Tag Archives: superintendents

ATPE joins effort to encourage school districts to facilitate primary voting

Vote imageDays away from the start of early voting for the primary elections in Texas, education groups are spreading the word about the importance of voting through an unprecedented joint effort. ATPE has teamed up with nearly a dozen other groups in support of a new initiative called TexasEducatorsVote.com.

The new website features election-related guides, links to candidate resources, and an oath that educators can take to pledge to support public education by voting in 2016. The new initiative launched by the Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS) complements ATPE’s existing TeachtheVote.org website, where voters can view profiles of candidates for the legislature and State Board of Education, read their responses to ATPE’s candidate survey, study incumbents’ voting records on education issues, and find additional resources.

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Brock Gregg

“We’re coming together for the first time in an unprecedented way,” ATPE Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg said in a press release issued yesterday. “Our goal is to implore educators and the public to take action. There are about one million active and retired public school educators in Texas. If they all go out and vote, this could have a tremendous positive impact on public education.”

The partners in the Texas Educators Vote initiative are also reaching out to school administrators across the state and encouraging them to do what they can to facilitate voting by school employees. The message to administrators highlights specific ways school leaders can promote high voter turnout and engagement within their school districts and campuses without endorsing particular candidates. Suggested actions include the following:

  • Setting a campus-wide voter turnout goal during the early voting period.
  • Encouraging employees to utilize election resources such as TeachtheVote.org and TexasEducatorsVote.com to learn more about the candidates and voting details.
  • Facilitating time off for school employees to go vote, including coordinating with volunteers to help cover classrooms as needed.
  • Coordinating ride-sharing or providing transportation to the polls.

ATPE encourages educators to check out the candidate profiles available through our 2016 Races search page and take the voting oath on TexasEducatorsVote.com. Click here to view a brochure with more information on Texas Educators Vote and its participating partners.

For even more information, be sure to follow @TeachtheVote and @TXEducatorsVote on Twitter for the latest updates.

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

You’re almost out of time to register to vote in the upcoming primary election. Read about the voter registration deadline, along with other election news and education stories from this week.


ThinkstockPhotos-481431733Monday, Feb. 1 is the last day you can register to vote in the upcoming March 1 primary elections. Click here to check the status of your voter registration through the Secretary of State’s office. For anyone not already registered, learn more about the voter registration process here.

Now more than ever, it’s critical for educators to show up at the polls in March. Many of the state’s most high-profile election contests will be decided in March through the primaries, making the November general election insignificant in many of those races. Voter turnout has been woefully low in recent years, but the 2016 races are too important for educators to ignore. Read more about why it’s so important for educators to exercise their right to vote in this recent letter from our allies at Friends of Texas Public Schools. Also, take a few minutes to visit the website of our partnership with TexasEducatorsVote.com and take the educator’s oath to show your commitment to participate in the elections.

Don’t forget about the great election resources available here on Teach the Vote. Search for legislative and State Board of Education candidates using our 2016 Races page, and then check out the candidates’ voting records and responses to the ATPE Candidate Survey. If candidates in your area have not yet taken our survey, please encourage them to do so and share their views on public education with thousands of potential voters.


HD118map-smallerVoter turnout was extremely low in Tuesday’s special election runoff for House District 118, where former Rep. Joe Farias (D-San Antonio) stepped down from his seat leaving a vacancy. It’s reported that a total of only 3,601 voters in the San Antonio district went to the polls in the special election that wrapped up this week. Voters chose John Lujan (R) to fill the HD 118 vacancy for the remainder of this year. Lujan defeated Tomas Uresti (D) by a margin of only 161 votes, and overall turnout in the runoff was just over four percent of the registered voters in the district. Lujan and Uresti are among four candidates who are vying for the seat in the regular 2016 election. Access profiles of them on Teach the Vote’s 2016 Races search page.

In related news, a legislative resignation could prompt yet another special election in Bexar County. Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D) this week submitted an official letter of resignation from her House District 120 seat effective Jan. 31, 2016. McClendon has been a longtime supporter of public schools and educators. She has held the seat since 1996, but has faced serious health challenges in recent years, including a battle with lung cancer. McClendon had already announced her intent not to run for re-election in 2016, but her early resignation creates an opportunity for Gov. Greg Abbott to call yet another special election for a House seat in the San Antonio area. The governor has not yet made any official announcement. Six candidates are already vying to assume the HD 120 seat in the 2016 open race, and their profiles are also available here on Teach the Vote.


