/getmedia/2b98d3b3-cd6d-4fb3-95f6-e0b89850396c/ThinkstockPhotos-144283240-cap-Texas_flags.jpg?width=2500&height=1673&ext=.jpg /getmedia/2b98d3b3-cd6d-4fb3-95f6-e0b89850396c/ThinkstockPhotos-144283240-cap-Texas_flags.jpg?width=2500&height=1673&ext=.jpg

Teach the Vote's Week in Review: Aug. 26, 2022

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Texas Legislature Congress | Federal COVID-19 Curriculum | Instruction TEA | Commissioner | SBOE School Safety Educator Compensation | Benefits Testing | Accountability

Date Posted: 8/26/2022

The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments.


: The federal government’s pandemic-related pause on student loan repayment, interest accrual, and collections was slated to expire Aug. 31, but the Biden administration announced this week another extension through Dec. 31, 2022. More significantly, President Joe Biden (D) and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced Wednesday that the federal government will forgive thousands of dollars in student loan debt for many borrowers.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to federal Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers’ annual income must be less than $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for households in order to qualify. ED has shared FAQs about the loan forgiveness plan here. Borrowers can visit studentaid.gov/debtrelief to sign up for notification of the anticipated opening of an application for the loan forgiveness in October.

The new debt relief supplements already announced changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PLSF) Program through which borrowers who work for non-profits, the military, or the government may qualify to have all of their student loans forgiven. However, the expanded eligibility for PSLF loan forgiveness expires October 31, 2022. Learn more at PSLF.gov.

UVALDE: Uvalde CISD trustees voted unanimously this week to fire school district police Chief Pete Arredondo, who was the de facto incident commander in charge of the response to the May 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary that killed 19 students and two teachers. Officers waited more than an hour to confront the shooter despite the presence of more than 300 law enforcement officers on scene. The school board’s vote closed one chapter for parents and community members, who quickly resolved to continue their fight to hold leaders accountable. Some Uvalde families plan to hold a rally in Austin this weekend to pressure Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to call a special session to consider legislation that would raise the minimum age for purchasing an AR-15 rifle like the one used in the deadly shooting. Read more in this article by The Texas Tribune.

STAAR: The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been sharing updates on its redesign of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) taking effect this school year. The STAAR test changes were mandated by the Legislature in 2019 and include online test administration for nearly all students, with accommodations for those with special needs, and the use of non-multiple-choice questions, cross-curricular passages, and evidence-based writing. Learn more about the changes and ATPE’s advocacy related to the STAAR redesign in this blog post.

VIRTUAL: The Texas Commission on Virtual Education met Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Members discussed ways to serve special populations, including students in foster care and those experiencing homelessness. Much of the testimony acknowledged the challenges in delivering virtual education to students with disabilities and the necessity of engaged parents at home in order for a student to be successful in a virtual environment. You can read a full recap in this post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.

SBOE: The State Board of Education (SBOE) is scheduled to meet next Tuesday through Friday in Austin. The board will focus primarily on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies, which it is required to review and revise by the end of this year. The legislature mandated the revision with Senate Bill (SB) 3, which passed during the second special session of 2021. The bill ordered changes to the social studies curriculum and placed restrictions around how sensitive topics are discussed in the classroom. You can read the full agenda for next week’s SBOE meeting here.
POLICY: Making news this week, the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD Board of Trustees voted Monday night on controversial updates to several of the district's policies. Of note was language regarding students' use of preferred pronouns, which the district says teachers may ignore; allowing bathroom use only in alignment with one’s birth certificate; and implementing “critical race theory” restrictions and other measures in response to the state legislature’s enactment last year of SB 3.

Ahead of the GCISD vote, ATPE Executive Director Shannon Homes said, “We are leery of board policies that add extra layers to an already complex mix of state and federal laws and force teachers to referee culture wars. Teachers should not be tasked with interpreting conflicting state and federal laws and local policies or feel they need to seek legal advice before teaching any lesson or showing up for school each day.” Read more on the district’s policy changes in this article by The Texas Tribune.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel CardonaCARDONA: U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona emphasized that overcoming school staffing shortages will have to involve showing teachers more respect. In an interview with Education Week, Cardona called the teacher shortage “a symptom of a teacher respect issue.” The secretary urged the use of American Rescue Plan dollars to provide better pay and signing bonuses and invest in programs that recruit and incentivize a diverse crop of prospective teacher candidates. On the issue of COVID-19, Cardona stressed the importance of schools communicating to students and staff the steps being taken to safeguard their health and wellbeing, not just from COVID-19 but also from school shooters.

MASKS: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) issued an advisory this week cautioning that school districts are still prohibited from requiring masks. The note references a previous executive order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that states, in part, “No governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering."
TRIBFEST: Educators can take advantage of discounted registration for the Texas Tribune Festival, taking place Sept. 22-24, 2022, in Austin. The educator registration rate is $75—compared with $269 general admission. Register at https://trib.it/fest using your school email address. Speakers include U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke (D), State Board of Education (SBOE) Chair Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin), and many others. View the festival’s full list of speakers and the program agenda here. In connection with the festival, Open Congress 2022 takes place Saturday, Sept. 24, on Congress Ave. in downtown Austin. This event includes interviews and discussions with prominent names across the political and education landscape, and it does not require a Tribfest ticket. Learn more about these events on our blog.


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