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James Talarico
Texas House District 50
Status

Incumbent

Party

Democrat

Occupation

State Representative/Education Consultant

Address

PO Box 15207, Austin, TX, 78761

Additional Information

First elected to the Texas House for District 52 in 2018. Current term expires Jan. 2023.

In 2022, Talarico is running for Texas House District 50 due to redistricting.

Talarico won a special election for HD 52 in 2018 and served the remainder of the term of former Rep. Larry Gonzales, who had resigned, before taking office for his first full term in Jan. 2019 and being re-elected in 2020.

Endorsed in the 2022 general election and Democratic primary election by Texas Parent PAC, a pro-public education organization that advocates for adequate and equitable funding of public schools, local control, teacher quality, and the prevention of private school vouchers. He also received the group's endorsement in the 2020 and 2018 elections.

Endorsed by the editorial board of the Austin American-Statesman in the 2022 Democratic primary election. He also received their endorsement in the 2020 general election.

In the 2018 election, he was recommended favorably by Texans for Public Education, a grassroots educators' group that researched and rated candidates in the 2018 election based on their stances toward public schools.


Related Blog Posts

  • House Vote #1 - 2021: VOUCHERS

    Voted for a budget amendment to prohibit state funds from being spent on private school vouchers. ATPE supported the amendment.

    House Floor Amendment #84 by Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) to Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), 87th Legislature, Regular Session. The House passed the ATPE-supported amendment during its debate on the budget bill, April 22, 2021. (Record vote #410. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.)

  • House Vote #2 - 2021: SPECIAL EDUCATION

    Voted against a bill creating the "Supplemental Special Education Services" grant, which allows parents of eligible students in special education to apply for a grant of up to $1,500 for the purchase of supplemental educational services and materials.

    Senate Bill 1716 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), sponsored in the House by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), 87th Legislature, Regular Session. The bill as passed by the Senate would have created a special education voucher program, which ATPE opposed, but the House removed the voucher language. On May 26, 2021, the House voted to pass its version of the bill on third reading, sending SB 1716 to the governor without objection from ATPE. (Record vote #1516. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.)

  • House Vote #3 - 2021: COMPENSATION

    Voted for an amendment that would have ensured teachers could keep pay raises they had received as a result of 2019 school finance legislation. ATPE supported the amendment.

    House Floor Amendment #14 by Rep. Chris Turner (D-Arlington) to House Bill 1525 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingsville), 87th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 21, 2021, the House passed the ATPE-supported amendment during its floor debate on a school finance clean-up bill. (Record vote #387. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.)

  • House Vote #4 - 2021: CIVICS AND CURRICULUM

    Voted against a bill that mandated changes to social studies curriculum standards, sought to ban the teaching of concepts that have been associated with "critical race theory," limited students' access to course credit for activities related to legislation, and restricted educators' discussions of controversial topics and current events in the classroom. ATPE opposed the bill.

    House Bill 3979 by Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), 87th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 11, 2021, the House voted to pass the ATPE-opposed bill on third reading. (Record vote #982. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.) Read more about the bill here.

  • House Vote #5 - 2021: CIVICS AND CURRICULUM

    Voted against a bill passed during the second special session that replaced HB 3979 passed during the regular session. The bill requires the State Board of Education to change social studies curriculum standards and seeks to ban the teaching of concepts that have been associated with "critical race theory." SB 3 mandates a civics training academy for certain teachers and requires that teachers address controversial topics in an objective manner free from political bias. ATPE opposed the bill overall but supported House floor amendments that made the bill better than its predecessor, HB 3979.

    Senate Bill 3 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), sponsored in the House by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 87th Legislature, Second Called Session. On Sept. 2, 2021, the House amended and then voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #150. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal). Read more about SB 3 here.

