It’s just that simple.
November 6 is less than a month away, and a crucial deadline is upon us. Tuesday, Oct. 9, is the last day for those who have not yet registered to vote to do so in order to cast your ballot.
This is also an important date for those who are registered to vote, but may have recently relocated. For example, you may have registered to vote in Harris County, but recently moved to Travis County. In that case, you have until tomorrow to register in Travis County; otherwise, you’d have to drive back to Harris County to cast your ballot Nov. 6.
So how do I register?
The Texas Secretary of State’s VoteTexas.org website tells you just about everything you need to know. First off, it allows you check if you’re already registered. If you’re not, there are two basic ways you can register.
The first method is to simply find your county’s voter registrar and fill out an application in person. The voter registrar is usually tax assessor-collector or county clerk, and their office is easy to find by doing a web search. The application is generally a single page and should take you less than five minutes. Your other option is to fill out the state’s online application and mail it to your county’s voter registrar by tomorrow. You can read more information about how to find an application by clicking here.
How do I know if I’m eligible to register to vote?
You are eligible to register to vote if:
- You are a United States citizen;
- You are a resident of the county where you submit the application;
- You are at least 17 years and 10 months old, and you are 18 years of age on Election Day.
- You are not a convicted felon (you may be eligible to vote if you have completed your sentence, probation, and parole); and
- You have not been declared by a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be either totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote.
The Texas Tribune also put together some voter registration resources here. Once you’ve registered to vote, make sure and go to TeachTheVote.org and click on the CANDIDATES tab to see who’s running in your area. You can view each’s candidate’s answers to our public education policy survey, as well as how incumbent legislators voted on important education issues last session.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times: Legislative battles are won in November. If we fail to elect strong pro-public education candidates, we can’t expect to prevail when important education questions are debated in the Texas Legislature. This election is CRITICAL to making sure we move the ball forward, not backward.
Even if you’re already registered, you can do your part by informing friends and family that Tuesday is the last chance to register if they haven’t already – and make sure they follow through! Early voting begins Oct. 22 and runs through Nov. 2, and Election Day is Nov. 6.
Here are highlights of this week’s education news, courtesy of the ATPE Governmental Relations team:
The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting today in Austin. The board’s agenda includes revisiting a new certification rule that was recently vetoed by the State Board of Education and beginning a periodic review of the requirements for certification as a superintendent in Texas. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann is at the meeting and has provided this report on today’s discussions.
Tuesday, Oct. 9, is the deadline to register to vote in the November 2018 general election. With statistics showing that Texas ranks dead last in the country for voter turnout, and with educators in other states making headlines by running for office and voting to oust elected officials who don’t support public schools, now is the time for Texas educators to make a big showing at the polls. The November general election will determine who holds such critical offices as Texas governor, lieutenant governor, and numerous seats in the state legislature and SBOE. Races for the Texas House will help determine who becomes our next House Speaker, and the people elected will be empowered to make crucial decisions that affect your paycheck, your working conditions, and most importantly, your students.
If you aren’t yet registered to vote, simply fill out an application and drop it in the mail no later than Tuesday. Not sure if you’re registered? Find out here. If you’re already registered, do you part to help others know about Tuesday’s deadline. Make sure your friends, family members, and even eligible students are registered to vote by Tuesday.
Once your registration is secure, the next step is to learn about the candidates who’ll be on your ballot. Our candidate profiles right here on Teach the Vote allow you to research all legislators’ voting records, the candidates’ responses to our survey on education issues, and more to help you make informed choices at the polls. If the candidates in your area haven’t answered our ATPE Candidate Survey, please encourage them to contact us. It’s a great tool for sharing their education views with voters.
The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting in Austin today. ATPE is here to testify and cover the meeting, with a particular focus on two agenda items.
The first item is one that we have reported on thoroughly. The 85th Texas Legislature passed HB 3349 in 2017, which created an abbreviated educator preparation program (EPP) pathway for certain candidates interested in obtaining a new certificate titled the Trade and Industrial Workforce Training Certificate. As SBEC worked to implement the bill via rule, ATPE expressed significant concerns with pieces of the rule that failed to maintain high standards for EPPs in Texas. SBEC ultimately adopted the language without the changes we and other teacher organizations requested. However, as the State Board of Education (SBOE) reviewed the rule, members of the board shared ATPE’s concerns and unanimously rejected the proposal, sending it back to SBEC for further review.
SBEC adopted a new proposal today, and ATPE appreciates that the changes address many of our concerns. Specifically, the proposal addresses three key concerns:
- It now maintains a focus on critical pre-service hours by honoring the same 180-hour structure that is required of all other candidates entering the classroom.
