/CMSApp/TTV/media/LegacyTTVBlogImages/blog-post-default.jpg /CMSApp/TTV/media/LegacyTTVBlogImages/blog-post-default.jpg

Teach the Vote's Week in Review: Nov. 6, 2015

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 11/06/2015 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell, CAE

In this week's wrap-up of education stories making the news in Texas, we showcase the following:

Writing the Constitution Voters across Texas approved seven amendments to the state constitution during Tuesday's general election. They include two measures that affect property taxes used to fund public education and others that will impact state revenue. Proposition #1 raises the homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000 and allows an additional $10,000 exemption for senior citizens and taxpayers with disabilities. The resulting decrease in locally generated monies for public education will have to be made up by state appropriations decided by the legislature. Proposition #1 passed by a margin of 86.37 percent to 13.62 percent. As a result of its passage, estimates suggest that average homeowners can expect to save approximately $126 per year, while the state will have to cover a loss of about $1.2 billion per year in local property tax revenue for public schools. However, in some parts of the state, individual savings provided by the increased homestead exemption may be offset by higher appraisals. Our friends at The Texas Tribune have provided an interactive tool where you can estimate your savings based on your zip code. Proposition #2 expands a property tax exemption for surviving spouses of disabled veterans; it passed by a margin of 91.41 to 8.58 percent. Another high-profile amendment, Proposition #7 will dedicate certain sales tax and other state revenue to the state highway fund; the measure passed by a margin of 83.23 percent to 16.76 percent, but some opponents worry that it will take away available state funding that could be used for other critical needs such as public education or healthcare. In the San Antonio area, voters in House District 118 also weighed in on a special election to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Joe Farias (D), who has opted to retire. Voters selected Republican John Lujan and Democrat Tomas Uresti to advance to a runoff election that will not occur until Jan. 19, 2016. View additional information on the special election candidates in the Resources section of Teach the Vote. Below are the HD 118 vote totals as reported by the Texas Secretary of State:
State Representative District 118 - Unexpired Term
Anthony Alcoser DEM 437 12.28% 932 12.06%
Robert A. Casias REP 157 4.41% 411 5.32%
Gabe Farias DEM 680 19.11% 1,452 18.80%
Michael Holdman REP 450 12.64% 1,028 13.31%
John Lujan REP 1,042 29.28% 2,172 28.12%
Tomas Uresti DEM 792 22.25% 1,727 22.36%
----------- -----------
Race Total 3,558 7,722
Precincts Reported 76 of 76 Precincts 100.00%
  Statewide voter turnout for the Nov. 3 election hovered around 11 percent or just under 14 million voters, considered high for constitutional amendment elections in Texas. Nearly half of those votes were cast during the early voting period.

Godsey, Wiggins, Brady, Colby, and Gregg During a Washington visit this year to discuss Social Security, ATPE leaders met with Congressman Kevin Brady, now tapped to head the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means. Pictured (left to right): Executive Director Gary Godsey, State Past President Richard Wiggins, Brady, State President Cory Colby, and Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg. As we reported last week, changes to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives are boding well for Texans. After electing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to serve as the new Speaker of the House, members of Congress have chosen Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to fill Ryan's former position as chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. The committee oversees tax-related legislation, along with Social Security. Brady has worked with ATPE and other education groups for several years to try to remedy controversial Social Security offset provisions that result in decreased retirement benefits for many educators.  

  As of this week, final interim charges have been put in place now for both the Texas House and Senate. House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) released the charges for House committees on Wednesday, while Senate interim charges were announced by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) last month. Committees on both sides of the state capitol will be taking up such hot-button issues as school finance, privatization, retired educators' benefits, and payroll deduction of public employees' voluntary dues for professional associations, such as ATPE. Read more about the specific issues that legislators on key committees will be studying over the next year in our Teach the Vote blog post from yesterday.

  As further evidence of lawmakers' ongoing interest in lowering property taxes, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced this week his appointment of seven senators to serve on a new select committee that will make recommendations for reforming Texas's property tax system. The Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief will be chaired by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and also includes Sens. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe); Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills); Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville); Charles Perry (R-Lubbock); Van Taylor (R-Plano); and Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio). According to a press release from the lieutenant governor, the select committee will hold public hearings around the state and make recommendations to the larger Senate Finance Committee on "ways to improve the property tax process as well as reduce the burden on property owners."

  The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has released a new report on states' teacher evaluation policies. The report entitled "State of the States 2015: Evaluating Teaching, Leading and Learning" looks at state trends in teacher evaluation policies, along with measures of principal effectiveness. Many states have implemented new laws requiring annual, performance-based appraisals of their teachers, often related to efforts to obtains waivers of federal accountability requirements under ESEA/NCLB. The NCTQ report shows that even under newer and more rigorous evaluation frameworks, most states still identify the majority of their teachers as effective or highly effective – a trend that NCTQ calls "troubling." The report criticizes Texas for not "requiring evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion" in a teacher's evaluation. Read the full report here.


Thank you for submitting your comment.
Oops, an unexpected error occurred! Please refresh the page and try again.