Tag Archives: Kevin Brady

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: July 15, 2016

An ultimately anti-climactic week in Washington and other Texas education news is recapped here:

13501817_10154159653265435_2291324175792778665_nOn Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means was scheduled to mark up and vote on H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA). Instead, in a disappointing turn of events, the bill was pulled from consideration and postponed as a result of opposition from several national employee associations. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson followed the developments closely this week and reported on them here, here, and here.

If H.R. 711 does not pass, public education employees will continue to be subjected to the punitive Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that can reduce personal Social Security benefits by over $400 per month. If H.R. 711 passes, a fairer formula, one that considers a worker’s entire career and earnings history, will be used to calculate benefits. Further, retirees would receive a benefit increase and the average future retiree would have benefits increased by an average of $900 per year.

ATPE remains dedicated to ensuring Texas educators receive fair and quality benefits in retirement, and we will continue to work with Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) on increasing benefits for current and future retirees by passing H.R. 711. Stay tuned for future updates.

The United States Capitol building

The United States Capitol building

In other federal education news this week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held its fifth of six expected Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation oversight hearings, and the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations held a mark up of the appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

This week’s Senate HELP hearing on ESSA implementation was focused on the Department’s accountability rule proposal. As we reported when it was released, the proposal requires states to have accountability systems in place by the 2017-18 school year, with the goal for states and districts to begin identifying schools in need of support in the following school year. This proposed timeline is unsettling to most because it identifies struggling schools based on data derived from early implementation efforts, rather than data collected once the new state accountability systems are fully implemented. Some also caution that it doesn’t allow enough time for states to truly innovate in their new systems. All of the witnesses invited to share input at this week’s hearing and most senators agreed that delaying the timeline by a year would be beneficial.

Another point of contention in the proposal was the department’s decision to require an overall summative score, rather than allowing states to provide dashboards of information on schools and districts, which provide a more comprehensive look at school accountability. ED is accepting comments on the rule proposal through August 1, and we will continue to provide updates on the proposal as they develop.

In the other chamber of Congress, the House Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill, which includes education funding. The bill funds the Department of Education at $67 billion, a $1.3 billion decrease compared to the previous year’s appropriation. Federal special education funding, however, increased by $500 million compared to the previous level, and the bill includes $1 billion for the student support and academic enrichment grants, authorized under ESSA.

Due to the inclusion of party-specific initiatives and disagreements on funding levels, the appropriations bill mostly broke down on partisan lines. Still, the committee reported the bill favorably to the House floor where it now awaits debate and a vote from the full House. The Senate is simultaneously working on its own version of the funding legislation.

Little girl sitting on stack of books.In a story published this week by the Texas Tribune, Kiah Collier reports that a number of Texas school districts (more than 20) have turned down the funding they were to receive under the high quality prekindergarten grant program.

We reported last week that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced it had parceled out a total of $116 million to 578 Texas school systems that qualified as grant recipients. We noted at that time that “considering the money is to be dispersed among a large number of school systems, the per pupil dollar amount will be telling in terms of how far the state needs to go to invest in quality and meaningful early education.” According to the Tribune‘s story, per pupil spending under the program totals $367 per year, a fraction of the $1,500 per student originally expected, and districts are turning down the grant because it will not cover the cost of implementing required quality control measures.

Read the full story for more on this latest prekindergarten development.

16_Web_SummitSpotlightThe ATPE governmental relations team is ready for the ATPE Summit and looks forward to seeing participating ATPE members next week! We hope you will stop by the Advocacy Booth in the ATPE Lounge on Wednesday night to say hello and pick up a variety of advocacy resources. We will be there to answer questions and visit with members from 4 to 7 pm on July 20.

Immediately following, you can find us at the 70s-themed dance party! We will be promoting the ATPE-PAC and selling a fun, tie-dyed t-shirt. Speaking of PAC, if you are an ATPE member and you’re coming to the ATPE Summit, be sure to check out our new online auction. Bidding is open now and your voluntary donations will go toward supporting pro-public education candidates through the ATPE-PAC.

The lobby team will also present advocacy updates during the professional development and leadership training sessions on Thursday. We will offer two general advocacy update sessions that will highlight the latest developments in state and federal education policy. Our team will also moderate in a separate session a conversation with ATPE members Jimmy Lee and Casey Hubbard regarding their recent experiences serving as education advocates in their local communities.

Get ready for an educational, productive, and fun-filled week! We hope to see you there!