The Senate Education Committee is planning a Feb. 10 meeting in McAllen, Texas. The agenda includes a briefing on English Language Learning and monitoring legislation to address training support for counselors, advising courses for middle school students, and placement of video cameras in some special education classrooms. Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) of nearby Brownsville vice-chairs the committee and was the author of last year’s Senate Bill 507 requiring the addition of cameras in certain classrooms. Limited public testimony will be allowed at the McAllen hearing.

The House Public Education Committee has scheduled an interim hearing for Feb. 9 in Austin. The purpose of this meeting is, in part, to review the state’s current education policies and initiatives regarding middle grades and make recommendations on strategies to help students in middle grades prepare for future success. The committee will also review current public education programs that address the needs of high performing students, including consideration of whether the state’s accountability system should include a separate indicator for the academic performance of high achieving students. Limited public testimony will be allowed.

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Related content:
 The Coalition for Public Schools is partnering with other groups to host a series of community meetings in different parts of this state during the interim. House Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen), pictured at right, is a featured speaker at some of the coalition’s events. Read our blog post from earlier this week to learn more about how you can participate.

 


SBOE logoThe State Board of Education has been meeting this week in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended the meetings and contributed information for this report. On Tuesday, the board heard hours of public testimony on possible revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 110, which includes the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) in elementary, middle, and high school grades. No action has been taken at this point.

On the board’s action agenda this week was an opportunity for the SBOE to decide which vendors should oversee the state’s high school equivalency assessments, often known as GED tests, in Texas. SBOE members voted to award contracts to three companies: GED Testing Service, Data Recognition Corporation, and Educational Testing Service (ETS). As the Texas Education Agency noted in a press release issued today, the decision by the board “marks a shift from the use of a single testing provider to three.”

The SBOE also had an opportunity once again to review proposed changes to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) rules for becoming certified as a superintendent. SBEC’s original proposal to remove many of the prerequisities for superintendent certification was opposed by ATPE and rejected by the SBOE in November 2015. As a result, SBEC had to take the issue up again and pass a newer, slightly less controversial rule revision in December, which was once again submitted to the SBOE for review this month. At this week’s meeting, SBOE members opted to take no action on it, which means that the SBEC rule as most recently revised in December will now go into effect.

This morning, the board also had a chance to recognize the Texas Teachers of the Year and Superintendent of the Year. Revathi Balakrishnan, who is the 2016 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year and an ATPE member in Round Rock ISD spoke to SBOE members about the need to give teachers time to teach. She was joined by Mary Ann Whiteker, Superintendent of the Year from Hudson ISD, who spoke about difficulties surrounding the emphasis on STAAR testing.


School Choice Week has been observed around the country this week and will spill over into the first part of February. Supporters of private and home schools are expected to attend a rally at the Texas State Capitol today. While organizers of the annual event are again predicting a crowd of “thousands,” similar rallies in recent years instead have drawn hundreds, even during a legislative session year. It’s reported that featured speakers for the event will include Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), who has sponsored voucher legislation, and Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who also spoke at last year’s rally.

In Washington, D.C., a congressional hearing entitled “Expanding Educational Opportunity Through School Choice” that was originally scheduled for Jan. 26 but postponed on account of weather is now slated for Wednesday, Feb. 3. At the same time, lawmakers in several states are grappling with the issue of private school vouchers and related proposals to privatize public education. Read our blog post from yesterday to find out more about what’s being proposed in Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana, and Virginia.

You can also read why vouchers are such a pivotal issue in the 2016 elections right here in Texas and why it’s so important for educators to help decide who goes to Austin for the 2017 legislative session. As we noted in yesterday’s blog post, vouchers passed the Senate last year and were blocked in the House. A shakeup in the composition of the legislature could produce dramatically different results the next time around. Keeping enough pro-public education legislators in the House will be essential, and there are a handful of Republican primary races in the Senate that could also have an impact on the legislative landscape and the likelihood of a voucher bill passing next year.

