Tag Archives: sunset

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Dec. 22, 2017

Happy holidays! Here’s your week in review from ATPE Governmental Relations:


Earlier today, President Donald Trump signed into law a major tax overhaul bill approved by Congress this week. The president also signed off on a short-term funding bill to keep the federal governmental operational for a few more weeks until longer-term legislation can be passed. The final $1.5 trillion tax bill omits some provisions that were worrisome for educators employed in public schools, which ATPE urged our congressional delegation to remove from earlier versions of the legislation. For more on the tax law that was approved, check out this blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann.


Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) has announced his appointments to two key state commissions. First, the speaker revealed his picks to serve on the new Texas Commission on Public School Finance, authorized by the legislature earlier this year. The House appointments include Reps. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), and Ken King (R-Canadian). Fittingly, all three of the representatives chosen by the speaker also hold leadership roles on the House Public Education Committee: Huberty as committee chair, Bernal as committee vice-chair, and King as chair of the Subcommittee on Educator Quality. Also appointed to serve on the commission is Nicole Conley Johnson, who is currently employed as Chief Financial Officer for Austin ISD. Additional members of the school finance commission were previously announced by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Yesterday, Straus also announced that Reps. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall), Stan Lambert (R-Abilene), and Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass) would serve on the Sunset Advisory Commission, along with public member and retired accountant Ron Steinhart of Dallas. The commission is charged with overseeing and making recommendations to the legislature on periodic reviews of various state agencies.


Twenty Texas school districts will have an opportunity to take part in a pilot program using locally designed accountability measures. Commissioner of Education Mike Morath named the districts selected earlier this week from a pool of 50 applicants. The pilot program falls under Rep. Dan Huberty’s House Bill 22 passed earlier this year. For more on the local accountability pilot study, view information on the Texas Education Agency’s website here.



 

Sunset Commission adopts controversial recommendation to abolish SBEC

As it prepares for the upcoming legislative session, the Sunset Advisory Commission—a state commission charged with reviewing state agencies and boards in order to recommend ways to eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency—met yesterday to finalize and approve its recommendations to the legislature. Among the state entities being reviewed were the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). The Sunset Commission voted to adopt all TEA- and SBEC-related recommendations preciously drafted by the Commission’s staff with no changes or additions. These include a recommendation that the legislature abolish SBEC and transfer its powers and duties to the Commissioner of Education, which is a proposal that ATPE strongly opposes.

The Commission met in November to hear input from Commission staff, Texas Education Agency representatives, and members of the public. ATPE testified at that hearing and submitted written comments regarding several of the recommendations. Read the Commission’s December 2014 staff report, including responses to input on the recommendations received from ATPE and others.

Weigh in on Sunset

At yesterday’s meeting, the recommendation to abolish SBEC was voted on separately from most other sections in the sunset report. One member of the Commission spoke in opposition to the recommendation and voiced concerns expressed by many educators, including the potential for the profession to be governed by someone with little or no prior education experience. (There is currently no requirement in law that the Commissioner of Education have a background in education). Ultimately, only two members of the Commission voted against abolishing SBEC, and the recommendation was finally adopted by the Commission. It goes next to the 84th Legislature for consideration.

ATPE believes educators should have the right to govern their own profession. Restructuring SBEC to reflect an independent board of Texas educators elected by their peers would better serve the profession. SBEC currently consists entirely of members appointed by the governor and is an entity closely affiliated with TEA. Many professions are afforded the right to govern their own profession and have a governing board comparable to what ATPE supports for educators. Texas lawyers, for example, are governed by the Texas State Bar, an independent board of Texas attorney elected by the members of their own profession.

