Category Archives: NCLB/ESEA

Education-related meetings in Washington, D.C. this week

ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson will be back from Washington, D.C. tomorrow and will provide a full wrap-up of Tuesday’s big hearing on Social Security. In the meantime, here are updates on other happenings this week in the nation’s capital.

Two additional house hearings were held Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Secretary of Education John King continued his advocacy for President Obama’s education budget proposal before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ education subcommittee. As has been the case in other budget hearings, lawmakers pressed the secretary on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Among other issues, subcommittee members addressed state authority and the role of the federal government under the new law. King reiterated that he would adhere to the law while ensuring states maintain certain standards.

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce met to discuss student privacy and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, which is due for a rewrite. The committee developed a bipartisan bill to rewrite the law last year, but failed to move the bill as ESSA debate took priority. Leaders are now looking to re-energize the issue in an attempt to get a law passed. The issue is a sticky one as lawmakers attempt to govern the use of student data for research while maintaining student privacy.

Meanwhile, a few blocks away at the Department of Education (ED), a committee tasked with writing rules that will administer parts of ESSA began its work this week. The committee is made up of individuals representing states, school districts, parents, students, teachers, principals, charter schools, paraprofessionals, the civil rights community, Native-American tribes, and the business community.

The committee began its three-day session on Monday with a discussion on “supplement, not supplant,” which is language that says states cannot replace state and local dollars with federal dollars. The language is not new to law, but changes under ESSA require new guidance and clarification. The remainder of the session was focused on assessments. The committee tackled issues such as the definition of nationally recognized state assessments (which states will now be able to use for accountability purposes in place of state high school tests), new language in law allowing computer-adaptive testing, and specifics of required tests for English-language learners, among other things.

This is the first round of negotiated rulemaking pertaining to ESSA. The committee is scheduled to meet again in April and potentially for a third round of meetings. The members of the committee must come to a consensus on the rules covering the issues at hand. If they fail to do so on both or one of the topics, ED will write its own draft rules. ESSA requires that three areas of law go through negotiated rulemaking: assessments, “supplement, not supplant,” and standards. ED has chosen to not initiate negotiated rulemaking on standards at this time. In other areas of the law, such as accountability, ED can proceed under its typical rulemaking process. ED has more information regarding the negotiated rule making process at its ESSA webpages.

Meet the new education law of the land, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

President Barack Obama today signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the nation’s primary federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Previously called the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act when it was reauthorized under President George W. Bush in 2001, the law sets forth expectations for academic accountability, educator quality, and the use of federal funding for wide-ranging education programs.


ATPE state officers and lobbyists in Washington, D.C. earlier this year for discussions about ESEA reauthorization.

After years of waiting for reauthorization, ATPE and many other educator groups are celebrating Congress’s abandonment of failed NCLB strategies and policies embedded in the Obama administration’s waivers, and we are welcoming the new ESSA with cautious optimism. ATPE is grateful to our Washington-based lobby team for helping us in our efforts to persuade Congress to pass a reauthorization bill this year and for sharing our input on the federal law repeatedly with lawmakers and U.S. Department of Education staff. We also thank our many state officers and staff members who traveled to the nation’s capital over the years to share their stories in the hope of improving the country’s premier education law.

Although viewed as a long-overdue victory by most in the education field, there are some who have criticized the ESSA, saying that it does not go far enough to remove the federal government’s role or that it backs too far away from test-based accountability measures. Presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) voted against the bill, complaining that it represented “the same tired approach that continues to fail our nation’s children.”Sandy Kress 12-10-15 Sandy Kress, who is credited with creating the NCLB plan for President Bush and who shortly thereafter became a lobbyist for the testing industry, called the enactment of the ESSA “pitiful” in tweets this week.

This new “law of the land” for education aims to reduce the federal role in states’ education policies while ensuring accountability for educating students in various subgroups and closing achievement gaps. Ditching the controversial requirements for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the ESSA gives states and school districts more flexibility to create their own accountability systems and interventions for struggling schools. As of next summer, it will nullify the controversial waiver system of recent years that has required many states, including Texas, to pursue reforms not often favored by education stakeholders, such as teacher evaluations tied to student test scores. It also repeals the complex “highly qualified teacher” mandates from NCLB, replacing them with new provisions for “effective” teachers. As for curriculum and related matters, the ESSA requires states to adopt standards but prohibits the U.S. Secretary of Education from dictating what those should be. While Congress avoided putting ATPE-opposed funding portability language into the final bill, the ESSA does include a provision for a school choice pilot program in 50 school districts that would enable state, local, and federal funds to follow students from one school to another. With respect to testing, the ESSA keeps in place many of the existing requirements. States will still be expected to test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8, plus one high school test, but that test that could become the SAT or ACT based on school districts’ discretion.