Related content: Did you know that Teach the Vote offers valuable insights on candidates’ views about “school choice” issues? Our candidate profiles include information on major endorsements, indicating those running for legislative seats who have been endorsed by groups that openly support private school vouchers and home schooling initiatives. Plus, you can find out how your legislators voted on bills calling for private school vouchers and other privatization proposals. Visit our 2016 Races search page to read about the candidates in your area.

Recap of State Board for Educator Certification meeting

SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met on Friday, Dec. 11, for its final board meeting of the year. In our Teach the Vote weekly review last week, ATPE Governmental Relations Manager Jennifer Canaday provided the rundown of a major development from that meeting involving the Standard Superintended Certificate; however, educator preparation, certification, and discipline were also on the agenda. These are highlights of the board’s actions.

Standard Superintendent Certificate

As we reported last week, the controversial proposal that removes classroom teaching experience from the certification prerequisites for some superintendent candidates was again an item on SBEC’s Friday agenda after the original proposal was rejected by the State Board of Education. ATPE again testified in opposition to the proposal, stressing the importance of teaching experience in the success of district leaders. Ultimately, the board voted to pass only a portion of the original proposal. Although an improvement from its original version, the revised proposal still fails to require a principal’s certificate or experience teaching in the classroom.

Educator Preparation and Certification

The board is currently in the review period for several of its chapters in rule that pertain to educator preparation and certification in Texas. The majority of those chapters of the Texas Administrative Code are still in the early phase of review, but the review of Chapter 227, Provisions for Educator Preparation Candidates, began earlier this year and final revisions were adopted at Friday’s board meeting.

Among the changes were revisions required by two House bills that ATPE worked to pass during the recent legislative session. HB 1300 made changes to the individual GPA requirement exception that is reserved for educator preparation program (EPP) candidates who are otherwise exceptional but do not meet the 2.5 GPA required for admission. State law allows EPPs to exempt up to ten percent of their candidates in each incoming class for this purpose. With the passage of HB 1300 and adoption of the revised rule, the candidates admitted under this exception must first pass the content knowledge examination. Those legislatively mandated changes must now be reflected in SBEC’s rules within the Texas Administrative Code.

Also pertaining to GPA, HB 2205, an omnibus EPP bill, added a minimum cohort GPA requirement, which similarly must be added to SBEC rules. The adopted rule now requires EPPs to ensure each class of admitted candidates averages a 3.0 GPA. The revisions to chapter 227 lay out additional requirements EPP candidates must meet prior to admission and clarify the requirements of both candidates and programs involving formal and contingency admission.

The remaining chapters pertaining to educator preparation and several chapters addressing educator certification will be reviewed over the next several months. TEA will conduct a stakeholder meeting to review Chapters 228 (Requirements for Educator Preparation Programs), 229 (Accountability System for Educator Preparation Programs), 230 (Professional Educator Preparation and Certification), and 232 (General Certification Provisions) this Thursday and ATPE will participate.

Educator Discipline

For roughly the past year, the process by which SBEC handles educator discipline has been in flux. The road to stabilize the process has involved many SBEC board meetings, the Legislature, the creation of the SBEC Board Committee on Educator Discipline, committee meetings, and a stakeholder meeting. At its board meeting last Friday, SBEC voted on several items aimed at re-stabilizing the process.

The SBEC Board Committee on Educator Discipline, which is made up of six members of the full board, proposed recommendations regarding SBEC’s process for investigating and disciplining certified educators. The committee presented a list of 17 recommended board directives intended to clarify to TEA staff SBEC’s expectations for sanctioning certified educators. The committee also presented rule text amendments that reflected the board directives. The board agreed to the committee’s recommended directives and took an initial vote to approve the proposed rule text. The rule text will be published in the Texas Register and open for comment Jan. 1 through Feb. 1. The final vote on the proposal will take place at the next SBEC board meeting in February.

Additionally, because the board felt comfortable with its directives and rule revisions guiding staff, they also chose to delegate back to TEA staff the authority to sign off on agreed orders, a situation where both TEA staff and the educator agree to the terms of a sanction. For reasons of efficiency and suitability, ATPE supports this change.

