Tag Archives: Cory Colby

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 24, 2016

Here’s your weekly wrap-up of the education news from Texas and Washington, D.C.:

image2A group of ATPE state officers and employees were in the nation’s capital this week for business on Capitol Hill. ATPE State President Cory Colby, Vice President Julleen Bottoms, Executive Director Gary Godsey, and Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann attended numerous meetings, along with ATPE’s Washington-based lobbyists at the firm of Arnold & Porter.

The ATPE representatives’ busy agenda this week included meeting with members of Texas’s congressional delegation and their staffs, along with officials at the U.S. Department of Education. Topics of discussion included the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and legislation to improve Social Security benefits for educators. ATPE’s team also attended a hearing of the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce yesterday. Read more in today’s blog post from Kate Kuhlmann.

The Commissioner of Education this week recognized a group of eight school districts that are among the first to adopt and submit their plans to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to become Districts of Innovation (DOI). The DOI law, passed in 2015, allows certain acceptably-rated school districts to adopt innovation plans and exempt themselves from various education laws. ATPE has created a DOI resource page to assist educators and parents in districts that may be considering these new regulatory exemptions. TEA also announced its creation of a website to track which districts have become DOIs with links to their innovation plans. Learn more in our DOI blog post from yesterday.

Donna Bahorich

Donna Bahorich

With the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability approaching its last meeting, members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) want to hear from stakeholders before recommendations are made to the 85th Legislature on student testing and accountability systems. SBOE Chairwoman Donna Bahorich recently announced the availability of a public survey on testing and related issues. The SBOE survey remains open through Thursday, June 30, and we encourage you to share your valuable input. Click here to learn more and access the SBOE survey.

Here’s a look at ATPE’s week in Washington in pictures. (Click each photo to view a larger version.)


Cory Colby, Kate Kuhlmann, Gary Godsey, and Julleen Bottoms on Capitol Hill


ATPE meets with Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX)

ESSA hearing

Attending a House committee on ESSA implementation featuring U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr.


Julleen and Gary at hearing

Julleen Bottoms and Gary Godsey at the meeting of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce

Cory and Julleen at Cornyn office

Cory Colby and Julleen Bottoms at the office of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)


Kuhlmann, Bottoms, Colby, and Godsey at the U.S. Department of Education


ATPE meets with Congressman Roger Williams (R-TX)

ATPE concludes week of meetings in Washington, DC

A contingent of ATPE state officers and staff joined the ATPE federal relations team in Washington this week for meetings on Capitol Hill and with the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The team was also present to watch U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King testify before Congress on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

image1ATPE State President Cory Colby, State Vice President Julleen Bottoms, Executive Director Gary Godsey, Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann, and federal lobbyists were primarily focused on two areas of discussion. In meetings with ED and the Senate and House education committees, the group discussed ESSA implementation, offering perspectives from Texas classrooms and thanking the policymakers and regulators for their work on the new law. ATPE highlighted input provided to both Congress and the Department and expressed a commitment to actively engage as a stakeholder as Texas works to implement the law at the state and local levels.

Chairman Brady Group ShotThe ATPE representatives were also in Washington to discuss H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA). ETPSA is a bill by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) that repeals the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) for Social Security benefits, replacing it with a new and fairer formula. ATPE met with key members of the Texas congressional delegation to discuss the bill and explain how the WEP unfairly affects educators who are eligible for both Social Security and government pensions (such as through the Texas Retirement System). Learn more about ETPSA here.

ESSA hearingSecretary King was on Capitol Hill Thursday morning to answer questions from members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about the implementation of ESSA, and ATPE had front row seats. The Republican-controlled committee stayed focused on its ongoing concern that ED’s regulatory work to date exceeds its authority. Members of the committee asserted that the Department is stepping beyond the intent of the law and could even be setting itself up for a losing lawsuit. Secretary King’s response was also nothing new. He stood firm in his stance that he possesses the authority and is committed to advancing equity through regulations.