In remarks during the bill signing ceremony this morning, President Obama called the ESSA “a big step in the right direction,” but added that the hard work would come with implementation. It is worth noting that many of the changes in the federal law will require similar actions by state legislatures and policymakers to be fully effective nationwide. For instance, the 2017 legislative session is the earliest opportunity for lawmakers to choose whether or not to tinker with Texas’s state STAAR testing requirements, which underwent a major overhaul in 2013 via the passage of House Bill 5.

It remains to be seen what short-term impact, in particular, the enactment of the ESSA will have on Texas’s pending effort to adopt a new state-recommended appraisal system for teachers known as T-TESS. The Texas Education Agency’s plans for T-TESS have been heavily influenced by strings attached to the state’s ESEA waiver, including pressure from the federal government to base at least 20 percent of teachers’ evaluations on student growth data. In a statement this week about the passage of the federal law, Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams said that “the rollout of our state’s new teacher and principal evaluation systems will continue, but without federal demands to include student test scores as a mandatory aspect.” Williams is resigning at the end of this month, but has already proposed new commissioner’s rules to implement T-TESS and repeal its predecessor, known as PDAS. Those rules, which were developed before the passage of the new federal law, are currently open for review and public comment through January 11. As drafted, the commissioner’s rules for T-TESS require teacher appraisals to “include the academic growth of the teacher’s students at the individual teacher level as measured by one or more of the following student growth measures: (1) student learning objectives; (2) student portfolios; (3) pre- and post-test results on district-level assessments; or (4) value-added data based on student state assessment results” starting in 2017. The proposed rules also specify that student growth “shall count for at least 20% of a teacher’s summative score.”ATPE_At_the_Capitol_Vertical

The one thing we know for certain is that big changes are on the horizon. As with our efforts to push Congress to reauthorize the ESEA, ATPE will remain heavily involved in the implementation work at the state and national levels. Making sure that the renewed national focus on lessening the outsized role of standardized tests is reflected in our state laws and policies going forward will be a top priority. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates from our lobby team.

Congress passes ESEA reauthorization, advances measure to President

A view of the east steps of the United States Capitol Building.

This morning, Congress passed a rewrite to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The final measure, designated the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), comes after almost a year of negotiations and more than eight years after the body originally intended to rewrite No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which is what the law was dubbed when it was reauthorized under President George W. Bush in 2001. The measure now advances to President Obama who is expected to sign it into law tomorrow.

The ESSA passed the U.S. Senate by a vote 85 to 12. Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) was among the senators voting in favor of the legislation, while Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) released a statement saying he could not support the measure. The U.S. House of Representatives similarly passed the bill with strong, bipartisan support last week. In the lower chamber, the bill passed 359 to 64 and all but eleven members of the Texas delegation supported the bill (including nine who opposed it and two who did not vote).

After passing both chambers of Congress, the ESSA now advances to President Obama’s desk for his signature. Shortly after passage in the Senate, the White House released a statement advising members of the press that the President will sign the legislation at 10:05 am CST tomorrow, Dec. 10. His remarks and signing of the act can be viewed live at

Watch for more information coming soon from Teach the Vote about the groundbreaking new law and how it will impact Texas laws and policies on accountability, testing, educator evaluations, teacher certification, and much more.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Nov. 20, 2015

It’s been a busy week for education ThinkstockPhotos-144283240policy watchers in Texas and around the country. Be sure to follow @TeachtheVote and members of our ATPE lobby team on Twitter for the very latest. Here are updates on the week’s big news stories that you might have missed:



The outdated Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which should have been reauthorized back in 2007, is finally a step closer to being updated. Yesterday, a bipartisan conference committee in the U.S. House and Senate voted 39 to 1 to move forward a negotiated reauthorization bill.

Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided a recap of the conference committee action for our blog both Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The full text of the negotiated bill has not yet been released, but we will provide updates on our blog as soon as that occurs.

The full House will take up the bill on Dec. 2 or 3; there is no scheduled date for Senate floor debate, but leaders expect the discussions to proceed quickly with a goal of getting a bill to the president’s desk by the end of the year.


The State Board of Education met this week in Austin. Its agenda included review of a recent SBEC decision to change the qualifications for becoming certified as a superintendent in Texas. ATPE opposed the SBEC rule change, which would allow individuals with no education experience to become certified. Texas law provides for all SBEC rules to be reviewed by the elected SBOE, which may veto a rule by a two-thirds vote. Today was one of those rare occurrences in which the SBOE voted to reject the SBEC rule and send it back to the certification board for further revision.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter, the Texas Association of School Administrators, other education group representatives, and education experts testified against the SBEC proposal, arguing that an existing waiver process, tweaked by the legislature just this year, already provides a mechanism for non-traditional superintendents to be hired in exceptional circumstances. The SBOE board agreed, voting 10 to 5 in favor of rejecting the rule and sending it back to SBEC. The motion was made today by board member Thomas Ratliff (R).

SBOE has the statutory power to reject SBEC rules but cannot modify them. The last time an SBEC rule was vetoed was in September 2014, when ATPE also successfully lobbied the SBOE to reject a proposal to water down entrance requirements for educator preparation programs. The SBOE veto today means that SBEC must now choose whether to stick with current rules on superintendent certification or rewrite the rule revision and send it back to SBOE for another review.

This week, the SBOE also considered adopting a new definition to try to qualify those who may sit on panels to review textbooks and instructional materials. As with the review of curriculum standards, the board’s procedures for reviewing and adopting textbooks have faced immense scrutiny over the years, often plagued by disputes over political ideologies. Recent news stories about inaccuracies in adopted texts have also spurred renewed discussion of the SBOE’s review processes. Board member Erika Beltran (D) attempted to craft a definition to ensure that textbook reviewers would meet certain minimum academic qualifications. Unfortunately, SBOE members in favor of specifying a standard for who meets the term “qualified individuals” were short by two votes. This item will come back to the SBOE for second reading and final adoption at the next board meeting. ATPE’s Exter reports that there may be further efforts to put in place some standard for textbook reviewers at that time.

Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

The Board of Trustees for the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Texas also met this week in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended and provided information about the Nov. 19 and 20 meetings, which he described as “fairly uneventful.”

The board heard updates on the status of the pension trust fund and both active and retiree healthcare programs that were discussed in depth last week at a briefing provided to stakeholder groups, legislative members, and staff. The board adopted an incentive pay plan for the TRS executive director, which includes member satisfaction measures, as well as several other metrics that are used to evaluate the director’s performance. A slate of rule changes, including an improvement to the rule that is used to calculate compensation during the final year before retirement, were also adopted by the board.

Sanderson added that there have been problems reported concerning active employee enrollment with Aetna’s health insurance plan. At this week’s board meeting, Aetna representatives presented information on how they are addressing these issues and what their plans are to remedy the problem. The TRS board met in an executive session at length to discuss how they plan to deal with Aetna, but no final decision was delivered. Sanderson says that a more detailed update is expected during the next TRS board meeting in Dallas on Dec. 7.

In related news, the coalition known as Texans for Secure Retirement (TSR) also met earlier this week. The group advocates for the security of pension programs for public employees in Texas, including preventing them from being converted to defined-contribution plans. ATPE’s Sanderson has served as a member of the board for TSR and was selected this week to continue in that role for another year.


Announced today was an upcoming hearing of the Texas Senate Education Committee, the first interim hearing to be scheduled this year by one of the state’s education committees. The meeting is slated for Dec. 7 and will be focused on charter schools and inappropriate teacher-student relationships. Here are the two specific interim charges that are to be addressed by the committee, which is chaired by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Pearland):