- It no longer expands the abbreviated program path to the Marketing and Health Science certificates.
- It now ensures only EPPs are able to provide training.
The fourth issue we raised, regarding the fact that the proposal fails to prevent these new certificate holders from becoming certified in any other field simply by taking a certification exam without the additional training required of all other candidates, will be addressed at a future SBEC meeting.
ATPE also closely watched an agenda item today regarding a review of the rules pertaining to the Superintendent Certificate. This rule has seen a lot of action in recent years with some seeking to create a non-traditional pathway that fails to require prior experience in public education (including teaching experience) and advanced education. ATPE has consistently opposed such a pathway for Superintendents and recently submitted comments to the board encouraging them to reject any efforts to create the pathway. The Texas Association of School Administrators also attended the meeting today and shared ATPE’s position to maintain the current rule without changes. The board had a positive conversation regarding the importance of administrators as instructional leaders. We will continue to monitor this issue to ensure teaching experience, along with strong managerial experience and educational background, is stressed as key to the success of superintendents.
SBEC meets again in December.
U.S. Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) who chairs the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, along with Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA), has introduced H.R. 6933 to amend Title II of the Social Security Act. The bill would replace the windfall elimination provision (WEP) with a formula equalizing benefits for certain individuals with non-covered employment.
ATPE has worked closely with Chairman Brady to bring forward a bill that addresses the inequities in the current law, which stem from the arbitrary formula known as the windfall elimination provision. The goal for both ATPE and Chairman Brady is to put in place a formula that can both pass Congress and get more money on average into the pockets of retirees by treating them more fairly than they are treated under current law.
Stay tuned to TTV for a deeper dive on the bill as well as updates as it moves through the legislative process.
Congress passed a funding bill today that averts a looming government shutdown and, among other spending, includes FY 2019 funding for the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The measure now heads to President Trump for his signature.
Under the spending measure, the overall federal education budget is increased based on current levels, with major programs like Title I and special education seeing program specific bumps. President Trump asked for more than $7 billion in overall budget cuts to ED in his budget request to Congress earlier this year. Congress’s education budget also largely ignores his request to funnel north of $1 billion to various school choice programs, but does include increased funding for charter school grants.
The bill increases funding levels for a grant aimed at creating safer schools. Despite efforts from Democrats, a prohibition on using certain funding under the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) to arm teachers in schools did not make it into the bill. Texas has been at the center of the debate following questions from Texas school districts asking whether Title IV ESSA funding could be used to arm teachers. At a hearing on ESSA held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee yesterday, the issue again garnered significant attention. Education Secretary Betsy Devos has maintained that the law offers districts considerable flexibility and does not specifically prohibit spending on arming teachers.
President Trump said earlier today that he will sign the measure, which keeps the government running through December 7 and also funds the Defense, Labor, and Health and Human Services Departments.
Oklahoma educators are among those making news for their political involvement during this election season. As I reported in the Fall 2018 issue of ATPE News, more than 100 Oklahoma educators ran for local, state, and federal office this election cycle, and 71 advanced beyond the primary night election. Many ran against incumbent legislators who voted against or weren’t supportive of bills to fund public education and teacher pay raises.
Their momentum has not waned. In the recent primary run-off election (held after my ATPE News article went to print), Oklahoma educators joined their local community members to deliver more blows to the legislators who voted against their priorities earlier this year – ousting six more incumbents. In all, there were 19 Republican legislators who voted against the Oklahoma pay raise for teachers, and only four will remain on the general election ballot in November 2018.
Oklahoma educators who voted sent home a lawmaker who called their fights for pay raises and increased school funding “akin to extortion.” They rejected a long-time incumbent legislator in exchange for a former classroom teacher and current administrator. They voted in a political newcomer who was inspired to run by educators in lieu of another long-serving lawmaker who opposed their efforts.
As I wrote in my ATPE News article: “Educators nationwide are going into the November general election with momentum, and Texas educators are more than equipped to join the unrest… Active and retired educators combined make up huge numbers in Texas, numbers that have the power to swing elections. It just takes activism during election season.”
So get inspired and get involved! Your vote is needed and you have the power to effect real change in Texas. Vote for the legislators that you want making decisions about your schools, students, classrooms, and careers!