  • House Vote #6 - 2021: HOME-SCHOOL UIL

    Voted for a bill that allows home-schooled students to participate in University Interscholastic League (UIL) activities on behalf of and at the expense of a school district without meeting the same academic requirements under "no pass, no play" rules that apply to public school students. ATPE opposed the bill.

    House Bill 547 by Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), 87th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 13, 2021, the House voted to approve the ATPE-opposed bill on third reading. (Record vote #1028. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.) The Senate later amended HB 547, removing House provisions that would have given coaches additional authority to verify home-schooled students' academic eligibility and allowed students served by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to participate in UIL. On May 28, 2021, the House voted to concur with the Senate amendments to the bill, thereby sending a final version of HB 547 to the governor. (Record vote #1556. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.) Read more about the bill here.

  • House Vote #7 - 2021: CHARTER SCHOOLS

    Voted for a bill that expands property tax exemptions for charter schools and those who lease property to a charter school. ATPE opposed the bill.

    House Bill 3610 by Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio), 87th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 8, 2021, the House voted to approve the ATPE-opposed bill on third reading. (Record vote #913. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.) Read more about the bill here.

  • House Vote #8 - 2021: RETIREMENT

    Voted for a bill authorizing a one-time supplemental payment or "13th check" of up to $2,400 to TRS retirees. ATPE supported the bill.

    Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), sponsored in the House by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), 87th Legislature, Second Called Session. On Aug. 30, 2021, the House voted to approve the ATPE-supported bill on third reading. (Record vote #98. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.)

  • House Vote #9 - 2021: VIRTUAL SCHOOLS

    Voted for a bill that would have expanded full-time virtual school programs statewide. ATPE opposed the bill.

    House Bill 1468 by Rep. Keith Bell (R-Forney), 87th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 28, 2021, the House voted to approve the ATPE-opposed bill on third reading. (Record vote #497. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.) The Senate passed an amended version of HB 1468, and the bill was eventually sent to a conference committee to generate a compromise version. HB 1468 ultimately died when the House failed to vote on the conference committee report before the regular session ended.

  • House Vote #10 - 2021: VIRTUAL SCHOOLS

    Voted for a bill that expands funding and authorization for full-time virtual school programs statewide. ATPE opposed the bill.

    Senate Bill 15 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), sponsored in the House by Rep. Keith Bell (R-Forney), 87th Legislature, Second Called Session. Based on the ATPE-opposed HB 1468 that failed to pass in the regular session, SB 15 expands state funding options for students in full-time virtual schools. On Aug. 30, 2021, the House voted to pass the bill on third reading. (Record vote #96. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal.)

  • House Vote #11 - 2021: ACCOUNTABILITY

    Voted for a bill that pauses accountability ratings for the 2021-22 school year, halts progressive sanctions for D- and F-rated schools once they earn a C rating, and clarifies due process protections for districts facing sanctions.

    Voted for/Voted against/Was "present not voting" on/Was absent for the vote on a bill that pauses accountability ratings for the 2021-22 school year, halts progressive sanctions for D- and F-rated schools once they earn a C rating, and clarifies due process protections for districts facing sanctions.

  • House Vote #12 - 2021: TESTING/ACCELERATED INSTRUCTION

    Voted for a bill that eliminated the STAAR passage requirement for grade promotion but requires accelerated instruction for students who failed a STAAR test.

    House Bill 4545 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), 87th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 28, 2021, the House voted to concur with Senate amendments to the bill, which sent a final version of HB 4545 to the governor. (Record vote #1689. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal). Read more about the bill here.

  • House Vote #13 - 2021: ACCELERATED INSTRUCTION

    Voted for a bill that would have eased implementation of HB 4545, passed during the regular session, by limiting the subjects in which tutoring is required for students who failed a STAAR test and offering temporary relief from tutoring group size limits.

    House Bill 233 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 87th Legislature, Second Called Session. On Sept. 2, 2021, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #153. View an official record of the vote in the House Journal). The bill ultimately died when the Senate declined to hear it before the end of the session. Read more about the bill here.

