhaps for as much as 18 months. However, due to completion of some key processes prior to the suit’s filing, it was determined the election could be certified at this time, and that happened earlier this week. Accordingly, the COLA payments should not be delayed. 

SBEC: The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met Thursday and Friday to consider changes to rule text involving the guidelines for Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs), the development of a new enhanced standard certificate for teacher residents, and the development of a teacher performance assessment (TPA) to evaluate educator candidates. ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave has more in this blog post


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