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Teach the Vote's Week in Review: July 29, 2022

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

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Date Posted: 7/29/2022

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

HOUSE: The Texas House Public Education Committee held lengthy meetings Monday and Tuesday to continue its review of interim charges. Monday’s hearing featured a discussion of recent legislation, including 2019’s House Bill (HB) 3 and 2021’s HB 4545 on accelerated instruction, Senate Bill (SB) 1376 on school accountability, and SB 1716 regarding supplemental special education services. ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier gave invited testimony on the Reading Academies requirement in HB 3, sharing feedback from surveys of our members, including reports that many teachers were not compensated for the extensive time they spent completing the training requirements. Read more about Chevalier’s testimony in this blog post.The committee also heard testimony Monday on teacher vacancies, COVID-19 learning losses, and chronic student absenteeism.
During Tuesday’s meeting, lawmakers heard invited and public testimony on partnerships between K-12, higher education institutions, and the workforce; curriculum and instructional materials; and parent empowerment. The hearing began with a discussion of edTPA, Pearson’s performance assessment. The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) voted earlier this year to adopt the nationally developed and Common Core-aligned edTPA as a replacement for the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities exam required for certification, but the State Board of Education (SBOE) vetoed the rule last month. SBOE Chair Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) and Member Tom Maynard (R-Florence) gave invited testimony to the House committee about the veto decision. Ellis explained that the board had several concerns, including multiple other states’ decisions to scrap edTPA due to pipeline impacts. He also stressed working with SBEC and stakeholders to consider options beyond edTPA and the PPR, including increasing training requirements educator preparation programs must meet before recommending a candidate for certification. Much later in the day, public testimony on the committee's parent empowerment charge largely revolved around the issue of private school vouchers.
Read more about this week’s committee hearings in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.
VIRTUAL: The Texas Commission on Virtual Education met Wednesday. ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier was invited to testify on educator preparation, professional development, and staff support for virtual education. Chevalier explained to the commission that ATPE has advocated against the expansion of full-time virtual education, citing documented poor performance of full-time virtual schools in Texas. However, Chevalier said teachers and teacher candidates could benefit from training on the effective use of technology and blended learning, adding that the content of such training should be sensitive to the crucial role that student/teacher relationships and direct observation of non-verbal cues play in learning. Drawing on lessons learned from the HB 3 Reading Academies, Chevalier stressed that any new training resulting from the commission’s recommendations should be voluntary, allow for dedicated release time and teacher pay, lead to a microcredential for participants, and be an exemplar of the instructional methods being taught.
A key theme expressed by virtual learning experts and teacher panelists during Wednesday’s hearing was that virtual education only works “when done well.” This includes extensive training and preparation for teachers and families, administrative and technical support, and adequate funding. However, as one virtual teacher said, nothing can ever replace a good teacher in an in-person environment.
Watch archived video of the hearing here.
edTPA: As we reported last week, SBEC members held a work session July 21 ahead of their full board meeting to discuss the future of certification exams and what to do with Pearson’s edTPA. ATPE’s Chevalier gave input during the work session on behalf of the state’s educator associations. Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff walked the board through several actions it could take going forward. Read more about the options being considered and stakeholders’ concerns in this blog post by Chevalier.


SBEC: SBEC held its regular meeting last Friday, focusing much of its time on a discussion of sanctions against the state’s largest alternative certification program. The board also approved changes to its accountability system for educator preparation and discussed the possibility of restructuring its advisory committee on educator preparation, of which ATPE is a member. Click here for archived video of the hearing. For a full recap of the SBEC meeting, read this blog post by Chevalier.

COURTS: The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has once again overturned a lower court’s decision to prohibit Gov. Greg Abbott (R) from banning mask mandates in Texas public schools. As we have reported on Teach the Vote, the advocacy group Disability Rights Texas (DRT) filed suit in federal court after Abbott issued his ban on mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group claimed the governor’s executive order put students with disabilities at greater risk while the coronavirus surged. In a July 25 ruling, the Fifth Circuit, which had already allowed Abbott’s prohibition on mask mandates to go back into effect temporarily, overturned the injunction on the governor’s mandate and sent the case back to the lower court with instructions to dismiss DRT’s claims for lack of jurisdiction. Under the ruling, however, DRT could seek to refile the suit.
Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who is representing the state in the DRT lawsuit, issued a press statement Tuesday calling the decision “a win for Texas families and the rule of law” and further criticizing the “audacity of rogue superintendents across Texas” who allowed mask mandates in their school districts despite the governor’s executive order. Paxton added in his statement, “It is long past time for Texas educators to put aside their political agendas.”
Additionally, Paxton announced this week that Texas was joining several other states in a lawsuit against the federal government over school nutrition regulations. The National School Lunch Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is subject to new federal guidance aimed at prohibiting funding of programs that allow discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Biden administration has called for states to review allegations of discrimination and adhere to policies on civil rights. In a press statement, Paxton said the guidance would put Texas’ school lunch funding “at risk” and lead to “regulatory chaos.”
CNN: A new documentary entitled “Deep in the Pockets of Texas” aired on CNN last weekend, shining light of our state’s liberal campaign finance laws that have allowed wealthy individuals to donate millions to candidates. The investigative report focused on the political activities of West Texas fracking billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks and Tim Dunn, who created the anti-public education group Empower Texans. ATPE has written about the oil and gas tycoons’ crusades against public schools and push for private school vouchers through large campaign contributions. This year, we also reported on the dramatic increases in campaign funding by a small group of ultra-wealthy charter school proponents, especially in SBOE races. Based on interviews with former associates of Dunn and Wilks, CNN reported that “the billionaires are both especially focused on education issues, and their ultimate goal is to ‘replace public education with private, Christian schooling.’”

"Deep in the Pockets of Texas” will air again Friday, July 29, at 10 pm CDT. It is also available for pay TV subscribers to watch on demand through CNN.com or their cable provider.
TEACHERS: ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins spoke to KXAN News this week about the ongoing teacher shortage. Wiggins explained that well-intentioned programs passed by the legislature, such as the HB 3 Reading Academies and accelerated instruction requirements under HB 4545, are adding to the burdens placed on educators which take valuable time away from their ability to plan and deliver instruction.

Watch the full KXAN report here.

SBOE: The SBOE is tasked with updated the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies curriculum this year. The board has scheduled a special meeting for Monday, Aug. 1, to hear public testimony on proposed revisions to the TEKS. Find additional information on the meeting here, and stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates next week.


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