Social Security Update: Hearing tomorrow in D.C. on H.R. 711

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee announced that its members will be hearing and voting on H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA), on Wednesday, July 13, at 1 pm. As we have reported in the past, the bill was filed by Congressman Kevin Brady of The Woodlands, Texas, who now chairs the committee.

The ETPSA would repeal the existing arbitrary and punitive Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and replace it with a new, fairer formula to calculate Social Security benefits for retirees who receive a separate government pension, such as through the Teacher Retirement System. The new formula would acknowledge the portion of a person’s career that they paid into Social Security, and as such ensure that benefits reflect one’s actual contributions, instead of simply having an arbitrary penalty applied to benefits as exists with the current formula.


Brady discussed the ETPSA with ATPE state officers and lobbyists last month in Washington.

If H.R. 711 passes the committee, it will be sent to the full House of Representatives to be deliberated. This is the most promising Social Security reform we have seen since the WEP was initially put into law in 1983.

ATPE has long advocated for increasing public education employees’ benefits and for using a more equitable system of calculating Social Security benefits. A coalition of employee and retiree associations from across the country, including ATPE, the Texas Retired Teachers Association, and AARP, have worked alongside Chairman Brady to increase benefits and eliminate the WEP; H.R. 711 is a step in the right direction.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on tomorrow’s markup of the bill.

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.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 3, 2016

Happy Friday! Here are some of this week’s blog highlights from Teach the Vote:


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

On our blog this week, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann writes about ongoing efforts to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Washington. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has proposed new federal rules to implement certain accountability aspects of the law, which would require states to respond by implementing their corresponding accountability systems in the 2017-18 school year. ATPE has also written to ED Secretary John King offering input on testing and educator quality issues affected by ESSA. Read Kate’s blog post to learn more.

A delegation of ATPE state officers and staff members will be traveling to D.C. this month for meetings with the Texas congressional delegation and ED officials. Talks will focus not only on ESSA implementation but also on the continuing efforts to address Social Security reform and the unfair Windfall Elimination Provision through Congressman Kevin Brady’s (R-TX) ETPSA bill.


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

In the wake of a disappointing ruling from the Texas Supreme Court that our state’s school finance system is constitutional, education stakeholders are wondering if there will be any impetus for lawmakers to take steps to improve the flawed system next session. This week, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) called for two House committees to add new interim charges to their agenda this year in an effort to keep school finance at the forefront of legislative planning for 2017. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson wrote about the new interim charges on our blog this week, noting that insufficient school funding leads to “immense pressure on local taxpayers, classroom teachers, and students.”

Under the directive this week from Speaker Straus, the House Appropriations and Public Education Committees are jointly being asked to study the following:

  • Current law requires the elimination on September 1, 2017, of Additional State Aid for Tax Relief (ASATR), which was intended to offset the cost of tax-rate compressions enacted in 2006. Review how this loss of funding would impact school districts.
  • Study the use of local property taxes to fund public education and its effects on educational quality and on Texas taxpayers. Specifically, recommend ways to reverse the increasing reliance on recapture payments to fund public education statewide.

On the Texas Senate side, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) responded to the new House interim charges by issuing a statement emphasizing his focus on education reform priorities, which include private school vouchers. Advocating a reform package deal, Patrick wrote, “Everyone knows education policy reform and school finance reform must go hand in hand.”

Read more about the school finance interim studies in Josh’s blog post from yesterday.


ThinkstockPhotos-470725623_voteThere is news out today regarding last week’s primary runoff elections, including a few contests that were close enough to result in calls for recounts.

As we reported following the May 24 runoff election night, Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) lost his election to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) by a mere 23 votes. That prompted a request for a recount, which Harris County election officials completed today, confirming Cain as the winner of the runoff for House District 128. Meanwhile, another recount request is still pending in House District 54, where Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) in the Republican primary runoff by a margin of only 43 votes. We’ll bring you the results of that recount when it’s completed.

Related: The Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS) shared a voting update today with fellow members of the Texas Educators Vote coalition, including ATPE. In the update, TACS’s Laura Yeager writes about the low turnout in the recent runoff elections as well as how much some groups spent to try to defeat pro-public education candidates this year. Laura writes, “A recent article in the Quorum Report stated that education reformers spent $3.2 million to defeat pro-public education candidates, including those that support Speaker Joe Straus. While educators generally don’t have millions of dollars to throw into elections, they do have upwards of 700,000 votes, which can and should carry as much weight as pure dollars. We are grateful for the culture of voting that has been developing across the state, and we will need to continue to cultivate it for the general election and in years to come. Only when all educators use their hard earned right and privilege of voting, will we be able to fight the vast amount of money being poured into elections by education reformers that lines the pockets of business and slowly kills public education as it is imagined in the Texas Constitution.” We agree wholeheartedly with Laura’s assessment, and we hope that Texas educators’ participation in the 2016 elections will be enough to counter the privatization and other dangerous reform proposals that are certain to arise in the 2017 legislative session.