Julleen and Gary at hearingThe hearing was primarily focused on ED’s recently released proposed accountability rule and proposed language on the issue of supplement, not supplant. Secretary King was followed by a panel of education professionals and stakeholders. Many of the witnesses echoed members’ concerns regarding the ED proposals, but it was also expressed that strong regulations are needed to ensure equity under the law. Secretary King will be back on the Hill next week to discuss ESSA implementation with the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP).

Read ATPE’s 2016 Federal Priorities for more information on ATPE’s focus at the federal level and stay tuned for more federal updates.

Federal Update: ESSA hearing tomorrow in D.C.

The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hear from U.S. Secretary of Education John King and others in a Capitol Hill hearing this week on federal education policy. The committee meets at 9 a.m. Eastern (8 a.m. Central) on Thursday, June 23, and the hearing is entitled “Next Steps in K-12 Education: Examining Recent Efforts to Implement the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

As the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has undertaken the rulemaking process to implement various aspects of ESSA in recent months, some lawmakers have criticized the department’s actions. The composition of the negotiated rulemaking panels, the use of outside experts, and ED’s interaction with the participants have been sources of conflict for some in Congress. Rep. John Kline (R–MN), who chairs the House committee conducting tomorrow’s hearing, has called the department’s actions during the implementation of ESSA “deeply concerning” and said that his committee is “determined to hold the administration accountable and make certain the law is implemented in a manner that adheres to the letter and intent of the law.”

image1A delegation of ATPE state officers and staff are in Washington, D.C. this week and will be attending the hearing tomorrow. ATPE State President Cory Colby, Vice President Julleen Bottoms, Executive Director Gary Godsey, and Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann have joined ATPE’s Washington-based lobbyists for private meetings this week with congressional members and staff, along with ED officials. Kate Kuhlmann will provide a complete report on the visits upon their conclusion this week.

Watch the ESSA congressional hearing live Thursday morning or read more about the committee’s concerns about the implementation process for ESSA here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates following tomorrow’s hearing.

Influential parent group announces support for pro-public education candidates

Texas Parent PAC is a bipartisan political action committee supporting high quality public education. Each election cycle, the group endorses and supports candidates whose campaign platforms match the values embraced by Parent PAC, including using public tax dollars only to fund public schools, local control, sufficient and equitable funding of schools, and accountability.

Parent PAC’s endorsement process takes several months and includes interviews of the candidates. Representatives of the education community, including ATPE staff members, often participate in the interview process to help determine the likelihood that candidates will support public education if elected. The group’s endorsements are usually split between both Republican and Democratic candidates; however, there are more Republican candidates endorsed by Parent PAC this year simply because of the high number of open seats in which a Republican candidate has held the office in the past and the demographics of the district tend to favor Republican candidates.

This year, Parent PAC has endorsed two candidates seeking open seats in the Texas Senate: retired general Red Brown (R) in Senate District 1 and current state representative Susan King (R) in Senate District 24.

In Texas House races, Parent PAC has endorsed the following candidates:

Since its inception, Texas Parent PAC has offered proof that educator groups aren’t the only ones interested in knowing where candidates stand on education issues.

ATPE Executive Director Gary G. Godsey

Gary Godsey

“Teachers, administrators, and other school employees obviously care about the candidates’ views on education,” said ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey. “But there are many other voters, such as parents and community leaders, who also know that education needs to be a top priority. It’s important to have tools that will help inform those voters who really want to elect legislators who support our public schools.” ATPE has worked to provide those types of voter education tools through our advocacy website, TeachtheVote.org, and Parent PAC provides yet another tool through its endorsement process.

The candidate profiles that ATPE compiles for Teach the Vote include information about major endorsements that candidates have received, where applicable. Since ATPE does not endorse candidates, we pay attention to which candidates are receiving endorsements from outside groups that are following public education issues very closely. For many years now, we have provided information on candidates endorsed by Parent PAC, because we believe it is crucial information for voters who care about public education to have and consider. The values that guide Parent PAC in choosing their candidates—from protecting schools against privatization to ensuring that all students have access to a quality education—mirror the positions that ATPE members consistently adopt as part of our own legislative program.

Cory Colby

Cory Colby

“The education community values the recommendations of Parent PAC, because we know they have carefully vetted the candidates before making their endorsements,” said ATPE State President Cory Colby. “We must ensure that public schools are strongly supported with adequate funding and preserve local control by our communities. The legislature can help our state secure a brighter economic future and remain a place where businesses want to come to find a well-trained workforce, but only if voters elect candidates who support our public education system. We’re glad to have the assistance of Parent PAC in helping voters learn more about where the candidates stand.”

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:



In Washington, ATPE advocates for ESEA and Social Security relief

A group of ATPE state officers and staff are in Washington, D.C. this week for meetings to discuss education policy matters at the national level. ATPE’s Executive Director Gary Godsey, Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg, State President Richard Wiggins, and State Vice-President Cory Colby have been liaising with several members of Congress and their staffs, along with representatives of the executive branch. ATPE’s Washington-based contract lobby team, led by David Pore, coordinated the meetings.

Godsey, Wiggins, Brady, Colby, and Gregg

Gary Godsey, Richard Wiggins, Congressman Kevin Brady, Cory Colby, and Brock Gregg

On Tuesday, the ATPE delegation met with Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to discuss Social Security legislation. Educators have long been penalized by a federal offset known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that reduces the amount of Social Security benefits some government workers may receive when they retire. ATPE has advocated for repealing the controversial WEP, but because of the extremely high cost associated with full repeal of the law, we have also proposed that Congress take more gradual steps, both to make the WEP’s application of benefits fairer and to increase benefits when possible. ATPE and the Texas Retired Teachers Association have worked closely with Congressman Brady over several years to pursue a viable solution that would result in increased benefits for retired educators. As we reported on Teach the Vote earlier this year, Congressman Brady has filed H.R. 711, the “Equal Treatment for Public Servants Act,” to provide educators with some relief from the WEP. Brady’s bill, co-authored by Congressman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), would replace the WEP’s arbitrary and punitive offset formula with a revised calculation of benefits and result in a significant benefit increase for numerous retirees.

ATPE’s discussions with the Texas Congressional delegation and their staffs this week have also focused on plans to reauthorize the long-overdue Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The ATPE team also visited the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) this week to talk about Texas’s pending request for an extension of our state’s ESEA waiver, which helps schools avoid being penalized by outdated provisions in the federal law, such as the requirement for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and restrictions on how federal funds must be spent.

Gregg, Wiggins, Colby, and Godsey

Gregg, Wiggins, Colby, and Godsey at the U.S. Department of Education

ATPE’s Brock Gregg reports that the group met with Monique Chism, Director of the Office of State Support, and the DOE’s Texas waiver team on Tuesday. The discussions covered all aspects of T-TESS, the new evaluation system for teachers and principals that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has proposed in fulfillment of conditions attached to the original ESEA waiver that the federal government granted to Texas. The DOE agreed to postpone its review of our state’s request to extend the waiver until after the 84th Texas Legislature adjourned its session earlier this month, and those negotiations with TEA have now resumed. In this week’s meeting, ATPE State President Richard Wiggins was able to provide federal officials with detailed insights on the proposed new evaluation system after having served on the stakeholder committee that made recommendations to TEA on how it should design T-TESS. DOE officials explained that the main point of contention with Texas’s plans for teacher evaluation is not the design of the new T-TESS instrument, but rather the fact that state law does not require school districts to use the state-recommended evaluation system. ATPE’s officers and staff impressed upon DOE officials the importance of allowing school districts across such a large, diverse state to have flexibility to adopt appraisal systems that will meet their local needs rather than a standardized, one-size-fits-all approach. “Teachers really want a meaningful evaluation system that helps them grow as professionals,” Gregg explained.

According to Gregg, the DOE officials did not reveal any clues as to their timeline for making a decision on Texas’s outstanding waiver request. If the request is denied, Texas schools will once again be subject to the original accountability provisions of ESEA, including its antiquated and highly flawed requirement that all students achieve “proficiency” by 2014. Without continuation of the waiver, nearly all Texas schools would be unable to meet such an unrealistic “proficiency” standard, would be considered low-performing under federal law, and would face harsh sanctions as a result.

Gregg added, “This law has become arbitrary and capricious for schools all over the nation due to congressional gridlock and complete ineptitude for the last 13 years.” Fortunately, both the U.S. House and Senate have ESEA re-authorization bills on the move. We could see floor action in the Senate as early as next week, and the House expects to get to its version in July. “Once the law is reauthorized,” said Gregg, “there will be no reason for states to seek waivers, so we are hopeful that Congress will pass this legislation before the next school year.”

SBEC and TRS boards meet, ATPE heads to D.C.

Today, June 12, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann is attending the meeting and has provided this write-up about the business being discussed:

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

SBEC is meeting today to tackle a full agenda, which includes ongoing proposals as well as new issues resulting from bills passed during the legislative session. The board is postponing action on several agenda items related to bills that are waiting to be signed by Governor Greg Abbott. Those bills primarily pertain to new educator preparation requirements, but also affect a few issues on which the board has previously initiated the rulemaking procedure.

Among the action taken by the board today is final approval of a new fee structure for educator preparation programs (EPPs) and certification candidates. The fee structure raises several fees imposed on EPPs with regard to approval and accountability. Two fees involving the review of credentials for candidates seeking certification were slightly reduced. The board also approved a new traditional EPP, passing standards for certain certification exams, the accreditation statuses of all Texas EPPs (and most of the programs were fully accredited), and a phase-in of passing requirements on new Core Subjects EC-6 and Core Subjects 4-8 certification exams. Based on discussions initiated today, provisions affecting EPPs and EPP candidates will be a big discussion topic at upcoming SBEC meetings.

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) board of trustees also met June 11-12 in Austin. Among the items on its board agenda were TRS-related developments that came out of the 84th Legislature’s recently adjourned regular session. Lawmakers appropriated $768 million for TRS-Care in a supplemental appropriations bill, which means the TRS board need not consider any TRS-care premium increases in the near future. However, healthcare funding for active employees continues to be a problem area and was discussed at length during this week’s meetings. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended and provided the following update:

Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

The TRS Board of Trustees met Thursday and Friday of this week to discuss the adoption of ActiveCare premiums for the upcoming plan year.  Because of constantly rising healthcare costs and, more importantly, severe underfunding from the state legislature, active education employees have experienced high premium increases, causing many employees to enroll in the lower cost/lower coverage plan options, such as TRS ActiveCare 1-HD.   As such, the more comprehensive option, ActiveCare 2, is experiencing declining participation and costs the program the most money to maintain. Effectively, ActiveCare participants in lower cost plans subsidize participants in ActiveCare 2. Faced with these growing costs and underfunding issues, the TRS Board discussed the possibility of freezing enrollment in ActiveCare 2, allowing existing enrollees to continue coverage, but effectively eliminating the plan in the future. ATPE testified before the board to convey our opinion that the problem is not with the plan design, but instead with legislative decisions regarding funding. Further, we do not believe that restricting access to health insurance options is where the solution to the ActiveCare problems lies. We asked the board this week to delay a decision on ActiveCare 2 at least until the legislature has the opportunity to meet again and consider this issue. The TRS board agreed and pledged to work alongside education stakeholder groups urging the legislature to meet the funding obligations necessary to maintain a reasonable healthcare plan.  We thank the TRS Board and staff for their work on this issue and for reaching out to educators. This is an ongoing issue and it is critical that ATPE members engage their elected officials discussing the importance of increasing state funding for active employee health insurance.

Next week, members of the ATPE staff and state officers are traveling to Washington, D.C. for meetings to discuss education policy matters at the national level. ATPE’s Executive Director Gary Godsey, Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg, State President Richard Wiggins, and State Vice-President Cory Colby are expected to meet with several members of Congress and their staffs. They will be joined by ATPE’s Washington-based team of contract lobbyists. Topics that ATPE plans to address during the meetings include pending efforts to reauthorize the long-overdue Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and to reform the federal Social Security offset laws that have the effect of limiting educators’ retirement benefits. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates next week from the nation’s capital.