  • Study the approval, expansion, and revocation of public charter schools in Texas, including the implementation of SB 2 (83R) and other legislation. In particular, examine the issues surrounding the disposition of state property when charters are revoked, non-renewed, or cease to operate. Make recommendations regarding policies to ensure an efficient and effective transfer and disposal of state property that preserves state interest while ensuring that certain investment capital and the bond market supporting charter construction remains robust. In addition, make recommendations if needed to clarify policies regarding expansion of existing high-quality charter schools in Texas. Additionally, examine facility funding for charter schools in other states and make recommendations on facility funding assistance for charter schools in Texas.
  • Study the recent rise of inappropriate teacher-student relationships, the impact of social media interaction between teachers and students, and examine the current efforts by the Texas Education Agency, schools, law enforcement, and the courts to investigate and prosecute any educator engaged in inappropriate relationships. Determine what recommendations, if any, are needed to improve student safety, including increasing agency staff, adjusting penalties, and strengthening efforts to sanction educators’ certificates for misconduct. Study and address the issue of prevention through training and education of school employees.


TEA is soliciting input on rules to implement grants for pre-Kindergarten under Rep. Dan Huberty’s (R-Kingwood) House Bill (HB) 4 that passed earlier this year. Under the program, school districts and charter schools that implement certain quality standards for curriculum, teacher qualifications, academic performance, and family engagement may apply for grant funding starting in 2016. The commissioner will adopt rules to determine parameters for the grant program.

TEA will hold a public hearing to solicit input on the new rules on Dec. 1, starting at 11 a.m. Click here for more details on the hearing and how you may sign up to testify. Through the same link, you may find TEA’s Family Engagement Survey, which is open until Nov. 25. The survey allows you to share input on proposed definitions and strategies for the family engagement component of the pre-K grants. Finally, you may also submit feedback to TEA on draft pre-K guidelines that are posted on the same website. The guidelines address curriculum and are broken into ten domains. Again, the deadline for submitting feedback via email to TEA is Nov. 25.


ThinkstockPhotos-162674067-pillsThree senators and three state representatives have been appointed to serve on a new Committee to Study TRS Health Benefit Plans. The committee is tasked with reviewing the healthcare plans administered by TRS and proposing reforms to address their financial solvency, costs, and affordability. The legislatively mandated committee will also look at whether access to physicians and other healthcare providers is sufficient under those plans. Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Straus (R) has appointed Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) to co-chair the committee, along with Reps. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio). Senators appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) for the special committee are Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), who will co-chair it, joined by Sens. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls). The committee will report its findings back to the legislature by January 15, 2017.

ESEA conference committee advances reauthorization bill

This morning, after a fairly brief and largely bipartisan markup where lawmakers considered a handful of amendments, the U.S. House and Senate joint conference committee tasked with negotiating language to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) overwhelmingly passed its conference report (or negotiated bill).

While the report has not yet been released in its entirety, an “ESEA Conference Framework Summary” was released and summarizes the report’s content in major policy areas such as accountability, testing, standards, intervention, and educator support. The majority of the report was agreed upon by the chambers’ respective education leaders (House Chairman John Kline, R-MN, and Ranking Member Robert Scott, D-VA, and Senate Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-TN, and Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-WA) who negotiated a “framework” prior to beginning the conference committee work.

The Capitol Building

A handful of amendments were discussed at today’s markup prior to passing the bill. Seven easily passed with bipartisan support, one was withdrawn by its author, and only two were voted down. The amendments that passed would authorize a study to examine changes to formula funding through Title I, review early childhood education programs, establish limits on aggregate time spent on assessments, provide funding for educating teachers on the appropriate use of student data, provide for dual or concurrent enrollment for English language learners, integrate arts in STEM education, and offer funding flexibility to carry out dropout prevention and re-entry programs.The two amendments not adopted by the committee would have created a clearinghouse for teacher evaluation programs and put a cap on funding at the funding level for fiscal year 2016, respectively.

The report was ultimately passed out of the conference committee overwhelmingly by a vote of 39-1. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who is currently campaigning for the presidency, was the only member of the committee to vote against the measure, and he did so by proxy as he was not in attendance.

Chairman Kline said at the close of today’s meeting that the full report in legislative text form will be available Nov. 30 and that the House will vote on the measure Dec. 2 or 3. Senate leaders did not give a precise date for a floor vote in that chamber, but Chairman Alexander said senators will be given at least a week to consider the report prior to voting.

ESEA conference committee holds first meeting

The U.S. House and Senate Conference Committee to Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind, held its first meeting this afternoon in Washington, DC. While the negotiations on the bill have largely been conducted prior to today’s hearing, the bill will still make its way through the formal conference committee process for final negotiations before it heads to both chambers for a final vote.