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is gearing up to make significant changes to educator preparation and certification rules over the new few months. First, on Thursday, June 9, the board will convene for a work session to consider the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs), the educator preparation experience through both traditional and alternative EPPs, national trends, and other matters relating to educator preparation and certification. No public testimony will be taken on Thursday, but SBEC will hold its regular board meeting on Friday, June 10. View the agenda here, which includes anticipated rule changes for the criteria to enter an EPP and the accountability system for EPPs. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on SBEC rulemaking actions from ATPE’s lobby team.

On Monday, June 13, the House Pensions Committee is holding an interim meeting in Houston, TX; the Texas Education Agency is conducting a public hearing on proposed changes to rules for the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS); and the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability is holding yet another work session to develop its recommendations to the 85th Legislature. We’ll have updates on these and other events affecting public education on our blog.

16_Web_SummitSpotlightHave you registered for the ATPE Summit, taking place at the Austin Convention Center, July 20-22? This year’s summit will feature professional development and leadership training sessions, including advocacy updates from the ATPE lobby team; an opportunity for ATPE members to shape our organization’s legislative program and bylaws; plus plenty of other lively, informative, and entertaining activities. Learn more at ATPESummit.org

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: March 25, 2016

From Social Security to STAAR woes, here are this week’s top stories from Teach the Vote:

Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson was in Washington, D.C. this week to meet with members of our state’s congressional delegation and attend Tuesday’s hearing on Social Security offsets that affect educators and other public employees. The U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security also discussed a bill filed by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) that would eliminate the current Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and create a fairer system. Read Josh Sanderson’s blog post this week to learn more about the hearing and how H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, would help educators.

Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

Also in Washington this week, the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Education looked at the president’s education budget proposal, while the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing to discuss reauthorization of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and ways to protect student privacy. The U.S. Department of Education was also overseeing meetings of a negotiated rulemaking committee for the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided a wrap-up for our blog, which you can read here.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

With the approach of STAAR testing, many educators have been grumbling about new rules that require test time and the time students spend on breaks during the test to be tracked by test administrators. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter took a closer look at the issue this week. Read his blog post from yesterday on how a popular bill to reduce the overall time spent by students on standardized testing has caused some unforeseen headaches for educators while the Texas Education Agency (TEA) considers how to implement the new law.

ThinkstockPhotos-111939554The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability met Wednesday, March 23, to continue working toward proposed suggestions to report ahead of the 2017 legislative session. ATPE’s Monty Exter reports that the meeting was held in the TEA/State Board of Education board room and was broken into two main parts. First, TEA staff gave a presentation on statutory nuances associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized the primary federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The commission members also participated in a moderated work session among with board members and key legislators.

Click here to view the presentation on ESSA from Wednesday’s commission meeting in PDF format. Video of the entire meeting can be viewed here. Find additional information on the commission including video of previous meetings here. The next commission meeting will be held Wednesday, April 20, in Austin.

Next week presents a busy calendar full of interim hearings pertaining to public education. NOTE: The Texas Legislature’s computer systems are undergoing maintenance this weekend and will not be available until late Sunday night, March 27. In the meantime, some of the hearing notices linked below may not be available for viewing. For additional information, follow @TXLegeCouncil on Twitter.

ATPE’s lobby team will report on all of next week’s activity here on Teach the Vote. For the latest developments on these and other events, follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter.

Have a beautiful weekend!








Recap of Tuesday’s Social Security hearing in Washington, D.C.

This week I had an opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for congressional meetings accompanied by ATPE’s Washington-based lobby team. Along with visiting several members of our delegation and their staffs, we attended the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on Tuesday, March 22, to hear discussion on H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA).