Other Agenda Items

Finally, the board approved a new advisory committee that will review and make recommendations on classroom teacher standards and elected new board officers. We are pleased that three ATPE board members (Carl Garner, Jayne Serna, and Tonja Gray, pictured below) were selected to serve on the Classroom Teacher Standards Advisory Committee; we know they will represent their profession and colleagues well. The SBEC officers are Bonny Cain, chair; Jill Druesedow, vice-chair; and Suzanne McCall, secretary.

Tonja Grey, Carl Garner, and Jayne Serna

Tonja Gray, Carl Garner, and Jayne Serna

So, while that is a wrap on a busy year for SBEC, next year will bring much more. Stay tuned!

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Dec. 11, 2015

It’s been a gigantic week for education news. Here are this week’s developments:


 

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), previously known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has written about on our blog throughout the process, the compromise ESSA bill passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 85 to 12. It similarly sailed through the House last week by a vote of 359 to 64. While the ESSA is far from perfect, the passage of the bill is viewed as a victory by ATPE and most education groups, who have waited years for reauthorization, a repeal of unworkable NCLB provisions, and a move away from federal policies and waivers that overemphasized standardized testing and one-size-fits-all approaches to teaching.

Now, the hard work of implementation will begin, and there are many unanswered questions about how the enactment of ESSA will affect Texas education laws and policies. Pre-existing ESEA waivers will become null and void by mid-2016, but what exactly does that mean for Texas? One of the more immediate concerns is what may become of T-TESS, the Texas Education Agency’s new teacher evaluation system that was crafted in large measure to satisfy the requirements of the state’s ESEA waiver. Draft commissioner’s rules to implement T-TESS as early as next month were just released this week; a public comment period will begin today and run through Jan. 11, 2016. We encourage ATPE members to view the draft rules and share feedback with TEA.

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Jennifer Canaday

Read more about the ESSA and what it means for Texas in yesterday’s blog post by ATPE Governmental Relations Manager Jennifer Canaday, and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates as implementation begins.

Related content: ATPE has been featured in several media stories about the passage of the ESSA. Here are just a couple of recent samples:

  • ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter was quoted in this article in the Houston Chronicle.
  • Exter will also be featured on a live call-in radio show with 710am KURV News Talk Radio this afternoon starting at 4:10 p.m. in the Rio Grande Valley.
  • Click here to watch Round Rock ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe and ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann, who were interviewed for a story by Austin’s KEYE-TV on Dec. 10.
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Stephanie Stoebe


The Senate Education Committee held its first interim committee hearing on Monday. The agenda included two interim charges related to charter schools and inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

The committee first heard from the Texas Education Agency on changes to charter school accountability laws after the passage of Senate Bill 2 (2013). That legislation authored by then-Senator Dan Patrick made it easier for charters to expand with agency approval, but also gave TEA the authority to close poor-performing charters more rapidly. The committee also discussed at length the disposition of charter school property after a charter has been revoked. For many years, charter school proponents have lobbied the legislature for facilities funding, complaining that charter holders do not have the ability that school districts have to win voter approval for bonds. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified to the committee that it is difficult to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons between charter schools and traditional school districts. He suggested that the legislature and TEA should take a closer look at per-pupil funding from all available sources, including private foundations that heavily support charter schools.

Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

The Senate Education Committee has also been charged with looking at inappropriate teacher-student relationships, related disciplinary measures, and ways to prevent them “through training and education of school employees.” The committee heard again from TEA staff, as well as from a criminal prosecutor and others whose testimony focused primarily on efforts to collect evidence in investigations of inappropriate relationships. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified that the education community has been working collectively to address the problem, and she urged the legislatures and policymakers to focus on prevention strategies.

To view archived video of the Dec. 7 hearing, click here.


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees met Monday in Richardson, Texas to address an issue that has occurred with the administration of TRS-ActiveCare. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson, who attended the meeting, reports that Aetna and its contracted third-party administrator, WellSystems, have experienced serious issues with enrollment and billing with ActiveCare. Many school districts have contacted TRS and Aetna regarding billing discrepancies and employees who were not properly enrolled. TRS staff and Aetna have worked to remedy these issues since they came to light in September, however some districts continue to experience problems. According to Sanderson, the TRS board agreed to allow Aetna and TRS staff to continue to work toward a resolution until December 18. If after that time TRS is not satisfied with Aetna’s response to the issue, TRS has the option to issue a new request for proposal to allow other providers the opportunity to administer ActiveCare. ATPE will be providing updates on ActiveCare as they develop.