  • (Historical) House Vote #1 - 2019: EDUCATION FUNDING & REFORM

    Voted for a major school finance and reform bill providing $6.5 billion in increased funding for public education and $5 billion for property tax relief.

    House Bill 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 3, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #159. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)

  • (Historical) House Vote #2 - 2019: RETIREMENT

    Voted for an ATPE-supported educator retirement bill making the TRS pension fund sound by increasing contribution rates and authorizing a one-time 13th check for retirees.

    Senate Bill 12 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 25, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #661. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)

  • (Historical) House Vote #3 - 2019: SCHOOL SAFETY

    Voted for an ATPE-supported school safety bill offering funding to implement school safety improvements and provide mental health resources.

    Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 22, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #1610. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)

  • (Historical) House Vote #4 - 2019: SCHOOL SAFETY

    Voted for a floor amendment to Senate Bill 11 requiring the state to identify regional resources that schools can use to address students' mental health needs. The amendment was based on Rep. Allison's HB 4414, a bill supported by ATPE.

    House Floor Amendment #8 by Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) to Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. During the House floor debate on this school safety bill, Rep. Allison offered Floor Amendment #8 to improve mental health resources in schools. The amendment passed on May 21, 2019. (Record vote #1579. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.) Procedural note: This amendment was later reconsidered and amended before being adopted by the House again. (Record vote #1600. View an official record of that subsequent vote in the House journal.)

  • (Historical) House Vote #5 - 2019: CLASS SIZES

    Voted against a bill that would have weakened the 22:1 cap on elementary school class sizes. ATPE opposed the bill.

    House Bill 1133 by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 9, 2019, the House voted to defeat the bill on second reading. (Record vote #1244. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)

  • (Historical) House Vote #6 - 2019: EDUCATOR QUALITY

    Voted for an ATPE-supported bill that would have funded and strengthened mentoring programs for teachers.

    House Bill 102 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 9, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #197. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.) HB 102 did not get heard by the Senate, but its language was incorporated into HB 3 that did pass and become law.

  • (Historical) House Vote #7 - 2019: EDUCATOR QUALITY

    Voted for a bill to require certain school districts to assign properly certified teachers to students in elementary grades and prevent students from being taught by first-year teachers in consecutive years. HB 1276 would have applied to school districts with at least 5,000 students, unless the district was exempted under the District of Innovation (DOI) law or received a hardship waiver from the commissioner of education. The bill was designed to prevent students from being assigned for two consecutive school years to teachers with less than one year of experience or teachers not certified in the subject being taught as part of the foundation curriculum. Exceptions were provided for new transfer students and students whose parent or guardian consents to the placement. ATPE supported the bill.

    House Bill 1276 by Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 25, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #746. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.) The bill ultimately died after it did not get heard in the Senate.

  • (Historical) House Vote #8 - 2019: CHARTER SCHOOLS

    Voted for a floor amendment to House Bill 3 to increase the transparency and efficiency of charter schools by requiring them to undergo an audit of their fiscal management prior to expanding or opening new campuses and to share the audit results on their website. ATPE supported the amendment.

    House Floor Amendment #15 by Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd) to House Bill 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. During the House floor debate on the school finance bill, Rep. Bailes offered Floor Amendment #15 on charter school transparency and efficiency. The amendment passed on April 3, 2019. (Record vote #153. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.) The Senate later stripped the amendment out of the bill.

  • (Historical) House Vote #9 - 2019: POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT

    Voted against a bill that would prohibit school districts and other local governmental entities from funding legislative advocacy efforts or paying membership dues to organizations that engage in legislative advocacy.