The Expenditures Subcommittee of the Texas Commission on Public School Finance met this week to lay out and vote on their recommendations back to the full commission. Based on both the recommendation and what the committee members had to say, it became clear that their primary goal is to drive dollars into increasing the basic allotment. They also have secondary goals of shifting funds out of programs not tied to educational programming and into programs designed to increase educational attainment for harder-to-teach students, particularly economically disadvantaged populations and English language learners.
The committee has not publicly released its report yet, but a summary breakdown of the recommendations can be found below. A video archive of the full subcommittee meeting, which lasted a little under an hour, is also available.
Group 1 – Reallocations of existing programs. This group represents approximately $5.3 billion to be spent on increasing existing initiatives and creating new initiatives.
- Reallocate the Cost of Education Index (CEI) – $2.9 billion
- Reallocate the 92-93 Hold Harmless – $30 million. This program only impacts 12 -20 school districts.
- Reallocate the Ch. 41 Early Agreement Credit – $50 million. Eliminates a program that currently pays property wealthy districts to sign an annual contract by Sept. 1 agreeing to pay the state what they owe in recapture. The discount did not require districts to prepay or early pay.
- Reallocate the Gifted and Talented (GT) allotment – $165 million. This recommendation eliminates the stand-alone allotment but does not eliminate other requirements to provide GT education from the Texas Education Code (TEC). Currently 99.9% of districts are at the 5% GT cap, meaning the same dollars can be more efficiently flowed out to schools through the basic allotment.
- Reallocate the High School Allotment – $400 million.
- Move from prior year to current year property values – $1.8 billion.
Group 2 – Increased spending on existing programs
- Increase state compensatory education allotment from 0.2 to a spectrum that ranges from 0.225 and 0.275 as part of a tiered system that pays out higher amounts to campuses with more severely challenging populations. Currently, the recommendation is still based on free and reduced lunch but could use a more sensitive metric.
- Change the transportation allotment to a millage-based approach at 0.83 cents per mile, to be set by appropriations.
- Allow Ch. 41 districts to get compensated by the transportation allotment at a $60 million cost.
- Fund the stand-alone small-size and mid-size district adjustment between $0 and $400 million outside the basic allotment, depending on where the basic allotment is set.
- Increase the New Instructional Facilities Allotment (NIFA) to $100 million. This represents a $76 million increase over last session.
- Expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) funding to include sixth through eighth grades – $20 million.
Group 3 – New programs
- Create a dual language allotment of 0.15 at a cost of between $15 and $50 million. This new allotment would be in lieu of (not in addition to) the bilingual allotment; you can either get the bilingual allotment or the dual language allotment, but not both.
- Create a dyslexia allotment of 0.1 – $100 million.
- Create a Kindergarten through third grade ELL/economically disadvantaged allotment of 0.1 – $786 million. This money is not tied to outcomes and can be used to fund any program that seeks to improve reading and math on grade level by grade three, including paying for full day Pre-Kindergarten programs.
- Create a grade three reading bonus of 0.4 – $400 million. This provides incentive money for students meeting grade level in reading on the 3rd grade standardized test.
- Create a College, Career, and Military Readiness Bonus – no specific weight – $400 million. This is envisioned as a reallocation of the High School Allotment and is aimed to drive the state’s “60/30” goals.
- Create a teacher compensation program – $100 million. This is the governor’s performance pay program. It is formula-based, not grant-based, and is not subject to appropriation. There will likely be no fiscal note for the program until year three, and it is envisioned to grow over time.
- Fund an extended year summer pilot program – $50 million. This program is intended to reduce summer learning losses for disadvantaged students.
Additional changes recommended:
- Change the guaranteed yield on the copper pennies from a set dollar amount to a percentage of the Basic Allotment. When the yield was set, the dollar amount used represented approximately 88% of the basic allotment. Now it is much less. Increasing the guaranteed yield increases state entitlement, which helps property poor districts and recapture districts.
- Decouple the golden pennies from Austin ISD.
Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for reporting on future actions of the commission.
Here’s your weekly wrap-up of education news from ATPE Governmental Relations:
- ATPE testifies to House budget panel on TRS shortfall
- Early voting for Texas Senate seat takes place next week
- ATPE responds to TEA’s funding request
- House committee issues interim school safety recommendations
- Long-range plan on SBOE agenda next week
Testifying at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III this week, ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter advocated for an expansion of the list of free and near-free drugs covered by TRS-Care. The subcommittee, which met Wednesday, oversees the state’s education budget, including the Teacher Retirement System’s pension fund and health insurance. A persistent lack of funding over the years has lead to an increased burden on both active and retired educators who have seen healthcare premiums rise with no increase in the percentage contributed to their pensions. The urgent need for more funding and resources for the TRS system will be a hot button issue during next year’s 86th Legislative Session, one that ATPE lobbyists will be tackling head on. Find out more about Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing in this article by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.