Other recommendations adopted by the Sunset Commission yesterday include removing the power of the State Board of Education (SBOE) to review and reject SBEC rules and giving TEA administrative subpoena power when investigating certified educators for possible disciplinary sanctions. ATPE opposed the recommendation to do away with SBOE’s veto power, because allowing the SBOE an opportunity to review SBEC rules at a public hearing gives stakeholders an additional opportunity to be heard and participate in the rule-making process. In the event that the legislature goes forward with abolishing SBEC and giving its authority to the Commissioner of Education, the SBOE veto will become even more important. ATPE has supported giving TEA limited subpoena power only as long as information gathered through investigations is properly and fairly shared with the educators facing possible sanctions. Among recommendations by the Sunset Commission that ATPE supports are providing for enhanced transparency and stakeholder participation throughout TEA and improving regulations that pertain to educator preparation programs.

It is important to note that these recommendations are not yet law. The legislature will convene in January to begin considering these proposals in the form of a sunset bill. ATPE will work with legislators to advocate for the adoption of positive recommendations in the report and against the harmful ones. The TEA and SBEC sunset recommendations will not be new to most legislators when the 2015 session convenes because they saw many of the same recommendations last session. State agencies and boards typically face sunset review once every 12 years, and the Sunset Commission reviewed both TEA and SBEC in 2012 and made similar recommendations to the 83rd Legislature. ATPE helped defeat sunset bills in the 2013 session, primarily because they called for abolishing SBEC. The defeat of those bills necessitated another limited-scope sunset review of TEA and SBEC this year, which will culminate in the filing of new sunset bills for the 2015 legislative session.

Stay tuned to the Teach the Vote blog for updates on the sunset bills as they move through the legislative process.

SBEC meets to address GPA requirement, sanction authority and new certification exams

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met in Austin last week—Friday, Oct. 24—to address a broad agenda. The meeting included final adoption of minor changes to SBEC’s disciplinary authority, a discussion of the State Board of Education’s (SBOE) decision to veto a recently modified SBEC rule that includes a minimum GPA requirement for educator preparation program (EPP) candidates, an update from Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff on new certification exams, and more.

Adoption of changes to SBEC’s sanctioning authority over Texas educators:

ATPE testified both orally and in writing before SBEC at its August meeting in opposition to two proposed amendments that sought to change rules surrounding SBEC’s sanctioning authority of Texas educators. ATPE expressed concern that the proposed amendments removed the “willfully or recklessly” limitation in current rule for certain violations relating to an educator’s duty to report information to SBEC or TEA. We further relayed that without these limitations, educators could be sanctioned for not reporting information of which they may not have been aware. At the August meeting—where SBEC took a preliminary vote on the proposed language of one of the amendments and voted on final adoption of the other—we were able to make small revisions to the proposal that received final adoption but still found the deletion of the language troubling.

Last week, as the board voted on final adoption of the second proposal, ATPE was pleased to see the inclusion of additional changes. In response to our comments at the August meeting and the comments submitted by others after the conclusion of that meeting, TEA staff presented SBEC with substitute text for the proposed rule change. While the substitute text maintained the removal of “willfully and recklessly,” it narrowed the scope of what an educator is required to report in order to avoid certain violations, which ATPE views as a productive revision. SBEC approved the substitute language and adopted the amendment.

Discussion of SBOE’s recent rejection of the minimum GPA rule for EPP candidates:

Earlier this year, SBEC began rewriting several provisions in 19 TAC Chapters 227, 228, and 229, relating to educator preparation. Included among the changes was language pertaining to the minimum GPA requirement for most candidates seeking admission into an EPP. The rule change was prompted by the passage of House Bill (HB) 2012 by the Texas legislature in 2013, a comprehensive teacher quality bill that ATPE supported. ATPE has published several updates regarding the many developments of this rule change, which included an initial decision by SBEC to raise the minimum GPA requirement, a subsequent reversal of that decision by SBEC, and, most recently, the SBOE’s rejection of the ultimate SBEC decision maintaining the state’s existing minimum GPA requirement of 2.5 or lower for EPP candidates. An overwhelming majority of SBOE members agreed with ATPE and other stakeholders that the current GPA floor is too low and urged SBEC to return to the drawing board.

