Lawmakers convene

   January 10, 2019

Lawmakers convene with promises
of school finance changes

The first week of the legislative session was largely ceremonial, with the election of Dennis Bonnen as the new speaker of the House, adoption of rules in both chambers and promises of school finance changes from state leaders.

“We are going to solve school finance reform and property tax reform this session,” Gov. Greg Abbott declared. And Bonnen had the members’ lounge in the House stocked with cups imprinted with the words: “School Finance Reform, The Time Is Now.”

“You will be reminded every day of our goal,” the new speaker told his colleagues.

But goals are one thing, especially on a celebratory, opening day of a legislative session, and results have to be won. School finance reform also can mean different things to different people. To TSTA, school finance reform starts with adding new state funding to the public education budget, and that will be one of our primary goals for the four-month session. More state education funding also is key to providing school property tax relief. 

The money is there. Comptroller Glenn Hegar has projected an additional $9 billion in general revenue for the upcoming budget cycle, and he also has predicted a record $15 billion balance in the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s savings account.

The question is will legislators, their leaders and the governor have the political will to deliver on their promises before the session adjourns on Memorial Day. Part of TSTA’s job will be making sure lawmakers know that educators expect them to find that political will. So stay tuned for our legislative alerts and be prepared to contact your state senators and state representatives on education funding and other key issues — from educator health care to testing to retirement benefits — as the session progresses.

If you are not sure who represents you in the Texas House or state Senate, click on this link and fill in your home address to find out.

Among new legislators taking their oaths for the first time this week were two pro-public education senators and more than a dozen House members, both Democrats and Republicans, who were elected with TSTA’s support. They can make a positive difference for education funding and education policy, but only if they keep hearing from educators back home, the educators who elected them. People like you.

You can track education-related bills by going to this TELICON link, which will be continuously updated throughout the session as new bills are filed and bills move through the legislative process.

Delegate nomination forms for NEA Representative Assembly
are due this Monday

The NEA-RA will be in Houston July 4-7. Information about elections to the RA was published in the fall Advocate. Texas State Delegate nomination forms are due this Monday, Jan. 14. You can download the form by logging into the Members Only section of the TSTA website or by clicking here

Check here for details about the conference and pre-conference events.

Help SBOE review English Language Proficiency Standards

The State Board of Education is reviewing and revising the English Language Proficiency Standards and needs your help. The process includes the formation of a series of work groups to make recommendations for revisions to the board and a survey of educators to help inform the recommendations.

To provide feedback, please complete and submit the survey. If you want to serve on a work group, you can find more information and access to an application here

The process calls for multiple, separate work groups, whose members will be nominated by SBOE members. Educators and other individuals selected will be asked to serve on one or more work groups. The groups will convene in Austin for at least one face-to-face meeting, and additional meetings may be conducted via webinar.

Support our colleagues in California, who are fighting for their students

Members of the California Teachers Association in Los Angeles are preparing to go on strike Monday (Jan. 14) to force improvements in learning conditions in their classrooms and for the future of public education in their state. Other California educators throughout the state may soon follow. Wear #RedForEd in a show of solidarity this Friday (Jan. 11) and sign this petition and add your own personal message of support.

House Public Education Committee issues wide-ranging interim report

Among other things, the committee recommended that the Legislature consider limiting high-stakes, standardized testing for elementary and middle-school students; creating a Master Teacher certification to keep experienced teachers in the classroom; consider giving districts 12 months’ notice of planned charter expansions within the district; and reconsider laws that allow charters to exclude students with disciplinary histories.

The panel also studied school safety, following the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School last spring. It did not recommend arming teachers, but it did recommend more safety training for all school personnel and beefed-up law enforcement resources, including giving small school districts the option to create joint police departments with other districts.

You can find a copy of the full report here, covering a range of issues, including Hurricane Harvey response, teacher compensation, student assessment, students with disabilities, charter schools, educator preparation programs and school safety.

Another study highlights importance of defined-benefit pensions

A new report on educator pensions in Texas and five other states – Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri – says eight of 10 educators in these states can expect to collect pensions that are greater in value than what they could receive under an idealized 401(k)-style plan. The study also finds that there is more longevity among teachers in states with defined-benefit pensions.

The study’s conclusions are similar to those of a pension benefit design study recently prepared by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. The TRS study concluded that most TRS members would end up more financially at-risk if the Legislature were to convert their existing defined-benefit pension into a pension plan with a defined-contribution component, such as a 401(k).

Such proposals to undermine the TRS pension have died in recent legislative sessions, and TSTA will continue to fight similar proposals that may be introduced this year.

To download the complete multi-state report from the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the National Institute on Retirement Security, click here

Go here to register for a Jan. 17 webinar on the report.

TSTA accepting entries for young artist contest through Jan. 30

This contest is open to all students in kindergarten through 12th grade attending Texas public schools. Its purpose is to showcase student talent; recognize students, parents and teachers; and display prize-winning creations at TSTA headquarters. Winners will be selected by delegates to the TSTA House of Delegates convention in Frisco April 26-27.

The top five winners will receive gift cards ranging in value from $50 to $200 and a certificate from TSTA and will have their work displayed at TSTA headquarters in Austin for one year. Here is more information on contest rules and how to enter. This year’s theme is “The Heroes Around Me in My Public School.”



What real school finance reform is…and isn’t 

Read Across America calendar goes digital! 


Some of America’s poorest college kids are in financial aid limbo, thanks to disruptions at the IRS 

New Texas House Speaker Bonnen pledges unrelenting push for education funding 

EPISD school closures: Here’s what we know so far

Austin school board pushes back against task force recommendations 

DeVos moves to boost college online learning while reducing regulatory oversight 

Florida schools will install facial recognition cameras 

Yes, there are online preschools. And early childhood experts say they stink.