Today’s hearing was mostly pomp and circumstance, with all members of the committee having the opportunity to make opening statements. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN), who also chairs the conference committee, laid out an anticipated timeline for the conference committee proceedings: the report (or final negotiated bill) will be released at the end of the month and final votes on the measure will take place in both chambers in early- to mid-December. This would allow for President Obama to sign the legislation prior to the Christmas break.

As we previously reported, the conference committee, which does not include a member of the Texas Congressional delegation, was established in late July after the U.S. House passed its version of a bill to reauthorize ESEA, H.R. 5 – The Student Success Act of 2015, on July 8, and the U.S. Senate followed quickly with the passage of S. 1177 – The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 on July 16.

There was large consensus among the committee that while the bill is perfect to none, it is a positive step in the right direction and it is time to act. The major sticking points of the bill have centered on accountability – Democrats want it bolstered, particularly with regard to educating student subgroups, while Republicans want to see more flexibility and control given to states and school districts.

It has been reported that the major policy contentions were resolved prior to today’s hearing. The deal is expected to increase spending levels, with small growth over time, and would be up for reauthorization once again in four years. Also among the expectations for the compromise bill according to reports: annual testing in grades 3-8 in reading and math with grade span testing in science, state-developed accountability systems, state-adopted “challenging” academic standards, interventions designed locally in the bottom five percent of schools and high school “failure factories,” and state-developed educator appraisal systems.

One very controversial piece included in H.R. 5, the portability language that allows Title I money to follow the child from school to school (rather than being sent schools experiencing high concentrations of qualified students), is not expected to be included in the negotiated bill (although a a pilot program could potentially offer some Title I portability at the state level). ATPE opposed the inclusion of this language in the bill via our letter to the Texas delegation earlier this month, and we encouraged Texas Congressmen to weigh in with leadership on their intent to see it omitted.

There are still several big hurdles ahead for ESEA reauthorization. Stay tuned for updates as the process continues.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Nov. 13, 2015

On this Friday the 13th, here’s a look at stories that made education news in Texas this week:

There is talk in the nation’s capital of a compromise that could make it possible for Congress to finally reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has reported extensively on our blog, the U.S. House and Senate have passed respective bills that would replace the outdated federal accountability act with a new law. Late this week came news that congressional leaders have reached a tentative agreement on legislation to move to the House and Senate floors shortly after Thanksgiving, with conference committee meetings expected to take place next week. A joint statement about the negotiation was dispatched late today.

It’s unclear what will make it into an agreed-upon bill; most of the reauthorization debates have focused on differing expectations over how to measure accountability, particularly for subgroups of students, while at the same time minimizing the federal government’s role in state policy decisions. “Portability,” a House-favored concept that would enable Title I funding to follow each child, has also been a sticking point and something ATPE has urged Congress to avoid. ATPE State President Cory Colby emphasized that in a recent letter to Texas’s congressional delegation encouraging them to take steps to get a reauthorization bill passed this year.

The outdated and onerous accountability and funding provisions of ESEA have prompted most states, including Texas, to seek waivers from the U.S. Department of Education. Our state’s waiver is in jeopardy going forward, however, since the federal government has placed Texas on “high-risk” status for failing to meet certain prescriptive teacher evaluation criteria favored by the Obama administration. Of course, reauthorization of the federal law by Congress, coupled with next year’s presidential election, could render such waivers obsolete.

ATPE’s Washington-based lobbyists will be providing additional information as developments unfold. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote next week for updates.



ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended a NoJS Tweet 11-12-15v. 12 actuarial briefing by staff of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). Read his new blog post to learn more about the current state of the pension fund as well as the healthcare programs for active and retired education employees and what the legislature must do to keep them solvent into the future.



On Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released final school accountability ratings for 2015. The ratings are meant to provide analysis on more than 1,200 school districts and charter schools with more than 8,500 campuses represented. TEA reported in a press release that “more than 90 percent of school districts and charters across Texas achieved the rating of Met Standard.”