At SBEC’s meeting last week, the TEA staff presented an update on the SBOE decision to reject the GPA rule and outlined three potential scenarios under which to move forward: (1) SBEC can begin new rulemaking and reconsider the GPA requirement, (2) SBEC can seek an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General about the requirements of HB 2012, or (3) SBEC can do nothing and allow the legislature an opportunity to clarify the law. (There has been some disagreement over the intent of the language in HB 2012 relating to the GPA requirement. Some believe the bill requires SBEC to set a minimum GPA no higher than 2.75, while others believe the bill requires 2.75 to be the floor. Both sponsors of the legislation have stated their intent that the minimum GPA be set at 2.75.)

A majority of SBEC members spoke in favor of revisiting the matter and asked TEA staff to provide clarifying and more extensive data on the GPA issue. Again last week, ATPE provided written testimony to SBEC explaining our position in support of a more rigorous GPA requirement, which is based on studies that show we can better prepare Texas teachers and create a higher achieving student body by raising standards for entrance into the profession. We are pleased the board chose to revisit the GPA requirement at its March 2015 meeting and encourage SBEC to initiate rulemaking once again.

Update on new Core Subjects EC-6 and Core Subjects 4-8 tests:

TEA and SBEC have spent the last year developing new Core Subjects EC-6 and 4-8 assessments—another requirement of HB 2012—and an appropriate timeline for implementation of the new certification tests, which will replace existing Generalist exams and will first be administered in January 2015. In response to ongoing feedback from stakeholders, TEA staff informed SBEC last week that they will institute a pilot period beginning in January and will collect data on candidate test performance. During the pilot period, candidates will be able to take the test at no charge. If a candidate fails to pass the exam during the pilot period, he will simply be able to pay to take the old Generalist assessment. TEA will provide SBEC with data collected during the pilot period at its August 2015 board meeting and recommend additional changes to the exams if necessary.

SBEC members were particularly concerned about the amount of time that is required to take the new tests and expressed interest in taking a look at the number of field test questions included on the exam. They also asked to see disaggregated data on pass/fail rates during the pilot period to ensure there is no bias.

Other business:

  • SBEC voted to begin live streaming its board meetings, a change ATPE welcomes as it will increase transparency and provide for more efficient dissemination of information. Watch for more information from TEA on this development.
  • SBEC took a preliminary vote to reduce many of the fees relating to certification services. For example, the fee for an applicant requesting a standard certificate was reduced from $75 to $65.
  • SBEC adopted a statement in response to the Sunset Advisory Commission Staff Report, which in part recommends abolishing SBEC and transferring its power to the Commissioner of Education. The statement opposes the recommendation to dissolve the board and stresses the importance of a governing board made up of education professionals. The Sunset hearing addressing this report will be held on November 12 and 13. ATPE also submitted recent comments to the Sunset Advisory Commission in response to the latest staff report.

SBEC changes course on raising minimum GPA requirement

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met in Austin last week—Friday, Aug. 1—to address, among many items, final passage of a proposed revision to 19 TAC Chapter 227. ATPE strongly supported the revision that would have raised the minimum GPA requirement for admission into an educator preparation program (EPP) from a 2.5 to a 2.75. In May, the board took initial action, following testimony by ATPE, to raise the minimum GPA requirement, but after much discussion on Friday among board members and strong opposition from alternative certification programs (ACP), the board voted to keep the minimum GPA requirement at 2.5.

ATPE, the only group that testified in favor of the rule change despite plenty of support, is a strong advocate for raising standards for entrance into the education profession. In addition to testifying at Friday’s SBEC meeting, ATPE submitted written comments in support of the proposal to raise the minimum GPA requirement earlier last month. Our oral testimony before the board last week was based on research and case studies that show raising standards for entrance into the profession have a positive effect on teacher and student success. We know that countries demonstrating the most international success in student achievement have imposed selective entrance requirements for teachers and that Texas EPPs that voluntarily set a higher bar for admission perform better.

ATPE stressed the importance of high standards for the profession. Raising the standards for teacher preparation will lead to more prestige for the profession and improved prestige will attract more qualified candidates to enter a career in teaching. Further, making the education profession more selective will better equip educators to demand meaningful change such as improved compensation and more support for new teachers entering the classroom.