    Senate Bill 29 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 20, 2019, the House voted to defeat the bill on third reading. (Record vote #1519. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)

Candidate Survey Responses


RESPONSES TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

1. If elected, what will be your top priorities for public education?

Even though we teach one in 10 children in the United States, our education system has failed to keep pace with our population growth. Texas has failed year after year to adequately fund its school districts, leaving local property taxpayers to pick up the tab, and forcing districts to slash funding for everything from music programs to athletics to a bare minimum. This is why crafting HB 3, and fixing our broken school finance system, was my top priority of the 86th Legislative Session.

During the 87th session, I passed the first-ever cap on pre-K class sizes in Texas, a policy to open up millions in funds for social-emotional learning programs, a $25 cap on insulin copays, and a law requiring all incarcerated minors in Texas be given the opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma. For these major accomplishments, I was honored to be named one of the Top 10 Best Legislators by Texas Monthly magazine.

I want to continue focusing on universal full-day early childhood education, promoting restorative justice practices in schools, tax-free school supplies for educators, civics education, and promoting social-emotional learning programs in schools.

That being said, every session should be a school finance session, and we must continue working to provide a sustainable revenue stream for our public education system. I support more robust benefit plans and pay increases for teachers, supporting our retired teachers, better school lunch offerings, and expanded extracurricular programs.

2. What are your recommendations for funding public education, including securing the necessary revenue to sustain the improvements made by House Bill 3 in 2019? Do you believe additional funding is needed?

While HB 3 was historic school finance legislation, there is much work still left to do including finding sustainable revenue streams to ensure we keep the long-term promises we made in HB 3 to properly fund public education. Simply relying on a high-performing economy to properly educate our students and support our educators is irresponsible — especially so in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe we must close tax loopholes that allow commercial property owners to unfairly reduce their taxes, passing the responsibility of funding our schools to residential property owners. I was proud to have authored legislation in the 86th session that would have required the sales price disclosure for commercial properties. This would have been a crucial step forward to securing necessary long-term revenue streams for education.

3. How would you address the challenge of rising health care costs facing Texas educators and ensure that active and retired educators have access to affordable health care?

Skyrocketing healthcare costs have made it a lot more expensive to be a teacher. Regarding health insurance, we need to ensure the recent changes to TRS-Care will not result in denied care. Given the Legislature’s inability to address the entire $1 billion shortfall facing TRS-Care, our retirees will face higher premiums and benefit reductions if the state does nothing.

I believe that teachers’ benefits need to keep pace with inflation and rising premiums. The 13th check was a step in the right direction but didn’t solve the very real problems our educators face. Texas has long neglected its duty in funding its benefits programs, failing year after year to meet its obligations to state employees. Rather than continuing to rely on funding stopgaps each biennium, I would support a permanent solution to the funding formula for TRS-Care including increasing the percentage amount applied to the state payroll to align insurance costs to actual health care costs.

4. Do you believe the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) should be maintained as a traditional defined benefit pension plan for all future, current, and retired educators, or do you support converting TRS to a defined contribution plan that is more like a 401(k) plan, in which future benefits are not guaranteed?

I support traditional defined benefit pension plans. While contribution plans may be cheaper, they shift the burden of retirement savings to teachers, rather than the state, and put our educators’ futures at risk. After a teacher dedicates their entire life to empowering the next generation, they deserve to have a secure retirement, and that’s achievable only through defined benefits plans. As a state legislator, I will continue to fight to protect retirees’ pensions and health care.

5. What do you feel is the proper role of standardized testing in the Texas public education system? For instance, should student test scores be used for teacher pay, school accountability ratings, evaluating teachers, measuring student progress, etc.?

While any educator will tell you that assessment is a necessary part of any successful classroom, I don’t believe state standardized tests should be the sole, or even the majority, means of evaluating teachers. Teachers and students are so much more than the results of a single test.

Instead, the role of these tests should be to help with benchmarking and agenda-setting and to offer teachers perspective on their students’ progress. Great teachers seamlessly integrate assessment into their lessons and continually collect quantitative and qualitative data on their students’ learning. Then, they use this data to inform their instruction. The state should adopt this same model.