The 2018 general election is right around the corner, but even closer than that is a special election runoff in Texas Senate District 19 (SD 19). The special election was called when former Sen. Carlos Uresti stepped down following his felony conviction. While all Texans are not be able to participate in this one special election, all Texans will feel the effects of its outcome as San Antonio residents decide who will take one of the Texas Senate’s 31 seats.
Next Monday through Friday, Sept. 10-14, voters in the district that runs from the greater San Antonio metroplex to the tiny town of Orla, Texas, will have a say in whether Democrat Pete Gallego or Republican Pete Flores represents them in the state’s upper chamber when the legislature convenes in January. For those who miss early voting, the special election runoff for SD 19 will take place Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) posted its Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) this week ahead of formally presenting it to the Legislative Budget Board next Wednesday. LARs lay out all of an agency’s intended expenditures for the upcoming biennium and are, as a group, the basis for what will eventually become the state budget. TEA’s LAR includes not only agency-level spending but also all of the funding that flows through the Foundation School Program and out to school districts. As has been the case in the past, the TEA document includes a statement about reductions in the anticipated level of state spending based on the reliance on an assumed increase in local property tax collections. For the upcoming biennium, the agency is assuming the state will supplant $1.5 billion in state revenue by relying on these local dollars. ATPE released the following press statement in response.
The House Public Education Committee released its preliminary report on school safety this week. The report follows the release of similar interim documents by a Senate committee and Gov. Greg Abbott, but the House report is unique in its focus on directing state funding to accomplish a number of goals aimed at preventing future tragedies like the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.
The report is the result of several interim hearings held over the summer at the direction of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and committee chairman Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood). Read a summary of the report’s findings and take a look at the full report itself in this post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.
The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is scheduled to meet Tuesday through Friday of next week, and the agenda includes a formal look at its Long-Range Plan for Public Education.
The plan is the result of more than a year of meetings and stakeholder input, which includes in-person conferences and an online survey seeking guidance from educators and community members all over the state. The final product includes recommendations related to attracting and retaining educators and lifting up the education profession. Follow ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins on Twitter (@MarkWigginsTX) for updates on the plan, which will be discussed on Tuesday.
The office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a report today on school safety, specifically highlighting actions being taken by school districts to respond to growing concerns about violence in schools and related safety measures. The “School Safety Action Plan Summary” follows an earlier School and Firearm Safety Action Plan shared by the governor’s office earlier this year. The governor also convened a group of stakeholders back in July to discuss the issue, and ATPE’s state officers were invited to weigh in.
Among the safety measures noted in the governor’s summary report out today are training programs for educators, including the Mental Health First Aid course that is available at no cost to public school employees through their local mental health authorities. The eight-hour course for which educators can earn CPE credit focuses on identifying the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance abuse problems in students. Educators can learn more about the program here.
The governor’s report out today also highlights an increase in the number of school marshals, who are school employees trained and authorized to provide an armed response to violence incidents on a school campus. The school marshal program has existed since 2013 when the legislature passed House Bill 1009 by Rep. Jason Villalba, but relatively few school districts have opted into it. As ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter noted in this article for the Dallas Morning News, “Whether it’s due to a lack of knowledge of the programs available or a lack of will to implement them, school boards have clearly not made arming educators a priority.” Money is also an ongoing issue in the debate over keeping schools safe, as school districts that are already facing deficiencies in their revenue struggle to find ample cash to pay for additional training, make building updates, or provide mental health resources.
On Tuesday, Texas State Board of Education chair Donna Bahorich was a panelist in a listening session for the Federal Commission on School Safety. The event held in Montgomery, Alabama, was part of a series of listening sessions held around the country with the goal of devising strategies to improve school safety.
Bahorich talked about the mental health aspect of curbing violence in schools, including the need to remove the stigmas associated with seeking mental health treatment. “We need to do a paradigm shift around mental health,” Bahorich told the panel before sharing statistics about the prevalence of mental illness among schoolchildren. She also mentioned the concerns over expecting school counselors to fulfill both a mental health treatment function and academic counseling responsibilities, noting that Texas has been discussing whether such roles should be bifurcated. The full listening session broadcast can be viewed here. (The segment featuring Bahorich begins at 1:25:25 during the broadcast.)
Expect school safety to remain a top issue for consideration during the 2019 legislative session. A Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security held hearings on the issue this year and released an interim report of its findings earlier this month. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on this important issue.