However, one school district that has not fared so well under the state’s academic and financial accountability systems is La Marque Independent School District, which TEA officials announced this week is facing closure next summer on account of poor performance. The district had already been informed earlier this fall that its school board and superintendent would be replaced under a decision by Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. La Marque ISD was essentially on probation pending the release of new accountability ratings. Now, according to news reports, the district will be annexed by another district that has not yet been named. The district in Galveston County is home to approximately 2,500 students.



Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday that he has tapped Mike Morath to lead the brand new Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. Morath, a business executive with a background in finance, has been a member of the Dallas ISD board of trustees since 2011 and sparked controversy with his support for a recent failed effort to convert DISD to a home rule charter district.

The new state commission is being created pursuant to House Bill (HB) 2804 that the Texas legislature passed earlier this year and is supposed to make recommendations for new statewide student testing and accountability systems. Enabling the commission to comprehensively study accountability concerns over the next year was part of an effort to postpone the implementation of controversial “A through F” ratings of school campuses that were also mandated as a component of HB 2804.

Under HB 2804, the governor appoints four members to the commission, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus get three appointments each. The commission will also include the chairs of the Senate and House committees on education and higher education or their designees, along with a member appointed by the State Board of Education. Here are the other individuals who’ve been named to join the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability:

Additional appointments by Gov. Abbott:

  • Andrew Kim, superintendent of Comal ISD
  • Theresa Trevino, an Austin psychiatrist
  • Quinton Vance, superintendent of KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth Public Charter Schools

Appointments by Lt. Gov. Patrick:

  • Kim Alexander, superintendent of Roscoe Collegiate ISD
  • Paul Castro, superintendent of A+UP Charter School in Houston
  • Michael K. McLendon, dean of the School of Education at Baylor University

Appointments by Speaker Straus:

  • Pauline Dow, chief instructional officer for North East ISD in San Antonio
  • Maria Hernandez Ferrier, director of Texas A&M System’s Office of Mexico and Latin American Relations
  • Catherine Susser, a community volunteer and member of the Corpus Christi ISD board of trustees

SBOE designee: Erica Beltran



The State Board of Education (SBOE) and the TRS Board of Trustees are both slated to meet next week in Austin. The SBOE agenda includes an opportunity to review a recent ATPE-opposed decision by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) to change requirements for becoming a school superintendent in Texas. In advance of the regular SBOE meetings Wednesday through Friday, the board is also conducting a full-day work session at the state capitol on Tuesday, Nov. 17; the roundtable discussion will focus on digital instructional materials and the use of technology in the classroom. View the complete SBOE meeting agendas here. The TRS board meets Nov. 19-20; view its agenda here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for reports from the ATPE lobby team on both boards after next week’s meetings, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for even more news.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Oct. 30, 2015

Here are this week’s education news stories from ATPE and Teach the Vote:

ATPE State President Cory Colby sent a letter to members of Texas’s congressional delegation urging them to pass a reauthorization bill to fix the beleaguered and outdated Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided the full story in an update for our Texas the Vote blog yesterday.

Early voting for the Nov. 3 election ends today. Don’t miss your chance to vote on seven proposed constitutional amendments either today or Tuesday. If you live in San Antonio’s House District 118, your vote in this election is extremely important, since a special election is being held to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Joe Farias (D). The winner of that seat could be participating in a special legislative session that many have predicted for 2016 to decide school finance issues. View profiles of the HD 118 candidates on our Resources page, and find more general election details here. For a nonpartisan guide to the proposed constitutional amendments, check out the resources available from Texas’s League of Women Voters.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has been elected as the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Following the resignation of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Ryan received 236 votes yesterday, followed by 184 votes for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and nine votes for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Florida). A one-time candidate for Vice-President, Ryan has chaired the House Ways and Means Committee, which now creates another vacancy in a critical leadership role. The changes are of particular interest to the Lone Star state. Texas Congressman Sam Johnson (R) has been tapped to oversee Ways and Means on an interim basis, while Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) is hoping to land the more permanent position as chair of the powerful committee that oversees tax-related legislation, along with Social Security. Brady is well-known to many ATPE members as a champion for changing controversial Social Security offset provisions that have diminished educators’ ability to collect benefits upon retirement.

Don’t forget to follow @TeachtheVote for education-related tweets and retweets and find more content on Facebook from ATPE. We wish all of you a happy and safe Halloween!