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting today, Dec. 11. SBEC’s Committee on Educator Discipline also met yesterday afternoon. The full board’s agenda for today included revisiting a controversial proposal to change the requirements for becoming certified as a superintendent in Texas. The revised rule, which ATPE opposed, was struck down by the State Board of Education last month after SBOE members heard testimony from ATPE and other education groups concerned about watering down the certification standards. The SBOE’s veto sent the superintendent certification rule back to SBEC for reconsideration of the issue.

SBEC’s original rule proposal that SBOE rejected contained two pathways to becoming a superintendent. Part (a) was the least controversial aspect of the two parts of the proposal; it related to a recent statutory change calling for the board to allow superintendent candidates to substitute certain managerial experience for academic requirements in the rule. Part (b) of the rule was more objectionable and apparently requested by business stakeholders consulted by SBEC board members; it provided a pathway for individuals with no education-related experience whatsoever to become fully certified superintendents. Today, SBEC responded to the SBOE veto and testimony by removing part (b) from the proposed rule and adopting part (a) only. While neither section retains the requirement for superintendent candidates to hold a principal’s certificate and have prior teaching experience, as ATPE members prefer, the rule as adopted today is an improvement over the original proposal.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified against the rule again today, urging the board to consider the importance of teaching experience for district leaders. She also pointed out that at least one SBOE member, Pat Hardy, had voiced her opinion that the teaching experience requirement ought to be increased, not eliminated. SBEC members and classroom teachers Suzanne McCall and Brad Allard (who is also an ATPE member) voted no on the proposal and spoke out against the rule today; they shared their strong opinions that classroom experience is essential for success in leading a school district. Allard told his fellow board members, “Until you’ve gone through the grind, you’re not going to understand what’s going on at ground level.” However, other board members disagreed with the need for teaching experience. SBEC member Kathryn Everest, a school counselor, argued that schools are businesses and need leaders with business acumen rather than teaching experience. SBEC member Leon Leal, a business owner who supported both parts (a) and (b) of the proposed rule, explained that he viewed the proposal as a way to help school districts that are struggling financially by giving their school boards more flexibility in hiring superintendents. Leal stated, “The education system is broke in a lot of our districts,” and he urged the board to “allow those districts to have options.”

The amended version of the superintendent certification rule as adopted today by SBEC will now head back to the SBOE in January for another review. Other items discussed at today’s SBEC meeting included changes to the rules for admission to an educator preparation program and disciplinary rules for certified educators. ATPE’s Kuhlmann will provide a detailed update on those matters for Teach the Vote next week.TTV

From The Texas Tribune: Who Will Be the Next Texas Education Chief?

by Morgan Smith, The Texas Tribune
November 22, 2015

 

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Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to appoint a new commissioner of education.

A few days after Michael Williams announced he would step down as the state’s top education official in January, he described the post as the most challenging job he’s ever had.

“There is more concern and interest in what we do at [the Texas Education Agency] than anything else I’ve ever done,” said Williams during an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival in October.

His 30-year-long resume in state and federal government includes prosecuting members of the Ku Klux Klan as a U.S. Department of Justice attorney and over a decade on the Texas Railroad Commission.

Leading the Texas Education Agency — which involves overseeing the state’s approximately 1,200 school districts and charter schools — is a role that requires both diplomacy and policy chops.

Williams’ successor in the governor-appointed position will inherit an ongoing state funding lawsuit brought by two-thirds of Texas school districts, an uneasy gridlock with the federal government over teacher evaluation policy, and an agency still recovering from drastic 2011 cuts to budgets and personnel. All those problems must be tackled while balancing the demands of state lawmakers, school leaders, and, of course, the governor’s office.

As Gov. Greg Abbott ponders possibilities to fill the job, he will be doing a balancing act of his own among the wide-ranging, though sometimes overlapping, factions within the education community.

So who might be among his choices for the next education commissioner? Let’s take a look.

A reform champion: With his education platform, Abbott has strived for the support of the homeschoolers, business-oriented accountability groups, charter school advocates, and voucher proponents who make up the education reform movement. So any appointee he selects is likely to at least be palatable to those groups, if not one of their own.

