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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 15, 2023

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 9/15/2023

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

A-F RATINGS: The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced Tuesday it was delaying the release of 2023 A-F accountability ratings for school districts and campuses. 2023 ratings will reflect a refreshed ratings system. TEA originally planned to release the ratings Sept. 28 but are now delaying the release approximately one month to allow for “further re-examination of the baseline data used in the calculation of Progress to ensure ratings reflect the most appropriate goals for students.” Additional TEA correspondence provided to school districts stated the delay was necessary because “setting baselines that partially incorporate data from the 2021–22 school year may not adequately take into account the impact of COVID-19.” A growing number of school districts are suing TEA over the revamped ratings system, which dramatically increases the benchmark for College, Career, and Military Readiness (CCMR) from 60% to 88%. The one-month delay likely puts the release of 2023 A-F ratings toward the end of an anticipated special session on school vouchers, rather than roughly a week before. 

IMPEACHMENT: House impeachment managers and the defense for Attorney General Ken Paxton finished their closing arguments in the Paxton impeachment trial today. Senators began deliberating behind closed doors Friday afternoon. We will report the verdict here on Teach the Vote once it is announced.

TRS STIPENDS: The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) began issuing $1.5 billion in one-time stipends to more than 280,000 eligible retirees this week as provided for in Senate Bill (SB) 10 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston). The stipend amounts are based on an eligible annuitant’s age ($2,400 to those 70–74 and $7,500 to those 75 or older). This is the first part of the TRS benefit enhancement passed by the 88th Legislature. Part two is a cost-of-living adjustment dependent on passage of a constitutional amendment in the Nov. 7 election. The voter registration deadline for this election is Oct. 10, so confirm your voter registration today so you can vote for the COLA.      

TRS BOARD MEETING: In addition to sending out what will hopefully be the first of two benefit increases for retirees this week, TRS also held its September board meeting Thursday and Friday. The board spent much of the public portion of the meeting receiving annual audit reports. Following discussions in executive session, the board also approved the following salary increases for staff members who report directly to the board: 

  • The ombud’s base salary was increased by 3.175%. 
  • The chief investment officer’s base salary was increased by 11.538%. 
  • ​For the executive director, the board voted to increase the not-to-exceed amount associated with his combined base and performance pay to $550,000, increase his base salary by 10%, and approve a 25% leadership performance award of $125,000. 

Board materials and the archived meeting video can be found on the TRS website.  

WEP/GPO FULL REPEAL: U.S. Reps. Garret Graves (R–LA) and Abigail Spanberger (D–VA) held a press conference this week to promote H.R. 82, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2023, an ATPE-supported bill that would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO).

The bill has 291 co-sponsors as of this week.  

Reaching 290 co-sponsors is a milestone that allows the bill authors to trigger a provision in House rules that requires the committee of jurisdiction to either take up and dispose of the legislation or allow the legislation to skip the committee process and go straight to the House floor for a vote. You can read here on Teach the Vote how this scenario played out during the most recent Congress with the previously filed H.R. 82. It is important to note that with over 15 months left in the current Congress, H.R. 82 reached the 290 co-sponsor mark far earlier in the congressional session than the bill’s previous iteration did during the most recent Congress.  

Find more information about the WEP and GPO on the ATPE website. 

KXAN PANEL: Del Valle ATPE President Cristela Rocha participated in a KXAN News panel on education this week. You may watch “Texas’ State of Education: It’s Not About Us” on demand here. The panelists’ conversation is divided into three parts: school finance, vouchers, and school safety. Rep. Brian Harrison R–Midlothian), Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D–Austin), and Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R–New Boston) also participated, along with other education stakeholders. 

SPECIAL EDUCATION COMMITTEE: Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday he has appointed ATPE member Juana “Janie” Melendez to the Continuing Advisory Committee for Special Education for a term set to expire Sept. 1, 2027. The committee provides policy guidance on special education and related services for children with disabilities. Melendez teaches in Valley View (1) ISD in Pharr and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Texas–Pan American. 

ATPE PODCAST: In the latest episode of The ATPE Podcast, ATPE Managing Attorney Lance Cain and Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter discuss SB 133 by Sen. Royce West (D–Dallas), a new law prohibiting the physical restraint of public school students by peace officers and school security personnel under certain circumstances. 


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