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Teach the Vote's Week in Review: Feb. 26, 2016

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 2/26/2016 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell, CAE

ThinkstockPhotos-485333274_VoteToday is the last day to vote early in the critical 2016 primary election. Election day is Tuesday, March 1. Many races will be completely decided as of Tuesday night, and those outcomes, especially in several legislative primary races, will impact educators significantly in 2017. ATPE urges all educators to get out and vote for pro-public education candidates today or Tuesday. Read more of this week's headlines:

Early voting ends tonight. Election day is Tuesday.

There's still time for the education community to make the difference in this important election. Take advantage of the many resources available to voters from ATPE and Teach the Vote:
  • Know where your candidates stand on public education and vote for candidates who will support your profession and your students! Click on the 2016 Races button now to view candidates' voting records, their responses to the ATPE candidate survey, lists of their major endorsements, and more.
  • Do you know where to go vote on Tuesday? Get answers to frequently asked questions about primary voting here in our "Things You Should Know..." post.
  • Learn about ballot propositions on the primary ballots that will help shape each party's platform. Proposition #3 on the Republican ballot is aimed at taking away educators' right to use payroll deduction for their voluntary professional membership dues. Be an informed voter by reading our recent blog post about the ballot propositions.
  • Visit TexasEducatorsVote.com for additional election resources from our coalition partners. Remind your colleagues of the importance of voting in this primary election, and see if they need help getting to the polls.

Congress held several meetings this week related to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the proposed federal education budget, and the new head of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann and our Washington, D.C. lobby team followed all the action and provided a full report. Read Kate's latest blog post on the federal developments here.

Monty Exter Monty Exter On Tuesday, Feb. 23, ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended and testified at the second meeting of the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. The commission members heard from elected and appointed officials, invited witnesses, and members of the public about concerns with state standardized tests and curriculum standards. Read Monty's full report on the commission meeting here. Check out additional coverage from the Austin American-Statesman here.

Kate Kuhlmann displaying her Kate Kuhlmann, wearing her "I Voted" sticker ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reported earlier this week on the status of teacher evaluation systems. Many states are considering revisions to their evaluation plans now that Congress has reduced the federal government's role in state education policies. Under ESSA, the federal government can no longer dictate to states what criteria they must include in their teacher evaluation systems. Texas is still in the process of piloting and rolling out a new evaluation framework that was developed to meet conditions imposed by the federal government before the law was changed. Will Texas follow the lead of other states and reconsider tying teacher evaluations to student growth measures, including standardized test score data? Much may depend on the outcome of Tuesday's primary election. Read Kate's blog post on the state of evaluations to learn more.

Josh Sanderson Josh Sanderson ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson reports here on the Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees, which held meetings this week in Richardson, Texas. Much of the Feb. 24-26 meeting dealt with a review of the pension trust fund and investment performance, as well as board policies and procedures. However, there was also a discussion and action taken on the retiree health care program, TRS-Care. The most pressing portion of the meeting dealt with the financial realities facing TRS-Care. Going into the 2017 legislative session Care is projected to be facing a deficit of nearly $1.5 billion. The TRS board and staff have done a commendable job managing Care given the funding restraints placed on the program by the legislature. In 2011, state funding was reduced by half for one year, and in 2015, the state had to add $768 million to the program simply to sustain it for two more years while a study could be conducted on sustainability of the health insurance program. Legislative hearings will begin on this interim charge and study in late March. ATPE will be participating and will provide updates as they occur. As we reported earlier, two important assumptions that affect the actuarial calculations of the TRS pension fund have recently been changed. The mortality rate has been adjusted to reflect current life expectancy, and payroll growth assumptions were decreased from 3.5% to 2.5% as a result of trends in the slowing of public education employee compensation increases. Both of these changes have small, negative implications for the fund. Overall, the pension trust fund is valued at $124 billion and is considered healthy. To maintain the retirement benefits our public education  community earns and relies on, it is crucial that we continue to elect candidates who will preserve the pension system provided by TRS for all current and future public education employees.

As a reminder, there are more opportunities coming up for you to join with members of your community to talk about public education and the challenges and opportunities it faces. The State Board of Education's community conversation series on student testing and school accountability continues in March with events in Kilgore and Amarillo. The meetings are designed to elicit local community feedback for SBOE members to share with the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. The next event will be in Kilgore on Tuesday, March 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Education Service Center for Region 7. Register for the Kilgore event here. Find additional information about the community conversations here.  


Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh Background


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