Examples: Chris Barbic, founder of the Houston-based Yes Prep charter school network; Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP Public Schools and superintendent of KIPP Houston; Former Texas House Public Education Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington.

Complications: Asking someone to move from the innovation-focused environment of charter schools and business to a regulation-laden agency may be a hard sell. And some options — particularly Grusendorf, a harsh critic of public schools who has continued to be an outspoken proponent of school choice since losing his seat in 2006 — may be polarizing.

A veteran school administrator: In its day-to-day function, the agency’s biggest constituents are the school officials who weigh in on and carry out its policies throughout the state. Having a leader who has already earned their respect while coming up through their ranks could be a big help. But anyone Abbott selects from this crowd is also going to need a track record of playing well with the reform movement.

Examples: Former Spring Branch ISD superintendent Duncan Klussman; Grand Prairie ISD superintendent Susan Hull; Hutto ISD superintendent Doug Killian; Alief ISD superintendent HD Chambers; Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

Complications: In most cases, superintendents of large to mid-sized Texas school districts would be taking a pay cut to lead the agency. A choice from within the ranks of school administrators may also carry the perception that Abbott isn’t pushing hard enough for school reform.

A politico: Appointing a former lawmaker with an education background has two primary advantages: direct experience with statewide policymaking and (ideally) good relationships with the current elected officials who will be passing the laws that the agency is charged with implementing. Some in this category could also walk the line between the establishment and reform camps.

Examples: Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, who announced he’s not running for re-election in May; former Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano; Former state Rep. Dee Margo, an El Paso Republican who since leaving the House has led El Paso ISD’s Board of Managers; Grusendorf.

Complications: Once an elected official has made the decision to leave public service, it may be difficult to persuade him or her to return, especially to a job as grueling as running the education agency.

An agency insider: Why not eliminate the learning curve and appoint someone from within who can immediately begin making changes that advance the governor’s priorities?

Example: Deputy Education Commissioner Lizzette Reynolds.

Complications: If Abbott selects from within, he could lose the opportunity to make an appointment that would immediately put his own stamp on the agency.


 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2015/11/22/who-will-be-next-texas-education-chief/.

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

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

 


 

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

Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

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

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


 

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

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

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

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

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


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

 

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

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


 

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

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Oct. 16, 2015

It’s been a busy week for Texas public education. Here are this week’s big stories:


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting today, Oct. 16, and acting on several high-profile issues, including certification standards for superintendents. Read our blog post from earlier this afternoon about the board’s decision to allow superintendents to pursue certification despite having no prior experience as a certified teacher or principal.

After hearing testimony from ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann and others opposed to the SBEC proposal, the board did vote today to modify its rule so as to require superintendent candidates at least to hold a graduate degree and also require school boards to notify the public of their rationale for hiring any non-traditionally trained superintendents under the new rule. The SBEC rule as adopted today heads next to the State Board of Education for review before it can be implemented.

Read ATPE’s press release on today’s vote.


 

TOY RevathiATPE congratulates Revathi Balakrishnan on being named the 2016 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year (TOY).

Revathi is an ATPE member and TAG specialist for Patsy Sommer Elementary School in Round Rock ISD. The TOY Program recognizes educators who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in teaching and is overseen by the Texas Association of School Administrators.

ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey and State Vice President Julleen Bottoms were among those in attendance at today’s ceremony where the winners were announced.


 

Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams announced this week his plans to resign at the end of the calendar year. After notifying Gov. Greg Abbott of his decision in writing, Williams notified his staff at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on Thursday morning, Oct. 16, and thanked them for their efforts. Williams cited a desire to return to his home in Arlington from which he has commuted to work in Austin for many years.

An attorney and former member of the Texas Railroad Commission, Williams has held the post overseeing Texas public schools since September 2012, when he was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry. He previously served under the administration of President George H.W. Bush as assistant secretary of education for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

ATPE issued a written press statement yesterday on the commissioner’s announcement.


 

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced today its plans for implementing House Bill 743 of 2015 to shorten the duration of some STAAR tests. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter provided an update today on our Teach the Vote blog about the developments. View TEA’s press release about the testing changes here, and view ATPE’s press release on the announcement here.