Those who testified in opposition to raising the minimum GPA requirement all represented for-profit alternative certification programs (ACPs). These programs claimed that raising standards would lead to teacher shortages among certain populations and reduce the number of EPP applicants. ATPE disputes these concerns. As mentioned, research suggests raised standards will attract more candidates to the profession, not detract them. Additionally, the rule includes appropriate safeguards—safeguards ATPE supported and recommended that the board maintain—to ensure potentially great educators do not get overlooked. One exception allows an EPP to waive the minimum GPA rule for 10 percent of candidates who are otherwise exceptional. There is also the option to meet the GPA requirement by looking only at a candidate’s last 60 hours of coursework, where a student’s GPA tends to be higher.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) estimated that approximately 11 percent of candidates admitted in previous years did not have a 2.75 GPA. The 10 percent exception would have covered nearly all of those candidates. However, the ACPs testifying against raising the minimum GPA discussed percentages as high as 40 percent within their own programs who would not be able to satisfy a 2.75 GPA requirement—a troubling percentage of candidates much higher than what TEA found to be the statewide percentage, which merely adds to concerns about for-profit ACPs failing to impose adequate admission standards.

ATPE supports alternative routes to certification and a growing number of our very successful members received their certification through ACPs. Still, we recognize the GPA issue is extremely important for alternative certification paths where candidates face an expedited training and are often placed in the classroom almost immediately. It is crucial that we know these candidates are entering the program with a certain level of expertise in their content area to ensure that they are not being set up for failure in the increasingly high-stakes work environment facing new teachers. ATPE recently highlighted a national report that unfortunately showed many ACPs in Texas are setting too low bar on GPA admission standards, partly on account of state regulations that are too lax. SBEC had an opportunity to help improve the quality of educator preparation in Texas by raising its minimum GPA requirement, but the board ultimately declined with only two members —teacher Suzanne McCall and public member Laurie Bricker — voting to raise the GPA.

Research shows that access to an effective educator is the most important school-based factor affecting student success, and this is why raising the standards to enter the profession is so important. During debate on the issue, the board discussed a desire to find other ways to raise standards and we hope to see positive outcomes from that discussion. It will be particularly interesting to monitor the board’s upcoming decisions on raising standards in light of the forthcoming Sunset Commission report. The Commission’s 2012 report recommended abolishing the board and referenced a need to raise standards for the profession. Similarly, the Legislature has encouraged SBEC to raise the entrance standards for the profession, and the board has again disregarded those recommendations.

In other SBEC business from the meeting last week, ATPE testified orally and in writing in opposition to two proposed amendments that would change rules surrounding SBEC’s sanctioning authority of Texas educators. The proposed amendments would remove the “willfully or recklessly” limitation in current rule for certain violations relating to an educator’s duty to report information to SBEC or TEA. ATPE expressed concern that without these limitations, educators could be sanctioned for not reporting information of which they may not have been aware. We were able to make small revisions to one of the proposals, but ATPE still finds the deletion of the language troubling. SBEC will vote on final approval of the proposed changes at their October board meeting.

Additional housekeeping news included the election of Dr. Dawn Buckingham as the new vice chairwoman to replace Christie Pogue who resigned her position on the board to take a job with TEA, the addition of Leon Leal as a newly appointed member of the board, and the approval of new members of the Educator Preparation Advisory Committee to be determined by TEA.

ATPE input to Sunset Advisory Commission on TEA, SBEC

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is a state commission charged with evaluating most Texas state boards and agencies and proposing recommendations to eliminate waste, duplication and inefficiency where it exists. As part of its 2012 review of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), the Sunset Commission concluded that SBEC was inefficient and unnecessary since the board’s work is largely performed by TEA staff members and is also reviewed by the State Board of Education (SBOE). In 2013, ATPE helped defeat sunset bills that called for abolishing SBEC and transferring authority for regulation of the education profession to the Commissioner of Education. This defeat resulted in the sunset review of TEA and SBEC being held over for the Legislature to consider again in 2015.