Tweets for 10-30-15 wrap-up

Halloween 2015


ATPE sends letter to Texas congressional delegation urging ESEA reauthorization


ATPE State President Cory Colby

ATPE State President Cory Colby sent a letter yesterday to the 38 members of the Texas congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. The letter asks members of the delegation to weigh in with U.S. Congress leadership on behalf of ATPE’s educator members throughout Texas who believe passing a comprehensive Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill this year is an important move for Texas public education and its schoolchildren. The ESEA – also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – has been due for reauthorization and updating since 2007.

“A reauthorization bill is critically needed in order to restore more control at the state and local level and end the waiver process, which leaves states, districts, and schools without long-term and permanent solutions to the burdensome and unrealistic requirements of NCLB,” Colby wrote in the Oct. 28 letters.

Texas is currently operating under a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), which offers temporary flexibility from the burdens of ESEA/NCLB in exchange for enacting certain policy requirements endorsed by the department. As we reported late last month, Texas was placed on “high-risk” status after ED determined the state had failed to meet all the requirements imposed by the department. Texas has been given until January 2016 to meet two conditions involving teacher and principal evaluation requirements or be at risk of losing its waiver. The conditions involving evaluations would be a major departure from current practice in Texas and would require legislators to make changes to the Texas Education Code.

“While it is important to ensure necessary protections are maintained and the federal role of government to promote equal access to education remains a focus, this move toward local control is important in states like Texas where the student population, student needs, and overall education landscape differs significantly from other states throughout the nation,” Colby wrote in his letter. He went on to write, “Without action from Congress to reauthorize ESEA this year, Texas school districts will lose essential funding flexibility and our students and schools will be labeled as failing under the outdated policies established under NCLB.”

Both the U.S. House and Senate completed their respective bills to reauthorize ESEA in July and initiated the conference process soon after. While Colby applauded both chambers’ focus on providing more state and local control and encouraged members of the body to maintain focus on passing an ESEA reauthorization bill this year, he also encouraged Texas members of Congress to reject a “Title I portability” proposal included in the House bill. That proposal would allow states to develop a way for Title I money to follow the child, which is concerning because such a proposal would “negatively impact a high number of students with the greatest need.”

An example of Colby’s full letter on behalf of the more than 100,000 members of ATPE can be found here. The future of ESEA reauthorization remains uncertain as the U.S. House seeks to finalize who will serve as the chamber’s next Speaker of the House. Current House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman and former Republican Party nominee for Vice-President Paul Ryan is likely to be selected the next speaker in a vote expected today.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Oct. 2, 2015

October and the weekend have arrived! Here are education stories that made the news this week.

ATPE representatives visited the U.S. Department of Education this summer to discuss the state's ESEA waiver

ATPE representatives visited the U.S. Department of Education this summer to discuss the state’s ESEA waiver request. Texas received an extension of the waiver this week but learned that our state has been placed on “high-risk status.”

In 2013, Texas asked the U.S. Department of Education to waive certain outdated accountability provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The federal government granted us flexibility on a temporary basis, conditioned on Texas’s agreeing to change the way it evaluates educators. As TEA has been developing and piloting a new state-recommended system for evaluations of teachers and principals (T-TESS and T-PESS), the state has sought and received short-term extensions of the waiver. Now, the feds are giving Texas a January 2016 deadline to show that it is prepared to meet the Obama administration’s demands on requiring all schools to use the state’s new evaluation model and base personnel decisions upon it. Commissioner of Education Michael Williams says it’s not that simple though. Read more in our blog post earlier this week about the state’s commitment to local control. Also, view ATPE’s press release about the news.


If you plan to submit written feedback to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) about its troubling plan to allow superintendents to become certified despite having no master’s degree or prior experience as an educator, the public comment period ends Monday, Oct. 5. ATPE has been a vocal opponent of the proposed rule change and submitted formal written comments to the board yesterday. Read more about the proposal that’s on the agenda for SBEC’s next meeting on Oct. 16 and view our complete written comments in ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann’s blog post from yesterday. Click here for more details on how you may submit your own comments to SBEC via e-mail between now and Monday.


From Washington, D.C., it was announced today that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will step down in December. That’s one of many education news highlights you’ll pick up when you follow Teach the VoteATPE, and members of our lobby team on Twitter and other social media sites. Here’s a recent sampling: