Tag Archives: Educator Evaluation Reform Resources

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 29, 2016

It’s been a big news week for ATPE, and here’s a recap of current education stories we’re closely following:


Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundWe are approaching two important elections during the month of May. First, the local uniform election date is May 7, followed by the May 24 election date for primary runoffs.

Early voting began this week and runs through May 3 for the first local election date. Many local school board races are on the May 7 ballot around the state, along with special elections in House Districts 120 and 139.

The next election will be the runoff election for party primaries in which no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the vote on March 1. Early voting for that May 24 runoff election will begin on May 16. Use our 2016 Races search page to find and view candidates’ profiles. New information has been added recently to several runoff candidates’ profiles. How do you know if there’s a runoff in which you can vote next month? Don’t miss our recent blog post on runoffs with lists of all the runoff candidates and tips on who is eligible to vote in a primary runoff election.


ThinkstockPhotos-455285291_gavelATPE filed a petition against the commissioner of education on Monday challenging his newly adopted rules to implement T-TESS as the state’s new recommended appraisal system. As we’ve been reporting here on Teach the Vote, the new rules were published last week in the Texas Register and are scheduled to take effect July 1, 2016, unless legal challenges by ATPE and other groups delay the roll-out of the new system.

Read our T-TESS blog post from Monday, which includes background information on ATPE’s legal challenge and why we take issue with aspects of the T-TESS rules. Also, be sure to check out our new T-TESS resource page on ATPE.org, where you’ll find details on the T-TESS design, history of the changes, links to news articles, and additional resources.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) held a public hearing earlier this week on proposed rules implementing the state’s new law providing for Districts of Innovation. Part of 2015’s House Bill 1842, we’ve been reporting on how the law allows certain acceptably performing school districts to propose local innovation plans and claim exemptions from numerous state laws found in the Texas Education Code (TEC). School districts that claim the waivers could operate in virtually the same manner as a charter school.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified at Monday’s public hearing, raising concerns about unintended consequences in school districts that seek blanket waivers from all the statutes that are exemptible under the new law. He also pointed out districts could likely try to exempt themselves from aspects of the state’s school finance system, which would create “chaos” in how public schools are funded. Monty urged the commissioner to place additional safeguards into the rules to ensure that districts adopting innovation plans make their intentions clear to stakeholders who will be affected by them, including students, educators, and parents. Read more about the hearing in Monty’s blog post from Tuesday, and also check out ATPE’s quick video interview with him about innovation districts.

TEA is also accepting public written comments on the proposed rules. Submit your input by Monday, May 2, using the TEA website where you can view the commissioner’s proposed rules.


Next week, the House Public Education Committee will hold an interim hearing. The committee will meet on Tuesday in a joint hearing with the House Committee on Economic & Small Business Development. The committees will discuss partnerships between institutions of higher education, public schools, and the workforce that promote college and career readiness. The committee will hear both invited and public testimony. ATPE will be at the hearing and will report on any developments. The hearing begins at 10:00AM and can be watched live here.

ATPE files T-TESS legal challenge, asserts that new evaluation rules violate state law

ThinkstockPhotos-487217874_breakingThe state’s largest educator association is filing a petition today with the Texas Commissioner of Education legally challenging his recent adoption of rules creating a new state-recommended teacher appraisal system. The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) asserts that Commissioner Mike Morath’s rules for the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) violate state laws and the Texas Constitution and are contrary to public policy.

View a copy of ATPE’s press release here. Below is additional background information about the legal challenge.

State laws call for the commissioner to recommend a system for annual teacher appraisals with certain criteria, but school districts are allowed to adopt their own appraisal systems instead and are also permitted to evaluate some experienced teachers less frequently. In challenging the new T-TESS rules, ATPE contends that the commissioner has mandated certain actions that exceed what state law requires for teacher evaluations and has improperly limited the local discretion school districts are afforded under the Texas Education Code. The new rules also restrict teachers’ ability to request a second appraisal, which is a right ATPE says teachers are entitled to by law.

The commissioner’s rules require that all teachers participate in certain elements of the appraisal process every year, despite exemptions that are carved out in state law allowing less-than-annual evaluations for some veteran teachers who have not shown job-related deficiencies. The evaluation components in the new rules that are required every year also include a controversial new student growth measure. Commissioner Morath is requiring all teachers to be evaluated based on student growth, and recommending value-added measures (VAM) as one of four such evaluation components in the new rules. ATPE believes VAM amounts to “junk science,” as its attorneys contend in the petition filed today.

JC

Jennifer Canaday

‘VAM attempts to use complex statistical calculations on students’ standardized test scores in previous years to predict how well a student should perform on future tests; the resulting test performance of an individual student – not accounting for myriad outside factors – is supposed to magically show whether that student’s most recent teacher was effective or not,” said ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Canaday. “At best, VAM is an estimate or projection of a possible outcome. We are very disappointed that the commissioner is endorsing this complicated, extremely limited, assessment-based guesswork as a reliable and definitive formula for measuring a teacher’s value.”

Numerous academicians and researchers have questioned the reliability and validity of VAM, especially for use in high-stakes decisions, including the American Statistical Association, which warned that VAM has several significant limitations. ATPE has long questioned the fairness and efficacy of using VAM for teacher evaluations, particularly when the vast majority of teachers teach subjects or grade levels that have no state standardized tests and most policymakers have expressed a desire to place less emphasis on standardized tests.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has even acknowledged some of the drawbacks of VAM and maintains that it should be used to provide feedback to teachers within a formative appraisal process. In its “TEA Student Growth Overview — January 2016,” the agency wrote that VAM scores don’t account for teacher behaviors, since they are derived solely from test scores, and they provide feedback that is “less insightful at the instructional level.” ATPE points out that while VAM might potentially provide some limited feedback to a small group of teachers about how well their students are performing on tests, the difficulty with incorporating VAM into teacher appraisals lies in how schools are actually using those appraisals.

“If T-TESS were merely a formative tool to help teachers grow, we’d be having a different discussion,” notes Canaday. “However, schools are using T-TESS and similar appraisal systems to make high-stakes decisions about teacher compensation and employment. When teachers’ paychecks and contracts are dependent on the outcome of these appraisals, the validity and integrity of the appraisal process matters greatly.”

Canaday explains that to avoid having two discrete evaluation systems in use at the same time, most school districts employ only one appraisal system, and the majority of districts will opt to use the state-recommended model rather than developing their own. The problem with incorporating elements that TEA might expect districts to use as formative tools, such as VAM, is that the same evaluation instrument is being used for summative scoring of teachers and then making high-stakes employment-related decisions based on those evaluations scores.

“There’s a big difference,” Canaday says, “between districts saying, ‘This is an instrument that might provide slightly beneficial feedback to you as a teacher of a tested subject,’ and telling teachers, ‘This is the instrument that will be used to determine whether you still have a job next year.’”

TEA began developing T-TESS in conjunction with its request for a waiver of federal accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In 2013, the Obama administration offered Texas its requested flexibility in exchange for a promise to adopt a new teacher evaluation system that places more emphasis on student growth measures. T-TESS was designed to fit the parameters of the NCLB waiver and has been piloted in several school districts around the state ahead of its full implementation during the next two school years. In December, Congress repealed NCLB and replaced it with new federal law, making the conditions attached to the state’s old NCLB waiver no longer a concern. ATPE and individual educators involved in the development of T-TESS urged the commissioner to reconsider the design of the system in light of the recent changes in federal law, but Morath has moved forward with rolling out the new T-TESS rules as previously planned. The final rules were adopted this month and are scheduled to take effect in July, although the student growth elements of T-TESS are not required to be used until the 2017-18 school year.

“At a time when the federal government has taken important steps to decrease the focus on testing, there are widespread reports of flaws in the testing system, and parents are increasingly opting their children out of taking the tests, it makes no sense that Texas policymakers keep looking to test scores to determine if students, teachers, and schools are making the grade,” says Canaday.

ATPE_At_the_Capitol_VerticalThe Texas Education Code provides a mechanism for appeals of agency actions to the commissioner, who has primary jurisdiction under state law, after which point a lawsuit may be brought in district court if necessary. ATPE hopes that Commissioner Morath will take necessary steps to revise the T-TESS rules to comply with state laws, ensure that all teachers are evaluated fairly, and recommend a transparent and easily understood appraisal process that truly helps teachers improve their skills in the classroom.

Texas submits ESEA waiver renewal application

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced today that Texas has formally submitted the state’s waiver renewal application. The application requests an extension of its waiver from certain accountability laws under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

As previously reported on Teach the Vote, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams in January requesting additional information on the details of the state’s waiver extension plan, specifically with regard to “final guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems consistent with all requirements.” The Department of Education was critical of the state’s progress toward a federally acceptable principal and teacher evaluation system. Texas is currently piloting its new evaluation system, T-TESS, in districts throughout the state; that system largely matches up with federal waiver guidelines and the timing of the development of the system was in conjunction with the state’s decision to seek a waiver.

Of primary concern to the Department of Education, it appeared, was the fact that Texas gave no indication it would require every district in Texas to implement the state-recommended evaluation system, which would be departure from current practice in Texas and would require a change in Texas law. In the waiver renewal application Texas does not change course, still allowing districts to develop a local evaluation system in lieu of the state-recommended system. (However, most districts use the state-developed plan and TEA admits in its application that “Due to the cost-effectiveness of using the state system, desire from districts for a better measure of teacher effectiveness, and historical precedent, TEA anticipates that most districts will want to use the newly approved teacher evaluation standards, observation instruments, Goal-Setting and Professional Development Plan self-assessments, student growth measures, and related tools and training.”)

With the announcement of the application submission, Commissioner Williams issued the following statement: “Our waiver renewal application stays within the parameters of existing state law, keeping central our state’s best interests and the principle of local control. There is no time frame for a decision. However, I anticipate it will take some time for the U.S. Department of Education to review our state’s renewal application, as well as the applications of many other states seeking a waiver extension. As a result, there should be no immediate impact to our school districts and charters heading into the next school year. In the coming months, Texas Education Agency staff will provide additional information to federal officials to answer any questions regarding our application.”

Visit TEA’s website to read Texas’s ESEA waiver renewal application or for more information on Texas’s ESEA waiver. Teach the Vote also offers a resource page for information and developments on the state’s new evaluation system.

Troubling bills in the 84th Legislature: Where do they stand?

With less than a month remaining in the 84th Texas Legislature’s regular session, the clock is working against several high-profile education bills. Next Monday, May 11, is the last day that House committees can report out House bills, which means that any House bill not voted out of committee this week is likely dead. However, it’s not time to let down our guard. Most bills have companion versions filed in both the House and Senate, the Senate has already passed a number of bad bills, and House committees have until May 23 to hear and report out Senate bills. Furthermore, as always occurs during the last few weeks of any legislative session, attempts will be made to amend dead bills onto other bills that are still moving through the process.

Most of the bills of greatest concern to educators this session are part of a controversial package of education reform legislation being pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) with the backing of well-financed business groups such as Texans for Education Reform (TER). They include a number of bills proposing various means of subjecting low-performing campuses to alternative management. Private school vouchers and reducing teachers’ rights and benefits have also been proposed. Here’s a rundown of several high-profile bills that ATPE has been fighting this session and where they currently stand:

Teacher salaries and evaluations

Two bills have been filed proposing to do away with the state minimum salary schedule for teachers and change the way school districts conduct appraisals and make personnel decisions, calling for more emphasis to be placed on student performance as a factor in those decisions. SB 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) and HB 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) are both pending in the House and appear, fortunately, to be stalled. SB 893 passed the full Senate on a vote of 27 to 4, with Sens. Rodney Ellis (D), Eddie Lucio (D), Jose Menendez (D), and Royce West (D) casting the only votes against it. SB 893 has not yet been heard by a House committee. HB 2543 was heard by the House Public Education Committee but has so far been left pending, thanks to sustained opposition to the bill. Read ATPE’s most recent message to legislators on “The Truth about SB 893 and HB 2543.”

“A through F” grades for campus accountability ratings

Another bill ATPE has opposed is a measure calling for “A through F” grading of public school campuses in lieu of existing accountability ratings. The primary bill on “A-F” ratings, which were popularized a few years ago by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, is SB 6 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the Senate Education Committee. SB 6 is part of Lt. Gov. Patrick’s reform package. (Two identical House companion bills, HB 2109 and HB 2176, have not been heard this session.) The full Senate passed SB 6 by a vote of 20-10. All Republican senators supported it, and all Democratic senators opposed it except Sen. Lucio, who was absent for the vote. A House committee heard the bill on April 28 and left it pending, but similar “A-F” language has now been added to another accountability bill that is on the move, HB 2804 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R), who chairs the House Public Education Committee. HB 2804 is expected to undergo several changes when it is ultimately heard on the House floor. It remains to be seen what changes will be made to the “A-F” language in HB 2804; for now, however, SB 6 also appears to be stalled. Read ATPE’s statement in opposition to SB 6 here.

Parent trigger or “empowerment”

Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Larry Taylor (R) has also filed a bill to expand and speeding up existing “parent trigger” laws that make certain low-performing public schools more susceptible to private management. On April 15, the Senate passed an amended version of his SB 14, relating to “empowering the parents of students to petition for the reconstitution, repurposing, alternative management, or closure of low-performing public school campuses.”   As originally filed, SB 14 would make schools susceptible to a parent trigger petition and private management after only two years of unacceptable accountability ratings, but a Senate floor amendment pushed the timeline for a parent trigger action back to year three. Other favorable floor amendments were added before the full Senate approved SB 14 by a vote of 25 to 6. Those voting against the bill on third reading were Sens. Rodney Ellis (D); Jose Menendez (D); Carlos Uresti (D); Kirk Watson (D); John Whitmire (D); and Judith Zaffirini (D). SB 14 has been sent to the House for consideration but not yet heard by a House committee. A House companion bill, HB 1727, has not been heard this session. Many stakeholders believe the House has opted to consider other alternative management options for low-performing schools in lieu of changing the parent trigger laws as proposed in SB 14.

Home rule or “local control” school districts

A couple of bills have been filed this session, also supported by TER and opposed by ATPE, to amend the state’s existing home rule charter district laws in order to facilitate the creation of less regulated “local control school districts.” SB 1012 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R) and HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) change the name of the existing “home rule” statutes to refer instead to “local control school districts.” ATPE believes the proposed new name is a misnomer, given that locally elected school boards would actually lose – not gain – governing authority over their public schools upon conversion to a home rule or “local control” district. The bills would make it easier for voters to approve home rule proposals, such as one that faltered in Dallas ISD recently. Once approved by voters, home rule or “local control” districts can opt out of many state education regulations and be operated more similarly to charter schools with outside management companies hired to oversee them. The House Public Education Committee passed a substitute version of HB 1798 on a vote of 8 to 3 on April 28. The Senate Education Committee heard SB 1012 on April 16, but that bill remains pending in the committee.

Opportunity School Districts

In 2013, the Texas Legislature considered but did not pass a couple of bills calling for the state’s lowest performing schools to be placed into a statewide Achievement School District and managed by outside entities such as charter operators. The same proposals have resurfaced this year but are now being referred to as “Opportunity School District” bills. They include HB 1536 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D), SB 895 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), and SB 669 by Sen. Royce West (D). Many education groups have opposed these bills based on concerns about privatizing the management of public schools and exempting them from state education laws in much the same manner as charter schools, home rule charter districts, or parent trigger schools. ATPE believes the OSD bills diminish the governing authority and accountability of locally elected school boards, promote ineffective school turnaround strategies, and eliminate important quality control measures such as elementary school class-size limits and requirements that schools hire certified teachers.

Rep. Dutton’s HB 1536 was approved by the House Public Education Committee by a vote of 9 to 2 on April 28. On April 7, the Senate Education Committee heard Chairman Taylor’s SB 895, but the chair later announced his intent to sign on as a co-author for Sen. West’s OSD bill instead of pushing forward his own bill. A substitute version of West’s SB 669 was approved by the Senate Education Committee on April 23 by a vote of 6 to 1, with Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) voting against the measure. SB 669 is now on the Senate Intent Calendar, signaling that a floor debate is expected soon.

Innovation zones

Yet another variation on the theme of private management for low-performing schools is found in SB 1241 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R). Chairman Taylor’s bill also subjects low-performing schools to the possibility of alternative management through the creation of “Innovation Zones.” As with the similar proposals for home rule districts or Opportunity School Districts, ATPE opposed SB 1241 when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on April 7, and we voiced our concerns about enabling private entities to manage public schools, the potential impact on educators’ contract rights, and the likelihood that parents and local voters would lose their ability to provide input in school governance decisions. The Senate committee approved SB 1241 on April 22 by a vote of 8 to 1, with Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) casting the only vote against it. The bill has been placed on the Senate Intent Calendar making it eligible for a floor debate.

Vouchers

A bill calling for spending huge sums of state money to expand home-schooled and private school students’ access to the state’s Virtual School Network is SB 894 also by Chairman Larry Taylor (R). This bill would vastly expand the virtual school network in Texas by setting up a system of virtual vouchers with few requirements holding virtual education providers accountable to taxpayers. ATPE and many other education stakeholders opposed the bill when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 12, pointing out that SB 894 would allow home-schooled and other children not currently enrolled in public schools free access to virtual courses on the state’s dime; the bill would cause the cost of the program to balloon and would further burden Texas’s already underfunded public school system. The committee approved SB 894 by a vote of 6 to 3 on April 27. Sens. Sylvia Garcia (D), Lois Kolkhorst (R), and Jose Rodriguez (D) voted against the measure. Sen. Royce West (D) was present not voting, and Sen. Kel Seliger (R) was absent. Those voting for the virtual voucher bill were Chairman Larry Taylor (R), plus Sens. Eddie Lucio (D), Paul Bettencourt (R), Donna Campbell (R), Don Huffines (R),  and Van Taylor (R). SB 894 was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar, signaling that a floor debate was expected soon, but the bill has since been removed from the calendar. It is believed that many legislators have had second thoughts about the bill’s enormous fiscal note.

SB 4, also by Chairman Larry Taylor (R), is the Senate’s signature voucher legislation. While not on the list of bills that TER is officially pushing forward this session, SB 4 is a major part of Lt. Gov. Patrick’s high-priority education reform package. In fact, Patrick has been one of the most outspoken proponents of vouchers since entering the Legislature. SB 4 as filed provided for both tax credits to educational assistance organizations that pay scholarships for students to attend private schools and education tuition grants to be awarded to parents of eligible children attending private schools. The Senate Education Committee heard the bill on March 26, and ATPE testified against it. The committee amended and voted to approve a substitute version of this bill on April 7 by a vote of 7 to 3. Sens. Garcia (D), Rodriguez (D), and West (D) opposed SB 4; while Sens. Larry Taylor (R), Lucio (D), Bettencourt (R), Campbell (R), Huffines (R), Kolkhorst (R), Seliger (R), and Van Taylor (R) all voted for the voucher bill. The new version incorporates elements of other private school voucher bills and sets up a voucher tax credit for businesses that contribute money to private school scholarships. The full Senate passed SB 4 on April 21 by a vote of 18 to 12. All Democratic senators voted against the bill except for Sen. Lucio. Republican Sens. Konni Burton (R) and Robert Nichols (R) also opposed SB 4 on the Senate floor. Sen. Kel Seliger (R) was absent for the vote. While it is unlikely that the House will allow SB 4 to proceed, you can find talking points opposing SB 4 to share with your representatives here.

Home-school students participating in UIL

SB 2046 by Sen. Van Taylor (R) has been called a measure to provide “equal opportunity” for home-schooled students to participate in UIL. Its supporters often refer to SB 2046 and similar legislation filed in other states as “Tim Tebow bills,” named after the formerly home-schooled NFL quarterback. SB 2046 requires school districts to enable local home-schooled students to participate in UIL activities at the public school, and it enables parents of the home-schooled students to attest that their children have met certain academic eligibility requirements. ATPE opposed the bill based on long-standing positions in our member-written Legislative Program that oppose the selective participation of home-schooled students in public school activities, especially when they are not held to the same academic standards as their public school student peers. SB 2046 was heard by the Senate Education Committee on April 23 and left pending.

Payroll deduction

Sen. Joan Huffman (R) has filed an anti-union bill that would also do away with educators’ ability to use payroll deduction to pay dues to educator associations and for other conveniences. SB 1968 is not part of Lt. Gov. Patrick’s official reform package, but it has the support of many conservative senators who oppose unions and trade associations that represent public servants such as educators and state employees. SB 1968 does not have an identical House companion; there are a few related bills that have been filed by House members, but those have not been heard. As of today, SB 1968 remains on the Senate Intent Calendar but has not yet been brought up for a floor vote. Even if the payroll deduction bill makes it out of the Senate, it is unlikely to succeed in the House where there is greater opposition. Read ATPE’s talking points against SB 1968 here.

Educator preparation and certification

A pair of companion bills are pending that would lower the standards for entrance to the education profession. SB 892 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) and HB 3494 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) were both originally conceived as measures to increase the rigor of educator preparation by adding a new requirement for each cohort entering an educator preparation program to maintain an overall GPA of 3.0. However, both bills have been amended with language requested by representatives of for-profit alternative certification programs and now have the effect of watering down the standards for becoming a teacher. Specifically, these bills would lower the individual GPA requirement for admission to an educator preparation program from 2.75 to 2.5. (The legislature raised the GPA requirement in statute from 2.5 to 2.75 in 2013, but the State Board for Educator Certification that is responsible for implementing the law complained that the new statute was vague and refused to raise its own admission rules to reflect the higher GPA requirement.) The state’s largest alternative certification providers are for-profit companies that seek to maximize their profits through high enrollment numbers; they would obviously benefit from putting lower GPA standards in law, but they also want the legislature to codify current practices that enable them to delay providing their candidates with significant training before they are hired as teachers of record. ATPE believes the watered down standards and weak training requirements do a disservice to would-be educators pursuing alternative certification, since they are placed into high-stakes teaching environments before they have received adequate preparation and often without the necessary content knowledge in the subjects they are teaching. We support higher standards for educator preparation to ensure that all new teachers are well-equipped to meet the rigors of their first classrooms. The Senate unanimously passed SB 892 on April 7. The House Public Education Committee heard HB 3494 on April 16 in its Educator Quality Subcommittee but has not yet voted out the bill.


ATPE appreciates all the members and public education supporters who’ve called and written to legislators asking them to oppose these harmful bills. We encourage you to keep up the pressure as we head into the home stretch of the 84th legislative session, and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on any new developments. Don’t forget you can also follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for even more capitol coverage.

Legislative Update: ESEA reauthorization news, idling voucher and salary bills, special election and rally reminders

Congress took a major step forward in the effort to reauthorize the long overdue Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is commonly referred to as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Yesterday, April 16, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) unanimously approved a bipartisan compromise bill called the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA). A total of 87 committee amendments were filed, with 29 of them adopted and incorporated into the bill. The ECAA must still pass the full Senate, which could happn as early as May. In the meantime, the rare 22-0 committee vote sends a strong signal to the U.S. House, where prior attempts to pass a reauthorization bill have faltered amid partisan disagreements. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann will have a full analysis of the bill as amended that will be posted soon here on Teach the Vote.


A high-profile bill to create a massive private school voucher program in Texas has not yet been brought up for a vote on the Senate floor, despite sitting on the Senate Intent Calendar for several days now. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has identified the bill, Senate Bill (SB) 4, as a top education priority. SB 4 is being carried by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the Senate Education Committee. The bill sets up a  “back door” voucher by using state funds to give a franchise tax credit to businesses that donate money to private, state-sanctioned “educational assistance organizations.” The 25 non-profit organizations pre-selected to act as those educational assistance organizations would then provide scholarships for eligible students to attend private or parochial schools.

SB 4 would cause local public school districts to lose revenue, and the costs of the state program would likely swell as existing private or home-schooled students avail themselves of the state-funded scholarships. ATPE members are strongly urged to contact their legislators – especially in the Senate – to express opposition to SB 4. Visit our Officeholders page to find out who represents you in the Senate, and click here to access additional information and talking points on ATPE’s opposition to SB 4.


ATPE members are also encouraged to keep contacting their state representatives and asking them to oppose HB 2543 and SB 893, two bills that would eliminate the state’s current minimum salary schedule for teachers. These bills remain pending in the Texas House, where opposition to them is growing. Read more about the bills here.

As always, you can keep up with major education bills moving through the 84th Legislature that relate to ATPE’s priorities by visiting our Issues page. The Issues page, which is updated each legislative day, contains background information on each legislative priority with a list of major bills and their current status. Be sure also to follow @TeachtheVote and our ATPE Lobby Team on Twitter, for additional reporting of all the education news from the state capitol.


The State Board of Education (SBOE) also met this week. Its work included approving two new math courses to satisfy high school graduation requirements, agreeing on new curriculum standards for Career and Technical Education courses, discussing high-school equivalency examinations, and adopting findings of an Ad Hoc Committee on the Long-Range Plan for Public Education. The ad hoc committee is being disbanded, and SBOE’s Committee on School Initiatives will take over long-range planning responsibility going forward. Read more on the Texas Education Agency’s website.


Vote imageEducators in San Antonio’s House District 124 are reminded of the importance to go vote in the special election runoff to select their new state representative. Today is the last day of early voting, and Tuesday, April 21, is runoff election day.

The candidates vying to replace Jose Menendez, who was recently elected to the Texas Senate in another special election, are Democrats Ina Minjarez and Delicia Herrera. View their candidate profiles to learn more about their backgrounds and positions on education issues here.


The Save Texas Schools rally is taking place tomorrow at the State Capitol from 10 a.m. to noon. Educators are encouraged to attend and show their support for public schools. Click here to learn more about the event.

Updated information on bills to eliminate salary schedule for teachers

Several ATPE members have inquired about the status of bills attempting to eliminate the state minimum salary schedule for teachers. The bills are Senate Bill 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and House Bill 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown). ATPE is opposed to both bills.

SB 893 by Sen. Seliger relates to public school teacher performance appraisals, continuing education, professional development, career advancement, and compensation. The bill was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 19. During that hearing, ATPE testified against the bill. Read more about that hearing here. The Senate Education Committee favorably voted out a substitute version of the bill on March 24. The committee substitute changed language in the bill pertaining to student and teacher performance and attempted to ensure that state standardized tests would not be the only measure of student performance used in a state or district developed teacher appraisal system. However, ATPE believes that the bill still overemphasizes the role of “objective” student performance measures. The full Senate amended and then passed SB 893 on April 7. The vote was 27-4, with Democratic Sens. Rodney Ellis, Eddie Lucio, Jose Menendez, and Royce West opposing the bill. The Senate rejected a floor amendment by Sen. Menendez that attempted to restore the minimum salary schedule for teachers in the bill. SB 893 has been sent to the House for consideration.

HB 2543 by Rep. Farney is the House companion bill also relating to public school teacher performance appraisals, continuing education, professional development, career advancement, and compensation. HB 2543 was identical to SB 893 at the time of filing. The House Public Education Committee heard HB 2543 on Tuesday, April 7, and ATPE testified against it. The bill was left pending while the author considers possible amendments to the bill.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates about both of these bills as developments occur. In the meantime, we encourage ATPE members to keep contacting their state representatives and urging them to oppose these bills as they move through the Texas House. Click here for additional information about SB 893 and HB 2543 to share with your legislators.

U.S. Senate education leaders release bipartisan bill to rewrite ESEA

This week the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released their highly anticipated bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), or No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The two authors negotiated the details of the bill, The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, over the past two months and settled on a compromise that would significantly reduce the federal government’s role in education but maintain the annual testing schedule developed under NCLB and exclude a Title I funding portability provision.

To begin, a quick refresher is in order. Chairman Alexander released a draft version of a rewrite of the nation’s primary education law in January and a series of hearings in the HELP committee immediately followed. ATPE submitted testimony in conjunction with those hearings that dealt with testing and accountability and supporting teachers and school leaders. We also weighed in on the discussion draft proposed by Alexander. Meanwhile, on the other side of the U.S. Capitol, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) released his own version of an ESEA reauthorization bill entitled H.R. 5 – The Student Success Act. H.R. 5 quickly moved through committee in early February and was debated on the floor of the full House in late February. However, in the final hours of debate and with the threat of veto issued from the White House, House leadership delayed the vote. Leaders said that move was made in order to debate a funding bill that faced a midnight deadline, but it is widely understood that the House didn’t have the votes to pass the bill and leaders wanted to avoid an embarrassing defeat.

The Senate HELP Committee will mark up the new Alexander/Murray compromise bill next week on Tuesday, April 14, at 9 a.m. (Central Time). Visit the committee’s website to watch the mark up live or access committee documents on the bill. Some major provisions of the bill are as follows:

Accountability

The Every Child Achieves Act would allow states to develop their own accountability systems, which is a departure from current law. State accountability systems would need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education (peer review teams would be established to assist the secretary of education in the review of state plans) based on parameters outlined in the bill, such as the inclusion of graduation rates, a measure of post-secondary education or workforce readiness, proficiency rates for English language learners, and standardized test results. However, states would be able to include any additional measures of performance and would have the authority to weight all measures as they see fit. That flexibility would include how much weight is placed on student performance on standardized tests.

States would still be required to report disaggregated data on student subgroups. They would also still be required to identify low-performing schools through accountability system results, but would only monitor school districts as they implement their own methods of evidence-based intervention.

Testing

The most discussed piece of Chairman Alexander’s original draft bill was the portion on testing, which offered two options intended to spur discussion among committee members. The options were to keep the current testing schedule or scrap annual testing and give states a significant amount of leeway in developing their own testing systems. The Every Child Achieves Act maintains the annual testing schedule, but does give states the option to conduct one annual test or a series of smaller tests that combine to a summative score. Additionally, in what is likely an attempt to appease supporters of state-developed systems, the bill creates a pilot program that would initially allow the secretary of education to permit five states to develop innovative testing systems. If successful, the program could be expanded.

Curriculum Standards

States would be required to adopt “challenging state academic standards.” Those standards would not have to be approved by the Department of Education, and the bill specifically states the secretary of education would not have the authority to “mandate, direct, control, coerce, or exercise any direction or supervision” with regard to the adoption of state standards.

School Choice and Privatization

The primary provision in Alexander’s earlier draft bill aimed at school choice involved the portability of Title I funding for low-income students. That language is not included in The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. Title I portability language has received strong backing from Republicans and would allow Title I funding to follow students from school to school. Democrats and President Obama have opposed the inclusion of such language and the White House based its threat of veto on H.R. 5, in part, on portability language included in the bill.

The new bill consolidates two federal charter school programs into a program that includes three grant programs: High-Quality Charter Schools, Facilities Financing Assistance, and Replication and Expansion. Additional language aims to incentivize better transparency and quality among state charter schools.

Educator Evaluations

States would have a lot of discretion on how to spend money related to teacher quality under Title II. That could include the development of an educator evaluation system, but no state would be required to develop a system, which is departure from current law. Thus, there is no language requiring the inclusion of student outcomes in an educator’s evaluation.

The new bill removes the statutory definition of “highly qualified” as well as some of the requirements surrounding the term and allows states to develop their own definition.

Legislative Update: Vouchers get committee approval, Senate votes to scrap salary schedule, House advances pre-K

The Texas Senate approved two major bills relating to teacher quality yesterday, including one opposed by ATPE and most other groups representing Texas educators.

First, the Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 892 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), which deals with educator preparation. ATPE supported the bill as filed when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 19, since the bill called for enhancing the existing GPA requirements for admission into an educator preparation program (EPP). The bill, however, was subsequently amended to a version that ATPE does not support. In its current form, SB 892 adds language enabling alternative certification programs to take advantage of “late hire” provisions that place teachers into the classroom before they’ve had sufficient training, and it caps the minimum GPA requirement for EPP candidates at 2.5, which is lower than what is provided for in current statute. SB 892 passed the Senate on April 7 by a vote of 30 to 1, with Sen. Don Huffines (R) offering the only vote against the bill. (Huffines similarly opposed the bill when it was approved by the Senate Education Committee.)

SB 893, also by Sen. Seliger, was approved by the full Senate yesterday, too. The bill deals with teacher appraisals, employment, and compensation; most notably, it calls for elimination of the state minimum salary schedule for teachers. ATPE and most educator groups opposed the bill when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 19. Several floor amendments were added to SB 893 yesterday, including one by Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Larry Taylor (R) requiring the commissioner of education to develop a training course to help administrators implement new appraisal processes and another floor amendment by Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) that modifies Advanced Placement Incentives that may be paid to teachers. The Senate rejected by a vote of 24 to 7 a floor amendment by Sen. Jose Menendez (D) that attempted to restore the minimum salary schedule for teachers in the bill. The Senate ultimately passed SB 893 by a vote of 27 to 4, with Sens. Menendez, Rodney Ellis (D), Eddie Lucio (D), and Royce West (D) voting against the bill on third reading.


The House Public Education Committee met April 7 to hear several high-profile bills. The hearing began with Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R) providing new details on his bill to overhaul the state’s school finance system. Aycock explained that House Bill (HB) 1759 will eliminate many of the existing funding allotments for special populations and circumstances and place those funds into the basic per-student allocation instead. Watch for more details on HB 1759 coming soon from ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson.

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified against a controversial bill to do away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers. House Bill (HB) 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) is a bill relating to teacher appraisals, professional development, salaries, and employment. The bill was identical at the time of filing to SB 893, which passed the full Senate yesterday in an amended format. Exter’s testimony highlighted ATPE’s concerns about eliminating the minimum salary schedule for teachers and the potential for school districts to rely heavily on students’ standardized test scores and value-added measures of student performance in evaluating and making employment decisions about teachers. The bill was left pending in the committee yesterday. ATPE appreciates those members who have contacted their legislators asking them to oppose HB 2543 and SB 893, and we encourage you to keep letting members of the House of Representatives know how these bills would negatively impact teachers. Visit our Officeholders page to find contact information for your state representative.

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter also testified yesterday in support of SB 149, by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), a measure that would give some high school students a chance to graduate despite failing a STAAR exam. SB 149, sponsored on the House side by Rep. Dan Huberty (R), has broad support from the education community and parents, and the bill already passed the Senate by a vote of 28-2 last month. Exter asked the committee to consider amending the bill to provide similar options for students who were high school seniors during the previous two school years and were denied an opportunity to graduate based on failing a STAAR test that was required. The House Public Education Committee approved SB 149 unanimously during yesterday’s hearing.


The Senate Education Committee also met April 7 to hear bills relating to interventions for low-performing schools and to vote out pending bills. The committee considered SB 669 by Sen. Royce West (D), along with two bills by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the committee: SB 895 and SB 1241. The first two bills would place certain low-performing schools into a statewide “Opportunity School District.” Read more about the legislation in our blog post from yesterday. Chairman Taylor’s SB 1241 also subjects low-performing schools to the possibility of alternative management through the creation of “Innovation Zones.” ATPE Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg testified against the aforementioned bills based on concerns about enabling private entities to manage public schools, the potential impact on educators’ contract rights, and the likelihood that parents and local voters would lose their ability to have input on school governance decisions. All three bills were left pending, but the committee did vote out a related piece of “parent trigger” legislation. A committee substitute version of SB 14 by Chairman Larry Taylor was approved by the committee on a vote of 7 to 1, with one committee member present not voting.

Also in yesterday’s Senate Education Committee hearing, Gregg testified in support of SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D), a bill promoting the use of a community schools model for turning around struggling schools as an alternative to reconstitution or privatization. The bill was left pending.

The Senate Education Committee also approved Chairman Larry Taylor’s private school voucher bill, SB 4, which ATPE opposes. The bill was amended and substituted, and its new text has not yet been made available, but the new version incorporates elements of another privatization bill, SB 642 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R). ATPE testified against the voucher bills during their March 26 hearing, and you can read more about them on our Issues page. The committee’s vote yesterday on SB 4, though not yet officially reported, was 7 to 3.


On the House floor today, state representatives debated House Bill (HB) 4, by Rep. Dan Huberty (R), a bill relating to a hig- quality pre-kindergarten program provided by public school districts. The bill, which ATPE supported when it was heard by the House Public Education Committee on March 10, is aimed at flowing additional money to school districts that agree to implement certain quality control measures in their pre-K programs. Several floor amendments were considered during today’s lively debate. The House approved an amendment by Rep. Eric Johnson (D) to prohibit state standardized testing of pre-K students and rejected an amendment by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D) attempting to impose an 18:1 pre-K class-size limit. A small group of legislators who oppose the bill raised points of order (procedural objections) against the bill and offered amendments attempting to reduce the state’s pre-K plan to a limited pilot program with reduced funding. Those attempts were unsuccessful, and the House ultimately voted 129 to 18 to advance the bill to third reading.


Tomorrow, April 9, the Senate Education Committee will meet again to consider a number of bills. The agenda includes a bill that would prevent school districts from hiring employees with certain criminal histories, bills relating to the procedures by which school districts adopt textbooks, a measure to give the commissioner of education the ability to issue subpoenas when investigating educator misconduct allegations, and even a bill pertaining to the use of sunscreen in schools. Visit Teach the Vote for updates after the hearing.


In national news, U.S. senators leading an effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), are making progress. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced yesterday that they have reached a bipartisan agreement on a rewrite that they believe will fix many of the problems of the ESEA. A committee hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday, April 14. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for additional details from ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann later this week.

Legislative Update: A busy week of hearings, good and bad bills on the move

The House Public Education Committee is set to meet tomorrow afternoon, April 7, for a public hearing on a dozen bills. The agenda includes a controversial bill to do away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers, a bill that may eventually become an overhaul of the state’s school finance system, and a popular Senate bill that would give some high school students a chance to graduate despite failing a STAAR exam.

First, the committee is slated to hear House Bill (HB) 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) relating to public school teacher performance appraisals, continuing education, professional development, career advancement, and compensation. HB 2543 is identical to SB 893 as filed, a bill that ATPE similarly opposed on the Senate side. In lieu of compensation tied to the state’s minimum salary schedule, the bill calls for tying teacher compensation and appraisals to students’ performance on standardized tests. It places too much emphasis on student testing and not enough emphasis on observations and giving teachers meaningful feedback through the evaluation process. HB 2543 needlessly eliminates the minimum salary schedule in favor of performance-based strategic compensation systems, which districts can already implement on their own as a supplement to the salary schedule. Additionally, HB 2543 infringes on local control by requiring districts to adhere to a state-imposed framework for personnel actions.

ATPE is encouraging our members to contact their state representatives and ask them to oppose HB 2543 (along with its Senate companion bill, SB 893, which is expected to be debated soon on the floor of the Senate). Visit our Officeholders page to find contact information for your state representative.

Another bill on tomorrow’s agenda in the House Public Education Committee is Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock’s (R) HB 1759. The bill is merely a placeholder at this point for a future plan to try to fix the state’s broken school finance system. Read more about the bill here. Also on tomorrow’s agenda is SB 149 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), the bill that allows individual graduation committees to recommend that an 11th or 12th grade student be permitted to graduate despite being unable to pass a STAAR exam that is required for graduation. ATPE supports the bill, which already passed the Senate by a vote of 28-2 last month.

These are the remaining bills scheduled to be heard by the committee tomorrow:

  • HB 744 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) relating to the purchase of certain insurance by public school districts.
  • HB 1170 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) relating to the applicability to open-enrollment charter schools of certain laws regarding local governments and political subdivisions.
  • HB 1171 also by Rep. Farney relating to the applicability of certain immunity and liability laws to open-enrollment charter schools.
  • HB 1706 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) relating to reducing paperwork and duplicate reports required of a school district.
  • HB 1796 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R) relating to public school choice, including school campus information, student transfers, the public education grant program, and the transportation allotment.
  • HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) relating to local control school districts.
  • HB 1804 by Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D) relating to notice by campuses and open-enrollment charter schools about events that may significantly impact the education of certain foster children.
  • HB 1993 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R) relating to the authorization of independent school districts to use electronic means to notify parents of a student.s academic performance.
  • HB 2545 also by Rep. Sheffield relating to the eligibility of certain students to participate in a school district’s special education program.

Earlier today, the House Public Education Committee held an impromptu meeting to vote out pending bills that had already been heard. All the bills except one were approved by the committee unanimously. The bills approved today included the following:

  • HB 506 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D) relating to the issuance of tax-supported bonds by certain school districts and increasing the tax rate limitation on the issuance of those bonds. The committee’s substitute version of the bill was approved by a vote of eight to one, with Rep. Dan Huberty (R) voting against the measure.
  • HB 743 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Huberty relating to the essential knowledge and skills of the required public school curriculum and to certain state-adopted or state-developed assessment instruments for public school students. ATPE supported the bill at its prior hearing.
  • HB 771 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) relating to funding for the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities.
  • HB 917 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Jason Villalba (R) relating to school marshals for private schools, notifying a parent or guardian whether an employee of a public or private school is appointed school marshal, and the confidentiality of information submitted to or collected by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in connection with a certification for appointment as school marshal.
  • HB 1305 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R) relating to a program to provide a free or reduced-price breakfast to eligible students attending a public school and the method of determining the number of educationally disadvantaged students.
  • HB 1430 by Rep. Susan King (R) relating to the inclusion of mental health in the public services endorsement on a public school diploma and in information about health science career pathways. ATPE supported the bill at a prior hearing.
  • HB 1843 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) relating to providing training academies for public school teachers who provide reading instruction to students in kindergarten through grade three. ATPE supported the bill at its prior hearing.

The Senate Education Committee is meeting tomorrow morning (April 7) to take up bills that would place certain low-performing schools into a special statewide school district. The idea was conceived in Louisiana around the time of Hurricane Katrina, when many struggling schools were placed into that state’s Recovery School District. The idea has been replicated in a few other states and has been fraught with controversy. In 2013, legislation was filed in Texas to create a similar program called an “Achievement School District.” ATPE opposed that legislation, which would have opened the door for private management of public schools by entities not accountable to local parents and taxpayers. Those bills died, but similar proposals have resurfaced this session and are now being called “Opportunity School Districts” or “Innovation Zones.” The bills on tap for tomorrow’s hearing include SB 669 by Sen. Royce West (D); SB 895 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the committee; and SB 1241 also by Sen. Larry Taylor.

It is also believed that the committee may vote out a series of private school voucher bills during tomorrow’s hearing. SB 4, SB 276, and SB 642 were all heard by the committee on March 26; ATPE testified against the bills and will continue to oppose any effort to funnel taxpayer dollars to unregulated private or home schools. Read more about the voucher bills and our position on privatization here.

Finally, the Senate Education Committee is also expected to hear SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) tomorrow. The bill, which ATPE supports, encourages the use of a community schools model for turning around struggling schools and as an alternative to reconstitution or privatization. The plans combine wraparound services and community partnerships to help a struggling school improve its academic performance and avoid closure.


Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on tomorrow’s hearings, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for the latest developments.

Legislative Update: “A-F” bill on the Senate floor, ATPE testifies against vouchers, House prepares to debate budget

A couple of troubling bills are being heard or are likely to be heard soon on the Senate floor. ATPE members are encouraged to contact their senators and ask them to vote against these bills:

Senate Bill (SB) 6 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, is a bill calling for “A” through “F” grades to be assigned to entire school campuses in lieu of existing accountability ratings. Floor debate is happening today on this bill, which is part of a larger reform package supported by the Senate leadership, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R). ATPE and many other education stakeholders testified against the bill at its March 12 committee hearing. ATPE opposes assigning letter grades to schools and labeling them as failures, because such labels harm the students who attend those schools. Absent more meaningful reforms, merely changing a label will not give parents a more complete picture of a school’s condition; instead, it provides a narrow snapshot based primarily on state standardized tests, which parents and education experts alike increasingly question as appropriate measures of school or educator effectiveness. UPDATE: The Senate has voted 20-10 to pass the bill onto third reading. Chairman Taylor added a floor amendment to delay implementation of the “A” through “F” campus grades until 2017-18. The Senate also approved a floor amendment by Sen. Jose Menendez (D) that calls for the commissioner of education to develop performance indicators tied to the letter grades for both campuses and districts.

SB 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) proposes doing away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers and changes state statutes relating to teacher evaluation, professional development, and employment. ATPE and many other educator groups opposed the bill when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee. The committee approved a substitute version of the bill, which remains problematic insofar as it still eliminates teachers from the state minimum salary schedule, it focuses too heavily on objective measures of performance in teacher evaluations rather than observable job-related behaviors, and it diminishes local control over employment decisions by requiring districts to adhere to a rigid state framework that is not well-defined.


The Senate Education Committee heard various pieces of voucher legislation on Thursday, May 26. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter provided this report on the meeting.

Committee members heard testimony on SB 4 by Committee Chairman Larry Taylor (R), SB 276 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R), and SB 642 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R). The public education community generally opposed the bills on the grounds that they divert funding and send it to unproven, potentially for-profit entities with little to no accountability for how those public dollars are spent. In addition to those general arguments, ATPE brought forward comments and responses in our testimony, including but not limited to the following:

  • The fiscal note on the legislation, an estimate of savings or cost to the state, are probably erroneous due to underestimation of the number of kindergarten and first-grade students or their siblings who would take voucher dollars despite never having been or planning to be enrolled in a public school. These students represent a cost to the state and would likely outweigh the savings reported in the current fiscal note.
  • In response to concerns, based on questionable data analysis, that classroom teachers only represent 22 percent of campus spending, ATPE recommended that an across-the-board teacher pay raise would be a more definitive method of increasing the percentage of dollars spent in that area than would a speculative voucher scheme.
  • In response to concerns that public school teachers felt stifled, ATPE recommended that addressing the state’s student testing regime and its attendant consequences would do far more to bring back freedom and creativity in the classroom than vouchers possibly could.
  • In response to the committee’s stated desire to help minority, low socio-economic, at-risk, ELL and special education students, ATPE suggested that meaningfully adjusting the weights and allotments in the school finance formulas would be much more impactful than the illusory promise of vouchers allowing a small minority of students to “escape failing campuses.”
  • In response to concerns expressed by the committee about Common Core curriculum standards, ATPE pointed out that instructional materials based on Common Core were some of the least expensive and most readily available materials on the market nationwide, and that there was nothing in the proposed legislation to prevent private schools accepting public dollars in the form of a voucher from using Common Core materials.

ATPE also pointed out that research on existing voucher programs has shown no benefits to the students using them or any competition-driven benefit to the education system as a whole; that private schools on average, particularly those outside the top tier who would be far more likely to take a voucher, do not perform any better than public schools; and that under Texas law, home schools are private schools.


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met Friday, March 27. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann attended and testified at the meeting. Watch for a full report on the meeting tomorrow here on our TeachtheVote.org blog.


The Texas House is gearing up for a budget debate tomorrow, March 31. Hundreds of pages of floor amendments have been pre-filed for House Bill (HB) 1, the lower chamber’s budget proposal. They include amendments to prohibit spending state money on private school vouchers, to fund studies relating to charter schools and alternative assessments, and to provide additional funding for public education if state tax revenue exceeds the comptroller’s forecasts. Stay tuned for updates on tomorrow’s floor debate, which is expected to be lengthy.


The Senate Education Committee is expected to meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1, to hear several bills relating to training for teachers. The following bills are scheduled to be heard:

  • SB 168 by Sen. Carlos Uresti (D) relating to temporary waiver of superintendent certification for employment of public school district superintendents.
  • SB 925 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R) relating to providing training academies for public school teachers who provide reading instruction to students in kindergarten through grade three.
  • SB 934 by Kolkhorst relating to providing training academies for public school teachers who provide mathematics instruction to students in kindergarten through grade three.
  • SB 935 by Kolkhorst relating to the establishment of reading excellence teams.
  • SB 945 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) relating to funding under the public school finance system for a school district with a compressed tax rate below the state maximum compressed tax rate.
  • SB 972 by Kolkhorst relating to training academies for public school teachers who provide reading comprehension instruction to students in grades four and five.