In some ways, standardized testing has improved our field in the past three decades by elevating data-driven instruction and ensuring all student populations are being served. However, the current testing regime represents an overcorrection and must be addressed.

6. Would you vote to create any type of voucher, tax credit, scholarship, education savings account, or other program aimed at paying for students, including any subpopulation of students, to attend non-public K-12 schools, such as private or home schools?

No.

7. State law allows educators and other public employees to voluntarily choose to join professional associations such as ATPE and have membership dues deducted from their paychecks at no cost to taxpayers. Do you support or oppose letting all public employees continue to exercise this right?

I support allowing public employees to decide what to do with their own paychecks. It’s not the role of the State of Texas to prevent teachers from automatically deducting their association dues, especially at zero cost to the taxpayers. Overturning this law would needlessly harm unions and associations that advocate for our educators. As a proud former teacher union member myself, I strongly encourage all educators to join a union or association.

8. What role, if any, should charter schools have in the public education system, and do you feel the number of charter schools operating in Texas should be reduced or expanded?

I believe there is a role for high-quality nonprofit public charter schools in our education system. Initially, the charter school system was created to support traditional public schools as laboratories of innovation to test different pedagogies and identify best practices that could be implemented at scale in traditional public schools. As a teacher in a traditional public school in San Antonio ISD, I used innovative classroom management techniques pioneered by Houston’s KIPP Public Charter School network.

Unfortunately, that’s not the system we have now, but the system I believe we should return to. Therefore, my primary concern is not with the number of public charter schools, but with the quality of public charter schools and their utility to our traditional public education system. I strongly support efforts to level the playing field between public charter schools and traditional public schools as well as legislation to encourage productive collaboration between these two systems.

9. How much freedom should school districts have to make decisions during disease outbreaks, such as requiring face coverings and immunizations or transitioning to remote instruction?

None of us want to have to make difficult decisions on how to keep Texans safe during this pandemic, especially when our safety comes at the cost of essential social development and providing our kids with the best quality education. I trust local leaders to make the best decisions they can for their communities, using guidance from healthcare experts and the CDC. Statute has long allowed school districts to take public health measures, and they should retain this ability.

10. What do you believe is the proper role of virtual education within the public education system? Do you believe full-time virtual education should be expanded, and if so, under what circumstances?

While I share the concerns of educators about the long-term effects of virtual learning on the academic and social-emotional needs of our students, I supported SB 15 because the funding it provides is necessary during such a challenging time for students and teachers. It is crucial that we continue monitoring student progress in remote learning environments, and I believe the Texas Legislature should revisit these issues next legislative session. I would oppose efforts to use virtual schools to privatize public education and would oppose legislation that would extend or remove the sunset date on district-level virtual schools.

11. What do you feel should be the state’s role (versus the role of school districts or individual educators) in decisions about public school curriculum and instructional materials?

For years, Texas educators have expressed concern about the increasing number of unfunded state mandates and overly-prescriptive policies. I believe, whenever possible, the Texas Legislature should create flexibility for local educators to meet local challenges. It’s inappropriate for the state legislature to interfere in local control or stifle community-driven innovations like lengthening the school year or experimenting with new programs.

However, certain protections should be instituted to protect educators, students, and families. I have grave concerns with districts using exemptions from class-size limits to cut costs. Oversight can, and is necessary, to protect kids and teachers. However, we should balance state oversight with local control.

12. The COVID-19 pandemic and additional instructional support needed to remediate students’ learning losses have placed additional strain on public schools’ staffing needs. How would you work to ensure classrooms are appropriately staffed, teachers’ workloads are manageable, and planning time is not sacrificed amid these challenges?

The past two years have only added to the extent our teachers are overburdened and overworked. That’s why I have led on enforcing caps on class size and supporting high-quality tutoring in our schools. Research shows that these policies are most effective at remediation and easing teacher workload.

Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey


No additional comments