Filed by Congressman Kevin Brady (R–TX), the ETPSA proposes to eliminate the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), a federal law that reduces the Social Security benefits of anyone who is also eligible for a government pension, such as through the Teacher Retirement System. In place of the WEP, the ETPSA would substitute a new formula to calculate benefits that actually reflects the amount of a person’s career that was spent working in position covered by Social Security. We believe that the ETPSA formula would be considerably better than the arbitrary, punitive WEP formula that currently applies the same maximum reduction to every employee who has between 0 and 20 years of substantial earnings and contributions.

Congressman Brady gave an opening statement at Tuesday’s hearing noting that he has been working since 2004 to replace the WEP with a more equitable formula. He recognized the many organizations that have contributed to this effort, specifically thanking ATPE during the hearing. Click here to watch video of Brady’s opening statement.


ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson with U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) following Tuesday’s hearing

Brady’s ETPSA legislation is bipartisan, with more than 64 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle including 24 members of the Texas congressional delegation. ATPE has been joined by the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), AARP, and numerous education, law enforcement, and public service associations across the country in supporting this legislation. As was noted during the hearing by Congressman Sam Johnson (R–TX), who chairs the Subcommittee on Social Security, it is past time that these millions of employees received fair treatment in the calculation of the benefits they paid for during their careers. Congressman John Larson (D–CT), a former public education teacher whose daughter is also an educator who will be affected by the WEP , chimed in by stating, “I have long been a proponent of eliminating the WEP… and this bill works toward that goal.”

Brady with Wiggins and Colby

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) pictured last year with ATPE State Past-President Richard Wiggins and ATPE State President Cory Colby

ATPE has long called for fully repealing both the WEP and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), and we have supported federal legislation in the past to accomplish this goal. However, the massive costs to the Social Security Trust Fund have prevented any full repeal legislation from ever having a chance to be enacted into law. Pretending that these long-shot goals are reality and refusing incremental progress in place of a complete repeal are doing a disservice to the thousands of education and public safety employees affected by these laws. If Brady’s ETPSA passes, we will be one giant step closer to a system that is fair and actually allows employees to receive the benefits they paid for and deserve.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on this legislation as they occur.

Reminder: Watch today’s Social Security hearing starting at 9 a.m. CDT

Today, March 22, the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security is meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss Social Security and how it affects educators and other public employees. The discussion will include consideration H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, filed by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX). ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson is in Washington to attend today’s hearing and will provide a summary after the meeting.committee-seal

To watch the hearing live, tune in here starting at 9 a.m. Central (10 a.m. Eastern). We’ll have a full wrap-up later this week on our Teach the Vote blog. Check out last week’s blog post for additional information about the hearing and H.R. 711, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for the very latest developments.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: March 18, 2016

Are you ready for the weekend? Here’s what made the news this week on Teach the Vote:

One of the most closely watched races during the March 1 Republican primary election in Texas was the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Kevin Eltife (R) in Senate District 1. In the four-man primary race, current state representative Bryan Hughes (R) earned the most votes with 48 percent (63,844 votes), but he fell short of winning the primary outright. Next came an effort to determine which candidate would secure the second place spot and a berth in the May 24 runoff election.

On election night, current state representative David Simpson (R) appeared to have edged out James K. “Red” Brown (R) by only 13 votes, which prompted nearly two weeks’ worth of analysis to ensure that all provisional and military ballots were properly counted. As the process played out, Simpson and Brown exchanged positions several times with single digit margins separating the two. Ultimately, it was announced earlier this week that the counts were complete and that Simpson would keep his spot in the runoff, again by a margin of only 13 votes. In the end, Simpson carried 28,288 votes, while Brown had 28,275. Brown, who had earned several major endorsements including one from Texas Parent PAC, declined an opportunity to request a full recount, which clears the way for Simpson and Hughes to face off in May.

Another Republican primary runoff continues to capture media attention in Texas and beyond. This week, the Texas Observer published an article with more information about Mary Lou Bruner (R), who nearly won the primary election outright for SBOE District 9 but instead is facing a runoff against Keven Ellis (R). Bruner has made headlines nationally for her extremist views on education and controversial remarks often delivered via social media. In yesterday’s article, Patrick Michels writes about the support that Don McLeroy, another controversial and polarizing political figure who once held the same seat on the SBOE and even chaired the board before being ousted by incumbent Thomas Ratliff (R), has expressed toward Bruner. McLeroy is quoted in the article as comparing Bruner to himself and saying, “I think she’ll be a great asset,” if elected to serve on the SBOE.

Visit our 2016 Races pages to view profiles of all candidates in races that have resulted in primary election runoffs, as well as candidates who will be on the ballot in November for seats in the Texas Legislature or State Board of Education.


