When people think about public education advocacy, many naturally think about the legislature and the 140-day legislative session that occurs every two years. To be sure there is a lot of action during session, but there are also plenty of ways for public education advocates, including ATPE’s professional lobby team and members of the general public who care about the issue, to stay engaged outside of a legislative session.
Two primary areas of engagement during the interim are interacting with state regulatory boards and agencies and following interim charges to legislative committees.
Boards and agencies, such as the State Board of Education or the Teacher Retirement System, do the day-to-day work of implementing the laws enacted by the state legislature. This work happens year-round and these entities have a huge impact on shaping the law through their interpretation and implementation of it. Stakeholders can share their input with boards and agencies through administrative rulemaking processes and at public meetings.
State board and agency rules are contained in the Texas Administrative Code. Each week, proposed and newly adopted rules are published in the Texas Register through the Secretary of State’s office. Both resources are available to the public.
For example, just this week ATPE submitted comments on multiple administrative rules.
- ATPE formally commented on proposed changes to commissioner’s rules governing school district-charter partnerships under Senate Bill 1882 of 2017.
- We joined with the Texas Association of Future Educators in recommending rule revisions by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) that could benefit high school students who are interested in careers in the classroom.
- ATPE also shared concerns about SBEC rules relating to master teacher certificates that are slated to be eliminated as a result of 2019’s House Bill 3 (2019).
In addition, we attended this week’s State Board of Education meetings, as ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins has reported on here and here for Teach the Vote. These are examples of advocacy efforts that, while related to actions taken by the legislature, take place in entirely different arenas. Rulemaking happens at the federal level, too. Through our Washington, DC-based lobby team, we are able similarly to stay on top of federal regulatory actions that might affect ATPE members.
Legislative committees have also begun conducting interim hearings that will continue to ramp up over the summer. These hearings give lawmakers an opportunity to monitor the implementation of recent legislation and to discuss the House interim charges and Senate interim charges. Public testimony is often allowed at these meetings, and committees may also invite expert witnesses to sit on panels or speak about an issue. Interim charges, and the hearings at which they are discussed, often provide the basis for major legislation in the upcoming legislative session. Becoming involved in the shaping of bills before they are ever filed puts savvy advocates way ahead of the game.
ATPE will engage in these and many other advocacy opportunities throughout the interim on behalf of our 100,000 members, and we encourage educators and others who care about public education to do the same. Take the time to share your input with decision-makers during this important, sometimes overlooked advocacy period. ATPE advocacy never stops!