 

On Monday, Oct. 12, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released his interim charges for the Senate Education Committee to study this year and next. The topics include such familiar education issues favored by conservative lawmakers as private school vouchers and expanding charter schools. Read the complete list in our Teach the Vote blog post from Monday. Patrick has already directed the Senate Committee on State Affairs to study the practice of payroll deduction for processing of educators’ and other public employees’ voluntary dues payments to professional organizations such as ATPE.


 

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees will be holding a town hall meeting on Thursday, Oct. 22, beginning at 8:30 a.m. to discuss health care issues, including TRS-Care and TRS-Activecare. The meeting will be interactive and anyone viewing through the TRS website will be able to submit questions electronically. ATPE will be participating on a panel to discuss how increased costs and funding deficiencies affect active and retired public education employees. Teach the Vote will provide updates on the event next week.


 

Are you on Twitter? Follow Teach the VoteATPE, and members of our lobby team to get the latest updates and breaking education news. Here’s a sampling of tweets from this week:

 

SBEC votes to approve changes to superintendent certification criteria

SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting today, Oct. 16, and taking up several agenda items of great interest to the educator community.

First up for debate this morning was a controversial proposal to allow superintendents to become certified without having prior education experience and training that is currently required. As we have reported previously on our blog, ATPE has been a vocal opponent of the SBEC plan, originally proposed by board member Laurie Bricker, to do away with existing requirements for superintendents to have at least two years of classroom teaching experience, a principal’s certificate, and a master’s degree.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

In addition to submitting formal written comments to SBEC, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified against the proposal at SBEC’s August meeting and again today, citing classroom teaching experience as a crucial element in preparing superintendents to lead school districts effectively. After hearing public testimony from all four of the state’s major educator groups along with the Texas Association of School Administrators, board members debated the item for more than an hour this morning before voting to adopt a modified version of the rule. Under the new rule language, candidates may pursue superintendent certification without having prior experience as a certified principal and teacher; however, they will be required to hold a graduate degree and school districts will be required to share with the public their rationale for recommending the hire of such a non-traditional superintendent candidate.

Four SBEC members voted against the rule today, and we appreciate their voicing concerns about the changes to the rule. The no votes came from both superintendents serving on the board: Dr. Susan Hull from Grand Prairie ISD and Dr. Bonnie Cain from Waco ISD, who also serves as board chair. Also casting no votes today were two of the four teachers serving on the board: Suzanne McCall and Brad Allard, who is an ATPE member. Dr. Rex Peebles, who represents the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as a non-voting member of SBEC, also spoke eloquently on the need for transparency and maintaining high standards for superintendent candidates.

While the modified certification rule still does not require superintendents to have teaching experience, ATPE believes it is an improvement from SBEC’s original proposal in that it will restore a process for school districts to make their decisions transparent and will ensure that superintendent candidates have earned a graduate degree.Under state law, the SBEC certification rule change approved today still must be vetted by the State Board of Education, which meets in mid-November. (Related: read ATPE’s press statement on today’s SBEC vote.)

Other issues being discussed at today’s SBEC meeting include changes proposed for educator preparation program admission processes, reciprocity and comparability in certification standards compared to other states and jurisdictions, and new recommendations from the board’s Committee on Educator Discipline for future modifications to disciplinary rules for educators.

SBEC meets tomorrow, will consider new superintendent certification standards

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is scheduled to meet tomorrow, Oct. 16, in Austin. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and will be live-streamed through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website. View the full SBEC meeting agenda here.

One of the hot topics on tomorrow’s SBEC agenda is a scheduled final vote to adopt new standards for certification as a superintendent in Texas. As we have reported previously on our blog, ATPE opposes an SBEC proposal that would do away with existing requirements for superintendents to have at least two years of classroom teaching experience and a master’s degree. ATPE submitted formal written input to SBEC opposing the proposed rule change earlier this month, and ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified against the proposal at an earlier SBEC meeting in August. Read ATPE’s latest press statement about the controversial superintendent certification rule proposal here.SBEC

An SBEC Committee on Educator Discipline is also meeting today to review existing disciplinary policies and the process for sanctioning certified educators accused of misconduct. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote tomorrow and follow us on Twitter for updates on both meetings from ATPE’s Kate Kuhlmann.

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

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


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

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

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


 

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


 

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