ThinkstockPhotos-177533853We’ve been reporting extensively this week on the major news of a hearing in Washington, D.C. next week to discuss Social Security. The U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will meet Tuesday, March 22, to discuss Social Security laws and their impact on public employees.

Part of the discussion Tuesday will be about legislation filed by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) to get rid of a harmful offset provision that causes many public sector employees, including educators, to have their Social Security benefits reduced when they reach retirement age. Read ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson’s blog post this week about H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act and how it would help educators upon retirement.

Sanderson will be attending the Tuesday morning hearing along with ATPE’s Washington-based lobby team. They’ll also be meeting with members of the Texas congressional delegation to ask for their support of H.R. 711. Thirteen members of our state’s congressional delegation have not yet pledged their support for H.R. 711, and we encourage you to contact them. Read yesterday’s blog post for more detail, along with the phone numbers where you can reach those 13 members of Congress. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates from Washington next week.

In other national education news, the U.S. Senate voted this week to confirm the nomination of Dr. John B. King as the new U.S. Secretary of Education. Check out ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann’s blog post from earlier this week to learn more about King.


A number of hearings are the calendar in the next few weeks that relate to public education, including interim legislative hearings and another meeting of the state commission that is examining student testing and accountability.

As always, stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates and follow us on Twitter for the very latest news from our ATPE lobby team.

More on next week’s Social Security hearing in Washington, how you can help

committee-sealOn Tuesday, March 22, the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will be discussing Social Security provisions that affect certain educators and other public sector employees. As we reported yesterday, the meeting will include consideration of H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, filed by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) to try to help public employees who are affected by current Social Security offsets. This is a very positive development for educators and others.

What’s the hearing about?

Some educators have been employed in positions in which they paid into Social Security, making them eligible for a Social Security benefit upon requirement, but they also qualify for pension benefits through the state’s Teacher Retirement System. These individuals are subject to what’s known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), and it reduces the amount of Social Security benefits they may receive. Congressman Brady’s H.R. 711 would get rid of the WEP and replace it with a formula that factors in a person’s actual earnings and contributions to Social Security. It is the latest development in ongoing efforts to help Texas educators get relief from the unfair consequences of the WEP. ATPE has long supported these efforts and we’re thankful that Congressman Brady, who now chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is making progress to secure passage of H.R. 711. Tuesday’s hearing is a major step forward, and ATPE is looking forward to attending it and visiting with members of our delegation in Washington.

How can you help?

ThinkstockPhotos-135648941_phoneThirteen members of Texas’s congressional delegation listed below have not yet pledged their support for H.R. 711. We encourage you to contact them and ask them to support this legislation that will help educators avoid being unfairly penalized and having their Social Security benefits reduced. Politely educate them on how the WEP affects you and let them know how much you would appreciate seeing your benefits increase through the passage of the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act.

  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX-5) – call 202-225-3484
  • Rep. Joe Barton (TX-6) – call 202-225-2002
  • Rep. Al Green (TX-9) – call 202-225-7508
  • Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX-13) – call 202-225-3706
  • Rep. Ruben Hinojosa Jr. (TX-15) – call 202-225-2531
  • Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20) – call 202-225-1915
  • Rep. Roger Williams (TX-25) – call 202-225-9896
  • Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28) – call 202-225-2640
  • Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) – call 202-225-8885
  • Rep. John Carter (TX-31) – call 202-225-3864
  • Rep. Pete Sessions (TX-32) – call 202-225-2231
  • Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33) – call 202-225-9897
  • Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-35) – call 202-225-4865

Where can you learn more about the WEP and other Social Security laws that might affect your retirement as an educator?

Please visit our Social Security FAQs page on ATPE.org to learn more about the laws that affect your eligibility for retirement and Social Security benefits. Read, for instance, answers to questions such as “Will my eligibility for a TRS pension prevent me from collecting Social Security benefits?” and “How does the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) work?”

Where can you learn more about the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act?

Click here to read an overview of H.R. 711, the actual text of the legislation, and letters of support from ATPE and other prominent organizations around the country.

Will Tuesday’s hearing be live-streamed?

Yes! The subcommittee hearing will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern (9 a.m. Central) on Tuesday, March 22. Click here to watch the live broadcast on Tuesday morning. Also, stay tuned to Teach the Vote and follow us on Twitter next week for updates from Washington.

Related content: Read ATPE’s press release about the upcoming hearing and what it means to Texas educators.