In preparation for the 2015 legislative session, the Sunset Commission asked for input on its recommendations for TEA and SBEC. ATPE supplied written input to the commission, outlining our support for maintaining educators’ right to have a separate governing board for their profession and addressing other issues at stake in the ongoing sunset review. Read ATPE’s input here, and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on the sunset review of TEA and SBEC.

SBEC discusses sunset review and educator preparation

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) held a board workshop Friday, April 4 to discuss possible recommendations to the 84th Legislature. Primarily, SBEC will again be under sunset review in the 2015 legislative session after a sunset bill failed to pass in 2013. The meeting also included discussion on developments following the 2013 passage of House Bill (HB) 2012, a bill by Rep. Mike Villarreal that, among other things, addressed educator preparation program admission and certification standards.

The Sunset Advisory Commission is a 12-member state commission designed to evaluate Texas agencies and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency where it exists. Heading into the 2013 legislative session, the Sunset Commission concluded that SBEC was inefficient and unnecessary because the board’s work is largely performed by Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff and is also reviewed by the State Board of Education (SBOE). Sunset bills subsequently filed in 2013 called for abolishing SBEC and transferring authority for regulation of the education profession to the Commission of Education. However, ATPE and other teacher groups opposed those bills last year and prevented them from passing, which forced the sunset review of TEA and SBEC to be held over for another legislature. Thus, the future of SBEC will again be debated during the upcoming 2015 session.

The SBEC board’s legislative brainstorming at last week’s workshop was focused on working to ensure their survival through this next sunset review. The Sunset Commission will begin another round of exploration of the board’s functions in May, and SBEC members intend to demonstrate their significance. They will hear from TEA officials at their May 2 meeting on what changes have been made to address some of the concerns stated in the Sunset Commission’s original report. The board members feel SBEC is necessary because it serves as a system of checks and balances on certification issues at TEA, it is made up of professionals with experience and expertise in their fields, and the work will be more costly if done solely by TEA or the commissioner.

Other potential legislation ideas discussed by SBEC included giving the investigations department subpoena power and raising compensation for educators. Because teacher pay is out of the board’s authority and the commissioner already has subpoena power on his legislative agenda for next session, the board focused their discussion of legislative preparations on the sunset bill.

The board also discussed HB 2012 from last session and the efforts TEA is taking to address the portion on educator preparation programs. TEA has engaged educator preparation programs throughout the state and held regional field meetings to seek input and feedback. The staff will present final recommendations to SBEC on May 2. HB 2012 requires educator preparation programs to share certain information with their students, specifies admissions requirements for educator preparation programs, and raises some standards for certification. SBEC has some discretion over raising the certification requirements.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on these issues following the May 2 SBEC meeting.

Legislative Update: Charter school legislation, enrollment growth, evaluations and SBEC

In Washington this week, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senior Democrat George Miller (D-CA) introduced the “Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act” (H.R. 10). The legislation would allow the U.S. Department of Education to oversee spending $300 million on competitive grants to fund charter school startups, expansions and facilities. The full press release, including a bill summary and fact sheet, can be found here: Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act – press release.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has released new figures this week on student enrollment. The number of students attending Texas public schools has increased by more than 19 percent over the past decade, with statewide enrollment passing the 5 million mark during the 2012-13 school year.


ATPE State Vice President Richard Wiggins and ATPE Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg were featured in a front-page news article Monday in the Austin American-Statesman about teacher evaluation reform efforts. Wiggins is one of several ATPE members serving on a committee that has given TEA officials input on the creation of new professional teaching standards and the redesign of the state’s recommended appraisal system. Commissioner of Education Michael Williams is expected to present federal officials with TEA’s plans for the redesign by May 2, pursuant to the conditions of the state’s NCLB waiver.

Related Teach the Vote content: Why it is important to support candidates in the 2014 elections who will ensure teacher evaluations are valid, fair and easily understood.


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) will meet Friday to discuss possible recommendations to the 84th Legislature. SBEC and TEA will again be under sunset review in the 2015 legislative session after a sunset bill failed to pass in 2013. Stay tuned next week for updates.