Teach the Vote's Week in Review: June 24, 2022
Texas Legislature Congress | Federal Privatization | Vouchers School Safety
Date Posted: 6/24/2022
The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments.
- Legislature hears from ATPE and others on school safety
- Congress passes bipartisan bill on guns, school safety funding
- Biden administration to reinstate Title IX regs nixed by DeVos
- Supreme Court ruling favors religious school vouchers
- TEA solicits recommendations for Distinguished Educator Pool
LEGISLATURE: ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter testified before a joint hearing of the Texas House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety and Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety Thursday. The committees heard invited testimony only from law enforcement officials, school superintendents, educator groups such as ATPE, and victims of shootings. Exter testified that educators have differing opinions on school safety measures but said "there is broad consensus" that educators are overextended and don't want to take on law enforcement roles. Exter also expressed ATPE’s support for local control in setting school safety policies and urged legislators to ensure that school hardening measures are both funded and carefully considered so as not to jeopardize the learning environment.
Earlier this week, the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans also heard invited and public testimony on school safety, police training, social media, and mental health. Find hearing highlights in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins. The House Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting similarly held hearings this week, all of which were undertaken in closed executive session due to their quasi-judicial nature.
CONGRESS: On Friday, the U.S. House voted 234-193, with 14 Republicans joining Democrats in favor, to approve a bipartisan gun safety bill previously passed by the U.S. Senate. Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) led the negotiations for the bill, which, as reported by Axios, includes enhanced background checks, clarification regarding the purchase of guns by domestic abusers, increased funding for mental health and school safety, and incentives for states to implement "red flag" laws. The bill now heads to President Joe Biden (D), who is expected to sign the measure expediently.
TITLE IX: The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced Thursday proposed amendments to Title IX regulations that would reinstate provisions nixed by former Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal funding, including pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment. Not only does Title IX protect students, but it also has an impact on teachers and other school employees. The proposed amendments include a clarification that discrimination protection applies to sexual orientation and gender identity and various changes that would “strengthen requirements that schools provide reasonable modifications for pregnant students, reasonable break time for pregnant employees, and lactation space.”
ED indicated in a press release that there will be separate rulemaking relating to Title IX and athletics, which is important for Texas considering our state’s recent legislation that prohibits students from participating in athletic events corresponding to their gender identity. The proposed rules are expected to be posted soon in the Federal Register for public comment.
SCOTUS: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6:3 in favor of funding private religious schools this week in a majority opinion that reduces states’ rights as it redefines the balance between non-establishment and freedom of religion. In the state of Maine, where the case originated, legislators relied on private schools to fill in gaps in the state’s sparsely populated areas where public schools had never been built. Prior to the court’s ruling, only non-religious private schools qualified to stand in the place of a public school. Under the new ruling, states that allow students to use taxpayer dollars to attend a nonreligious private school must also extend that ability for religious schools. Therefore, if Texas were to pass a law allowing private school vouchers, those vouchers would have to be eligible for use at nonreligious and religious schools alike, potentially resulting in taxpayer funds being used to support religious values, practices, and doctrines without public accountability. Read more about the Supreme Court ruling in this reporting by NPR.
TEA: The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is inviting school and district leaders to recommend distinguished elementary school teachers, specialists, and principals to be included in a pool of educators who may be considered for special statewide recognition programs, called the Texas Distinguished Educator Recognition Pool. Candidates must have a minimum of five years of experience in education and meet other criteria listed here. Recommendations are due by June 30, 2022.
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